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Justice

Another AFM is over. Aside from attendance being up, I’m not sure how much has changed from last year (or even the year before). We all know that foreign sales agents want top talent so they can sell internationally and VOD is disruptive.  This “disruption” if you will has been in the works for years. But like the bygone days of magazine publishing when publishers refused to accept the internet, if one thing has changed this year it is that the industry has finally woken up to the reality that VOD is where this industry is and where it’s going for the foreseeable future.  At the click of a mouse consumers will decide what they want and when they want it. But regardless of the trends it does come down to telling a story first and, oh yes, on a reasonable budget.

The sequel to Justice Is Mind along with First World and SOS United States partially take place in Washington, DC.

The sequel to Justice Is Mind along with First World and SOS United States partially take place in Washington, DC.

The foundation of every movie starts with the screenplay. In all this “noise” about the state of the industry it still surprises me how suddenly the screenplay becomes a sidebar in the conversations. How many times do we read about this “A lister” or that “A lister” attached to such and such a project. A lot of excitement, press, accolades and then the film comes out and it just doesn’t resonate with audiences…for whatever reason…and never recoups their budget. This is one trend that’s terrible for the industry. While the A lister may go to win an award for best performance, someone or some company is adding up losses. And losses are never good in any business.

With China's space program on the rise and its film market second only to the United States, the premise of  First World is more commercial.

With China’s space program on the rise and its film market second only to the United States, the premise of First World is more commercial.

But with VOD platforms on the exponential rise, budgets simply need to be adjusted as the DVD market has collapsed. I absolutely agree with AFM’s Managing Director Jonathan Wolf when he said, “We’ve got 50 companies who are in what we call mini-booths, where they only spend $3,900 for the space yet they’re bringing films and having a commercially acceptable experience. If you can make a couple films for $300,000 and sell each for $600,000, you have a business.” My political thriller SOS United States has a budget just north of $300,000.

I read a great story in IndieWire this week titled “Why It’s a Great Time to Be an Independent Filmmaker” by Naomi McDougall Jones.  She could not be more right when stating, “I believe there are those who crave what I crave as an audience member; to be genuinely surprised; to have my own prejudices exploded; to leave the theater altered from whom I was when I went in.” These are the same comments I’ve heard from audience members that have seen Justice Is Mind.

The recently revealed cell phone spy program and nuclear maintenance issues fall into the story of SOS United States.

The recently revealed cell phone spy program and nuclear maintenance issues fall into the story of SOS United States.

Justice Is Mind and Jones’s film, Imagine I’m Beautiful, are apples and oranges in genre, but share the same type of approach to the market. We have a theatrical run, press and VOD. It’s all very doable. But it’s also work done the old fashioned way. It takes time (lots of it), research and effort.

But if there is one new trend from AFM this year that’s a major positive are the new distributors entering the market. With studios focusing on tentpoles they have created a need for the rest of the market. As Cinedigm CEO Chris McGurk tells Variety, “The majority of filmmakers have to be interested in a new model for releasing indie films, and you could not say that two or three years ago.”

Watch Justice Is Mind on Amazon Prime Instant Video!

Watch Justice Is Mind on Amazon Prime Instant Video!

And so as I write the sequel to Justice Is Mind and present First World and SOS United States for investment and development, I too believe this is a great time to be an independent filmmaker.  It just takes the three ‘p’s I have often mentioned: plan, perseverance and patience.

Act Two

The sequel to Justice Is Mind starts at this scene at then end of part one.

At the end of part one, the sequel to Justice Is Mind starts here.

The Crowd

What happens to Henri Miller in the sequel to Justice Is Mind.

What happens to Henri Miller in the sequel to Justice Is Mind?

It was one year ago yesterday that Justice Is Mind had its west coast premiere in Beverly Hills, California and it was just over a week ago that we had our international premiere on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. In a sea of films looking for attention, my goal since day one with Justice was to make every attempt to stand out from the crowd. Just take a read of the AFM dailies, there are a dizzying amount of films looking for attention and distribution.

I have never been one to follow the crowd. I don’t believe in doing what everyone else does just to be “in” or perceived as “popular”.  Conformity has never been my strong suit. Ask anyone that has followed my career from publishing to film, I have always carved a niche for my projects.

What of the judges and lawyers when memory becomes the rule of law?

What of the judges and lawyers when memory becomes the rule of law?

I believe the verdict is in on Justice Is Mind. Having been screening the film theatrically for over a year the majority of audiences and reviewers have enjoyed the film.  Audiences didn’t care about the “star power” of the characters. They just wanted to see a good story. Honestly, I don’t know why distributors (particular foreign sales agents) don’t understand that as well.  On the Queen Elizabeth that was the test. An international audience from all over the world that applauded when the film ended. It wasn’t about the stars in the film, it was about the story in the film. Thankfully, the industry is changing and rightly so.

What is Reincar Scientific doing with these memories? What does the United States Department of Homeland Security want?

What is Reincar Scientific doing with these memories? What does the United States Department of Homeland Security want?

Unbelievably the trend as of late is that there’s plenty of capital but not enough bankable talent to sell the films into foreign markets. One industry executive quoted in Variety stated “From a financing perspective, it’s never been better. But it’s not about the money; it’s about the talent. The challenge right now in the independent market is getting talent to commit and stay committed”. But films are still being financed. One look at an AFM daily or the thousands of films that are produced every year contradicts that assertion. I think what this comes to is looking for the perfect project. Dear God we know that doesn’t exist because there’s one factor that no actor, producer, director, distributor, sales agent or investor can gauge…the audience.

What brings Margaret Miller to Germany and Italy.

What brings Margaret Miller to Germany and Italy.

With the rise of VOD, theaters hungry for films that tell a good story (the building in China is off the charts) and unique screening opportunities (like we did with Justice on the Queen Elizabeth), Justice Is Mind proved that a quality story works in the market from theatrical, VOD and special events. All this without “star” actors.  When I was publishing many years ago I was told time and time again that nobody would read my magazines without known writers. Really? That’s why I had the number one magazines in our market.  Don’t follow the crowd, make the crowd.

In SOS United States an ocean liner races across the Atlantic Ocean and with it the possibility of a nuclear device that pits the United States and United Kingdom on brink of war.

In SOS United States an ocean liner races across the Atlantic Ocean and with it the possibility of a nuclear device and war between the United States and United Kingdom.

As a diehard fan of cinema from classics to contemporary, I have nothing against “stars” but projects shouldn’t be defined around “A” list talent. We all know that at the end of the day it comes down to what the audience wants.

Perhaps the best advice I ever received was to have a few different projects at the ready because you really don’t know what will resonate at the right time. I have First World, a science fiction epic; Justice Is Mind, a psychological sci-fi thriller and SOS United States, a political thriller. With Justice Is Mind produced and distributed, today I continue to market that film while presenting First World and SOS United States to interested parties to secure production. Tomorrow, I start to write the sequel to Justice Is Mind.

Next chapter.

In First World, China announces its first manned mission to the Moon - four years ahead of schedule.

In First World, China announces its first manned mission to the Moon – four years ahead of schedule – which unravels a worldwide cover up of what Apollo 11 discovered in 1969.

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