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The Agenda

Justice

I’ve always had an agenda. My present agenda is pretty obvious, getting one or more of my slate of film projects into development.  When I was reading about Joel Silver’s financing saga, it reminded me of the countless projects I am aware of that are in the development stage or still looking for a distribution home.

From government and commercial space program interests, to military and political conflicts to the mysteries of neuroscience and reincarnation, the market for First World, SOS United States and In Mind We Trust (the sequel to Justice Is Mind) is most certainly there. What it simply boils down to is equity. Ask any filmmaker, even the ones on the recently released The 30 Most Powerful Film Producers in Hollywood in the Hollywood Reporter, it doesn’t matter the size of the project they all require some equity.

IN MIND WE TRUST, the sequel to JUSTICE IS MIND involves the CIA and NSA in Germany.

IN MIND WE TRUST, the sequel to JUSTICE IS MIND, involves the CIA and NSA in Germany.

But it’s more than just cash, it’s the ability to see a project through from start to market. Notice I didn’t say “finish”. Yes, it’s all very exciting making a film and being on set, but none of it matters if the film isn’t released or distributed. It saddens me when I see a project I’m familiar with, or have been tracking, get sidelined for whatever reason. Look, make no mistake about it, filmmaking is not easy. The commitment level it takes is in years, not months, if you hold the title of writer, producer or director.

In FIRST WORLD there's an installation on the Moon. The European Space Agency is proposing to build a Moon base.

In FIRST WORLD there’s an installation on the Moon. The European Space Agency is proposing to build a Moon base.

In my business plans it’s stated that my commitment to a project once it gets the greenlight is, at minimum, two years. Look at Justice Is Mind as an example. Script was written in 2010, short film produced in 2011, feature film produced in 2012, released in 2013 and marketed through 2015 (and beyond). Studios understand this level of commitment or else they wouldn’t have a library of films. Seriously, how long does it take to update a Facebook page or post to Twitter? It’s one thing coming across a website, but nothing screams abandoned like a social media account that hasn’t been updated in months or years. This is an industry of perception.

I often reflect on my early efforts with First World. I wrote the script in 2006 and produced the short film version later that year. The film was released in 2007 and I spent over three years marketing the film that resulted in twenty screenings along with a DVD and VOD release. As of this writing, First World is still generating strong VOD sales.

But my current agenda is just that, an agenda I need to put together for a production meeting this week.

Presenting.

The National Review reported that the U.S. Navy is accessing how it projects power - a central theme in SOS UNITED STATES.

The National Review reported that the U.S. Navy is accessing how it projects power – a central theme in SOS UNITED STATES.

The Inspiration

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

As filmmakers we draw inspiration from other films, life events or experiences to create. It’s been well reported that Gene Roddenberry was inspired by Forbidden Planet to create Star Trek and that George Lucas was inspired by Flash Gordon (and other films) to develop Star Wars.

For me, the inspiration to create First World came from film and television. Two of my favorite science fictions films are The Day the Earth Stood Still and Capricorn One. Then there is the iconic TV show Space: 1999.  Sadly, Capricorn One has been largely forgotten but for anyone who wants to see a good space conspiracy thriller with some great actors and cinematography, it’s a must watch.

Capricorn One (1978).

Capricorn One (1978).

As for SOS United States, I’ve always loved a good political thriller especially those from the Cold War. Discovering Seven Days in May and Fail Safe along with my love for ocean liners, I created a political thriller that is starting to gain some traction. With political thrillers on the rise, coupled with current world events, the timing is good.

Of course, for those that have seen Justice Is Mind you know what my primary inspirations were – Law & Order, The Andromeda Strain, Fringe and, yes, Dynasty.  In so many ways, the genre mix in Justice Is Mind is reflective of what we are seeing today – especially on TV. As for my inspiration for In Mind We Trust? That would simply be Justice Is Mind and a conflux of current events.

Fail Safe (1964).

Fail Safe (1964).

It’s one thing making your film but it’s another getting to market. When the aforementioned films were made they were simply distributed by a studio. Pretty standard in those days. Ask any independent filmmaker and you not only have to be the creative behind the script, but a distributor and marketer at the same time.

Reading about the various challenges filmmakers faced at Tribeca to bring their films to market along with a myriad of interesting comments by Julianne Moore about independent films at CinemaCon, while there is tremendous opportunity to get your film in front of an audience, the navigation of this industry on the distribution front continues to intensify and diversify.

Seven Days in May (1964).

Seven Days in May (1964).

There was a pretty good article titled The Distribution Equation on Cultural Weekly that is worth a review. The big question I would love answered is why would independent films with limited theatricals runs sign with a distributor (for theatrical) if that was going to create a loss against the title of your film? It simply makes zero sense from a business point of view. Justice Is Mind has had 12 theatrical screenings and has grossed $13,357. Our total out of pocket costs were just over $500 (mostly from printing posters). On my end it costs nothing but time to present Justice Is Mind to theatres, write a press release and pitch the media.  For me, from a business point of view, it’s much more important to show profitability than perception of “we signed with so and so”.  “So and so” might look good on paper but red ink is still red ink.

This past week I pitched Justice Is Mind to another eight theatres. Yes, we have had a great run to date theatrically for our independent film, but why not make the pitch. You never know who’s going to say yes.

Business plan.

the courtroom scenes-page-0

 

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