These past two weeks the entire world has been front and center on news surrounding the United States’ National Security Agency and a “whistleblower/traitor” that is now “residing” in Hong Kong. Whatever your opinion is on this matter one thing is certain—someone has pitched a story to a producer, a script is being written and a film will go into production by the end of this year.
In Justice Is Mind one of the tracks in the story is loss of privacy. Our primary character, Henri Miller, makes an elected choice to give up privacy with that decision secured by biometric signatures. Miller’s information is digitized, sent electronically to a foreign company and held in a central library of like “minded” information. Trapped by his own memories, he soon finds himself on trial. But in an age of social media and immediate news gathering, while the law may say “innocent until proven guilty”, let us not kid ourselves. Despite the democracies that we live in anyone charged is guilty first and only innocent after the public says so.
When it comes to marketing Justice Is Mind, I have been working closely with my entertainment attorney Arnold Peter. Sure, we are submitting to targeted film festivals and making presentations to sales agencies and distributors, but the major push for the film will be in the very democracies that have allowed us, the citizen, to sign away our rights of privacy by our own choice. Speaking of choices, I’d love to have Justice screen in Tehran (that probably just got me on a list).
One country that we will be having a presence in is India—the world’s largest democracy. This would not be my first foray into that country. My first short film First World was the only science fiction film to screen at India’s first national discussion on science fiction. It was an honor and a distinction that I will never forget. Presenting Justice Is Mind in India is just as important as the United States as the whole point is to establish discussion around key areas of the film—where does privacy start and stop?
In the digitized and social media world we live in the loss of privacy in the general sense must just be accepted. One of my favorite films, Gattaca, sequences DNA and decides your societal fate. In Justice Is Mind your memories decide your legal fate. Make no mistake, these sciences are largely here in the year 2013. Maybe not as developed as the films they are represented in, but like Star Trek literally invented the cell phone, fiction will be fact soon enough. Get used to it or live in a cave.
When it comes to writing, production and directing a film you want your audience to leave thinking. That’s how a film establishes a long shelf life. That’s how a film finds audiences long after its world premiere. That’s why films like Judgment at Nuremberg, 2001 and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner still resonate today. They had something to say and weren’t afraid to say it. Justice Is Mind is not politically correct. It is designed to elicit conversation and to remind us that our life is largely dictated by the choices we make. And in the case of Justice the choices of…sorry you’ll have to wait until the film is released for the end of that sentence.
Thankfully our democracies still give us the right of choice. And like those that we elect to office to represent us in our respective governments, we want our films to also win in the court of public opinion. Because it really comes down to three words–
WE THE PEOPLE.
With the special effects for Justice Is Mind being completed this week, my attention has largely been focused over the last month on the sound design of the film. Yes, while the visuals of Justice are easy to share and enjoy, there is an entire area of the film that is just as important – sound. It’s not just the words that are being spoken it’s the atmosphere around them that defines the mood and feel of the film.
For anyone that has been involved in filmmaking, post-production is a managed process and sound design is part of it. Sure, you don’t have to have that beep on a cell phone, or electronic click of a computer, but I believe it’s that level of detail that sets films apart from each other. I’m also very into details and sound is part of that process. Is the judge’s hammer sound too soft? What tone do we set for this particular character? Sound wise how do we advance the drama and the story?
A film without sound design is like a painting. Sure, it can be visually arresting and you hope there is a compelling score, but have you ever noticed in a film that particular characters or moments have a similar sound? In Justice our primary character is Henri Miller and as the story builds so does the atmosphere around him. Sometimes the sound is silent as the stage is being set for a dramatic build or moment in which you want the audience to pay attention and take notice. This is a process that is just as creative as the editing, score and special effects and just as time consuming.
It is a curious process watching a script come to life. Sure, I directed it and have worked with our editor, special effects supervisor and composer (who is also doing sound design), but this is where you see the creative energy come to life and I haven’t even talked about sound mixing or color correction yet. I’ll save that for another post.
I often wonder if audiences really know what goes into a film from start to market. Personally I love the entire process, but to quote District Attorney Constance Smith, “I didn’t promise you an easy case.” Filmmaking is not easy by any stretch. The level of competition between films is fierce beyond words (just start to look at sales agents’ websites). If you don’t have A or B list actors to anchor your distribution, you better have a compelling story because that’s the only thing that will save you from achieving distribution. I like to think we have a compelling story with Justice. We already have digital distribution in place and our early interest from sales agents and distributors is extremely promising. I’ve sold them on the script, the trailer, clip and visuals, this is why all of us involved in post-production are being a bit manic about the details. Because in the end you have to have a commercial product.
I know some filmmakers that are not commercially minded and in fact have told me they aren’t producing such and such to make any money. Unless you are producing as a calling card for experience, short films are great for this like I did with First World and Evidence, I just don’t believe in vanity filmmaking. Point in fact there is just way too much that goes into creating a film in the first place.
Let me give you some facts. My legal team is in Los Angeles and they are working diligently with me on countless matters; our composer is just outside London, UK; we had a representative (my entertainment lawyer) at Cannes; our post production team is in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and we have, by my last count, just over 200 actors, crew, marketing, location and promotional partners involved in the film. Justice will not just have one big showing then off to a dusty shelf while I wait to hear from festivals. Dear god if that happened I would board one of my Arctrans from First World and quietly leave the planet! What it comes down to is promoting your project to as many people that will listen. Sales agents, distributors, theatre owners, conventions are, by design, used to getting pitches-it just comes down to a compelling story because they need to bring that story to their own audiences to, dare I say it, make money.
But like I did when publishing magazines, money cannot be the first thing on your mind, quality must be the first. For I believe that if a quality product is well presented it will find its audience and share of revenue. It just comes down to doing one thing:
Turning up the volume.
There is, as some have surmised, an entire back story to Justice Is Mind. When I set out to write a story believe it or not I think of the ending right after I think of the original idea. Point simply, I have heard too many times “I have a great story but I don’t know how to end it.” Point in fact, I wrote a screenplay with a friend years ago that takes place in Ogunquit, ME. It was a thriller. Oh we had a great first and second act but dear god that last act was just a travesty. Sometimes not having an ending when you start out does have a positive outcome…can anyone say Casablanca? Flash to 2013 and it should be interesting to see what World War Z looks like. I understand they reshot the entire last third of the film. I can say first hand there was a sense of calmness, in my opinion, when we were shooting Justice because we all knew how it was ending and we weren’t tinkering with it. Screenwriting is not a democracy and it most certainly can’t be decided by committee.
Again, I can’t speak for any other screenwriters, but when I write I’m always thinking sequel or a continuation of the story or part thereof. Why not? Sure, some films rightly stand alone, but if it resonates with the audience for a continuation you have notes and concept ready to go. A single feature film can take years to develop, why have it end at the first installment if there’s an interest in more? As some of you know, the seed for Justice Is Mind was planted in my First World story about a machine that can read memories to track where certain people have been. When we were shooting Justice the idea for a sequel started to come to me but more importantly the ending realized itself just a few days ago when I was looking through some VFX images. Of course the real test is how audiences are receiving Justice once it’s released and what resonates with them. I may have the most fantastic idea for a sequel but if research shows that audiences are gravitating to one particular part of the story, there’s your market research. Why go against the tide when you can ride the wave.
Already I have been able to ascertain certain conclusions from our early marketing for Justice. The audience is skewing 60% female to 40% male with the United States, India and the United Kingdom making up the highest traffic. On age, our largest numbers are in the 45-54 range. But what gets the most attention to a post? Special effects. Yes, every time I post a special effect image our reach sometimes triples from regular status updates. Conclusion? It’s not just men that like special effects, women enjoy them too.
Will these numbers hold up when Justice is screened? Who knows. The marketing of a film is perhaps the trickiest of them all. The goal is to develop positive word of mouth, and a following of fans that will support the endeavor and create that wave of enthusiasm. While the big studios can employ a marketing department to at least attempt to shield their risk, as an independent filmmaker working on meager resources, we must take advantage of the myriad of online services now available to us. And as we have recently seen, even the most robust marketing campaigns can’t shield some major films from audiences misses.
Thankfully with Justice Is Mind we can push in genres that are specific — sci-fi and drama. The world of sci-fi has changed a lot in the last several years, while space franchises are still flying to distant worlds, stories that are Earth and “mind” based are growing (I still miss Fringe). And in the world of drama, Justice has started to book law schools to screen the film for the legal drama that it is. What better way to develop a following than presenting a film in these types of forums.
With the post production phase of Justice Is Mind moving along according to schedule, my job now, in addition to managing the entire post production phase (yes, still directing!), has turned to marketing and distribution. Most independent filmmakers don’t have these departments, so what we rely on are trusted sources and contacts inside the industry and our own real world work experience. But in the end, as President Truman made famous, “The buck stops here.” When producing a film, every buck counts. And quite of few of those bucks go to film festival submission fees.
The film festival market is as mysterious as it is rewarding. Yes, I have a list of festivals I’m submitting Justice to. Some have “final” deadlines that come well before our completion date so we will be submitting as a “work in progress”. But others thankfully fall generally in line with our July 1 completion date. But like I did in magazine publishing I also do in filmmaking, I really don’t like what I call “rules of market”. There is this rule, even though it seems to be unwritten, that films should first be submitted to festivals to see what happens. Sure, I’ll just wait and wait and wait for a decision while my film could be losing momentum. Seriously, I was part of a feature film project as an actor a couple of years ago and the entire distribution strategy was getting into film festivals. I couldn’t believe it. There was never a plan B. The problem with that strategy is that if you don’t get into festivals (particularly the buyers markets) you can find yourself with many missed months of “buck making” opportunities for your film.
With the world premiere set for Justice Is Mind on August 18 in Albany, New York along with an industry screening planned for Los Angeles (date to be announced), there are a host of other screening opportunities for the project outside of the film festival market. First and foremost Justice Is Mind already has a non-exclusive digital distribution deal in place, so with one email and the transmission of deliverables, distribution is done. But that’s just part of the strategy and it’s an evolving one as this article in Sundance demonstrates the nuances of digital distribution. Yes, digital distribution is a science all by itself.
Digital distribution can be very successful for a film, but it helps enormously if you have some terrestrial assistance. What it really comes down to is building awareness through word of mouth and that does come from screenings—theatrical or event. So while I am putting together a list of independent theatres to pitch, the one area that has shown great interest in Justice Is Mind is the science fiction community. This past week I finished up my pitch list of nearly 100 sci-fi conventions around the world to present Justice Is Mind for screening. The interest was successfully tested with the short film version Justice Is Mind: Evidence (another reason to produce a short first—market testing). On the practical front my first short film First World screened at over 20 conventions in numerous countries. As some of you know, the trailer for Justice Is Mind is screening during Boston Comic Con next weekend. Thank you Boston Comic Con!
While I love the glamour, pomp and visibility that come with a festival, I am anything if not practical. As a director I owe it to everyone involved in the project to get their work seen by the widest possible audience. But as a producer, it comes down to a return on investment.
At the end of the day filmmaking is about making bucks to be “scene” again.
Producing a feature film, never mind writing and directing one, is a project. In this industry you often hear people say, “What projects are you working on?” The word “project” is code for “film”. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to use the word “project” than list out your films at a cocktail party. But here are my projects: Justice Is Mind, First World, titled, but not announced, political thriller and…that’s enough. Suffice to say, both Justice Is Mind and First World are in various stages of development and production. Justice has a short and feature, with notes on a sequel. First World has a short, a feature I hope to put into production with a sequel already written (it’s a trilogy). The political thriller is at the treatment stage with 12 pages of script already written.
There was an article in an industry blog about a filmmaker who was quoting all these projects. I mean, they went on and on and on. Sounds impressive on paper, but two clicks on IMDB and you realize it was just talk because honestly it’s impossible, unless you have a production staff, to be involved in so many projects strictly from a time point of view. For me, less is more. Anyone that has worked with me knows that I focus on the details. It’s easy in this industry to get distracted with someone’s new and exciting project, but if your own project isn’t finished it’s really doing a disservice to those that worked on it.
With Justice Is Mind edited and the score nearly complete, the one area of the project that’s front and center are the building of the special effects. When you see these before and after examples, the quality that our Special Effects Supervisor is putting into them is stunning. But to get to this point, as I mentioned in an earlier post, there are quite a few details that first start with original files being pulled by our Editor, sent to me for review and then processed over to special effects with my instructions for the building.
Special effects are an integral part of the world of filmmaking. Without them, films just don’t exist. The special effects we see in 21st century films are obviously very cool. On a contemporary note, visually Olympus Has Fallen was really excellent. But let’s take a step back in time to my favorite film Gone With the Wind. In those days it was the matte shot. When you consider what Jack Cosgrove achieved back in 1939, impressive doesn’t even begin to describe those visual effects that still hold up to this day. How the burning of Atlanta was accomplished was truly spectacular.
While the special effects are being built, one of the next areas of the project that I’ve been focusing on is our upcoming August 18 premiere, continuing to develop the list of film festivals to submit to and working towards an industry screening. There is also a list of independent theatres I’m working on to screen and test market the film. This is another area of the project that has to be carefully considered—distribution. The one thing about the world of filmmaking, and probably like any industry, is the abundance of “consultants” that want to tell you how to hone your craft. I have to tell you, wading through these “experts” is a project in and of itself. I’ll just say this, if you are going to consult for a fee in this business you best have accomplished what you are preaching before I part with 10 cents.
For my projects it’s pretty simple. 1) I want to produce, 2) I want my projects to be seen, and, 3) I want to make money. Obviously, a lot has changed in this industry since Gone With the Wind. Filmmaking is achievable today because of technological advances that allow us to create. And after all…
Tomorrow is another day.
As a screenwriter, we generally write what interests us. I’ve always been fascinated with science fiction, dramas and political thrillers. Justice Is Mind is principally an intense drama that combines a solid sense of mystery and science fiction elements, while First World is primarily a science fiction adventure. My latest screenplay is a political thriller set in New England. I draw my motivation from various real world events: Justice Is Mind—advanced MRI technology; First World—the Apollo space program; the political thriller—the Cold War.
Anyone that writes a screenplay wants to see it produced. Seriously, what’s the point of writing it if you don’t want to see it come to life. But ask ten screenwriters how they want to see their work produced and I promise you you’ll get ten different answers. For me, I want to produce my own work. Both First World and Justice Is Mind were first made as short films before I raised the money for the feature film version of Justice Is Mind. Honestly, I’m glad Justice Is Mind came to life as a feature film before First World. With what I learned during the process of producing Justice I can apply that to First World from a budget and production point of view.
A friend of mine on the west coast has written a few screenplays in different genres and is only interested in having someone else produce them. As he said to me last week, “I have no interest in producing or directing.” Those are career choices we make. But I look at it like this, there are thousands of screenplays being written that are looking for a production home. I know, because I receive at least one or two pitches a week from produced screenwriters. I’m not talking just about independently produced screenwriters, I’m talking about writers that have had major studios either option or produce their work at some point during their career. The point—everyone is looking for money. Sure, I’ll produce and/or direct someone else’s work, but I won’t actively seek financing for those projects. As I’ve said before, raising money is perhaps the biggest obstacle a producer faces.
Which brings me to the title of this post—timing. When you write a screenplay, you are just hoping that it’s timed right for the market, i.e. distributors and audiences. This is something that is almost impossible to predict so you just have to go with it and hope that by the time your project is finished the market is receptive to it. But I firmly believe that regardless of the genre, there are always audiences for great films.
The news from European Film Market in Berlin this past week could not be more excellent for Justice Is Mind. As the Hollywood Reporter reports in their story, Adult-Oriented Dramas on the Rise, films that target adult media-savvy women are in demand. One market insider tells the Hollywood Reporter, “Films that appeal to a female audience are broader in appeal because the women will take men along.”
With the rough cut of Justice Is Mind nearly complete, everything is moving along nicely for a mid-summer release. In addition to our wonderful online placements of the trailer, we have been invited to show the trailer at two events in the next four weeks. On February 24 at the Actors & Movie Fest in Boston and on March 5 at Upstate Independents in Albany, New York.
As for timing, at the request of one investment group that contacted me last week, time to send the business plan out on First World. Is the time right for this to be the next project? Only time will tell.
This week some “friends” on Facebook were posting and sharing a rather long quote from director Stanley Kubrick. It was interesting where he talked about the chaotic process of filmmaking. I think this quote from him sums it up pretty good, “Anyone who has ever been privileged to direct a film also knows that, although it can be like trying to write War and Peace in a bumper car in an amusement park, when you finally get it right, there are not many joys in life that can equal the feeling.” I agree.
Whether it has been directing a company as its CEO, a stage play or a film, I’ve always been a director of sorts. Some call me a control freak, but really it’s just about being thorough and above all else organized because in the end if there’s a mistake, they always blame the director. But the reward in seeing your work come together is worth any level of chaos.
But with just over 1 hour and 45 minutes edited, I find myself now directing Justice Is Mind again. Aside from reviewing the editing (our editor and composer are doing a great job), I’m now directing the special effects that are being built and listening to the score. What does that iPad need to say on it? What section do we put on that TV monitor? Can you add more strings this section? Yes, that’s right, that’s the director’s job—at least on an independent feature film it is. As part of that process this past week I bought the royalty free footage that we need for the film; i.e. the Reincar Scientific building in Berlin, Germany and various medium and jumbo jets taking off from airports.
Someone suggested to me at one point, just go to the airport and film planes landing. Not as easy as it sounds. First, unless you have permission you can’t show the livery of the airline. Second, why should I send a crew to an airport for a simple takeoff shot when I can spend $35 online for the footage we need? The roller coaster of directing!
Now wearing my producer hat, I was really excited to read in The Wrap this week a story titled Look Who’s Rising to Fill the Void Left by Studios: Foreign Sales Companies. The studios have been cutting off production deals left and right with many producers moving their production shingle off the studio lot. While that may just sound like a change of address, it also generally means no more overhead paid for by for the studio. Frankly, I think this is a good thing as it presents a much more level playing field rather than giving a deal to a producer who hasn’t had a hit in years but gets paid to just sit around the lot.
An independent filmmaker wants a great relationship with a sales agent. After all they are the ones securing financing from distributors. Now at least armed with our trailer, I’ve already started to present Justice Is Mind to agents and have received some very positive feedback. They like the story, the performances and the look of the film so far. We all know what that means, post-production is critical for a successful film.
Part of the fun about directing on the FX side is that I got to slip in some other projects—subtly. The Synedrion Council…stay tuned.
With 2012 coming to a close, it’s time for a bit of reflection. At this time last year, I was in post-production with the short film Evidence. Today, it’s post-production for the feature film version Justice Is Mind. Suffice to say it’s been a pretty good year. But ending on a positive note is not without its challenges.
After the short film premiered at the Strand Theatre on January 20, 2012, along with several subsequent screenings, the process began in earnest to secure the funding to produce the feature. I’ve been down this path before with First World. You need to hone your logline, synopsis, have a polished script and a business plan. Raising money is a road a filmmaker generally travels alone. The presentations seem endless but that’s just part of the process. For it is a dream that all filmmakers hold on to – the search for funding can take you to the ends of the Earth.
The one thing I have learned is to surround yourself with good, if not great, people. These are people whose opinions you trust and who you want to work with. With each production, event or project I’ve been involved in this circle has grown. It’s not about simple networking (which let’s be honest, can be highly overrated), it’s about that group of people you associate yourself with that will not only bring your dreams to life but theirs as well—mutual passion.
So while my travels didn’t take me to the ends of the Earth to raise the funding to produce Justice Is Mind, they did take me to Houston, Texas where you could say I struck oil. I traveled there on business as a marketing consultant for a construction and intelligent parking solutions company owned by my best friend’s husband. Both Mary Wenninger and Stefan Kneiling knew that I ran a media company for over ten years, but their number one question to me was, “How big an organization or event have you run?” The question was a good one because producing a film (especially during principal photography) is generally nothing more than project management. My thanks again to Mary and Stefan for their support of this project that has not just realized my dream, but the dreams of so many involved in Justice Is Mind.
Regardless of what our politicians do about the “fiscal cliff”, the American dream will not fall off with it. Passion, innovation and building, no matter what times we live in, finds a way to grow. I may have held this dream to produce for over thirty years, but it just proves that anything is possible. So when 2013 comes to a close, I plan to be writing about the newly released feature film Justice Is Mind. As I’ve quoted before from Space: 1999 “The impossible just takes a little longer…that’s all!”
P.S. Sadly the science fiction community lost Gerry Anderson the creator of Thunderbirds, UFO and Space: 1999 and countless other sci-fi TV series and movies this past week. In the 1970s I watched with great excitement as Commander Straker (UFO) and Koenig (Space: 1999) led their troupes through unknown worlds. Thank you Mr. Anderson for inspiring so many with your vision of tomorrow.
This past week I got together with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months. We saw The Hobbit in this new format called 48 FPS (frames per second). I’m all about new technologies, but we both thought this was an epic fail visually. When your eye is caught paying attention to the film like a high resolution TV broadcast that looks like a daytime soap opera, that’s not the experience I want.
But prior to the film, our conversation centered on screenwriting. Something my friend wants to do. He reminded me of when I started to write screenplays. Where do you start? How do you get your work “scene”? While there’s no magic answer to this and every writer’s path is different, there are some practical ways to get your work noticed and maybe gather up some awards in the process.
I think it’s safe to say that anyone that writes their first screenplay does so from an area or interest of life that is passionate to them. For me, I have always loved science fiction and the space program. When I wrote First World in 2006 the first draft was pretty awful. I had this great screenwriting software called Final Draft (side note: it’s the best screenwriting software out there. It’s worth the expense), but painfully little guidance at the time other than enthusiasm. Well after showing it to some friends in the business, getting some solid feedback and several rewrites I was coached to enter it into some contests.
In the industry there is a website called Withoutabox.com. This is a portal in which the majority of film festivals take submissions. A good number of film festivals also have screenwriting contests. That’s where I found my first screenwriting nomination for First World.
By the time the festival had arrived I had already produced and screened the short film version. But there was something pretty exhilarating when the email came in from the California Independent Film Festival. First World had been nominated for Best Screenplay. The word “Best” was pretty fabulous. I was told that they had just over eighty screenplay submissions and only five were nominated for the Best Screenplay award.
When I went to the festival, I was surrounded by like minded people that were exceedingly passionate about their craft. I didn’t win the Best Screenplay award, but just hearing “And the nominations are….First World by Mark Lund….” was good enough for me.
My point is that getting your work seen and read has to all start someplace. And while I have entered numerous contests with no awards along the way, that one nomination renewed my passion to write, to rewrite (yes, that’s part of the process) and to develop new ideas. It was from writing the sequel to First World, Exodus that the idea for Justice Is Mind came to me.
But let’s not sugar coat this too much. The entertainment industry is perhaps one of the most difficult industries to navigate. While the advent of new technologies has made entry far easier from when I wrote First World, it is every screenwriters dream to see their work produced or at least optioned. While Justice Is Mind has been produced, I’m still determined to see First World liftoff to a feature presentation. In so many ways it comes down to timing, market conditions, etc. But that’s a post for another day.
When I saw a rough cut of the trailer for Justice Is Mind this week, I could not have been happier with the result. For any of us that write, we do so alone and lost in our thoughts as we translate those to what we hope is a workable story. Like that first nomination years ago, I now know producing an independent feature film is also possible. Thus, my next screenplay revolves around an ocean liner.
Location! Location! Location! While that phrase is often used when buying a house or setting up a new business it’s just as true in the world of filmmaking. The challenge of course is to first find a location that reflects your story and then hoping the location owners are interested in working with you and what you can offer in return. The former is easy, it’s the latter that can sometimes prove to be challenging. However my goal from the outset of pre-production was to find locations that were just as excited about filmmaking as I was.
Four Winds Farm in North Oxford, MA was recommended to me by my friend Kim’s mom Joyce. We were going back to Kim’s house to shoot the Miller residence scenes and were going to “Joyce and Joe”’s as the location for Helen Granger’s home (Henri’s kindergarten teacher). It’s one thing asking your best friend and her parents to shoot in their homes, but it’s entirely another to call up a complete stranger and pitch them a movie. But as I learned when I produced First World, someone is either into it or not. I’ll still never forget when the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston gave us their Presidential Suite for a trade in credit!
One phone conversation with Jamie Blash the owner/trainer at Four Winds Farm and I felt good about the prospects. When I arrived at the farm to meet with Jamie it was everything I had dreamed for Justice Is Mind. Beautifully maintained barns and stables, indoor and outdoor riding rings and equestrian training that was the best of the best. As some of you may know, my sister was an equestrian and a damn good one. I’ve always loved the equine world and while I never was part of it formally, like I did in First World, I wanted to showcase this world in Justice as I believe the backdrop brings a great scope to the story. And who doesn’t want to see a horse jump on screen! Suffice to say when Jamie and I met we hit it off like we’ve known each other for years.
I can’t say enough great things about Jamie, her family, customers and the farm itself. Welcoming doesn’t even begin to describe the wonderful reception we received. When a film crew arrives to set, followed by the actors, an army literally takes over. But the key to a successful shoot is really organization and communication. On both sides of the equation everyone wants the best result it’s just a matter of keeping all parties informed on dates, requirements and expectations.
A character my script called for was a horse trainer. One conversation with Jamie and she was it. Simply, I needed someone to not only play this part but to project it with authority. For these types of roles they can’t always be easily cast. It’s not just about delivering the lines, it’s believability. Do you carry yourself correctly? Do you have the right inflection with the dialogue? I’ve always believed in casting those that are trained in real life for the character they are playing in a film.
In this post I present a variety of stills from our days at Four Winds, but as you can appreciate I’ve held back other scenes. I guess we will just all have to wait until the premiere of Justice Is Mind in 2013! But before then, look for more stills, the first official poster, the trailer and maybe an event or two along the way.
As some of you may remember, I was cast in a short sci-fi film last year titled Approved by Durjaya. Set in a dystopian future in which people are segregated by their job, I am pleased to announce that Approved is having its premiere in Boston this evening. I look forward to catching up with the actors and crew and seeing the final result of this work.
In regard to screenings, Justice Is Mind: Evidence will have its fifth presentation at Balticon 46 on May 25. I’m delighted to announce that Vernon Aldershoff, who plays Henri Miller, will be joining me at the screening and for the Q&A immediately after. I always enjoy the Q&A sessions after a film an what an audience sees. When you are part of producing a film you see the end product one way, but an audience can have an entirely different “take.” But at that point to quote Bill Sampson in All About Eve, “…you’re in a tin can.”
For so many reasons I’m looking forward to Balticon and my visit to the Washington, DC area. At Balticon I’ll be speaking on and moderating a variety of panels. Prior to the screening of Evidence on Friday, I’ll be reading from some of my past works. I think I may read from First World: Covenant the prequel novella I published last year. As First World had its first screening at Balticon five years to the day of Evidence, bringing back First World seems appropriate.
On Saturday May 26, Balticon attendees will find me on the Self-Publishing, Casting Calls, Screenwriting/Directing, Low Budget Filmmaking, Hi Tech v Low Tech panels and an autograph session in the afternoon. I’m excited about these panels, because I know there is so much talent out there that wants to get their product to market. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry doesn’t make it easy and there are countless misconceptions that I think sadly preclude many from putting dream to paper. As Gerald Simmonds, former executive of the World Space Commission in Space: 1999 said, “The impossible just takes a little longer.”
Regarding science fiction, I was talking to one of the country’s leading neurologists last week about the sci-fi in Justice Is Mind where MRI technology can read memory in video form. As he stated to me, “Your timeframe is pessimistic.” My response included a bit of a pause when I said, “Well from today how long do you think it will be until MRI technology can read memory in video form?” When he responded 7-10 years I was simply amazed. But on hindsight, it all makes sense. In my view, mankind is reaching towards an apex of understanding when it comes to not only the science of inner space (the mind) but that of outer space as well. One does not have to be a neurologist or rocket scientist to see that as we come to better understand our universe, there is a clash with those groups (often religious based) that are frightened of the truth. I seem to recall the Vatican having a field day with some guy called Galileo.
Of course, before Galileo there was another wonder called Leonardo da Vinci. One can only imagine what that great mind of his envisioned when he designed an early glider. While he may not have imagined the glide of the Space Shuttle Discovery, I can say with all fact that I can’t wait to see Discovery at the Smithsonian.
As for a longstanding dream of my own, I learned last week that nothing is impossible it just took a little longer.
Someone asked me the other day what filmmakers I admire. It’s a short list. Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard), Sidney Lumet (Fail Safe), Alfred Hitchcock (North by Northwest), George Pal (The Time Machine), Ron Howard (Angels & Demons) and Brian Singer (X Men). But the one filmmaker I admire the most is James Cameron.
For Cameron he just doesn’t produce, direct and write great motion pictures – he markets them. His passion for storytelling is simply evident in the box office receipts of Terminator, Aliens, Avatar and my favorite Titanic. It’s pretty clear that it’s never a wrap on a James Cameron film. In fact, when the last scene is shot I suspect that’s when the “reel” work begins.
The business itself of filmmaking is, by its own design, complicated. And to quote Stephan Paternot of Slated.com, “It’s a very inefficient industry.” The same thing could easily be said about the magazine publishing industry that I worked in for over a decade. Inefficiency in magazine distribution is legendary. To this day, I believe the eventual success I had in print was because I just kept marketing by testing new areas of distribution and customer acquisition. Yes, I hit some real potholes (aka cash losses) but I also struck oil more than once (speaking of which, I’m looking forward to the return of Dallas on TNT). I’ll also be honest. I’m pushy. I make no apologies for it either. If I’m not going to push my own projects who will?
When I set out to produce First World a few years ago and Justice Is Mind last year, my hope was to produce short films that represent the essence of the features I would love to produce. Of course, the challenges with most filmmakers (me included) is limited resources. However, I believe it’s those limits that drive us the most – how do we turn $100 into $1,000 on screen? But the one thing most of us have is a phone, a computer and an email address. With those three items in hand, real progress is possible. As I’ve often said, the worse someone can say is no. But sometimes a long shot can translate into a yes.
For First World, that yes was when First World was the only film selected to screen in India at their First Ever National Discussion on Science Fiction. For Justice Is Mind, that yes was when the Strand Theatre agreed to screen Justice Is Mind: Evidence after J. Edgar.
As I wait to hear from a Chinese production company about First World, I am already starting to prep for the next screening of Justice Is Mind: Evidence at Balticon on May 25. But before that screening, there are the handful of investors and production companies considering the feature film version of Justice Is Mind and there will be more pitches along the way. The two things all of us creative types require are perseverance and patience.
I leave you today with a quote from C. Hope Clark who is the editor and founder of FundsforWriters.com who, after many years of hard work, had her mystery book Lowcountry Bribe published earlier this year. “You don’t see success coming. It just shows up one day, asking you to let it in . . . unless you quit along the way. Then it goes and knocks on somebody else’s door.”
I wonder if that was what James Cameron was thinking when he produced his first short sci-film Xenogenesis back in the 1970s?
Words to “lens” by.
P.S. The official trailer for Justice Is Mind: Evidence has been entered into the International Movie Trailer Festival. When you have a chance, please follow this link to vote. It’s quick, free and you can use your Facebook login if you’d like.
With Justice Is Mind: Evidence having its first screening at a science fiction convention on Sunday, April 8 at Olympus 2012 in London, UK and with both Justice Is Mind and First World being pitched to investors this week, I wonder if it’s just coincidence or happenstance that I’ve been reading more about funding issues surrounding NASA and the space program in general.
It has always been my view, that aside from having the greatest military in the world, the United States space program is by far humanity’s pinnacle achievement. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. We came in peace for all mankind.” The wording on the plaque left on the Moon by Apollo 11 was to usher in a new beginning. But even when men from the planet Earth were walking on the Moon bringing peace to another world, our military was fighting in Vietnam to prevent the spread of another war on Earth, albeit a cold one that heated to a regional conflict that lasted just shy of twenty years.
There’s no question that the United States, and other world governments, are having financial issues and are in a constant state of distraction with the war on terror. When our country was viciously attacked over ten years ago a chain of events commenced that by necessity distracted America. As our country did in 1941 and during other conflicts up to 2001, our mantra has always been to stop and defend America first – no matter what the cost. Make no mistake America will always defend its ideals of freedom and democracy and to hell with any country or movement that dares to test us. We can be your greatest friend or your worst enemy – you pick.
But with the United States winding down its conflicts to focus on the homeland, it’s time to focus on greatness again. And that greatness has been rooted in our space program. The historically proven discoveries and knowledge it brings along with the jobs it creates both domestically and internationally are reasons enough to properly fund America’s space program. When we consider that only .5% of the U.S. federal budget is allocated for NASA, something is seriously wrong with this math. Imagine what 1% could bring?
Just as of this writing, planetary science missions are being cut by 20% including a major Mars program. And for the first time in NASA’s history we no longer can launch an astronaut into space. This is not the America that I know. But we need a President that understands America’s leadership in space reflects its leadership on Earth. Obama can be that president. It most certainly won’t be any of the GOP nominees as they are more concerned with abolishing the separation of church and state rather than understanding a multi-stage separation to Earth orbit and beyond.
As President Ronald Reagan said during a state of the union address in 1984, “America has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We can reach for greatness again. We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain. Tonight, I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade.”
In 1993, Russia, Europe and the United States merged their space station programs to create the International Space Station.
Last night I had the great pleasure of seeing John Carter. Although I haven’t read the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series it was based on, as a sci-fi enthusiast, I just had to see it. I’m glad I did. This was a masterful piece of storytelling. From the cinematography, to the acting to the story itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it. In “development hell” for almost 80 years, it’s pretty clear when you see this film where George Lucas got some of his inspiration for Star Wars.
Reportedly produced for $250M but only taking in just over $100M this weekend, it looks like this first entry into the John Carter series may be its last. The biggest complaint by far has been the overall marketing of the film. I admit, I only went to see it because I love sci-fi. In my view, the trailers didn’t represent the film I saw in the theatre. Let there be no mistake, a trailer has all the heavy lifting in the film marketing process—it has to drive sales. 2012 had a brilliant trailer, but the movie itself was an embarrassment.
Marketing by far is the most critical aspect of a film (or any product or servicefor that matter). Sure, you have to cast and shoot the film properly before it’s handed over to an editor to bring the story to life (a good story helps as well!). But you also need to know who your target audience is.
With Justice Is Mind, while I pretty much thought it was going to be the 40+ plus crowd, the audiences at Olde Mistick a few weeks ago cemented that. It wasn’t just the age of the audiences it was their enthusiastic and thorough questions. As networks produce pilots for test audiences, “shorts” can accomplish the same process for feature films.
With my other project, First World, I made the mistake of trying to broaden this sci-fi epic into festivals that were largely drama based. Oh was that an “epic” fail. I found the audiences for First World in the sci-fi convention and festival circuit with even more enthusiasm for the project oversees. That’s why at one point we nearly had a lock on financing from China and Germany. Too bad the economy collapsed in 2008.
Justice Is Mind – With the latest in MRI technology able to scan memory, how do you defend yourself against your own mind when it reveals a murder you committed – one you cannot remember but only a trial from history will solve.
First World – China’s first manned mission to the Moon reveals the Apollo 11 cover-up that mankind has never been alone.
This past week I received some good reports on the funding front for Justice Is Mind only to find another great possibility for First World. Will they lead to a closing? Of course I hope so. But until I hear President Anderson in First World say “I had to learn from the British that our entire space program has been a lie,” and Henri Miller in Justice Is Mind say “How do you win against your own mind?” the journey to feature continues.
I wasn’t at all surprised last week to see the news reports that the United States military was finding counterfeit electronic parts in its supply chain that have been made in China. Our politicians shouldn’t be surprised either.
America’s politicians are so busy worrying about, yet again, another election that the business of the United States and its position as a world power are quickly eroding to second world status. It’s automatic with our two-party system – we just can’t have a politician talk about the importance of the business of America we have to have their party affiliation tacked on. Guess they aren’t worth listening to unless you can identify them as a D, R…or maybe even…dare I say it…I.
So what’s happened these past couple of weeks? China has not only launched a military reconnaissance satellite but successfully accomplished its first “space docking” in Earth orbit. Sure, the United States and then Soviet Union accomplished these great feats in the 1960s, but we can’t forget why they succeeded in the first place. Both our countries were knee-deep in the Cold War and were determined to best each other no matter what the cost. The result? Through our paranoia of each other and our ideals, we developed technology and related advances in science that have greatly benefitted all of mankind. History is being repeated all over again.
Why are we, the United States, not fully cooperating with China? Oh, wait, that’s right. China has that awful record of human rights violations. Sure, I’ll give you that China fails on a variety of fronts in that arena, but is the United States any better? Let’s see, we have unyielding unemployment, poverty, riots in the streets, protestors in most major cities, our veterans that defend our democracy are treated horribly and in the center of it all a two-party political system that is driving a knife through the very fabric that made this country great and a world power in the first place – innovation.
America it is time to innovate again. Not just domestically, but globally. It’s time to abolish this ridiculous sanctions limit on aeronautical engineers cooperating with the Chinese. Is our country so naïve to think that the thousands of engineers that have been furloughed from America’s space program are going to wait around for a D, R or I to get things moving again?
America you can have your cake and eat it too. You know you are capable of negotiating anything and everything when you want too. You’ve done it before you can do it again. Remember what President Reagan said “Trust, but verify.” That’s all we need to do with China.
Mark Lund, Executive Producer and Jessica Killam, Producer; are pleased to announce the September 30 – October 2 production of Justice is Mind: Evidence. Principal photography will take place in Oxford, Massachusetts with exterior locations filmed in Worcester, Massachusetts. Production brings together seasoned entertainment professionals and film students.
In Justice is Mind, MRI technology has advanced to a point where imaging of long term memories can be produced in near video quality. When local businessman and restauranteur Henri Miller has the new FVMRI scan and it reveals his murdering of two contractors that worked for his restaurants, the trial of the century begins when a defendant’s own memory is used as the primary evidence against him at trial.
The short film version Evidence begins in the chambers of Judge Richard Wagner when motions are presented by defense counsel in a desperate attempt to suppress the key memory evidence. Evidence continues at the Miller residence with Henri growing more unstable and his journalist wife, Margaret, attempting to bring some normalcy to their situation — a futile attempt when the news seals Henri’s fate.
“The idea for Justice came to me when I was watching a 60 Minutes show in which thought identification was demonstrated using current MRI technology,” said Lund, who also wrote the screenplay. “With science fiction becoming more science fact, Justice just moves up the technology by about ten years and brings it into the courtroom.”
The feature film version of Justice is Mind has already secured digital distribution through the same company that distributed Lund’s 2007 short film First World. The production of Evidence will demonstrate the look and feel of the story while the producers submit the short to film festivals and use the project as a capital raise vehicle for equity investment and crowd funding.
On the production front, Evidence brings together a team of both experienced filmmakers and film students from Fitchburg State University (FSU) and Emerson College. Lund, who was cast by Killam in a short film she produced at FSU this past May, united their network to produce Evidence with the goal of producing the feature film version in June.
“Mark sent me his script after we finished production on a short film I was producing and I loved it,” said Killam. “I’m always looking for new projects to get involved in, and this one seemed like a good fit.”
Justice is Mind: Evidence is sponsored by Pizza Post in Oxford and the Law Firm of Barry Bachrach in Leicester. Zone 5 Pictures, who produced First World with Lund, is serving as producer and film production advisor.
Evidence stars Vernon Aldershoff (Henri Miller), Alexander Cook (John Darrow), Maria Natapov (Constance Smith), John Depew (Judge Wagner), Robin Ann Rapoport (Margaret Miller) and Toula Coin (News Reporter). Evidence also introduces Joshua Hey (Gary Miller) and Kim Merriam (Court Stenographer).
Executive Producer/Director, Mark Lund; Producer/Assistant Director, Jessica Killlam; Director of Photography, Rob Featherstone; Produced by Kim Merriam and Adam Starr; First Camera, Jon Morales; Chief Lighting, Dilia McDonagh; Gaffer, Tony Ventura; Sound Technician, Richard Cowdry; Editors and Visual Effects by Andrew Nolan and Joshua Hey; Makeup Arist, Monique Mercoglinao-Battista; general production assistance Jeremy Blaiklock and Tom Dasilva. Poster design by Rayne Marden.
Since my last post, the response to Justice is Mind has been nothing less than tremendous from interested directors and crew both here in the United States and in Europe. Frankly, I don’t think putting together a production has changed since the industry’s first feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was produced in 1906. Someone still needs to direct the “moving picture” actors are still required (even though they can be created digitally) along with a host of crew – lights, camera…action!
I remember reading some years ago a book titled Scarlett, Rhett, and a Cast of Thousands. The entire production process of Gone with the Wind has to be one of the most daring in Hollywood history. An independent filmmaker by the name of David O. Selznick leveraged himself almost into insolvency to finance what is arguably one of the top 10 motion pictures ever created. It was only when the legendary Louis B. Mayer and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer rescued the project by “loaning” Clark Gable and putting up $1.2 million to secure 50% of the profits for MGM with distribution rights being awarded to MGM’s parent company Loew’s, Inc. (now AMC Theatres) did the world see those great actors of yesterday portray some of the most memorable characters ever created in cinematic history. And let’s not forget the publicity Selznick achieved with the “Search for Scarlett.”
While Justice is Mind won’t have a cast of thousands, what every independent filmmaker hopes for now is “viewers” in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. Cynthia Almanzar over at Film News Briefs really said it best this week echoing some of my commentary in my last post “it’s obvious that digital evolution won’t stop. Everything is getting engulfed. Studios and filmmakers understand this. So, instead of trying to stunt its growth, it’s time to grow with it.”
Having just finished a great two year plus run of First World on Hulu, I can assure every filmmaker that digital distribution is the next great step for the industry. Like magazine publishers that refused to embrace the web, filmmakers (especially the independents) that don’t jump on this technology will be left in the DVD dustbin.
Like digital distribution, film finance has also seen some new assistance come online in the way of crowd funding. With Indiegogo and Kickstarter leading the charge, the ability to raise production cash by fans and supporters is critical in the economy we are in. Of course some creative incentives will help such as a $1,000 donation will enable the donor to participate as a member of the jury in Justice is Mind. Having a “Jock” Whitney or two involved wouldn’t be bad either.
I think someone like Selznick would have embraced all these new technologies. But I can picture Mayer just shaking his head in defiance.
But “After all…” things in this industry “…tomorrow is another day.”
The idea for Justice is Mind came to me after I finished some writing on First World regarding Central’s (Central Encoding Neurological Transfer Recording and Library) ability to read minds that was originally inspired from a 60 Minutes story. And while I continue to develop the First World franchise, and work on securing a producing partner for the feature, I wanted to write something that could be produced on a micro-budget. Of course, in Hollywood terms, micro-budget is classed at anything under $500K. Justice is Mind has a total budget just north of $30,000.
It’s no secret that the independent film finance market was shattered during the economic crisis of 2008. Whole funds of capital dried up and projects just didn’t get produced. (Financing that was lined up for First World literally disappeared overnight). But what has been created during this economic downturn as an optional platform is digital distribution and video on demand. Justice is Mind was created exclusively for those avenues of release and return. Yes, by return, I’m talking about a return of investment to investors.
I truly believe that having a distribution deal in place before you lens the first scene is vital. Justice is Mind has secured that through IndieFlix. Sure, anyone that makes a motion picture has high hopes for it and emotions always run high. But the traditional methods of submitting to film festivals, getting selected by a festival and securing a theatrical distribution deal are slim. The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity “cases” are rare at best. Of course it is the Another Earth’s that still give that system hope to filmmakers.
The film industry, like the print publishing industry I was once part of, has had to embrace new technologies and methods of doing business. This isn’t to say producers enjoy paying talent and crew less, it just means that the revenue economics aren’t there yet. And you can’t tell an investor “You give me $1 and I’ll give you back .50 in two years.” But the upside is, the entire production process has become easier with less barriers to entry and therefore more can be produced. In this case, less is most certainly more for both talent and crew.
And so another adventure begins. With my interest in producing a teaser trailer for Justice is Mind in late September/early October as a marketing tool to secure financing for the feature, I placed a listing on New England Film for crew. The response has been tremendous. The level of talent in New England has always been a boon to filmmakers and audiences alike. Should a crew be secured, a casting call notice will go out in the next couple of weeks.
Speaking of films, I highly recommend Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This is one of those rare moments in conventional Hollywood where they hit all the right notes. For those of us that have seen the original Planet of the Apes, starring the late Charlton Heston, you will appreciate this new addition to the franchise even more.
I was delighted to discover Jonathan Cullen’s review of First World: Covenant over at The Future Fire. When I read phrases such as “Its basis is audacious and inventive” and “The protagonist…Kathleen Gould, is absolutely memorable and interesting,” it’s very satisfying as a writer to know that you’ve created something of interest for a reviewer – the all important ingredient for marketing a book.
I agree with Mr. Cullen’s analysis that sometimes the mix of points of view in the same scene can be frustrating. As I write Synedrion, these are important notes I take into consideration as clarification of story is key. First World, in particular, is laden with a variety of characters that are critical to moving the story forward.
It’s curious, Kathleen Gould, the protagonist in Covenant, was just a minor player in the original First World story (she only had about a dozen lines in the script). As some of you know, I wrote Covenant a couple of years ago as a web series and established Gould as a new major player along with the monolithic Bank of Shinar International at One World Trade Center. In Synedrion, Gould takes drastic steps to separate herself from the ever monitoring Central (their computer system). The sequel to Covenant is still on target for a late fall 2011 release.
Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago how I created First World. It all originated out of an idea I had for a scene in which these great “Concorde” style ships just appeared over the beach in Ogunquit, Maine (in the short film the location was Cape Cod) and my further thought that there is no better observation of Earth than from the Moon.
When I read on Space.com this morning that the International Space Station might be getting a name and at one point it was called Alpha, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite science fiction TV shows Space: 1999. Starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, the show is set in year 1999 when the Moon, and the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha (built in the crater Plato), are blasted out of Earth orbit when the nuclear waste dumps explode sending them on a journey through the universe.
NASA named the first space shuttle Enterprise after the starship U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek. I vote the consortium of countries name the International Space Station after Moonbase Alpha. It even looks good in print – ISS Alpha.
To quote Professor Victor Bergman from Space: 1999 “We are Mankind. We came from planet Earth, and we built this base, called Alpha, to learn more about space.”
I am one of those people that believe in fate. That is not to say that our entire lives have been mapped out and that we can’t change our futures. But let’s be honest, our actions and motivations do present us with interesting paths to take. One of those paths led me to be involved in a film called Noah.
Produced by Identical Films, Noah is a feature film set in present day America where slavery was never abolished. I play a character named Martin Scott, a multimillionaire who purchases his first slave. The story that ensues is a reminder that despite the progress we have made since the abolishment of slavery in this country, there remains a need to be educated on our past to protect us from a repeat of history.
The paths I have taken in my own writing, brings us to a time when slavery was legal in this country. In First World, one of the central characters, Elisabeth Seward, is African American. Present during the administration of President Lincoln she was involved in events that motivated Lincoln to craft the Emancipation Proclamation.
I’m not sure who it was, but one of the actors on Saturday mentioned that “one person can make a difference.” How true has it been through the history of our country where one person has had an idea, a motivation or a determination to do something great (or sadly not so great). We know this list is not limited to names such as Washington, Lincoln, Parks or King, but there are the handful of Americans that come to mind when we think of independence and civil rights.
Let’s consider for a moment just what humanity is capable of accomplishing when we unite for a greater good. On April 12, 1861 the pressure cooker of legalized slavery finally erupted into the American Civil War. While the loss of life was severe, the result was freedom for slaves and the building of one of the greatest nations this planet has ever seen. One hundred years later on April 12, 1961 Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter space and orbit the Earth. A month later in that same year, President John Kennedy dared to put an American on the Moon by the end of the decade. And in the present Charles F. Bolden is the first African American to head NASA.
Our country was far from perfect after the Civil War ended in 1865. The history of civil rights in the United States has always been an uphill battle, but a battle we are winning even though days can seem like years which can seem like decades. America is a young country and one that is sometimes scarily immature and near-sighted.
As an actor I can offer this experience from my work on the set. There was a moment during taping when a cold shudder came over me during a scene with the character Noah and slave dealer Avery (wonderfully played by Andy Jasmin and Andrew Roth respectively).
Dear God, we used to buy people.
The power of film gives us the opportunity to educate where, sorry to say this, our schools and society sometimes fail. Ignorance of history is not bliss—it’s dangerous. It scares the hell out of me when people think the American Civil War was not about slavery or that the Holocaust didn’t happen.
Although the United States has made tremendous strides over the last two centuries, we still have a long way to go. We know these truths to be self-evident because…
…all men are created equal.
When I wrote the original draft of First World in 2006, I had no idea I would be converting it to a book five years later – never mind a series of them. But those are the journeys in time we take. What’s interesting to me, are the countless additional ideas I had at the time when writing the screenplay that I now can fit into a book. It wasn’t because I didn’t think they wouldn’t be visually interesting, but when writing a script on spec, unless you’re James Cameron, you really are confined to a certain page limit.
In Synedrion, I theorized the possibility that, at some point in time, satellites will not only be able to render images of the inside of buildings, but can do so in three dimensions with nearly life-like quality. Thus, the Eighth Synedrion Council watching President Kennedy as he delivers his famous 1961 address to Congress in VEC – the Virtual Earth Control room.
This technology, while maybe not yet in three dimensional form, partially exists today. According to an article on CNET, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, wants technologies that render “complete situational awareness” through buildings. My guess is that they already have it as part of their Advanced Space Systems program.
NASA’s Terra satellite already maps the topography of the planet. And in 2007 the Bush Administration approved a plan for “21st-century spycraft…that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.”
Speaking of time, last night I watched one of my favorite movies The Time Machine. Starring the dashing Rod Taylor and the beautiful Yvette Mimieux, H.G. Wells’ story of a machine that can go forward and backward in time, is a classic. Forget the remake, the 1960 version is the one you want to see.
One of my favorite scenes was when Taylor’s character, H. George Wells, goes into the library of the Eloi city in the year 802701 only to discover that books no longer exist (those that did crumpled in his hands from extreme age) and that data was stored in ring CD-like devices. Curious how such change in technology is happening now in the Earth year of 2011.
As I’ve said before, what I enjoy the most about the classic science fiction made in the 1950s and 60s (and some in the 70s) is the story they told through dialogue. Of course, they tried their best to deliver visual greatness (This Island Earth took two years to create the special effects). Regarding stories that center on time, one hidden gem (forget the sets) is Journey to the Center of Time.
In closing, the trailer for Approved by Durjaya has been released and I start work on a new film in Boston next weekend titled Noah. More on that project next time.
With the final mission of the space shuttle program launching this Friday, July 8 with Atlantis’s scheduled lift off from Kennedy Space Center at 11:26 EDT, the debate begins on what is truly the next step for NASA and indeed our long term goals in space exploration on a planetary scale.
We have the grand and fantastic International Space Station, a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in development, unmanned spacecraft exploring every facet of our solar system while discovering new worlds beyond our own and an exciting commercial space program being led by SpaceX. But what NASA really needs is a budget set in stone, law and time that spells out exactly where the agency is going to go without interference from the whims of a new American President.
In my view, there really have been only three Presidents that understood the importance of setting long term goals for the agency – Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan.
When the Apollo program ended in the early 1970s, the next phase for NASA was well underway with the space shuttle when Nixon announced the program in 1972. Of course a few years earlier, it was Wernher von Braun who said at the time of the Apollo 11 launch “You give me 10 billion dollars and 10 years and I’ll have a man on Mars.”
Back then NASA had direction and long term goals. I’m not saying we don’t have that to some degree now, nor were the 1960s and 70s not fraught with budgetary issues, but NASA’s direction cannot be decided every four years. NASA needs, at least, a 10 year plan that cannot be changed once it’s approved by Congress.
Of course, what I have always found uniquely interesting in the history of the space program is its origins from the 1930s and The Third Reich. For it was that impoverished nation of Germany that conceived the Silbervogel – a winged aircraft that, to some degree, gave birth to what evolved into the United States space shuttle.
One has to truly wonder what inspired those scientists to create what they did given their resources at the time. Could there have been some outside influence perhaps? After all, we are talking about the invention of new applications in science and technology.
I, for one, believe in the ancient astronaut theories. In addition to the general concept of First World being built around it, there are simply too many unanswered questions regarding the abrupt jump in technology and the development of modern civilization. Something, someone or some action had to be responsible. While evidence certainly exists of some sort of interference in our society, an answer has not revealed itself.
Over at Space.com, Andrei Finkelstein, Russian astronomer and director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Applied Astronomy Institute in St. Petersburg, said “The genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms.”
We have discovered over 1,000 extrasolar planets and with the success of the Kepler space telescope are discovering more everyday. Now that we know where these otherworld planets are, we can turn SETI’s radio antennas to very specific areas of the cosmos to listen.
But with SETI’s budget slashed and its Allen Telescope Array offline, how can we listen to possible signals from alien civilizations if they are aimed at Earth? SETI needs just $200,000 to start listening again.
I leave you with this thought. Why have Earth’s space programs morphed into a thousand different directions with no clear goal? Haven’t we all noticed that we have these great tools in science and technology but no coherent global program to unite these platforms in a mission of revelation? I’m not talking Biblical Revelation here, but the revelation in knowledge and understanding.
The answers we seek are probably already here, but we need the organization to find them – or maybe to let them find us.
The Paris Air Show is known as the worlds largest and for good reason. Not only is it the oldest, but it acts as a grand exhibit hall to the latest and greatest in aviation. This year, however, the talk was all about the ZEHST – The Zero Emission Hyper Sonic Transport.
Since the Concorde last flew about eight years ago, the commercial aviation market has stayed subsonic. While it might be nice to fly in the luxury of the A380, it saddens me that there’s no longer a choice if you want to fly supersonic.
EADS, the parent company of Airbus, introduced the ZEHST concept. The idea is that it will be able to fly at Mach 4 with over 100 passengers at over 100,000 feet and make the journey from New York to Tokyo in only 2.5 hours.
There’s no question that the ambition is an impressive one. But will it ever fly? From what I’ve read, EADS claims it could have a working model by 2020 and be in the market by 2050. I wish we could go back to the heady days of Apollo and Concorde when we decided to just do something great. The science and engineering are there so to quote Nike “Just do it!”
As the article states, the United States government classifies lunar samples as national treasures and well it should. Aside from the fact that these objects are from another world, they were brought back to this one by man for all of mankind to study and learn from. I for one believe it should be illegal for anyone to try to sell lunar objects.
Finally, for those of you that don’t subscribe to my email newsletter or missed it on Facebook or Twitter, last month yours truly was cast in a short science fiction film called Approved by Durjaya. The film “centers around a dystopian society in which there are strict rules enforced by a higher authority and each citizen is assigned to a group that determines their job and subsequently their life.“ I play one of the two protagonists. The film is scheduled for release in December.
In closing, I’m also running a promotion for First World: Covenant. For those of you that purchased the ebook, I am offering a FREE autographed cover of Covenant that would be suitable for framing. Details can be found in my latest email newsletter.
In the First World universe the primary method of transportation by the Lunarians is the Arctran (Anti-gravity Robotic Command Transport Rapid Aeronautic Navigation). Styled like the retired Concorde, with the length of a 747 and in “Boeing Silver,” an Arctran’s primary function is to act as transportation between Central’s four Earth bases and the domed installation on the Moon, Lunaria. Of course no fictional story would be complete without putting the Arctrans to the test of combat, something they were never designed to do – well, maybe they’ve had some modifications along the way.
Anti-gravity propulsion is certainly nothing new in science fiction. One of my favorite movies that used anti-gravity as a plot device was The First Men in the Moon (1964). The one thing that I love about science fiction from the 1950s and 60s is that they try to explain the science behind the science fiction. In The First Men in the Moon, a scientist by the name of Joseph Cavor invents Cavorite – a gravity blocking substance with the properties of Helium. When this substance is applied to an object it defies the laws of gravity and propels itself. In the film, Cavor uses Cavorite painted blinds on his spacecraft (a sphere) to navigate. Imagine if it was that simple
In the real world, the last seventy years has seen a variety of research into the harnessing of anti-gravity technologies. During the Third Reich, Die Glocke was allegedly some sort of “Bell” that resisted gravity with electromagnetic propulsion. The only proof of whatever did actually exist is a test rig.
For years it has been speculated and reported that Boeing has been working on anti-gravity propulsion with the code name GRASP – Gravity Research for Advanced Space Propulsion. When we consider that the black technology computers used during the Apollo space program are now household technology, I think we can safely speculate that there are propulsion systems being tested that the public has yet to witness.
Next weekend I’ll be at the Rhode Island Air Show, maybe I’ll arrange for an Arctran to make an appearance. Better still, maybe our military would like to surprise us with something new.