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.
The world premiere for Justice Is Mind will take place… The industry screening in Los Angeles will take place… I am pleased to announce that the following cities will be screening Justice Is Mind …We looking forward to presenting Justice Is Mind at….International Film Festival in… Yes, the majority of what I just mentioned has been accomplished and will be formally announced once all the final details are in place.
This past week has been a feverishly busy one for Justice Is Mind. With the world premiere date and location set, the score nearing completion and the special effects continuing on their building spree, the pieces of this massive puzzle are coming together. Just the other day, I received an email from one of our faithful extras in Justice. I had forgotten to add his name to our IMDB listing. The total count of all those involved just on our official film listing is nearing 100 when in fact we have over 120 people and companies involved in this project. And with our various screening deals and new partners coming into the production, we just added another 10 or so. No pressure to make sure this project comes across right! But that’s what filmmaking is about.
From the day you write that first word on your screenplay until the day your story has its world premiere, the process of details is an endless one. Just today, I finished up writing the instructions for all the special effect shots. From simple tracking points to the processing of Henri Miller’s memories, the special effect shot count alone is over 225. I now have to write out the closing credits. To coin a phrase from district attorney Constance Smith in Justice Is Mind, “At the start of this trial, I said this would be a simple case. But I did not promise you an easy case.” Indeed, filmmaking isn’t easy and the process should be taken seriously because there are simply too many people involved that have contributed in one fashion or another.
I see so many projects wither on the vine. It’s so unfair to so many involved. Those that work with me know I am relentless in detail and organization. As I’ve mentioned this before, I learned these traits from my days of running a publishing company. To not pay attention or be organized just meant costly delays. In the world of low budget filmmaking, time sure as hell equals money.
But with this constantly changing industry comes what I call the continuing self-education process. It’s reading the trades, blogs you trust and attending industry events. Let me say this, it was an industry event I attended that led to the deal for the premiere of Justice Is Mind. Suffice to say you never know who’s in the audience that you haven’t met but wants to do business with you.
This coming Saturday I’m attending the Massachusetts Media Expo in Boston at WGBH TV. The expo is being organized and presented by the Massachusetts Production Coalition. To partially quote from their website it’s, “a day-long event will feature over 50 exhibitors, a distinguished panel of guest speakers including: Doug Trumbull, Dorothy Aufiero, Todd Arnow and Mark Kamine. Directing and Casting Workshops will be held in the afternoon, and in the evening the premiere of Whitey Bulger: The Making of a Monster followed by a Q&A session with the directors and special guests.” So to quote Marlene Dietrich in one of my favorite films Judgment at Nuremberg “It ought to be quite an evening. Would you like to come?”
Sure. Who knows who’ll be in the audience.
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.
Two months of pre-production, four days of production and three months in post-production, the world premiere of Justice Is Mind: Evidence will take place at the historic Strand Theatre in Clinton, Massachusetts on January 20. For those of you that are interested in attending, please visit our press release at this link for more information.
For me, it feels like I’m going home. In addition to my mother working in Clinton for several years, I also produced a commercial at the Strand Theatre for Scene magazine back in 2005. If you visit this link you’ll see the exterior of the Strand towards the end. Adam Starr, who did the visual effects for Evidence, produced that commercial with me and created the effects. During our production, my family and friends participated as attendees to the premiere of The Marginal Way all with a digitized marquee and spotlights. Another interesting factoid from that production – we never actually walked into the theatre. The entire production was shot outside.
But on January 20 I will be proudly walking inside with the outstanding cast and crew that made it all possible. Our premiere at the Strand could not be more ideal. Not only will Evidence be shown to audiences right after the feature J. Edgar, but there is a certain irony in our short following this particular film. In Justice Is Mind government agencies are directly involved in the new FVMRI brain scans when it comes to forcibly mind reading terrorists. To quote the character of John Darrow in Justice Is Mind, Henri Miller’s defense attorney brilliantly played by Alexander Cook in Evidence, “Have any of these FVMRI machines been shipped by Reincar Scientific to any domestic and international intelligence agencies?” As for the response by the individual he’s questioning during the trial? You’ll have to wait until Justice Is Mind is produced.
I am also pleased to report that our crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo is gaining traction and a following. We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but with 1,215 views and 249 referrals, our traffic is building and funders are starting to contribute. We’ve all read one story after another about how easy it is to communicate in the world of social media, but that brings new challenges – standing out from the rest and making, what I call “social noise.” To those of you that have Liked our page so it shows up on Facebook, retweeted my Tweets and taken the time to discuss this project online, I could not be more grateful. Not to repeat myself, but if it’s good enough for PBS, it’s good enough for me.
“We still need your support. So please, visit Justice Is Mind’s crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo and contribute what you can. By supporting independent film production, not only will you be supporting the arts but you’ll have a direct hand in creating the programming you want to see.”
Hmm…maybe it’s time to start making some pledge videos?
It gives me great pleasure to announce the crowdfunding campaign for Justice Is Mind!
When I first started to hear about this thing called crowdfunding I initially was pretty skeptical. Who would just donate money to a project without some sort of financial return? But it didn’t take long to dawn on me that my prior work in magazine publishing was pretty much the same thing. Customers buy magazines just like they buy films. What’s circulation to one industry is crowdfunding to another. But in the case of crowdfunding, a customer now has the wonderful opportunity to participate in the process of bringing a new product to market.
Being an independent filmmaker is no different than being a stand alone magazine publisher. Absent studio/venture backing, you turn to your audience. When I was publishing International Figure Skating magazine years ago, it still surprised people to learn that the majority of our revenue was from circulation not advertising. In plain numbers, International Figure Skating magazine grossed $1.2 million a year with better than $900,000 being circulation revenue. The key, I discovered, was having a quality product to sell at an attractive price.
As you will see on our IndieGoGo campaign, there is something for everyone with perks ranging from $10 to $2,000. Personally, I think the real value is in the $30 perk and $1,000 and $2,000 levels. For $30 not only do you get a FREE copy of the short film Evidence and the feature Justice Is Mind, you are also publicly thanked on our web site and Facebook page and you receive a subscription to our email newsletter to keep up with the production. I’d say that’s worth $30. But it’s at the higher levels in which you receive producer related credits and the opportunity to be on-camera in some of the scenes. In fact, those that opt for the $2,000 perk have the opportunity to be a member of the jury! Having been involved in the entertainment industry for years, and spent well more than that along the way, not only will you see the process of filmmaking first hand but you don’t have to audition.
Yes, even in feature films extras and featured extras have to go through some sort of audition process. I remember when I was living in Los Angeles and they were casting for extras in Star Trek. You all know how much I love science fiction and, in particular, Trek. Dear lord when I arrived at the audition location and saw literally three hundred plus people in line I couldn’t believe it. Needless to say I didn’t wait. But I would have paid for the opportunity if I could have. While Justice Is Mind isn’t Star Trek, it does have distribution in place and gives anyone the opportunity to learn from an experienced cast and crew. And in the end, it’s a great time.
I think this is where I need to sound like a PBS commercial.
“We need your support. So please, visit Justice Is Mind’s crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo. Your support today brings production for tomorrow.”
P.S. In addition to our crowdfunding campaign, we are also pursuing direct investment. You can email me at email@example.com for more information.
With the title of this post I’m not referring to the last act of the 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage when the cast had to escape the patient before returning to full size, but the phase of production we are in for Justice is Mind: Evidence.
After writing the screenplay in 2010 (phase one), planning pre-production from June through September (phase two), three days of principal photography that wrapped on October 2 (phase three), we now enter the phase of post-production where the editors, special effects supervisors and composers do their magic.
From the stellar actors that breathed life into the characters to the outstanding crew that made the process seamless on set, the production could not have gone smoother. Saying thank you isn’t enough for their dedication and hard work, my job is to make sure Evidence is seen. For any of us that act, produce, write or crew a film, having one’s work seen is what this process is truly all about.
With post production on schedule for a min-November premiere (phase five), the process continues with submission to targeted film festivals, select screenings and perhaps the most ambitious part – secure funding for production of the feature film in June with a December 2012 release.
In the coming weeks, the launch of our crowd funding campaign in concert with investor presentations will begin in earnest. With distribution in place for the feature, investors will see a return on investment while cast and crew know that their work will be seen.
Yesterday I stopped by the New Hampshire Film Festival to visit with our silent benefactor of the short film and to hear a panel on the latest trends in marketing and distribution. Although the things that were being discussed on the panel were relevant to the higher (studio) end of the industry, and I met some terrific filmmakers after the panel, there wasn’t a lot of practical advice to the independent filmmaker who is on a budget.
The film industry (in particular the festival market) reminds me of the world of magazine publishing from ten years ago. This industry has evolved but, unfortunately, there is an establishment that still does things the old way that simply doesn’t apply to the current marketplace. I was very surprised that digital distribution on sites like Hulu, Crackle, YouTube and other platforms wasn’t discussed – those are the latest trends.
Sure, print is still nice, but it’s all about digital.