Marketing planet Earth one project at a time.

Archive for August, 2011

A Crowd of Millions

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.”

A Federal Production

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.

The World in Review

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 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: 1999We are Mankind. We came from planet Earth, and we built this base, called Alpha, to learn more about space.”

My Country, ‘Tis of Fault?

When I was driving home this weekend after finishing my work on the film Noah, I was reflecting on the tremendous drive, determination and ambition filmmakers Anthony and Jimmy Deveney (twin brothers) were putting into directing and producing their first feature film. For any of us that have been in business for ourselves, we know it takes steadfast determination and focus to lift a project from idea to reality. It is not for the faint at heart especially when our own capital is at risk.

Yet when I arrived home Sunday night and checked the news, Congress was still set to default with the future of the United States because they couldn’t make a decision on the debt ceiling. A spending situation they created entirely themselves over the last few decades – a situation that impacts every person and corporation, not only in this country but well beyond its shores. In all honesty, if entrepreneurs operated companies the way Congress operates the government of the United States, they wouldn’t have a business.

Consider entrepreneur and PayPal founder Elon Musk. Launching SpaceX in 2002, his company has secured a contract worth over $1.6 billion with NASA to resupply the International Space Station along with other space development contracts. When NASA had to come out and say, “we are going to pay our bills” it speaks volumes to where we are today as a nation. With the retirement of the space shuttle and the ramping up of commercial space partners like SpaceX, NASA is in “pre-production” with the next phase of the space program. There is no way SpaceX could continue its partnership with NASA (and the United States) on an IOU. No matter what your entrepreneurial station is economically; banks, shareholders and creditors expect entrepreneurs to pay their bills, we expect the United States to pay theirs.

The film Noah represents so many aspects of this country. From its founding history rooted in slavery, to all that is possible when one person decides to make a difference. It is a film created by two brothers and brought to life by talent and crew who understand the story and its significance. But beyond the story of Noah itself, it is the product of the American dream to create, build and innovate.

So to turn a quote, “That’s what we are doing for our country. Now what is our country going to do for us?”

♦ ♦ ♦

P.S. The Deveney brothers have set up a Kickstarter campaign for Noah. As of this posting they have raised $755 of their $2,000 goal. This is a great film and one that must be seen. A contribution of only $100 gets you a producer credit.