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Archive for April, 2012

It’s Never a Wrap

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.


A Titanic World

With Justice Is Mind: Evidence having its international premiere in London today and the RMS Titanic built in Liverpool, my focus has been on the United Kingdom as of late.

One would have to be living not just under a rock, but off the planet to not know about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15. I was first introduced to this great story in the 1970s though my mother who belonged to the Titanic Historical Society and received their newsletter The Titanic Commutator. I fondly remember the newsletter being packed with endless speculation on the exact whereabouts of Titanic’s resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and countless “what if” scenarios on actually raising her to the surface. Yes…raising an 882 foot long ship! They tried that with Raise the Titanic which sank at the box office.

What has fascinated so many of us for so long is the sheer “titanic” of the story itself.  Titanic was one of three new “Olympic” class ships built by Harland and Wolff for The White Star Line. The RMS Olympic and Titanic were built side by side then followed by the Britannic. Promoted as unsinkable with water tight doors and a double bottom, Titanic represented much more than the largest man-made floating object of the time—she ushered in an era of technology and a revolution in industry that wouldn’t be seen again in size and stature until Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in 1969.

But with great achievements comes great arrogance. Since the discovery of the wreck in 1985 so much more has been written about what was the actual cause of the sinking. There was no structural failure (Olympic sailed until 1935). The RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg because its captain, Edward Smith, ignored one iceberg warning after another and wanted to make it to New York City a day ahead of schedule as the last hurrah of his career. Smith went down with the ship.

When Titanic sank, it was more than just the sinking of a ship. It was a collision of three classes of passengers on one deck against a calm moonless sea. American millionaires representing some of the most famous names of the time—Astor, Strauss and Guggenheim—to the “nameless” steerage class seeking a new life in America. On that night dreams were shattered and a world changed forever.

My mother and I on the Queen Mary 2.

None of us will ever know the sheer terror of that evening when the number of passengers and crew far outnumbered the available lifeboats, but for any of us that have sailed on a cruise ship or an ocean liner we all share a common history—major changes in safety measures and maritime regulations. But such change is only as effective as the captains that pilot these great vessels. We don’t need to look any further than the recent tragedy of the MS Costa Concordia which is owned by Carnival Corp and through a series of past acquisitions owns The White Star Line through its Cunard Line unit.

For my mother and I vacationing on a cruise ship or ocean liner is our preferred way to holiday. Indeed, our cruise on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 with its “White Star” service was an experience I will never forget. In an age of 21st century quickness, there are those two words that conjure up a by-gone era of optimism and spirit against the passing of the ocean in all its power and glory… all aboard!