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.