“It was a dark and stormy night.” That opening phrase by novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton could have been used to describe some recent drama in the local entertainment industry this past week in Boston. For those of you that follow Justice Is Mind on Facebook and this blog, you remember me announcing that Justice was invited to screen the trailer today at an “industry” event in Boston. The event was also supposed to introduce attending actors to “invited” casting agents and filmmakers to “invited” investors. The cost to attend this event? Only $25. For me, this was always simply going to be a networking event with the over 400 people that were scheduled to attend along with a reunion of about 10+ actors from Justice Is Mind that were planning to go.
No sooner did this event gain some traction than did the rumors, emails and investigations ensue. It was like watching a viral episode of Scandal (one of my favorite TV shows). It had all the makings of solid entertainment – scam, fraud, threats, media reports, government agencies, similar “events” in Florida with “involved” people, so-called “attachment” by actors to mysterious films you couldn’t find on IMDB. And now my favorite, a casting associate identified by one gender when in reality was another “to protect their identity”…seriously! If a TV network got a treatment of this story they would probably green light it for a pilot! But this was reality—a reality that has had a lasting effect on the local entertainment industry.
This is a pretty simple industry to understand. If you are an actor, you want to be well known and maybe eventually famous. If you are a filmmaker, you want to get your film financed and maybe make a living at it. But you have to take a “serious” look at these “events” before hard earned cash is parted with. Again, for me it was just a networking event. I could have cared less about the “casting associates” or “financiers” that were “attending”. This trend of casting associates holding seminars has been going on for some time and is really a frowned upon practice in legitimate circles. Why? It’s simple. Any casting associate worth their salt is only going to cast when they have a project to cast. This business of paying to audition for casting agents has to be the worst trend I have seen in this industry. You wouldn’t pay for a job interview, why would you pay to audition or meet a casting agent? You meet them at auditions and trust me if they like you they remember you for future opportunities. As for meeting investors, sure you might find someone in a bar that might be interested in your project. But if I’m going to pick a bar to do that, you’ll see me at the bar of a film festival or at minimum a higher end establishment – hell, it’s all about demographics!
In the end, the event was cancelled by the venue and most have moved on. But not without finger pointing to those that didn’t deserve to be blamed. Again, this was only a $25 event. Lord knows two drinks out in Boston cost more than that. But what it came down to was the industry wasn’t going to put money into the pockets of unscrupulous organizers. End of that story!
Aside from that episode, the week went really well. My friend Mary Murphy was in town to audition dancers for the next season of So You Think You Can Dance. Oh the laughs and stories we shared—and desserts! (I highly recommend the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel). I had a great conversation with my entertainment attorney about having an industry screening event in Los Angeles this summer for Justice Is Mind. And I attended the Berkshire Shorts Film Festival on Friday to see Jared Skolnick’s The Earth Rejects Him (great film Jared!).
And, yes, I spent more than $25.
This past week the editor for Justice Is Mind completed the rough cut of the film. The estimated running time is 2 hours and 26 minutes (146 minutes). I say estimated as it may run a little longer or a little shorter depending on a variety of factors. For me, I generally enjoy longer films. As long as the story moves along, the length shouldn’t matter.
Two of my favorite movies Judgment at Nuremberg (186 minutes) and The Andromeda Strain (131 minutes) were my biggest influences when writing Justice Is Mind. In Judgment the courtroom testimony is evenly balanced between the prosecution and defense. Likewise in Andromeda, the science is explained and demonstrated.
What bothers me the most in some contemporary films is the rush to explanation or worse no explanation at all for a moment that obviously needs one. This is why I have always loved Star Trek, Space: 1999 and the like, they actually explain the science even though such science may not have been invented yet. The audience just wants to hear and see something—thus to be influenced, thus to set the stage for future writers.
This isn’t to say you throw everything and the kitchen sink into a story because you can. I do agree that every scene has to have some sort of contribution to move the story forward. But I always enjoy seeing the characters do something to enhance the substance of their character but not necessarily contribute to the plot or story.
I’m rather passionate about this part of the process not just because I wrote the screenplay, but because I’ve been part of projects when someone took out a chain saw and gutted a story to conform with some sort of perceived “industry standard running time”. The results on these occasions haven’t been pleasant to watch. Incomplete characters, unfinished storylines and story plot holes you could lose a semi in. It’s one thing when you submit a 120 page screenplay to a production company, they option it and they want you to trim to 100 or 110 pages before they start shooting. You either make the changes or you don’t. If you sold/optioned the screenplay to them they can probably do anything they want with “your” story so if they ask you to make the changes, why not at least try rather than let someone do it who really doesn’t know the nuances of your story. But that’s just one example.
When Justice Is Mind is sold to a distributor, I’m sure they will have a variety of areas that need to be adjusted, dubbed or cut. One high profile example that came out of Sundance was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon’s Addiction. Gordon-Levitt will need to cut a graphic sex scene just to secure an R rating. This is when the distributor comes in to have a story adjusted to fit the particular platform. In Justice, while there are no sex scenes, there are several occasions when the ‘F’ word is used. That will be fine for theatrical, but would quickly be dubbed for broadcast television. But am I interested in censoring this now? Not at all. Justice will premiere as it was intended to be told. When someone is holding a checkbook, I will be more than happy to make adjustments.
And speaking of the checkbook, I am pleased to announce that our distributor IndieFlix informed me yesterday that Justice Is Mind: Evidence will be available on Roku next week with Xbox shortly to follow. Look for our press release soon.