The extended synopsis of Justice Is Mind partially reads “…counsel, family and friends search two continents for answers.” While we aren’t searching for answers, Justice Is Mind is most certainly a two continent production. With editing and special effects taking place in the United States, scoring and sound mixing is happening in the United Kingdom. Having traveled to the UK numerous times I’m enjoying the international development of Justice Is Mind, because that’s where this film is soon going…international.
Last week the film festival submission process began. I have to say the portal Withoutabox is pretty excellent. I loath filling our forms (especially by hand) and that’s exactly what I would have to do for each film festival if Withoutabox didn’t exist. I’ve been using Withoutabox since 2007 when I produced First World. You enter all your key information once, select the festival, pay the fee and Withoutabox transmits your film. For those festivals that don’t use the “secure online screener” you send in a DVD. It’s a great streamline process. Coming from a production background any process that enables a smooth operation is good for me.
We’ve also started to receive significant interest from various film festival and film organizations in India. Of course, this is an excellent development…but now we wait. We wait for the “notify date” after we submit to see if our film, a labor of over two years and two hundred people, is accepted. The one thing I have learned years ago is that once you submit you just have to let go of that submission. I’ve seen a trend with filmmakers promoting on their websites and social pages that they are “In Consideration” by this festival and that festival after they submit. Good heavens…and what happens if you don’t get accepted?
So what do you do while you are waiting? You promote your film any which way you can. In the case of Justice Is Mind, in addition to screenings at sci-fi conventions and law schools, we are reaching out to independent theatres and small chains to exhibit. Simply, you can’t put all your eggs into one basket. Some will argue that you shouldn’t show your film anywhere until film festivals get back to you. Honestly, I don’t know where this misinformation comes from or starts. Most festivals I have come across have stated that while some most certainly like to have the title “World Premiere” they are also interested in films that have some sort of following or foundation. Think about it from their perspective. They have to sell tickets too and it’s infinitely easier to sell a ticket to something that can not only be found by a Google search but has some sort of following and social media presence.
As filmmakers we are operating in an ever changing industry. Being adaptable is critical. I do my best to keep up with industry trends through the trades and certain websites (like Slated and Film Specific). This past week I read a very interesting article in Salon by one film producer I admire Lynda Obst (Contact, Sleepless in Seattle, The Siege). During her meeting with Peter Chernin she quoted him as saying, “I think the two driving forces [of what you’re calling the Great Contraction] were the recession and the transition of the DVD market.” She continued his quote, “It was partially driven by the recession, but I think it was more driven by technology.”
This was no surprise to me since our distributor stopped selling DVDs two years ago. I learned money could be made when I had First World on hulu (now it’s on Amazon..and yes I get paid a monthly check). While I’ll always continue to be a steadfast promoter of the importance of film being seen in theatres, technology continues to evolve and offers tremendous new opportunities for filmmakers.
Today’s post will not be about anything marketing related in the world of independent film or the path to get there. This post may also be shorter than usual, but suffice to say I have something pretty important to announce:
TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE FOR THE WORLD PREMIERE OF JUSTICE IS MIND! Click here for details.
On August 18, 2013, Justice Is Mind will have its world premiere at the beautiful Palace Theatre in Albany, NY. Ever a producer and director I traveled to Albany yesterday and met with representatives of the building along with Vernon Aldershoff (who plays Henri Miller in Justice Is Mind) for a site visit. The theatre is more beautiful than I could have ever expected. Trust me, the pictures don’t do the venue “justice”.
With Justice Is Mind at the tail end of post-production, we also cut a “work in progress” of the film to submit to film festivals that have deadlines next week. As you can well imagine, this has been a very busy week for the post-production team. For sure, there will be a special round of applause for them at the premiere!
So today I leave you with some wonderful photos of the Palace along with some additional details. As Justice Is Mind is part of the Capital District Film Festival our film is the last to screen and caps off the entire event known as Inspiration Week. Tickets are $18 for the day. The Justice Is Mind event starts at 5:30. But here’s another inside for you, our editor Jared Skolnick is also an accomplished filmmaker. His short horror film The Earth Rejects Him screens at 12 Noon.
Again, being a director, I suggest the following schedule for August 18. For those driving, arrive in Albany around 11 AM. Find a place to park (garages available) and then see The Earth Rejects Him from 12-1. Have a nice relaxing lunch (plenty of places to walk to) and then see the world premiere of Justice Is Mind starting at 5:30.
The action is about to begin.
These past two weeks the entire world has been front and center on news surrounding the United States’ National Security Agency and a “whistleblower/traitor” that is now “residing” in Hong Kong. Whatever your opinion is on this matter one thing is certain—someone has pitched a story to a producer, a script is being written and a film will go into production by the end of this year.
In Justice Is Mind one of the tracks in the story is loss of privacy. Our primary character, Henri Miller, makes an elected choice to give up privacy with that decision secured by biometric signatures. Miller’s information is digitized, sent electronically to a foreign company and held in a central library of like “minded” information. Trapped by his own memories, he soon finds himself on trial. But in an age of social media and immediate news gathering, while the law may say “innocent until proven guilty”, let us not kid ourselves. Despite the democracies that we live in anyone charged is guilty first and only innocent after the public says so.
When it comes to marketing Justice Is Mind, I have been working closely with my entertainment attorney Arnold Peter. Sure, we are submitting to targeted film festivals and making presentations to sales agencies and distributors, but the major push for the film will be in the very democracies that have allowed us, the citizen, to sign away our rights of privacy by our own choice. Speaking of choices, I’d love to have Justice screen in Tehran (that probably just got me on a list).
One country that we will be having a presence in is India—the world’s largest democracy. This would not be my first foray into that country. My first short film First World was the only science fiction film to screen at India’s first national discussion on science fiction. It was an honor and a distinction that I will never forget. Presenting Justice Is Mind in India is just as important as the United States as the whole point is to establish discussion around key areas of the film—where does privacy start and stop?
In the digitized and social media world we live in the loss of privacy in the general sense must just be accepted. One of my favorite films, Gattaca, sequences DNA and decides your societal fate. In Justice Is Mind your memories decide your legal fate. Make no mistake, these sciences are largely here in the year 2013. Maybe not as developed as the films they are represented in, but like Star Trek literally invented the cell phone, fiction will be fact soon enough. Get used to it or live in a cave.
When it comes to writing, production and directing a film you want your audience to leave thinking. That’s how a film establishes a long shelf life. That’s how a film finds audiences long after its world premiere. That’s why films like Judgment at Nuremberg, 2001 and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner still resonate today. They had something to say and weren’t afraid to say it. Justice Is Mind is not politically correct. It is designed to elicit conversation and to remind us that our life is largely dictated by the choices we make. And in the case of Justice the choices of…sorry you’ll have to wait until the film is released for the end of that sentence.
Thankfully our democracies still give us the right of choice. And like those that we elect to office to represent us in our respective governments, we want our films to also win in the court of public opinion. Because it really comes down to three words–
WE THE PEOPLE.
With the special effects for Justice Is Mind being completed this week, my attention has largely been focused over the last month on the sound design of the film. Yes, while the visuals of Justice are easy to share and enjoy, there is an entire area of the film that is just as important – sound. It’s not just the words that are being spoken it’s the atmosphere around them that defines the mood and feel of the film.
For anyone that has been involved in filmmaking, post-production is a managed process and sound design is part of it. Sure, you don’t have to have that beep on a cell phone, or electronic click of a computer, but I believe it’s that level of detail that sets films apart from each other. I’m also very into details and sound is part of that process. Is the judge’s hammer sound too soft? What tone do we set for this particular character? Sound wise how do we advance the drama and the story?
A film without sound design is like a painting. Sure, it can be visually arresting and you hope there is a compelling score, but have you ever noticed in a film that particular characters or moments have a similar sound? In Justice our primary character is Henri Miller and as the story builds so does the atmosphere around him. Sometimes the sound is silent as the stage is being set for a dramatic build or moment in which you want the audience to pay attention and take notice. This is a process that is just as creative as the editing, score and special effects and just as time consuming.
It is a curious process watching a script come to life. Sure, I directed it and have worked with our editor, special effects supervisor and composer (who is also doing sound design), but this is where you see the creative energy come to life and I haven’t even talked about sound mixing or color correction yet. I’ll save that for another post.
I often wonder if audiences really know what goes into a film from start to market. Personally I love the entire process, but to quote District Attorney Constance Smith, “I didn’t promise you an easy case.” Filmmaking is not easy by any stretch. The level of competition between films is fierce beyond words (just start to look at sales agents’ websites). If you don’t have A or B list actors to anchor your distribution, you better have a compelling story because that’s the only thing that will save you from achieving distribution. I like to think we have a compelling story with Justice. We already have digital distribution in place and our early interest from sales agents and distributors is extremely promising. I’ve sold them on the script, the trailer, clip and visuals, this is why all of us involved in post-production are being a bit manic about the details. Because in the end you have to have a commercial product.
I know some filmmakers that are not commercially minded and in fact have told me they aren’t producing such and such to make any money. Unless you are producing as a calling card for experience, short films are great for this like I did with First World and Evidence, I just don’t believe in vanity filmmaking. Point in fact there is just way too much that goes into creating a film in the first place.
Let me give you some facts. My legal team is in Los Angeles and they are working diligently with me on countless matters; our composer is just outside London, UK; we had a representative (my entertainment lawyer) at Cannes; our post production team is in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and we have, by my last count, just over 200 actors, crew, marketing, location and promotional partners involved in the film. Justice will not just have one big showing then off to a dusty shelf while I wait to hear from festivals. Dear god if that happened I would board one of my Arctrans from First World and quietly leave the planet! What it comes down to is promoting your project to as many people that will listen. Sales agents, distributors, theatre owners, conventions are, by design, used to getting pitches-it just comes down to a compelling story because they need to bring that story to their own audiences to, dare I say it, make money.
But like I did when publishing magazines, money cannot be the first thing on your mind, quality must be the first. For I believe that if a quality product is well presented it will find its audience and share of revenue. It just comes down to doing one thing:
Turning up the volume.
There is, as some have surmised, an entire back story to Justice Is Mind. When I set out to write a story believe it or not I think of the ending right after I think of the original idea. Point simply, I have heard too many times “I have a great story but I don’t know how to end it.” Point in fact, I wrote a screenplay with a friend years ago that takes place in Ogunquit, ME. It was a thriller. Oh we had a great first and second act but dear god that last act was just a travesty. Sometimes not having an ending when you start out does have a positive outcome…can anyone say Casablanca? Flash to 2013 and it should be interesting to see what World War Z looks like. I understand they reshot the entire last third of the film. I can say first hand there was a sense of calmness, in my opinion, when we were shooting Justice because we all knew how it was ending and we weren’t tinkering with it. Screenwriting is not a democracy and it most certainly can’t be decided by committee.
Again, I can’t speak for any other screenwriters, but when I write I’m always thinking sequel or a continuation of the story or part thereof. Why not? Sure, some films rightly stand alone, but if it resonates with the audience for a continuation you have notes and concept ready to go. A single feature film can take years to develop, why have it end at the first installment if there’s an interest in more? As some of you know, the seed for Justice Is Mind was planted in my First World story about a machine that can read memories to track where certain people have been. When we were shooting Justice the idea for a sequel started to come to me but more importantly the ending realized itself just a few days ago when I was looking through some VFX images. Of course the real test is how audiences are receiving Justice once it’s released and what resonates with them. I may have the most fantastic idea for a sequel but if research shows that audiences are gravitating to one particular part of the story, there’s your market research. Why go against the tide when you can ride the wave.
Already I have been able to ascertain certain conclusions from our early marketing for Justice. The audience is skewing 60% female to 40% male with the United States, India and the United Kingdom making up the highest traffic. On age, our largest numbers are in the 45-54 range. But what gets the most attention to a post? Special effects. Yes, every time I post a special effect image our reach sometimes triples from regular status updates. Conclusion? It’s not just men that like special effects, women enjoy them too.
Will these numbers hold up when Justice is screened? Who knows. The marketing of a film is perhaps the trickiest of them all. The goal is to develop positive word of mouth, and a following of fans that will support the endeavor and create that wave of enthusiasm. While the big studios can employ a marketing department to at least attempt to shield their risk, as an independent filmmaker working on meager resources, we must take advantage of the myriad of online services now available to us. And as we have recently seen, even the most robust marketing campaigns can’t shield some major films from audiences misses.
Thankfully with Justice Is Mind we can push in genres that are specific — sci-fi and drama. The world of sci-fi has changed a lot in the last several years, while space franchises are still flying to distant worlds, stories that are Earth and “mind” based are growing (I still miss Fringe). And in the world of drama, Justice has started to book law schools to screen the film for the legal drama that it is. What better way to develop a following than presenting a film in these types of forums.