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Archive for July, 2013

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The Atlantic Magazine - Could the Government Get a Search Warrant for Your Thoughts?

In The Atlantic Magazine – Could the Government Get a Search Warrant for Your Thoughts?

With sound mixing complete and color correction underway, I am now focused almost exclusively on the marketing and distribution of Justice Is mind. I also have been finding a little time to write my political feature (up to page 40!) and follow up on some outstanding matters on First World. While it’s always good to have a variety of projects in various stages of development, I firmly believe, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, that focus is important.  In my case, Justice Is Mind is front and center on the priority list.

Earlier this week I added a second theatre to screen Justice. The Strand Theatre in Clinton, MA welcomed us with open arms for the short film version Evidence in 2012. Now under new ownership, The Strand welcomed us back to screen the feature. The date – Monday, September 16th at 7 PM. Doors open at 6:15. Ticket prices are $5.50.

Yesterday, working with a filmmaker friend of mine in Ogunquit, ME, I secured our third screening venue at the Leavitt Theatre (date to be announced). My mother and I have been traveling to Ogunquit, ME for over twenty years and the opportunity to screen Justice in one of our favorite resort towns is truly excellent.

Justice Is Mind - world premiere - August 18 - The Palace Theatre, Albany, NY

Justice Is Mind – world premiere – August 18 – The Palace Theatre, Albany, NY

Early on in the process of developing Justice, while the film will more than likely find it’s “revenue” home on VOD and other digital platforms, I wanted to secure some sort of theatrical run for Justice even if it means I go “door to door” because we all know that seeing your film on the big screen is what’s it’s all about. But more importantly, it’s not just about giving these theatres your DVD and saying thank you, it’s about promotion. I know I have my work cut out for me as it’s my job to promote the film as much as possible so all parties benefit.

A recent article in USA Today talked about the challenges these independent theatres face in the wake of converting to digital. All three theatres that are screening Justice were built in the 1920s and 30s. There is such grand history in this industry—born from the silent era to the digital one.  It’s important that we support them and preserve their history and place in the industry. I can’t help when I walk through these theatres to wonder who else walked these same steps to show their work. This week I’ll continue my “selling” Justice to theatres.

Justice Is Mind - September 16 - The Strand - Clinton, MA

Justice Is Mind – September 16 – The Strand – Clinton, MA

But while I deal with the traditional side of the process, I am also dealing with the contemporary digital side and evaluating the best route timing wise on when Justice will appear on certain platforms. Every filmmaker has a different agenda and different goals. Mine are pretty simple, maximum distribution for maximum return. I think that approach makes the most sense and lord knows there are all kinds of ways to get there. I’ll just say this, keep a solid POV on your wallet.

I came across one “distributor” this week who said, seriously, if you pay us $30,000 we will get you into some theatres and handle your promotion and accounting.  Another, even more insulting, for $2,000 we give you one day in our theatre and for an additional $1,500 we can promise you a review in a leading newspaper (damn you bought off a journalist!).  Scary the kind of ventures and vultures that are out there. Sounds like the “consultants” I came across in publishing that promised you “at the checkout” magazine placement. Ahhhh the promises and representations in this business. Thank you I’ll just pick up the phone and call the theatres direct and save myself all those kickbacks in the process.

While digital distribution makes the world of independent filmmaking possible from a return point of view (I like my monthly deposit from Amazon for my short films!), there is nothing more accepting than being in a theatre that is going to screen your work. This is where the business started and this is where the work needs to be seen.

On a closing note, this story just published in The Atlantic magazine “Could the Government Get a Search Warrant for Your Thoughts” could not be more timely for the upcoming release of Justice Is Mind.

Time to make some history.

T-minus 21 days.

Justice Is Mind - The Leavitt Theatre - Ogunquit, ME - date to be announced.

Justice Is Mind – The Leavitt Theatre – Ogunquit, ME – date to be announced.

Flight Plan

The opening credits.

The opening credits.

As we are coming into the final four weeks until the world premiere of Justice Is Mind, I have been reflecting over the last few days on how this entire project started and the journey to this moment.

It was 2010 when I was writing the sequel to First World when I began researching the “possibility” of mind reading machines for part of that story. Learning of fMRI procedures and discovering the 60 Minutes Thought Identification program, Justice came to life through my passion for courtroom dramas (Judgment at Nuremberg, Witness for the Prosecution) and science fiction (Gattaca and Fringe). I also love the procedural format (Law & Order).

Not a NASA control station. Justice Is Mind being sound mixed.

Not a NASA control station. Justice Is Mind being sound mixed by Visionary Sound.

With script in hand and my business plan complete the journey began to find the funding. Ask any screenwriter the pitch process is arduous, time intensive and honestly depressing. Simply put, even if you get past the gatekeepers who accept submissions or have your agent/rep submit, you still have to convince your first point of contact (which you always hope is a producer) to, at minimum, option your screenplay. Thus even with some option money in your pocket, you still have to wait to see if they are going to produce your dream…I mean story.  I know some screenwriters that are totally fine with that process. They write, get paid and move on to the next writing project. They don’t care if their story is produced. But for me, I want to see all that work move from script to screen. As a writer there’s nothing like seeing your work come to life.

After months of presenting to production companies and hearing things like “it’s not for us”, “we’ve seen similar” (you know what translates to) or my favorite “we’re working on something just like this” (seriously run from those companies and keep your correspondence), the funding came together from two of the most unlikely sources – my best friend Mary and her husband Stefan. Ever since I was in grade school I have dreamed of producing a motion picture and now it was going to happen.

FVMRI operations center inspired by NASA's mission control.

FVMRI operations center inspired by NASA’s mission control.

But as I’ve said before, producing a film is not for the faint at heart (no matter what the budget is) and is a business. Mary and Stefan knew I used to run a media company and that I’ve managed direct reports. But while they loved the story, I had a business plan that was “reasonable” and not filled with fluff (there was zero mention of Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch). Just practical numbers on indie films of the same budget class and available distribution data. But I really credit the production of my first short film First World in 2007 to making all this possible as I was able to combine my practical business background to a film (albeit a short one). When I was publishing magazines I handled our newsstand distribution. Film distribution has a variety of similarities – you have to deliver the product, you only get a percentage of the retail price, there are middlemen and each deal is different.  After screening at over 20 sci-fi conventions in numerous countries, First World was picked up for distribution by IndieFlix and ran on Hulu for well over a year.

A memory on trial in Justice Is Mind.

A memory on trial in Justice Is Mind.

Now a mission control like atmosphere has taken over the project. Justice has left the vehicle assembly building and we are on the crawling transporter to LC 39. Launch control center is manned by our editor, sound mixer, director of photography, composer and other technical personnel. Final operating systems are in place and are being tested.

And while the aforementioned is the atmosphere I’m feeling for Justice right now, it is a tribute to the Apollo 11 space program for on this day back in 1969 our world was forever changed when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

T-minus 28 days.

Neil Armstrong descends the ladder of the Apollo Lunar Module to become the first human to step foot on the surface of the Moon.

Neil Armstrong descends the ladder of the Apollo Lunar Module to become the first human to step foot on the surface of the Moon.