As most who follow this blog know, I am tireless when it comes to internet marketing. Whether it be an electronic press release, social media, email newsletters or blog posts. As Justice Is Mind has a couple of screenings coming up, I was searching Google for entries. But when I discovered that Justice was ranked 21st on IMDB as “Highest Rated “Independent Film” Feature Films Released In 2013” and 45th for “Top-US-Grossing “Independent Film” Feature Films Released In 2013” pleased would be an understatement!
This kind of result does not happen overnight. It does not happen automatically. It takes patience and perseverance. There are no shortcuts. It is not a one person operation. If it’s one thing I have learned about writing, producing and directing a feature film having a large ensemble cast helps enormously. Why? Because they are the cheerleaders. They share, post and talk about the film to their network. Unless your film is being produced by a studio with a full-time marketing and public relations department, who else is going to do this type of work?
Justice Is Mind is but one of thousands of films in the current market. As I told a class I instructed on filmmaking, I have to act like mine is the only film in the world pushing for an audience. Yes, I’m selfish that way and so is every independent filmmaker with a project (at least I admit it!) That being said, I always like to try to be as supportive as I can of other filmmakers and their endeavors. This isn’t an easy business and we should work together when possible. But it does come down to manners as well. If you are going to ask me to help you on your film you could start off by asking “How’s Justice going?” Incredibly this week a filmmaker called me and asked how to get their film on IMDB (seriously). This wasn’t a first time filmmaker either. I would have been a bit more supportive had this person been supportive of my work but it was ALL about them. After trying to assist this person for 25 minutes I had a conference call to prep for and ended the conversation.
With our Vermont premiere at The Tiny Theatre on November 2 and our Los Angeles west coast premiere on November 7 at Laemmle Musice Hall, obviously my focus is on these two screenings. Thankfully Justice has a great team on the west coast through the Peter Law Group because screening a film in the entertainment capital of the world is a monumental task. In these last two weeks over 500 emails have gone out to the industry, the press and more phone calls than I can count. And that’s just what I’ve done.
When I call the industry (i.e. Los Angeles), I know how busy they are. I know their time is stretched. Honestly, being pleasant in an email or opening up a conversation by saying how much you enjoyed a particular film or TV show of theirs goes a long way. Call me old fashioned, but I believe when you show respect for someone’s work they are more interested in hearing about your new project. I had a great conversation with the assistant of one of the producers of my favorite TV shows. Will the producer show up to our screening? Probably not. But I’d love for the assistant to come. Why? Because as gatekeepers they have the ear of the producers. They are also the next producers.
Justice Is Mind is entering a new phase. Now formally released with theatrical bookings through January 2014 (more in development), Justice Is Mind will shortly be presented to the industry. An industry that is changing by the day from development, marketing and distribution.
Since our premiere in August, Justice Is Mind has had seven screenings. And in each case audiences have thoroughly enjoyed the film. While I’m sure there have been detractors that didn’t care for it, the positives have far outweighed the negatives. Take for example our screening in Plattsburgh last weekend. Here we were in a beautifully nearly completed renovation of a classic theatre from the 1920s and Justice Is Mind was playing on the big screen. People, who had zero connection to the film, bought a ticket to see the movie. But even more importantly, they stayed after to ask questions. They were interested in how this project all came together. As a filmmaker, that truly means the world to me, that someone was so thoroughly engaged in the story they wanted to know more.
Indeed, the production of a feature film is akin to a symphony orchestra and I, as writer/director, am the conductor. I’m sure I speak for all involved in the film, when I say “If nothing else, there’s applause… like waves of love pouring over the footlights.” There are so many moments in All About Eve that are applicable to the world of filmmaking. The character of Bill Sampson also says it when it comes to those that call this industry a career “It means concentration of desire or ambition, and sacrifice such as no other profession demands.”
For anyone that has worked with me they know I am ambitious and concentration is something I excel at. I make zero apologies for it. I am fiercely determined and, yes, I’ve had have my fair share of sacrifices along the way. If you say NO to me I will keep moving along until someone says YES. By recent example, if you are a festival director that wants to criticize my film and then admit you never watched it, I will find a theatre to premiere the film in your home state. If you are a sales agent that says to cut an hour, I will find a sales agent that likes the film as is. Simply put this is an industry that requires staying power. It doesn’t matter what side of the camera you are on the emotional roller coaster from sacrifice to applause is unrelenting. Ask anyone who has been in this business for any length of time and they will share both the war stories and the victories.
But what is important to me, and always has been, is making sure audiences enjoy the work or at least see it. When I was publishing magazines, I wanted the largest possible circulation. I didn’t care about industry awards, all I cared about was how many were reading my magazines. And in the here and now, how many are seeing Justice. That’s why I’m determined to get Justice into as many venues as possible. Whether these be theatres, law schools, sci-fi conventions or other platforms, it’s about getting the work seen by as many as possible. Isn’t this what we want? To have our work seen? To get out of our comfort zone and show our work to the world? It’s easy to say, this is what I want to do. It’s the doing it that tests character and resolve.
There is a quote from a fictional character Paul McGill from one of my favorite authors Barbara Taylor Bradford that I believe is particularly fitting. “We are each the authors of our own lives. There is no way to shift the blame and no one else to accept the accolades.”
Reporting to you today from Plattsburgh, NY, Justice Is Mind will be screening tonight at the beautifully restored Strand Theatre. Tonight marks the fifth screening of Justice since our world premiere in Albany in August. The organizers up here have done a great job promoting Justice. As always, I’m looking forward to presenting the film to new audiences. And joining me here is Vernon Aldershoff who stars as Henri Miller. Thanks Vern for arranging the screening tonight!
This past week has probably been the busiest to date since our premiere between screenings and new bookings. Our law school tour kicked off on Tuesday at Boston University School of Law. It was great seeing such a diverse group of attendees. From actors in Justice that hadn’t seen the film yet, to lawyers, law and film students, judges and law school professors.
Although our press release will go out on Monday, I am very pleased to report that Justice Is Mind will have its West Coast premiere at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills, CA on November 7. My thanks to Arnold Peter and the Peter Law Group for making this screening possible. I can’t tell you how excited I am to bring Justice to the capital of the entertainment industry and to visit with some old friends. It seems like yesterday when I moved back to Massachusetts, but it’s actually been five years. Is this where someone says “…comeback” and I respond, “I hate that word. It’s a return!”
With Justice screening at the University of Mississippi next Tuesday and with December screenings in New Hampshire and Maine confirmed with formal announcements to follow, Justice is building its following one screening at a time. What we have learned is that each screening is different in terms of media, audience, demographics and a host of other factors. At the end of the day it all comes down to data.
If Justice Is Mind was an airline it would show up on flight reservation systems as a non-stop flight. Over the next ten days, Vancouver, Boston, Plattsburg and Oxford will be screening Justice. From theatres, to law schools to sci-fi conventions, since our Maine premiere last Saturday there has virtually been non-stop activity with the film on both sides of the screen and continent.
As a distributor mentioned to me last week, if you plan pre-production properly then production goes well. It’s true, pre-production planning of Justice was a four month adventure. That planning led to a smooth, albeit intense, filming schedule for Justice that lasted two months. The same holds true for exhibiting the film. It’s all about pre-production planning.
At this stage in the project, there’s still more than just me involved. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, there is a literal army in the execution of this film. There is the dedication and support of my executive producers Mary Wenninger and Stefan Knieling. If it were not for Vernon Aldershoff, Mary Wexler, Arnold Peter, Kim Gordon and Gail Sullivan, certain screenings, marketing and production just wouldn’t happen. And then there is Sheila Mandeville who has attended the last three screenings of Justice with her own army! It takes more than a pilot to fly an airplane.
And like getting ready to leave the gate, I have what all pilots have—a checklist. Yes, I am a person that needs lists to function. As I mentioned to one potential theatre that may screen Justice, I need a 45 day notice. Sure, I’m happy to have a venue screen the film, but if we can’t plan it properly what’s the point. Press releases need to be written, media needs to be contacted, local marketing needs to be executed, if regional which actors/crew may be interested in going, the venue has to be tested, are we part of a larger event—you get the point.
Last Saturday was one day that required a lot of pre-production planning. In addition to our Maine premiere, I also conducted a workshop for Talent Tools titled “Independent Filmmaking: Script to Screen”. For the entire week prior I took an hour out of each day to outline what I was going to talk about. First, I owed it to the attendees to make sure they left with some new knowledge. Thankfully, when the day arrived I had my lists…so I was good! But even more important was the organizational zeal of Talent Tools owner Becki Dennis Buchman. I know whenever Becki does something it will not only be first rate, but well run.
Seriously, isn’t that what it’s all about? Don’t we want to enjoy ourselves at these events? Let’s be honest, this is the entertainment industry it’s all about the damn arrival! Of course we don’t live in a picture perfect world, things do come up at the last minute. Hell, that’s just life! But when it comes to day of, I prefer calm to chaos.
And then there is the activity going on behind the screen. Industry reporting, distributor conversations, long range strategy plans—it’s a list! As for the long range plans? I think it’s safe to say that during the entire development and release of Justice Is Mind a business model has been developed.
Clear for departure.