Since Justice Is Mind was released in August, we have had a variety of fantastic screenings. From our World Premiere in Albany, to law schools, science fiction conventions, state premieres and our West Coast Premiere in Beverly Hills, the process of rolling out an independent film takes time and planning.
With our next science fiction convention screening coming up on November 30 at Loscon, Justice Is Mind‘s New Hampshire premiere on December 4 along with our second screening in Maine on December 7, plans are in the works for our next steps – VOD and international distribution. In today’s world of independent filmmaking, there are countless ways to market and distribute a film. What it really comes down to is what it’s in the best interest of the project. What’s the best avenue to get it seen by the widest possible audience?
In the case of Justice, our first step has been to develop a following through our theatrical screenings, build up a base and develop press along the way. I believe that creates a solid foundation so when you go to VOD and start pushing outward towards foreign markets at least you’ve established some footprint. When I read articles that talk about the two-plus thousand films in the current marketplace vying for a home (I’m sure the number is much more), you are simply up against a ton of competition. Standing out is critical.
I come across articles and forums with all kinds of “preachers” saying you have to do this process a certain way and if you don’t you will be left by the wayside. Sadly, the majority have their hands out looking for some sort of payment. Recently a “filmmaker” mentioned in an email he sent me that a company I’ve successfully done business with before was “crap” and if I had the funds this person could “shop” Justice for me. Seriously. Man, I don’t know, when I approach a company or person I want to work with I don’t start out by insulting their past business successes (or misfires) and then ask for money. Needless to say, this person won’t be getting a response back from me!
All the while I’m working on the next stages of Justice, I’m finishing up the screenplay for my political thriller. Yes, this is another project I want to produce and direct myself. Would I be interested in optioning the story? Perhaps if the deal was right, but unless there’s some nice bank involved, I’m not interested. For me, the excitement is putting the whole project together. From that opening scene to the opening night, watching a film you wrote, produced and directed come to life is a personal and professional satisfaction that’s very hard to put into words.
I read stories of writers that want to do what I’ve done with Justice. It most certainly can be done. It most certainly can be achieved. True there are those long days when you think “This will never happen” and then suddenly there is that one email, that one call that makes all the difference. Every journey is different and each takes a different path.
EXT. WAREHOUSE – NIGHT
Ask anyone that’s even remotely involved in this industry and they are on a mission. Whether you are a producer looking to get your next film made, an actor who really wants that part or a cinematographer who really wants to shoot that film, the mission never ends and the dream never dies.
On these missions we meet all kinds of people. As I’m known for my honesty, I’ll be honest here. We all have people we want to work with and those that we want to avoid, it simply comes down to what’s a good fit and what isn’t. As much as I like to say YES sometimes you just have to say NO. It is what it is.
One mission I’ve been seeing as of late in the trades is the call for filmmakers to release data. At the center of this “drama” is whether filmmakers should release VOD revenue to the public. Unlike box office, VOD revenue is a whole other animal. For me, while I consider myself pretty open, there are some things I’m just not going to share. Some data just needs to be confidential between business partners and those that need to know. By example, I’m not going to tell a distributor who I’m not working with what my box office receipts are. Incredibly, I was asked that this week. I was asked by another filmmaker to release my media lists. Simply, it’s called doing your homework and being thorough. And what works for my projects might not work for yours. Also, I don’t want to be in a position where someone says “But Mark said if I do it this way it will work.” I promise you if you ask 10 filmmakers what they got right and what was a misfire every response will be different.
My mission, as it’s shared by the “Justice Is Mind family” is to screen Justice in as many theatres as possible. What I can say is that every venue is different in terms of demographics, management, theatrical experience, etc. etc. What works for one venue might not work for another. Those of us involved in the theatrical release of Justice don’t take these opportunities for granted, we treat them like they are the only one and simply market the hell out of them. What the studios do on a national basis with their advertising and marketing campaigns we do with good old fashioned word of mouth through social media, electronic press release distribution, etc. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a film distribution plan. Trust me, cookie cutter plans you see being advertised and marketed can only be used for “observation” of the process. I like to think I’ve learned what to do and what not to do, but believe me in this business you are always in the classroom. Just keep your eyes and ears open and before you open your wallet you just have to think “Can this be accomplished any other way?” Cash is king in this business and you can easily go through it.
So while we plan the next four screenings of Justice Is Mind, including our upcoming New Hampshire state premiere on December 4 and return to Maine on December 7, I am also pleased to report that I have just completed my first draft of a political thriller I’ve been writing for the last several months.
This is where it all starts. At the screenplay. If you don’t have a solid story in writing, what can you expect when you shoot it? Incredibly, I was at an industry conference some months ago when some director said that the script gets in his way (to an audience!). Seriously. I like to know that when I’m shooting the story has been properly vetted so when we have crew, actors, locations and the thousands of other details in place to film, we are all on the same track. And who wants to deal with a continuity issue when you’re in post?
On Thursday, November 7 a dream came true. My first feature film Justice Is Mind was having its West Coast Premiere in Beverly Hills, California! When I boarded the plane to Los Angeles in Boston on early Wednesday morning I was reflecting on the last days I lived in the city back in late 2007. A hopeful screenwriter with a dream of someday producing a feature film.
The celebrations started at Logan (Boston) with one of our supporters. Anne Conlon was celebrating her 50th birthday party by flying out to LAX to see Justice Is Mind. It was great sharing our mutual enthusiasm for the film from two very different perspectives. When I arrived at LAX I was greeted by Dev Bajaj of Peter Law Group. After checking into the hotel we went to their office where I met Roop Sumal. I have been working with Dev and Roop for months on both our law school screening tour and this screening. After talking with Arnold Peter for a bit by phone, we tested the film at the theatre. It looked and sounded amazing. The manager of the building shared a horror story about a recent screening that had to stop because of a bad DVD/Blu-Ray burn (So note to filmmakers, make sure your DVDs are professionally produced!) I settled into the hotel and met my friend Jeffrey Vance, a film historian for drinks.
The next day was Thursday. The big day. RSVP’s were still coming in and last minute organization and planning was well underway. Justice Is Mind’s star Vernon Aldershoff arrived the day before with co-star Michele Mortesen having arrived a day earlier. Then the word came in—we were suddenly over capacity and tickets would only be sold if there were some last minute cancellations. Imagine my elation that during this very busy time in Los Angeles with both AFM and AFI we were going to fill a theatre! During the day, I had a great conversation with Vivian Matito who was going to be doing live blogging from the event.
We started with a meet and greet reception at Peter Law Group. It was great seeing Arnold Peter again. It had been five plus years too long. This is an industry of relationships. Of working with people you like and more importantly trust. Arnold is more than a colleague, he’s a friend. A friend who has supported my endeavors for many years. Seeing some of the Justice Is Mind family at his firm along with our entire operations team that made this event possible, was just thrilling. But the real thrill was about to begin.
We walked, yes walked in LA, from his office to the theatre (just two min.!) and there it was—our Red Carpet, with photographers and a crowd. I saw Justice Is Mind on the marquee on Wednesday, but seeing it in lights at night was something else. As we approached the theatre, it didn’t take long to see friends I hadn’t seen in years—Anthony ,Bryan, JJ and Andrew. But seeing Angelina Spicer again was a real treat. She starred in first film First World. That reunion was very special to me. Soon the introductions and the pictures began. From Hollywood and Bollywood stars, to industry executives, the night began to take on a special magic.
When I walked into the theatre and saw it at near capacity (we did have a few cancellations) that dream was now a reality. Dev introduced Arnold and me and we presented the film. As the film screened I was just remembering all the days that led up to this moment. The endless writing and rewriting, the pitches to production companies, the continuous talking about this project to those that would listen. Although my executive producers Mary Wenninger and Stefan Knieling weren’t present, they were certainly there in spirit. For if it was not for them, none of us would have been in this room.
After Justice screened, there was a brief Q&A led by Arnold who asked me various questions about the film and my motivations behind writing Justice Is Mind. When I set out to write Justice I had no idea the impact it would start to have. New questions about a process that will someday be in our courtrooms.
The evening ended with a terrific reception at Chakra which also involved on-camera interviews with the attendees and actors. With drinks flowing and related accolades it was a fitting end to wonderful evening. The pictures on this post are from our wonderful blogger and some personal cell-phone pics. Look for our professional pictures later on this week.
My thanks to Arnold, Dev, Roop, Vivian and the entire team at Peter Law Group for one of the most memorable events of my career. And thank you Vernon, Michele and Lee for being there and sharing in the experience. And to Mary and Stefan for believing in me and Justice Is Mind.
Live the dream.
On Thursday, November 7 at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills, CA at 6:30 PM Justice Is Mind will have its west coast premiere. For me, it will be a combination of a reunion and a return to a city I lived in for three years from late 2005 through early 2008.
The word reunion has been in my orbit the last couple of days. While Justice Is Mind was having its Vermont premiere at The Tiny Theatre in Poultney, VT last night, my best friend, and Justice executive producer, Mary Wenninger and I attended our 30th high school reunion. Organized by Sheila Mandeville, who also played the jury forewoman in Justice, it was surreal visiting with classmates I haven’t seen in thirty years. We graduated in 1983. Who would have thought that all those years ago, we would be involved in a feature film!
Moving towards the present, on Thursday there will be another reunion of sorts with my entertainment attorney and friend Arnold Peter, Angelina Spicer, who starred in my first film First World, along with a variety of friends I haven’t seen since I left the city. Social media keeps us electronically connected, but there’s nothing like a real life visit to properly catch up.
While the next few days will be filled with confirmations, last minute emails, phone calls and general preparation for what will, no doubt, be a grand evening on Thursday, there is certainly a class reunion atmosphere that has enveloped around Justice. With most of our screenings, there has been some “class” presence. Last night in VT it was Ken Holmes and Tom Pomfret (the contractors) that played host. At our reunion, Sheila brought a projector and screen that played Justice in the background. Like so many of us, my interest in the industry started in the high school drama club. My dream then to produce a feature film was finally realized.
Being excited about our screening in Los Angeles would be an understatement. I’m glad Vernon Aldershoff (Henri Miller) and Michele Mortensen (Maria Miller) will be joining in the festivities and sharing the experience. Sure, there will be many familiar faces in the audience, but it will be good to know there are those that have shared in the journey since the beginning.
Developing, producing and distributing a feature film is a journey in and of itself. Having read another article this week from a “Hollywood star” about the difficulties and challenges of getting a feature film made, with Justice completed I intend to enjoy the ride for as long as possible.
If I researched it right, it was Theodore Roosevelt that said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
So while Justice Is Mind is playing Thursday night in a theatre in the entertainment capital of the world, I will reflect on my senior year in high school standing on a stage dreaming that someday, somehow, I was going to make a feature film.