Tomorrow I leave before the crack of dawn for a nearly nine hour road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the April 29 screening of Justice Is Mind at Carnegie Mellon University. We have screened Justice at two universities, but Carnegie is different. This is where the idea for Justice Is Mind was born from a 60 Minutes broadcast about ‘thought identification’. Yes, I’m pretty excited. I’m also excited to report that Vernon Aldershoff, who stars as Henri Miller, will be joining me!
This past week I was reflecting on all our screenings to date. From theatres, law schools and science fiction conventions, each have their own atmosphere. From the actors and crew to the audience that attends. Indeed, those that attend Monday’s screening at Carnegie will represent an entirely new audience. And this is what it’s all about, building an audience.
The one thing I have read over and over again is the importance of building audience prior to VOD and DVD. Simply put, the number of films that are entering the VOD world is astronomical. When you have filmmakers like Joss Whedon and Jeff Lipsky placing their films in the digital world rather than “traditional” distribution routes, it does further the discussion that VOD has replaced DVD as the real revenue generator for independent films. More importantly, traditional distribution methods are changing in favor of filmmakers and audiences.
I do, however, disagree with the blanket statement by Jeff Lipsky that, “Independent American films are largely considered anathema to foreign distributors these days.” While I will agree that foreign distributors are hell bent on “stars” and “commercial” projects, the $35+ million bath foreign (and domestic) distributors are taking on Transcendence proves yet again that their model simply needs to change. Audiences want a good story. Period. Like Lipsky’s films that found US distribution but no international, foreign distributors have told me Justice wasn’t commercial enough because we didn’t have a “star”. They are seriously laboring under a monumental misconception of reality that will keep Justice out of the foreign marketplace. Do they know that some of the leading VOD platforms, like Vimeo, can be accessed anywhere in the world and that traditional and social media is the fuel that drives audiences? On that note, I’m working on finalizing a very unique international deal that I hope to announce in the next couple of weeks. Like others before me and after me, we just circumvent gatekeepers.
It’s often reported in the trades about being inventive when making an independent film. But the same holds true for distribution. What about unique ways and interesting venues to bring a film to an audience? Yes, you can get your film into a theatre. Yes, you can get your film screened at a university. Yes, you can get your film distributed online. There is a tremendous amount of work involved and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be done.
For me, I’ve been doing this for years. When I operated my publishing company sure we had traditional paid subscribers, advertising and newsstand. But there was always the events. I was always trying to create something unique that would bring attention to our magazine. Is it really any different with a film?
Speaking of magazines, check out this interview I did for Eliza Gail where I talk about Justice Is Mind, figure skating and publishing.
See you in Pittsburgh!
On the Bridge
Last night I watched the classic Murder on the Orient Express. I have always been a fan of movies that center on a train with one of my particular favorites being The Lady Vanishes. I suppose it’s no surprise that each of these classics were directed by two of my favorites, Sidney Lumet and Alfred Hitchcock respectively. Needless to say I thought Murder on the Orient Express was just brilliant.
When I first started to write screenplays and then produce and direct, perhaps the best advice I was ever given was to simply watch well made films and read their associated screenplays. In all honesty, doesn’t that make the most sense?
One of the compliments I’ve received by the actors in Justice Is Mind and the audiences that have seen it is on the dialogue itself. Scary, I was actually at an industry mixer last year where some “expert” stated to attendees to only write dialogue at a max of 140 characters. Um, people don’t speak Twitter. Just watch one episode of the hit TV show Scandal. The editing is quick, but the character interactions always have a great arc of dialogue.
On Friday my email newsletter and press release went out announcing our next three screenings – April 28 at Carnegie Mellon University, May 4 at Peguicon and May 19 at the Elm Draught House Cinema. The Justice Is Mind tour continues across the United States at three different venues with three distinct audiences. This is what I call the road show before we go public – video on demand (VOD). But to be clear, our theatrical and special event screenings will continue as live screenings and VOD complement each other.
A few days ago an up and coming actor said to me, “I couldn’t imagine being in your shoes trying to steer the ship.” As I mentioned to a variety of people during the production of Justice Is Mind, my prior experience running a publishing company helped enormously when it came to organization and execution. In today’s world, a filmmaker really does have to be on the bridge navigating all the changing waters of this industry. Someday I suspect this actor will be on his own bridge after some years of experience watching others – it’s what I did and continue to do.
Speaking of being on the bridge, the poster concept art for SOS United States is coming along nicely. It’s very exciting when a new project is being developed. For me, after the screenplay and business plan, having a concept poster created really starts to bring a project to life.
It was a producer who I met when I was living in Los Angeles that talked to me about balancing multiple projects. That while one was moving along you should have others in development. But the key was not to get overloaded so that you never leave port with either. It’s really only the last couple of months that I’ve been able to cast an eye onto SOS United States while Justice Is Mind is riding along the tracks of distribution on its way to new audiences.
Next stop. Pittsburgh.