Tonight, the entertainment industry comes together en masse for The 87th Academy Awards “The Oscars”. Personally, I’m rooting for either The Imitation Game or The Grand Budapest Hotel to take Best Picture. The one thing I always wonder when I see the nominee list for the Academy Awards, is the journey these “projects” took to reach the pinnacle of the entertainment industry.
The Imitation Game took years to develop. Purchased as a spec script by Warner Bros. for Leonardo DiCaprio in 2011 and then going through some “development hell” it finally came out the way it did. Can we honestly see anyone besides Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing?
Developing a film project can take years…many years. The casual observer of this industry only knows what they see in the theatres and the related award shows. But there was someone, perhaps a small group, that had to champion these projects forward. Had to convince a studio, sales agents and related distributors that their project was worthwhile. Had to convince investors to take the long shot that this project would net positive cash flow down the road. There is no gamble bigger than making a feature film, but on the other side there’s nothing more rewarding when it’s completed and seeing it in a movie theatre.
When I wrote First World in 2006 and condensed into a short film in 2007 to promote the feature film concept, I had no plans to write Justice Is Mind at that time. But when the idea came to me in 2010 to write Justice I took what I learned from First World and produced a short, Evidence, to gather interest in the concept. But from day one in writing Justice Is Mind, I wrote with the idea that I would produce and direct this film on a manageable budget.
This week I read a great story on No Film School “Keys to Film Financing: Keep Creativity in Your Heart, but Dollar Signs in Your Eyes” written by the brilliant folks at Buffalo 8 Productions. Their statement, “By getting your first project made and seen you’ll have more leverage your next time around to tell a bigger story and avoid the pitfalls that early stage writers often find in the development hell that permeates economically challenging films,” could not be more true. The sequel to Justice Is Mind is a bigger story and will command a higher budget.
It is impossible to time a film for the market. Simply, even in the best of circumstances, from script to screen can take about two years. But that being said, it all comes to promotion and marketing. And, as my business partner in Justice Is Mind mentioned to me, it’s about having product – i.e. scripts. Because at the end of the day that’s where it all starts.
“In the sequel to Justice Is Mind, acclaimed journalist Margaret Miller now finds herself in the crosshairs of the United States government. Desperate to save her husband Henri…” Announcing the title and synopsis to the sequel…
Last Monday I finished the first draft of the sequel to Justice Is Mind. By the early reports from those that have read it, they really enjoy the story. Certainly as a first draft there are edits, but all in all, I’m happy with it. It’s a continuation and expansion of the original story.
I think in the back of my mind I always had the idea for the sequel and planted clues all along the way in Justice Is Mind. Now with the sequel completed, it is also set up to continue as a pitch for a TV series.
When I first started to contemplate the sequel there were a variety of things that I knew would encompass a continuation. First, the sequel would start where the original left off. With a sequel you have to assume that some won’t see the original so you need some background to carry it forward. As I’ve publicly stated, Henri Miller has not been killed. It’s his resurrection that bridges the world of science and mysticism. From intelligence agencies, to secret courts, to scientific companies and the exploits of the Miller family, the story concludes at the Supreme Court of the United States.
The majority of the characters from Justice Is Mind return, but it’s in the sequel where we learn more about them and their various motivations. Combining the original characters with a variety of new voices, brings a new story to life that travels from New England, to Washington, DC, to Germany, Russia and Italy. From Senator Caraway leading the congressional investigation into pre-life memories to General Blair of Joint Special Operations Command on terrorism in Washington, DC to the President of Reincar Scientific. But through all this, the story centers around the Miller family. From the horrors of World War II to the present, the secrets of the Miller family are revealed in vivid detail.
In all my writing and research over the years, I can’t remember tackling something as involved as the sequel to Justice Is Mind. From past life regression, to intelligence operations, to the secretive FISA court, to Germany in World War II and studying case law and procedure for the Supreme Court of the United States. Personally, that’s one area of writing I enjoy – the research. You wind up learning things that you would probably never know unless you experienced it personally or actually wrote about it. While a satisfying experience, it is a labored one. This is why I’m such an advocate for laying the foundation with a complete and vetted script. The last thing I want to think of during production is the story, I just want to shoot.
While Justice Is Mind has 42 speaking parts (not including extras), the sequel has 61 with Margaret and Henri Miller leading in the number of dialogues and scenes. In so many ways the production of Justice Is Mind was a proving ground in terms of what was possible to accomplish. The sequel takes it up a deserving few notches – Margaret, Henri and Cast of Hundreds. Yes, a slight turn in title to a book about the making of my favorite film of all time –Gone With the Wind. For those that love that movie, I highly recommend Scarlett, Rhett, and a cast of thousands: The Filming of Gone With the Wind.
Those that follow me know me well enough that I’ve already started the process of developing the sequel for production. But that being said, a few observations of the New England entertainment market. We need a TV series in the region that incorporates a diverse set of talent – both known and unknown. As Justice Is Mind proved, talent on both sides of the camera need not be a household name for success.
What’s next? Synopsis.
I am pleased to announce that Justice Is Mind is now available on the theatrical distribution platform Tugg! To quote their website, “Tugg is a web-platform that lets YOU bring the movies you want to your local theater.” Tugg is a dynamic theatrical service that I have been aware of for the last couple of years.
For those of you that follow this blog, you know that Justice Is Mind has had a successful theatrical run. Out of 20 screenings to date, 12 have been theatrical. As none of these theatres have been rented (1 was sponsored), with an average attendance capacity of over 80% for each screening, we know the demand is there. What drove ticket sales? Promotion, media, networking and legwork. Each theatrical screening of Justice Is Mind averaged $1,113 per screen.
The simple difference with Tugg is the following; instead of the vast majority of tickets being sold the day of a screening, they are sold in advance. By example, let’s say someone wants to screen Justice Is Mind at their local theatre and they live in the Midwest. They request a screening at this link and then promote using the various tools that Tugg offers, combined with their marketing efforts and whatever marketing assistance we can provide. Once the threshold of tickets are sold in advance (it varies by theatre), the screening is confirmed and the promoter receives 5% of the ticket sales. It’s a win win for everyone. Why? Because if by some chance not enough tickets are sold in advance by a certain date, the screening doesn’t happen and nobody is charged. To learn more, please visit this link and our listing on Tugg for more information.
When Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth last October, several of the guests remarked that they wished our film was playing at their local theatre. Tugg is the program that can make that happen!
The world of filmed entertainment, and in particular independent filmmaking, continues to undergo all kinds of market stresses. I talked about some of those issues last week and Variety outlined a host of them in an article titled Broken Hollywood. But I also truly believe that today the independent filmmaker has all kinds of opportunities to get their work seen. Justice Is Mind is a prime example of what’s possible; a theatrical run, convention and university screenings along with an international premiere on an ocean liner. Combine those screenings with various VOD platforms, including Amazon Prime and VHX, and the distribution mix works. With our arrival on Tugg, more VOD platforms on the way along with some additional screening plans being worked on, our efforts are far from over.
Speaking of efforts, the first draft of the sequel to Justice Is Mind is nearly complete with the story’s arrival at the Supreme Court. I’ll announce the completion of the first draft and then there will be the requisite edits before I can send the script out for review. Thus another reason to continue promoting part one – Justice Is Mind.