“I want Spotlight to win” was my Facebook post last Sunday before the Oscars started. While 2016 yielded some excellent films (Trumbo, Bridge of Spies, The Martian and Woman in Gold), there was something about Spotlight that just felt right. Not only was the story itself important, along with the mechanics of quality investigative journalism, but you couldn’t have asked for finer actors either. What was right from the beginning was the screenplay. In addition to winning the Oscar for Best Picture, it also won the first award of the evening for Best Original Screenplay.
As this article in The Hollywood Reporter stated, Spotlight took eight years to produce. But once Participant Media got involved as producer and with Open Road Films distributing, the rest, as they say was history. As Sierra/Affinity CEO Nick Meyer said, “the movie is the star now.” Indeed that star is the screenplay because as Tom Ortenberg said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “The theatrical marketplace is a roller coaster. And anybody who wants to play has to be prepared for that fact.”
For all of us trying to make sense of the volatile nature of this industry, particularly when it comes to a theatrical release, it all comes down to the story. When I released Justice Is Mind into theaters, every one of our screenings was heavily marketed with an angle. We had to have an angle, because although we had a great cast and crew, nobody was a household name. The film had to sell itself. Thankfully, the media and audiences responded and the majority of our screenings were near or capacity audiences (there were no rentals).
But like the real “Spotlight” team at The Boston Globe did those years ago, writing a screenplay takes research and dedication. When I recall the research I did for First World when it came to the space program, the criminal justice system and neuroscience for Justice Is Mind and various workings of the executive branch, military operations and intelligence agencies for SOS United States, that work laid the foundation of the story before I wrote one word of dialogue. Of course we all want to see our screenplays come to life on the big screen, but as we saw with Spotlight, some things just take time. Why rush for quantity when you can have quality? In the case of Spotlight, that quality saw two Oscar wins.
Last week I finished the pitch document for Justice Is Mind as a TV series with the pilot In Mind We Trust already written. The process of getting some industry feedback has already begun. Having pitched a TV series around the sport of figure skating back in 2004, I’m familiar with the process. Of course, back around that time there were about 30 or so scripted series, now there are around 400. While times and processes have changed, it’s still all about coming up with the idea for a story.
As for changing times and figure skating, an idea came to me some months ago about a political thriller with figure skating as the backdrop to the storyline. Of course, it’s been some years since I actually attended a figure skating event. The last “Worlds” I attended as credentialed media was 2003 in Washington, D.C. So with The Ashton Times credentialed, I will be attending Worlds in a few weeks.
I remember when I wrote my first script. It was in a creative writing class in junior high. I think I know where that script is. Somewhere in the basement with a century of family history. It was my grandmother who started taking pictures in the 1910s and then it was my grandfather who took 8mm films of various family outings. I actually used a picture from this family collection in Justice Is Mind and some of these old albums appear in the film with Margaret Miller. The album that Henri Miller was looking through actually contained pictures from some of my European travels. In Justice Is Mind the Miller family emigrated from Europe right after World War II.
This past week was a busy one, with Justice Is Mind shortly going up on four major VOD platforms, it was time to review a variety of sites. I did this for our VHX launch, but wanted to revisit again by adding some new trivia to our IMDB listing (more to come) and updating some areas of our website (never ending). For when we do start to appear on these additional VOD sites, a major public relations push will begin in earnest. On that note, check out our latest review on Film Trance.
To date, I’ve been very pleased with our coverage and related reviews. Each writer and reviewer looks at the film differently and it’s always amazing to me what resonates with who. In the case of Film Trance, I enjoyed their reference to the strong characters and statement, “It is a thinker with a psychological edge.” Justice Is Mind really isn’t a film you can watch just once. I designed it that way as those are the films I like to watch. The insertion of clues and moments building up to the end.
As for SOS United States and First World, I saw some progress on those projects this week. Both of these films have budgets far north of what I produced Justice Is Mind for and require a different approach to market.
When I’m pitching a project, I like to make my introduction via email first. In my view, it gives the recipient time to evaluate what I’m presenting. That being said, there’s always the initial call to present and to request an email address. Yes, I do have a script in front of me with various talking points as sometimes a cold call works out really well. I remember the great conversation about a month ago with a member of a production whose film did really well at the Academy Awards. Then there is the other side when a cold call can be downright chilling. It is what it is.
So while I work on a presentation for SOS United States that’s going out on Monday, I revisited a contact in China for First World to represent that project on that side of the world. When you consider the current state of world affairs, China’s space race in high gear along with the renewed interest in the Moon with the Apollo 11 anniversary, I believe the timing for both of these projects could not be better.
No time like the present.