Marketing planet Earth one project at a time.

Posts tagged “Apollo 11

First Trailer

I’m pleased to announce the release of First Signal’s official trailer! You may view the trailer on YouTube at this link. Our official press release can be found at this link.

An alien solar system.

I cannot begin to thank the actors, crew and location partners enough for making First Signal possible. When I started to write the script a few years ago, I really had no idea that the story was actually going to be produced. Then moment by moment, meeting after meeting, First Signal became a reality.

A secret meeting.

There were so many fits and starts during the pre-production phase I wondered if we were ever going to lens those first scenes. But through patience, perseverance and planning, principal photography started last May and wrapped in July.  The post-production team of Daniel Groom, Daniel Elek-Diamanta and Adam Starr have been working feverishly to bring First Signal to life.

A general who wants answers.

While pre-production and principal photography are obviously important, the real magic happens in post. It’s in post that one takes the time to insure that quality is always top of mind. For it’s quality that distributors are looking for. When I was at AFM the discussion wasn’t so much about “stars” but about the on screen production value.  In essence, how does the film look and sound.

A president at the crossroads.

Now that the trailer is out, marketing begins again in earnest. The months of planning for this day are now here. Marketing is something I truly enjoy. If you believe in what you’re selling you can pitch it to anyone. This is where the three P’s (patience, perseverance and planning) come into play. If someone you pitch your project to says no, you just keep moving down the line. For Justice Is Mind, I must have pitched over one hundred theatres, in the end twelve screened the film. Had I given up after I heard what seemed to be the endless “no”, the limited theatrical run never would have happened.

A mystery.

Given the challenges independent filmmakers face on a daily basis, the release of a trailer is another reason to celebrate. It proves that like-minded people, with very busy schedules, came together for a singular purpose – to create a motion picture – to create a piece of art.  Over the next few months the final pieces to the feature film puzzle will be completed. In ocean liner parlance First Signal is being “fitted out.”

Welcome to the First World Universe!


First Website

First Signal‘s official website launched this week.

Now that First Signal is well into post-production it’s about the marketing plan. Part of that plan is the launch of an “official” website. Unlike social media that gets your news out quickly, I view a website as the central source for a brand or in this case a film. For those of you that followed Justice Is Mind, you saw how the website started and then built out during the post-production and distribution phases. When you consider the number of films looking for attention during any given year, you really need all the tools you can to make yours known. I am therefore pleased to announce the launch of First Signal’s official website https://www.firstsignalmovie.com/ Enjoy!

As I was telling a fellow filmmaker yesterday, when it comes to marketing your film you need to be relatively relentless. Unless your distributor is going to launch an aggressive marketing communications campaign to support your vision that responsibility is on the filmmaker—as it should be. Sadly, I see so many projects get released only to fizzle on the launchpad.  

The job of a filmmaker is an all-encompassing one. It generally involves writing the script in relative solitude, to directing the project with cast and crew, back to solitude for post-production, then managing the release, distribution and marketing. I firmly believe that when you put the word “filmmaker” on your resume you can list your responsibilities in one word – everything. Frankly, that’s why I love this process. It gives me the opportunity to wear many hats. 

One of those hats will be pitchman when I travel to AFM in November to represent First Signal and my other projects.  With the edit at the 30 minute mark, the opening credits sequence nearing the completion stage and scoring well underway, so far everything is proceeding on schedule. Unlike last year when I waited to book my trip three weeks before the market and almost had to pay a premium, I booked my trip last week to get a good rate. In the next two weeks I start presenting First Signal to a list of sales agents and distributors I curated from AFM.

As for agents, I informed my talent agent yesterday that I was leaving their representation. While there are numerous reasons why I left, I was first reminded that my contract passed the one year mark. In addition, I took a look at my full page resume, and with the exception of one gig, I secured the rest on my own.  With my on camera work largely reflective of domestic and international TV, I need representation that aligns with my experience or do what I’ve generally always done – represent myself.

The one thing I have learned over the past twenty plus years, is you need to market yourself—continuously. If you don’t market yourself, never mind your films, you will either be forgotten or passed by. There is simply too much talent out there competing for the same thing. The chance of you being discovered on a roster of talent or your film in a catalog is slim to none. I’m not saying you have to hire a personal publicist, but social media marketing (without looking like a narcissist), a press release targeted to the media and a quality email newsletter, go a long way in recognition.

On those notes, I plan to release First Signal’s second still next week.

The meeting.

Daniel Elek Diamanta scoring First Signal

First Day

Patience McStravick as Major Sampson and Conor Timmis as Cedric Yonah.

The train has left the station. I’ve often used that phrase to describe what happens on the first day of principal photography. There is nothing quite like that first day. You wonder if you’ve missed anything in the planning process because film production is all about details. Every day of principal photography is an event unto itself. But after months of pre-production, the First Signal train left on schedule.

I always arrive early to any set, but particularly so when it’s my own project. I view it as my job to have everything at the ready for the cast and crew. Last Monday our call time wasn’t until 9 AM, but I arrived at 7:30. One thing I had to do was to turn my “United States” car into a “Foreign” one. That meant changing my Massachusetts license plates into Belgian (First Signal takes place in Belgium).

Major Ellen Sampson and Paul Noonan as General John Reager.

After one of the staff at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center arrived early, I was able to load in my stuff and wait for the crew and actors to arrive. It didn’t take long for 9 AM to approach and then one by one they started to arrive. Before I knew it, we were ready to go with our first shot.

By the end of the day we largely accomplished what we wanted to. All the necessary indoor scenes, promotional photos and some key outside drone footage were shot. Although we still have a couple of drone shots to complete, the day by all measures, was a success. I can’t thank the crew, cast and staff at the Discovery Center enough for making First Signal’s first day a positive one.

Of course there are still many days to go until principal photography is over. Today, I’m putting the final touches on our shoot for next weekend that involves Senator Hadrian and General Reager. Weather permitting we will also be shooting a scene in their Observatory. Then there is the pre-planning for the primary conference room scenes with the majority of the actors the following weekend.

The one thing I want to reference from our shoot last Monday were the actors that played Secret Service agents. I’ve worked with two of them before on my own projects and as an actor. The other three I met through our casting notices. For one, this was his first film. For another, he was in the army. For another, he had a great eye for costuming. It was through their collective experience and efforts that brought an authenticity to their scenes.  

There is nothing more exciting as a writer than seeing your words come to life through the process of film. When you combine great talent on both sides of the camera, against the backdrop of an ideal set, that’s when magic is made.

On a closing note, I want to particularly thank Patience and Dan for your efforts, dedication and friendship. I remember that day at the Naval Justice School when Patience and I first talked about a story that would largely take place in one location. Then, on her introduction, our first meeting with Dan at a Starbucks to talk about the possibilities.

The days are long, the lists are endless, but in the end there is a product everyone involved in can be proud of—a feature film.

Next shot.

Wendy Hartman as President Helen Colton (c) and Stephanie Eaton as National Security Advisor Elisabeth Seward with the Secret Service. Lead agent David Afflick (left of President).

The Morning

Check out my interview on the show at this link.

The email came in on a Thursday afternoon. A producer from station KABC-AM 790 in Los Angeles wanted me to do a phone interview on Friday with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips for their popular morning drive talk show. The subject was figure skating. The topic was an incident between two skaters at the World Figure Skating Championships in Japan. 

I co-starred with Jillian on FOX’s Skating with Celebrities. She was a skater and I was one of the judges. No sooner did we meet on set than we became fast friends off the ice. Needless to say I was very excited to do the interview. First, it was Jillian but second she’s a great interviewer. It was a reunion of sorts as we haven’t seen each other since I moved back east in 2008. The moment the interview started we picked right back up where we left off all those years ago. You can listen to the interview at this link. Those few moments on air with Jillian brought back so many great memories from my time in LA.

A still from Reconstruction: America After the Civil War

As for the world of entertainment, last year I was cast in a documentary titled Reconstruction: America After the Civil War. As you see in this still, it was shot entirely in green screen. In the production these shots will be animated to recreate areas of the documentary for which no photos or film exist. From what I’ve seen, this looks like a brilliant documentary about an important part of American history after the Civil War. The documentary airs on PBS April 9 & 16. To learn more click here.  

In just over a month principal photography begins on First Signal. Since I wrote the script in late 2017, it’s amazing how fast time has gone by. It was becoming real enough over the last month when certain props arrived, but when the Air Force Uniforms started to arrive last week it was then that we all could feel the day coming.

Some of the patches arriving for First Signal.

I decided to buy the uniforms rather than rent. Not only was it about the same price for the weeks we needed them, I look at the uniforms as a smart investment. First, we’re not constrained to a limited amount of time with them. What happens if we need to reschedule shoot dates past the rental period? What happens if after we wrap we want to do some pickup shots? With this acquisition, the budget is locked down.

With cast and crew complete, final props being created and actors going through fittings, it’s this moment in pre-production where things are fine-tuned and coordinated. One could say we’re rolling out of our Vehicle Assembly Building.

T-minus.

Apollo 11 leaving the VAB Launch Complex 39-A

The Countdown

First Signal 4

In First Signal an alien signal is detected.

Since I registered for AFM (American Film Market) it has been a whirlwind of activity. From setting up personal and film profiles on MyAFM and Cinando to arranging meetings in advance, there seems to be no shortage of things to do as I prepare to leave for Los Angeles on November 1.

The one thing I’m looking forward to is learning something new. In an ever changing industry, I think it’s important to know where things are going. That doesn’t mean that I latch on to the next big thing. But it does mean that you have to be aware or at least open minded to change.

It’s easy for the casual observer to think that all innovation in the entertainment industry originates out of Los Angeles. Indeed, “Hollywood” is the entertainment capital of the world, and while proximity to the city certainly has its advantages, innovation truly comes from the four corners of the world.

SOS United States 1

In SOS United States a nuclear bomb is on an ocean liner heading for Boston.

Here in New England (Massachusetts to be specific) we have some terrific talent on both sides of the camera. Probably because I’ve lived here most of my life, I find it easier to get projects off the ground. But there are times when I have discovered that while we have solid talent, the pool is limited. Knowing that, sometimes it takes a bit longer to put together the right team.

When I saw First Man yesterday I was reminded what originally brought me into the world of film – the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. Director Damien Chazelle assembled a dynamic team that wonderfully brought this historic story to life. Not only did Ryan Gosling deliver a solid performance as Neil Armstrong, but visually Chazelle created a film that brought the viewer back to those iconic moments in time.

Serpentine 4

In the political thriller Serpentine, the sport of figure skating meets the Cold War.

Talking about teams, there is no team greater than those that work at NASA. During Apollo, it took “400,000 engineers, scientists and technicians to accomplish the moon landings.” It was a time when nothing seemed impossible. Those that say the moon landings were a hoax are just ignorant fools that suffer from denialism.

As I prepare to present my projects at AFM, one could say, in a small way of course, that it’s my very own Apollo. It’s about putting together the right team for the next project.

First Signal

39525

Apollo 11 takes off.


A Giant Leap

800px-Buzz_salutes_the_U.S._Flag

Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S flag on the Moon.

July 20, 1969. The 49th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission – “we came in peace for all mankind.”

Although at 4 years old, I was too young to remember the historic event of the Eagle landing on the Moon, I fondly recall the later Apollo missions in the early 1970s. Those grainy black and white pictures being transmitted from the Moon to our television sets was a remarkable achievement. Indeed, it truly was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In those days the world watched in wonder as the impossible was achieved, not once, but several times.

Apollo_11_first_step

Neil Armstrong climbing down the ladder.

When you think of the new technologies, sciences and discoveries that resulted from the space program of the 1960s and 70s, it’s clear that a giant leap was achieved on numerous levels. You can’t bring together that many scientists and engineers and focus them on a single end goal without achieving breakthroughs that were literally out of this world. Of course, another result of the space program was the motivation it gave to so many.

In my case, I developed an interest in astronomy which led to my passion for science fiction.  When I combined these interests and wrote First World in 2006, I had no idea where that journey would take me. In the film world it led to the production of the short film version of First World in 2007, followed by Evidence and my first feature film Justice Is Mind. In the real world, I have been fortunate to see the space shuttle Atlantis land at Edwards Air Force Base, Discovery and components of the Apollo program at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Enterprise at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and Freedom 7 at John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

800px-Apollo_11_plaque_closeup_on_Moon

The plaque left on the ladder of Eagle.

In the world of entertainment, two of my favorite TV series that involved the Moon are UFO and Space: 1999 with my favorite sci-fi movie being War of the Worlds (1953). But over the last several years “Hollywood” has produced some excellent must see films. I could list many, but my two recent favorites have been Hidden Figures and Arrival.  Two completely different films, but with compelling messages of the possible when faced with the impossible.

37550551_640759909613857_1545604007928528896_n

A first look at some artwork for First Signal.

As for possible, progress continues on First Signal. With Daniel Elek-Diamanta designing our first promotional poster, the look of First Signal is beginning to take shape. With more location scouting planned over the next several days, I have no doubt that the right location will soon present itself. When a launch is planned, all the conditions need to be right. I don’t want to settle on a substandard location just for the sake of keeping a schedule. Not only do I need to be excited as a director, but I want the actors and crew to feel equally motivated with their surroundings.

Next steps.

39525

Apollo 11 takes off.


The Launch

17632110_10158962866725131_6397434426738994353_o

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy lifts off from pad 39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

I programmed SpaceX’s launch date into my calendar. The upcoming launch of the Falcon Heavy was an event I wasn’t going to miss! But as can often happen with a launch, the time (and even date) can change at a moment’s notice. When the launch time did change, I went to the gym. As the time ticked down, most of the news oriented stations started to report on what was either going to be an historic success or a catastrophic failure.

I soon found myself paying attention to who was watching and who wasn’t. Yes, there were a good number of people watching (particularly in my age group). But then there were those that just didn’t seem to care. Judge Judy and Dr. Phil are fine enough shows, but you only get one chance at seeing history in the making and remembering where you were at the time. While I remember seeing the later Apollo missions on TV, at four years old I was a bit too young to remember Apollo 11.  To this day I still remember those grainy black and white images. But today’s broadcast was being carried in vivid HD.

moonbasealpha

Moonbase Alpha in Space: 1999

Watching the Falcon Heavy liftoff from the same pad as Apollo 11 was epic. It reminded me of what’s possible when we join together to create greatness. It’s this type of science, cooperation, ingenuity and forward thinking that makes this country great not myopic politicians. Although the political winds of the Cold War set the space program on the course it achieved in the 1950s and 60s, it’s private enterprise that will take us on the next step of this final frontier.

There’s no question that my following of the space program led to my interest in science fiction. While the 60s had Star Trek (again, a bit before my time), my introduction to science fiction was in the 70s with such programs as UFO and Space: 1999. Each of those programs had a base on the Moon along with a fleet of ships.

Justice Is Mind - Henri Miller's memories processiing

The thought identification process in Justice Is Mind.

Launching oneself into the world of screenwriting also carries its own set of risks (but not nearly as much as an actual rocket launch!), the primary one being the risk of getting a story wrong. Writing an original story is not an easy process. It takes time and research. When I set out to write a story, I usually do some baseline research so when I start to write I don’t need to stop until I reach that next point of needed additional research.  When I wrote Justice Is Mind the first phase of research was around thought identification with the second phase being the legal process around a court proceeding. For First Signal, the majority of the research revolved around satellite communications and the Deep Space Network.

As the submission process continues for First Signal, I’ll also be having a meeting this week with a filmmaker. I recently saw some of his work and he had that number one thing that’s so important when working with a crew – inspiration.  From my own projects to others, I’ve been on a variety of sets over the last year. And while inspiration is expected from actors, it’s just as important with members of a crew. You can easily see who’s on point and who needs a sharpening.

Next meeting.

atranta

The Earth as seen from Lunaria in First World.


The Field

moon-field-cloud

What one of the locations may look like.

This morning I finished up the notes for the prequel to First World. The next step is to place it in Final Draft and iron it out. That’s generally the process I use when writing a script. I write out the scene structure and dialogue in Word first. I just find it 10x easier to make quick adjustments in Word before formatting in Final Draft. But when I take that next step in Final Draft that’s when the final story starts to take shape.

I’ve written a variety of scripts over the years. Some produced, some waiting for a deal, but this is one that I specially wrote to produce independently. In the end I’ve stayed with three locations and what will be a liberal use of stock footage. But unlike First World, I think this story has given me the opportunity to really create a solid backstory for two of the main characters. It also examines a presidency in crisis along with an out of control military leader.

20100416_100415a-HQ28-002_rdax_775x436

A scene takes place in NATO.

As with Justice Is Mind, writing an original story is not easy. We receive our initial round of inspiration but then it’s up to us to figure out the rest. What I always aim to do is to have a beginning and ending in mind. Sure it may change some along the way, but if I have in mind the beginning of Act I and the ending of Act III, then I’m good to start. In my view an Act II should always be what I call “the mess” because that’s what the characters are trying to make sense of and resolve.

This story has a solid protagonist and antagonist. It was my goal to give each side not only a reason for their actions but the ability to carry them out. As a writer we wear many personality hats to create our stories. Many is the day when I thank God I’m working alone because I talk my dialogue out. I don’t think the strange looks from my cats qualifies as the need for being institutionalized, but if a neighbor randomly heard me talking like my characters I’d probably be visited by some sort of federal agency.

Once the first draft is done later this week I’ll be sending it to the actress that inspired me to write it. For me, it’s pretty easy to write a character when you model it on the actress that will play it. However, for the rest of the characters involved, one of my plans is for a table read. I never did that for Justice Is Mind owing to a variety of matters, not the least being the size of the cast, scheduling and time constraints. In the end that worked out fine. But with this project as the majority of the action takes place in a conference room and a field, it’s important to get the character interaction just right.

Next stage.

624229main_1969-07-16-5_full

The First World story centers around the Apollo space program.


Rocket Science

arc2

A scene from the short film version of First World. An Arctran landing  anti-gravity propulsion

Last week I mentioned how producing a film is not rocket science, but writing about rocket science is a different story.

With Justice Is Mind I did an exhaustive amount of research on two fronts. The first was mind-reading technology with the second being the law as it applies to investigations and the courtroom. But at some point you reach a certain knowledge bank when you can start writing.

Once a project of mine is given the green light I bring it to experts to insure its veracity. Of course there’s creative licensing, but at the end of the day a rocket launches vertically not horizontally!

Justice Is Mind - The FVMRI process begins

A combination of science and science fiction in Justice Is Mind.

One of the things I enjoy the most about screenwriting is learning something new. Am I an expert on mind-reading, the legal profession and rocket science? Good heavens no. But I can certainly talk about it in the context in which it’s presented. That’s what filmmakers do. We present. We create a fictional world against fact. Sure, some stories are pure science fiction with no regard to science, but I like to root my stories in plausibility.

While I was inspired to write Justice Is Mind from a 60 Minutes story, did I ever actually think the science fiction I postulated in my story could become near science fact? As a storyteller I’m doing just that, telling a story. My feeling has always been that as long as the story is interesting, it will hold an audience.

We’ve all been reading the difficulty that films are having at the box office. There are countless discussions on why this is happening. I have my own theories, but what I truly believe it comes down to is having an interesting story that is well marketed.

Mark Lund and Paul Lussier at the NH Premiere

With Paul Lussier (l) at a near sold out screening of Justice Is Mind in New Hampshire.

When I was marketing Justice Is Mind the actors were brilliantly talented and on par with any A list actors you would see on the silver screen, but they were not A list from a public relations point of view. I couldn’t market the film with Starring So and So, but I could market the concept. The end result was audiences bought a ticket and came to our screenings. Some were nearly sold out while others saw an OK attendance. What it proved to all of us was that audiences will turn out for an interesting story.

Revisiting the First World story has also been interesting. In addition to my “rocket science” research, I had almost forgotten the mountain of work I have done on this project, from writing the original script, producing a short film version, writing a sequel and publishing a novella. It’s safe to say I have some well thought out characters to work with!

Anti-Gravity

624229main_1969-07-16-5_full

First World centers around the Apollo space program.


The Steps of Mankind

Apollo_11_first_step

Neil Armstrong prepares to step foot on the Moon.

July 20 should be a national holiday because it marks an unprecedented milestone in the history of the human race – the day we set foot on the Moon in 1969.

Imagine for a moment what it must have been like for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to look at their home, the planet Earth, from 238,000 miles away. July 20, 1969 marked the very pinnacle of research, science and mankind’s determination to explore the unknown when Armstrong famously said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin_with_experiment

Buzz Aldrin with the Eagle in the background.

Yet, sadly, there are those ignorant dangerous fools that still believe the manned missions to the Moon were a hoax. Somehow an achievement that exceeded the mysterious building of the Great Pyramids was created by the Hollywood studios.  It’s unbelievable to me in today’s day and age that such ignorance permeates our existence. When evidence is there for everyone to hear and see, they turn deaf and blind by deliberate choice. Some of these misguided morons have tried to post their so-called views on First World’s Facebook page. Thankfully it’s called a delete and ban.

Yes, as you can surmise I feel very strongly about the aforementioned. For if there is one thing the Apollo space program taught us was that anything is possible if we remain singularly focused on just such a mission. In the 1960s there’s no question that the United States government was motivated to compete against the then Soviet Union. Say what you want, but that was a healthy competition because the fruits of all those scientists lay in the very technology we enjoy today.

dunkirk2017_02

Dunkirk 2017

But decades before Apollo 11 there were the steps of over 300,000 allied soldiers that were evacuated from Dunkirk. The Battle of Dunkirk is well known as a substantial turning point in World War II and has been brought back to life by Hollywood.

Christopher Nolan’s epic Dunkirk is most certainly a must-see film. But more importantly it is a history lesson for those that may not know the story. It is a story about what’s possible when faced with the impossible. How do you evacuate over 300,000 people off a beach? The answer was as miraculous as it was obvious—you mobilize a fleet of small civilian boats to effect a rescue.

432692-14348-clp-950

Dunkirk 1958

While I greatly enjoyed Nolan’s version of Dunkirk, if anything because it reintroduced this critical moment in world history to 21st century audiences, I found myself enjoying the 1958 version better. For me it provided a larger backstory as it followed several characters between England and France until they arrived on the beaches of Dunkirk.

But whether you liked the 1958 version over the 2017 entry isn’t important. What’s important is that these films are watched. What’s important is that we learn from history. Who would have thought back in 1940 that the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany (and Japan) would someday become great allies in years to come? For it’s allies that truly unite mankind. Building off that first step on the Moon, modern day space programs are a coalition of cultures.

United Nations.

International_Space_Station_after_undocking_of_STS-132

The International Space Station. A coalition of nations.


United Kingdom

picture-of-united-kingdom

First World and SOS United States partially take place in the United Kingdom.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking to my friends in the UK about the upcoming “Brexit” vote. They all had different points of view from those that wanted to stay in the European Union and those that wanted to leave. This post isn’t about one American’s position, but about my special relationship with our friends across the pond.

Putting aside what we learned in school, I was somehow introduced to Barbara Taylor Bradford’s masterpiece A Woman of Substance. The story is based in the UK and to quote “A Woman of Substance charts the life of Emma Harte, from kitchen maid at the beginning of the 20th Century, to respected business woman and Grandmother in the 1980’s.” The book was turned into a brilliant mini-series that saw such famous British landmarks as the storied Harrods turned into Harte’s. You can bet that one of my first destinations was tea at Harrods!

awe

Jeffrey Phillips and Lindy Nettleton in First World.

When I started a newsmagazine for the sport of figure skating in the early 1990s, I found myself again in the UK when I attended the 1995 World Figure Skating Championships which were held in Birmingham, UK. I soon found myself conducting business in the country from distributing our magazine to working with editors. At one point I had struck a deal with the national governing body to conduct an all too “United States” direct mail effort. I say United States, because I learned the biggest lesson at the time…I discovered that the English like to buy their magazines at kiosks (newsstands). Oh sure we had a nice amount of subscribers, but we also secured a pretty good newsstand contract in the country as well.

After publishing, my first screenplay First World was partially based in the UK. Part of the story has the Prime Minister calling for an emergency meeting with the President of the United States at a military base in the UK to reveal the actual mission of the Apollo space program. I filmed that segment actually down the street where I now live. To this day we were so fortunate to have a wonderful British actress who now resides in the States to play the Prime Minister.

vlcsnap-2016-06-26-07h51m13s52

Justice Is Mind was scored by UK based Daniel Elek-Diamanta with sound mixing by Visionary Sound.

I’ll never forget her audition. I was staying at a hotel with some of the cast filming another scene when Lindy Nettleton arrived along with Jeffrey Phillips (who played the President).  Owing to scheduling and space limitations the audition took place in a hallway. They were both brilliant. After the film was released, we had a few screenings at science fiction conventions in the UK.

When I posted notices for cast and crew for my first feature film Justice Is Mind we received responses from literally all over the world. But there was one composer from England by the name of Daniel Elek-Diamanta. In today’s day and age of the internet it doesn’t matter where you live, talent is talent. To say he had talent would be an understatement.  Instinctively, not only did we click, but he understood Justice Is Mind instantly. He scored the entire film to critical acclaim. When our original sound mixer dropped out, he found a terrific company in Visionary Sound headed up by Timothy McHugh. In the end, they both saved the day.

IMAG0098

Afternoon tea with my mother on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth.

Of course, perhaps one of the highest tributes Justice Is Mind received was when we had our international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth ocean liner in 2014. Suffice to say you can’t get any more British than Cunard!

My point to all of this is simple, no treaty keeps people from working together for the common good. Talent doesn’t know boundaries it simply wants to create. From magazines to film, those that I’ve worked with in the UK have brought something special to the projects I’ve worked on. That’s what the “special relationship’ between the United States and United Kingdom means to me.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

 

SOSposter (704x1024)

The political thriller SOS United States takes place in the UK and US.


The Intrepid

USS_Intrepid_1944;021125

The USS Intrepid in World War II. Now a museum ship in New York City.

When I was living in New York City in the 1980s there was ship docked a couple of avenues away that I would sometimes notice. In those days it was a dawn walk down 10th avenue in the morning on my way to Sky Rink before I went to work at Time magazine. That ship was the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid.

Last week I traveled to the city to spend the day at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. I’m not sure if there is another museum in the world that offers an aircraft carrier from World War II, the Concorde, the Space Shuttle Enterprise and the Galileo shuttle from the famed TV series Star Trek.  Needless to say among the array of exhibits there’s plenty to do!

Galileo

The Galileo shuttle from Star Trek.

When I was researching and writing both First World and SOS United States there was so much at the museum that touched on these stories. Not only do both involve aircraft carriers, the basis for First World is the 1960s space program and the return of the Concorde in SOS United States as Commonwealth One for the Prime Minister of the UK. It’s one thing researching a subject, it’s entirely another to experience them in real life.

Of course, being a Star Trek fan, I know the museum is getting a Star Trek exhibit in July. What I didn’t know is when I walked into the Space Shuttle pavilion I would see the Galileo shuttle from the TV show! I had just watched a documentary on the group of fans that saved this storied piece of TV history from a piece of discarded junk to a restored prop of broadcast quality. Yes, it was a total geek out moment seeing this iconic prop.

Enterprise

The Space Shuttle Enterprise.

As for history, I remember seeing the Space Shuttle Enterprise on TV when it did its atmospheric tests in the 70s. Although I saw the Space Shuttle Discovery some years ago at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the way the museum has the Enterprise displayed along with its related history and exhibits made the pavilion one of the highlights of my visit.

When I was at the museum I took two guided tours, Pacific War: USS Intrepid in WWII and Concorde a Supersonic Story. For the respective price of $15 and $20, they were wonderfully informative and were essentially private tours. For WWII it was another guest and myself. The tour was all the more interesting as the other guest was a veteran of the Korean War. If it wasn’t for those brave men and women that serve in our military, we would be living in an unrecognizable world today.

Cabin

The Concorde cabin.

Having always been a fan of the Concorde, I saved what turned out to be a private tour until the end of the day. If you grew up in the 70s the Concorde was all over the news. Simply put she was so far ahead of her time that just to see the plane was a cool experience. I first saw Concorde in 1985 on my first trip to London as she was taxing at Heathrow. As I understand it from the terrific guide I had, this is one of the few Concordes in the world that you can actually go into. When I was sitting in the passenger seats I was just thinking to myself about the amazing conversations and deals that went down in the cabin during her time in service.

Cockpit

In the cockpit of the Concorde.

As for time, I met up with my former business partner Lois Elfman for a wonderful dinner at Bistro Citron (highly recommended!). I first met Lois during my days in New York City at the offices of the Ice Theatre of New York (for insiders Moira’s loft). As many know we went on to launch a newsmagazine for the sport of figure skating that we proudly built into the world’s largest with an “intrepid” team.

Speaking of building, I just completed the second act of the political thriller I’m writing around the sport of figure skating “If she skates the way she did at sectionals she’s going to worlds.  And the Federation can’t stop it.”

Warp drive.

Lois

With Lois Elfman.


America’s Flagship

United-States-by-Crystal-Cruises-Forward-2

Artist concept of the United States by Crystal Cruises.

What I love about screenwriting is the research that goes with it. When I wrote First World I learned about the Apollo space program, the Kennedy and Nixon administrations, the Roswell incident and how parts of the United Nations operate. For Justice Is Mind it was the science of mind-reading (“thought identification”), reincarnation, and complex legal issues from the introduction of evidence based on new science to the construction of a criminal trial. Whenever I write science fiction, I think it’s important to have it rooted in plausibility or at least have it explained with a sense of realism (Star Trek is great for that).

The basis for my political thriller SOS United States has always been around this premise – the possibility that an ocean liner may have a nuclear device on board. Where did the idea come from? I’ve always been interested in the Cold War and count Fail Safe and Seven Days in May as two of my favorite movies of the time.  Add that interest to my passion for ocean liners and SOS United States was born. It was my mother that first got me interested in ocean liners in the 1970s with our membership in the Titanic Historical Society (Yes, Titanic is one of my favorite films).

SS United States Conservancy

With premise in mind I started my research. The ocean liner in my story needed to be fast, luxurious and military-like. It didn’t take long to discover the SS United States. Built in 1952 the luxury liner “was designed as part of a top-secret Pentagon program during the Cold War, which stipulated it could be quickly converted from a luxury liner into a naval troopship in the event of a war.” Needless to say I found my ship.  And found her I did. Since the SS United States was retired in 1969 she has been laid up all over the world and is currently docked in Philadelphia. More than once the ship was almost scrapped.

In my original notes the idea was that some company purchased the SS United States and refurbished her. But I quickly discounted that as unrealistic. Instead, I researched the United States Lines and discovered their early flagship the SS Leviathan. With that name, and the original blueprints of the SS United States, a company built a “state of the art” luxury liner, equipped with offensive capability to defend against pirating with a maximum speed of over 50 MPH.  I guess my original notes proved to be something more than an idea.

Seven-Days-In-May-11

As in Seven Days in May, a military insider reveals the shadow government to the President in SOS United States.

Last week in New York City, Crystal Cruises, a luxury cruise line, “announced it will save “America’s flagship,” the SS United States, and embark on the enormous undertaking of bringing the ship into compliance with the latest standards, and returning her to oceangoing service.” While I figured some sort of redevelopment plan would be put forward, as was done with the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, the fact that the SS United States will actually sail again as a luxury liner just proved once again that if you stay true to your mission with persistence and patience the impossible can become a reality. My congratulations to the dedication of SS United States Conservancy to save and preserve the ship and to the visionary leadership of Crystal Cruises to see the SS United States return to the high seas.

Suddenly the world premiere of SOS United States on the SS United States just became a little more possible. I remember sailing on the Queen Mary 2 in 2007 and saying to my mother how grand it would be to have one of my films screen on an ocean liner. After years of planning and determination, Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth on October 29, 2014.

All Aboard

SOSposter (704x1024)

SOS United States first mentioned on TV this past week on The John J. Fahey Show.


Launch Plan

SS-United-States-bw

In SOS United States the ocean liner SS Leviathan is based on the SS United States. In 2015 the retired ocean liner was saved from scrapping.

Too often we read about the resolutions and promises people make as they enter a new year. The end of one year and the birth of another does seem like the time to reflect on the past and hope for the future. But there is one thing that needs to be the driving force – a plan.

In the entertainment industry planning is the foundation of everything. From the script to production to marketing, the only way to get things done is to make a plan and to stick with it. For me it starts with my weekly lists; the daily posts to the social media pages I manage, the Google alerts that assist in public relations/marketing, the pitches to investors, the plans for productions, etc.  Like NASA, I’ve always believed in shooting for the Moon (and beyond). But we all know that NASA’s plan wasn’t just a speech by President Kennedy at Rice University in 1962. It was long term planning that resulted in Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon in 1969.

Justice Is Mind - the trial begins

In an August post this still from Justice Is Mind reached 3,900+. For 2016 screening presentations continue.

Nothing is more disheartening when you ask someone about a project they were all excited about months ago with more social media posts than you can track, only to inquire and you get their stoic face of “how dare you ask.” When someone asks me “how are your projects coming along” my response is pretty standard “they’re moving along.” That means that I have been doing at least the following: writing/editing the script, pitching projects to investors, working on concept art, talking to agents/managers, etc. Sadly, people only think you’re doing something when you have a tripod set up with a camera. What they don’t know is that when you reach that point you have, hopefully, established a solid foundation because even more work is ahead after you wrap that last scene – post production, distribution and marketing. Believe me when I tell you that Justice Is Mind had a five year long plan of writing (2010), production (2012) and distribution/marketing (2013-present). Without a plan none of our achievements would have taken place.

United_States_Capitol_-_west_front

In Mind We Trust, SOS United States and First World center around Washington, D.C.

The one I always compete against is myself. I look at one project I accomplished and want to make the next one better.  I think they call that progress. Yes, the plans I have for SOS United States, In Mind We Trust and First World are ambitious. But there does reach a point with any given project when you can see it happening. I remember when this threshold started to approach with Justice Is Mind. Is it a culmination of planned and sustained efforts? Being in the right place at the right time? Or, to quote the late Maximilian Schell, “This an industry of chances and luck.” In my view it’s about being “present” and in the moment. In an industry filled with those looking for attention, you have to make a plan that calls for it.

As for attention, I want to take a moment to thank my readers. Every year I receive an audience report from WordPress. I’m pleased to announce that this blog is read in 92 countries.  Curiously, the most active post for 2015 was A Narrative. In that post I talk about writing the last pages of In Mind We Trust. Indeed they were written in 2015 for 2016 presentations.

New Audiences.

Your 2015 year in blogging

Thank you to my readers. This blog was read in 92 countries!


The Inspiration

In SOS United States The Concorde returns to flight as Commonwealth One.

In SOS United States the Concorde returns to flight as Commonwealth One.

With the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in full swing, I enjoy reading the dailies and the state of the industry. What was a relatively unusual trend is that The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and IndieWire all generally reported that this market may be a slower one due to a conflux of trends; from the availability of cast driven projects to disappointments at the box office from previous festival sales. Truth be told, there is no crystal ball to predict what will resonate with audiences.

But if there is one thing that has to resonate with me, it’s inspiration. If I am not inspired by the subject matter, if I don’t believe in the material, if I can’t envision it on the screen, I can’t get behind it. One only has to witness the disaster that was the latest iteration of Fantastic Four. The film was a forced project for the sake of “rights” rather than passion.

In Justice Is Mind mind reading technology finds a a defendant on trial for a double murder he doesn't remember committing.

In Justice Is Mind mind reading technology finds a a defendant on trial for a double murder he doesn’t remember committing.

With all my projects they are driven by something that inspired me. Whether it was the Apollo space program for First World, mind reading technology for Justice Is Mind or government conspiracies in SOS United States, it is the underlying material that motivates and inspires me.  It’s not enough for me to be a filmmaker, I must be a promoter as well. Because if I don’t believe in the project why should anybody else.

This past week I ran into someone at my gym who has seen my films and he asked “How do I do it?” He was asking about the recent press we had around the second anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind. My response was pretty quick, “Because I believe in it.”  I know how Justice has resonated with audiences. I know what their reactions have been after the screenings. But it was also coming up with an angle for the latest media push – second anniversary, positive audience reactions and a sequel in development with In Mind We Trust.  It gave the media something to tell their audiences.

In In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, the secretive FISA Court finds itself in the middle of mind reading conspiracy.

In In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, the secretive FISA Court finds itself in the middle of a mind reading conspiracy with the NSA and CIA.

And this is what the industry is all about – the audience. I sometimes think this vital attribute is missed by the vacuum atmosphere of festivals. An audience at a film festival is vastly different from one at the local theater. At a festival you are probably a cinephile or industry executive and will see just about anything, but it’s the real world of the local theater that shines light on what an audience wants to see.

As The Hollywood Reporter stated, “Despite a challenging climate for indie film financing” projects are getting done because of valuable co-productions. Indeed this is an industry about partnerships. I learned this when our location partners for Justice Is Mind also became valuable marketing partners. It’s about inspiring others to see your vision.

New developments.

In First World a covert military operation aims to stop China's first manned mission to the Moon.

In First World a covert military operation aims to stop China’s first manned mission to the Moon.


First Story

This artist's rendering made available by NASA on Thursday, July 23, 2015 shows a comparison between the Earth, left, and the planet Kepler-452b.

This artist’s rendering made available by NASA on Thursday, July 23, 2015 shows a comparison between the Earth, left, and the planet Kepler-452b.

This past week was another exciting one for both space history and the space program.  From the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon on July 20, 1969, to new images from New Horizon’s flyby of Pluto and the discovery of ‘Earth’s cousin’ Kepler 452b , NASA continues to excite and motivate a new generation just as it did back during the days of Apollo.

I have always loved the space program and, of course, science fiction. From Destination Moon in 1950 to Apollo 11 in 1969, we see time and time again the influences movies have in the real world and visa-versa.

The same can hold true for the science fiction of mind reading I postulate in Justice Is Mind. Just this week, two articles came out that not only further the conversation of neuroscience in the courtroom, but the actual real world implications of the science of mind reading.

An article titled "Scientists Say They Can Read Your Mind, And Prove It With Pictures" had the most impressions.

An article titled “Scientists Say They Can Read Your Mind, And Prove It With Pictures” had the most impressions.

In fact, the origins for Justice Is Mind are in the space program of the 1960s. When I was writing the sequel to First World, the idea came to me that on return to the installation on the Moon, inhabitants had to pass through a “mind reading like” device to gain entry. Thus some simple research brought me to a “thought-identification” story on 60 Minutes. The rest, as they say, is history. Justice Is Mind was written, produced and released with our second anniversary screening coming up on August 18.

Regarding the promotional efforts I do for First World, Justice Is Mind and SOS United States, it is always interesting to me to see which one gains the most traction. This past week First World spiked sharply with my Apollo 11 posts, SOS United States saw its highest impressions ever with the U.S. Embassy opening in Cuba and Justice Is Mind increased dramatically with a story titled, “Scientists Say They Can Read Your Mind, And Prove It With Pictures“.

Neil Armstrong descends a ladder on July 20, 1969 to be the first man to walk on the Moon.

Neil Armstrong descends a ladder on July 20, 1969 to be the first man to walk on the Moon.

Marketing a film takes time, consistency of message and perseverance. The major studios have the benefits of seemingly endless marketing budgets and A list actors. For a truly independent film like Justice Is Mind, it’s important to have a hook and to see what resonates with audiences. For this project, I have always seen consistent engagement when it comes to media related articles that have to do with mind reading and their real world applications in court or the perceived abuse by government.

When doing my follow calls to the media this week, the one thing that has resonated well was that the sequel is in development and that a concept trailer exists. We shall see how this all pans out in the next couple of weeks as we lead up to the second anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind on August 18 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA.

Media alert.

Justice Is Mind-2nd Anniversary-Social Media


New Horizons

Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft on 13 July 2015

Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft on 13 July 2015.

Exactly one month from today Justice Is Mind will celebrate its Second Anniversary on August 18 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA. Actors and crew continue to RSVP their attendance, traditional and social media is picking up, photographers are confirmed and the theater has the film. Believe me there’s still plenty to do with the media follow ups and general marketing push, but the event is tracking well. For me it comes down to planning and organization. Time moves quickly and before you know it you are seeing your event come up on the horizon.

When I was writing In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, there were a few things I wanted to make sure the sequel captured. First, the Miller family was still the nucleus of the primary story while key plot points from part one (Justice Is Mind) were expanded. In the case of In Mind We Trust it was the government’s involvement with mind reading and their partnership with Reincar Scientific. Also, when you consider TV shows like The Blacklist, Fringe, etc., audiences enjoy what I call “intelligent intrigue”.

In Mind We Trust - Concept Trailer

In Mind We Trust – Concept Trailer.

I am pleased to present the concept trailer for In Mind We Trust. The trailer can be watched on Vimeo or YouTube. My aim with the concept trailer was to introduce elements from Justice Is Mind that carry forward into the sequel In Mind We Trust. From part one we know the United States government and intelligence agencies are, for some reason, involved with mind reading technology. The answers become clear in the sequel, thus the concept trailer sheds some light on where the story will go. And as the U.S. Supreme Court has now become the defacto policy maker in our government, the concept trailer, like the screenplay, ends at America’s highest court in the land.

Of course, I want to thank Daniel Elek-Diamanta for the tremendous score he wrote for the concept trailer. The gravitas of his score just brings the entire concept trailer to life. Those of you that have been following Justice Is Mind know that Daniel scored the entire film. Indeed, as one of our actors said recently, it’s worth the price of the ticket just to hear his score. For those of you that can’t make our screening on August 18, please visit www.justiceismind.com for VOD viewing options.

Tickets now on sale. The Second Anniversary of Justice Is Mind.

Tickets now on sale. The Second Anniversary of Justice Is Mind.

But the real new horizon this week was not a movie, it was the actual New Horizons interplanetary spacecraft and successful Pluto flyby on July 14. The word “stunning” doesn’t even begin to describe the quality of the images New Horizons set back to Earth.

I was a bit too young (4) to appreciate the Apollo 11 Moon landing, but the excitement shared around the world about New Horizons encounter with Pluto was truly one for the history books. From NASA’s scientific achievement to the sheer enthusiasm of audiences around the world waiting and watching for those early pictures. I can only imagine how the New Horizons team felt when they were waiting for the spacecraft to communicate after its closest flyby. Nearly ten years in space, and years of planning before that, and you are waiting for a signal, until…

New Horizons phoned home.

Near Pluto's equator as viewed by New Horizons on July 14, 2015.

Near Pluto’s equator as viewed by New Horizons on July 14, 2015.

To learn more about New Horizons and its historic mission to Pluto, please click this link.


Screen Test

From the screen test at Cinemagic last week.

From the screen test at Cinemagic last week.

There is nothing more exciting as a filmmaker than seeing your film come to life in a theatre. It is in that moment that the memories of its development and production come to light. The months you spent writing the script and the time it took to raise the funding to make the film. And just after you hear “that’s a wrap”, more work begins until you have a completed project. Oh yes, then there is marketing and distribution. Welcome to my world.

This past Thursday was the DCP screen test of Justice Is Mind at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA. Although I was more than pleased with our theatrical DVDs, the clarity and crispness of the DCP was incredible. We’ve screened at two of their theatres before, but this was the first time I saw a DCP of the film. Some of you may be asking, what the hell is a DCP?

Vernon Aldershoff as Henri Miller and Dmitri Aldershoff as Gary Miller in the opening scene.

Vernon Aldershoff as Henri Miller and Dmitri Aldershoff as Gary Miller in the opening scene.

A DCP is a Digital Cinema Package. It’s what theatres now generally receive from the studios, distributors and filmmakers. While I have yet to come across a theatre that cannot play a DVD, the default standard now is DCP. And my thanks again to the Chatham Orpheum theatre for making our DCP.

On August 18 Justice Is Mind will celebrate its 2nd Anniversary with a special event screening at Cinemagic. Although this will be our 21st screening, I treat each screening like it’s the first one.  I still feel like a kid in a candy store when I see Justice come to life on the big screen. The day I don’t feel that way is the day I set sail from this industry. I was particularly reflective when I was reviewing the last five minutes of the film and the credits started to roll. When you see over 200 names and companies, you quickly realize it takes a small army to make a film.

Kim Gordon as District Attorney Constance Smith.

Kim Gordon as District Attorney Constance Smith.

But this is an industry that never rests. Since the world premiere of Justice in 2013, I have written the political thriller SOS United States and In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind.  The pitch process is just as much on the front lines now as it was when I was presenting Justice in 2011.  Just this week, I pitched First World to a producer that I thought for sure would have been interested (Chinese investor). It was a quick pass. Instead he asked what else I have in my slate and is now looking at SOS United States and In Mind We Trust.

Just as Justice Is Mind came together, the same formula and efforts apply to my other projects. At the end of the day, not only do you need to find the right producing partners, but almost literally the planets need to line up just right. It’s one thing to follow a film market like Cannes, AFM and Toronto and read about X projects that got picked up, funded or whatever. What is never talked about are the countless projects looking for some sort of home. Thankfully, Justice Is Mind has found a home.

So as I ramp up marketing plans for the 2nd Anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind, writing Winds of Fall continues while presentations move forward on SOS United States, First World and In Mind We Trust.

Next Move.

Justice Is Mind-2nd Anniversary-Social Media


Sea Trial

The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in SOS United States.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in SOS United States.

It has become a common practice in the entertainment industry to create “proof of concept” trailers and short films to promote projects past the written word of the script (sometimes there’s not even a script!).  With more and more projects looking for attention, a thoughtful concept trailer can most certainly advance a project.

Yesterday morning, Daniel Elek-Diamanta, the composer of Justice Is Mind, sent me just over :30 of music he scored. We’ve been talking about SOS United States for several months and when it comes to composing music, we have always been on the same page. It was like this with Justice Is Mind. In August, 2012 he was sending me samples of music well before one frame of the film was shot. What you hear in the final cut of Justice was largely agreed to well in advance. Suffice to say, it’s a great collaboration and I highly recommend him as a composer.

The concept trailer for First World.

The concept trailer for First World.

I’ve been wanting to create some sort of video for SOS United States past our concept poster. The moment I heard Daniel’s sample the idea came to mind. You can view the concept trailer at this link. The general premise of SOS United States is relatively straight forward. An ocean liner in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean may have a nuclear bomb on board. The only military vessel in the vicinity is the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier during her sea trials.

As I have some preliminary producer meetings this week, the concept trailer for SOS United States is well timed.  But that being said, I’m sure the subject of budget, casting, etc., will come up.  On the face of it, it looks like the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit is here to stay – for now anyway. But as these producer meetings are happening “across the pond” the UK offers some of the best incentives along with a vibrant infrastructure.

A scene similar to this appears in In Mind We Trust.

A scene similar to this appears in In Mind We Trust.

This past week a very rare article was published around an independent film called Papadopoulos & Sons. What was rare about it was the breakdown of financials. Honestly, that short of working for a distributor, these numbers are seldom known, never mind released.  There’s a variety of pros/cons for releasing numbers. Yes, box office results are largely public, but VOD, TV, etc. are usually held very close to the chest.  In this filmmakers view it’s because the deals for these platforms not only differ for each film, but there are myriad proprietary contracts involved that can limit public dissemination from a competition point of view.

What this article does fully document are the fees involved in film distribution and the realities of revenue that come back to the financiers. This is why being realistic about a film budget is so important. Yes, you want the film to look and sound great with a stellar cast and crew, but at the end of the day it’s about revenue.

So while I start to market the concept trailer for SOS United States, I may look to do the same for In Mind We Trust.  Before I forget, check out the concept trailer for First World at this link.

Full Ahead

SOSposter (704x1024)


The Federation

4418930-deck2

This week the planet Earth lost one of its most beloved citizens – Leonard Nimoy who passed away at 83. Known around the world as “Mr. Spock” from Star Trek, it was Nimoy’s portrayal of the character that led so many of us to the world of science fiction and science.

I was too young to see the first run of the classic TV series, but was soon introduced to it in syndication in the 1970s along with the animated series.  Like so many it was the character of Mr. Spock and the ideals of what “The Federation” stood for that drew me to the world of Star Trek.

Although arguably Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is by far the best Star Trek film ever made, personally, I lean much more toward Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In that film Nimoy’s idea of the “Cold War” ending in space between the Federation and Klingon Empire, was much more appealing. It wasn’t just warp drive towards a space battle, it was a multi-layered story of differences between “worlds” and “species” interwoven with Shakespearian overtones and personal beliefs. When Captain Spock says, “There is an old Vulcan proverb: only Nixon could go to China” that said it all.

As Cmdr. Conner in Star Trek: Odyssey

As Cmdr. Conner in Star Trek: Odyssey

There’s no question that Star Trek has influenced my life.  While I was growing up in a small town, my best friend and I formed a club. Not just one club, but then associated member clubs that grew to 11 in three states – a Federation of sorts. While running my old publishing company we use to refer to it as “The Federation” owing to the reach the magazines had in every country along with its editors.  Perhaps the most fun I had with my admiration for Star Trek was being cast in a fan made series several years ago. I got to the wear the uniform and sit on the bridge of a Starship!

The city of Lunaria in First World

The city of Lunaria in First World

But it’s now in my writing that I create non-linear stories. Like in Star Trek VI, they are involved and branch out from a single starting point. With First World it starts from the Apollo 11 missions, in SOS United States a message in the desert, in Justice Is Mind it’s a mind reading procedure.  Like the Star Trek I grew up with and the later films (not JJ Abram’s), I write stories that make you think. That make you ask, what if? Indeed, In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, asks that very question.

So as I reflected this past week on the admiration I had for Leonard Nimoy and the influence Star Trek and the character of Mr. Spock had on me, we all can take comfort knowing that his creative works, indeed all our creative works, will…

Live long and prosper.

Justice Is Mind - The FVMRI process begins

The world of mind reading in Justice Is Mind


Congressional Hearings

shot125_00262

In every film there is the inciting incident. That moment (or moments) that drives the story in Act 1 from the established world of the characters to a turning point when the characters have to “act” to drive the story in Act 2. In Justice Is Mind it’s when Henri Miller collapses on his property. In SOS United States it’s when we learn there is a nuclear bomb on an ocean liner. In First World it’s when we learn what Apollo 11 discovered on the Moon. In the sequel to Justice Is Mind it’s when….sorry can’t reveal that yet!

There is one area of Justice Is Mind that has resonated universally well with audiences and those were the courtroom scenes.  In the United States I live in a country of perpetual congressional hearings. I swear they should have their own network! In Justice Is Mind we learn that there were congressional hearings that approved the FVMRI procedure. In the sequel, a new round of congressional hearings is now underway. As a writer it will be interesting to explore this process and how it works. Much like I had to do with the courtroom scenes in Justice Is Mind, it comes down to research. In addition to how congressional hearings are administered, I’ve also been revisiting fringe science in terms of mind-reading and DNA sequencing. Suffice to say it’s been an interesting journey so far.

In the sequel. A grand indictment of the legal system.

In the sequel – a grand indictment of the legal system.

With a few investor conferences scheduled this week, it should be an interesting one for SOS United States and First World as well. A screenplay, in my view, is like an architectural drawing. There it sits while one proposal after another is submitted to secure funding to break ground and build something new. Indeed, that’s the way Justice Is Mind was built.  And really is this process any different from that of an actor going on an audition?  Like an actor wanting to secure a part in a solid production, the same thing holds true with securing an investor for a film. It’s more than just talent and capital, it’s about long-term partnerships.

The NSA is featured positively in SOS United States. In the real world a UK organization revealed that British intel agencies access NSA information. ,

The NSA is featured positively in SOS United States. In the real world a UK organization revealed that British intel agencies access NSA information. 

I read an article in one of the trades some months ago where a producer mentioned something along the lines of “do I want to be in business with these people for five plus years”. That really is what this industry comes to…a long tail approach.  Sure, you have your “premiere” but the business continues long after that.  Just this past week I had a couple of conversations with schools that may be interested in screening Justice Is Mind and there are more VOD platforms coming online soon. Building your new architectural wonder may be the fun part, but then you have to have it occupied.

Speaking of building, that’s what I’m doing with the sequel to Justice Is Mind. When it’s completed I’ll have a slate of three films ready for production.  I’m writing the sequel not only because I want to, but because some people have queried me on a sequel. Why not have something at the ready or at least in the works?

But like a building, a screenplay just can’t be thrown together. It has to be carefully constructed. And like the original story in Justice Is Mind, the sequel isn’t just an addition it has to tower on its own.

In First World we see Orion ready to launch. This week NASA is set to launch the first test flight of the Orion capsule.

In First World we see Orion ready to launch. This week NASA is set to launch the first test flight of the Orion capsule.

 

 


Past to Present

The Characters-page-0

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.

First World concept art of the Synedrion Council chambers.

First World concept art of the Synedrion Council chambers.

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.

SOSposter (704x1024)


A New World

Future testing-page-0

This past week I was preparing a presentation for SOS United States and started to reflect on what I have produced and directed over the years. From plays, to commercials, to corporate videos, short films and feature films, it has been one hell of a journey so far. I remember back in the 1990s when I produced my first direct response commercial and being glued to the TV just waiting to see it air for the first time. The next day I went into my office (early) to look at the fax report from the call center to see how many placed an order for one of my magazines. I fondly remember my excitement then as I do now every time Justice Is Mind embarks on a new journey.

In a few months I’ll be on an ocean liner in the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean screening Justice Is Mind on the Queen Elizabeth. Yes, this is a tremendously exciting opportunity for the film and as cruise travel is my favorite way to travel, all the better! But in all honesty, it has always been about bringing Justice Is Mind to the widest possible audience.

In SOS United States the Concorde returns.

In SOS United States the Concorde returns.

Justice Is Mind was produced in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and while local, regional and national audiences have been wonderfully supportive, the second phase of this four year project has been to present Justice Is Mind to an international audience. When I was publishing magazines I was always looking for new avenues to distribute, filmmaking is no different. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, filmmaking is a journey to new worlds and new audiences.

Of course the one constant, the one continuous journey in all of this, is capital. The capital to produce and the capital to pay back your investors from distribution. When you read the entertainment trades, blogs and related sites (Slated, etc.) they talk about the countless various structures of film finance. But there are a couple of constants in all this coverage, 1) everyone is looking for funding, and, 2) every deal is different. From the studios to the independent filmmaker, cash is king.

Justice Is Mind will celebrate on the Queen Elizabeth in October.

Justice Is Mind will celebrate on the Queen Elizabeth in October.

How many times do we read that such and such a film was financed by the most unlikely of investors? Trust me I had no idea that my best friend and her husband would be my investors in Justice Is Mind. Nor did I think that 20 years ago a figure skating coach would back my dream to launch a figure skating magazine. So what common thread did these financiers have? A passion for the intended product. Don’t get me wrong, they are business minded but at the end of the day they believed in the project and wanted to see it come to life.

On my quest to secure funding for SOS United States and First World I look for those that may have a passion for the subject matter and are entrepreneurs. There’s no question that filmmaking is a risky venture, but isn’t any business? Unlike a business that may not make it and has to close its doors (or shut down their website), a completed film is a product that can be marketed and sold.

Now boarding. The journey to new worlds.

Mark Lund First World

The journey to new worlds in First World.


Flight Plan

The opening credits.

The opening credits.

As we are coming into the final four weeks until the world premiere of Justice Is Mind, I have been reflecting over the last few days on how this entire project started and the journey to this moment.

It was 2010 when I was writing the sequel to First World when I began researching the “possibility” of mind reading machines for part of that story. Learning of fMRI procedures and discovering the 60 Minutes Thought Identification program, Justice came to life through my passion for courtroom dramas (Judgment at Nuremberg, Witness for the Prosecution) and science fiction (Gattaca and Fringe). I also love the procedural format (Law & Order).

Not a NASA control station. Justice Is Mind being sound mixed.

Not a NASA control station. Justice Is Mind being sound mixed by Visionary Sound.

With script in hand and my business plan complete the journey began to find the funding. Ask any screenwriter the pitch process is arduous, time intensive and honestly depressing. Simply put, even if you get past the gatekeepers who accept submissions or have your agent/rep submit, you still have to convince your first point of contact (which you always hope is a producer) to, at minimum, option your screenplay. Thus even with some option money in your pocket, you still have to wait to see if they are going to produce your dream…I mean story.  I know some screenwriters that are totally fine with that process. They write, get paid and move on to the next writing project. They don’t care if their story is produced. But for me, I want to see all that work move from script to screen. As a writer there’s nothing like seeing your work come to life.

After months of presenting to production companies and hearing things like “it’s not for us”, “we’ve seen similar” (you know what translates to) or my favorite “we’re working on something just like this” (seriously run from those companies and keep your correspondence), the funding came together from two of the most unlikely sources – my best friend Mary and her husband Stefan. Ever since I was in grade school I have dreamed of producing a motion picture and now it was going to happen.

FVMRI operations center inspired by NASA's mission control.

FVMRI operations center inspired by NASA’s mission control.

But as I’ve said before, producing a film is not for the faint at heart (no matter what the budget is) and is a business. Mary and Stefan knew I used to run a media company and that I’ve managed direct reports. But while they loved the story, I had a business plan that was “reasonable” and not filled with fluff (there was zero mention of Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch). Just practical numbers on indie films of the same budget class and available distribution data. But I really credit the production of my first short film First World in 2007 to making all this possible as I was able to combine my practical business background to a film (albeit a short one). When I was publishing magazines I handled our newsstand distribution. Film distribution has a variety of similarities – you have to deliver the product, you only get a percentage of the retail price, there are middlemen and each deal is different.  After screening at over 20 sci-fi conventions in numerous countries, First World was picked up for distribution by IndieFlix and ran on Hulu for well over a year.

A memory on trial in Justice Is Mind.

A memory on trial in Justice Is Mind.

Now a mission control like atmosphere has taken over the project. Justice has left the vehicle assembly building and we are on the crawling transporter to LC 39. Launch control center is manned by our editor, sound mixer, director of photography, composer and other technical personnel. Final operating systems are in place and are being tested.

And while the aforementioned is the atmosphere I’m feeling for Justice right now, it is a tribute to the Apollo 11 space program for on this day back in 1969 our world was forever changed when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

T-minus 28 days.

Neil Armstrong descends the ladder of the Apollo Lunar Module to become the first human to step foot on the surface of the Moon.

Neil Armstrong descends the ladder of the Apollo Lunar Module to become the first human to step foot on the surface of the Moon.