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Posts tagged “Central Intelligence Agency

Prime Directive

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In SOS United States military grade lasers are installed on the SS Leviathan and take on F35s.

Although Justice Is Mind has been on Amazon Prime for over a year, last night was the first time I saw it on a TV half the size of my car (My Pontiac Solstice even appears in the film).  While I’ve seen the film countless times on my computer during the production phase, and at every theatrical screening, seeing it in this context was a new experience.  I may be a bit bias of course, but the quality of the picture and sound was probably the best I’ve ever seen it.  When I think of the numerous QC (Quality Control) checks we had to go through, seeing it in this format brings another round of applause to the cast and crew and the technology of VOD.

As a filmmaker, I’ve worked with Amazon for years. They are by far, in my experience, the most filmmaker friendly of all the VOD services. In addition to paying on a monthly basis, their algorithm technology ensures that customers that may be interested in your film are made aware of it. Of course, I’ve been marketing First World and Justice Is Mind on a regular basis to drive traffic to our listings on Amazon and other VOD platforms. Simply put the old adage of “if you build it they will come” doesn’t work, it comes down to marketing.

Amazon Prime

On Amazon Prime.

Regarding marketing and distribution, there was an interesting article on IndieWire this week about self-distribution. Having been a magazine publisher, distribution for me is second nature. But I know way too many filmmakers that hate it. Look, I get it. You just wanted to make your film and it took every resource you knew to accomplish that.  With First World and Justice Is Mind now released, there’s just a regular program to keep the conversation going in whatever venue, media outlet or platform I can reach. But now, I’m back to the foundation building process with In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, and SOS United States. Making a film is like building a house—it all starts with a foundation.

CIA

In In Mind We Trust the CIA is at the center of a clandestine mind reading program with Reincar Scientific.

As for the foundations of the industry, there is some serious seismic activity going on.  From Variety’s “Why Good Films Are Failing at the Box Office in Awards Season” to the Hollywood Reporter’s “Harvey Weinstein on the Awards Season Crunch: “Everybody Cannibalized Each Other,” one has to wonder what state the industry will be in a year from now from a business point of view. That business starts with economics when someone, or some company, funds these visions.  As I’ve stated before, I’ll state again, it does come down to a return on investment. I’ve never understood why the industry cannibalizes itself for an award at the expense of profitability. In all seriousness, I personally don’t care what film wins what award, I’m just interested in the film itself.

Audiences aren’t stupid, they want to see quality films. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if someone sees a film in a theater, they will look for it on a platform like Amazon. Of course in “the old days” that conversation was around DVDs. Remember when films would go “straight to DVD”?  Now some go straight to VOD.  If there is one word that drives this industry and its resiliency it’s innovation.  It’s innovation that gives filmmakers and audiences choices on where and how to watch a film.

On screen.

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In First World, China launches a manned mission to the Moon in 2018. In the real world, China’s space program is launching forward.

 

 


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.


The Concept

From the In Mind We Trust concept trailer.

From the In Mind We Trust concept trailer.

When I wrote Justice Is Mind in 2010 I don’t recall thinking about a sequel. It’s hard enough getting a feature film made in the first place, never mind a continuation of the original story. But no sooner was Justice Is Mind released in 2013 than ideas started to come together from one of the underlying plots in the film – the government’s involvement with mind reading and one family’s search for the truth. After about four months of intense research and writing, In Mind We Trust was complete.

One of the more popular ways to bring projects to life is with a concept trailer also known as “proof of concept”. One of the most popular of these trailers was for a project called The Leviathan. I love high concept sci-fi and this had it in spades. By all reports it looks like The Leviathan will be turned into a feature film.

The concept trailer links Justice Is Mind to In Mind We Trust with stolen NAZI artwork.

The concept trailer links Justice Is Mind to In Mind We Trust with stolen artwork from World War II.

In Mind We Trust is not only high concept, it also involves the intricacies of intelligence agencies, past life regression, stolen artwork and complex legal issues around the Fourth Amendment. The aim with the concept trailer is to distill it down to just over a minute and to find just the right video clips to make it work. In my search for clips, the ones I thought were going to be impossible to find showed up on the first search, while some I expected to be easy took me a few days. But in the end, I believe I have a workable presentation. At 2:36 the concept trailer starts with Justice Is Mind and then introduces the key elements of In Mind We Trust. The plan is to release it just prior to Justice Is Mind’s 2nd anniversary screening on August 18 at Cinemagic.

As for the upcoming 2nd anniversary screening on August 18, things are moving forward nicely. Tickets went on sale this past week, some listings are showing up and Pizza Post is back on board with their special promotion (ticket purchasers get a dollar for dollar redemption).  Look for our press release next week.

Tickets now on sale for Justice Is Mind's second anniversary screening.

Tickets now on sale for Justice Is Mind‘s second anniversary screening.

There was a great article in MovieMaker magazine this week about the 2015 Produced By conference in Los Angeles.  You can read the article at this link. For me, there were so many excellent takeaways. From, “Don’t be afraid to cold call or email”, “Partnerships with companies”, “A great script is the foundation for any project” and “Never produce a project you don’t feel good about”.

But perhaps the most important statement at the conference was, “The one thing that was said in ALL panels regardless of the topic. CONTENT IS KING!! At the end of the day, all that matters is what’s on screen or going to be on screen.”

In development.

In Mind We Trust-page-0


The Agenda

Justice

I’ve always had an agenda. My present agenda is pretty obvious, getting one or more of my slate of film projects into development.  When I was reading about Joel Silver’s financing saga, it reminded me of the countless projects I am aware of that are in the development stage or still looking for a distribution home.

From government and commercial space program interests, to military and political conflicts to the mysteries of neuroscience and reincarnation, the market for First World, SOS United States and In Mind We Trust (the sequel to Justice Is Mind) is most certainly there. What it simply boils down to is equity. Ask any filmmaker, even the ones on the recently released The 30 Most Powerful Film Producers in Hollywood in the Hollywood Reporter, it doesn’t matter the size of the project they all require some equity.

IN MIND WE TRUST, the sequel to JUSTICE IS MIND involves the CIA and NSA in Germany.

IN MIND WE TRUST, the sequel to JUSTICE IS MIND, involves the CIA and NSA in Germany.

But it’s more than just cash, it’s the ability to see a project through from start to market. Notice I didn’t say “finish”. Yes, it’s all very exciting making a film and being on set, but none of it matters if the film isn’t released or distributed. It saddens me when I see a project I’m familiar with, or have been tracking, get sidelined for whatever reason. Look, make no mistake about it, filmmaking is not easy. The commitment level it takes is in years, not months, if you hold the title of writer, producer or director.

In FIRST WORLD there's an installation on the Moon. The European Space Agency is proposing to build a Moon base.

In FIRST WORLD there’s an installation on the Moon. The European Space Agency is proposing to build a Moon base.

In my business plans it’s stated that my commitment to a project once it gets the greenlight is, at minimum, two years. Look at Justice Is Mind as an example. Script was written in 2010, short film produced in 2011, feature film produced in 2012, released in 2013 and marketed through 2015 (and beyond). Studios understand this level of commitment or else they wouldn’t have a library of films. Seriously, how long does it take to update a Facebook page or post to Twitter? It’s one thing coming across a website, but nothing screams abandoned like a social media account that hasn’t been updated in months or years. This is an industry of perception.

I often reflect on my early efforts with First World. I wrote the script in 2006 and produced the short film version later that year. The film was released in 2007 and I spent over three years marketing the film that resulted in twenty screenings along with a DVD and VOD release. As of this writing, First World is still generating strong VOD sales.

But my current agenda is just that, an agenda I need to put together for a production meeting this week.

Presenting.

The National Review reported that the U.S. Navy is accessing how it projects power - a central theme in SOS UNITED STATES.

The National Review reported that the U.S. Navy is accessing how it projects power – a central theme in SOS UNITED STATES.


The Business

The CIA is at the center of the story in the sequel to Justice Is Mind - In Mind We Trust.

The CIA is at the center of the story in In Mind We Trust.

Picking up where I left off last week, having been given a trial subscription to Variety Insight and Vscore, I highly recommend it. It’s a wonderfully comprehensive service and does, as the name suggests, offer a wealth of insight.  Like IMDB, Vscore rates popularity of actors across a “variety” of sources. From TV, film, awards and social media, an actor’s entire career is given a score.

This weekend I started to write the business plan for In Mind We Trust. While I’m modeling it after my plan for SOS United States, I did take a review of my original business plan for Justice Is Mind that I wrote in 2011. Needless to say some updates are in order.

When I wrote the plan for Justice Is Mind, it called for no theatrical release and signing with one distributor for VOD. So what changed? Theatres are embracing independent film (thus our theatrical release) and that distributor I was going to sign with changed its revenue model so now the payout to filmmakers is literal pennies based on minutes viewed. Terrible for the filmmaker but gangbusters for the distributor. Needless to say, they aren’t distributing Justice Is Mind.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth, that's seen in SOS United States, will start sea trials next year.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth, that’s seen in SOS United States, will start sea trials next year.

Putting aside the story itself for a moment, In Mind We Trust is a unique film from the point of view of the characters. In addition to bringing back the majority of the stars, co-stars and some featured characters from Justice Is Mind, new starring, co-starring and featured roles now exist in In Mind We Trust.  The goal is to attract some “named” talent to these parts for marketability.

While the industry has changed from a distribution point of view, and while you can get distribution with talented although largely “unknown” actors, the fact does remain that named talent does bring sales and marketing cache to a project. In addition, it also opens up additional distribution opportunities. However, as we have all seen, there is simply no guarantee of success one way or another. That being said, it’s about complimenting these roles with actors that would bring some gravitas to the characters without taking away from the overall story. In other words, not just putting in “so and so” to say we have “so and so”.

From the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Senator Caraway, General Blair and Hilma Miller, there are some great opportunities for named talent to be part of In Mind We Trust working alongside some of the actors that brought Justice Is Mind to life. Indeed, I can just imagine the marketing and public relations possibilities of such a pairing!

The goal, of course, is to put together a plan that’s not only attractive to financiers but making sure it reaches the right parties. This is the process that can take some time. Indeed, it took over a year to find the investors that saw my vision for Justice Is Mind. The great thing about In Mind We Trust is that Justice Is Mind has done well in the marketplace. It proves that there’s an interest in the original story that I’m looking to expand upon with the sequel.

Next chapter.

In the sequel to Justice Is Mind, the story centers around Reincar Scientific's involvement with the CIA.

In the sequel to Justice Is Mind, we see Reincar Scientific’s involvement with the CIA.


The Journey

In the sequel to Justice Is Mind we learn why Wilhelm Miller shot them.

In the sequel to Justice Is Mind we learn why the two runners were shot.

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.

In Justice Is Mind we learn that Reincar Scientific was involved with United States intelligence agencies. In the sequel, we learn the extend of their involvement.

In Justice Is Mind we learn that Reincar Scientific was involved with United States intelligence agencies. In the sequel, we learn the extend of their involvement.

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…

…next week.

At the world premiere of Justice Is Mind in 2013. The journey from script to screen took four years.

At the world premiere of Justice Is Mind in 2013. The journey from script to screen took four years.


The Senate

In the sequel to Justice Is Mind, McCarthy era-like hearings take place.

In the sequel to Justice Is Mind, McCarthy era-like hearings take place.

As I am in the throes of writing the sequel to Justice Is Mind I’ve moved my weekly blog post to Monday. On the weekends I do my most intense writing. The weekdays are largely reserved for marketing, research and the consulting work I do.  That research this past week took me back to the Joseph McCarthy era hearings. Let’s pray that our country never has to live through that time again.

Writing the sequel to Justice Is Mind has been an interesting experience. Yes, I wrote the sequel to First World, but as the first installment hasn’t been produced yet, adjustments can still be made without disrupting the canonicity of the story. As some may have noticed, I set up a variety of character and plot points that will carry over to the sequel.

What happens to the characters in the sequel.

What happens to the characters in the sequel.

By example, in part one we establish that Margaret Miller is a journalist of some note with a book by the name of “Posted: Social Secrets of the Government” that has caused some sort of political stir. In the sequel we see just what that stir is about. I also established that while Henri Miller was shot, he wasn’t killed. Dr. Eve Pullman has been recalled to Germany by Reincar Scientific. Judge Wagner has been appointed to the FISA Court and Constance Smith and John Darrow find themselves, yet again, front and center in the legal and ethical malaise of the FVMRI procedure. For me, I look at the logical extensions of the characters to see where they may go along with new characters we meet along the way. It’s safe to say that the intelligence apparatus of the United States falls squarely into the sequel.

In SOS United States, what will the President do when he learns that a nuclear bomb may be on an ocean liner heading to the United States.

In SOS United States, what will the President do when he learns that a nuclear bomb may be on an ocean liner heading to the United States.

But in the end of all of this, there is the marketing and promotion. It has been WELL over a year since Justice Is Mind had its world premiere, but  marketing continues on a daily basis.  I was more than elated when I discovered this morning that Justice Is Mind’s weekly MovieMeter on IMDB jumped our listing to 10,989 out of over 3.1 million entries!  Not only is this our highest placement on IMDB, but it also proves that the collective marketing efforts of the last couple of years are seeing positive results.

I do the same thing for First World and SOS United States. Getting “discovered” in this business doesn’t really happen anymore unless you let people know about your project. The old adage “if you build it they will come”, doesn’t work without promotion and marketing. How we wish as a creative we could just write, produce, direct or act and then wait for the accolades, the lists, the press and the audience to find us.

When I was reading in IndieWire this morning about a film that was accepted into Sundance, I was particularly surprised by one of the comments that someone just wants to write and not produce. That’s all well and good if you just a want to write and have your work optioned, but in the real world of independent filmmaking you just have to wear many hats. What’s great is that the trades like the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, The Wrap, Deadline and IndieWire provide a wealth of information for filmmakers to make their own mind up on what’s best for their project because each project is different.

Next witness.

In First World, we learn that the United Nations Security Council has long known about an alien presence on Earth.

In First World, we learn that the United Nations Security Council has long known about an alien presence on Earth.

 

 


Central Intelligence

The sequel to Justice Is Mind involves the Central Intelligence Agency.

The sequel to Justice Is Mind involves the Central Intelligence Agency.

This past weekend I hit the halfway point in writing the sequel to Justice Is Mind. While I have the general story all laid out and have introduced a variety of new characters, there are always those moments when writing that you need to think through a particular plot point or how something is going to be done. There is also that point in my writing when the characters start to converge and their respective storylines travel a certain path.

On that path, I’ve had to do a wide variety of research on the CIA, NSA, FISA Court and other institutions as they relate to the overall system of intelligence gathering in the United States and around the world. For those that may have been living off the planet last week, it was hard to miss the ramifications of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It’s clear,  there’s a lot of polarization around the Senate’s report.

Reincar Scientific's involvement with intelligence agencies was revealed in part one.

Reincar Scientific’s involvement with intelligence agencies was revealed in part one.

As a writer my goal is not to have an agenda that points in one direction or another, but to present a story that elicits questions. In First World, as President Kennedy once said, are we destined for the planets beyond? In SOS United States, what happens if we do downsize our military? And last, but certainly not least, in Justice Is Mind where does our right to privacy begin and end?  Yes, I write about issues. But I seek to do it in a way that brings constructive questions and debates.

Of course as I write these stories of fiction, I do find it more than interesting that certain plot points are fast becoming a reality. In First World, China has ramped up its planned missions to the Moon. In Justice Is Mind, the ability to produce memories in video form is being tested and commercialized. But what is of particular interest to me at the moment is SOS United States and my postulation about a cyber-attack that brings down the nation’s military satellites and power grid. The fallout of the cyber-attack on Sony Entertainment Pictures, in my view, is far worse than the CIA report for a variety of reasons. Whatever did or didn’t happen within the CIA will never truly be known, but Sony’s data breach is simply unprecedented.

The cyber attack on Sony reflects the story in SOS United States when a similar attack takes out military satellites and the nation's power grid.

The cyber attack on Sony reflects the story in SOS United States when a similar attack takes out military satellites and the nation’s power grid.

This all being said, we live in an interesting time. But really is this time any different than the decades before? It’s just more prevalent with social media and a 24/7 news cycle. But at the end of the day, it gives writers like me a lot of material.

It wasn’t all writing this weekend. For the first time I read a solid practical “no nonsense” article about crowdfunding on IndieWire in regard to Dear White People’s successful campaign. It reminded me in many ways of how Justice Is Mind came to being. I produced a short film version in 2011 and by 2012 the feature film was financed due to those short film efforts. For the sequel, now that we have established a foundation and audience, I’m fairly certain the plan will include both crowdfunding and some equity.

Screenplay.

More space faring nations are reaching for the Moon and the planets beyond. 2015 will be a busy year for   the Indian space agency.

More space faring nations are reaching for the Moon and the planets beyond. 2015 will be a busy year for the Indian space agency.