I arrived at the theater shortly after 8 AM on Tuesday for a complete run through of Justice Is Mind prior to the festivities that evening. Why? Although we screened the film twenty times before, this was the first screening in a DCP format. Although the file was QC’d (quality control), I had to make sure there were no issues. Here I was sitting alone in a theater watching the highest quality of the film unfold. I normally don’t watch the end credits roll to the end, but this time I did reflecting on the literal army of people involved in the making of Justice Is Mind.
No sooner did my mother and I arrive back in Sturbridge later in the afternoon did the reunion start. First Jeremy Blaiklock, our Director of Photography, joined us for a drink and then Vernon Aldershoff, who stars as Henri Miller, came over to our table for a visit. It was then that this screening took on a new meaning for me—it was a reunion.
One by one they started to arrive. While I have seen the majority of them at various screenings, I was particularly excited to see Robin Ann Rapoport who plays Margaret Miller. The last time I saw her was at the world premiere two years ago. In all honesty, while we are all involved in other projects and jobs, it was like we just saw each other yesterday. So many of us remarked that, for whatever reason, this project has kept the “JIM family” together. But in the end, it does come down to performing for an audience.
As the end credits started to roll for me a second time that day, suddenly the audience started to applaud. We’ve had applause before, but I don’t remember it being this enthusiastic. This was an audience that got the story. They knew when to laugh and when to take certain moments seriously. Their comments after is truly what this process is all about. When a reporter said to me the next day in an email, “The film was excellent! I loved the style! It definitely was similar to Law & Order, like you previously told me!” As a filmmaker accolades like this are always great to hear!
After the screening many of us went to dinner and for the first time in the history of this project we just sat and enjoyed each other’s company. And, shockingly, we talked about things other than the film industry! But, of course, we all want to work together again.
I cannot thank the “JIM family” the media and Cinemagic enough for making the second anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind such a special occasion. It’s one for our history books.
So while I continue to present Justice for future screenings, events and distribution possibilities, my primary efforts are focusing on the next project. As the last five years can attest, I don’t jump into projects lightly. I believe in quality over quantity because at the end of the day it all comes down to two words.
Last week I wrote about the five year journey of Justice Is Mind. This past week proved that time, perseverance and indeed patience pays off. Unless you are in the lexicon of the literal handful of filmmakers that can roll out of bed, utter an idea and get national attention, pounding the pavement is what the rest of us do.
It was early May when the idea for a second anniversary screening for Justice Is Mind came to me. While I’m beyond thankful to all our theatrical partners, having worked with Cinemagic on two previous occasions (New Hampshire premiere and Sturbridge), pitching them again was a logical choice. Sturbridge, Massachusetts is centrally located (where we shot most of Justice), the film looked fantastic in this theater and we had a record audience after solid media placements in the local press.
Having been a magazine publisher for over ten years, I can well appreciate being on the other side of the desk when I was being pitched a story. The key, as I’ve long learned, is to have an angle for all concerned. I wrapped up my final interview last week, forwarded a variety of requested artwork and then waited. To say I am pleased with the result would be an understatement.
Our early placements first appeared in the Worcester Herald and The Examiner a couple of weeks ago. Those early placements helped awareness enormously. This week our efforts continued. First, a listing in The New Uxbridge Times, then a feature showed up in the South County edition of the Yankee Shopper, followed by a complete pick up of our press release in the Auburn and Sturbridge editions of Smart Shopper and then a great cover page story in the Sturbridge Villager. What I love about these publications is that they are direct mailed to households in their region.
When Worcester Magazine first ran a feature on Justice Is Mind in 2013 I was elated. They really captured the essence of the film at a time when the project really didn’t have any history aside from just being released. Flash forward to 2015 with a new editor and writing team and they were interested in our progress to date. The result was a wonderful two page spread that captured the entire project over our five year mission. It was made even more special as they had a photographer shoot Jamie Blash and me at Four Winds Farm. Jamie runs the farm and was featured as the horse trainer in Justice Is Mind. Her farm was also one of our locations. I am beyond thankful to all these outlets for their continued support.
And while Justice Is Mind has been fortunate to have some excellent reviews and great coverage tied to our theatrical screenings, national media attention has been elusive. Look, I get it, thousands of films are produced every year and to get the attention of a national media outlet really does take time, something unique or just plain luck. But the combination of all three I think worked in our favor.
I had completed the interview a couple of weeks earlier but kept it to myself as I know full well that the national media landscape changes quicker than New England weather. The writer even messaged me early Thursday morning to say she was waiting to see if they would either publish or reject her story. I learned years ago that unless you are doing live TV, there is simply no guarantee that your story will run—it doesn’t matter how great you think it is!
Just as I was getting ready to light a cigar (I love cigars!), Pamela Glasner messaged me. The Huffington Post published her story – Arrested Memory “Justice Is Mind”. In that moment all that had been worked on by so many was now receiving national media attention. On that scale, it is simply an honor to be acknowledged for your work. But indeed this accolade is shared with each and every one of us involved in Justice Is Mind. I know we all join in saying at least these three words,
Thank you Pamela!
No this post isn’t about the five year mission about the Starship Enterprise (I love Star Trek), it’s about the concept, development, launch and marketing of an independent feature film called Justice Is Mind.
With our second anniversary screening coming up on August 18 at Cinemagic, it’s hard to believe that five years has gone by since I first started to write the screenplay. From the screenplay, to the short film Evidence to the feature Justice Is Mind, it is a journey I would do again in a heartbeat.
This past week Gail Sullivan who plays Helen Granger in Justice Is Mind commented on Facebook, “How many movies are showing after two years? Just the classics, which means this one is definitely a classic!” Those words meant a lot. But it also meant something else that’s very important to remember, just because a film is released once and isn’t part of the “studio system” doesn’t mean that it can’t be released again and again.
Will Justice Is Mind become a true classic? Only time will tell. But the glorious thing about filmmaking now is that video on demand makes longevity possible. Gone are the days when a film is made and forgotten (unless it develops a cult like following). For me, it’s all about discovery. While I love contemporary independent films like The King’s Speech and The Imitation Game, it’s classics like Laura and Advise & Consent that are true finds for me. Then there is my passionate interest in 1950s science fiction (add The 27th Day to my list). But in the here and now there is Justice Is Mind to market.
This past week I finished up my interviews with the regional press. What will they report on? That’s up to them. But like I said last week, I try to always provide some sort of newsworthy hook. From the concept of the film, our screenings to date, the anniversary and the development of the sequel In Mind We Trust, all the reporters had their own take.
One asked if I would have done anything differently. Yes, there is one thing. I wouldn’t have wasted good money listening to “experts” about film festival submissions, I would have just planned a theatrical release from day one. Thankfully, I got wind of the festival world before our world premiere so I started working feverishly on our theatrical release in the summer of 2013. If you want to read an excellent article about the film festival world, check out this article. Bottom line, unless it’s a film market (Toronto, etc.), I’d much rather have my film screen in theaters dedicated to my film (with audiences paying for tickets) rather than having to play in a chorus with others. Sorry, I’m an “independent” filmmaker.
So as I continue to work on the final leg of the marketing and public relations push for Justice Is Mind’s second anniversary screening on August 18 at Cinemagic, I’m reaching the apex of the screenplay I’m adapting from the book Winds of Fall. Actually, that’s timing pretty good for a first draft to be finished by the fall.
The mission continues.
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.
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“.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
To learn more about New Horizons and its historic mission to Pluto, please click this link.
Yes, the title of this post is a twist on the book Scarlett, Rhett and a Cast of Thousands, but I was reminded just the other day on what goes into making a feature film. It was early summer in 2013 and our world premiere date for Justice Is Mind was set for August 18, 2013. Yes, the film was edited and scored, but we were still under the gun on those numerous last minute items like color correction and sound mixing. The one thing left to finish was the closing credits. It wasn’t until I started to add everyone in when the number of names credited was finalized at 201. But add in the employees of our location partners and the number was well north of that. It’s true when they say it takes a village, or maybe in the case of Justice Is Mind a small battalion, to make a feature film
With our Second Anniversary screening coming up on August 18 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, planning is well underway. As I’ve mentioned before, I treat every screening like it’s the first one. The deal with the theatre is secured; cast, crew, location and marketing partners are notified; a press release is sent and then there is the media pitch. My special thanks to the Worcester Herald and Examiner for their early coverage of the special day.
I am delighted to confirm that several of the stars, co-stars and featured performers have already confirmed their attendance. While many of us have traveled the theatrical release tour together, August 18 will mark for the first time in two years the coming together of those that I haven’t seen since the world premiere. Indeed, we are all looking forward to it.
But aside from a reunion of some of the cast and crew, it is about presenting Justice is Mind to new audiences. The work that goes into the production of a feature film is monumental. Indeed, some producers I know are starting to pull back on producing projects as they are time intensive. But when a film is finished, when you see it play in a theatre, your TV or even your smart phone, you realize at that moment that all the sleepless nights, self-doubt and over analysis is over. The work that has been put in by so many is being presented to the world. Thus, you want to do it again and again. At least I do.
The film industry is changing even more rapidly that it was when I first created the world of Justice Is Mind. But at the end of the day content is still king. There are now more platforms available to watch a film than ever before and they need product to fill their pipelines. Whether it’s a tentpole like the upcoming Star Wars (I can’t wait) or a truly independent film like Justice Is Mind, there is something for everyone.
The days are long. You feel there will never be an end in sight. But then there is that moment after the final rendering that the heart and soul of a cast of hundreds comes to life. For it has been the reception that Justice Is Mind has received that has led to the development of the sequel In Mind We Trust. By this time next week, the concept trailer will be released.
Justice Is Mind – The Second Anniversary Screening – August 18, 2015.
Tickets now on sale.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
In preparation for the second anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind on August 18, I’m going to Cinemagic tomorrow to give them the film. They’ll have our theatrical DVD and a DCP (Digital Cinema Package). The DCP was created for us by the Chatham Theatre. Sometime next week they’ll run the DCP test. Out of all the theatres which have screened the film, it looked and sounded the best in this theatre. While I know what the DVDs are capable of, I am looking forward to seeing the film in its highest possible resolution.
Since my last post, art is starting to imitate life. In SOS United States a Cyber Pearl Harbor by China takes out the United States power grid and military satellite communications. Last week the United States strongly believes that China is behind a cyber-attack that compromised millions of Americans. These weren’t just any Americans, the agencies targeted were the Office of Personal Management (OPM) and the Interior Department.
As part of the development process of SOS United States, I reached out to the media relations office of the National Security Agency a couple of weeks ago. This is the same process I did for First World when I contacted the Secret Service and the various universities and law schools for Justice Is Mind. For me, as a filmmaker and screenwriter, it’s important to get as many facts straight as possible. I believe adding reality brings believability and plausibility to a movie.
On a personal note, I have no problem with the work the NSA does. Unless you live under a rock and off the grid, we live in a very complicated world. A world that needs to be monitored for the safety of its citizens. As General Blair says in In Mind We Trust at a Congressional hearing, “Senator don’t talk to me about privacy when most of the planet posts their most intimate details voluntarily. You know as well as I that the next attack on the United States isn’t going to come over the pole as a nuclear device, it’s going to come from a computer.”
Speaking of In Mind We Trust, I am developing a concept trailer along with Justice Is Mind composer Daniel Elek-Diamanta. Originally, I was thinking it would be just about a minute long, but given the scope of the story we are expanding it to over two minutes. The first minute introduces elements in Justice Is Mind that propel the In Mind We Trust storyline.
Continuing with the development process, I was invited on Chris Denmead’s show Radio of Horror on WCUW 91.3 FM a couple of weeks ago. You can listen to the interview at this link where I talk about a wide variety of subjects around filmmaking. I met Chris when he participated in Justice Is Mind during the flashback wedding scene. As I’ve often said, this is an industry of networking and relationships.
Just as this week was coming to an end, I was alerted to this article in the Huffington Post stating “Scientists Can Read Your Mind Using These Images of the Brain”. It was great to read the latest news from Carnegie Mellon University’s research in this area and Dr. Marcel Just’s quotes. As some of you may know, I was inspired to write Justice Is Mind after seeing Dr. Just on a 60 Minutes story in 2009 that talked about ‘thought identification’. Justice Is Mind had the opportunity to screen at Carnegie last year.
It’s hard to believe that the 2nd Anniversary of the world premiere of Justice Is Mind is coming up on August 18. I am, therefore, delighted to announce that Justice Is Mind will celebrate its 2nd Anniversary at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Massachusetts on August, 18, 2015!
To say time flies by would be an understatement. This is particularly true when you are doing the day to day marketing of a feature film. August 18 will mark the 21st screening since our world premiere. While Justice is available on VOD, there is nothing more exciting as a filmmaker than to see your work on the big screen. And with Justice now also available in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) thanks to the Chatham Theatre, for the first time we may be seeing the film at its highest resolution. I thought our theatrical DVDs were great, but seeing a DCP sample of Justice several months ago was truly incredible.
It’s interesting when you set out to make a film, because you just don’t know what market forces and conditions are going to exist when your film is released. Case in point women in film. Who would have thought that the inequities of women in leading roles in films would be at such a forefront in the media? Thankfully, Justice Is Mind is evenly split between men and women. For me as a screenwriter it just makes sense from an overall “reality” point of view. As Reese Witherspoon told the Hollywood Reporter at the Produced By conference the other day, “I was just reading scripts, and the scripts were sort of diminishing. I just started to notice they were making less movies for women, and that meant less parts for women.” Thus, Witherspoon started to produce films a few years ago.
Speaking of women in film, Mary Wexler, who plays Judge Wagner in Justice Is Mind and is one of our producers, posted a wonderful article in New England School of Law Alumni Magazine about her work as a lawyer, involvement in the film and mention of the sequel In Mind We Trust. Her quote, “Justice allowed me to combine my love of acting and my passion for the law,” said it all for me.
Above all else, filmmaking is a passion. Yes, there is the important economic and commercial side, but at the end of the day filmmaking is just pure fun. For me whether I’ve been on set as a TV personality, actor, producer or director, I’ve loved every moment of it. Now having been fortunate enough to see a feature film of my own produced, and the journey it can take you on, yes, I plan to do this again..and again.
Just yesterday I passed the 30 page mark on the screenplay adaption of Winds of Fall, while some possible producing and financing partners are reviewing SOS United States, First World and In Mind We Trust. This is not an easy industry by any stretch of the imagination and is one of patience. When I read that over 30,000 films were being marketed at Cannes in some capacity or another, thankful for our accomplishments to date with Justice Is Mind doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.
Just prior to any screening of Justice Is Mind there is the usual set of nerves. Will audiences show up? Will they like the film? I also say a few words to the audience prior to the start of the film. Each one of these “opening statements” is a bit different but they always end when I introduce the concept of Justice Is Mind starting with “Imagine a not too distant future…” Someone asked me how I’m able to talk to audiences like this. Simply, I rehearse what I’m going to say. That’s what this industry is all about no matter what side of the camera you are on – the rehearsal and the performance.
After having a pre-event drink with my former classmates from grade school, I went over to the theatre at 5:30. Although that was an hour and a half before the film started, there’s a system I like to employ – meet with the photographers and get a feel for the surroundings. Every theatre is different and each has its own atmosphere.
It didn’t take long for audiences to arrive. From childhood friends to new supporters who read the media coverage we had in print and on the radio. For me, it’s always great to see the “JIM family” arrive. By that I mean the actors and crew that have traveled this journey with me for nearly two years. This was our tenth theatrical screening and there is a certain camaraderie among us that makes these screenings thoroughly enjoyable for all in attendance. And in attendance did they come. We set a new single screening record for Justice Is Mind with 159 in attendance and $1,570 in box office. To see photos from the event click album one and two.
The process of filmmaking is really a set of impossibilities that you overcome. Writing the story, raising the money, producing the film and, finally, distributing. This is an industry where the odds are against you from day one because of the quasi creative, entrepreneurial and business aspect that a film needs to have. But with 10 theatrical screenings under our belt, I updated our IMDB listing to include The Ashton Times as a theatrical distributor because, frankly, that’s what we’ve been doing that wouldn’t be done any different than with a traditional theatrical distributor. We strike a deal with the theatre (we don’t rent), pitch the local media, set up targeted promotions and engage social media.
Just prior to the start of the film I announced that Justice Is Mind will be screening on April 28 at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). For those of you that have followed this project for the last few years, I was inspired to write this story when CMU’s Dr. Marcel Just was interviewed on a 60 Minutes story about mind reading using fMRI techniques. With Dr. Just opening the film along with both of us having a Q&A with audiences after, this is one of those honors in life that doesn’t come along often.
Writing. The foundation of all things. For all of us that write creatively we are initially inspired by something. For Justice Is Mind it was 60 Minutes. For First World it was the Apollo space program. For SOS United States it was our current political climate.
There was a moment on Monday when I was standing just outside the theatre and a few final folks were walking in. As I opened the door for them it was in that instant when a strong sense of appreciation waved over. From the first word to an open door.
Tomorrow evening Justice Is Mind will have its 10th theatrical screening and 15th overall if we include our law school and science fiction conventions to date. When I met with our editor earlier this week for the video and sound check at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, we both remarked on how fast time flies. It seems like just yesterday we had our world premiere in Albany in August.
Having a theatrical screening, or any type of screening for that matter, doesn’t mean just booking a date and arriving with the DVD. They are weeks in the planning. When we plan a screening I like to have at least four weeks notice to so we can properly pitch the local media. Having been a magazine publisher I know editors need time to consider pitches, assign writers and then plan for publication. In my view radio and TV are no different. Unless you are “breaking news” you need to be programmed into the schedule.
I have to say going to a theatre for a test run is always an exciting time for me. Sitting in an empty theatre watching your movie play is a pretty surreal experience. But I suspect surreal will most certainly be tomorrow evening. Over the last couple of weeks I have heard from so many different groups that plan to attend, from childhood friends, to new acquaintances I have met through our social media efforts, indeed tomorrow evening will certainly represent a wide variety of attendees. This doesn’t even include those who have read about the screening in the local press or heard our radio commercials.
Those are the new audiences to Justice Is Mind that those of us associated with the film welcome with open arms. I’m reminded about one particular couple who attended our screening in Ogunquit, ME. My mother and I ran into them the following day. Who were they? Enthusiasts of independent film who were intrigued by the concept of Justice Is Mind. They saw our film poster outside the theatre earlier in the day and did some online searches to learn more. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to tomorrow night!
As this past week came to a close, in addition to some of the final deliverables and information being sent to our VOD distributor, I received confirmation of another state premiere and a fantastic screening opportunity at a university that will bring the concept of Justice Is Mind to its origins. I plan to announce both tomorrow evening.
Keeping up with the industry can almost be a full time job in and of itself. But there comes a point when you just have to shut off the data stream and go with what you think is best for you and your project. Honestly, the “talking head” experts some of these trade publications are constantly quoting can put you on a roller coaster of contradiction. I’ll just say that I take the “grain of salt” approach to this industry as I did in publishing. Simply put, I’m not a follower.
Producing a true independent film means that you literally have to create what a studio does, but with limited resources. But that doesn’t mean no resources it just means being inventive and wearing multiple hats. Sometimes at the same time!
Take for example this past week. Filmmaker: With our March 24 screening at Cinemagic in Sturbridge coming up, I’ve been talking with the theatre on when we will run our test. Publicist: Then there is the follow up to media outlets I pitched our screening to and a special promotion by Pizza Post. Producer: Talking to possible financial backers for my next project. Distributor: Talking to a digital aggregator for Justice Is Mind in addition to a variety of theatres that are interested in screening the film. Writer: Presented the idea for a concept poster for my political thriller to a graphic artist. Accountant: Review our financials and prepared 1099 filings.
Personally what I enjoy the most about filmmaking is the opportunity to wear these many hats. I love to write. But when my brain needs a creative break, I can turn to some dry financials or mark down some notes for another story that has come to mind when working on another. That’s how Justice Is Mind came to life. When I was working on the sequel to First World, I was at a scene that involved a mind reading machine. Suddenly the concept of Justice came to being.
But through all this perhaps the most exciting for me is when we have a screening of Justice Is Mind on the calendar. There is nothing quite like the experience of seeing a film you created come to life. The moment I hear those first few bars of music and see the opening quote, the journey of four years and over two hundred people, there is an innate satisfaction of accomplishment.
On accomplishment, my sincere thanks to Bob Leveillee of Pizza Post who plays Mr. Oxford in Justice Is Mind. As some of you may know, we filmed several scenes at Pizza Post. For our March 24 screening, Bob has offered ticket holders a dollar for dollar credit at Pizza Post. I first met Bob back in 2011 when we filmed the short film version Evidence. He has been a terrific supporter from the start and now a good friend. Check out the great radio spot he created as part of this promotion that is running on a couple of local stations.
As for friends, it looks like our screening on March 24 is going to be a reunion of so many friends from my childhood to the present. I was reminded from talking to one of my friends from second grade about the organization of forts we made when we were younger. Indeed, it has been a journey.
“One Man’s Trial Against Science, Faith and History” – Justice Is Mind.
Last week I talked about some fantastic numbers regarding our IMDB rankings for 2013. It looks like I have some additional numbers to report, in this case, the reach of some newspapers that carried articles regarding our upcoming March 24 screening at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA.
I first got word that our story appeared in the Southbridge Evening News from a friend that introduced me to the reporter. As this paper’s online edition is only available to subscribers, we met in a parking lot so he could give me a copy. While I was waiting in my car, suddenly the movie All the President’s Men flashed with the parking garage scene when Robert Redford meets with Hal Holbrook.
Needless to say I thought the reporter did a great job. And then it dawned it on me. The parent company of this newspaper also owns several others, including my hometown paper. Suddenly the reports started to come in. The story ran in the Webster Times, Spencer New Leader and the Sturbridge Villager. While the Southbridge Evening News is subscription based, the other three are generally mailed to requesting households. By my minimum estimate, 40,000+ households now know about Justice Is Mind and our upcoming screening. As I grew up in the area, I heard from a lot of folks I haven’t seen in decades. Suffice to say March 24 will be a reunion on numerous fronts.
No sooner did the story break across these newspapers, than one of our location partners for Justice Is Mind worked out a promotion in connection with our upcoming screening. More on that next week!
Marketing and promoting a screening takes time. Generally, when I am negotiating a date with a theatre we ask for at least 30 days out to properly market a screening. Audiences don’t just magically show up, particularly for an independent film. The theatres we have worked with have been nothing less than spectacular. They know we work as hard as we can to make the screenings as successful as possible. But while I would love to see Justice screen at every theatre we pitch, it’s a reciprocal business arrangement that needs to mutually work. I learned this when I worked in figure skating listening to promoters bring events into buildings—what works in one venue might not work in another.
Speaking of reunions, like our last screening in Plymouth, March 24 will bring together several of the actors in Justice. To see who has confirmed attendance as of today, visit our Facebook event page at this link. For us, it’s like visiting with family. Indeed, when you work with people so closely when making a film you develop lasting friendships. For audiences, they get a chance to meet those that brought the story to life. It’s a unique experience that is usually only reserved for world premieres and film festivals.
And while our next screening is my top priority, there is the continue push to markets and venues far away from New England along with our related VOD plans. But for this moment, it’s nice to be home.
The entertainment industry is all about numbers. What’s your budget? How many likes? How many theatres? What’s your box office gross? As most know, I’m pretty open about some numbers and keep others close to the chest. By example, the budget for Justice Is Mind is under $25,000, our 10th theatrical screening is coming up and over 200 people were involved in the production of the film in one way or another.
This week I was interviewed by a couple of reporters in connection with our March 24 screening at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA and some of our numbers were part of the conversation. I was working on a follow up email to one of them in regards to films released in 2013. I suddenly came across a list on IMDB “Highest Rated Feature Films Released In 2013”. To my surprise, I learned that 8,709 films were released in 2013 – eight thousand seven hundred and nine! Those are some numbers.
I’ve previously reported that Justice Is Mind finished as 8th Highest Rated and 42nd top US Grossing Box Office on the similar “independent film” list of 220+ films. I was a bit worried to start the search on THE list for 2013. To my surprise and elation, Justice Is Mind finished 2013 as the 185th Highest Rated and 419th for top US Grossing Feature! Finishing in the top 2% and 5% respectively for our independent film is a true honor of effort by so many. I smiled even more reflecting on an email I received earlier this week when a “film buyer” for a theatre in the Southwest said “Were you looking to four wall a theatre or do a rental? I’m not sure that there is enough commercial potential for us to play your film.” Clearly this “expert” judged the film based solely on the “recognizable stars” of the film rather than running some numbers that would be available to this theatre based on our box office to date. After I responded with our results, media placements and that we don’t rent theatres, I never received a response.
In this industry, like any industry, knowledge is power. I know that phrase is overused but it still rings true. There are forward thinking people in every industry that are willing to take a chance to try something new. And if you don’t think out of the box on occasion you are simply going to be left behind. I remarked to one of the reporters that if we do the best job we can when a theatre takes a chance on us that may pave the way for another independent filmmaker to present their project down the road. You know the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover. The same thing rings true for films.
We are now in an industry that is producing more and more content because that’s what audiences want. That’s not going to change. To the “gatekeepers” that are restricting entrance to new voices, you know that just creates opportunity for new ventures and forward thinking existing platforms to embrace said voices. Just today I read this story on IndieWire about a documentary that was passed over by distributors until it found someone that believed in their project.
Justice Is Mind – March 24 – Tickets now on sale!
I’m pleased to announce that Justice Is Mind will screen on March 24 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. As some of you may remember we worked with Cinemagic on our New Hampshire premiere last December. I could not be more appreciative and thankful for their support of Justice and independent film.
Whenever we announce a screening it is a mobilization of the army of supporters that have made all our screenings possible, from our cast and crew to the numerous enthusiasts we have been building over the last year. No sooner did I announce the screening than friends of mine in Sturbridge sent notice to their friends and so on. Simply put the marketing and exhibition of a feature film is not a one person show. So with our press release out and our Facebook event page set up, the process now begins to present the screening to the media and local businesses.
Today also marks another milestone. I finished the business plan for SOS United States. Thus, I have more work cut out for me as I look to secure investors in that project. Someone asked me the other day about First World and how that is coming along. Believe me, that’s not a project I have forgotten about. In fact, I’ve started to revisit it with some concept art and plan to start presenting that project again as early as next week. Certainly with China showing real progress in their space program, the timing for the story is certainly better. And that’s what it all comes to in this business – timing.
In the trades we read about the films being green lit, but not so much about the long journey to get there. For example, the acclaimed Black Swan took ten years to make and the long journey of Dallas Buyers Club has been well reported.
There’s no question that there’s a variety of literal chaos going on the industry. I try to keep up with the latest by reading a variety of trade publications but in the end you just have to go along with what you think is best. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, there is no perfect formula. It doesn’t happen that way in this business. Producing a film, even studio material, is a speculative venture at best but we do it because we love doing it.
As we venture into our tenth theatrical screening of Justice Is Mind, I am reminded about all the wonderful screenings we have had and the support they have received. These are not easy feats to achieve. They take more work than you can imagine. But in the sea of storms the industry waxes on about, there is a calmness that takes over a screening when a film starts to roll on the big screen.
“My three Ps: passion, patience, perseverance. You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker.” – Robert Wise
This past week was a particularly exiting one for Justice Is Mind. Although we have been screening Justice at various venues since our world premiere in August, this is the first time we had two screenings in one week. One was our state premiere in New Hampshire at a theatre chain (Cinemagic) and another was our second screening in Maine but our first matinee (Railroad Square Cinema). For the first time since our premiere, I felt the enthusiasm the audience had for the film.
Admittedly the audiences at our previous screenings have been enthusiastic and very supportive, but for me it was simply a shift in what I was paying attention to. In New Hampshire it started when I saw Justice Is Mind on the digital marquee with a time slot under Hunger Games. And then while pictures were being taken with actors, crew and guests suddenly there it was – ticket holders were lined up to see Justice Is Mind. Believe me, seeing customers come in to buy a ticket to watch your film is very rewarding.
The same thing happened in Maine yesterday. I arrived early and was just chatting up the theatre staff when I picked up a mailer they had at the ticket counter. And there was Justice Is Mind’s write up right next to Philomena. No sooner did I finish reading the mailer then people started to arrive to see Justice Is Mind.
I can only speak from my own personal experience with this process, but this was the point in time when I felt we had arrived so to speak. Are we in a wide national release? No. But we are in a traditional limited release and gathering press along the way. Another great article appeared in the Union Leader this past week.
What I know all of us associated with Justice who were present at these screenings did enjoy were the numerous questions not only about the story but about the process of how a film is produced, marketed, etc. These were very enthusiastic audiences that not only want to watch an interesting story unfold on the big screen they want to know how it was all put together. Of course you can’t please everyone. I did hear someone say they didn’t like the ending. Oh well. In each of these two screenings I was sitting in the back of theatre just listening to the audience. When do they laugh, comment and gasp. I know from yesterday most didn’t see the ending coming…good!
With our next two screenings in Massachusetts on January 11 and 24 (with Connecticut on the horizon), the long range plan for Justice is a simple one – developing an audience so when we go to VOD/DVD and foreign markets we have a base of enthusiasts and a digital footprint.
That next step in the distribution chain isn’t one to be taken lightly and needs to be taken seriously. This past week I had to tell one distributor (and one pretending to be one) I wasn’t interested in doing business with them. The reasons are various but the point needs to be made – these are people you are going to be in business with for a long time just owing to the contracts involved so mutual respect is important. I can emphatically state, we are not desperate to do a deal simply to have a deal.
When I was at both of these screenings this week I was also reflecting on the number of people involved in making this project happen. It was probably because I was being asked by so many how a film comes together. In all honesty, and as I’ve mentioned this before, creating a film does take an army. This is why filmmakers are so passionate about their work because we know the legions of people that are involved in the process. This process isn’t restricted to those of us that created the film – it’s the theatres and their staffs, our event photographers, the media outlets and the audiences that breathe life into our work.
When I read a headline in The Hollywood Reporter that states, “Getting an award worthy film into theatres is a Herculean task” I paused for a moment to think about our two theatrical screenings coming up this week in New Hampshire and Maine. This will be Justice Is Mind‘s seventh and eighth theatrical screening respectively (Our 11th if you count our law school and science fiction convention screenings).
Of course the producers that were part of that article were talking about a national release of their films—a very expensive effort. With each screening of Justice Is Mind I endeavor to secure as many media, social or web placements as possible. Indeed, I was very pleased last week when the Nashua Telegraph published a story titled “Memories on trial in intriguing new film”. The article, written by Kathleen Palmer, was spot on and will add another layer of gravitas to the entire project.
Adding to this good news, was the support we received from the New Hampshire Film & Television Office that published our press release. This kind of media and industry support is critical to independent filmmakers. It was nice to see that these media spaces weren’t reserved just for the “Hollywood” films that come to town. Indeed, there are other voices that need to be heard.
This of course brings me to my next point, I don’t wait around for results. I read an interesting post titled “Don’t Wait For Anyone” that talked about the endless waiting game that permeates this industry. In the world of filmmaking there are some things I’m just not waiting for—like for a film festival jury to decide the fate of my film (particularly one I have a paid a fee for!). Think about it, why, unless it is a buyer’s market, are laurel leaves important when I can program a theatre to screen my film and generate media attention? Also, I don’t four wall (rent). What a film needs is an audience —one that comes to the theatre specifically to see my film. Simply put, as a producer, part of my job is to make sure my investors get a return on their investment. Developing an audience is part of that return.
When I also read in this same article in The Hollywood Reporter that Gravity took four years to make, I am reminded of the arduous task to simply get a feature film made. While it is a Herculean effort to complete a feature film, thankfully distribution is no longer an obstacle to filmmakers as there are simply countless ways to get your film out to the masses. What I have been noticing is a seismic shift in how distributors are handling new projects in the wake of self-distribution platforms that used to be their dominion. As Ted Hope said “The point is now we can reach people with our work… and you don’t have to be chosen. The power is yours.”
But at the moment, we are saddened to learn about the tragic passing of the talented actor Paul Walker who I first remembered in the classic movie Pleasantville. While the immediacy of the news is heartbreaking, we can take comfort in a quote from the great Burt Lancaster, “We’re all forgotten sooner or later. But not films. That’s all the memorial we should need or hope for.”
Don’t wait. Do.
Since Justice Is Mind was released in August, we have had a variety of fantastic screenings. From our World Premiere in Albany, to law schools, science fiction conventions, state premieres and our West Coast Premiere in Beverly Hills, the process of rolling out an independent film takes time and planning.
With our next science fiction convention screening coming up on November 30 at Loscon, Justice Is Mind‘s New Hampshire premiere on December 4 along with our second screening in Maine on December 7, plans are in the works for our next steps – VOD and international distribution. In today’s world of independent filmmaking, there are countless ways to market and distribute a film. What it really comes down to is what it’s in the best interest of the project. What’s the best avenue to get it seen by the widest possible audience?
In the case of Justice, our first step has been to develop a following through our theatrical screenings, build up a base and develop press along the way. I believe that creates a solid foundation so when you go to VOD and start pushing outward towards foreign markets at least you’ve established some footprint. When I read articles that talk about the two-plus thousand films in the current marketplace vying for a home (I’m sure the number is much more), you are simply up against a ton of competition. Standing out is critical.
I come across articles and forums with all kinds of “preachers” saying you have to do this process a certain way and if you don’t you will be left by the wayside. Sadly, the majority have their hands out looking for some sort of payment. Recently a “filmmaker” mentioned in an email he sent me that a company I’ve successfully done business with before was “crap” and if I had the funds this person could “shop” Justice for me. Seriously. Man, I don’t know, when I approach a company or person I want to work with I don’t start out by insulting their past business successes (or misfires) and then ask for money. Needless to say, this person won’t be getting a response back from me!
All the while I’m working on the next stages of Justice, I’m finishing up the screenplay for my political thriller. Yes, this is another project I want to produce and direct myself. Would I be interested in optioning the story? Perhaps if the deal was right, but unless there’s some nice bank involved, I’m not interested. For me, the excitement is putting the whole project together. From that opening scene to the opening night, watching a film you wrote, produced and directed come to life is a personal and professional satisfaction that’s very hard to put into words.
I read stories of writers that want to do what I’ve done with Justice. It most certainly can be done. It most certainly can be achieved. True there are those long days when you think “This will never happen” and then suddenly there is that one email, that one call that makes all the difference. Every journey is different and each takes a different path.
EXT. WAREHOUSE – NIGHT
Ask anyone that’s even remotely involved in this industry and they are on a mission. Whether you are a producer looking to get your next film made, an actor who really wants that part or a cinematographer who really wants to shoot that film, the mission never ends and the dream never dies.
On these missions we meet all kinds of people. As I’m known for my honesty, I’ll be honest here. We all have people we want to work with and those that we want to avoid, it simply comes down to what’s a good fit and what isn’t. As much as I like to say YES sometimes you just have to say NO. It is what it is.
One mission I’ve been seeing as of late in the trades is the call for filmmakers to release data. At the center of this “drama” is whether filmmakers should release VOD revenue to the public. Unlike box office, VOD revenue is a whole other animal. For me, while I consider myself pretty open, there are some things I’m just not going to share. Some data just needs to be confidential between business partners and those that need to know. By example, I’m not going to tell a distributor who I’m not working with what my box office receipts are. Incredibly, I was asked that this week. I was asked by another filmmaker to release my media lists. Simply, it’s called doing your homework and being thorough. And what works for my projects might not work for yours. Also, I don’t want to be in a position where someone says “But Mark said if I do it this way it will work.” I promise you if you ask 10 filmmakers what they got right and what was a misfire every response will be different.
My mission, as it’s shared by the “Justice Is Mind family” is to screen Justice in as many theatres as possible. What I can say is that every venue is different in terms of demographics, management, theatrical experience, etc. etc. What works for one venue might not work for another. Those of us involved in the theatrical release of Justice don’t take these opportunities for granted, we treat them like they are the only one and simply market the hell out of them. What the studios do on a national basis with their advertising and marketing campaigns we do with good old fashioned word of mouth through social media, electronic press release distribution, etc. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a film distribution plan. Trust me, cookie cutter plans you see being advertised and marketed can only be used for “observation” of the process. I like to think I’ve learned what to do and what not to do, but believe me in this business you are always in the classroom. Just keep your eyes and ears open and before you open your wallet you just have to think “Can this be accomplished any other way?” Cash is king in this business and you can easily go through it.
So while we plan the next four screenings of Justice Is Mind, including our upcoming New Hampshire state premiere on December 4 and return to Maine on December 7, I am also pleased to report that I have just completed my first draft of a political thriller I’ve been writing for the last several months.
This is where it all starts. At the screenplay. If you don’t have a solid story in writing, what can you expect when you shoot it? Incredibly, I was at an industry conference some months ago when some director said that the script gets in his way (to an audience!). Seriously. I like to know that when I’m shooting the story has been properly vetted so when we have crew, actors, locations and the thousands of other details in place to film, we are all on the same track. And who wants to deal with a continuity issue when you’re in post?