Marketing planet Earth one project at a time.

Posts tagged “Clinton

The Marquee

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There is something to be said about arriving at a theater and seeing not one but two of your films on the marquee. Yes, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. Because it is in that moment that all the work that has gone in to making a film is celebrated.

And celebrate we did. One by one family, friends, actors and crew started to arrive. Some I saw as recently as a couple of weeks ago, others it’s been a few years. But in the moment it feels like it was just yesterday. And heavens knows there were many yesterdays to get to this point!

After a reception in the lobby of the Strand Theatre, I made my opening remarks and then Justice Is Mind began. I was sitting next to Vernon Aldershoff and he said to me, “It never gets old.” No it doesn’t. And seeing the film in its highest resolution in a DCP format was another highlight.

Of course the highlight of the evening was the world premiere of Serpentine: The Short Program. This is one project that was particularly close to me for a variety of reasons. The moment the film started I was reminded about my days as a skater, teacher, magazine publisher and the TV work I would do around the sport. But it’s not about me, it’s about the product. One that you want audiences to enjoy.

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Serpentine: The Short Program on Amazon Prime in the US, UK, Germany, Austria and Japan.

And it was the next day that audiences around the world were able to stream Serpentine: The Short Program on both Amazon and the Ice Network. So far the numbers look promising and early reviews have been encouraging. But like First World ten years ago, this is an industry of the long haul. Or as we say in figure skating, the long program.

Ice Network

While VOD is a savior to the independent filmmaker, there is nothing like the theater. Because there is that one moment you’re hoping for that can only happen in a theater. To again quote from All About Eve, it was Eve Harrington that said it best, “If nothing else, there’s applause.” And they did when Serpentine: The Short Program faded to black.

Thank you.

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Some of the cast and crew from Serpentine and Justice Is Mind on March 6, 2017 at The Strand Theatre.


The Network

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The Strand  has already started promoting our March 6 screening.

I have often stated that there is so much more into filmmaking than making the film itself. While one naturally wants a quality project that maximizes available resources, it’s also about getting the word out.  Although social media helps, there is nothing like a media placement that drives awareness and needed attention.  Thank you to the Ice Network and Community Advocate for that attention.

This past week Lois Elfman, my former business partner, wrote a great article for the Ice Network.  This article was particularly important for a variety of reasons. First, in addition to the article itself, the Ice Network will also be streaming Serpentine: The Short Program after our March 6 premiere at the Strand Theatre. Second, from 1993 – 2004 Lois and I published a figure skating magazine. For nearly a decade it reigned as the world’s largest under our leadership. There wasn’t a skater, official, ISU member nation or skating club that didn’t know about it. But the Ice Network is today what we published yesterday. Indeed, it was an honor to see this article on their site as it reaches the sport on a worldwide basis.

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It also important to mention that there was a third party to this story, albeit a bit behind the scenes this time. That would be acclaimed skating coach Thomas J. McGinnis who also was our business partner at the skating magazine. Tommy not only saw the vision I had for the magazine at the very beginning, but for Serpentine as well. Thus his much appreciated Executive Producer credit you will see when the film is released.

A film release not only consists of a marketing plan but a test. This past week I went to the Strand Theatre for a DVD test of Serpentine: The Short Program and a DCP test of Justice Is Mind. While the Strand screened Justice back in 2013 from a DVD, we now have the film in a DCP format. Both tests went great. I’ll say this, out of all the theaters I have screened Justice Is Mind the Strand presents the best picture and sound.  There is nothing like seeing your film come to life on the big screen and that thrill was just as exciting with Serpentine.

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The screen test of Serpentine at the Strand Theatre.

Serpentine: The Short Program also got the green light from Amazon Instant Video this week. I say green light because that’s literally what happens with the circles on the Amazon platform when everything is cleared to go. We did have one red light as our original poster submission just said Serpentine. It had to also include The Short Program. Starting on March 7 the film will be available on Amazon in the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany and Austria.

Finally, I will conclude this post with the importance of art. On Friday night my mother and I saw the acclaimed National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine at the famed Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. Part of the program included Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 “From the New World” by Antonin Dvorak. One of my particular favorites.  The strength, precision and passion in which the symphony played under the direction of Theodore Kuchar presented one of the most exciting symphony performances I have even seen.

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Mechanics Hall before the sold out audience arrived.

I say strength because unless you live on another planet the continued existence of Ukraine hangs in the balance with the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea to say nothing of the armed conflict on their Eastern border. I simply ask every American reading this blog, how would you feel if another country walked across our border and occupied part of our country? The proud history of the Ukrainian people existed long before the United States was even a thought. While this historic national symphony of a challenged peoples tours our great country, isn’t it time the United States helped restore the greatness of another before it’s too late?

Conduct music not war.

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A 2014 photo from the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine’s website.


Follow Up

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I will say one thing about frequent snowstorms in New England. It gives one plenty of time to follow up and organize. This is that time of year when one looks at their weather app not for the sun or rain, but when the next storm is coming. But go to a local grocery store the day before and you might think it’s the second coming, the day after a nuclear attack or other such apocalypse. If you’re visiting from out of the region when a storm is on the horizon, it really is something to see.

As for what’s on the horizon that would be the premiere of Serpentine: The Short Program on March 6 at the Strand Theatre and our VOD premiere on Amazon and other platforms on March 7. It’s a multi-layered marketing plan with a dual local and national push. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s about the follow up.

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The day we wrapped principal photography on Serpentine: The Short Program. Sturbridge, MA November 6, 2016.

Whenever I pitch the media it always starts with an email. This gives an editor or reporter time to consider what I’m presenting. Sometimes coverage comes from just the email pitch. But I’ve found that a follow up call a few days later puts a personal touch to it. In today’s world of the endless pitch combined with the challenge of resources afforded by most outlets, a phone call can make the difference.

I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that we are bombarded by media alerts, postings, email and text on a non-stop basis when we first wake up. What’s important and what isn’t. What gets attention and what doesn’t. I do believe that when you put the personal touch of a call to what you’re presenting, it makes you stand out a bit more than the rest. Just this past week, I had some great conversations with editors about Serpentine and other interesting subjects.

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Completing the closed captions on Serpentine for Amazon.

This is the time of year of the awards shows and the film markets like Berlin. As I normally do when the markets are running, I read the daily reports in The Hollywood Reporter. They give a great insight into trends and what is and isn’t selling. It’s always interesting to me to follow a film from concept to film market to theatrical release. This is not a quick process by any means. As I’ve often said, the actual production of the film is the easy, and fun, part. It’s the pre and post production along with the release strategy that is the most time consuming. But being snowed in does give one plenty of time.

Interviews.

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A Discussion

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Herbert Fuchs and Vernon Aldershoff in Serpentine.

Tomorrow I formally announce the premiere of Serpentine: The Short Program and encore screening of Justice Is Mind for March 6. Yes, that means it begins with a press release, email newsletter and rollout of the marketing and public relations plan. This is when I substitute my director’s hat for that of distributor. In the world of being an independent filmmaker, wearing multiple hats is what’s it’s all about. My last bit as director on Serpentine are the nuances around the color correction that will be completed this week.

With our return to The Strand Theatre, I can’t help but reflect on the last several years. If I count both films, we are talking about over 220 people that have had some sort of part in bringing these projects to life. As I’ve often mentioned to fellow actors and filmmakers, the completion of films, their premieres and other associated milestones don’t happen regularly and should be embraced and enjoyed when they do. It’s very easy to read the trades and see the results of the end product, but for anyone that has produced or directed, I promise there was a long road to that point. For Serpentine, this has been a one year plus project. What started in January 2016 with the firing up of Final Draft will be seen in a month on the silver screen.

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Brooke Blahut in Serpentine.

But what March 6 will represent to me is what’s possible in the real world of independent film. I say real world, because there wasn’t a seven figure budget involved in these projects (or even six ). In the real world it’s about collaboration to make a project possible. It’s also about working with those that share your vision. It’s about pushing the envelope to the edge with the resources you have to see it come to life on the silver screen.

Speaking of the silver screen, I was reading this article in the Mirror about the new golden age of picture houses. I fondly remember the world premiere of  Justice Is Mind in 2013 at the Palace Theater in Albany, NY that was built in 1930. As for the Strand Theatre it was built in 1924 as a vaudeville theater. There’s something about their vaulted ceilings and ornate designs that make any screening in these venues a memorable one. The trend mentioned in the article can allay any fears about VOD ending the need for theaters.

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Justice Is Mind on the marquee at the Palace Theater in Albany, NY

As I’ve often stated, both theaters and VOD can easily co-exist and well they should. The industry didn’t come to end when TV was invented or when VHS came to market. In fact, they enhanced the industry. They created a secondary market for additional returns. But now it’s Amazon, Netflix and others that are in so many ways leading the industry for independent film. Who would have thought an online platform would finance a film only to have them first distribute it theatrically before landing on their platform. It’s just another example of how this industry modernizes itself without losing sight of where it all started.

But sometimes modernization comes with needed adjustment. I was delighted to learn that IMDb.com is shutting down their discussion boards. The boards were mostly a cesspool of hate filed bitter comments by faceless trolls. While the consumer review section enhances a film, the discussion boards did nothing for the experience. For a company like IMDb it’s about manpower, monitoring and deleting hate filled posts, baseless facts and lord knows what else. Oh but when they did delete, the poster cries like it’s their right to do whatever they want wherever they want. It’s not censorship it’s about defacing a property that is not yours. Try walking on to the property of your next door neighbor and shouting your opinions from the top of your lungs. You would be rightly arrested. You want your right to free speech? Go to your own Facebook page (even they have terms and conditions), start a blog, yell from your property or better yet just go to the public town square and see if anyone cares. Because until you put your name to it nobody does because you don’t exist.

Next post.


Serpentine Premiere

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Serpentine‘s VFX were completed this week.

I am pleased to announce that Serpentine will have its world premiere at the Strand Theater in Clinton, MA on March 6, 2017! Serpentine will premiere after an encore screening of Justice Is Mind. For Serpentine this will be a first, for Justice Is Mind this will mark our 22nd  screening. But it is the Strand Theater that give us our first theatrical break.

It was in 2012 and I was looking for a theater to screen Evidence, the short film version of Justice Is Mind. It was the Strand that gave us the opportunity to screen after J. Edgar.  Over a year later Justice Is Mind had its Massachusetts premiere at the Strand. The same model is being employed for Serpentine: The Short Program.

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At our Massachusetts premiere in 2013.

A theatrical screening marks a starting point. A launch pad, if you will, into a greater marketing program. Everything in this industry is timing. It’s about striking while the iron is hot (even though the rink is cold!). For Serpentine the launch will take place between national and world figure skating championships. The goal, as it was with Evidence all those years ago, is to develop as much interest as possible to produce the feature film version this year for a 2018 release. Why 2018? The Olympic Winter games take place in South Korea next year. It’s about riding a wave of popularity post games.

With a running time of just over 12 minutes, we will be presenting the first 10 pages of the feature length screenplay. Serpentine not only features several of the actors and crew from Justice Is Mind and First World, but introduces actors making their debut performance. In the world of film it’s all about performance, what we see on the screen and how it comes together behind the scenes.

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Serpentine introduces Denise Marco as Elizabeth Rogers and Isabella Ramirez as Suzanne Wilson.

As for debut performance, it reminded me of a recent conversation I had with an aspiring actress and model. This week I signed with Dynasty Models & Talent for New England representation. Yes, it’s an exciting step as I continue to lay out some personal plans of my own. During my visit at the agency, the owner asked me if I had any words of wisdom for this actress.  I first offered her the back story on how I was cast in a TV show some years ago but then went on to say how you have to want to be in this industry more than anything. No matter what you want to do, it takes a one hundred percent commitment and being able to weather continuous rejection. As I’ve stated before, this is an industry of no (or no response). But when a yes does come, it makes you appreciate your hard work all the more.

They say you are only as good as your last performance. While I agree with that to a point, I believe you are only as good as who you surround yourself with. This is an industry not lacking in advice, particularly from those you never asked. In my view it’s about working with those that want to showcase their efforts with you. I’ll just say this, it is not a coincidence that I’m working with a lot of the same people from Justice Is Mind and First World to bring Serpentine to life. This project also marks a reunion of sorts with a former business partner. More on that development later.

As for development, as an independent filmmaker, theaters like the Strand are important for our continued success. That being said, the Strand has established a GoFundMe campaign to restore and upgrade their wonderful marquee. For our screening on March 6 all ticket sales will be going to the Strand (no share of box office).  As a filmmaker there is something special when you see your film in lights.

Marquee.

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Justice Trumps Privacy

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No, I didn’t make up the title of this week’s post. It was the title of a story that appeared in a Worcester Magazine article “Justice trumps privacy in Justice Is Mind”. Suffice to say I was enormously pleased with the piece. The writer, Cade Overton, really captured not only the essence of the film but how it fits into the real world we live in today.

Marketing a film, particularly an independent one, is not easy by any stretch. You are in a constant state of submitting whether it be to the media, distributors, festivals, networks, events, agents, etc. And as I prepare my notes for an upcoming workshop I’m teaching the end of the month, the three P’s come to mind plan, perseverance and persistence.

From a business plan implementation point of view, this past week for Justice Is Mind went really well. I’ll just say publicly, that two original programming execs got back to me about Justice. These are not only very positive developments, but ones that have been established over time from other projects I’ve been working on. Building relationships like this take time and to add another P….patience. So fingers crossed here.

Henri Miller and Joseph Miller at the beginning of the story.

Henri Miller and Joseph Miller at the beginning of the story.

Pitching a project takes some bit of calculation and planning. By example, Justice Is Mind, First World and my new political thriller will never be pitched to Lifetime. What would be the point? Programming executives receive pitches all the time so the goal, obviously, is to have something that they may be interested in rather than wasting their time.  Speaking of, somehow I got onto some list of “producers to submit materials to”. While I only develop my own work (for now), I was getting pitches from writers to produce their comedies. A little research on their end would have shown that’s not a genre I’ve ever been involved in (although I do love a good comedy…oh the days of Rodney Dangerfield!). Thankfully, I found the website and removed my profile.

Speaking of planning, The Wrap this week talked about how digital sales are increasing exponentially amidst the continued decline of DVD sales. I could have told The Wrap about this two years ago after our distributor just stopped selling DVDs altogether. What’s being considered internally now with Justice is the digital distribution side. To be sure, there’s no shortage of platforms and viewing options available. The key, in my view, is to establish an audience for the film first with our theatrical, sci-fi and law school screenings so when the film is available digitally, there is a footprint out there of enthusiasts.

Henri Miller and Joseph Miller at the end of the story.

Henri Miller and Joseph Miller at the end of the story.

What is of particular interest to me at the moment is the continuous changing landscape of this industry from the development of projects, the financing, delivery and then distribution. There is generally no playbook. Oh the practical still exists of course, finance and shoot the movie and get it to audiences.  The sea of change is in the layered platforms of distribution that are pulling revenue and audiences away and towards each other.  In the end, it’s about the distribution of rights.

But in the beginning it is to quote Bill Sampson in All About Eve, “Wherever there’s magic and make-believe and an audience, there’s theatre.”

And so with our Massachusetts premiere coming up on Monday night at The Strand Theatre in Clinton, we return to where the  Justice Is Mind project first exhibited with the short film version in 2012. I leave you with a quote from Marlene Dietrich in Judgment at Nuremberg.

“It should be quite an evening.”

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Campaign Platform

Mark Lund opening remarks at the Palace Theatre, Albany, NY

Opening remarks by director Mark Lund at the Palace Theatre, Albany, NY.

I will venture to say that running a film property is like running a political campaign to some degree. Navigating the waterways of this industry can be a daunting task as it changes at about the same pace as New England weather. Thankfully, I live in New England so change is always in the air literally.

While I have often talked about my fondness for digital distribution and the various new platforms that are coming “online” for films, part of me is still very traditional. Call it age, experience or being a “conservatively progressive left leaning New Englander”, I still believe that a theatrical run is important to bring awareness to a film as it strongly compliments VOD.

Posting endlessly to social media is fine, but you’ll still find me writing a press release, sending email newsletters and, ready, picking up the telephone and making that personal call.  Just this week some company raised over $2 million to have films stream on Facebook. I have some very passionate Facebook followers and friends and when I posed the question, “Would you watch a film on Facebook,” the overwhelming response was no.  Even more interesting, painfully few people responded to the post at all. Seriously, that was a pretty simple business plan “a filmmaker on Facebook asking his followers on Facebook if they would watch a film on Facebook.” But this company somehow raised $2 plus million. When I think of the film I could produce for that kind of money! Let’s see where they are a year from now.

Social media and the loss of privacy in Justice Is Mind.

Social media and the loss of privacy in Justice Is Mind.

As I review a variety of distribution options for Justice Is Mind, I’m also mindful of the importance of contracts, protecting your asset and not being subjected to hidden fees. Because once you sign on the dotted line, you have signed. Unfortunately, there are a lot of “look at me” new companies coming up that claim to offer the world to filmmakers. Although I love getting in on the ground floor of new opportunities, I tend to take a wait and see approach.  Just yesterday, and as follow up to my post of last week, I told one company “If the requirements change on your end, please let us know.” Simply, I discovered an omission in their contract to which I called attention. Let’s see if they satisfy the requirement. If not, moving on.

Henri Miller about to sign a contract that will lead to his arrest.

Henri Miller about to sign a contract that will lead to his arrest.

Content is still king. I believe that’s what our theatres and other venues see when we present Justice Is Mind to them. Content that’s well presented and packaged (you need a solid well designed poster!). As I prepare our press release announcing the Maine premiere of Justice Is Mind on the 28th and look forward to some media next week about our upcoming Massachusetts premiere on the 16th, I wait patiently to hear from some companies that I do want to do business with. But unlike New England weather, there can be days when you wonder if the weather will ever change!

So while I continue to present Justice to various companies, I will also be campaigning all this month for the next two screenings. In fact, after our screening at the Strand on the 16th, I will be going to Ogunquit the next day and walking door to door to the many hotels and restaurants selling our screening at the Leavitt on the 28th.

Elevator pitch.

Our press release at working for the Massachusetts premiere.

Our press release working for the Massachusetts premiere.


Raising an Army

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With a successful world premiere now behind us, we begin to execute plans that have long been on the drawing board. But like a military campaign there are always adjustments. Whether these be for time, commitment, resources or opportunity, marketing and releasing a film is all about, in my view, calculation. Short of it, where are we likely to have the most success and impact on an audience and revenue front.

First and foremost you need your supporters. With over two hundred people involved in Justice Is Mind, there is a dedicated team that wants to see the film succeed. Moving on that front, we look to theatres to engage audiences to spread the word. With four theatres screening Justice over the next few months (and more on the horizon), the purpose is clear – develop support and awareness of the film.  As the majority of our group is based in the Northeast screenings in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Maine have been secured.  While the theatrical “engagement” is moving forward, our screenings at science fiction conventions and law schools in North America will commence in October.

Henri Miller enjoys a cigar in Justice Is Mind.

Henri Miller enjoys a cigar in his library.

And like a military campaign, there are those “confidential” conversations that go on behind closed doors. When do we do this? What do we need? How much will that cost? I had a conference call this week with a company that is widely popular (for now) in a particular area of the industry. While there may be a “cool” factor working with them I will admit going it alone in this area may make more sense. Why?  Because we are making it work on our own without any “red tape”.  Suffice to say, I have some documents and licensing agreements to read.

One area I have been widely supportive of since the technology came together is VOD (Video on Demand) and streaming media in general.  Put simply, these platforms work great for independent filmmakers. First “day and date release” strategies are almost de rigueur with independent films nowadays.  That being said, it won’t be too long before I can announce that Justice Is Mind is heading to a particular digital platform(s). Consider the logic in the strategy. Someone goes to a screening of Justice Is Mind in a theatre, convention or law school. They like the film and tell their friends, co-workers and family.  Some of them do a search and see that the film is available on Amazon, Vudu, Xbox, etc. A few clicks and presto instant audience. Why am I so supportive of this technology? Because filmmakers make money. I still receive a monthly deposit from Amazon for First World. And then there were the remittances from Hulu when that film ran on their platform for a couple of years.

Major historical events are revisited in Justice Is Mind.

Major historical events are revisited in Justice Is Mind.

With our next screening on September 16 at The Strand Theatre in Clinton, MA followed by September 28 at The Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, ME, this will be a particularly busy month.  I will say bringing an oversized Justice Is Mind poster to The Strand Theatre was exciting. Let’s be honest, what filmmaker doesn’t want to see their film poster in the window and then screen in an actual theatre! Even better, we screened the short film at The Strand in 2012 so it’s like going home. As for Ogunquit? That Maine resort town has been my favorite for decades. Screening a film in Ogunquit is truly an honor.  But even more importantly, we need to support these independent theatres. With the industry converting to digital projection, the cost factor to convert can be a high mountain for these theatres to climb so every ticket sale helps!

A new science will present the present with the past.

A new science reveals the present with the past.

September 28 will be what I call a full day. I’m pleased to announce that Becki Dennis, who runs Talent Tools, has asked me to host a workshop titled Independent Filmmaking: Script to Screen as part of her Back to School for Actors program.  I look forward working with her troops.

Finally, I’m sure you’ve noticed my speaking in quasi-military terms as part of this post.  With my next screenplay being a political thriller, let’s just say world military deployment research has been front and center.

Captain on the bridge.

To learn the story, see Justice Is Mind on at The Strand Theatre.

See the story unfold at The Strand Theatre on September 16!