Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with flight. Growing up in the 70s the Boeing 747 and Concorde were all the rage. But my first glimpse of the United States military came from the 1980 film The Final Countdown starring Kirk Douglas. That film was a brilliant combination of a narrative science fiction drama with the U.S. Navy and Air Force demonstrating real world capabilities. With this interest you can well imagine my excitement when I learned the Westfield International Air Show was returning to Massachusetts.
From the “static” display of a C-5 Galaxy to the F-16 U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds, the air show programmers really outdid themselves this year. The show was appropriately titled “A Century of Airpower” as it featured such planes as a restored Douglas C-47 and B-25 bomber. In fact there was a whole cadre of planes from World War II.
What was particularly moving for me was watching the C-47 perform the same mission it did 73 years ago when it dropped troops in the invasion of Normandy. Watching this reenactment I can only imagine what it was like during the height of the war itself. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the sheer bravery of everyone involved in that mission.
But mission is what the United States military does better than any nation on this planet. One only has to attend one of these air shows to see the demonstration of these great aircraft and the men and women that make it all possible.
Yes, as an American, there is a great sense of pride seeing this all in action. But to be honest, it’s also about national and world security. Sure that last sentence may sound a bit over the top, but there needs to be a military superpower to insure that such global travesties like World War II never happen again or at minimum are contained. As President George H. W. Bush would ask when our security was threatened, “Where are our aircraft carriers?”
With a reported 50,000+ people attending over a two day period, of course I had to know someone at the show. In the early morning hours on Sunday I ran into Monty Lyons. Monty was featured in both Justice Is Mind and Serpentine: The Short Program. Great seeing you Monty!
If you haven’t attended an air show I encourage you to do so. We see and hear so much about what the military does but don’t generally have the opportunity to see it up close in such a setting. Of course the actual air show itself is something to see, but it’s the static displays where you can really learn and experience something new. From lectures on their technical capabilities to what they do on missions. Yes, some of this research has wound up in my screenplays such as First World and SOS United States.
In summary a special thanks to the 104th Fighter Wing and organizers of the Westfield International Airshow for another spectacular event. But more importantly it’s to the men and women that serve in our armed forces, the veterans and those that have made the ultimate sacrifice, that have protected this nation and our way of live from its inception. Without them there is no United States.
When I was living in New York City in the 1980s there was ship docked a couple of avenues away that I would sometimes notice. In those days it was a dawn walk down 10th avenue in the morning on my way to Sky Rink before I went to work at Time magazine. That ship was the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid.
Last week I traveled to the city to spend the day at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. I’m not sure if there is another museum in the world that offers an aircraft carrier from World War II, the Concorde, the Space Shuttle Enterprise and the Galileo shuttle from the famed TV series Star Trek. Needless to say among the array of exhibits there’s plenty to do!
When I was researching and writing both First World and SOS United States there was so much at the museum that touched on these stories. Not only do both involve aircraft carriers, the basis for First World is the 1960s space program and the return of the Concorde in SOS United States as Commonwealth One for the Prime Minister of the UK. It’s one thing researching a subject, it’s entirely another to experience them in real life.
Of course, being a Star Trek fan, I know the museum is getting a Star Trek exhibit in July. What I didn’t know is when I walked into the Space Shuttle pavilion I would see the Galileo shuttle from the TV show! I had just watched a documentary on the group of fans that saved this storied piece of TV history from a piece of discarded junk to a restored prop of broadcast quality. Yes, it was a total geek out moment seeing this iconic prop.
As for history, I remember seeing the Space Shuttle Enterprise on TV when it did its atmospheric tests in the 70s. Although I saw the Space Shuttle Discovery some years ago at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the way the museum has the Enterprise displayed along with its related history and exhibits made the pavilion one of the highlights of my visit.
When I was at the museum I took two guided tours, Pacific War: USS Intrepid in WWII and Concorde a Supersonic Story. For the respective price of $15 and $20, they were wonderfully informative and were essentially private tours. For WWII it was another guest and myself. The tour was all the more interesting as the other guest was a veteran of the Korean War. If it wasn’t for those brave men and women that serve in our military, we would be living in an unrecognizable world today.
Having always been a fan of the Concorde, I saved what turned out to be a private tour until the end of the day. If you grew up in the 70s the Concorde was all over the news. Simply put she was so far ahead of her time that just to see the plane was a cool experience. I first saw Concorde in 1985 on my first trip to London as she was taxing at Heathrow. As I understand it from the terrific guide I had, this is one of the few Concordes in the world that you can actually go into. When I was sitting in the passenger seats I was just thinking to myself about the amazing conversations and deals that went down in the cabin during her time in service.
As for time, I met up with my former business partner Lois Elfman for a wonderful dinner at Bistro Citron (highly recommended!). I first met Lois during my days in New York City at the offices of the Ice Theatre of New York (for insiders Moira’s loft). As many know we went on to launch a newsmagazine for the sport of figure skating that we proudly built into the world’s largest with an “intrepid” team.
Speaking of building, I just completed the second act of the political thriller I’m writing around the sport of figure skating “If she skates the way she did at sectionals she’s going to worlds. And the Federation can’t stop it.”
From an unreleased film to the latest cameras, this was a most interesting weekend. At the invitation of Jared Skolnick (who was our editor on Justice Is Mind), I attended the Massachusetts premiere of Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four. This was a great documentary on why this 1994 film was produced but never released. Director Marty Langford did an excellent job at bringing this infamous story to life. Check out their website at this link with some additional information here.
Being a science fiction fan, I heard about this story in bits and pieces. And being a filmmaker, I couldn’t help but watch this documentary and feel for the cast and crew that were involved. When I produced Justice Is Mind one of our locations was a nearby warehouse. While I didn’t tell many of the actors and crew at the time, in one corner were the remains of a set from an unreleased film that shot at this location a couple of years earlier. In the film industry, an unreleased film is akin to archeologists discovering a lost city. There are always questions, but most remain unanswered.
But at the Mass Media Expo yesterday, many of my questions were answered. Before attending an industry event, I always ask myself the following – am I going to learn something new; be introduced to people and vendors I may want to do business with or hear from industry insiders that reinforce what I’m doing or perhaps some new trends or ideas that I can apply. In all three cases I came away with something. The schedule from the expo can be found at this link.
First and foremost the attending producers have long stated what I’ve advocated. Being nice goes a long way and the search for funding is work done the hard way – cold calling, networking, etc. As I’ve long learned, if you don’t ask, if you don’t present, if you don’t market, how will anyone know what you want to do. The one thing I was stunned to hear, but not surprised, is how one producer gets blind pitched with a script attached! Look everyone wants to get their project off the ground, but a simple email of introduction with logline suffices as a preliminary introduction. As for being nice? I remember my first TV appearance on the Montel Williams show in 1994. A production assistant brought me coffee and was very attentive. She knew I was a basket case of nerves. In 2002 when I was reporting for CNN and other networks during the Winter Olympics, this assistant was now a producer.
The drone panel was pretty much what I wanted to hear. From regulations, to safety, new technologies and the companies in this space that operate locally, I now know who I’ll be reaching out to in the next couple of weeks about SOS United States.
But when it comes to technology and viewing habits, the panel on mobile content and storytelling was just that “telling”. Like it or not films are being watched on smartphones and tablets. And to those naysayers that say films should be shorter rather than longer, this expert panel stated that length isn’t the issue it’s the scene cuts that are speeding up. One only has to watch the TV series Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder to see this in action.
We look at others in the industry for viewpoints, new technologies to realize our concepts and a network of talent on both sides of the camera to execute. In the end we tell our story the way we want to tell it.
Act one. Scene one.
Whether it’s an investor, theater or media outlet, it all starts with a cold call or cold pitch. I have always taken the position “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Sure we can all hope to be discovered at a “Schwab’s” or positing a proof of concept video to YouTube, but in the end it truly comes down to a pitch and then the presentation.
I have long discovered that it’s easier to pitch the office of a qualified investor than it is to a “Hollywood” production company. Why? A production company is fielding countless projects and they need that one thing to move any project forward—cash. I also have long believed in charting my own course rather than following the same route everyone else takes. Put it another way, I’d rather pull my car up to the front door than park blocks away.
Just this morning I was watching a video on IndieWire by writer/director Charlie Kaufman about his film Anomalisa (impressive wins at the Venice Film Festival). When asked why there was so much time between his projects, the Oscar winner stated freely a variety of challenges and that his film was made outside of the “studio system” and didn’t go the conventional route. The point? It doesn’t matter your credentials, this business takes a steady hand of determination and patience. Kaufman went on to mention that he was on this project for three years (his team also raised some funds on Kickstarter).
As some of you know, my political thriller SOS United States sees the Concorde fly again. Just yesterday an article on Road Warrior Voices revealed a determined group of investors and enthusiasts that may just bring the Concorde back. I’ve been following the steadfast voices behind this movement for the last couple of years. Their resolve, like those behind the SS United States ocean liner, is impressive. And, yes, I will be informing the group behind this hopeful return of the Concorde about SOS United States – with a cold pitch!
From script (2010), to short (2011), to feature (2012) to release (2013), Justice Is Mind has been a five year project. I remember those early days of pitching to the “establishment”. Why not. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do because everyone else is doing it? Sure, a deal can happen. But in the end, producing it independently outside of any system has brought far greater returns on so many levels.
Next week there’s an industry event taking place in Boston. I’m largely planning to attend because of a panel around drones. We used a drone in Justice Is Mind for the climatic end scene, but SOS United States calls for a substantial amount of drone shots. Imagine skimming close above the ocean only to rise up to take in the gravitas of the USS Massachusetts battleship as the President of the United States addresses the nation.
A few months ago Michele Mortensen, who plays Maria Miller in Justice Is Mind and is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, asked me if I would give a lecture to her communications class about the importance of marketing communications and how you can build something from literally nothing. Suffice to say it was interesting encapsulating the last twenty years of my career into a one hour lecture this past week.
What I do isn’t rocket science (although I do write about rocket science!), it’s just common sense and takes time, lots of it. As I mentioned to the class, it is important to have a few good mentors you trust and who believe in you. Also, never let someone tell you that you can’t do something. When I was in high school and a teacher from the speech club told me not to think about doing anything on TV because I talk too fast, I can only hope that he saw one of my 300+ TV appearances. That example is an important one, because over the last twenty years I have done my best to steer clear of negative people and naysayers. I’ve always been someone that looks at the past as a guide for the present and a plan towards the future, but the one thing I don’t do is live in the past. That doesn’t move you forward.
From that first TV appearance on the Montel Williams show in 1994 to presenting Justice Is Mind on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth, it has been one hell of a journey so far. While there have been many peaks, there have been just as many valleys. That’s just the world of business and life. Some things just take time to build.
This past week I heard from our distributor that another VOD platform has picked up Justice Is Mind. This is all about building for the next projects. The foundation has been well laid with the production and release of Justice Is Mind. Which project will be next on the horizon? It’s hard to tell. While In Mind We Trust makes perhaps the most sense at this stage, it could just as easily be First World and SOS United States given the state of the film industry and current events.
But through this all, and what was part of my lecture, is to be ready to seize the moment. That happened when I launched International Figure Skating, landed on Skating with Celebrities and secured the funding for Justice Is Mind. I had my materials ready. Whether it was a business plan, an acting reel or a script. In each of those cases, people that wanted to invest in me needed some additional information. At the time, I was top of their mind. Had I delayed, none of the aforementioned may have happened.
If there is one thing I have learned over the years is that marketing, communications and public relations is a continuous repetitive process. As I mentioned during my lecture, nobody is waiting for you to arrive, you have to tell them you’ve arrived.
This past week I was preparing a presentation for SOS United States and started to reflect on what I have produced and directed over the years. From plays, to commercials, to corporate videos, short films and feature films, it has been one hell of a journey so far. I remember back in the 1990s when I produced my first direct response commercial and being glued to the TV just waiting to see it air for the first time. The next day I went into my office (early) to look at the fax report from the call center to see how many placed an order for one of my magazines. I fondly remember my excitement then as I do now every time Justice Is Mind embarks on a new journey.
In a few months I’ll be on an ocean liner in the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean screening Justice Is Mind on the Queen Elizabeth. Yes, this is a tremendously exciting opportunity for the film and as cruise travel is my favorite way to travel, all the better! But in all honesty, it has always been about bringing Justice Is Mind to the widest possible audience.
Justice Is Mind was produced in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and while local, regional and national audiences have been wonderfully supportive, the second phase of this four year project has been to present Justice Is Mind to an international audience. When I was publishing magazines I was always looking for new avenues to distribute, filmmaking is no different. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, filmmaking is a journey to new worlds and new audiences.
Of course the one constant, the one continuous journey in all of this, is capital. The capital to produce and the capital to pay back your investors from distribution. When you read the entertainment trades, blogs and related sites (Slated, etc.) they talk about the countless various structures of film finance. But there are a couple of constants in all this coverage, 1) everyone is looking for funding, and, 2) every deal is different. From the studios to the independent filmmaker, cash is king.
How many times do we read that such and such a film was financed by the most unlikely of investors? Trust me I had no idea that my best friend and her husband would be my investors in Justice Is Mind. Nor did I think that 20 years ago a figure skating coach would back my dream to launch a figure skating magazine. So what common thread did these financiers have? A passion for the intended product. Don’t get me wrong, they are business minded but at the end of the day they believed in the project and wanted to see it come to life.
On my quest to secure funding for SOS United States and First World I look for those that may have a passion for the subject matter and are entrepreneurs. There’s no question that filmmaking is a risky venture, but isn’t any business? Unlike a business that may not make it and has to close its doors (or shut down their website), a completed film is a product that can be marketed and sold.
Now boarding. The journey to new worlds.
Since Justice Is Mind had its world premiere on August 18, 2013, we have been very fortunate to secure media placements in connection with our screenings. While social media is part of the mix, it is only one ingredient in the recipe. Simply put a third party story drives audiences and awareness. These placements do not come automatically. A press release is written, the media is sourced and then the pitch is made. Each outlet has a defined set of criteria from frequency to what their audience wants. As a former magazine publisher, I remember what used to get my attention and what was quickly discarded. What I find is that it usually comes down to timing and if a subject matter is going to be interesting to their readership.
As we are now moving towards VOD and foreign screenings, I’ve started to present Justice to reviewers for consideration. Just having a film on a VOD platform isn’t enough, you seriously have to light a fire of awareness to drive traffic (just like our theatrical screenings).
When William Meeker of Frisco Kid at the Movies was interested in reviewing Justice, I was really looking forward to what he thought about the film. His reviews are thoughtful, detailed and thorough. I’m pleased to present his review of Justice Is Mind at this link.
With his four star review, as a filmmaker, I particularly enjoyed his statement, “Lund’s screenplay achieves Hunter’s recommended individualism by setting these topics in the context of relevant and important sociopolitical issues currently being debated in the United States.” Suffice to say, these are the points I wanted to make in the film. But it’s not just about what I enjoyed, it’s the whole evaluation of the film that really made his review stand out.
Our May 19 screening at The Elm Draught House Cinema is coming up soon and with that we turn to local media, most of which is scheduled to run this coming week. First, I could not be more thankful to Bob Leveillee of Pizza Post for his support. From the radio spot he is running, to the local media in connection with his business. While the phrase “win win” is terribly overused in the world of business, this is a perfect example of how it should work—Justice Is Mind and Pizza Post increase their awareness and customer base through mutual cooperation. In an overly complicated world of “buzzwords” on how to market (particularly a film), it really comes down to a tried and true concept of joint benefit. As I’ve so often had to say to those that try to over analyze the world of marketing, “We aren’t launching a space shuttle, we are [fill in the blank].”
Speaking of the space shuttle, I am back to presenting First World and SOS United States to producers and investors. On that note an investor who has financed film projects has requested both scripts and business plans. This is a journey that every filmmaker makes. It is a journey that takes time, planning and above all patience. With Cannes underway we are already seeing some very interesting, but not surprising, reports in the Hollywood Reporter “Take Note, Hollywood: The New Movie Money is Here” and “Cannes: Fewer Star-Fueled Projects Are Coming to a Lean Market.”
“I am particularly impressed with the strong performance of…” – Frisco Kid at the Movies.
I was delighted to discover Jonathan Cullen’s review of First World: Covenant over at The Future Fire. When I read phrases such as “Its basis is audacious and inventive” and “The protagonist…Kathleen Gould, is absolutely memorable and interesting,” it’s very satisfying as a writer to know that you’ve created something of interest for a reviewer – the all important ingredient for marketing a book.
I agree with Mr. Cullen’s analysis that sometimes the mix of points of view in the same scene can be frustrating. As I write Synedrion, these are important notes I take into consideration as clarification of story is key. First World, in particular, is laden with a variety of characters that are critical to moving the story forward.
It’s curious, Kathleen Gould, the protagonist in Covenant, was just a minor player in the original First World story (she only had about a dozen lines in the script). As some of you know, I wrote Covenant a couple of years ago as a web series and established Gould as a new major player along with the monolithic Bank of Shinar International at One World Trade Center. In Synedrion, Gould takes drastic steps to separate herself from the ever monitoring Central (their computer system). The sequel to Covenant is still on target for a late fall 2011 release.
Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago how I created First World. It all originated out of an idea I had for a scene in which these great “Concorde” style ships just appeared over the beach in Ogunquit, Maine (in the short film the location was Cape Cod) and my further thought that there is no better observation of Earth than from the Moon.
When I read on Space.com this morning that the International Space Station might be getting a name and at one point it was called Alpha, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite science fiction TV shows Space: 1999. Starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, the show is set in year 1999 when the Moon, and the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha (built in the crater Plato), are blasted out of Earth orbit when the nuclear waste dumps explode sending them on a journey through the universe.
NASA named the first space shuttle Enterprise after the starship U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek. I vote the consortium of countries name the International Space Station after Moonbase Alpha. It even looks good in print – ISS Alpha.
To quote Professor Victor Bergman from Space: 1999 “We are Mankind. We came from planet Earth, and we built this base, called Alpha, to learn more about space.”
The Paris Air Show is known as the worlds largest and for good reason. Not only is it the oldest, but it acts as a grand exhibit hall to the latest and greatest in aviation. This year, however, the talk was all about the ZEHST – The Zero Emission Hyper Sonic Transport.
Since the Concorde last flew about eight years ago, the commercial aviation market has stayed subsonic. While it might be nice to fly in the luxury of the A380, it saddens me that there’s no longer a choice if you want to fly supersonic.
EADS, the parent company of Airbus, introduced the ZEHST concept. The idea is that it will be able to fly at Mach 4 with over 100 passengers at over 100,000 feet and make the journey from New York to Tokyo in only 2.5 hours.
There’s no question that the ambition is an impressive one. But will it ever fly? From what I’ve read, EADS claims it could have a working model by 2020 and be in the market by 2050. I wish we could go back to the heady days of Apollo and Concorde when we decided to just do something great. The science and engineering are there so to quote Nike “Just do it!”
As the article states, the United States government classifies lunar samples as national treasures and well it should. Aside from the fact that these objects are from another world, they were brought back to this one by man for all of mankind to study and learn from. I for one believe it should be illegal for anyone to try to sell lunar objects.
Finally, for those of you that don’t subscribe to my email newsletter or missed it on Facebook or Twitter, last month yours truly was cast in a short science fiction film called Approved by Durjaya. The film “centers around a dystopian society in which there are strict rules enforced by a higher authority and each citizen is assigned to a group that determines their job and subsequently their life.” I play one of the two protagonists. The film is scheduled for release in December.
In closing, I’m also running a promotion for First World: Covenant. For those of you that purchased the ebook, I am offering a FREE autographed cover of Covenant that would be suitable for framing. Details can be found in my latest email newsletter.
In the First World universe the primary method of transportation by the Lunarians is the Arctran (Anti-gravity Robotic Command Transport Rapid Aeronautic Navigation). Styled like the retired Concorde, with the length of a 747 and in “Boeing Silver,” an Arctran’s primary function is to act as transportation between Central’s four Earth bases and the domed installation on the Moon, Lunaria. Of course no fictional story would be complete without putting the Arctrans to the test of combat, something they were never designed to do – well, maybe they’ve had some modifications along the way.
Anti-gravity propulsion is certainly nothing new in science fiction. One of my favorite movies that used anti-gravity as a plot device was The First Men in the Moon (1964). The one thing that I love about science fiction from the 1950s and 60s is that they try to explain the science behind the science fiction. In The First Men in the Moon, a scientist by the name of Joseph Cavor invents Cavorite – a gravity blocking substance with the properties of Helium. When this substance is applied to an object it defies the laws of gravity and propels itself. In the film, Cavor uses Cavorite painted blinds on his spacecraft (a sphere) to navigate. Imagine if it was that simple
In the real world, the last seventy years has seen a variety of research into the harnessing of anti-gravity technologies. During the Third Reich, Die Glocke was allegedly some sort of “Bell” that resisted gravity with electromagnetic propulsion. The only proof of whatever did actually exist is a test rig.
For years it has been speculated and reported that Boeing has been working on anti-gravity propulsion with the code name GRASP – Gravity Research for Advanced Space Propulsion. When we consider that the black technology computers used during the Apollo space program are now household technology, I think we can safely speculate that there are propulsion systems being tested that the public has yet to witness.
Next weekend I’ll be at the Rhode Island Air Show, maybe I’ll arrange for an Arctran to make an appearance. Better still, maybe our military would like to surprise us with something new.