This past weekend I hit the halfway point in writing the sequel to Justice Is Mind. While I have the general story all laid out and have introduced a variety of new characters, there are always those moments when writing that you need to think through a particular plot point or how something is going to be done. There is also that point in my writing when the characters start to converge and their respective storylines travel a certain path.
On that path, I’ve had to do a wide variety of research on the CIA, NSA, FISA Court and other institutions as they relate to the overall system of intelligence gathering in the United States and around the world. For those that may have been living off the planet last week, it was hard to miss the ramifications of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It’s clear, there’s a lot of polarization around the Senate’s report.
As a writer my goal is not to have an agenda that points in one direction or another, but to present a story that elicits questions. In First World, as President Kennedy once said, are we destined for the planets beyond? In SOS United States, what happens if we do downsize our military? And last, but certainly not least, in Justice Is Mind where does our right to privacy begin and end? Yes, I write about issues. But I seek to do it in a way that brings constructive questions and debates.
Of course as I write these stories of fiction, I do find it more than interesting that certain plot points are fast becoming a reality. In First World, China has ramped up its planned missions to the Moon. In Justice Is Mind, the ability to produce memories in video form is being tested and commercialized. But what is of particular interest to me at the moment is SOS United States and my postulation about a cyber-attack that brings down the nation’s military satellites and power grid. The fallout of the cyber-attack on Sony Entertainment Pictures, in my view, is far worse than the CIA report for a variety of reasons. Whatever did or didn’t happen within the CIA will never truly be known, but Sony’s data breach is simply unprecedented.
This all being said, we live in an interesting time. But really is this time any different than the decades before? It’s just more prevalent with social media and a 24/7 news cycle. But at the end of the day, it gives writers like me a lot of material.
It wasn’t all writing this weekend. For the first time I read a solid practical “no nonsense” article about crowdfunding on IndieWire in regard to Dear White People’s successful campaign. It reminded me in many ways of how Justice Is Mind came to being. I produced a short film version in 2011 and by 2012 the feature film was financed due to those short film efforts. For the sequel, now that we have established a foundation and audience, I’m fairly certain the plan will include both crowdfunding and some equity.
I have to confess I was more than a bit nervous about screening Justice Is Mind: Evidence at Olde Mistick Village Art Cinemas in Mystic, CT. Was I happy with the short film? Absolutely. But what were audiences going to think? At the end of the day, it’s not just important that I love Evidence audiences needed to enjoy it as well. For some, filmmaking may be vanity x10, but for me it’s about audiences appreciating the work. We weren’t screening at a film festival where this short was bunched with other shorts, we were screening before, then Oscar favorite, The Artist (I loved this film and was so happy it won for Best Picture).
As the credits for Evidence started to roll I walked down the aisle in controlled confidence with microphone in hand, “Are there any questions?” The moment of truth was less than two seconds away. To my relief, I was overjoyed by the enthusiasm and questions the audiences had. They were engaged, insightful and thoughtful. More importantly, they wanted to see the feature. Of our three screenings, I was joined by Toula Coin for the 2nd and 3rd. Toula played our wonderful news reporter and is a resident of the area. She made the introduction to the owner of the theatre to screen Evidence.
Screenwriters tend to create in vacuums. I can’t speak for others, but I generally write about subjects that appeal to me without much interaction. Then, after we complete our work, we pass it around to a trusted few for opinions. Feedback in hand, if we can, we produce the work and open it up to visual interpretation. Trust me, there is nothing more rewarding as a writer than seeing your work come to life on the big screen. Of course, there is nothing more terrifying as a writer than negative feedback. But as I’ve often said, this is not an industry for the thin skinned.
With our next stops for Evidence being the upcoming release by our distributor along with our first international screening in April at Olympus 2012 in London, UK and in May at Balticon 46 in Hunt Valley, Maryland, my efforts to secure funding for the feature film continue in earnest.
Our IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign concluded with $2,330 raised by 20 funders! Not only do those contributions bring us that much closer to our goal to produce the feature, but that’s 20 more people we can count on in spreading the word. When I was talking to a fellow filmmaker in Kenya, Africa this morning via Skype we both talked about getting the word out for our respective projects. After all, every team needs its cheerleaders.
Indeed filmmaking is a commitment far past the popular phrase, “That’s a wrap!”