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The Fifth Anniversary

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August 18, 2013. Five years ago today I was in Albany, NY for the world premiere of Justice Is Mind. The idea for Justice came to me in 2010 when I came across a 60 Minutes story about Thought Identification “mind reading.” I was researching mind reading “computers” when I was writing the sequel to First World. Yes, I finished writing the sequel. But no sooner was my Final Draft software cooling down and it was fired up again to write Justice.

I’ve often written about the development of Justice. The endless pitch to producers and financiers started at the script stage. Then I produced a short film version Evidence to develop interest in the project. After a couple of theatrical screenings and media the financing came together to produce the feature. Let me just say that 2012 was a whirlwind of a year. But in the end, over 10 crew, 100+ actors and 15 locations came together. Even post production into 2013 went relatively smoothly.  Justice enjoyed a limited theatrical run, screenings at law schools, science fiction conventions and an international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth (yes, that was a highlight!). The film is now available worldwide on VOD.

When you’re an independent filmmaker the completion of a feature film is a milestone that should be enjoyed and celebrated. As I see with so many in this industry, they worry incessantly about the next project when working on the current one. There were only a couple of occasions during Justice when a few people tried to get out of commitments because of an audition or other project they wanted to be part of. I’ve always believed in giving your maximum to every project you’re involved in. You worry about the next one after the fact.

It’s one thing to attend a film premiere for someone else’s project, it’s entirely another to attend one for your own. For nearly two years after our world premiere, so many of us attended the screenings together. For a while we were like a traveling road show! These weren’t film festivals, they were theatrical screenings. There is nothing more gratifying as a filmmaker than seeing your film on a marquee next to mainstream “Hollywood” productions. You work like hell to make the film, but seeing it in the market is in one word – gratifying.

A feature film isn’t about the “cool” photos behind the scenes of making it, it’s about creating the world around it so when it’s released there’s a place in the market for it. An acting friend of mine last year coined the phrase “the milk carton movie” for those films he was involved in that never saw the light of day. There were essentially “missing.” I couldn’t even fathom making a movie that sits on a shelf waiting for someone else to decide its fate. Film festivals are fine enough if you get into the top tier from an awareness point of view, but as a filmmaker you don’t see ten cents of box office from them. More importantly why would I want to share the public relations spotlight with other films? I remember only too well when we had a screening for Justice at a major university and, unknown to me, there was a small film festival in town that weekend. A reporter said to me they only had so much space and simply couldn’t accommodate everyone. Well, thankfully our screening went well because it was marketed internally and had some scientific personalities attending. That was a lesson to be learned.

As I now venture into the world of First Signal, I look back on the days of Justice Is Mind with great fondness and realize what’s possible when the right team comes together. I’ll never forget what one of the stars of Justice said to me at our last theatrical screening in March, 2017 “This never gets old.”

No, it doesn’t.

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Some of the cast and crew at the world premiere of Justice Is Mind on August 18, 2013 at the Palace Theatre in Albany, NY.


First Poster

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First Signal is being formally reviewed by the Pentagon (Department of Defense).

The development of a film property isn’t just about the actual filming, it’s about creating imagery, branding and a marketing campaign. Long after you type the first word of your script, it’s the first image associated with the story that everyone remembers. How many times do we read about a project in development or one that has long ago been filmed, until we see an image associated with it?  First Signal is much more to me than just another film project. It’s about setting the right tone and creating the “world” of First Signal.

Although I had a general idea of what I wanted to see in a promotional poster, I had no idea that Daniel Elek-Diamanta was thinking along the same lines. Daniel, as some of you know, is an accomplished composer. He brilliantly scored Justice Is Mind and Serpentine. Unless he’s not available, he knows he’s always my number one. Weeks ago he agreed to score First Signal. In addition to his talent scoring films, he’s also a brilliant graphic designer. When he sent me a surprise draft of a promotional poster for First Signal it’s like he read my mind (Justice Is Mind?).

I am therefore pleased to present the first promotional poster for First Signal by Daniel Elek-Diamanta! Inspired by the famed Earthrise photo from Apollo 8, with a star field created by Celestia an open source virtual 3D astronomy program, the poster was released today on IMDb and social media.

Also launching today is First Signal’s official url www.firstsignalmovie.com. The site presently points to First Signal’s Facebook page, but will soon be directed to a custom designed website. The footage has already been selected with Daniel working on an introductory score.

Standing out in this industry is a herculean task. Sure, I go to my social media feeds and I see what’s going on locally. But it truly comes down to making a national and international push for a project. I’ve never had any interest in being a “popular local.” For me, it’s about someone discovering my films who lives far away from where it was created.

When Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth back in 2014, nobody on the ship, aside from my mother, knew me or anything about the film. All they knew what was in the daily communique. Those passengers were my most important audience. Thankfully the screening was, I’ll say it, smooth sailing.

I also received word this week that the Department of Defense is formally reviewing First Signal for possible cooperation. As some of you may know, the military has entertainment liaison offices that work with the industry. Although First Signal is science fiction, there are numerous elements to the story that are based in the real world. And like the legal aspects of Justice Is Mind, I think it’s important to insure the military and science aspects are properly vetted.

The Pentagon.

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Next Act

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In this prequel to First World, the story starts in Earth orbit.

Last week I hit page 30 on this prequel story to First World. The title and logline came to me about halfway through this initial draft. With notes for the next two acts generally outlined, I’m aiming to have a first draft completed in January.

It’s always interesting how these new projects start. The idea came to me in September when I was at the Naval Justice School (NJS) talking with a couple of the actors about developing a new story. For the last two weeks I’ve been back at NJS with most of the students returning for this next class.

For me it comes down to motivation. If I’m not motivated to write a story, it just won’t be written. I firmly believe that environs make all the difference.  When you are around other creative types and engaged in the kind of work you enjoy doing, it’s amazing how ideas start to generate with collaboration bringing new opportunities.

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Part of the story takes place at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Of course it’s one thing to write a screenplay, it’s another to produce it. This one is being written in the same fashion as Justice Is Mind, to produce independently without pitching to the industry. While there’s obviously nothing wrong with the industry pitch, that process goes in fits and starts. Hot one day, cold the other. Ask anyone in this industry and that’s just the way it is­­—if you take the traditional route.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s one thing to produce a feature film, it’s another to promote it. I have to know if I’m OK devoting the next 2-5 years of my life developing and promoting a project. Justice Is Mind was literally a five year commitment. From screenplay (2010), short film version (2011), production of the feature film (2012), release of the film (2013) and marketing (2013-2015). I still promote Justice of course, and I continue to pitch the sequel, In Mind We Trust, as the basis for a TV series.

The “First World” project is about developing a franchise. It always has been. But commitment is important in this industry. It’s not just about making the film, it’s about staying with it for the long haul. As I learned with the short film version of First World and Justice Is Mind, you never know where a project can take you. It was a series of pitches that saw First World have a premiere in India at their The First Ever National Discussion on Science Fiction and Justice Is Mind having its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth.

The creation of a new story is always an adventure, a journey into the unknown. Believe me when I tell you, it’s a trip worth taking.

Next page.

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The First World story begins on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11’s Eagle landed on the Moon.


The Serpentine Code

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A screenshot from the official website.

After seven months of writing and research, along with attending a World Figure Skating Championships this past March for inspiration, I announced my latest project on Friday. Serpentine – A champion figure skater finds herself in a government conspiracy involving her missing mother and a Cold War mystery that culminates at the world championships in Moscow. The official website can be found at this link.

The name of the project came to me the first week I started to write it. In figure skating the word “serpentine” is used throughout a variety of areas from figures to footwork, to spiral sequences and generally consists of an “S” type of pattern. Serpentine is also mentioned in cryptography and as a code word. For this project the title Serpentine links all aspects of this story.

For independent filmmakers it’s one thing to write the screenplay and come up with a title, but then there are numerous aspects that need to be addressed prior to launch – writing a logline and synopsis, building a website, sending the script to trusted sources for review and comment, registering the script with the Writers Guild of America and U.S. Copyright Office and submitting the title to IMDb and other sources (thank you Rotten Tomatoes!). Then comes development and bringing the project to life.

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From the official website.

Those that follow me on social media or this blog, know some of the groundwork that I’ve been developing. In as much as it’s important to keep a public face, there are those countless conversations and presentations that go on behind the scenes that are not discussed publicly until they are a done deal. Remember Justice Is Mind’s international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth? That was months in discussion before the approved press release.  I could have announced Serpentine months ago, but I wasn’t finished with the screenplay and had to ascertain a variety of areas within the sport to see if I wanted to move forward. But forward we are moving.

I could not be more encouraged by the response Serpentine has received since Friday. But suffice to say the next couple of weeks will be inordinately busy. From developing location deals to securing talent, I plan to post this week for cast and crew. The goal is to produce the short sometime in October with an early 2017 release. If all goes well, the idea is to produce the feature in 2017 with release after the Winter Olympics in 2018.

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Does this plan sound remotely familiar? It should. I produced a short film version of Justice Is Mind titled Evidence in 2011. The release of the short in 2012 led to the production of the feature film later that year with a 2013 release.  In the case of Serpentine, the plan is produce the first ten pages of the script that introduces the primary characters and storyline.

Before I close this post, I want to thank those that have supported me in developing this story. Your words of encouragement and comments on the project have been greatly appreciated over the past weeks and months.

But foremost in those thanks goes to Adam Starr who designed the concept poster you see below.  I have been working with Adam since 2000 on numerous projects. In fact, the first project he did for me was a corporate promotional video for my old publishing company. In terms of posters Adam designed First World, Evidence and Justice Is Mind. To learn more about Adam and the story behind the poster, please visit the website.

On the ice. Representing…

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United Kingdom

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First World and SOS United States partially take place in the United Kingdom.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking to my friends in the UK about the upcoming “Brexit” vote. They all had different points of view from those that wanted to stay in the European Union and those that wanted to leave. This post isn’t about one American’s position, but about my special relationship with our friends across the pond.

Putting aside what we learned in school, I was somehow introduced to Barbara Taylor Bradford’s masterpiece A Woman of Substance. The story is based in the UK and to quote “A Woman of Substance charts the life of Emma Harte, from kitchen maid at the beginning of the 20th Century, to respected business woman and Grandmother in the 1980’s.” The book was turned into a brilliant mini-series that saw such famous British landmarks as the storied Harrods turned into Harte’s. You can bet that one of my first destinations was tea at Harrods!

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Jeffrey Phillips and Lindy Nettleton in First World.

When I started a newsmagazine for the sport of figure skating in the early 1990s, I found myself again in the UK when I attended the 1995 World Figure Skating Championships which were held in Birmingham, UK. I soon found myself conducting business in the country from distributing our magazine to working with editors. At one point I had struck a deal with the national governing body to conduct an all too “United States” direct mail effort. I say United States, because I learned the biggest lesson at the time…I discovered that the English like to buy their magazines at kiosks (newsstands). Oh sure we had a nice amount of subscribers, but we also secured a pretty good newsstand contract in the country as well.

After publishing, my first screenplay First World was partially based in the UK. Part of the story has the Prime Minister calling for an emergency meeting with the President of the United States at a military base in the UK to reveal the actual mission of the Apollo space program. I filmed that segment actually down the street where I now live. To this day we were so fortunate to have a wonderful British actress who now resides in the States to play the Prime Minister.

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Justice Is Mind was scored by UK based Daniel Elek-Diamanta with sound mixing by Visionary Sound.

I’ll never forget her audition. I was staying at a hotel with some of the cast filming another scene when Lindy Nettleton arrived along with Jeffrey Phillips (who played the President).  Owing to scheduling and space limitations the audition took place in a hallway. They were both brilliant. After the film was released, we had a few screenings at science fiction conventions in the UK.

When I posted notices for cast and crew for my first feature film Justice Is Mind we received responses from literally all over the world. But there was one composer from England by the name of Daniel Elek-Diamanta. In today’s day and age of the internet it doesn’t matter where you live, talent is talent. To say he had talent would be an understatement.  Instinctively, not only did we click, but he understood Justice Is Mind instantly. He scored the entire film to critical acclaim. When our original sound mixer dropped out, he found a terrific company in Visionary Sound headed up by Timothy McHugh. In the end, they both saved the day.

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Afternoon tea with my mother on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth.

Of course, perhaps one of the highest tributes Justice Is Mind received was when we had our international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth ocean liner in 2014. Suffice to say you can’t get any more British than Cunard!

My point to all of this is simple, no treaty keeps people from working together for the common good. Talent doesn’t know boundaries it simply wants to create. From magazines to film, those that I’ve worked with in the UK have brought something special to the projects I’ve worked on. That’s what the “special relationship’ between the United States and United Kingdom means to me.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

 

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The political thriller SOS United States takes place in the UK and US.


World Reunion

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Philippe Candeloro and Lynn Plage.

As I was driving to Boston on Wednesday to attend my first World Figure Skating Championships since 2003, there was the fair share of wondering, and a bit of apprehension, how things would go. In years long past, there was a series of things I had to accomplish from interviews, to pictures, to attending the right functions and even going to the right official hotel bar post events (and perhaps the coveted invite to the after party). It was a tried and true agenda that served me well. But that was well over a decade ago when the sport was at its height in popularity in the United States. But now, there was no agenda just observation. To turn a phrase, I needed to get a lay of the ice.

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Ari Zakarian and Christine Brennan.

I passed through the same security gate that I long remember from attending the Stars on Ice and Champions on Ice tours.  The former is still with the sport but vastly abbreviated, the latter is sadly gone. Indeed, I knew that the “studio system” of the sport had long passed. But like the Hollywood of yesterday, motion pictures are still made, they are just presented differently. And different is the current state of the sport of figure skating. But it is the familiar faces of those off the ice that have always made the sport tick.

After riding a freight elevator to the 9th floor (this is the slowest elevator in the world, best bring a snack) to the media center I soon saw Lynn Plage. Lynn is the sport’s consummate publicist who has promoted, guided and mentored more skaters, events and journalists than I could ever count. No sooner did we exchange the mutual reunion greetings and obligatory “catching up” and it was like we picked up where we left off those years ago.

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Tonia Kwiatkowski.

And while there are the publicists there are also the journalists. The sport has many fine journalists that regularly cover the sport, but there is the quintessential reporter of them all, Christine Brennan of USA Today. I met Christine at my first World Championships in Birmingham, England in 1995. We shared a train down to London after the event and she taught me the “pyramid” in writing. These are life lessons and moments you never forget.

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Christine Brennan, Jirina Ribbens (Exec. Director Ice Theatre of New York) and David Baden.

Arriving at the media seating I was soon greeted by Ari Zakarian. In those early days I needed a “foreign correspondent” who was everywhere and knew the European and Russian world of the sport. I armed him with a pager and the reports flowed in. In those pre-internet days, it was all about print for the latest news. Now an agent to skaters, event producer and country representative, his days of hard work traversing the globe had paid off.

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Sheryl Franks.

As for agents, like the importance of having a solid publicist to promote the skaters and sharp journalists to report on them, there is David Baden of IMG. I’ve known so many agents over the years, particularly those that work in “Hollywood”, but no agent works harder for his clients than David. But David also was the consummate collaborator. I can’t tell you how many marketing partnerships I worked on with David, partnerships that worked for all concerned. At the end of the day, it’s about building a mutual business.

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Kim Merriam and Beth-Anne Duxbury.

Of course there is the one component that all publicists, journalists, agents and producers need and those are the skaters themselves. I’m not just talking about technically proficient skaters, I’m talking about those that have a personality. Those that understood that it wasn’t enough to just to land the jump you had to present yourself just as much off the ice as on. Philippe Candeloro is such a skater and it was great working with him on one of my skating cruises. Running into him and Tonia Kwiatkowski, another skating cruise alum, fondly reminded me of when we boarded Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas for a skating event at sea! (Cruise ships and events. Does this sound familiar? Justice Is Mind’s international premiere on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth).

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Moira North.

Indeed, the teams of people I worked with during my days publishing a figure skating magazine, most certainly led to my work as a filmmaker. Working with actors (skaters), crew (productions) and marketing/PR elements in the sport most certainly paved the way. But there was a path before that was the foundation of what I do today.

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Dick Button.

A couple of weeks ago Sheryl Franks and Elin Schran sent me a Facebook event invite for a reunion party at World’s.  This was one, if any, of the few social events happening during World’s but my invitation was a maybe until I committed to attend. Of all the parties I have been to over the years in skating, this one, I think, may have won the Gold medal.

My best friend Kim Merriam and I were the first ones to arrive (Kim was one the producers on Justice and we used to skate together back in the early 80s). But soon, skaters and coaches I worked with locally started to arrive, then the personalities from the legendary Dick Button, Tenley Albright, Ken Shelley and Paul Wylie, to venerable producers of Broadway and skating events (some on cruise ships!), to choreographers, coaches and those that have long linked the sport behind the scenes with their executive experience and philanthropy. One of these great links is Moira North who founded The Ice Theatre of New York. Coordinating their annual gala one year during my New York City days was a real eye opener on how to run an event. Lots of lessons learned!

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Darlene Parent.

As for lessons, I’ll never forget my first credentialed event as a member of the media. It was called Skates of Gold and was held at the old Boston Garden back in 1993. It was at the post event reception that I first met Dick Button. I remember mustering up the courage to introduce myself and mentioned I was going to start a figure skating magazine. He graciously smiled and said, “How very good for you.” For anyone that knows Dick you can picture the response! He soon became one of our biggest supporters and a friend.

One of the absolute highlights of the party for me was seeing my old skating coach Darlene Parent. When I lived in New York City in the 1980s and got up at 4 in the morning to skate (before I went to work at TIME magazine), I trained at the old Sky Rink. Not only was Darlene my skating coach she was also the chef and made us breakfast after our lessons. She would literally show us moves while flipping an egg (you can’t make this stuff up!).

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Ken Shelley.

Indeed, this week has been a world reunion and great trip down memory lane. But in the here and now in 2016, like the entertainment industry itself, the sport of figure skating is going through a transition. A transition that has seen its fan base seismically erode. Some say it’s the change in scoring. Some say it’s because the United States hasn’t produced “stars” like it once used to. Some say it’s because there was a saturation of sameness back in the heyday of the 1990s. Some say there wasn’t enough innovation.  What’s the answer? Perhaps a bit of all those reasons. But something tells me that this downward trend could possible see a bit of reverse.

One only has to see the enthusiasm of the Japanese and Russian audiences to know that the sport is alive and well in those markets. I have seen video excerpts of a figure skating event in Russia that literally presented the sport as “Cirque du Soleil” on ice. These events were sold out. But there was something else that was nearly sold out as well—the events this week at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships. Is this a new trend? It could be.

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Dennis Grimaldi.

If you told me 14 years ago that the United States would medal in ice dancing I would have laughed in your face. But here we are in 2016 with Maia Shibutani / Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock / Evan Bates winning the silver and bronze medals respectively. While the United States men did a glorious job, it’s all about the quad. I wish I could say it wasn’t but it is.

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It was so great seeing Michelle Kwan again.

As for an electrifying moment, Ashley Wagner’s win of the silver medal ended the 10 year drought of an American woman winning a medal at the world championships.  Skating last to a capacity audience you could just tell with every second passing this was going to be a performance best for Wagner.  Her gracious enthusiasm at the press conference reminded me of earlier days. Could those days be returning? One thing is for sure, this is a sport about personalities and Wagner certainly understood that off ice is just as important as on.

In the end this is a sport that endures. It is owned by no one but graced by everyone. It is these collective contributions that have always given the sport its edge and vibrancy. That may sound like a colloquialism, but this sport will never be judged by a stopwatch and because of that uniqueness it earns a special place as both sport and art.  And just like Hollywood itself, figure skating is about performance and box office. Some pictures do well and some…well…you get the point.

As for the entertainment industry, having accomplished what I wanted to this past week, I return to writing my political thriller around the sport and art of figure skating.

Finally, I just have one thing to say to the organizers of the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships and all those that made it a memorable event.

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Ashley Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist, at the press conference.


America’s Flagship

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Artist concept of the United States by Crystal Cruises.

What I love about screenwriting is the research that goes with it. When I wrote First World I learned about the Apollo space program, the Kennedy and Nixon administrations, the Roswell incident and how parts of the United Nations operate. For Justice Is Mind it was the science of mind-reading (“thought identification”), reincarnation, and complex legal issues from the introduction of evidence based on new science to the construction of a criminal trial. Whenever I write science fiction, I think it’s important to have it rooted in plausibility or at least have it explained with a sense of realism (Star Trek is great for that).

The basis for my political thriller SOS United States has always been around this premise – the possibility that an ocean liner may have a nuclear device on board. Where did the idea come from? I’ve always been interested in the Cold War and count Fail Safe and Seven Days in May as two of my favorite movies of the time.  Add that interest to my passion for ocean liners and SOS United States was born. It was my mother that first got me interested in ocean liners in the 1970s with our membership in the Titanic Historical Society (Yes, Titanic is one of my favorite films).

SS United States Conservancy

With premise in mind I started my research. The ocean liner in my story needed to be fast, luxurious and military-like. It didn’t take long to discover the SS United States. Built in 1952 the luxury liner “was designed as part of a top-secret Pentagon program during the Cold War, which stipulated it could be quickly converted from a luxury liner into a naval troopship in the event of a war.” Needless to say I found my ship.  And found her I did. Since the SS United States was retired in 1969 she has been laid up all over the world and is currently docked in Philadelphia. More than once the ship was almost scrapped.

In my original notes the idea was that some company purchased the SS United States and refurbished her. But I quickly discounted that as unrealistic. Instead, I researched the United States Lines and discovered their early flagship the SS Leviathan. With that name, and the original blueprints of the SS United States, a company built a “state of the art” luxury liner, equipped with offensive capability to defend against pirating with a maximum speed of over 50 MPH.  I guess my original notes proved to be something more than an idea.

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As in Seven Days in May, a military insider reveals the shadow government to the President in SOS United States.

Last week in New York City, Crystal Cruises, a luxury cruise line, “announced it will save “America’s flagship,” the SS United States, and embark on the enormous undertaking of bringing the ship into compliance with the latest standards, and returning her to oceangoing service.” While I figured some sort of redevelopment plan would be put forward, as was done with the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, the fact that the SS United States will actually sail again as a luxury liner just proved once again that if you stay true to your mission with persistence and patience the impossible can become a reality. My congratulations to the dedication of SS United States Conservancy to save and preserve the ship and to the visionary leadership of Crystal Cruises to see the SS United States return to the high seas.

Suddenly the world premiere of SOS United States on the SS United States just became a little more possible. I remember sailing on the Queen Mary 2 in 2007 and saying to my mother how grand it would be to have one of my films screen on an ocean liner. After years of planning and determination, Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth on October 29, 2014.

All Aboard

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SOS United States first mentioned on TV this past week on The John J. Fahey Show.


State Secrets

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In Witness for the Prosecution the ending was a guarded secret in production.

Unless you’ve been living in a galaxy that is truly far far away, inhabitants of the planet Earth are eagerly awaiting for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to hit theaters on December 18. We’ve seen the trailers, the stills and countless articles speculating on the story itself, but the latter is truly nothing less than a state secret – and well it should be. This past week on IndieWire even Mark Hamill stated, “I’m Not Even Authorized To Tell You I’m In Episode VII.”

When I was booked on Skating with Celebrities back in 2005 all of us involved in that show, including the studio audience, were sworn to absolute secrecy by an iron clad contract. The show was produced live to tape and then aired in early 2006. Yes, everyone I knew asked me in one way or another who won. Some were downright angry I didn’t confess the results and some were, ready, offended. Like I cared.  You don’t risk an entire production and litigation to satisfy one person, who will tell another and so on.

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In Justice Is Mind this key witness for the prosecution turns the case.

There were so many things I learned on that show that I have taken to my filmmaking work. Like my contract with FOX, the agreements I put in place for Justice Is Mind had a photography and non-disclosure clause. Most were totally fine with it, but it did strike some as overly controlling. My on camera work up until Skating with Celebrities was mostly live so there was no need for a non-disclosure, but you quickly learn the reasons why such things are necessary. Think about it, do you want to risk giving away the ending to a project that has been years in development and lessen its commercial appeal? Even now, I don’t allow clips to be manipulated or edited without my written approval.

We very much live in a “look at me” society with social media leading the charge. Sadly, I see so many posts about submissions, meetings and auditions that I would want to keep off the radar. What if your film doesn’t get accepted? That meeting falls apart? You don’t get cast? At any given time I have more irons in the fire than I can sometimes keep track of (thank god I have my lists!). Unfortunately, premature announcements can derail a deal that may have come to fruition if given enough time.

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On FOX’s Skating with Celebrities in 2006. We all signed a strict non-disclosure agreement.

One such deal that was months in the making was the international premiere of Justice Is Mind on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth ocean liner. Imagine if I had breathed a word of it prior to it being a done deal. Cunard just simply could have said they declined to screen the film, I would have had serious embarrassment written all over my face to say nothing of tarnishing the brand of a film I have worked on for years.  In the end the timing worked out great. The deal came through right before one of our screenings. I announced it publicly in May 2014 prior to our screening at the Elm Draught House Cinema.

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Great to see Justice Is Mind number 2 to Star Wars: The Force Awakens on this list.

Perhaps one of the most famous plot secrets was around one of my favorite films Witness for the Prosecution.  In addition to director Bill Wilder holding the last ten pages of the film from the actors until it was shot, the end credits of the film features the following “The management of this theatre suggests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the picture, you will not divulge, to anyone, the secret of the ending of Witness for the Prosecution.” Starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton, I highly recommend this 1957 classic.

But one thing that’s not secret was discovering that Justice Is Mind was named number two on a user created IMDb list. What film was number one on that list? Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Black budget.

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Finishing edits to In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, this week.


The Cunard Way

With my mother in October 2014.

With my mother in October 2014 during the International Premiere of Justice Is Mind on the Queen Elizabeth.

It was just over a year ago at the screening of Justice Is Mind in Millbury, Massachusetts at the Elm Draught House Cinema where I announced that the International Premiere of Justice Is Mind would take place on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth ocean liner on October 29, 2014. It seems fitting to remember this milestone as Cunard celebrates their own milestone today – their 175th Anniversary.

Having sailed on the Queen Mary 2 in 2007 and the Queen Elizabeth in 2014, there is something magical about Cunard. While there are many other brands, no other cruise line marries the storied history of travel by ocean liner to the contemporary atmosphere of today.  As I watch their celebrations coming live from Liverpool, England on YouTube, I am reminded what a masterful job Cunard does of honoring its heritage while always looking towards the future. Indeed, Cunard has one of the most modern fleets in the world.

The three Queens celebrating the 175th anniversary of Cunard in Liverpool, England today.

The three Queens celebrating the 175th Anniversary of Cunard in Liverpool, England today.

I fondly remember that day my mother and I arrived in Rome and traveled to port. Seeing the Queen Elizabeth come into view was a dream come true. While I was most certainly looking forward to the sailing, it was the fact that my film, Justice Is Mind, was going to have its International Premiere on board. For the over 200 people involved in the film, including our composer and sound mixer from England, Justice Is Mind now has an entry in the history of Cunard.

The Queen Mary 2 (left) can be seen in front of the Cunard Building, with Queen Victoria (c) and Queen Elizabeth (r).

The Queen Mary 2 (left) can be seen in front of the Cunard Building, with Queen Victoria (c) and Queen Elizabeth (r).

On this side of the pond, it’s Memorial Day today where we honor those who lost their lives defending the United States. One must also remember Cunard’s role in World War II. It was the great Cunard liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth that were converted to troop ships to transport soldiers during the war. In December, 1942 the Queen Mary brought over 16,000 soldiers from the United States to England. It was Winston Churchill that said the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth helped shorten the war by at least a year.

So as we celebrate Cunard Line’s 175th Anniversary, we also remember the brave men and women who gave their lives to preserve our way of life in the United States, United Kingdom and all the nations that believe in freedom and democracy for all.

Cunard's RMS Queen Mary arriving in New York Harbor, June 20 1945, with thousands of US soldiers.

Cunard’s RMS Queen Mary arriving in New York harbor, June 20, 1945, with thousands of US soldiers.


In Partnership

The SS United States sailing

In SOS United States the ocean liner is modeled after the famed SS United States and called the SS Leviathan.

Unless you are living under the proverbial rock, all of us involved in the industry are paying close attention to Cannes. For me, I’m always interested in the business of distribution and marketing because at the end of the day you have to get your film seen.  With VOD distribution all the rage, there’s no wonder that Netflix’s Ted Sarandos is being so widely quoted—and rightly so.

As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, on any given week there are numerous things I try to accomplish for my projects. From pitching, to writing, to editing, to marketing, there’s always something going on.  But this week, things jumped ahead.

Justice Is Mind will soon arrive on additional VOD platforms with the sequel In Mind We Trust in development.

Justice Is Mind will soon arrive on additional VOD platforms with the sequel In Mind We Trust in development.

With Justice Is Mind successfully distributed, my attention has largely turned to my current slate of projects with First World, SOS United States and In Mind We Trust. While I continue to market Justice Is Mind on a daily basis, the goal is to secure the necessary partnerships to bring the next project forward. That goal took several steps forward this week with a great Skype meeting with a producer and his team in the United Kingdom.  From my days in publishing, to our recent partnership with Cunard Line for the international premiere of Justice Is Mind on the Queen Elizabeth, I’ve always enjoyed working with colleagues “across the pond”.

The one thing any filmmaker will tell you is that this is an industry of partnerships and collaboration. From the actors, crew, location, marketing and distribution partners, over two hundred people from two countries were involved in Justice Is Mind. For good reason, I keep in touch with most of them. One of those reasons is a new project I’m working on.

My friend Alberto Mercado is a published author and a wonderful photographer. Al photographed Justice Is Mind’s screenings in Sturbridge and Millbury. His photos were such a hit they soon started to show up as headshots on IMDB and Facebook.

A few weeks ago at a party at his house we started talking about the “mechanics” of filmmaking. The conversation was not dissimilar to one I had with my investors in Justice Is Mind back in 2012.  Al wanted to see one of his books made into a motion picture. He attended several of Justice Is Mind’s theatrical screenings, including my short film Evidence, so he knew what my capabilities were. But was there a story? Indeed there was. A great story. One that I wanted to tell.

Oddly enough, Al thought I was reading his book A Rose for Essie Mae when in fact I was reading Winds of Fall.  In the end, he was glad I read Winds instead.  So I am pleased to announce that I have been commissioned to write a screenplay adaption of Alberto Mercado’s book Winds of Fall and to direct the feature. The plan is to complete the script this summer with Al financing the production for either this fall or spring.

Like the funding that came together for Justice Is Mind, the road to the Skype meeting, our screening on the Queen Elizabeth and the journey to bring Winds of Fall to the big screen, you just don’t know where the next opportunity is going to come from.  As the late actor Maximilian Schell said, this is an industry of chances.

Next Chapter.

One of the original First World posters in 2007. Sales on Amazon have surged over the last few months.

One of the original First World posters in 2007. Sales on Amazon have surged over the last few months.


Two Decades

Timeline

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.

On ESPN's The Price of Gold.

On ESPN’s The Price of Gold.

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.

Michele Mortensen as Maria Miller in Justice Is Mind.

Michele Mortensen as Maria Miller in Justice Is Mind.

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.

Next decade.

46 years ago this past week the first British Concorde took off. In SOS United States the Concorde returns to flight as Commonwealth One.

46 years ago this past week the first British Concorde took off. In SOS United States the Concorde returns to flight as Commonwealth One.


New Markets

Justice is mind TUGG-page-0

I am pleased to announce that Justice Is Mind is now available on the theatrical distribution platform Tugg! To quote their website, “Tugg is a web-platform that lets YOU bring the movies you want to your local theater.” Tugg is a dynamic theatrical service that I have been aware of for the last couple of years.

For those of you that follow this blog, you know that Justice Is Mind has had a successful theatrical run. Out of 20 screenings to date, 12 have been theatrical. As none of these theatres have been rented (1 was sponsored), with an average attendance capacity of over 80% for each screening, we know the demand is there. What drove ticket sales? Promotion, media, networking and legwork. Each theatrical screening of Justice Is Mind averaged $1,113 per screen.

The simple difference with Tugg is the following; instead of the vast majority of tickets being sold the day of a screening, they are sold in advance. By example, let’s say someone wants to screen Justice Is Mind at their local theatre and they live in the Midwest. They request a screening at this link and then promote using the various tools that Tugg offers, combined with their marketing efforts and whatever marketing assistance we can provide. Once the threshold of tickets are sold in advance (it varies by theatre), the screening is confirmed and the promoter receives 5% of the ticket sales. It’s a win win for everyone. Why? Because if by some chance not enough tickets are sold in advance by a certain date, the screening doesn’t happen and nobody is charged. To learn more, please visit this link and our listing on Tugg for more information.

These international holdings-page-0

When Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth last October, several of the guests remarked that they wished our film was playing at their local theatre. Tugg is the program that can make that happen!

The world of filmed entertainment, and in particular independent filmmaking, continues to undergo all kinds of market stresses. I talked about some of those issues last week and Variety outlined a host of them in an article titled Broken Hollywood. But I also truly believe that today the independent filmmaker has all kinds of opportunities to get their work seen. Justice Is Mind is a prime example of what’s possible; a theatrical run, convention and university screenings along with an international premiere on an ocean liner. Combine those screenings with various VOD platforms, including Amazon Prime and VHX, and the distribution mix works. With our arrival on Tugg, more VOD platforms on the way along with some additional screening plans being worked on, our efforts are far from over.

Speaking of efforts, the first draft of the sequel to Justice Is Mind is nearly complete with the story’s arrival at the Supreme Court. I’ll announce the completion of the first draft and then there will be the requisite edits before I can send the script out for review. Thus another reason to continue promoting part one – Justice Is Mind.

Next steps

The sequel to Justice Is Mind concludes at a landmark Supreme Court case.

The sequel to Justice Is Mind concludes at a landmark Supreme Court case.


A Narrative

From Justice Is Mind, a World War II mystery is resolved in the sequel.

From Justice Is Mind, a World War II mystery is resolved in the sequel.

As I approach the final pages of the sequel to Justice Is Mind (I’m at 116), I’m entering what is probably the most involved plot aspects of the story; providing closure to one of the greatest mysteries of World War II, the resurrection of Henri Miller and a landmark Supreme Court case.  All of this takes research and, what I call, “fictional plausibility”.  For me I take known facts and provide a fictional twist. This is nothing new in screenwriting, but I do believe that if factual history is attached it should be honored before fiction is applied.

Speaking of screenwriting, I was reading Peter Bart’s latest column in Variety titled “Hollywood No Longer Shows It Has the Write Stuff”.  He goes on to say, sadly, that studios and some filmmakers are omitting thanks to that one person that needs to be thanked—the screenwriter.  How many times do we hear the word “collaborative” in this industry? Well, the screenwriter is the reason why everyone in on set. Simply put, you can’t build a house without a foundation.

The resurrection of Henri Miller in the sequel to Justice Is Mind.

The resurrection of Henri Miller in the sequel to Justice Is Mind.

Bart quoted from one of my favorite directors, Billy Wilder, “I like to believe that narrative movement can be achieved eloquently and elegantly without shooting from a hole in the ground, without hanging the camera from a chandelier and without the camera dolly dancing a polka.” This isn’t to take away from great cinematography, and I do love my “Hitchcock” wide shots, but without a quality screenplay it just doesn’t matter what you shoot.  This is why I’m such a fan of classic films. And give me a political thriller from the 1960s any day!

Speaking of industry trades, there was a great interview with Voltage Pictures president Nicolas Chartier in The Hollywood Reporter where he talked about piracy and the state of the industry. The one thing he said that struck me was, “the DVD business is dead.” I agree.  I was in a Dollar Store yesterday and saw a bin of DVDs for sale for only $1. Yes, some were films I never heard of, but plenty had star power behind them. Sure DVDs are still sold, but you have to wonder what’s left for the filmmaker after all the expenses.

One of my favorite wide shots from Justice Is Mind.

One of my favorite wide shots from Justice Is Mind.

For years I have been a supporter of Video on Demand.  VOD is simply one of the most dynamic and exciting distribution opportunities for filmmakers. With a responsible budget,  it is a way to make money on a consistent basis. I could not be more pleased with Justice Is Mind’s placement on Amazon Prime and VHX (among others). Traffic continues to build on a daily basis.

But that traffic just didn’t materialize overnight. We aren’t The Interview with the world media behind us. No, what has largely been responsible was our theatrical run along with the numerous special event screenings including our international premiere on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. Along the way we developed an audience, press and significant online entries.  While a screenplay is the foundation to a solid film, a theatrical run is the foundation for VOD.  It’s an equation that works.

So as I write the last pages of the sequel, I am hoping to soon announce our participation in a theatrical program that could bring Justice Is Mind to a theatre near you.

Act Three

You already ruled on this-page-0


Justice In Demand

Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on the Queen Elizabeth in October.

Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on the Queen Elizabeth in October 2014

When Justice Is Mind’s MovieMeter listing hit 10,989 out of 3.1 million entries on IMDB last week it reminded me, yet again, what’s possible when you set your “mind” to do something.  Hitting the top half one percent of all entries listed on IMDB was a milestone like no other. Why? Because it proved to me, and all of us involved in Justice Is Mind, that audiences are interested in this film.

Justice Is Mind is a true independent film.  There’s no studio involvement and no “A list” stars to propel it. But what it does have is a story and the passion of those involved in it, wrote about it and watched it. In the end, that’s all a filmmaker can ask for.

At Plimoth Cinema in January 2014

At Plimoth Cinema in January 2014

When we ended 2013 as the 8th Highest Rated Independent Film on IMDB, my goal was to ride on that and continue to push Justice Is Mind as much as possible.  The year started off great with a screening at the Plimoth Cinema in January with a new audience attendance record in March at Cinemagic in Sturbridge.

At Cinemagic in March 2014

At Cinemagic in March 2014

Screening Justice Is Mind at Carnegie Mellon University in April was a particular honor. For it was  the science of “thought indentification” led by Dr. Marcel Just from a 60 Minutes interview I saw in 2009 that brought us to Pittsburgh in 2014. Having Dr. Just host the screening with star Vernon Aldershoff in attendance with me truly brought the film home.

An audience record at Cinemagic.

An audience record at Cinemagic

Justice Is Mind returned to its production home in May with a nearly sold out screening at The Elm in Millbury. I have to say I had the most fun at this particular screening. Bob Leveillee, who plays Bob Oxford in the movie, owns Pizza Post and not only did a stellar job in marketing both the Millbury and Sturbridge screenings, but arranged for a limousine to take the attending actors and crew on a champagne toast. Indeed, these are the memories you would want an FVMRI machine to reveal!

With Dr. Marcel Just and Vernon Aldershoff at Carnegie Mellon University

With Dr. Marcel Just and Vernon Aldershoff at Carnegie Mellon University in April 2014

And finally, after months of searching for a theatre at Cape Cod, the Chatham Orepheum theatre screened Justice Is Mind in September. With not only cast members in attendance but members of my family I haven’t seen in years, it was a special evening.

At The Elm in Millbury

Fun at The Elm in Millbury in May 2014

But it was shortly before the Millbury deal came through than some other outstanding news came our way. Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth wanted to screen Justice Is Mind as an international premiere in October. Exciting didn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling when this opportunity presented itself. In addition to being a much needed holiday, the voyage on the Queen Elizabeth included me giving a filmmaking seminar to guests and then the international premiere later that week.  From the ship, the ports of call and the new friendships, it was the voyage of a lifetime.

At the Chatham Orpheum in Chatham

At the Chatham Orpheum in Chatham in September 2014

Along with our theatrical screenings came the VOD debut of Justice Is Mind on Amazon Prime Instant Video, VHX, IndieReign and Reelhouse. Now, with the click of a mouse, Justice Is Mind can be watched around the world. With more VOD platforms coming online in the new year, it will be interesting to see what’s next.

Just before the start of my filmmaking seminar on the Queen Elizabeth

Just before the start of my filmmaking seminar on the Queen Elizabeth

Of course the aforementioned is the good news and I couldn’t be more thankful to all those that made it possible. But make no mistake about it, the amount of hard work to get to this level is monumental. Sending emails, making phone calls, endless pitching and planning. I was talking with one of our crew members this past week and we were discussing the realities of this industry. For every announced deal, there are those that got away, got rejected or just didn’t happen. But that is what this industry is all about. It is about the dreaded “no”. But when the “yes” comes in, there is a “specialness” to it because we know the road we had to travel to get to that point.  Those that know me, know I’m an eternal optimist. I don’t dwell on what didn’t happen, rather I focus on what can happen.

On ESPN's The Price of Gold

On ESPN’s The Price of Gold

This past year I dipped my toe back in front of the camera with ESPN’s Price of Gold and The Folklorist. My political thriller SOS United States is complete at the script stage and an agency is considering First World.  So while I continued to push those two projects, and perhaps look at some opportunities in front of the camera for the next year, I come back to Justice Is Mind.

Justice Is Mind hit its highest MovieMeter rating this week on IMDB.

Justice Is Mind hit its highest MovieMeter rating this week on IMDB

The idea for the sequel came to me over the last few months. And like the creation of Justice Is Mind, I just started to write down some notes and shared some ideas with Mary Wexler through many an evening IM chat on Facebook (Wexler plays Judge Wagner). What has driven me so much to write the sequel? The reaction from audiences that have seen it, the journalists that have written about it and cast and crew that have continued to support it.

Happy New Year!

Margaret Miller's book plays a central role in the sequel to Justice Is Mind.

Margaret Miller’s book plays a central role in the sequel to Justice Is Mind

 


The Queen Elizabeth

With my mother in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

With my mother in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

From the start of our trip on October 23 until we returned home on October 29, our voyage on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth ocean liner could not have gone better. From joining the ship in Rome, to the outstanding weather and ports of call, to “White Star” hospitality of shipboard staff and crew, to the wonderful reception my filmmaking seminar and the international premiere of Justice Is Mind received, it was a combined holiday and business trip I will never forget.

I have traveled with a variety of cruise lines, but Cunard’s approach simply brings back a time when sailing by ocean liner was the way everyone traveled. The Art Deco design throughout the ship with artwork of Cunard’s history on display creates an atmosphere of a bygone era updated for the modern traveler.

Afternoon Tea in the Queen's Room.

Afternoon Tea in the Queen’s Room.

My mother and I sailed with Cunard in 2006 on the Queen Mary 2, so we had an idea of what to expect. But as this voyage also combined a filmmaking seminar I was presenting along with the international premiere of Justice Is Mind, it helped to know the atmosphere prior to boarding.

Just before the start of my filmmaking seminar.

Just before the start of my filmmaking seminar.

A cruise invites one to socialize. To participate. To engage with new people from all other the world. From the author of The Witcher Keys by a guest to My Way to the Seven Seas by a crew member, to lecturers like Kim Sharman of the Royal Navy, the creative energy on the ship was just amazing.

With fellow lecturer Kim Sharman at the Captain's Cocktail Party.

With fellow lecturer Kim Sharman at the Captain’s Cocktail Party.

But amazing also goes to the quality of food on board. I think someone at Cunard took a page from The Lord of the Rings. There is literally sometimes 1st breakfast and 2nd breakfast followed by “elevenses”, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner (thankfully we had late seating at 8:30 PM!).  Experiencing quintessential afternoon tea by the English on board an ocean liner is something not to be missed.  While I loved the Britannia Restaurant, our favorite place to dine was the Verandah Restaurant. Simply put, two of the best meals I have ever had.

A formal evening.

A formal evening.

Of course it was Justice Is Mind that brought us halfway around the world. A film that started as an idea back in 2010 landed us on the Queen Elizabeth one of “The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World”®. While my filmmaking seminar was relatively standard on the process of creating a motion picture with Justice Is Mind as an example, this would be the first time in the history of the film that we would screen to an audience that had no connection to the project. Suffice to say, I was more than a bit anxious on how it would be received. Justice Is Mind is not a standard drama. From mind reading via an MRI, to courtroom battles, to reincarnation all the way back to World War II, it’s, as one reviewer put it, “A thinker with a psychological edge”.

In Venice, Italy.

In Venice, Italy.

When the credits started to role the audience erupted in applause. Relieved, happy and grateful immediately came to mind. Some offered hugs while others stated their sheer enjoyment of the film. Oh I’m sure there were those that didn’t care for it, but when I was hearing words of support from guests throughout the rest of the voyage, it was a great feeling.

Click here for more photos from on board the Queen Elizabeth and here for the wonderful ports of call.

Touring the Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy.

Touring the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy.

My heartfelt thanks to Cunard for selecting me as a guest lecturer and for the staff and crew on board the Queen Elizabeth for welcoming my mother and me on the trip of a lifetime. And, of course, to the guests of the Queen Elizabeth that sailed on voyage Q418.  Indeed, an adventure, a holiday, an experience to be remembered forever.

The journey continues.

The daily program promoting the international premiere of Justice Is Mind.

The daily program promoting the international premiere of Justice Is Mind.


International Premiere

The international premiere of Justice Is Mind will take place on the Queen Elizabeth on October 29.

The international premiere of Justice Is Mind will take place on the Queen Elizabeth on October 29.

As my mother and I prepare to leave for Europe this week for the international premiere of Justice Is Mind on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth, I was more than pleased to see that Justice received three excellent reviews and some great comments on Amazon.

We are over a year out from our world premiere and yet activity around Justice Is Mind continues. This isn’t by sheer happenstance, it’s because I keep marketing the film. There have been so many articles in the trades as of late on adjusting release strategies based on windowing from theatrical to VOD. For me, I just keep marketing and promoting.

Sure, I have other projects I’m promoting like First World and SOS United States for development, but how long does a social media post take or a pitch to a media outlet or even a theater?  I also plan to start writing the sequel to Justice Is Mind next month, so continued awareness is great for a variety of reasons.

The Royal Court Theatre where I will present a filmmaking seminar and the screening of Justice Is Mind.

The Royal Court Theatre where I will present a filmmaking seminar and the screening of Justice Is Mind.

When I read comments like, “Justice is Mind is a lot more compelling than I had anticipated. It had my attention” Movie Waffler, “The greatest strength Justice Is Mind has is in making you think” Fraking Films and “Mr. Lund has put up well-balanced and paced movie about a probable future” Examiner, these reviews certainly are a motivator. But it was a fan from Amazon that reached out to me with a wonderful email that stated in part, “your ability to make such an intriguing and important film, with fabulous continuity, honesty, realism, and passion deserves attention and recognition” that really made my day.  Of course you aren’t going to please everyone and any filmmaker that thinks they are going to lives in fantasyland. But as a consummate optimist I just focus on the positive.

Positive, of course, is the upcoming international premiere of Justice Is Mind. Yes, as you can imagine I’m more than excited for this screening. First, the opportunity to present the film to a completely new audience is great, but the setting itself is one that is not only truly unique but my preferred method of travel.  Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passion for the history of ocean liners and that bygone era of travel. Now modernized with a fleet of three ships that sail the world to exotic ports of call, no brand does it better than Cunard. With over a century and a half of leading the industry, Cunard blends yesterday and today with its grand fleet of ocean liners.  I’ll do my best to post pictures from the sailing.

Justice Review-page-0

Speaking of pictures, I had the opportunity to go back in front of the camera this week for an appearance on The Folklorist. This Emmy award winning series has produced some amazing content since their inception and has featured a variety of actors that I have worked with over the years. For this episode, I had the great pleasure to work with Jeffrey Phillips. Not only did he play the President in the short film version of First World but I also cast him as George Katz in Justice Is Mind.  Yes, whenever I see him I call him “Mr. President”.  I also had a great time working with Kathy LaShay Berenson who played one of the Reincar Scientific executives and Gale Argentine who played the emergency room doctor in Justice Is Mind. Indeed, it is a small world.  The episode is scheduled to air on November 6. It will also stream on their website at this link.

Bon Voyage!

On the Folklorist.

On The Folklorist.


Away Mission

International Premiere-page-0

In a little over a week my mother and I leave for the international premiere of Justice Is Mind on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Yes, we are both very excited.  This will be our second cruise with Cunard having previously sailed on the Queen Mary 2 in 2006. As a “working holiday” the Justice Is Mind schedule is as follows: on October 25th I present a filmmaking seminar to guests with the international premiere on October 29th.

I recently found the pictures from our cruise on the Queen Mary 2. During that voyage I just finished making First World. I remember sitting in the theater watching a movie on the ship and thinking to myself how cool it would be to have a movie of my own screen on an ocean liner. Well, that thought seven years ago will soon be a reality.

The Commonwealth v. Henri Miller will soon be seen at sea on the Queen Elizabeth.

The Commonwealth v. Henri Miller will soon be seen at sea on the Queen Elizabeth.

And while I think of the many “away missions” we have had for Justice Is Mind with our various screenings, this one will be particularly special as it combines a reinvention.  As the ocean liner industry reinvented itself after the arrival of passenger aircraft, so has the motion picture industry. Sure, gone are the days that ocean liners brought immigrants like my great grandmother to the United States from Sweden on the S.S. Sicilia in 1895 or theaters that for the price of one ticket you could stay all day and watch more than one movie.  But like those bygone days, they simply reinvented their industry based on experience.

As for reinvention, I used to be a magazine publisher. I would come up with ideas for stories, write outlines and then have a production team create a magazine. Along the way, I produced direct response TV commercials, corporate videos and major events (some on cruise ships).  So while Justice Is Mind is being presented on an ocean liner, in a theatre at sea by this filmmaker, it represents what’s possible in an age of transition.

Amazon.com  Justice Is Mind

And while the cruise industry is nicely sailing along, the film industry continues to go through so many changes when it comes to production and distribution. With Amazon announcing new original programming and Netflix getting into film production, it’s no wonder that theaters are concerned about their ever shrinking windows and revenue. But you know what? There will always be theaters. It’s just a matter of what they chose to screen and how they do it.

“Hollywood” didn’t collapse when TV was invented and theaters won’t empty because Amazon and Netflix are ramping up production. In my view you can never have enough production because at the end of the day it’s up to the consumer what they want. Sure, we are getting more and more into niche interests, but we also have more choices than ever in terms of where we want to watch a movie. I still go to the theater of course, but for the first time I watched a movie on my new smartphone.

A recent article in The Wrap talked about changing the pitch process to include “big data”. As this data is collected by theaters and VOD platforms, that’s how I pitch Justice Is Mind for screening opportunities. In addition to loglines and press reports, I use data from attendee demographics to internet and social media engagement.  Now more than ever, filmmakers have more tools to present their projects.

A new age.

Justice Is Mind - Cunard


International Market

Check out Fraking Films piece on Justice Is Mind.

Check out Fraking Films piece on Justice Is Mind.

In a few short weeks, Justice Is Mind will have its International Premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Indeed, for more reasons that I can count, I am looking forward to this trip. And with my PowerPoint filmmaking seminar completed and all the other details attended to, it just comes down to the final organization before I leave for Rome.

Justice Is Mind is now in the international market. Since our arrival on, VHX, Viewster and Amazon (with other VOD platforms to follow), our film has left its domestic home for an international audience. Our screening on the Queen Elizabeth will be the launch event. I cannot think of a more fitting setting than an ocean liner in the Mediterranean Ocean. For the first time in the history of the film, those in the audience will have no direct connection to the movie other than their interest in seeing it.  At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about as a filmmaker. Introducing your work to new audiences.

The process of marketing Justice Is Mind internationally started back in 2011 when the short film version was produced. Did I know where Justice Is Mind was eventually going to go? No, of course not. No filmmaker has a crystal ball that can predict the future. What we do have is hope, ambition and determination and work tirelessly to accomplish what we do.

A never before published behind the scenes photo. Preparing to film the primary memory sequence that takes place in 1944 Germany.

A never before published behind the scenes photo. Preparing to film the primary memory sequence that takes place in 1944 Germany.

But as I’ve learned from our theatrical screenings, reviews and articles, every film needs to have some sort of hook to target and reach an audience. Theatrical screenings have been pivotal to Justice. With each one I learn something new whether it be demographics or areas of the film that resonate with an audience.  Live screenings give a filmmaker a chance to interact with an audience that VOD will never really be able to do. While VOD is the revenue generator for independent film, it’s the theatrical audiences that are the driving force.

There have been so many discussions on the pros and cons of theatrical and VOD, particularly when it comes to windows. I can easily see the point of the theatres. Why would they want a film to also be available on VOD the same day it’s released in theaters? From a filmmakers point of view, it comes down to revenue and getting a maximum return on a limited marketing budget. This is a conversation and debate that will long continue.

This past week I made a variety of presentations for First World and SOS United States. And while making these pitches, I offered a hook on why I think they are marketable commercial projects. For First World, there is a new space race between governments and corporations. For SOS United States, we have a global military coalition targeting a variety of worldwide situations.

But until those projects get funded, the marketing focus is on Justice Is Mind. Just yesterday a great mini-feature was published on Fraking Films. Always nice when a story starts, “Today I’m excited to share with you a great looking indie film called Justice Is Mind.”

Exciting times.

Party to a Trial


On Course

Amazon.com  Justice Is Mind

On Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video

Although Justice Is Mind has been on Amazon Prime Instant Video for over a week, our “official” press release and email newsletter went out yesterday. With our social media efforts as part of the Viewster Online Film Festival and our theatrical screening in Chatham last week, I didn’t want this milestone to get lost. You can read our press release at this link.

Indeed this was a milestone. Having Justice Is Mind on both Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video in SD and HD formats opens up a world of possibilities. Getting on to Amazon Instant Video is a very straightforward process, but Amazon Prime is a different story. Simply, Amazon has to approve your film and I didn’t know what was going to happen until the film went live. But with this approval we are now in front of another 20+ million that subscribe to Amazon Prime. A special thanks to KinoNation our VOD distributor.

In addition to Amazon, Justice Is Mind is available on VHX and Reelhouse with bonus material and, at least until October 13, Viewster.  I was more than pleased with our participation in Viewster’s festival. We generated some great conversations in the comments section and had a solid social media presence.  Hopefully we will be able to extend our placement on Viewster.  Additional VOD platforms will be coming online soon.

Justice Is Mind – Viewster

This past week I was working on my filmmaking seminar that will take place on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth a few days before our International Premiere on October 29. When I was looking at the PowerPoint slides I was reflecting on the journey Justice Is Mind has taken from concept to screen. That’s what makes this business so exciting and such a rollercoaster. From the quiet times of planning to the highs of a screening.

Over the last several weeks, I have been presenting both SOS United States and First World for development. And like Justice Is Mind, I know this journey can take some time to accomplish. Not a week goes by when I read in the trades of a film that took time to come to fruition. For some projects its months, for some its years.  And once a film is made, you are still with the project for years after. I was reading about one producer in the trades who said something on the order of, “When I decide to invest in a film I have to ask myself do I want to be in business with that person for five years or more.”  It’s true, because the journey of a film doesn’t stop at the world premiere, in fact that’s when it begins again.

The opening slide of my filmmaking seminar

The opening slide of my filmmaking seminar.

Point in fact, no sooner did my email newsletter go out and a major science fiction convention reached out to screen Justice Is Mind in January, 2015. How did this connection come about? I screened First World with them in 2008.  As I’ve said before, I’ll say again, this is an industry about building long-term relationships.

What I learned when publishing magazines, I have taken to my filmmaking work. There’s no limit on where you can present your project. What it comes down to is determination, dedication, perseverance and a team that believes in the work, and more importantly, you.

Onward.

SOSposter (704x1024)


Family Affair

With actors from Justice Is Mind at the Chatham Orpheum - the Cape Cod Premiere

With actors from Justice Is Mind at the Chatham Orpheum – The Cape Cod Premiere

As a filmmaker, there’s nothing more exciting than attending a theatrical screening of your film.  But the Cape Cod Premiere of Justice Is Mind this past Thursday at the Chatham Orpheum was particularly special.  Why? I had two sets of family attending this screening. My real family and the “Justice” family.

Thursday was our 12th theatrical screening (19th overall) and over the past year various cast members (and some crew) have attended the screenings.  These reunions are always terrific. Sure, we all have our own lives, but the screenings are a reunion of friends as we celebrate something we all worked on together.  For so many of us involved in this project, producing a feature film was a dream come true. It’s moments like this that should be enjoyed.

Also in attendance was my real family as well. In addition to my mother who played a member of the jury, my cousin, who lives in Dennis, and her brother and his wife who were visiting from Minnesota, joined the festivities. As I shot my first short film (First World) in Dennis at my cousin’s house in 2006, it was nice to show them where this journey as a filmmaker has taken me over the years.

With my mother (far right) and cousins

With my mother (far right) and cousins

But our screening last week was just different. For me it felt like one big party.  I think this was due in large part to the atmosphere of the Chatham Orpheum itself. An intimate, state of the art venue that seats 147. In addition, there’s a full restaurant/bar in the lobby that just creates this social atmosphere of excitement around the experience of watching a movie. Add in friends and family and presto…party!

We are now entering the last four days of the Viewster Online Film Festival.  In addition to being able to watch Justice Is Mind for FREE at this link, you can also vote, share and comment. Viewers also have the opportunity win a FREE trip to London for two! I have to say I think Viewster has done a fantastic job with this online film festival. For a film like Justice Is Mind we are able to present it to the world, for Viewster it brings in new audiences to their site. It’s a win-win for all involved.

Watch Justice Is Mind for FREE on Viewster

Watch Justice Is Mind for FREE on Viewster

With Justice Is Mind now available on Amazon and shortly coming online to other VOD platforms, I now focus on the upcoming international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth for the end of October. Although my PowerPoint presentation for the filmmaking seminar I’m hosting onboard has been done for a few weeks, now I work on my narration.

The one thing I love about movies is the discovery aspect. Sure Justice Is Mind is still being actively marketed, but how about when someone comes across it twenty years from now? One of my favorite courtroom dramas is Witness for the Prosecution. Made in 1957, I first came across the film several years ago. Thankfully with the proliferation of VOD, movies are discoverable with a simple search on what you are interested in watching.

Of course development continues for SOS United States and First World. For every filmmaker there is that journey to secure investment. But now that I’ve traveled this road once already, I have a better map on direction. Because if there’s one thing that’s always changing direction, it’s the film industry.

The high seas.

International Premiere-page-0


Theater Online

Watch Justice Is Mind for free on Viewster!

Watch Justice Is Mind for free on Viewster!

Who would have thought that just over a year after our world premiere we would be part of worldwide online contest, have a theatrical screening, go live on one of the world’s largest VOD platforms and have an international premiere in just over a month on an ocean liner? What this tells me is that all films are not created equal in terms of “following the book of distribution” and that sometimes things just take time to build. But to say I am thankful to the cast, crew, theaters, reporters and distributors that have worked with us would be a vast understatement. And then there are the audiences that have supported Justice Is Mind since the beginning. From a social post to attending a screening, without an audience a project will goes nowhere.

On Thursday, September 11, Justice Is Mind went live on Viewster’s Online Film Festival. Click this link to watch for FREE. In addition you can vote, comment and participate with social media for the opportunity to win a free trip for two to London! For those of you that will share our link socially, Viewster asks that you include the hashtag #VOFF. Please hashtag #JUSTICEISMIND as well! Our official press release can be found at this link.

Justice Is Mind on the marquee at the Chatham Orpheum Theater!

Justice Is Mind on the marquee at the Chatham Orpheum Theater!

And this coming Thursday, September 18, Justice Is Mind will have its Cape Cod Premiere at the Chatham Orpheum Theater. While this will be our 19th screening, for me personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the “Justice family” again. Indeed, I was quoted about that in the Cape Cod Times this past week in a great article of support for the screening. I’ve been involved in so many productions and events over the years but, for some reason, Justice is special. The reporter asked me about this and my response was pretty straight forward, all of us involved were on a collective mission to see the project all the way to the end. I know I’ve set the bar high for my next film, but that’s what this industry is all about raising the bar. Speaking of bar, they have one at the Chatham Orpheum. I will most certainly be having a drink…or two!

I also wanted to extend a thank you to the Cape Cod Chronicle and the Worcester Herald for their coverage of our September 18 screening. Supportive media are a driving component to building audiences.

Justice Is Mind now on Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video!

Justice Is Mind now on Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video!

But it was this morning that Justice Is Mind went live on its first major VOD platform through Kinonation. I’m pleased to announce that Justice is available on Amazon Prime and Instant Video. Now in addition to Viewster’s 18 million plus, we are part of a platform with Amazon that not only delivers 20 million plus through Amazon Prime, but another countless millions through Amazon Instant Video. For anyone that has purchased anything through Amazon, or sells on Amazon, we are all aware of the power of this platform.  Like Viewster, Amazon is algorithm based. The more views, comments (good or bad), likes, shares, etc. helps a film succeed. I can only speak from experience working with them on First World. A special thanks to Roger Jackson and his team at Kinonation. Filmmakers, check them out. They are great to work with.

Next stop…The Chatham Orpheum Theater!

Justice Is Mind magazine poster


Official Selection

Festival_Logos_2_RGB

On September 11, 2014 at 3 PM GMT the Viewster Online Film Festival (#VOFF) will commence and run through September 25.  The public will decide if Justice Is Mind advances to the jury who will announce the winners at the Raindance Film Festival in the United Kingdom on October 5th. While everyone wants to win, I’m just honored that Justice Is Mind was selected. For the first time, worldwide audiences will have the opportunity to see Justice Is Mind online for FREE.  As soon as the direct link to Justice Is Mind is sent to us by Viewster, I will post it here…and promote the hell out of it!

What’s terrific about Viewster’s festival schedule is that, for our film, it runs right through our Cape Code Premiere on September 18 at the Chatham Orpheum Theater. This is akin to the popular “day and date” releases I have been reading about for the last few years. How it impacts on Justice Is Mind will be very interesting. Will we see a spike in votes? Praise? Critiques? Whatever plays out, it can only help.

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The one thing all filmmakers love is organization. Both Viewster and the Chatham Orpheum Theater are so wonderfully organized. From the “creators kit” Viewster sends its filmmakers to the Chatham Orpheum’s staff and marketing team, it’s a filmmakers dream working with organizations that want to work with you.

I know it sounds cliché, but we are all in this together. VOD platforms and theaters need quality content and filmmakers need distribution outlets from traditional to digital. As I’ve said before, I will say again, I cannot stress enough the importance of both. Theatrical screenings build audience, awareness and press that just benefits you when you go to VOD. Likewise, VOD provides long term revenue to filmmakers.  The old adage if you build it they will come, in my view, just doesn’t apply to movies. You have to market to call attention to yourself. If you aren’t going to toot your own horn who is?

My PowerPoint presentation was approved by Cunard.

A sample slide from my PowerPoint presentation that was approved by Cunard.

Speaking about promoting, I’ve been reading the daily trade reports coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival. Again, it’s an honor if your film is selected, but dear lord the competition for attention is beyond the beyond.  When you read about the quiet market and how distributors are now placing films with A list cast on direct platforms like Vimeo on Demand, you know this is an industry in transition. But I still hold true to consumer curation. As long as a film is “findable”, audiences will watch what they want to watch either in a theater or online.

For anyone that has followed me on any regular basis, you know I’m all about marketing. Simply put it doesn’t matter what you do if nobody knows about it. When I first published niche sports magazines in the early 1990s, well before anything called the internet, we had, and still do to some degree, this wonderful device called direct mail. You can be sure that when the net came into reality I put our web address on our direct mail efforts. I was advised by so many “experts” not to do that. Seriously. Isn’t it up to the consumer how they want to buy your product? The same holds true for film, you just have to be in as many places as possible. You want to hear conversations like, “I saw this at the Orpheum” “I watched it on Viewster” and after October “I saw it on the Queen Elizabeth”.

From the global platform of Viewster to the intimate audiences at a state of the art theater like the Chatham Orpheum, this will be a tremendously exciting month for Justice Is Mind.

Day and date.

Justice Poster 4-page-0


The Interview

One Man's Trial-page-0

Since Justice Is Mind premiered last August I’ve been interviewed by a variety of reporters. Whether they were about the legal aspects, the loss of privacy or the science fiction of the FVMRI procedure, each one of these interviews had a particular angle. For the record, I am beyond thankful for each article. As a former magazine publisher I know how inundated editors and reporters are from the countless pitches they receive.  When they take the time to write about our independent film it makes this journey all the more special.

This past week I was interviewed by a reporter who asked me what my motivation was to make Justice Is Mind given how hard this industry is. My answer came quick, “To see it accomplished.” When one thinks of the numerous obstacles one must overcome to produce, complete and distribute a feature film, there is an innate sense of satisfaction seeing a project years in the making go from thought to screen. I remember sitting next to my best friend and her husband who backed the film in Albany, NY at our world premiere, and being beyond excited to see the start of Justice Is Mind on the big screen. Indeed, I know this excitement was shared with the over 200 people involved to make Justice Is Mind a reality.

First World starts when President Kennedy addresses a  joint session of the United States Congress on May 25, 1961.

First World starts when President Kennedy addresses a joint session of the United States Congress on May 25, 1961.

As I’ve said before, I’ll say again, navigating this industry is not easy by any stretch. No matter what side of the camera you are on, the competition is endless. I shudder to think how many times we all heard the word “no” throughout our respective journeys.  A couple of weeks ago when a parent asked me what advice I could offer his son who wanted to be an actor, I offered the same answer a producer gave me when I was 18, “You have to want this industry more than anything.” Watch the movie All About Eve when the character Bill Sampson sums up what it takes.

The next two months will be nicely busy for Justice Is Mind. With our Cape Cod premiere on September 18 at the Chatham Orpheum Theater, the Viewster Online Film Festival from September 11-25 and our international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth on October 29, the journey continues.  Part of this journey was the Chatham Orpheum Theater’s press release. Check it out at this link.

In SOS United States a Cyber Pearl Harbor cripples the nation's military satellites.

In SOS United States a Cyber Pearl Harbor cripples the nation’s military satellites.

And while Justice Is Mind is introduced to new audiences, I continue to present First World and SOS United States. When I set out to write a screenplay, I write a story that’s interesting to me. Who would have thought that when Justice Is Mind was released that mind-reading and loss of privacy would be so front and center in the news. With First World it has been interesting to see where China is today with their space program versus when I wrote the script in 2006. As for SOS United States, who could have guessed that the military situations I presented in that story are so prevalent now. But putting that all aside, if it’s one thing I learned about investors, the pitch process is never the same as they all have different motivations.  Adaptability is key.

The voyage continues.

Justice Is Mind - Chatham - September 18, 2014


The First Anniversary

Justice Is Mind will have its Cape Cod premiere at the Chatham Orpheum Theater on September 18, 2014

Justice Is Mind will have its Cape Cod premiere at the Chatham Orpheum Theater on September 18, 2014

It was one year ago to the day (tomorrow technically) that Justice Is Mind had its world premiere at the Capital District Film Festival in Albany, New York at the beautiful Palace Theatre.  Family and friends of cast and crew were coming in from all over the United States to celebrate the debut of an independent film four years in the making. I might add that the weather was perfect.

Although my mother and I arrived the day before it wasn’t long that I started to see some of the actors that I hadn’t seen since we wrapped production the previous October. I remember one of the first people I saw was Mary Wexler who plays Judge Wagner. We were having lunch and I said to my mother, “Here comes the judge!”  Our world premiere wasn’t just the debut of Justice Is Mind it was a great reunion of new friends.

Justice Is Mind is an official selection of the Viewster Online Film Festival from September 11-25, 2014

Justice Is Mind is an official selection of the Viewster Online Film Festival from September 11-25, 2014

The premiere went off without a hitch. No sooner did I arrive home and I started to work the phones and email. I was already pitching Justice Is Mind to distributors and I was waiting to hear back from certain film festivals we submitted to, but since Albany the film had a momentum. A momentum I wasn’t going to put on hold while waiting for others to get back to me. Before I knew it, we had the Massachusetts premiere at the Strand Theatre followed by the Maine premiere at the Levitt Theatre and so on. The theatrical screenings continued and included universities and science fiction conventions. Justice Is Mind was finding its way in a sea of films looking for attention.

The theater in the Queen Elizabeth where Justice Is Mind will have its international premiere on October 29, 2014

The theatre in the Queen Elizabeth where Justice Is Mind will have its international premiere on October 29, 2014

With our international premiere coming up on October 29 on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth, I am delighted to announce two new developments since my last post. Justice Is Mind will have its Cape Cod premiere on September 18 at the beautifully restored Chatham Orpheum Theater in Chatham, Massachusetts! And on the film festival front Justice was accepted into the Viewster Online Film Festival out of Zurich, Switzerland that will commence on September 11 and run until the 25th! I’d say it was a good week.

When I was looking through the collection of photos taken during our many travels this year, I cannot be more thankful to the cast, crew, theatres and patrons that have supported Justice Is Mind.  Generally a film is released, plays theatres for a bit and then goes to VOD/DVD in what is becoming increasingly shorter windows. But here we are, a full year later, and Justice Is Mind is still…dare I say it…top of mind?

I think what has made this journey so successful is that all of us associated with Justice, and even our partners along the way, have taken a collective approach to promoting the film to the best of our ability without taking the spotlight off the project. The amount of work that goes into making a feature film is colossal.  Sure, we all have “next projects” we are working on, but as long as there is an interest, as long as there is the will, there is always a…

Next screening.

At the world premiere of Justice Is Mind on August 18, 2013 at the Palace Theatre in Albany, New York

At the world premiere of Justice Is Mind on August 18, 2013 at the Palace Theatre in Albany, New York