Tomorrow night at 7 PM the 18th screening of Justice Is Mind will take place at The Elm Draught House Cinema in Millbury, Massachusetts. Like all our prior screenings, there’s both excitement and nerves. What filmmaker isn’t excited to see their film in a theatre but on the other side they’re nervous because they want to make sure audiences enjoy the film. For me, I truly enjoy attending these screenings. Meeting audiences and hearing their comments is what it’s all about. As writers we tend to work in a vacuum of seclusion, but as a director you are the public face of the film.
As director, I could not be more pleased with the local media support of this screening. The Millbury Sutton Chronicle, Webster Times, Yankee Shopper and Smart Shopper, have all supported Justice Is Mind’s May 19 screening in print. And Bob Leveillee’s Pizza Post radio spot on WTAG and WSRS along with our social media efforts have really rounded out the media plan. Print media reached the towns of Auburn, Dudley, Charlton, Oxford, Webster, Grafton, Douglas, Northbridge, Sutton and Uxbridge. The Yankee Shopper states a reach of over 65,000 mailed copies and WTAG and WSRS report a reach of over 170,000 in central Massachusetts which includes Worcester. For an independent film, with just the will of those associated with the project, notice of this screening has potentially reached 235,000 and that doesn’t include our social media efforts. As always, it will be interesting to see how many are in attendance tomorrow.
This week someone in our local acting community posted a video from a pretty popular filmmaking group that claimed that nearly 90% of filmmakers don’t engage in social media or want much to do with marketing. I find this really unbelievable on so many levels. First, as director, don’t you want to be involved in where and how your film is marketed? Second, unless you’re living under a rock, even distributors, with their substantially reduced marketing budgets for independent films, expect filmmakers to assist in marketing. Personally, unless the deal was financially worthwhile, I would be hard pressed to relinquish control until I reviewed a media plan. Think about it. How many times do we have to read in the trades that a film misfired with audiences because of the way marketing was handled? Transcendence anyone?
In the next few weeks, I’ll be announcing the “International Premiere of Justice Is Mind”. To say I’m excited about this upcoming screening would be a vast understatement. Months in the works, with months to go for planning, I signed off on the paperwork last week.
It was two years ago this month that I announced that funding had been secured to produce Justice Is Mind. I remember that day and where I was very clearly. I was in the Washington, DC area screening the short film version Evidence at a sci-fi convention with Vernon Aldershoff. When I think of the journey so many of us have taken with this film and where we are still going, it truly has been one of the most exciting times of my life. But with that excitement has come dedication, hard work and determination to see a project from start to market.
Speaking of starts, look for the concept poster for SOS United States in the next couple of weeks.
See you at The Elm!
Since Justice Is Mind had its world premiere on August 18, 2013, we have been very fortunate to secure media placements in connection with our screenings. While social media is part of the mix, it is only one ingredient in the recipe. Simply put a third party story drives audiences and awareness. These placements do not come automatically. A press release is written, the media is sourced and then the pitch is made. Each outlet has a defined set of criteria from frequency to what their audience wants. As a former magazine publisher, I remember what used to get my attention and what was quickly discarded. What I find is that it usually comes down to timing and if a subject matter is going to be interesting to their readership.
As we are now moving towards VOD and foreign screenings, I’ve started to present Justice to reviewers for consideration. Just having a film on a VOD platform isn’t enough, you seriously have to light a fire of awareness to drive traffic (just like our theatrical screenings).
When William Meeker of Frisco Kid at the Movies was interested in reviewing Justice, I was really looking forward to what he thought about the film. His reviews are thoughtful, detailed and thorough. I’m pleased to present his review of Justice Is Mind at this link.
With his four star review, as a filmmaker, I particularly enjoyed his statement, “Lund’s screenplay achieves Hunter’s recommended individualism by setting these topics in the context of relevant and important sociopolitical issues currently being debated in the United States.” Suffice to say, these are the points I wanted to make in the film. But it’s not just about what I enjoyed, it’s the whole evaluation of the film that really made his review stand out.
Our May 19 screening at The Elm Draught House Cinema is coming up soon and with that we turn to local media, most of which is scheduled to run this coming week. First, I could not be more thankful to Bob Leveillee of Pizza Post for his support. From the radio spot he is running, to the local media in connection with his business. While the phrase “win win” is terribly overused in the world of business, this is a perfect example of how it should work—Justice Is Mind and Pizza Post increase their awareness and customer base through mutual cooperation. In an overly complicated world of “buzzwords” on how to market (particularly a film), it really comes down to a tried and true concept of joint benefit. As I’ve so often had to say to those that try to over analyze the world of marketing, “We aren’t launching a space shuttle, we are [fill in the blank].”
Speaking of the space shuttle, I am back to presenting First World and SOS United States to producers and investors. On that note an investor who has financed film projects has requested both scripts and business plans. This is a journey that every filmmaker makes. It is a journey that takes time, planning and above all patience. With Cannes underway we are already seeing some very interesting, but not surprising, reports in the Hollywood Reporter “Take Note, Hollywood: The New Movie Money is Here” and “Cannes: Fewer Star-Fueled Projects Are Coming to a Lean Market.”
“I am particularly impressed with the strong performance of…” – Frisco Kid at the Movies.
As I was driving to Pittsburgh last Sunday for our screening the following day at Carnegie Mellon University, I had plenty of time to think. For me, I’m always planning ahead. Projecting that next plan for Justice Is Mind and other projects I have in development. Ask anyone who has worked with me, or even remotely knows me, I don’t live in the past but simply reflect on it.
The following day as I arrived at Carnegie Mellon University and saw Vernon Aldershoff’s truck (Vern stars as Henri Miller) I realized another milestone had been achieved for the film—we were screening at the very heart of what inspired me to write Justice Is Mind in the first place. From our world premiere in Albany last August to our screening at Carnegie, each one of our screenings is carefully planned, coordinated and executed by a varied team of enthusiasts that make them happen.
Meeting Dr. Marcel Just, and some members of his team, was very inspiring as he talked about some of the latest research they were conducting. Prior to the screening we had a tour of the Brain Imaging Center. It was fascinating to see first-hand where this research was conducted.
Walking into Baker Hall’s Giant Eagle Auditorium there were nearly eighty people in attendance. My sincere thanks to Shilo Rea, the Director of Media Relations for the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, for doing such a masterful job at bringing this screening to life. For the first time in the screening of the film we had an intermission to break for pizza and refreshments sponsored by the school. After the screening, I had a great Q&A with a diverse audience in attendance. From academics, students and administrators to film enthusiasts, indeed the screening could not have gone better.
On the way back from Pittsburgh, my focus turned to our May 19 screening at The Elm Draught House Cinema in Millbury, MA. But before that screening occurs, by the time I publish this post Justice Is Mind will be screening at Penguicon in Detroit. The tour continues!
Our marketing for May 19 is moving along nicely. We had a great write up in the Yankee Shopper and Pizza Post has again sponsored a radio spot to promote the screening. Reflecting on our past screenings, it truly does come down to partnerships to make these happen. With just over two weeks to go until The Elm believe me the follow up and marketing continues right up to the day.
Looking forward, our VOD distributor mentioned to me yesterday that Justice should be available within the next 2-12 weeks depending on the platform. Indeed, as we have been receiving requests for Justice from a variety of different countries, it will be exciting to present Justice to a global audience.
But even while we move towards VOD, our theatrical and event screenings are continuing in earnest. On that note, I’m looking forward to announcing a unique international screening in the next couple of weeks.
Last night I watched the classic Murder on the Orient Express. I have always been a fan of movies that center on a train with one of my particular favorites being The Lady Vanishes. I suppose it’s no surprise that each of these classics were directed by two of my favorites, Sidney Lumet and Alfred Hitchcock respectively. Needless to say I thought Murder on the Orient Express was just brilliant.
When I first started to write screenplays and then produce and direct, perhaps the best advice I was ever given was to simply watch well made films and read their associated screenplays. In all honesty, doesn’t that make the most sense?
One of the compliments I’ve received by the actors in Justice Is Mind and the audiences that have seen it is on the dialogue itself. Scary, I was actually at an industry mixer last year where some “expert” stated to attendees to only write dialogue at a max of 140 characters. Um, people don’t speak Twitter. Just watch one episode of the hit TV show Scandal. The editing is quick, but the character interactions always have a great arc of dialogue.
On Friday my email newsletter and press release went out announcing our next three screenings – April 28 at Carnegie Mellon University, May 4 at Peguicon and May 19 at the Elm Draught House Cinema. The Justice Is Mind tour continues across the United States at three different venues with three distinct audiences. This is what I call the road show before we go public – video on demand (VOD). But to be clear, our theatrical and special event screenings will continue as live screenings and VOD complement each other.
A few days ago an up and coming actor said to me, “I couldn’t imagine being in your shoes trying to steer the ship.” As I mentioned to a variety of people during the production of Justice Is Mind, my prior experience running a publishing company helped enormously when it came to organization and execution. In today’s world, a filmmaker really does have to be on the bridge navigating all the changing waters of this industry. Someday I suspect this actor will be on his own bridge after some years of experience watching others – it’s what I did and continue to do.
Speaking of being on the bridge, the poster concept art for SOS United States is coming along nicely. It’s very exciting when a new project is being developed. For me, after the screenplay and business plan, having a concept poster created really starts to bring a project to life.
It was a producer who I met when I was living in Los Angeles that talked to me about balancing multiple projects. That while one was moving along you should have others in development. But the key was not to get overloaded so that you never leave port with either. It’s really only the last couple of months that I’ve been able to cast an eye onto SOS United States while Justice Is Mind is riding along the tracks of distribution on its way to new audiences.
Next stop. Pittsburgh.
I am pleased to report that Justice Is Mind will have its next theatrical screening on May 19 at The Elm Draught House Cinema in Millbury, Massachusetts. This comes on top of our screening on April 28 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania followed by May 4 at the science fiction convention Penquicon 2014 in Detroit, Michigan.
When the funding came together to produce Justice Is Mind back in 2012, I was only too familiar with the rapid changes engulfing the independent film industry with the decline of DVD, the rise of VOD and the challenges theatres faced with digital conversion. But change, in my view, is a good thing because it simply brings about new opportunity.
I’ve been a proponent of VOD ever since my short film First World ran on Hulu from 2009 to 2011. (It’s now available on Amazon Instant Video). Prior to the VOD release of First World, the film screened at 20 science fiction conventions in 6 countries. Some solid interviews were generated and it laid the foundation for the VOD release. It was a different time back then as social media was relatively non-existent with the exception of MySpace. During that time I simply utilized the tried and true public relations and marketing tools from my days as a magazine publisher. They worked then and they work now.
When it comes to marketing a film, I do believe you need to have a hook. Some reason why a journalist will write about your film, buy a ticket at a theatre or stream your film. None of this is easy and takes continuous promotion and pitches. Seriously gone are the days when you can “build it and they will come”. All of these screenings to live audiences on terra firma are building our foundation for VOD.
“VOD distribution is the ‘new’ DVD distribution at least in the US market.” That statement was part of a spot on post at the Independent Film Blog about marketing a VOD release. In today’s world of independent filmmaking, we know it’s not enough to write the script, raise the funding and produce the film. Filmmakers are also publicists and marketers. Simply put, if we aren’t going to champion our own film, who is?
Over the next two months, Justice Is Mind will travel to Pennsylvania, Michigan and Massachusetts. From one of the world’s most prestigious universities, to one of the largest science fiction conventions to a theatre that is nearly a century old, each venue represents a unique audience to present the same film.
P.S. As some of you know, my best friend Kim Merriam (who played an FVMRI tech in the film) graciously allowed us to use her home as the Miller residence in Justice Is Mind. As she is starting a new chapter in her life, she has put the house up for sale. You can view the listing here.