Minding a Franchise
Last Monday I finished the first draft of the sequel to Justice Is Mind. By the early reports from those that have read it, they really enjoy the story. Certainly as a first draft there are edits, but all in all, I’m happy with it. It’s a continuation and expansion of the original story.
I think in the back of my mind I always had the idea for the sequel and planted clues all along the way in Justice Is Mind. Now with the sequel completed, it is also set up to continue as a pitch for a TV series.
When I first started to contemplate the sequel there were a variety of things that I knew would encompass a continuation. First, the sequel would start where the original left off. With a sequel you have to assume that some won’t see the original so you need some background to carry it forward. As I’ve publicly stated, Henri Miller has not been killed. It’s his resurrection that bridges the world of science and mysticism. From intelligence agencies, to secret courts, to scientific companies and the exploits of the Miller family, the story concludes at the Supreme Court of the United States.
The majority of the characters from Justice Is Mind return, but it’s in the sequel where we learn more about them and their various motivations. Combining the original characters with a variety of new voices, brings a new story to life that travels from New England, to Washington, DC, to Germany, Russia and Italy. From Senator Caraway leading the congressional investigation into pre-life memories to General Blair of Joint Special Operations Command on terrorism in Washington, DC to the President of Reincar Scientific. But through all this, the story centers around the Miller family. From the horrors of World War II to the present, the secrets of the Miller family are revealed in vivid detail.
In all my writing and research over the years, I can’t remember tackling something as involved as the sequel to Justice Is Mind. From past life regression, to intelligence operations, to the secretive FISA court, to Germany in World War II and studying case law and procedure for the Supreme Court of the United States. Personally, that’s one area of writing I enjoy – the research. You wind up learning things that you would probably never know unless you experienced it personally or actually wrote about it. While a satisfying experience, it is a labored one. This is why I’m such an advocate for laying the foundation with a complete and vetted script. The last thing I want to think of during production is the story, I just want to shoot.
While Justice Is Mind has 42 speaking parts (not including extras), the sequel has 61 with Margaret and Henri Miller leading in the number of dialogues and scenes. In so many ways the production of Justice Is Mind was a proving ground in terms of what was possible to accomplish. The sequel takes it up a deserving few notches – Margaret, Henri and Cast of Hundreds. Yes, a slight turn in title to a book about the making of my favorite film of all time –Gone With the Wind. For those that love that movie, I highly recommend Scarlett, Rhett, and a cast of thousands: The Filming of Gone With the Wind.
Those that follow me know me well enough that I’ve already started the process of developing the sequel for production. But that being said, a few observations of the New England entertainment market. We need a TV series in the region that incorporates a diverse set of talent – both known and unknown. As Justice Is Mind proved, talent on both sides of the camera need not be a household name for success.
What’s next? Synopsis.
This past week the editor for Justice Is Mind completed the rough cut of the film. The estimated running time is 2 hours and 26 minutes (146 minutes). I say estimated as it may run a little longer or a little shorter depending on a variety of factors. For me, I generally enjoy longer films. As long as the story moves along, the length shouldn’t matter.
Two of my favorite movies Judgment at Nuremberg (186 minutes) and The Andromeda Strain (131 minutes) were my biggest influences when writing Justice Is Mind. In Judgment the courtroom testimony is evenly balanced between the prosecution and defense. Likewise in Andromeda, the science is explained and demonstrated.
What bothers me the most in some contemporary films is the rush to explanation or worse no explanation at all for a moment that obviously needs one. This is why I have always loved Star Trek, Space: 1999 and the like, they actually explain the science even though such science may not have been invented yet. The audience just wants to hear and see something—thus to be influenced, thus to set the stage for future writers.
This isn’t to say you throw everything and the kitchen sink into a story because you can. I do agree that every scene has to have some sort of contribution to move the story forward. But I always enjoy seeing the characters do something to enhance the substance of their character but not necessarily contribute to the plot or story.
I’m rather passionate about this part of the process not just because I wrote the screenplay, but because I’ve been part of projects when someone took out a chain saw and gutted a story to conform with some sort of perceived “industry standard running time”. The results on these occasions haven’t been pleasant to watch. Incomplete characters, unfinished storylines and story plot holes you could lose a semi in. It’s one thing when you submit a 120 page screenplay to a production company, they option it and they want you to trim to 100 or 110 pages before they start shooting. You either make the changes or you don’t. If you sold/optioned the screenplay to them they can probably do anything they want with “your” story so if they ask you to make the changes, why not at least try rather than let someone do it who really doesn’t know the nuances of your story. But that’s just one example.
When Justice Is Mind is sold to a distributor, I’m sure they will have a variety of areas that need to be adjusted, dubbed or cut. One high profile example that came out of Sundance was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon’s Addiction. Gordon-Levitt will need to cut a graphic sex scene just to secure an R rating. This is when the distributor comes in to have a story adjusted to fit the particular platform. In Justice, while there are no sex scenes, there are several occasions when the ‘F’ word is used. That will be fine for theatrical, but would quickly be dubbed for broadcast television. But am I interested in censoring this now? Not at all. Justice will premiere as it was intended to be told. When someone is holding a checkbook, I will be more than happy to make adjustments.
And speaking of the checkbook, I am pleased to announce that our distributor IndieFlix informed me yesterday that Justice Is Mind: Evidence will be available on Roku next week with Xbox shortly to follow. Look for our press release soon.