Marketing planet Earth one project at a time.

Posts tagged “ESPN

In Perspective

When I was interviewed for ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary The Price of Gold, the memories of the events at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships quickly came back to life. It was my first “Nationals” as an accredited journalist for the magazine I recently launched. Little did I know that a plan was in the works that would forever change the sport of figure skating. That plan resulted in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. For those who want to get a solid unbiased perspective on what happened during that time, I strongly suggest you watch the documentary. Director Nanette Burstein did a brilliant job presenting the story.

figure-skating-usaAs I read the industry trades regularly I heard about a movie in development that was presenting the story as a black comedy. How do you make a black comedy around a planned attack? Why do you center it on the skater that was banned from the sport of figure skating due to either her knowledge of, actions, or some other involvement in this vicious attack on another skater?

The entertainment industry is littered with hypocrisy.  I’m sure some producer was well aware of the tens of millions that were captivated then and how successful the ESPN documentary was. But just because there is a perceived market for something, doesn’t mean that it should be produced. This isn’t a story of fiction, this is one of fact. But the film that just came out two days ago not only makes a laughing stock of the sport, but elevates the perpetrator to the sympathy vote. Let me be clear, anyone who is anyone who follows the sport or works in it, has zero sympathy for her. There’s a reason why she was banned from the sport. I don’t care how many accolades, awards or positive reviews this film receives, it never should have been made.

Nancy Kerrigan is a friend. In addition to skating with her a bit on the same ice many years ago, I interviewed her many times. We really got to know each other when we were on Skating with Celebrities and flew back and forth between Los Angeles and Boston. She is probably not only one of the hardest working skaters I know, but one of the bravest.

Here is someone who was horribly attacked just because she was pursuing her dream to be the best. That’s what sport is all about. To be the best and to be honest in that pursuit. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy path. You attack the ice, not your competitor. You beat them on the podium, not on a knee.

When I think of what Nancy had to go through mentally and physically after that tragedy it still defies any sort of explanation. It was bravery bar none. It’s one thing to overcome a physical setback, it happens all time in sports. But to have it compounded with a planned attack on you so your adversary has a better chance to win, that person should never be allowed to shine again—particularly in a film that presents her sympathetically.

There are so many interesting true stories that could be told in figure skating. One has to ask, is this the only story the sport has to offer? I’ll confess I only watched the first hour of this “non-skating” film and clicked off the screener. Enough was enough.

The real story is about Nancy Kerrigan. How she steadfastly pulled herself together after the tragedy and went on to enjoy a successful skating career.  At the end of the day she took to the ice in the rink, not in in the glass.

 


The Fall

Justice Wave

The Justice Is Mind sound wave as artwork by Daniel Elek-Diamanta.

Although fall doesn’t officially start until the 22nd, for most of us in New England, it starts after the Labor Day weekend. While I like the summer, I love the fall. It’s also the time of year when I tend to be the busiest.

This week starts another class at the Naval Justice School. In addition to falling back into my character as a Special Agent of NCIS, I’ll also be directing the mock-trial program on site for the agencies that retained us. I have to say this is one acting job I always look forward to. As the majority of the same actors have returned from the previous class, I think the same can be said for all involved.

What makes this a unique gig for actors is the ability to play a character for 11 days. As these are role-playing parts, once you have the situation memorized it makes for a great opportunity to really bring a character to life. The atmosphere of the school alone is what makes it engaging as a performer.

vlcsnap-2014-11-18-10h52m25s29

Justice Is Mind expands to Udu Digital!

As for law and engagement, I learned this week that Kinonation, our distributor for Justice Is Mind, secured another outlet with Udu Digital. From their email to me, “Udu is an ad supported (AVOD) streaming service available on the Roku media player that’s used by over 13 million people every month in the US.”  It’s always nice to see another outlet picking up my first feature film!

And feature film is what the fall is also about. With the Toronto International Film Festival in full swing it’s always interesting to see what deals are struck. One film that did great was Chappaquiddick with a $20 million commitment. As a Massachusetts resident most of us know of the story chronicled in this film. It will be interesting to see how this film does in the state versus the rest of the country. At the end of the day the Kennedy name is nationally known. So that alone will carry some of the marketing.

IMAG0525

A behind the scenes shot when I was being taped for ESPN’s The Price of Gold.

But name and marketing will be key with one other film that is gaining substantial traction at the festival. That would be I, Tonya starring Margot Robbie.  While the film has been well reviewed, it has been reported that the film arrived to the festival without distribution. Of course that may have already changed, but the real question is this – what are the commercial aspects to one of the darkest moments in figure skating history?

In addition to being at the event in Detroit in 1994, I know some of the players involved (Nancy Kerrigan in particular). I was also interviewed for ESPN’s The Price of Gold documentary in 2014 about the incident. Part of me says this story has already been told…countless times. Is this the only story that figure skating can tell or could this mean a broader interest in movies around the sport? It’s impossible to tell at this point. And, you guessed it, I’m monitoring these developments because of Serpentine.

Finally, I wrap up this week’s post with a great piece of artwork from Daniel Elek-Diamanta. This is the sound wave from Justice Is Mind, Daniel’s first composing gig. He wanted a unique wallpaper for his computer. I’d say he struck the right chord!

Newport.

imag1558

Back to Newport this week!


New Direction

Denise Marco and Isabella Ramirez in Serpentine

Denise Marco and Isabella Ramirez in Serpentine.

This past week I was contracted to direct some commercial shoots through an ad agency. From a farm, to a school and a bank, each was a different experience. The talent for these shoots were “real” people not actors. The one thing that non-actors bring to a commercial for their own company is authenticity. If they don’t believe in what they’re selling who is? They also aren’t trying to create a character, they already are one.

All my films have had non-actors. In First World it was the equestrian. In Evidence it was a scientist as a court stenographer. In Justice Is Mind it was the pizza shop owner and MRI technicians. In Serpentine it was the skater and skating coach. In my view as long as you don’t ask for too much range, it usually works out fine. But that being said, it doesn’t matter if they are actors or non-actors, it all comes down to organization and coaching a performance.

vlcsnap-2017-06-17-13h21m26s167

Brittany Wilkinson in First World.

There are some directors that are all about an obsessive amount of direction. I’ve seen this first hand as a performer. Sometimes I understand the level of detail they want, but often it’s just to demonstrate to everyone what title they hold on set. For me, if I don’t have any comment for an actor I’m directing that means it was OK with me. Particularly for non-actors, you have to find an emotional place for them to exist without thinking they are performing. For actors, who tend to analyze everything, I believe less is more. But in all cases, my one requirement is believability and when required a memorization of lines.

vlcsnap-2017-06-17-13h30m31s243

Kim Merriam in Evidence.

In one of my films, one actor, who had the script for at least two months, arrived on set with almost no lines memorized. To say I was frustrated was beyond description, but the actor he played opposite was a true professional and thankfully picked up where he couldn’t. It was so bad, that we had to tape his lines to a window and shoot from an angle!

vlcsnap-2014-12-18-11h02m42s4

Kim Gordon and Paul Lussier in Justice Is Mind.

As for lines, when I wrote Justice Is Mind the characters of Constance Smith and John Darrow had literal monologue after monologue and numerous other scenes with complex dialogue. But when Kim Gordon and Paul Lussier auditioned they brought such a realism to the characters that even I didn’t envision when I wrote the parts. It is no coincidence that I cast them opposite each other in Serpentine: The Short Program. At the end of the day, this is what a director lives for when casting—knowing you can cast actors without an audition.

vlcsnap-2016-11-09-13h46m42s806

Paul Lussier and Kim Gordon in Serpentine: The Short Program.

This past week’s shooting reminded me of days long past when I directed my first TV commercial. It was a direct response spot for ESPN in the 1990s for the figure skating magazine I published. I fondly remember sitting in the editing booths with technicians going over one cut after another to a previously recorded narrator’s voice from a script I wrote. At the time I didn’t really know I was the director, but when I think about it they kept asking me if everything looked OK or if I wanted to try something different.  I now realize that they were training me on directing.

As they say, it all starts somewhere. And that’s what I told the talent I was interviewing this past week. Some may never be on-camera again, but there may be one or two who will remember the experience years from now when they are on network television.

Action.

SOS United States - UK Poster

I just finished updates to SOS United States. This new poster was designed by Daniel Elek-Diamanta.


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

 


A Return

On ESPN's The Price of Gold.

On ESPN’s The Price of Gold.

It was April last year when the email came in through my old website – ESPN was going to do a documentary revisiting the Tonya/Nancy saga of 1994 and they wanted to interview me about it. In the day, I used to do these types of interviews all the time. After I founded International Figure Skating in 1993 building it into the world’s largest for the sport (yes, I’m very proud of that accomplishment), I was often called by various networks and TV shows to offer my commentary on a particular subject in the sport. For me, this was brand building for the magazine and my name. During the height of the season it was pretty standard that a news crew would come to my office to interview me or set something up a skating event. Aside from anything else, they were a lot of fun to do!

The taping of ESPN's The Price of Gold last April.

The taping of ESPN’s The Price of Gold last April.

But this request gave me momentary pause. I had lost my publishing company in a hostile takeover back in 2004 and with the exception of starring on Skating with Celebrities in 2006 and a couple of other interviews, I didn’t push anything in figure skating. For me, personally, the real turning point for my passion happened during the judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. By that point, the sport was already in a popularity nose dive due to oversaturation and horrid mismanagement with the governing bodies and their agencies. During those games I did over 200 TV interviews about the scandal. Exciting? Sure. But I knew where this was going to go. It didn’t take long for the bottom to literally fall out of an industry that was born nearly ten years earlier with the Tonya/Nancy saga.

Watching The Price of Gold with Kim Merriam.

Watching The Price of Gold with Kim Merriam.

I am now a filmmaker and pursuing a new passion. A passion to make movies and to work creatively with others. My work in figure skating gave me a solid foundation to build something new. My momentary pause didn’t last long. I wanted to work with ESPN again and then I learned that this documentary was being directed by the award winning filmmaker Nanette Burstein. It’s all about networking and there is always something new to be learned by working with others.

On Thursday I watched ESPN’s The Price of Gold with one of my best friends Kim Merriam. Yes, you have probably heard her name in association with Justice Is Mind. We filmed the short and feature length version at her house and she appeared in both films. But Kim and I used to skate together as well. It’s a friendship that started back when I was in high school. So not only were we watching this show together, but we were also on the Justice Is Mind “set” if you will. Coolness.

Kim Merriam as an FVMRI technician in Justice Is Mind

Kim Merriam as an FVMRI technician in Justice Is Mind.

First, The Price of Gold is simply the best documentary I have seen that pulled together the “drama” that literally captivated the entire world for those weeks twenty years ago.  For me, I could not be more honored to have been selected to be part of this documentary. A special thank you to Nanette Burstein for having me participate. And to my family, friends and colleagues who reached out to me on Twitter, Facebook and by email, your support was truly special.

In closing, I want to take a moment to wish all athletes going to the 2014 Winter Olympics the best of luck as you live a dream you have had since childhood. Having represented my country as a journalist in 2002, I can only imagine the pride as an athlete. And while I don’t’ understand the new scoring system, you, the skaters, will understand my closing mark.

6.0

More photos arrived this week from our screening at Plimoth Cinema.

More photos arrived this week from our screening at Plimoth Cinema last Saturday.


Another Time, Another Place

Mark Lund interviewed for an upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.

Mark Lund interviewed for an upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.

It was nearly a month ago when I received the email through my website. A production company wanted to interview me for an upcoming documentary. The subject? The Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding debacle that started on January 6, 1994 when Nancy was attacked backstage at the National Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan. My first reaction at the moment was what Nancy said all over national television at the time, “Why me?” At the time of this “incident” I had recently launched what would become the world’s largest figure skating magazine. Suffice to say I knew quite a bit about the sport and I’ve known Nancy for years. Some of you may remember that I served as a judge on FOX’s Skating with Celebrities and Nancy was one of the contestants with her skating partner Dave Coulier (that was a fun time!).

After a bit more of an internal debate, I decided to do the interview. Not because I have any lasting love affair with a sport that is a shadow of its former self (that’s a story for another day), but because it was through these types of interviews that I became acquainted with production work and learned some pretty valuable tricks of the trade that I have brought to my present day career as a filmmaker.

First and foremost, I learned how to speak on camera working with some of the most excellent producers and directors of the time. I’ve never paid for an on camera class because my work was my classroom. Oh sure, not all those interviews have gone according to plan, but that’s the chance you take when you put yourself out there… publicly. You know what they say, if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Thank you, I’ll stand at the stove. Personally, I discovered during my work at the 2002 Winter Olympics that I enjoyed live broadcasting the most. When a director is speaking in your ear while you are live on air, damn you learn how to focus.

Jesse Mangan as Brian Kovski and Vernon Aldershoff as Henri Miller from the Justice Is Mind clip that will be released next week.

Jesse Mangan as Brian Kovski and Vernon Aldershoff as Henri Miller from the Justice Is Mind clip that will be released next week.

Secondly, was the behind the scenes aspect. I started paying attention to the camera operators, sound, lights and the varying equipment. On set you see the producers, directors and everyone else work harmoniously together. Ask anyone that works in this business and organization is everything. And, call me vain, you also learn about having on camera makeup. Yes, that’s right…makeup. Damn, I’ve had it all. From my face literally being spray painted to sittings with no makeup. Dear lord I hope those interviews never surface they could be a horror show!  My special thanks to Monique Mercogliano for her wonderful makeup services last week. I met Monique in 2011 when I was in a feature film and brought her outstanding work to serve as makeup supervisor on both Evidence and Justice Is Mind. Even better, she’s now a good friend and I enjoyed giving her a sneak peak of Justice Is Mind at dinner after we wrapped.

And so it was during all those years that I started to gain insight and more importantly experience. It gave me a solid foundation in which to build and that’s why I did this interview this past week. You can always learn something new. I remember how terrified I was during my first TV appearance on The Montel Williams Show in 1994. I could barely speak. But this past week? I was on camera for 2.5 hours just firing off the answers. I had the opportunity to work with a great director who has produced a variety of films and TV programming and meet additional local crew. Yes folks it’s all about networking.

So look for me this November on ESPN’s Films 30 for 30 series about this sport changing event back in 1994. I don’t know how much of me they’ll use, but it was fun visiting another time, but with a good face!

In closing I go off topic for a moment. A special thank you to the first responders, police departments, intelligence agencies, governor, the public and our president for the outstanding work to bring to a close the tragic events of the Boston Marathon bombing. We can’t bring back the victims of this tragedy or return those gravely wounded in the attack to the world they lived in before last Monday, but we can honor them with the efforts and bravery of so many.

The power of the camera.

When faced with tragedy, Massachusetts came together for justice and liberty for all.

When faced with tragedy, Massachusetts came together for liberty and justice for all.