This past week, just as I finished some updates to SOS United States, the American Film Market began. No sooner does it start than this article in Deadline comes out lamenting the “slim pickings” and quoting a variety of industry executives from, “It’s the lightest market in memory. TV is definitely sucking up talent” to “It’s much tougher now to find those projects that have that clear theatrical profile.”
Attaching talent, even in the best of markets, has always been a challenge. But clear theatrical profile? How is that truly defined? Having secured a limited theatrical run with Justice Is Mind that had talented but unknown actors, I often wonder what metrics these “executives” use when measuring a film for commercial appeal. This has always been an industry where you had to think outside the box, particularly when you are introducing something new to the market.
There’s no question there has been a seismic shift in talent from film to TV, that’s why I have positioned In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, as a pilot for a TV series. Sure, it could be a standalone feature, but it just makes sense to have this option when presenting. I remember many years ago when I attended Mipcom listening to execs wishing they could bring some of the theatrical talent over to TV. This is an industry that shifts like the tides. It’s just a matter of product and timing.
Speaking of product, a couple of weeks ago I was approached by a “distributor” for Justice Is Mind for an “exclusive” deal in a major market. Sure I’m always interested in a new deal, but it has to make sense. No sooner did we conclude our initial call and documents arrived with the most ridiculous terms and requirements I have ever seen. Um, no, I will not reedit the opening and end credits of my film to include a laundry list of producers to make it look like you produced the film. Um, no, I will not upload my film for you to review to a mysterious website that can only be accessed by you after the fact. It was laughable. And if you say you have distributed hundreds of films, you best have a listing on IMDb. Just when you think you’ve seen everything you see something new.
As for timing, I never would have thought that after I wrote First World that China’s space program would truly boom the way it did or that the cyber attacks I present in SOS United States would become so front and center. When I first wrote Justice Is Mind that idea was born by one broadcast on 60 Minutes about ‘thought identification’ and my passion for a good legal drama. Could I have ever imagined the advances in mind reading technology and neurolaw? No, of course not.
In my view it’s impossible to time the market from an industry or consumer standpoint. If you have an idea for a new movie or TV series, just write it and then do everything you can to produce it. In the end, it all comes down to what the consumer wants and the way they want to watch it.
“Let them lead us.” SOS United States.
As filmmakers we draw inspiration from other films, life events or experiences to create. It’s been well reported that Gene Roddenberry was inspired by Forbidden Planet to create Star Trek and that George Lucas was inspired by Flash Gordon (and other films) to develop Star Wars.
For me, the inspiration to create First World came from film and television. Two of my favorite science fictions films are The Day the Earth Stood Still and Capricorn One. Then there is the iconic TV show Space: 1999. Sadly, Capricorn One has been largely forgotten but for anyone who wants to see a good space conspiracy thriller with some great actors and cinematography, it’s a must watch.
As for SOS United States, I’ve always loved a good political thriller especially those from the Cold War. Discovering Seven Days in May and Fail Safe along with my love for ocean liners, I created a political thriller that is starting to gain some traction. With political thrillers on the rise, coupled with current world events, the timing is good.
Of course, for those that have seen Justice Is Mind you know what my primary inspirations were – Law & Order, The Andromeda Strain, Fringe and, yes, Dynasty. In so many ways, the genre mix in Justice Is Mind is reflective of what we are seeing today – especially on TV. As for my inspiration for In Mind We Trust? That would simply be Justice Is Mind and a conflux of current events.
It’s one thing making your film but it’s another getting to market. When the aforementioned films were made they were simply distributed by a studio. Pretty standard in those days. Ask any independent filmmaker and you not only have to be the creative behind the script, but a distributor and marketer at the same time.
Reading about the various challenges filmmakers faced at Tribeca to bring their films to market along with a myriad of interesting comments by Julianne Moore about independent films at CinemaCon, while there is tremendous opportunity to get your film in front of an audience, the navigation of this industry on the distribution front continues to intensify and diversify.
There was a pretty good article titled The Distribution Equation on Cultural Weekly that is worth a review. The big question I would love answered is why would independent films with limited theatricals runs sign with a distributor (for theatrical) if that was going to create a loss against the title of your film? It simply makes zero sense from a business point of view. Justice Is Mind has had 12 theatrical screenings and has grossed $13,357. Our total out of pocket costs were just over $500 (mostly from printing posters). On my end it costs nothing but time to present Justice Is Mind to theatres, write a press release and pitch the media. For me, from a business point of view, it’s much more important to show profitability than perception of “we signed with so and so”. “So and so” might look good on paper but red ink is still red ink.
This past week I pitched Justice Is Mind to another eight theatres. Yes, we have had a great run to date theatrically for our independent film, but why not make the pitch. You never know who’s going to say yes.
For those that follow me on Facebook and Twitter there is nothing unusual about me offering a one word status update “writing”. It usually happens on weekends when I write this blog, but it was primarily for a new screenplay I was writing through a good part of 2013 and early this year. With Justice Is Mind in theatrical release, an idea suddenly came to me about an idea for a political thriller. It was the same for Justice Is Mind when I was working on First World. The idea just happens and then before I know it, I fire up Final Draft and start writing.
I am pleased to present the political thriller SOS United States – A visit by the Prime Minister turns into a political crisis when the President learns that a nuclear bomb is on an ocean liner heading to Boston.
Inspired by the Cold War political thrillers Fail Safe and Seven Days in May with the contemporary pacing of Clear and Present Danger, I have always enjoyed this genre of film that revolves around government conspiracies, intrigue and deception. Another one to add to this would be Advise and Consent.
With SOS United States announced, my efforts begin in earnest to raise the capital to produce the film ($300,000). This isn’t a project that I plan to shop around to option, this is a film that I plan to direct. That being said, it all starts with the concept poster. The poster you see here was designed by the talented Jestyn Flores of Pixel Eight Design. I met Jestyn through Shannon McNamara. Shannon plays the court clerk in Justice Is Mind. Yes, it is a small world!
But while all this was going on, there was something else I was waiting for—another review of Justice Is Mind was scheduled to publish on Saturday night. While I was working on the closed captions file for our VOD distributor (Kinonation), this coming review was top of mind. With our VOD release coming up, along with our international premiere, the goal, naturally, is to secure positive press. After I finished the closed captions file (Zencaptions is great!) and uploaded it to Kinonation I went over to the reviewers website and there it was.
“It’s Mark Lund’s writing that makes these interactions what they are, for there is so much intelligence in the dialogue.” When I read this part of Angeliki Coconi’s review of Justice Is Mind on Unsung Films there was a moment when I almost started to cry. Yes, for all the Swedish stoicism I project, it’s my French half that takes over in moments like this. There is nothing more satisfying than having your work acknowledged. But in addition to my work, I always like when a reviewer calls out actors for their performances. In the case of this review it was Kim Gordon (District Attorney Constance Smith), Paul Lussier (Henri Miller’s lawyer) and Carlyne Fournier (Dr. Eve Pullman). When I think of the hours they put in to develop and prepare these very involved, and dialogue heavy, characters, I just want to thank them again (and all the actors and crew) for making Justice Is Mind possible.
When I think of the hours, days, weeks and months I have sat behind a computer writing, researching, re-writing, printing, presenting, etc., reviews from Frisco Kid, The Barnstable Patriot and now Unsung Films, makes this process all the more worthwhile. But it has been the local press that has fired up interest in the film, from the Spencer New Leader to Worcester Magazine to the Nashua Telegraph, which brings audiences into buildings that translate to word of mouth, social media, etc. It’s all part the plan to present Justice Is Mind and now SOS United States to the widest possible audience.
Of course, I am not so taken with our accomplishments to date to know that there will not be some difficult navigating down the road. Indeed, for all the red carpets, there are those business issues I’ve had to deal with along the way (some not so pleasant). There will be those that love what you do and there will be the detractors. Indeed it can get very hot in the kitchen, but that just means that something is cooking.
On the bridge.