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Posts tagged “film festival

Tital Shifts

The title card for First Signal

A couple of weeks ago I sent an update to the actors and crew of First Signal about what our release strategy may look like.  I believe, if all goes according to plan, our first theatrical screening will be sometime in October. I hope that follows with additional theatrical and festival screenings into the second quarter of 2021 with a VOD release around May. 

As someone who reads the trade publications, I see how release dates and general overall strategy is changing on a daily basis. This article in The Hollywood Reporter today, pretty much summed up the current state of the industry. Fortunately for First Signal, the film itself wrapped principal photography last year and just finished post in early June. So, all things considered, our release strategy hasn’t changed all that much.

I do believe one of the real issues that’s going to face this industry next year is available inventory of new product. With very little being produced over the last several months, eventually this empty space will catch up to the industry. I believe this is why we are seeing studios and distributors stagger their releases from the 3rd quarter of this year into 2021. They need commercial films to bring audiences back to theaters. Honestly, who really wants to see a previously released movie in a theater when you can watch it from the comfort of your sofa for a fraction of the price? Of course, I would love to see classics return to the silver screen. Particularly those from the 1930s, 40s and 50s!

So far, the festival market is going well for First Signal. I was delighted to receive a Best Director win from the Eurasia International Monthly Film Festival last week. To receive an accolade of this stature from a festival is truly an honor. This is all about building a momentum so when First Signal goes to VOD, a hopeful following has built up for the film. From a media point of view, there is so much noise to cut through to get noticed.

A scene from “Operation Troy” in First Signal

The release strategy I’m looking to employ is the model I did with Justice Is Mind. It started with a world premiere followed by a limited theatrical and special event run before it went to VOD. My feeling with Justice, and now First Signal, was to follow the studio model. If it works for them, why try to reinvent the wheel? I just adapted it for the scale of my project. At the end of Justice Is Mind’s run, we had numerous media reports and reviews that helped propel the film when it was released on VOD.

On course.

Hoping to put SOS United States into production in 2021

Course Correction

First Signal – color grade example.

I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t a filmmaker on the planet that isn’t affected by the current world crisis. The one saving grace with First Signal is that it was always scheduled to be in post-production during this time and won’t be finished until May anyway.  Color grading and sound mixing is moving right along.

While we all monitor for the opening of the economy (it’s vital this happens as soon as possible), the question is when and how to ramp up marketing and distribution efforts. I will say this, after submitting First Signal a few weeks ago to two film festivals, I have formally stopped until the film is 100% complete. With future submissions I will also require an assurance that a film festival will not default their festival from live to online.  I have ZERO interest in premiering First Signal online with a film festival. It will never happen.

I’m not surprised that only seven films took up Amazon’s virtual film fest offer. Unless Amazon’s screening fee was going to offset production costs, why bother. Any filmmaker can upload their film direct to Amazon, why dilute future distribution opportunities with an online premiere.

First Signal – private conversations

A few days ago a film festival I submitted to with a December event date, sent this long winded email stating generally that if people don’t feel comfortable attending or their theater isn’t available, they’ll make it online – and won’t refund submission fees. I frankly couldn’t believe the gall. I guess they’ll have to answer to the credit card companies who will chargeback the submission fees to the filmmakers. Having produced many live events, you as the organizer/promoter are responsible to execute what was contracted with the customer. If you don’t you must refund. It’s as simple as that.

I have never been a traditionalist.  From publishing to filmmaking, I have always taken an unconventional approach. When I launched my figure skating magazine years ago, I was told it was never going to work as I needed to do this or that or whatever. Whether it was budget related or simply because I had a different idea, I executed the way I could to accomplish what I needed to do. I brought that same approach to filmmaking. When I produced First World and quickly learned that festivals wanted shorts under 15 min long, I found science fiction festivals, unique events and, yes, online (a fledgling platform called Hulu) to present my first film.

My point in all this is being able to pivot. For better or worse the world has changed in the last couple of months. I’m not going to try to roll a square rock up a hill, when I can slide it on rails at ground level to the same destination.  As filmmakers we think unconventionally when we create our projects, the same should hold true for marketing and distribution.

Next plan.


New Season

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In Serpentine the climax of the story happens at the world figure skating championships in Moscow.

With Marche Du Film (Cannes) coming up, I always find it interesting to learn about the new players while reading about the fate of others. No doubt in the weeks ahead we will read in the trades about the big splash of a new company’s star driven acquisition or the sorry story of others that used to hold court on private yachts.  Having been to Cannes many years ago (not for the festival) the location is truly a stunning one to announce a major project.

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In First World all communication platforms in the United States are being monitored.

There is no question that this is an industry of flash. When you have good news to announce you do so publicly, loudly and in grand fashion. The whole point is to cut through the noise to get your project noticed. As I’ve said time and time again, this industry is as much about making motion pictures as it is about promoting them. This is why in so many cases when you see a production budget you multiply it by itself for marketing and public relations.

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In SOS United States an F35 from the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier goes to intercept an ocean liner that may have a nuclear bomb on board.

But then there are the rest of us that aren’t making $175 million motion pictures (at least not yet!). What filmmakers like me rely on is reliable consistent revenue from VOD. While so many players come and go in this industry, we rely on VOD platforms to be there year after year.  Although sites like Netflix are in a public relations battle with Cannes, Amazon is playing by the rules and, “was not coming to the South of France “looking to disrupt Cannes,” adding, “You have to approach Cannes on its own terms.”

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In Mind We Trust, SOS United States, Serpentine and First World center around Washington, D.C.

And while Cannes is one of the world’s greatest launching pads for a film, there are VOD sites like TubiTV that are also making waves. Just this past week the site announced a $20 million outside investment. Justice Is Mind has been on TubiTV for several months and has started to gain some solid traction. I’ve also noticed an increase in traffic for Justice on other VOD sites. All these upticks bode well for the industry as a whole. It shows that consumers are watching across a variety of platforms and it doesn’t matter if they are star driven $100 million plus budgets or films made for under $100K. At the end of the day audiences want to be entertained and they want the choice to be theirs.

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In SOS United States the SS United States returns as the Leviathan.

But as the industry enters a new season it’s a review of my current projects First World, SOS United States, Serpentine and In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind. Are my websites updated? Do they convey the current status of each project? You know what they say about first impressions, you only get one to make one.

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In Serpentine the FBI has been following a champion figure skater as part of an unresolved Cold War mystery.

There is, however, a cardinal rule that I live by. I never disclose who I’m talking to and who I submitted to. This is why I declined to respond to a local entertainment publication that reached out to me on one of my projects. This is like when actors announce who they just auditioned for (or what festivals a filmmaker submitted to). I promise you that doesn’t help you get the part any quicker. In fact, it can have an opposite result. The same holds true for behind the scenes conversations. Sure, the trades like to know what’s going on, but confidentiality is paramount.

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Where do they come from in First World.

However, I will say this. The world’s largest oversees mobile player picked up Justice Is Mind from our distributor earlier this year. But until it’s live, I’ll hold on the formal announcement.

Presentation.


First Decade

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The view of Earth from Lunaria in First World.

Although I wrote a screenplay when I was in grade school (I wonder where that is), First World was my first “professional” effort. Aside from my passion for all things NASA and my love of science fiction, I’m not sure where the initial idea came from. It was in 2006 and I was living in Los Angeles at the time. Before I knew it I purchased Final Draft and just started to write. Many months and drafts later First World was born. Great, I finished a screenplay now what do I do with it.

Just because I was living in Los Angeles it didn’t guarantee any more access than if I was living on a remote island. So I started to submit my screenplay to film festivals and by my shock it was being selected. When First World was nominated for Best Screenplay at the California Independent Film Festival in 2007 I figured I was on to something. Did I win? No. But being nominated was good enough for me.

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In First World China launches Tsien One to the Moon in 2018.

In so many ways I think it’s good to start out in this industry being a bit naïve. But one does learn quickly. Raising money for a feature film was harder than writing an original story, much harder. But I wanted to at least introduce part of the story to develop interest in the concept. So, I condensed the story and produced a 25 minute short film version with my friend Adam Starr. Since First World Adam has been part of all my films.

After the short was produced in 2007 I found myself presenting it at sci-fi conventions around the world. It soon found itself in India as the only film at the inaugural First Ever National Discussion on Science Fiction. As a magazine publisher, I knew distribution and promotion. This was one area of filmmaking that I didn’t shy away from. Suffice to say I was relentless in introducing this project to anyone that would take the time to read what I was pitching. Some paid attention, most didn’t, but those that did just continued to build awareness for the project. In the end First World screened at 21 sci-fi conventions.

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Getting ready for a First World screening in Los Angeles in 2007.

Some years later when the VOD world started to emerge an upstart website called hulu was born. Through my distributor IndieFlix I got First World on the site. There was something quite glorious to see First World run on VOD with ad interruptions. Remember, it’s either advertising or a subscription fee that pays for these services. Filmmaking and the VOD platforms are not a free enterprise!

First World on hulu

After the hulu run I placed First World on Amazon’s Create Space. It was a relatively new service, but I was all about experimenting. Soon after Amazon ripped First World from our submitted DVD (yup that’s the way they got it on their system in those days). It took about three months but then it happened…my first payment from Amazon. Every month since I’ve been paid something from Amazon Create Space for First World.

But then something else happened in 2016—Amazon announced Amazon Video Direct. Short of it, filmmakers could now take advantage of the same system that distributors did. All we had to do was enter the required data, upload poster, film, trailer, closed caption file and presto we are worldwide across all of Amazon’s platforms. It took quite a bit of doing, but I was able to render a large enough file for First World.

First World on Amazon

First World on Amazon Prime in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

First World has been on Amazon Video Direct for a year and has generated 464, 172 viewed minutes—translation this short film from 2007 has been watched over 17,000 times in the past year.

Since First World I have gone on to write, produce and direct three other films – Evidence, Justice Is Mind and Serpentine: The Short Program—all of which are on Amazon Video Direct. But like this article that recently ran about Amazon Studios, I also believe in theatrical distribution. While VOD is a godsend to filmmakers, a theatrical release showcases a film.

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Some special effect work with closed caption file.

Am I still waiting to turn First World into a feature? Yes. But as Evidence brought forth my first feature film with Justice Is Mind, time will tell if that happens with First World and Serpentine. The entertainment industry teaches us patience and that it is ever changing and sometimes volatile. But there is one thing that this industry looks to when considering a project…

numbers.


The Trades

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In this new political thriller, the climax of the story happens at a world figure skating championships.

Being a filmmaker, I’m an avid reader of the industry trades. From The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and IndieWire to several email newsletters (SSN Insider is my favorite). In general, I look to get a feel for the industry and where it may be going. As I’ve written about in earlier posts, navigating this industry is like being on the bridge of a ship and deciding what port to sail into. The choices are numerous and in some cases smartly promoted. One of these choices was a film festival.

I attended my first film festival back in 2007 when First World was nominated for best screenplay out of over 80 submissions at the California Independent Film Festival. Having placed in the top 5 for this contest it was a total thrill to attend, network and then hear the title of my first screenplay announced as a finalist in a theater.  I didn’t win the Slate Award but it was honor enough to be nominated. It was at this festival that I realized I had developed a new trade.

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Robin Ann Rapoport and Vernon Aldershoff (seated right) starred in the short and feature film version of Justice Is Mind.

In this industry it seems just natural that you start to pick up new trades. You may start as a writer or an actor and before you know it you may be producing and directing your first short film. You start to get into some festivals, perhaps some theatrical exhibition and then score some media. Soon thereafter you realize you want to make your first feature film. Every level of this industry takes time and patience and despite what one might read in the trades, none of this happens overnight.

One thing that never happens overnight is film financing. It doesn’t matter what your station is in the industry. Film financing, in particular, is very nuanced. As for my projects, I’ve fully funded some and have had investors (public and private) in others. In one case I used crowdfunding. Larger projects, if they can attract the right talent, can also achieve pre-sales. But that’s being challenged owing to certain bankable “A” list availability to commit to a project before one scene is even shot. But one area that I’m particularly excited about is equity crowdfunding. There have been numerous articles on the subject, so I would do your own searches. That being said, it offers filmmakers yet again another option–and port?

With First World, In Mind We Trust and SOS United States in various stages of review and development, the one thing I have committed to is producing the first ten pages of the political thriller I’m writing around the sport of figure skating as a promotional vehicle. As some may recall, I made a short film version of Justice Is Mind titled Evidence. The point of that short was to not only develop interest in the project but to bring together an initial cast and crew to insure that various aspects work.

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In SOS United States the story starts and ends around the ocean liner SS Leviathan. The ocean liner is modeled after the famed liner SS United States.

What are the primary challenges with this new project? A figure skater that can do a couple of triple jumps and can act. No matter how it has been done before, using a double for either the extreme close ups of a jump or distance shots just doesn’t work. A skater has a particular way they stand on the ice along with body type.  The other part of this short is developing some new techniques to film a skating program that truly captures the grace, style and power that a skater projects. In essence I want the audience to experience the program not just see it.

Perhaps the greatest challenge of course is developing an original story. As I enter the closing of the second act to this political thriller, I remember where I was at the time when writing Justice Is Mind. At this moment I’m literally living with the characters and all the plots and subplots. But rather than taking the easy way out on their resolution, I will let the story sit for a few days and let the story speak back to me.

Revelation.

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From First World the city of Lunaria on the Moon.


Official Selection

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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 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

 


The Buck Stops Here

The opening of Henri Miller's restaurant and opening scene of the upcoming clip the production will be releasing.

The grand opening of Henri Miller’s restaurant and opening scene of the upcoming clip Justice Is Mind will be releasing soon.

With the post production phase of Justice Is Mind moving along according to schedule, my job now, in addition to managing the entire post production phase (yes, still directing!), has turned to marketing and distribution. Most independent filmmakers don’t have these departments, so what we rely on are trusted sources and contacts inside the industry and our own real world work experience. But in the end, as President Truman made famous, “The buck stops here.” When producing a film, every buck counts. And quite of few of those bucks go to film festival submission fees.

The Miller's finance the trial of the century.

The Millers finance the trial of the century.

The film festival market is as mysterious as it is rewarding. Yes, I have a list of festivals I’m submitting Justice to. Some have “final” deadlines that come well before our completion date so we will be submitting as a “work in progress”.  But others thankfully fall generally in line with our July 1 completion date. But like I did in magazine publishing I also do in filmmaking, I really don’t like what I call “rules of market”. There is this rule, even though it seems to be unwritten, that films should first be submitted to festivals to see what happens. Sure, I’ll just wait and wait and wait for a decision while my film could be losing momentum. Seriously, I was part of a feature film project as an actor a couple of years ago and the entire distribution strategy was getting into film festivals. I couldn’t believe it. There was never a plan B. The problem with that strategy is that if you don’t get into festivals (particularly the buyers markets) you can find yourself with many missed months of “buck making” opportunities for your film.

With the world premiere set for Justice Is Mind on August 18 in Albany, New York along with an industry screening planned for Los Angeles (date to be announced), there are a host of other screening opportunities for the project outside of the film festival market. First and foremost Justice Is Mind already has a non-exclusive digital distribution deal in place, so with one email and the transmission of deliverables, distribution is done. But that’s just part of the strategy and it’s an evolving one as this article in Sundance demonstrates the nuances of digital distribution. Yes, digital distribution is a science all by itself.

Justice Is Mind: Evidence screening at Old Mistick Village Art Cinemas.

Justice Is Mind: Evidence screening at Old Mistick Village Art Cinemas.

Digital distribution can be very successful for a film, but it helps enormously if you have some terrestrial assistance. What it really comes down to is building awareness through word of mouth and that does come from screenings—theatrical or event. So while I am putting together a list of independent theatres to pitch, the one area that has shown great interest in Justice Is Mind is the science fiction community. This past week I finished up my pitch list of nearly 100 sci-fi conventions around the world to present Justice Is Mind for screening. The interest was successfully tested with the short film version Justice Is Mind: Evidence (another reason to produce a short first—market testing). On the practical front my first short film First World screened at over 20 conventions in numerous countries. As some of you know, the trailer for Justice Is Mind is screening during Boston Comic Con next weekend. Thank you Boston Comic Con!

While I love the glamour, pomp and visibility that come with a festival, I am anything if not practical. As a director I owe it to everyone involved in the project to get their work seen by the widest possible audience. But as a producer, it comes down to a return on investment.

At the end of the day filmmaking is about making bucks to be “scene” again.

In 2007, at a screening of First World at Loscon in Los Angeles.

In 2007, at a screening of First World at Loscon in Los Angeles.


Act One

POV. Henri Miller's 5th birthday party.

POV. Henri Miller’s 5th birthday party.

This past week I got together with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months. We saw The Hobbit in this new format called 48 FPS (frames per second). I’m all about new technologies, but we both thought this was an epic fail visually. When your eye is caught paying attention to the film like a high resolution TV broadcast that looks like a daytime soap opera, that’s not the experience I want.

But prior to the film, our conversation centered on screenwriting. Something my friend wants to do. He reminded me of when I started to write screenplays. Where do you start? How do you get your work “scene”?  While there’s no magic answer to this and every writer’s path is different, there are some practical ways to get your work noticed and maybe gather up some awards in the process.

POV. Henri Miller confronts the contractors.

POV. Henri Miller confronts the contractors.

I think it’s safe to say that anyone that writes their first screenplay does so from an area or interest of life that is passionate to them. For me, I have always loved science fiction and the space program. When I wrote First World in 2006 the first draft was pretty awful. I had this great screenwriting software called Final Draft (side note: it’s the best screenwriting software out there. It’s worth the expense), but painfully little guidance at the time other than enthusiasm. Well after showing it to some friends in the business, getting some solid feedback and several rewrites I was coached to enter it into some contests.

In the industry there is a website called Withoutabox.com. This is a portal in which the majority of film festivals take submissions. A good number of film festivals also have screenwriting contests. That’s where I found my first screenwriting nomination for First World.

POV. Henri Miller watches his father Joseph in church.

POV. Henri Miller watches his father Joseph in church.

By the time the festival had arrived I had already produced and screened the short film version. But there was something pretty exhilarating when the email came in from the California Independent Film Festival. First World had been nominated for Best Screenplay. The word “Best” was pretty fabulous. I was told that they had just over eighty screenplay submissions and only five were nominated for the Best Screenplay award.

When I went to the festival, I was surrounded by like minded people that were exceedingly passionate about their craft. I didn’t win the Best Screenplay award, but just hearing “And the nominations are….First World by Mark Lund….” was good enough for me.

My point is that getting your work seen and read has to all start someplace. And while I have entered numerous contests with no awards along the way, that one nomination renewed my passion to write, to rewrite (yes, that’s part of the process) and to develop new ideas. It was from writing the sequel to First World, Exodus that the idea for Justice Is Mind came to me.

POV. Henri throws his parents out of the house.

POV. Henri throws his parents out of the house.

But let’s not sugar coat this too much. The entertainment industry is perhaps one of the most difficult industries to navigate. While the advent of new technologies has made entry far easier from when I wrote First World, it is every screenwriters dream to see their work produced or at least optioned. While Justice Is Mind has been produced, I’m still determined to see First World liftoff to a feature presentation. In so many ways it comes down to timing, market conditions, etc. But that’s a post for another day.

When I saw a rough cut of the trailer for Justice Is Mind this week, I could not have been happier with the result.  For any of us that write, we do so alone and lost in our thoughts as we translate those to what we hope is a workable story. Like that first nomination years ago, I now know producing an independent  feature film is also possible. Thus, my next screenplay revolves around an ocean liner.

All aboard!

POV. Henri marries Margaret.

POV. Henri marries Margaret in a near private ceremony.


Official Selection

Since the funding was announced to produce Justice Is Mind last month, there has been a flurry of activity around the entire project. As a filmmaker, it’s great to see a film begin to take on a life of its own. Of course in that process there are a mountain of details to attend to. In addition to securing the cast and crew, there are the locations and the nuances to detail so that when principal photography starts all things are in place—or damn close to it!

Our posting on New England Film for actors yielded over 300 responses across several states. I was delighted to see so many familiar faces from the work I’ve done over the last several years as both an actor and producer. But discovering new talent during the audition and casting process is always exciting. Make no mistake about it while New York and Los Angeles may claim to be the entertainment centers of the country, New England is a treasure drove of talent on both sides of the camera. Our call for crew has also brought an unprecedented quality in submissions. With callbacks taking place on July 7, and with crew discussions ongoing, look for our announcement of cast and crew soon.

In addition to the people that will bring Justice Is Mind to life, it is the locations that truly make the look of a production jump off the screen. A few weeks ago I traveled to Rotterdam, New York at the request of one of our starring actors to scout locations (thanks Vern!). There is something to be said about the welcoming atmosphere of a small town and the enthusiasm of the world of film. The same can be said for a restaurant in the town of Oxford we worked with on the short film and a two restaurant group I just visited in New Hampshire this past Friday.

Producing a low-budget feature film is no easy task. You are asking actors, crew and locations to work with you largely as a project of passion and belief in what everyone is aiming to accomplish – a quality motion picture that will be well received in the market.  But for anyone that has worked with me on previous projects, there is one element that they know I bring to the table – promotion and marketing. Yes, I am relatively relentless when it comes to the promotion of projects I’m involved with (it’s also what I do for a living). While the immediate situation may not yield a market level payout, everyone rides along on the promotion train, shares in the rewards and leverages this project for the next gig and the next and so on. I did that in figure skating which eventually led to a gig on network TV show (FOX’s Skating with Celebrities). This is why we are offering points to the majority of actors and crew on this project. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I know I wouldn’t mind receiving a check every quarter for a project I did a couple of years past. It’s a reminder that the work you did mattered and that someone is going to bat for you. Just as important, your work is being seen.

On the side of promotion and distribution, I am delighted to announce that IndieFlix released Justice Is Mind: Evidence on June 19. The short is now available digitally for all those to view and enjoy. And on the film festival front, Evidence has been accepted to the Scinema 2012 Festival of Science Film in Australia and the Chicon 7 Independent Film Festival in Chicago.  With our acceptance to these festivals, we are making some artwork updates to the Justice Is Mind: Evidence DVD. Look for that release later on this month.

To the actors and crew who have submitted, to the location stakeholders who have welcomed and considered our production, to our distributor IndieFlix and to the film festivals that have accepted us, I say thank you. To Mary Wenninger and Stefan Knieling, who backed the feature, and to my Producer/AD, Jess Killam and her organizational skills and knowledge—it goes without saying that absent your support the production of the feature film Justice Is Mind would not be possible.


Phase Four!

With the title of this post I’m not referring to the last act of the 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage when the cast had to escape the patient before returning to full size, but the phase of production we are in for Justice is Mind: Evidence.

After writing the screenplay in 2010 (phase one), planning pre-production from June through September (phase two), three days of principal photography that wrapped on October 2 (phase three), we now enter the phase of post-production where the editors, special effects supervisors and composers do their magic.

From the stellar actors that breathed life into the characters to the outstanding crew that made the process seamless on set, the production could not have gone smoother. Saying thank you isn’t enough for their dedication and hard work, my job is to make sure Evidence is seen. For any of us that act, produce, write or crew a film, having one’s work seen is what this process is truly all about.

With post production on schedule for a min-November premiere (phase five), the process continues with submission to targeted film festivals, select screenings and perhaps the most ambitious part – secure funding for production of the feature film in June with a December 2012 release.

In the coming weeks, the launch of our crowd funding campaign in concert with investor presentations will begin in earnest. With distribution in place for the feature, investors will see a return on investment while cast and crew know that their work will be seen.

Yesterday I stopped by the New Hampshire Film Festival to visit with our silent benefactor of the short film and to hear a panel on the latest trends in marketing and distribution. Although the things that were being discussed on the panel were relevant to the higher (studio) end of the industry, and I met some terrific filmmakers after the panel, there wasn’t a lot of practical advice to the independent filmmaker who is on a budget.

The film industry (in particular the festival market) reminds me of the world of magazine publishing from ten years ago. This industry has evolved but, unfortunately, there is an establishment that still does things the old way that simply doesn’t apply to the current marketplace. I was very surprised that digital distribution on sites like Hulu, Crackle, YouTube and other platforms wasn’t discussed – those are the latest trends.

Sure, print is still nice, but it’s all about digital.