Marketing planet Earth one project at a time.

Posts tagged “First World

First Schedule

The shot list is complete and a preliminary schedule was worked out yesterday. It now goes to the actors, crew and the location partners for review. From what starts as a one person exercise writing a screenplay (I use Final Draft) now turns into project management. I can at least add another checkmark on my task list. But make no mistake, just because I checked off an item doesn’t mean that it’s completed.

One thing I realized years ago when I was publishing magazines was the importance of organization. In those early days being late meant paying heavy fees. In this industry it means that something doesn’t or can’t be filmed. Case in point the Air Force uniforms that we need. Do I buy them or rent them? While I have pricing for a purchase, I’m waiting to hear from the costume company. One thing I learned from producing Justice Is Mind is advanced planning when it comes to costumes.

Vernon Aldershoff as Wilhelm Miller in Justice Is Mind.

In Justice Is Mind one of the actors had to be outfitted as an SS officer. I ordered the uniform from a Chinese company and it was shipped well in advance of our shoot dates. Although tracking showed that it arrived in the United States I still hadn’t received it yet. Finally, I talked to customs and got the “opinionated” custom agent on the phone who asked why I needed such an outfit. After I directed some choice words to him and cited certain regulations, the uniform arrived in time for our shoot.

While I look back at the scheduling for the number of events and films I’ve produced over the years, I realized I’m starting to develop an interesting inventory of wardrobe and props. I still have the original Nehru styled jackets worn in First World along with the briefing file the Prime Minster shows the President. It might not be bad to add Air Force uniforms to the collection.

The Nehru styled jacked in First World.

In closing, NASA announced this week that the Mars rover Opportunity ended after a 15 year mission. When we consider the science this rover discovered over its decade plus mission, it truly paved the way for new “opportunities” as plans for an eventual manned mission to Mars come to fruition. For an original mission that wasn’t supposed to last more than 90 days, it is a testament in time, patience, research and excellence to all those in NASA that worked on this project.  

Opportunity’s first self portrait celebrating the
5000th Martian Day.

Its stories like Opportunity that remind me of the day I first looked through a telescope and saw our neighbors in the solar system.

Observatory.

One scene to be shot will take place in the Observatory at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.


First Summit

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The table read is set in the Jupiter room at The Verve Crowne Plaza in Natick, MA.

Whenever I’m involved in the production of an event, I always arrive early. First, I hate to be rushed. Second, it’s about setting everything up.  Finally, I like to just sit and take it all in for a few moments. I don’t meditate. It’s about quiet time. Because the time for this event was starting shortly before 11 AM – the table read for First Signal.

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Patience McStravick and Adam LaFramboise.

This journey didn’t just start when I wrote the script for First Signal, it started back in 2006 when I wrote First World. When you write a screenplay you never really know where it’s going to go or who is going to be involved. But when I was watching Lindy Nettleton reprieve her character of Allison Colby, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from First World, I was not only enormously thankful for her return, but the realization of the journey this project has taken since those early days.

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Kim Gordon, Lindy Nettleton and Yefim Somin.

As a writer, there is something surreal about watching actors bring your characters to life. I’ll admit, when I was writing First Signal I had several actors in mind for certain parts. There’s a reason why you see filmmakers work with the same actors because you know what you’re going to get in a performance. But then there is also the excitement about working with new actors and crew. They bring things to the table that you just don’t see. Not because you don’t want to, but as the writer you tend to have blinders on to keep the train of the story on a certain track.

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Stephanie Eaton and Kim Gordon (that’s me in the back).

Case in point when Vernon Aldershoff and Adam LaFramboise were in a confrontational moment. Vern suggested the line of “You can sit down” or “Sit down” before his character answers Adam’s. As I mentioned to the room, I have no problem with such additions (or deletions) if it adds to the vibrancy of the story. As a filmmaker you have to let a story breathe. The key, is to make sure it’s remembered by the actors and then noted by the director. Yes, I made a variety of notes from yesterday’s table read and will be following up with the actors and crew.

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Vernon Aldershoff and Paul Noonan.

This is the first time I’ve held a table read and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t just about hearing the words come to life, it was about the actors and crew meeting each other and getting familiar with their respective styles. In the end it’s about chemistry for the next time we are all together it will be on set.

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Phoenyx Williams enters the scene.

It’s impossible to thank the actors and crew enough for believing in First Signal.  Your dedication and talent means a first rate production. And from their hosting of First Signal’s auditions in April to yesterday’s table read, my thanks is also greatly extended to The Verve Crowne Plaza in Natick. Indeed, a film has many behind the scenes partners. Each one of them is part of the production engine that finds its way to the silver screen.

Action.

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Testing the drone with Patience McStravick at the location of the field.


Rocket Science

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A scene from the short film version of First World. An Arctran landing  anti-gravity propulsion

Last week I mentioned how producing a film is not rocket science, but writing about rocket science is a different story.

With Justice Is Mind I did an exhaustive amount of research on two fronts. The first was mind-reading technology with the second being the law as it applies to investigations and the courtroom. But at some point you reach a certain knowledge bank when you can start writing.

Once a project of mine is given the green light I bring it to experts to insure its veracity. Of course there’s creative licensing, but at the end of the day a rocket launches vertically not horizontally!

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A combination of science and science fiction in Justice Is Mind.

One of the things I enjoy the most about screenwriting is learning something new. Am I an expert on mind-reading, the legal profession and rocket science? Good heavens no. But I can certainly talk about it in the context in which it’s presented. That’s what filmmakers do. We present. We create a fictional world against fact. Sure, some stories are pure science fiction with no regard to science, but I like to root my stories in plausibility.

While I was inspired to write Justice Is Mind from a 60 Minutes story, did I ever actually think the science fiction I postulated in my story could become near science fact? As a storyteller I’m doing just that, telling a story. My feeling has always been that as long as the story is interesting, it will hold an audience.

We’ve all been reading the difficulty that films are having at the box office. There are countless discussions on why this is happening. I have my own theories, but what I truly believe it comes down to is having an interesting story that is well marketed.

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With Paul Lussier (l) at a near sold out screening of Justice Is Mind in New Hampshire.

When I was marketing Justice Is Mind the actors were brilliantly talented and on par with any A list actors you would see on the silver screen, but they were not A list from a public relations point of view. I couldn’t market the film with Starring So and So, but I could market the concept. The end result was audiences bought a ticket and came to our screenings. Some were nearly sold out while others saw an OK attendance. What it proved to all of us was that audiences will turn out for an interesting story.

Revisiting the First World story has also been interesting. In addition to my “rocket science” research, I had almost forgotten the mountain of work I have done on this project, from writing the original script, producing a short film version, writing a sequel and publishing a novella. It’s safe to say I have some well thought out characters to work with!

Anti-Gravity

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First World centers around the Apollo space program.


Next Chapter

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With fellow actors on our last day.

The weather in Newport last week could not have been nicer. On the drive home Friday, I was reflecting how fast time flies and the weather we had last December and March. Let’s just say it wasn’t very cooperative from black ice to blizzards! But this round could not have gone smoother. From the trials at the Naval Justice School where fourteen of us participated as role players in their mock trial program to evening festivities and touring, it was a great time all the way around.

As I discussed with one of the newer actors to the program, this is probably one of the most unique acting gigs they will do. It’s one thing role playing a character, it’s another interfacing with over sixty students, instructors and leadership at the school. It’s that depth of involvement that has many of us returning for every class.

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Out and about with Evan and Patience in Newport.

But with another class over, it’s time to return focus on to other projects. That new idea I mentioned in my last blog post means I will be firing up Final Draft this week. While I won’t go into the premise just yet, it will largely be a one location drama. The genre—science fiction.

As a writer my ideas come from a particular moment or experience. With Justice Is Mind it came from writing the sequel to First World. For this story, I had a basic idea for it last year and wrote down some thoughts placed in a folder called, brace yourself, ideas. But it was over the last four weeks at the Naval Justice School when I started to think about it again and talked to one of the actresses who I already have in mind for a part. Perhaps it was also the fact that fourteen of us are either in a classroom or a courtroom that the idea started to blossom.

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With Monty and Bruce. We all played NCIS Special Agents.

Like I told this actress, I generally can’t start writing a story until I have an ending in mind. I need to know where the journey will eventually end. Now, that may change at some point, but it’s something to work towards.

As for the genre, the numbers I’ve been gathering over the last several years just reaffirm the market interest in science fiction.  Ten years after its release First World is still generating revenue. The psychological sci-fi of Justice Is Mind, combined with a dramatic story arc through a courtroom, is what brought audiences to theaters and now online.

But for this weekend it’s time to decompress from the last four weeks. However, I will leave you with one word that will be mentioned in this new story…

…Lagrange.

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Celebration dinner at Midtown Oyster in Newport. It’s now a tradition.


Serpentine Premiere

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Serpentine‘s VFX were completed this week.

I am pleased to announce that Serpentine will have its world premiere at the Strand Theater in Clinton, MA on March 6, 2017! Serpentine will premiere after an encore screening of Justice Is Mind. For Serpentine this will be a first, for Justice Is Mind this will mark our 22nd  screening. But it is the Strand Theater that give us our first theatrical break.

It was in 2012 and I was looking for a theater to screen Evidence, the short film version of Justice Is Mind. It was the Strand that gave us the opportunity to screen after J. Edgar.  Over a year later Justice Is Mind had its Massachusetts premiere at the Strand. The same model is being employed for Serpentine: The Short Program.

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At our Massachusetts premiere in 2013.

A theatrical screening marks a starting point. A launch pad, if you will, into a greater marketing program. Everything in this industry is timing. It’s about striking while the iron is hot (even though the rink is cold!). For Serpentine the launch will take place between national and world figure skating championships. The goal, as it was with Evidence all those years ago, is to develop as much interest as possible to produce the feature film version this year for a 2018 release. Why 2018? The Olympic Winter games take place in South Korea next year. It’s about riding a wave of popularity post games.

With a running time of just over 12 minutes, we will be presenting the first 10 pages of the feature length screenplay. Serpentine not only features several of the actors and crew from Justice Is Mind and First World, but introduces actors making their debut performance. In the world of film it’s all about performance, what we see on the screen and how it comes together behind the scenes.

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Serpentine introduces Denise Marco as Elizabeth Rogers and Isabella Ramirez as Suzanne Wilson.

As for debut performance, it reminded me of a recent conversation I had with an aspiring actress and model. This week I signed with Dynasty Models & Talent for New England representation. Yes, it’s an exciting step as I continue to lay out some personal plans of my own. During my visit at the agency, the owner asked me if I had any words of wisdom for this actress.  I first offered her the back story on how I was cast in a TV show some years ago but then went on to say how you have to want to be in this industry more than anything. No matter what you want to do, it takes a one hundred percent commitment and being able to weather continuous rejection. As I’ve stated before, this is an industry of no (or no response). But when a yes does come, it makes you appreciate your hard work all the more.

They say you are only as good as your last performance. While I agree with that to a point, I believe you are only as good as who you surround yourself with. This is an industry not lacking in advice, particularly from those you never asked. In my view it’s about working with those that want to showcase their efforts with you. I’ll just say this, it is not a coincidence that I’m working with a lot of the same people from Justice Is Mind and First World to bring Serpentine to life. This project also marks a reunion of sorts with a former business partner. More on that development later.

As for development, as an independent filmmaker, theaters like the Strand are important for our continued success. That being said, the Strand has established a GoFundMe campaign to restore and upgrade their wonderful marquee. For our screening on March 6 all ticket sales will be going to the Strand (no share of box office).  As a filmmaker there is something special when you see your film in lights.

Marquee.

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Picture Lock

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As planned Serpentine went to picture lock this week. And while that’s certainly a milestone, there are numerous other details that need to be attended to. From completing the visual effects, to sound engineering, scoring and color correction. And then there’s the marketing plan.

As I did with Justice Is Mind, and First World back in the day, I always aim to cast the widest net. When it comes to securing media or perhaps a screening opportunity, the more eyes on a project the better as you never know who may be interested. There’s so much more to filmmaking than the actual mechanical work of creating the film.

Since pre-production on Justice Is Mind back in 2012 I have been receiving email newsletters from various “experts” in the industry. Honestly, there is no magic wand and having a star in your project just doesn’t matter (look what happened this weekend at the box office). Your project will either resonate or it won’t. It will either breakthrough or get stuck. And while there are certainly a set of standards that need to be followed from having a quality picture with a proper aspect ratio, closed captioning and a few other industry standardizations, the rest is really up to the filmmaker. My point is there is no cookie cutter sheet that gives you instant success.

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Vernon Aldershoff and Michael Coppola in Serpentine.

Serpentine is as opposite to Justice Is Mind as First World is to SOS United States.  But in all my projects I make every effort to have an audience of some sort in mind when I start to write. Passion projects are great, but given the work that goes in to making a motion picture someone has to appreciate it past your family, cast and crew.

Since First World was released on to Amazon Prime it has seen a sizable increase in traffic. Science fiction is a relatively easy sell. Justice Is Mind is a hybrid of genres with science fiction and fantasy folded into a straight drama.  The marketing of that film was a three prong approach with audiences reacting all over the place from science fiction enthusiasts to those that love courtroom films. Audiences have loved it or hated it. But no matter the reaction every click and view just increases the audience. And just this week I learned that Justice was picked up by a Chinese concern. More to announce later on that development.

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With my mother just prior to the Boston SAG Awards screening of Jackie.

On a personal note, I’m glad over ten years have passed since I was publishing a magazine in the sport of figure skating. It has given me a perspective well outside the bubble I lived in for over a decade. In general, as I’ve learned, living in a bubble is never a good idea as it warps your perspective.

As for perspective, since I’ll be voting for the first time in the SAG Awards this year, I’ve been watching more independent films than I normally do. Or should I say, than I normally would simply owing to their story. What one has to appreciate is the sheer energy and enthusiasm that goes into making an independent film.

One film I just have to recommend is Jackie.  From Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy to the cinematography and story, I thought it was brilliantly executed (although the score gave me pause).

Crossover.

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Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy.


The Surprise

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With Vernon and Jackie Aldershoff.

It was back in 2011 and I was casting the short film version of Justice Is Mind titled Evidence. The starring character of Henri Miller was pivotal. He had to have an air of sophistication and mystery, while also being an “everyman”. As a director, you are auditioning for me the moment you walk into the room. And god help you if you submitted a headshot from the last century or to quote a colleague of mine, “generously photoshopped” the way you want to look. Neither was the case with Vernon Aldershoff. He looked like his headshot and was the look I had in mind for the character of Henri Miller. Of course, the next question rolling through my head was, “Jesus, I hope he can act.” Well, the rest is history. He starred in both the short and feature version of the film.

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Vern’s audition in 2011 for the part of Henri Miller.

This past weekend I attended his surprise 50th birthday party at a golf club. While Vern was playing golf with his son Dmitri, who played his on screen son Gary Miller, Vern’s wife Jackie turned the clubhouse into a Hollywood theme along with posters of Justice Is Mind and a step and repeat (red carpet). On the golf course I heard that Dmitri faked a hip injury to get Vern to bring him back to the clubhouse.  As I see Vern and Dmitri pull up to the clubhouse in the golf cart, Dmitri is going through the only act of injury with Vern buying it. I wanted to yell “Cut!”. Let me just say that Dmitri’s acting was beyond excellent. Talk about a long take!  But the look on Vern’s face when he entered the clubhouse and realized he had been taken was priceless!

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With Robin Ann Rapoport (l), Michele Mortensen (c) and Richard Sewell (r) in Justice Is Mind.

During the celebrations Vern was talking to family and friends in attendance and referenced how much the entertainment industry is about rejection, but that it only takes one person to say yes. In regard to Justice Is Mind, that person was me. But in as much as I said yes, it was also Vern and the countless others that said yes to me and to an untested project.

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With Kim Gordon and Paul Lussier in Justice Is Mind.

The Justice Is Mind project is now over five years strong. Through the writing, production and distribution, so many of us have become friends and have kept in contact. Yes, I’m looking forward to working with many of the actors and crew from Justice on my next project. In fact, with one project I’m working on now I don’t even know if auditions will be necessary. Why? Because I plan to offer parts and positions to those I’ve worked with previously. I don’t need to worry about on screen chemistry or whether or not these folks get along.

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The opening scene in Justice Is Mind. Father and son in the movie and in real life.

When I read these stores on IndieWire about Tribeca and Cannes that discuss distribution and the market, I am reminded about the challenges this industry faces. But nothing is more challenging than casting the right actors or securing a solid crew. I don’t care how great the screenplay is, without them breathing life into it your project goes nowhere.

Of course you always bring new people into the fold. That’s what this industry is all about. Meeting new people and expanding your horizons. It’s an industry of risk and chances but more importantly opportunity. If you look at my projects from First World, to Evidence to Justice Is Mind, you will see some familiar names.

The Company.

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The Theater

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A pitch for First World goes out this week. 

Innovation or disruption – Forbes has a nice comparison with this article. As an entrepreneur, I’m all about looking at an industry and seeing how a new product can be developed, launched and marketed. But innovation and the popular word “disruption” does need to coexist within an establishment of some sort.

Case in point when I developed a newsmagazine for the sport of figure skating in 1993, I was told time and time again “don’t do it”. Why? Because at the time the sport was just used to small fan based publications that narrowly reported on the sport as an “industry”. I saw it as something for the general consumer audience that watched the sport on television and responded to direct response commercials and frequented newsstands.

At times it was like pushing a square rock up a mountain, but push I did and it soon became the world’s largest magazine for the sport at a time when figure skating was exploding in popularity. Losing the title in a boardroom battle in 2004 certainly wasn’t a career highlight, but in hindsight it was the best thing that ever happened to me because both publishing and figure skating were rapidly sinking as an industry. In “Titanic” terms I left the “ship” at Cherbourg at the apex of our influence and wasn’t on the bridge watching the ship sink.

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Imagine as the SS Leviathan in SOS United States.

Every industry goes through some sort of course correction and while print is still with us, the news is largely relegated to the web and companies either adjusted or failed. The same holds true for the entertainment industry. As filmmakers our projects are made digitally. Gone are the days of producing on film. While there are some directors that still insist on the medium, the bottom line is the invention and distribution of digital media have enabled filmmakers like myself to produce. I’m not interested in nostalgia if it means I’m relegated to the unemployment line.

When I produced Justice Is Mind I was determined to get it in to theaters. I was told time and time again I needed to go through a booker or distributor. Well unless they had a contractual lock on a theater, I discovered that theaters are all approachable. They simply require a few logical things. 1) The film meets a professional standard point of view, 2) You act as distributor and provide them with the necessary “media” of DVD/DCP, posters and artwork, 3) You will market the hell out of it to drive audiences to the theater.  The latter is actually, in all honesty, the most important. Nobody cares about your film unless you tell them to care and give them a reason to go to theater (or watch it online).

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At the Cape Cod Premiere of Justice Is Mind in 2014.

These past couple of weeks we have seen this new disruptive technology called Screening Room. Just do a search and you’ll see the myriad of industry and consumer articles. While I’m all about creating something new to drive audiences, this technology is a terrible idea. We know the moment a film is released to theaters it’s pirated. Now, imagine a service in which you can skip the theater and watch it at home the day it’s released. The image and sound is captured at a higher quality and then uploaded to the net. I for one cannot imagine an entertainment industry without the theater.

I think Netflix and Amazon finally realized that after they buy a film it needs a theatrical release component or it will simply get lost in the world of VOD. Sure it might be seen by millions on their platforms, but will anybody know? And while I’m the biggest supporter of VOD, the net of the issue is that when a film is in a theater it is considered by the press and the public differently. It is packaged, presented and showcased. It brings people together in forum that can’t be replicated in a living room. The media we secured for Justice Is Mind can be directly attributed to our theatrical release.

As for figure skating, and so many sports, while TV ratings have been challenged and fragmented, there is still an enthusiastic audience of supporters that attend the events – like a theatrical release. It is those supporters that will be at the World Figure Skating Championships in a couple of weeks in Boston—supporters that may be interested in the political thriller I’m now writing around the sport.

New audiences.

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Looking forward to attending in a couple of weeks.


First Audience

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Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper and Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo – now playing.

To be a theatrical marketer you just have to do what I do when I go to the movies these days—you find someplace to sit in the lobby and look at theatergoers. I’ve worked in consumer marketing in one form or another for over twenty years and it just comes down to patterns. First, as a magazine publisher and then as a filmmaker. In the former, I targeted the fans of a particular sport (age didn’t really matter), but in the latter it’s a demographic.

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Theatrical audiences for Justice Is Mind averaged 40+ in years with an even split in gender.

Since I wrote First World back in 2006, and produced a short film version in 2007, I’ve known for some years that attendees of the science fiction convention circuit generally skewed in my age group (I was born in 1965). So when I wrote Justice Is Mind in 2010, I thought it would generally appeal to an older audience who may have counted TV series like Law & Order as their favorites along with films like The Andromeda Strain and the more contemporary Gattaca. The theatrical release of Justice Is Mind proved my theory when the majority of those that attended our screenings were 40+ and evenly split between men and women.

Of course, when you’re writing a screenplay it’s all guesswork isn’t it? Despite the best laid plans you really have no clue how it’s going to do. Yes, studios and some filmmakers do test screenings, but unless you are going to poll the entire country you just have to hope your film will find an audience through your marketing plan. But one demographic that is doing exceeding well are older audiences. Before there was Netflix, Amazon, and even Blockbuster, we went to the movies.  Seeing a movie in a theater was an experience you weren’t going to get on television. I’m not discounting the importance of the younger generation that of course goes to the movies, but the generation I’m in is a bit more predictable – they want to see great stories come to life on the big screen.

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SOS United States can be compared to Seven Days in May (1964) meets Clear and Present Danger (1994).

As for great stories, I saw Trumbo this week and just thought it was a brilliant film. For me, I’ve always been interested in stories that revolve around the Golden Age of Hollywood and the Cold War. Throw both of those interests in and I’ll be the first to buy a ticket!  Trumbo did not disappoint. Considering the ground it covered in 124 minutes, the story really captured a time in Hollywood and a political climate in the United States all those decades ago that I believe we are feeling now in the 21st century. You know what they say about history, it has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

As an article in The Wall Street Journal stated this week, there is a booming business in grown up films. When the $600,000 budgeted film Grandma returns $7 million in box office, that’s a serious profit and a business model that works.

Next pitch.

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“McCarthy era” like hearings on mind reading take place in In Mind We Trust , the sequel to Justice Is Mind.


The Ashton Slate

In SOS United States the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier intercepts the SS Leviathan ocean liner.

In SOS United States the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier intercepts the SS Leviathan ocean liner.

With the business plan for In Mind We Trust completed, work now begins again in earnest to market my slate of films for development, The one thing I have learned about this industry since I made First World, and during my time as a magazine publisher, is that investment can come from anywhere at any time. They key, as I learned with Justice Is Mind, is to be ready when the time is right.

Christopher Nolan said it best in the Hollywood Reporter a couple of weeks ago when talking about his career, “The thing that happens to a lot of people is that you get that opportunity, somebody says, ‘I really loved your film, what else do you have?’ And if you don’t have anything, or if you’ve just got vague ideas, it’s very difficult to take advantage of that moment, and that moment doesn’t come around again,” he said. “You’ve got to jump on it.” Obviously, I agree.

In In Mind We Trust "McCarthy Era" Congressional hearings on mind reading take place.

In In Mind We Trust “McCarthy Era” Congressional hearings on mind reading take place.

My feature length screenplay First World worked great to make the short film version in 2006. Yes, that project as a feature is years in development, but the short film version is in the market and the script award nominations have served as a great foundation. Just over the last couple of months, sales of the short film have tripled from this time last year and China is moving along at breakneck speed with their space program. Timing is better now to present. As this article on Hollywood.com shows, some projects just take time to develop.

The idea for SOS United States came to me when I was in the process of managing the theatrical release of Justice Is Mind. I’ve always loved the political thrillers made during the Cold War. The idea of developing a story that pits the President of the United States against the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as they deal with a potential nuclear device on a commercial ocean liner bound for Boston, certain reflects the political and military tensions we see in the world today.

In First World the story revolves around NASA's Apollo 11 mission and what was discovered on the Moon and then classified.

In First World the story revolves around NASA’s Apollo 11 mission and what was discovered on the Moon and then classified.

But it was the sequel to Justice Is Mind that called to me this past November. I always figured that, “someday I would write a sequel”. But I didn’t know it would develop so quickly. For me, when I get an idea I just need to run with it. The result is In Mind We Trust. With a story that reunites a number of the original characters from Justice with new characters against the world covert surveillance, government power, reincarnation and the horrors of World War II, the screenplay, like Justice Is Mind, is a demonstration of competing genres that I believe work well together. As Unsung Films said about Justice Is Mind, “Mark Lund’s film is a thriller-gone-courtroom-drama-gone-sci-fi.  Such extreme shifts in genre should not work. But they more than work in this case.”

Through all this is the navigation of a changing industry and the needs, interests and wants of investors. As I learned from my original investor in my old publishing company, to my backers on Justice Is Mind, these things take patience and perseverance and being ready when the time is right. It’s about staying a course that is true to the projects and to never capitulate.

Full ahead.

The foundation for the business plan for In Mind We Trust is expanding on the theatrical release of Justice Is Mind.

Like Justice Is Mind, the business plan for In Mind We Trust calls for a theatrical release. 


On Course

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On Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video

Although Justice Is Mind has been on Amazon Prime Instant Video for over a week, our “official” press release and email newsletter went out yesterday. With our social media efforts as part of the Viewster Online Film Festival and our theatrical screening in Chatham last week, I didn’t want this milestone to get lost. You can read our press release at this link.

Indeed this was a milestone. Having Justice Is Mind on both Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video in SD and HD formats opens up a world of possibilities. Getting on to Amazon Instant Video is a very straightforward process, but Amazon Prime is a different story. Simply, Amazon has to approve your film and I didn’t know what was going to happen until the film went live. But with this approval we are now in front of another 20+ million that subscribe to Amazon Prime. A special thanks to KinoNation our VOD distributor.

In addition to Amazon, Justice Is Mind is available on VHX and Reelhouse with bonus material and, at least until October 13, Viewster.  I was more than pleased with our participation in Viewster’s festival. We generated some great conversations in the comments section and had a solid social media presence.  Hopefully we will be able to extend our placement on Viewster.  Additional VOD platforms will be coming online soon.

Justice Is Mind – Viewster

This past week I was working on my filmmaking seminar that will take place on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth a few days before our International Premiere on October 29. When I was looking at the PowerPoint slides I was reflecting on the journey Justice Is Mind has taken from concept to screen. That’s what makes this business so exciting and such a rollercoaster. From the quiet times of planning to the highs of a screening.

Over the last several weeks, I have been presenting both SOS United States and First World for development. And like Justice Is Mind, I know this journey can take some time to accomplish. Not a week goes by when I read in the trades of a film that took time to come to fruition. For some projects its months, for some its years.  And once a film is made, you are still with the project for years after. I was reading about one producer in the trades who said something on the order of, “When I decide to invest in a film I have to ask myself do I want to be in business with that person for five years or more.”  It’s true, because the journey of a film doesn’t stop at the world premiere, in fact that’s when it begins again.

The opening slide of my filmmaking seminar

The opening slide of my filmmaking seminar.

Point in fact, no sooner did my email newsletter go out and a major science fiction convention reached out to screen Justice Is Mind in January, 2015. How did this connection come about? I screened First World with them in 2008.  As I’ve said before, I’ll say again, this is an industry about building long-term relationships.

What I learned when publishing magazines, I have taken to my filmmaking work. There’s no limit on where you can present your project. What it comes down to is determination, dedication, perseverance and a team that believes in the work, and more importantly, you.

Onward.

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Family Affair

With actors from Justice Is Mind at the Chatham Orpheum - the Cape Cod Premiere

With actors from Justice Is Mind at the Chatham Orpheum – The Cape Cod Premiere

As a filmmaker, there’s nothing more exciting than attending a theatrical screening of your film.  But the Cape Cod Premiere of Justice Is Mind this past Thursday at the Chatham Orpheum was particularly special.  Why? I had two sets of family attending this screening. My real family and the “Justice” family.

Thursday was our 12th theatrical screening (19th overall) and over the past year various cast members (and some crew) have attended the screenings.  These reunions are always terrific. Sure, we all have our own lives, but the screenings are a reunion of friends as we celebrate something we all worked on together.  For so many of us involved in this project, producing a feature film was a dream come true. It’s moments like this that should be enjoyed.

Also in attendance was my real family as well. In addition to my mother who played a member of the jury, my cousin, who lives in Dennis, and her brother and his wife who were visiting from Minnesota, joined the festivities. As I shot my first short film (First World) in Dennis at my cousin’s house in 2006, it was nice to show them where this journey as a filmmaker has taken me over the years.

With my mother (far right) and cousins

With my mother (far right) and cousins

But our screening last week was just different. For me it felt like one big party.  I think this was due in large part to the atmosphere of the Chatham Orpheum itself. An intimate, state of the art venue that seats 147. In addition, there’s a full restaurant/bar in the lobby that just creates this social atmosphere of excitement around the experience of watching a movie. Add in friends and family and presto…party!

We are now entering the last four days of the Viewster Online Film Festival.  In addition to being able to watch Justice Is Mind for FREE at this link, you can also vote, share and comment. Viewers also have the opportunity win a FREE trip to London for two! I have to say I think Viewster has done a fantastic job with this online film festival. For a film like Justice Is Mind we are able to present it to the world, for Viewster it brings in new audiences to their site. It’s a win-win for all involved.

Watch Justice Is Mind for FREE on Viewster

Watch Justice Is Mind for FREE on Viewster

With Justice Is Mind now available on Amazon and shortly coming online to other VOD platforms, I now focus on the upcoming international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth for the end of October. Although my PowerPoint presentation for the filmmaking seminar I’m hosting onboard has been done for a few weeks, now I work on my narration.

The one thing I love about movies is the discovery aspect. Sure Justice Is Mind is still being actively marketed, but how about when someone comes across it twenty years from now? One of my favorite courtroom dramas is Witness for the Prosecution. Made in 1957, I first came across the film several years ago. Thankfully with the proliferation of VOD, movies are discoverable with a simple search on what you are interested in watching.

Of course development continues for SOS United States and First World. For every filmmaker there is that journey to secure investment. But now that I’ve traveled this road once already, I have a better map on direction. Because if there’s one thing that’s always changing direction, it’s the film industry.

The high seas.

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Anniversary Week

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A year ago this week I was in the final days of preparing for the world premiere of Justice Is Mind on August 18, 2013 at the Palace Theatre in Albany, NY. The film itself was completed and pressed to our theatrical DVDs the week earlier. I knew the majority of the cast and crew would be coming and we were able to secure some local media.

After Justice Is Mind wrapped production on October 13, 2013 we entered the post-production phase.  The film needed to be edited, scored, special FX needed to be built, sound mixed, color corrected and a variety of other post production matters.  When I considered the number of locations (15), actors (over 120), special FX (170) and a host of other matters, Justice Is Mind was not a “small” feature by any standard. I’ve produced before, but Justice Is Mind was by far my most ambitious project to date.  The journey from script to screen may simply result in a DVD or digital file, but for anyone wanting to make their own feature film the details are in the middle and beyond.

Since our world premiere on August 18, Justice Is Mind has had the good fortune to screen in theatres, at universities and science fiction conventions throughout North America. Ambition did not just exist in post-production nor end after our world premiere. The ambition and efforts of so many involved in the project resulted in an independent film that stood out from the crowd.

Justice Is Mind   Reelhouse

When you consider that over 50,000 films are produced in any given year, I can’t help but be proud of our results to date. According to IMDB Justice Is Mind was ranked as the 8th “Highest Independent Film Released in 2013”, 42nd “Top US Grossing Independent Film  Feature Films Released in 2013” and 48th “Most Popular Independent Film Feature Films Released In 2013”. Over on Box Office Mojo, out of ALL films released in 2013 (including studios), our film finished 538 out of 687. Am I bragging? I’m doing what all major studios and the independents do, I’m promoting. I’m advertising our progress to date. If the majors do this so can the “true” independents that need all the social media and print space we can get. These efforts have resulted in the upcoming international premiere of Justice Is Mind on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth on October 29.  I’m also hoping to announce a domestic theatrical screening that’s scheduled for September.

International Premiere-page-0

Has this been an easy journey to date? Absolutely not. Even with these results, one still has to deal with a provincial attitude that permeates in an industry that is resistant to change. But there are the progressives. Those that understand about consumer demand. Those that look at the aforementioned results and simply conclude—audiences want to see this film. Consumer demand is front and center when it comes to Video on Demand.

With our Video on Demand launch on VHX in July, Justice Is Mind has just gone up on Reelhouse and will soon be available on other VOD platforms. Celebrating our anniversary week, Justice Is Mind can be streamed at $2.99 or purchased for $5.99 at Reelhouse. Over at VHX you can buy the feature film for $2.99 or our deluxe package of videos (including the feature) for $5.99. Enter the special coupon code ANNIVERSARY on the buy option at Reelhouse or deluxe option at VHX and save an additional $3 for a total purchase price of only $2.99.

As we continue our screenings and VOD plans with Justice Is Mind, the development process continues for SOS United States and First World.

Full steam ahead.

Mark Lund timeline-page-0


Past to Present

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I remember when I wrote my first script. It was in a creative writing class in junior high. I think I know where that script is. Somewhere in the basement with a century of family history. It was my grandmother who started taking pictures in the 1910s and then it was my grandfather who took 8mm films of various family outings. I actually used a picture from this family collection in Justice Is Mind and some of these old albums appear in the film with Margaret Miller. The album that Henri Miller was looking through actually contained pictures from some of my European travels. In Justice Is Mind the Miller family emigrated from Europe right after World War II.

This past week was a busy one, with Justice Is Mind shortly going up on four major VOD platforms, it was time to review a variety of sites.  I did this for our VHX launch, but wanted to revisit again by adding some new trivia to our IMDB listing (more to come) and updating some areas of our website (never ending). For when we do start to appear on these additional VOD sites, a major public relations push will begin in earnest. On that note, check out our latest review on Film Trance.

To date, I’ve been very pleased with our coverage and related reviews.  Each writer and reviewer looks at the film differently and it’s always amazing to me what resonates with who. In the case of Film Trance, I enjoyed their reference to the strong characters and statement, “It is a thinker with a psychological edge.”  Justice Is Mind really isn’t a film you can watch just once. I designed it that way as those are the films I like to watch.  The insertion of clues and moments building up to the end.

As for SOS United States and First World, I saw some progress on those projects this week. Both of these films have budgets far north of what I produced Justice Is Mind for and require a different approach to market.

First World concept art of the Synedrion Council chambers.

First World concept art of the Synedrion Council chambers.

When I’m pitching a project, I like to make my introduction via email first. In my view, it gives the recipient time to evaluate what I’m presenting. That being said, there’s always the initial call to present and to request an email address. Yes, I do have a script in front of me with various talking points as sometimes a cold call works out really well. I remember the great conversation about a month ago with a member of a production whose film did really well at the Academy Awards. Then there is the other side when a cold call can be downright chilling.  It is what it is.

So while I work on a presentation for SOS United States that’s going out on Monday, I revisited a contact in China for First World to represent that project on that side of the world.  When you consider the current state of world affairs, China’s space race in high gear along with the renewed interest in the Moon with the Apollo 11 anniversary, I believe the timing for both of these projects could not be better.

No time like the present.

SOSposter (704x1024)


The Video on Demand Premiere

Worldwide online VOD release July 10-page-0

I have often posted about my background in publishing and how it relates so well to my work as a filmmaker. When publishing was a robust industry that lived in print, the pitch process to raise capital to launch a new magazine pretty much mirrors how it’s done today in the independent film industry. You’ve written a script, have a business plan and spend a good deal of money printing both to present. But two areas I have paid obsessive attention to is the migration of print to online and consumer marketing. Just like publishing, this is the present world of filmmaking.

I’m pleased to announce that on Thursday, July 10, 2014 Justice Is Mind will have its video on demand premiere on VHX!  Please visit our site at this link or visit us on our primary website for a special discount. Our Deluxe Package is akin to a DVD with numerous special features.

JIM-Cunard Poster - Copy

While Justice Is Mind will roll out on other mainline VOD platforms very shortly, it’s important that we have at least one “direct” VOD platform. As I used to sell magazine subscriptions directly off our website, we also had subscription agents that sold for us. You want both, because you want to be everywhere.  I used to publish niche magazines in the sports and collectibles markets, is filmmaking really any different? I have a product and I need to develop as much conversation as possible. I also need to make it accessible in whatever manner a consumer wants to buy it. Whether it’s direct on VHX or on another mainline platform, a sale is a sale.

VHX is by far, in my view, the best direct VOD platform from a filmmaker and consumer point of view. The beauty is in the “storefront” of web design that makes it not only easy for consumers to navigate, but as a filmmaker the marketing tools they give you to bring your film to the world are light years ahead of the others. I strongly suspect in their business plan someone had a publishing background or at least worked in direct response. And here’s another plus, excellent customer service.  As filmmakers we all know there are a ton of new online services from VOD, to theatrical crowdsourcing, to crowdfunding—the difference is in customer service.

SOSposter.indd

When I produced First World in 2006 (released in 2007), the idea then (as now) was to present a short film version of the feature to interest investors. As I followed that plan, I also learned of science fiction conventions around the world that wanted to screen the film. I also learned of CreateSpace (through Withoutabox) to sell our film online and on DVD. To this day (actually yesterday) I still get a monthly payment for that film.

With Justice Is Mind’s International Premiere on October 29, 2014 on the Queen Elizabeth, our Video on Demand premiere set on VHX for July 10, 2014 and other screening opportunities and VOD platforms coming online, this course has enabled me to set sail with a new project – SOS United States.  And like I continue to do with First World, the process of getting SOS United States into production will just mean arriving at the right port of call. There’s a port for every film, it’s just a matter of navigation and setting a course.

Yes, this is an exciting time for filmmakers.  The studio system is gone and thankfully the days of the gatekeepers are numbered. We now live in an age of consumer demand and wants. As filmmakers we are only limited by the creativity of our marketing plans.

Justice Is Online.

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In SOS United States the Skylon plays a part in the story.


New Heading

Like the broadcast of the trial in the film, Justice Is Mind will soon be available worldwide on VOD.

Like the broadcast of the trial in the film, Justice Is Mind will soon be available worldwide on VOD.

While I was completing delivery of Justice Is Mind to a new VOD platform this week, the approval came in for our press release announcing the international premiere of the film. In addition to what I think will be a wonderful opportunity for Justice, this is one deal that I’m particularly proud of simply owing to its uniqueness.

Since our world premiere last August my goals with Justice Is Mind have been simple and to the point—get the movie in front of audiences and plot a return on investment for my backers.  When one considers the sheer number of films being made that are looking for an audience, I think being unique and innovative is key because if I’m not going to do it, someone else is.

In the next few days I’ll be announcing the international premiere of Justice Is Mind with a brand older than the Hollywood itself. That really is what it comes down to with a film, building a brand. It’s what I have endeavored to accomplish with Justice Is Mind domestically and what I hope to do as we sail into the international marketplace.

Father's Day Trivia. Did you know that on screen father and son are real life father and son? Vernon Aldershoff and his son Dmitri.

Father’s Day Trivia. Did you know that on screen father and son are real life father and son? Vernon Aldershoff and his son Dmitri.

Fortunately, what has enabled filmmakers to accomplish so much with finite resources is social media and a host of new digital tools.  But that too requires constant navigation as this relatively new form of marketing continues to evolve. This past week I read an excellent “white paper” titled An Analysis of Internet Trends in 2014 for Independent Films.  My takeaway from this was pretty straight forward, the old ways of doing business (particularly internationally) with “gatekeepers” is collapsing (rightly so) and audiences are the curators of content they want (the way it should be).

When it comes to brand building, developing SOS United States is no different than what I’ve been doing with Justice Is Mind. With Justice we have themes revolving around the loss of privacy, government intervention and new sciences in the courtroom. With SOS United States we have government conspiracies, intelligence agencies and military conflicts.  Yes, like First World, my screenplays tend to revolve around existing and what I call forward projection trends. I guess that’s my brand of writing!

With our new heading towards Europe along with the release to our first VOD platform, needless to say we will be navigating new waters as we set sail on this new adventure. But the one thing a captain needs above all us is a great crew and passengers. Suffice to say we have that with Justice Is Mind.

Clear all moorings.

In SOS United States, the ship is called the Leviathan. Pictured is the actual SS Leviathan that eventually became the flagship of the United States Lines.

In SOS United States, the ship is called the Leviathan. Pictured is the actual SS Leviathan that eventually became the flagship of the United States Lines.


International Departure

This timeline photo reached 2,711 on just a $5 investment.

This timeline photo reached 2,711 on just a $5 investment.

As an avid fan of Star Trek, I can equate the following for Justice Is Mind – we have returned to space dock at sector 001. Since our last screening in May at The Elm Draught House Cinema, Justice Is Mind is preparing for its international release. In addition to video on demand, we will shortly be announcing the international premiere of Justice Is Mind.

Yes, these are exciting times for the film. An independent film that has had the good fortune of a domestic theatrical release and screenings at some of the United States most prestigious universities and most popular science fiction conventions. Indeed, from our “shakedown cruise” in Albany last August, to Carnegie Mellon in April, to the Elm in Millbury, to positive reviews, I think it’s fair to say that Justice Is Mind has cruised well in the market. Soon you will learn why I’m speaking in nautical terms.

To prepare for our international release, Justice Is Mind is now closed captioned for various VOD platforms that require it. A draft press release has been written and media lists are ready to be presented the latest developments. Just yesterday, I tested a new timeline photo on our Facebook page and invested $5 in targeted marketing. The result? The post reached 2,711. This is just part of the process to bring Justice Is Mind to a worldwide audience.

I was also pleased to see that Justice Is Mind passed the Bechtel test. You may ask, what is this test? From Wikipedia, “The Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added. Many contemporary works fail this test of gender bias. On average, films that pass the test have been found to have a lower budget than others, but of comparable or better financial performance.” With over 50% of the cast of Justice Is Mind being women, the film received a 3 out of 3 rating.

As I am now back in the market seeking financing for SOS United States, I often reflect on my original journey with First World and then my efforts with Justice Is Mind. When I think how much this industry has changed since I wrote First World and even when I penned the business plan for Justice Is Mind, simply put flexibility is the key. Not only when it comes to production, but most importantly distribution. Platforms are only as popular today as a new one that arrives on the scene tomorrow.

But the end game of all of this is product. No matter the theatre, venue, video on demand platform or exhibition space, without product it simply doesn’t matter how innovative or unique these places are. It seems like every week some new technology is being announced. This week I saw a camera that shoots at over 200 frames per second. While innovative and “cool” it comes down to what’s being filmed. Technology gives us the tools, but it’s the story that brings in the audience.

Standby for departure.

The National Security Agency plays a major part in SOS United States.

The National Security Agency plays a major part in SOS United States.


United States Justice

SOSposter.indd

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 StatesA 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!

Justice Is Mind  2013  by Mark Lund   Unsung Films

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.

SOSposter (704x1024)

 


Justice Is Reviewed

Justice Is Mind screen test at The Elm Draught House Cinema.

Justice Is Mind screen test at The Elm Draught House Cinema.

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.

The Concorde returns to flight in SOS United States as the official state plane of the Prime Minister.

The Concorde returns to flight in SOS United States as the official state plane of the Prime Minister.

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 ReporterTake 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.

Justice Is Mind - May 19 screening


Science Fact, Fiction and Beyond

The Elm

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.

Penguicon 2014

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.

Press Release

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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.


Independent State

Cinemagic Movies

Keeping up with the industry can almost be a full time job in and of itself. But there comes a point when you just have to shut off the data stream and go with what you think is best for you and your project. Honestly, the “talking head” experts some of these trade publications are constantly quoting can put you on a roller coaster of contradiction. I’ll just say that I take the “grain of salt” approach to this industry as I did in publishing. Simply put, I’m not a follower.

Producing a true independent film means that you literally have to create what a studio does, but with limited resources. But that doesn’t mean no resources it just means being inventive and wearing multiple hats. Sometimes at the same time!

Take for example this past week. Filmmaker: With our March 24 screening at Cinemagic in Sturbridge coming up, I’ve been talking with the theatre on when we will run our test. Publicist: Then there is the follow up to media outlets I pitched our screening to and a special promotion by Pizza Post. Producer: Talking to possible financial backers for my next project. Distributor: Talking to a digital aggregator for Justice Is Mind in addition to a variety of theatres that are interested in screening the film. Writer: Presented the idea for a concept poster for my political thriller to a graphic artist. Accountant: Review our financials and prepared 1099 filings.

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Personally what I enjoy the most about filmmaking is the opportunity to wear these many hats. I love to write. But when my brain needs a creative break, I can turn to some dry financials or mark down some notes for another story that has come to mind when working on another. That’s how Justice Is Mind came to life. When I was working on the sequel to First World, I was at a scene that involved a mind reading machine. Suddenly the concept of Justice came to being.

But through all this perhaps the most exciting for me is when we have a screening of Justice Is Mind on the calendar. There is nothing quite like the experience of seeing a film you created come to life. The moment I hear those first few bars of music and see the opening quote, the journey of four years and over two hundred people, there is an innate satisfaction of accomplishment.

Meet the Miller family on March 24 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge.

Meet the Miller family on March 24 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge.

On accomplishment, my sincere thanks to Bob Leveillee of Pizza Post who plays Mr. Oxford in Justice Is Mind. As some of you may know, we filmed several scenes at Pizza Post. For our March 24 screening, Bob has offered ticket holders a dollar for dollar credit at Pizza Post. I first met Bob back in 2011 when we filmed the short film version Evidence. He has been a terrific supporter from the start and now a good friend. Check out the great radio spot he created as part of this promotion that is running on a couple of local stations.

As for friends, it looks like our screening on March 24 is going to be a reunion of so many friends from my childhood to the present. I was reminded from talking to one of my friends from second grade about the organization of forts we made when we were younger. Indeed, it has been a journey.

 “One Man’s Trial Against Science, Faith and History” – Justice Is Mind.

Justice with law quote


Justice In Sturbridge

Cinemagic Movies

I’m pleased to announce that Justice Is Mind will screen on March 24 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. As some of you may remember we worked with Cinemagic on our New Hampshire premiere last December. I could not be more appreciative and thankful for their support of Justice and independent film.

Whenever we announce a screening it is a mobilization of the army of supporters that have made all our screenings possible, from our cast and crew to the numerous enthusiasts we have been building over the last year. No sooner did I announce the screening than friends of mine in Sturbridge sent notice to their friends and so on. Simply put the marketing and exhibition of a feature film is not a one person show. So with our press release out and our Facebook event page set up, the process now begins to present the screening to the media and local businesses.

Today also marks another milestone. I finished the business plan for SOS United States. Thus, I have more work cut out for me as I look to secure investors in that project. Someone asked me the other day about First World and how that is coming along. Believe me, that’s not a project I have forgotten about. In fact, I’ve started to revisit it with some concept art and plan to start presenting that project again as early as next week. Certainly with China showing real progress in their space program, the timing for the story is certainly better. And that’s what it all comes to in this business – timing.

The Synedrion Council Chambers in First World. Concept art by Pixel Eight Design.

The Synedrion Council Chambers in First World. Concept art by Pixel Eight Design.

In the trades we read about the films being green lit, but not so much about the long journey to get there.  For example, the acclaimed Black Swan took ten years to make and the long journey of Dallas Buyers Club has been well reported.

There’s no question that there’s a variety of literal chaos going on the industry. I try to keep up with the latest by reading a variety of trade publications but in the end you just have to go along with what you think is best. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, there is no perfect formula. It doesn’t happen that way in this business. Producing a film, even studio material, is a speculative venture at best but we do it because we love doing it.

As we venture into our tenth theatrical screening of Justice Is Mind, I am reminded about all the wonderful screenings we have had and the support they have received. These are not easy feats to achieve. They take more work than you can imagine. But in the sea of storms the industry waxes on about, there is a calmness that takes over a screening when a film starts to roll on the big screen.

“My three Ps: passion, patience, perseverance. You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker.” – Robert Wise

Indeed.

Justice Is Mind - March 24 - Cinemagic


Fail Safe

Memories on trial-page0001

When I wrote the business plan for Justice Is Mind in 2010 it called for certain assumptions based on what I knew at the time was working, or not working, for independent filmmakers. The plan called for actually “renting” theatres for a limited theatrical run and going with a distributor we already had a deal with (and still do if I want to engage it) to get on certain VOD platforms. The dramatic change in distribution and marketing in three years has been unprecedented.

As of today, Justice Is Mind has enjoyed a limited theatrical run of nine theatres with no rental involved (full disclosure, one was fully sponsored). Rather we are actually being compensated on a split arrangement. We proved the point. A truly independent film can have a theatrical run without a distributor involved. As I mentioned to my investors and producers last week, I’m fairly confident that if we had a distributor involved in these theatres, after their expenses, the run would have been a financial loss. It was the exact opposite for us. With a track record of revenue and attendance attached to the film, we can approach theatres with confidence. We are working on additional theatrical dates for Justice and hope to make some announcements shortly.

strand 008

In 2010 a distributor I had planned to work with on Justice had a revenue sharing system that I could project from. Since then they have retooled their compensation and minutes viewed has now turned to literal pennies. However, another VOD platform I’ve been working with for just over a year has delivered real cash of over $1,000. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or expert in this industry to see the change in distribution revenue models. A couple of posts ago I talked about the amount of “product” coming into the market. I think this is a great thing. Audiences want more films. But distributors are playing catch up. One distributor (with some limited success) who was introduced to me a few months ago said that the days of them just loading up content to the various VOD providers is gone as even their content has to be approved. Obviously this is not the case for all films, but I’ve been hearing similar coming out of various trade interviews.

This change, particularly on the digital front, has created a ton of new platforms eager to fill the gap. Some have raised millions with new technology to get your film in front of the right audiences while others enable you to sell your film directly off your website.  But, in my humble opinion, as they have no track records they need to be watched as well. One we worked with on the short film Evidence (Constellation TV) has since closed after all kinds of positive press, which is a shame because I thought they had a great idea. So what’s my point? Sure, I’m all for new technology and trying new things, but I think it’s important to be part of the established landscape as a fail safe as there’s only so many ways to reinvent the wheel.

The NSA is mentioned in Justice Is Mind and plays a major part in SOS United States.

The NSA is mentioned in Justice Is Mind and plays a major part in SOS United States.

We know there are no guarantees in this business. The reports from Sundance concluded that while getting your film into that festival is obviously great there’s zero guarantee of a distribution deal. The Hollywood Reporters story on Ron Howard’s acclaimed Rush losing over $10 million was particularly eye opening. And how many stories do we need to read that having “A listers” in your film is no guarantee of anything. The New Yorker summed it up “The trick is that no one knows which films are going to be excellent or genre-bending before they are made, or even before they are screened.”

I’ve always viewed business plans as flexible documents. Yes, you have the product you want to produce and you estimate revenue based on understood norms at the time. But by the time you get to market, the market you may have planned to be part of probably will have changed somewhat if not completely. It all comes down to what audiences want to see and how they want to see it. So as I write the business plan for SOS United States, I look at what’s being done presently with Justice Is Mind.

There are a few things I do know and can predict. There’s a lot of wonderful talent on both sides of the camera. They rely on producers to rise above the noise and have their work seen. I believe in discovering new talent. I know from our screenings this is what audiences want. At the end of the day they want a good story.

One of my favorite photos from our theatrical screenings. The two stars of my films. Vernon Aldershoff from Justice Is Mind. Angelina Spicer from First World.

One of my favorite photos from our theatrical screenings. The two stars of my films. Vernon Aldershoff from Justice Is Mind. Angelina Spicer from First World.


The Bunker

Henri Miller (Vernon Aldershoff) talks with his manager Brian Kovski (Jesse Mangan).

Henri Miller (Vernon Aldershoff) talks with his manager Brian Kovski (Jesse Mangan).

They are used during times of war and for government continuity. They are a place where thoughts can be concentrated and orders can be given. In so many ways, it is also how a writer works – in a bunker.

When a screenplay is written it just doesn’t magically come together with a few keystrokes. A writer creates an entire world in their head with numerous characters, plots and scenes coming to life. For me at least, this has to be done in a bunker-like fashion. I need quiet. I need to concentrate. You will never find me writing in a coffee shop or with other writers at a retreat. Call me an isolationist, but I just don’t want the distraction. Honestly, some of the best ideas for scenes (particularly of conflict) come to me when I’m at the gym. Go figure. All writers have their oddities and that is mine. OK I have another, I get strange looks from my cats when I’m talking out dialogue.

That scene in the script.

That scene in the script.

I’m also not the type of writer that spends months creating these worlds only to option it off to a production company to let someone else create their view of my vision. Sure, an immediate paycheck is nice (if at all), but I take a long term view of my projects – development.

Having launched and managed a publishing company in a previous life, I think I’m just used to writing business plans (yes, I still believe in them) and working all the angles to raise the capital and making it happen. As I’ve said in previous posts, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing your written word come to life.

Vernon Aldershoff auditioning for the role of Henri Miller.

Vernon Aldershoff auditioning for the role of Henri Miller.

I’ll never forget my early days of developing Justice Is Mind. Yes, the idea came to me when I was working on the sequel to First World. Although I have written the feature length screenplay and produced a short film version for First World, as that is a multi-million dollar project, it’s just taking more time to develop. My goal with Justice Is Mind was to write, produce and direct a large scale feature on a micro budget to prove what I could and ultimately wanted to do. The proof was in our world premiere last August.

Heading into 2014 with our 9th and 10th theatrical screenings for Justice Is Mind on January 11th (Plimoth Cinema) and 24th (Cape Cinema) and with our Video on Demand plans coming online shortly, now could not be a better time for independent filmmakers. Simply put, we have a myriad of options to distribute on countless platforms. As I continue with our distribution plans for Justice Is Mind, which includes more theatrical screenings in the United States, the international push begins in earnest this year.

Seven actors from Plymouth appear in Justice Is Mind. Sean McPherson plays a Reincar Scientific lawyer.

Seven actors from Plymouth appear in Justice Is Mind. Sean McPherson plays a Reincar Scientific lawyer.

What has happened with the development of Justice Is Mind, started with First World and now will continue with my new political thriller – you build your base of supporters which includes actors, crew, marketing partners, investors and fans. From world building on paper to bringing it to life, but like all realities you have to keep it in check and it has to be managed. For me it all comes down to the bunker with a desk in the corner.

Next stop.  Plymouth.

Plimoth Cinema   Plimoth Plantation

Our Plimoth Cinema listing. Click the picture to buy your tickets!