It was one year ago yesterday that Justice Is Mind had its west coast premiere in Beverly Hills, California and it was just over a week ago that we had our international premiere on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. In a sea of films looking for attention, my goal since day one with Justice was to make every attempt to stand out from the crowd. Just take a read of the AFM dailies, there are a dizzying amount of films looking for attention and distribution.
I have never been one to follow the crowd. I don’t believe in doing what everyone else does just to be “in” or perceived as “popular”. Conformity has never been my strong suit. Ask anyone that has followed my career from publishing to film, I have always carved a niche for my projects.
I believe the verdict is in on Justice Is Mind. Having been screening the film theatrically for over a year the majority of audiences and reviewers have enjoyed the film. Audiences didn’t care about the “star power” of the characters. They just wanted to see a good story. Honestly, I don’t know why distributors (particular foreign sales agents) don’t understand that as well. On the Queen Elizabeth that was the test. An international audience from all over the world that applauded when the film ended. It wasn’t about the stars in the film, it was about the story in the film. Thankfully, the industry is changing and rightly so.
Unbelievably the trend as of late is that there’s plenty of capital but not enough bankable talent to sell the films into foreign markets. One industry executive quoted in Variety stated “From a financing perspective, it’s never been better. But it’s not about the money; it’s about the talent. The challenge right now in the independent market is getting talent to commit and stay committed”. But films are still being financed. One look at an AFM daily or the thousands of films that are produced every year contradicts that assertion. I think what this comes to is looking for the perfect project. Dear God we know that doesn’t exist because there’s one factor that no actor, producer, director, distributor, sales agent or investor can gauge…the audience.
With the rise of VOD, theaters hungry for films that tell a good story (the building in China is off the charts) and unique screening opportunities (like we did with Justice on the Queen Elizabeth), Justice Is Mind proved that a quality story works in the market from theatrical, VOD and special events. All this without “star” actors. When I was publishing many years ago I was told time and time again that nobody would read my magazines without known writers. Really? That’s why I had the number one magazines in our market. Don’t follow the crowd, make the crowd.
As a diehard fan of cinema from classics to contemporary, I have nothing against “stars” but projects shouldn’t be defined around “A” list talent. We all know that at the end of the day it comes down to what the audience wants.
Perhaps the best advice I ever received was to have a few different projects at the ready because you really don’t know what will resonate at the right time. I have First World, a science fiction epic; Justice Is Mind, a psychological sci-fi thriller and SOS United States, a political thriller. With Justice Is Mind produced and distributed, today I continue to market that film while presenting First World and SOS United States to interested parties to secure production. Tomorrow, I start to write the sequel to Justice Is Mind.
From the start of our trip on October 23 until we returned home on October 29, our voyage on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth ocean liner could not have gone better. From joining the ship in Rome, to the outstanding weather and ports of call, to “White Star” hospitality of shipboard staff and crew, to the wonderful reception my filmmaking seminar and the international premiere of Justice Is Mind received, it was a combined holiday and business trip I will never forget.
I have traveled with a variety of cruise lines, but Cunard’s approach simply brings back a time when sailing by ocean liner was the way everyone traveled. The Art Deco design throughout the ship with artwork of Cunard’s history on display creates an atmosphere of a bygone era updated for the modern traveler.
My mother and I sailed with Cunard in 2006 on the Queen Mary 2, so we had an idea of what to expect. But as this voyage also combined a filmmaking seminar I was presenting along with the international premiere of Justice Is Mind, it helped to know the atmosphere prior to boarding.
A cruise invites one to socialize. To participate. To engage with new people from all other the world. From the author of The Witcher Keys by a guest to My Way to the Seven Seas by a crew member, to lecturers like Kim Sharman of the Royal Navy, the creative energy on the ship was just amazing.
But amazing also goes to the quality of food on board. I think someone at Cunard took a page from The Lord of the Rings. There is literally sometimes 1st breakfast and 2nd breakfast followed by “elevenses”, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner (thankfully we had late seating at 8:30 PM!). Experiencing quintessential afternoon tea by the English on board an ocean liner is something not to be missed. While I loved the Britannia Restaurant, our favorite place to dine was the Verandah Restaurant. Simply put, two of the best meals I have ever had.
Of course it was Justice Is Mind that brought us halfway around the world. A film that started as an idea back in 2010 landed us on the Queen Elizabeth one of “The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World”®. While my filmmaking seminar was relatively standard on the process of creating a motion picture with Justice Is Mind as an example, this would be the first time in the history of the film that we would screen to an audience that had no connection to the project. Suffice to say, I was more than a bit anxious on how it would be received. Justice Is Mind is not a standard drama. From mind reading via an MRI, to courtroom battles, to reincarnation all the way back to World War II, it’s, as one reviewer put it, “A thinker with a psychological edge”.
When the credits started to role the audience erupted in applause. Relieved, happy and grateful immediately came to mind. Some offered hugs while others stated their sheer enjoyment of the film. Oh I’m sure there were those that didn’t care for it, but when I was hearing words of support from guests throughout the rest of the voyage, it was a great feeling.
My heartfelt thanks to Cunard for selecting me as a guest lecturer and for the staff and crew on board the Queen Elizabeth for welcoming my mother and me on the trip of a lifetime. And, of course, to the guests of the Queen Elizabeth that sailed on voyage Q418. Indeed, an adventure, a holiday, an experience to be remembered forever.
The journey continues.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Full steam ahead.
This past week I was preparing a presentation for SOS United States and started to reflect on what I have produced and directed over the years. From plays, to commercials, to corporate videos, short films and feature films, it has been one hell of a journey so far. I remember back in the 1990s when I produced my first direct response commercial and being glued to the TV just waiting to see it air for the first time. The next day I went into my office (early) to look at the fax report from the call center to see how many placed an order for one of my magazines. I fondly remember my excitement then as I do now every time Justice Is Mind embarks on a new journey.
In a few months I’ll be on an ocean liner in the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean screening Justice Is Mind on the Queen Elizabeth. Yes, this is a tremendously exciting opportunity for the film and as cruise travel is my favorite way to travel, all the better! But in all honesty, it has always been about bringing Justice Is Mind to the widest possible audience.
Justice Is Mind was produced in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and while local, regional and national audiences have been wonderfully supportive, the second phase of this four year project has been to present Justice Is Mind to an international audience. When I was publishing magazines I was always looking for new avenues to distribute, filmmaking is no different. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, filmmaking is a journey to new worlds and new audiences.
Of course the one constant, the one continuous journey in all of this, is capital. The capital to produce and the capital to pay back your investors from distribution. When you read the entertainment trades, blogs and related sites (Slated, etc.) they talk about the countless various structures of film finance. But there are a couple of constants in all this coverage, 1) everyone is looking for funding, and, 2) every deal is different. From the studios to the independent filmmaker, cash is king.
How many times do we read that such and such a film was financed by the most unlikely of investors? Trust me I had no idea that my best friend and her husband would be my investors in Justice Is Mind. Nor did I think that 20 years ago a figure skating coach would back my dream to launch a figure skating magazine. So what common thread did these financiers have? A passion for the intended product. Don’t get me wrong, they are business minded but at the end of the day they believed in the project and wanted to see it come to life.
On my quest to secure funding for SOS United States and First World I look for those that may have a passion for the subject matter and are entrepreneurs. There’s no question that filmmaking is a risky venture, but isn’t any business? Unlike a business that may not make it and has to close its doors (or shut down their website), a completed film is a product that can be marketed and sold.
Now boarding. The journey to new worlds.
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.
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.
Tomorrow I leave before the crack of dawn for a nearly nine hour road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the April 29 screening of Justice Is Mind at Carnegie Mellon University. We have screened Justice at two universities, but Carnegie is different. This is where the idea for Justice Is Mind was born from a 60 Minutes broadcast about ‘thought identification’. Yes, I’m pretty excited. I’m also excited to report that Vernon Aldershoff, who stars as Henri Miller, will be joining me!
This past week I was reflecting on all our screenings to date. From theatres, law schools and science fiction conventions, each have their own atmosphere. From the actors and crew to the audience that attends. Indeed, those that attend Monday’s screening at Carnegie will represent an entirely new audience. And this is what it’s all about, building an audience.
The one thing I have read over and over again is the importance of building audience prior to VOD and DVD. Simply put, the number of films that are entering the VOD world is astronomical. When you have filmmakers like Joss Whedon and Jeff Lipsky placing their films in the digital world rather than “traditional” distribution routes, it does further the discussion that VOD has replaced DVD as the real revenue generator for independent films. More importantly, traditional distribution methods are changing in favor of filmmakers and audiences.
I do, however, disagree with the blanket statement by Jeff Lipsky that, “Independent American films are largely considered anathema to foreign distributors these days.” While I will agree that foreign distributors are hell bent on “stars” and “commercial” projects, the $35+ million bath foreign (and domestic) distributors are taking on Transcendence proves yet again that their model simply needs to change. Audiences want a good story. Period. Like Lipsky’s films that found US distribution but no international, foreign distributors have told me Justice wasn’t commercial enough because we didn’t have a “star”. They are seriously laboring under a monumental misconception of reality that will keep Justice out of the foreign marketplace. Do they know that some of the leading VOD platforms, like Vimeo, can be accessed anywhere in the world and that traditional and social media is the fuel that drives audiences? On that note, I’m working on finalizing a very unique international deal that I hope to announce in the next couple of weeks. Like others before me and after me, we just circumvent gatekeepers.
It’s often reported in the trades about being inventive when making an independent film. But the same holds true for distribution. What about unique ways and interesting venues to bring a film to an audience? Yes, you can get your film into a theatre. Yes, you can get your film screened at a university. Yes, you can get your film distributed online. There is a tremendous amount of work involved and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be done.
For me, I’ve been doing this for years. When I operated my publishing company sure we had traditional paid subscribers, advertising and newsstand. But there was always the events. I was always trying to create something unique that would bring attention to our magazine. Is it really any different with a film?
See you in Pittsburgh!
For those of us that are independent filmmakers we are inundated with more and more information on the direction of this business. In my point of view it comes down to what’s best for your own project and not the dictates of others. Coming off our highest theatrical attendance, I actually received an email from a filmmaker, who of course was selling their services, claiming “…you can forget a theatrical release if you don’t have a named actor.” Putting aside the fact that Justice Is Mind has had 10 theatrical screenings to date, this claim just smacks of sheer ignorance because there are simply too many films that have disproved this. Certainly named actors are a great assist for foreign sales, but how many articles and statistics have stated otherwise particularly when it comes to domestic sales?
There was a great article that was posted on Truly Free Film about the number of bad deals out there for filmmakers. Again, in my view, it just comes down to being careful because once you sign away your rights they are gone. Every filmmaker has different goals and objectives with their project. The great thing about this industry now is the number of ways to get your film seen by audiences. Because at the end of the day nothing else matters if audiences are not embracing your film.
As we are finalizing our VOD plans with a distributor, our box office gross numbers were also released this week to demonstrate the commercial appeal of Justice Is Mind as platforms consider the film. Our theatrical screenings have afforded us the opportunity to generate media and a following prior to VOD release. I did a simple search on Google today under “Justice Is Mind” movie and over 600,000 results were returned. What’s the makeup for all these entries? Who knows, but I think it shows that our independent film has some legs to stand on. When I read that an estimated, 50,000 films are made year, I’ll take our 538 rank for the past 365 days.
Over the course of any given week I see the relentless promotion some filmmakers do with their projects and my work on Justice Is Mind is no exception. The only magic to this business is hard work with the goal that audiences will enjoy your film. With Justice I could not be more thankful to the cast, crew, location and marketing partners that keep pushing this project forward. Just this week, through the introduction of someone part of Justice, we had another test screening at a theatre. I hope to announce that date soon.
What I find exciting in this business is the inventiveness you see with filmmakers to make their projects a reality. From writing, producing and distributing, there’s always something new to be learned and experienced. On that note, I’m particularly looking forward to our next screening at Carnegie Mellon University on April 28.
Justice in Pittsburgh!
Just prior to any screening of Justice Is Mind there is the usual set of nerves. Will audiences show up? Will they like the film? I also say a few words to the audience prior to the start of the film. Each one of these “opening statements” is a bit different but they always end when I introduce the concept of Justice Is Mind starting with “Imagine a not too distant future…” Someone asked me how I’m able to talk to audiences like this. Simply, I rehearse what I’m going to say. That’s what this industry is all about no matter what side of the camera you are on – the rehearsal and the performance.
After having a pre-event drink with my former classmates from grade school, I went over to the theatre at 5:30. Although that was an hour and a half before the film started, there’s a system I like to employ – meet with the photographers and get a feel for the surroundings. Every theatre is different and each has its own atmosphere.
It didn’t take long for audiences to arrive. From childhood friends to new supporters who read the media coverage we had in print and on the radio. For me, it’s always great to see the “JIM family” arrive. By that I mean the actors and crew that have traveled this journey with me for nearly two years. This was our tenth theatrical screening and there is a certain camaraderie among us that makes these screenings thoroughly enjoyable for all in attendance. And in attendance did they come. We set a new single screening record for Justice Is Mind with 159 in attendance and $1,570 in box office. To see photos from the event click album one and two.
The process of filmmaking is really a set of impossibilities that you overcome. Writing the story, raising the money, producing the film and, finally, distributing. This is an industry where the odds are against you from day one because of the quasi creative, entrepreneurial and business aspect that a film needs to have. But with 10 theatrical screenings under our belt, I updated our IMDB listing to include The Ashton Times as a theatrical distributor because, frankly, that’s what we’ve been doing that wouldn’t be done any different than with a traditional theatrical distributor. We strike a deal with the theatre (we don’t rent), pitch the local media, set up targeted promotions and engage social media.
Just prior to the start of the film I announced that Justice Is Mind will be screening on April 28 at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). For those of you that have followed this project for the last few years, I was inspired to write this story when CMU’s Dr. Marcel Just was interviewed on a 60 Minutes story about mind reading using fMRI techniques. With Dr. Just opening the film along with both of us having a Q&A with audiences after, this is one of those honors in life that doesn’t come along often.
Writing. The foundation of all things. For all of us that write creatively we are initially inspired by something. For Justice Is Mind it was 60 Minutes. For First World it was the Apollo space program. For SOS United States it was our current political climate.
There was a moment on Monday when I was standing just outside the theatre and a few final folks were walking in. As I opened the door for them it was in that instant when a strong sense of appreciation waved over. From the first word to an open door.
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.
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.
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.
Another part of the article in The New Yorker I quoted from last week now needs to be referenced, “If making films weren’t challenging and fun for the people involved, they wouldn’t do it.” Indeed, making films is fun. Challenging? Absolutely. But as we know nothing worth doing is easy.
This past week I was reading up on all the activity, or should I say, lack of activity at the European Film Market (EFM). Like Sundance, there doesn’t seem to be a buying frenzy or absolute breakout hit. It appears that everyone is waiting for Cannes. But we shall see. None of this news, or non-news, however is going to stop a creative from being creative.
As I prepare to announce additional theatrical screenings for Justice Is Mind along with our initial VOD plans, I was reminded this week that there are always new markets to explore for a film. In the case of Justice, I started do a simple Google search on “law school film festivals” and “neuroscience film festivals”. To my surprise, I was more than pleased to see a variety of festivals (generally connected to higher education and associations) reveal themselves. You can’t find these as part of Withoutabox or similar portals. I’m pleased to say that after contacting a variety of them, conversations are already starting. Will we be part of their programs? I don’t know. But it’s always worthwhile to reach out to see what the possibilities are.
Apparently some of the conversations coming out of EFM centered on having not only well known directors and stars but a marketing hook as well. I’ll be honest, there are painfully few films I go to because so and so is directing or so and so is in the film. For me it is all about the “hook”. There is no perfect formula in this business anymore if there ever was. Sure you have to push past some gatekeepers and figure out a way to get your film to market. For anyone that has worked with me, they know when I hear the word “no” I am just going to keep working an angle until I hear “yes”.
This reminded me about a film I read about in The Verge that was a Sundance selection last year. They took a direct distribution (theatrical and VOD) route and seem to have done really well. In a smaller fashion this is what we have been doing with Justice while we continue conversations with distributors. As I’ve said before, it’s not just about doing a deal, it’s about doing a deal that makes financial sense. What’s the most important thing? Justice Is Mind has been made. What’s the next important thing? Justice Is Mind is being seen by audiences.
I’ve reached that point in my business plan for SOS United States where I discuss the budget and projections. Indeed, these are like New England weather and are always “storm centric”. I can hold to a budget without any issue (that just comes down to planning), but film revenue projects seriously can change at the drop of a hat. I believe the key is having a reasonable budget and reasonable expectations.
This is an exciting time for Justice Is Mind as we go into what I call Phase Two of distribution and marketing while I look to finish the details on SOS United States. There’s always something new to learn, and things we need to avoid, there’s just one thing we all need to remember in this industry.
Justice Is Mind. For 2013 – The 8th Highest Rated Independent Film on IMDB. The 42nd Top Grossing Independent Film on IMDB. The 48th Most Popular Independent Film on IMDB. Eight theatrical with two each science fiction and law school screenings, along with over ten feature articles. The verdict is in. In a sea of hundreds, if not thousands of films released in 2013, Justice Is Mind has sailed proudly on its own.
My end of year post in 2012 was titled Hold the Dream and was a reflection on the journey of the “Justice Is Mind” project. At the time I wrote, “…it’s about that group of people you associate yourself with that will not only bring your dreams to life but theirs as well—mutual passion.” Indeed the mutual passion of so many reflected our end of year results.
Where does one even begin to start thanking all those that have made this possible? From the theatres that agreed to screen Justice, to the journalists that wrote great articles, to the audiences that came out, to the industry platforms that recognized our film as a true independent and treated it as such.
But there are those in the Justice family that need to be recognized for without their tireless efforts we would not be ending this year on the great note we have. First and foremost to my executive producers Mary Wenninger and Stefan Knieling. They continued to be there as my friends and financiers of this project. To Vernon Aldershoff, Mary Wexler, Kim Gordon, Paul Lussier, Gail Sullivan, Ken Holmes, Sheila Mandeville and Michele Mortensen. Not just great actors in Justice, but passionate promoters in their own right. And to Arnold Peter, my longtime entertainment attorney and friend who spearheaded and sponsored our west coast premiere and law school tour. Of course, it goes without saying, but it needs to be mentioned again, the crew that built Justice Is Mind. Our editor Jared Skolnick; director of photography, Jeremy Blaiklock; composer Daniel Elek-Diamanta; sound mixer, Timothy McHugh and special effects guru Adam Starr. Of course, a special thank you to Kim Merriam. Every time Justice screens I see her house and reflect on a friendship that has gone back over twenty years. What can I say except this has been an incredible journey for me on so many levels.
There were several times throughout the year when I was told that it takes a village to produce a feature film. In the case of Justice Is Mind, the initial “company” of 200 plus has surely grown to a “brigade”.
I liken the operation of a film to that of an ocean liner. Unlike a cruise ship that sails in generally calm waters, an ocean liner must navigate all kinds of weather. The same is true in the operation of a feature film. While we have had a positive outcome for 2013 and it has been mostly smooth sailing, there has been the occasion when I’ve had to call “general quarters”. But as the cast, crew and “passengers” of Justice know, this captain doesn’t let anything get in his way.
Full ahead to 2014.
With our first poster currently in the design phase and having written the trailer this week, there is one group that needs to be thanked for their participation in Justice Is Mind—the over 50+ extras. Without their support, Justice would have resulted in a much “smaller” look for it was the extras that gave the film the scope it needed in the areas of the story that called for it most.
For actors working as an extra it can be both a rewarding and daunting experience. There can be a lot of waiting around and in some cases (especially the studio level films) you may never actually be seen on camera. Sure, on the studio films you are getting a day rate, but it’s not about the money it’s about the craft. On Justice I wanted the actors participating as extras to know that I endeavored to not only make sure they were seen on camera, but that their very participation was vital to the film.
Case in point the Board of Directors of Reincar Scientific. When I was updating the script, I added a few scenes that were intercut over the testimony of Dr. Eve Pullman, the inventor of the FVMRI procedure. Logically, the company that funded this process would be following the story intently. After posting for executive “extras” on New England Film and with the assistance of Carlyne Fournier who played Dr. Even Pullman, not only did we have enough members for the board—but it was standing room only!
Another example of actors coming together was in the courtroom scenes for both the jury and the audience. After another round of promotion to constitute a full jury, Mary Wexler, who plays Judge Wagner in Justice Is Mind, was just terrific. We were in the enviable position of having more actors than we needed for the jury. From the bench, Mary took the reins as a judge would to ask prospective jurors questions—in this case their availability for the days needed on set. For those extras that didn’t make it on the jury, their participation as extras in the courtroom audience was just as vital.
I would also like to take this occasion to mention Sheila Mandeville Grant who played the jury forewoman. Sheila and I went to school together in Spencer, MA and graduated the same year. She has been such a wonderful supporter of my projects over the years. In the case of Justice her daughter Kelly Grant and Kelly’s boyfriend Nicholas Boyle participated as jurors. The David Prouty High School (alright I’ll just age myself) class of 1983 was a big part of Justice Is Mind—Mary Wenninger (our financial backer with her husband Stefan) also graduated the same year.
From the wedding of Margaret Carpenter to Henri Miller, to the FVMRI Operations Center, the actors that participated in Justice Is Mind as extras brought an enthusiasm to their roles that increased the dimension of the story on a variety of levels.
This director sends you an “extra” thank you and for bringing “justice” to your part.