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.
As my mother and I prepare to leave for Europe this week for the international premiere of Justice Is Mind on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth, I was more than pleased to see that Justice received three excellent reviews and some great comments on Amazon.
We are over a year out from our world premiere and yet activity around Justice Is Mind continues. This isn’t by sheer happenstance, it’s because I keep marketing the film. There have been so many articles in the trades as of late on adjusting release strategies based on windowing from theatrical to VOD. For me, I just keep marketing and promoting.
Sure, I have other projects I’m promoting like First World and SOS United States for development, but how long does a social media post take or a pitch to a media outlet or even a theater? I also plan to start writing the sequel to Justice Is Mind next month, so continued awareness is great for a variety of reasons.
When I read comments like, “Justice is Mind is a lot more compelling than I had anticipated. It had my attention” Movie Waffler, “The greatest strength Justice Is Mind has is in making you think” Fraking Films and “Mr. Lund has put up well-balanced and paced movie about a probable future” Examiner, these reviews certainly are a motivator. But it was a fan from Amazon that reached out to me with a wonderful email that stated in part, “your ability to make such an intriguing and important film, with fabulous continuity, honesty, realism, and passion deserves attention and recognition” that really made my day. Of course you aren’t going to please everyone and any filmmaker that thinks they are going to lives in fantasyland. But as a consummate optimist I just focus on the positive.
Positive, of course, is the upcoming international premiere of Justice Is Mind. Yes, as you can imagine I’m more than excited for this screening. First, the opportunity to present the film to a completely new audience is great, but the setting itself is one that is not only truly unique but my preferred method of travel. Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passion for the history of ocean liners and that bygone era of travel. Now modernized with a fleet of three ships that sail the world to exotic ports of call, no brand does it better than Cunard. With over a century and a half of leading the industry, Cunard blends yesterday and today with its grand fleet of ocean liners. I’ll do my best to post pictures from the sailing.
Speaking of pictures, I had the opportunity to go back in front of the camera this week for an appearance on The Folklorist. This Emmy award winning series has produced some amazing content since their inception and has featured a variety of actors that I have worked with over the years. For this episode, I had the great pleasure to work with Jeffrey Phillips. Not only did he play the President in the short film version of First World but I also cast him as George Katz in Justice Is Mind. Yes, whenever I see him I call him “Mr. President”. I also had a great time working with Kathy LaShay Berenson who played one of the Reincar Scientific executives and Gale Argentine who played the emergency room doctor in Justice Is Mind. Indeed, it is a small world. The episode is scheduled to air on November 6. It will also stream on their website at this link.
In a few short weeks, Justice Is Mind will have its International Premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Indeed, for more reasons that I can count, I am looking forward to this trip. And with my PowerPoint filmmaking seminar completed and all the other details attended to, it just comes down to the final organization before I leave for Rome.
Justice Is Mind is now in the international market. Since our arrival on, VHX, Viewster and Amazon (with other VOD platforms to follow), our film has left its domestic home for an international audience. Our screening on the Queen Elizabeth will be the launch event. I cannot think of a more fitting setting than an ocean liner in the Mediterranean Ocean. For the first time in the history of the film, those in the audience will have no direct connection to the movie other than their interest in seeing it. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about as a filmmaker. Introducing your work to new audiences.
The process of marketing Justice Is Mind internationally started back in 2011 when the short film version was produced. Did I know where Justice Is Mind was eventually going to go? No, of course not. No filmmaker has a crystal ball that can predict the future. What we do have is hope, ambition and determination and work tirelessly to accomplish what we do.
But as I’ve learned from our theatrical screenings, reviews and articles, every film needs to have some sort of hook to target and reach an audience. Theatrical screenings have been pivotal to Justice. With each one I learn something new whether it be demographics or areas of the film that resonate with an audience. Live screenings give a filmmaker a chance to interact with an audience that VOD will never really be able to do. While VOD is the revenue generator for independent film, it’s the theatrical audiences that are the driving force.
There have been so many discussions on the pros and cons of theatrical and VOD, particularly when it comes to windows. I can easily see the point of the theatres. Why would they want a film to also be available on VOD the same day it’s released in theaters? From a filmmakers point of view, it comes down to revenue and getting a maximum return on a limited marketing budget. This is a conversation and debate that will long continue.
This past week I made a variety of presentations for First World and SOS United States. And while making these pitches, I offered a hook on why I think they are marketable commercial projects. For First World, there is a new space race between governments and corporations. For SOS United States, we have a global military coalition targeting a variety of worldwide situations.
But until those projects get funded, the marketing focus is on Justice Is Mind. Just yesterday a great mini-feature was published on Fraking Films. Always nice when a story starts, “Today I’m excited to share with you a great looking indie film called Justice Is Mind.”
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.
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.
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.
In 1840 Cunard Line started with a ship called RMS Britannia. At the dawn of the 20th century the RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania were household names. Cunard’s RMS Carpathia rescued survivors of the RMS Titanic. As the century progressed it was the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in times of peace and war. They are The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World®.
There have been many milestones associated with Justice Is Mind. From our world premiere in Albany at the Palace Theatre to our west coast premiere in Beverly Hills, California but I can’t think of a more ideal location for the international premiere of Justice Is Mind than on the MS Queen Elizabeth that will be sailing in the Mediterranean Sea. Our cruise will depart from Rome.
Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated with ocean liners. My mother and I were members of the Titanic Historical Society long before the White Star Line’s most famous ship was discovered by Robert Ballard. Since the 1980s I have been on several cruises. But this is not my first time on the production side of cruises. During my years in figure skating I produced two major events for another cruise line.
It was Christmas 2006 when my mother and I sailed on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2. At the time I was living in Los Angeles and my mother was in Massachusetts. I brought with me the cut of my first film First World to show her. Later during the cruise we were sitting in a beautiful theatre on ship watching a movie. I said to myself then, someday, I want my first feature film to be shown onboard an ocean liner. Eight years later on October 29, 2014 that dream will come true.
I first mentioned the news of our international premiere on the MS Queen Elizabeth to some of the actors in a limousine while drinking champagne! Yes, it was a very fitting scene at our Millbury screening in May. Another thing I mentioned to one of the actors is simply to enjoy this moment. There is nothing easy, simple or quick that happens when marketing an independent film. There’s nothing wrong with a stop to smell the roses. Or in this case a glass of champagne!
You can read the official press release about our international premiere at this link. Part of the program during the week will also have me hosting a filmmaking seminar prior to the screening that will also discuss the making of Justice Is Mind.
Indeed the making of an independent film outside of the studio system (and releasing it) is a milestone all by itself. Now on to a new voyage to get SOS United States into production, just yesterday I was talking to a member of the team that had unprecedented success at the recent Academy Awards. One thing we both agreed on, regardless of the numbers involved, there is one thing that is identical – steadfast determination in navigating this industry.
Like being on the bridge of a ship, some days will be smooth sailing while others are storms at sea. Whether you are on a ship or producing a film, the nautical phrase “steady as she goes” is fitting.
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.
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.
I am always the first to arrive and last to leave our theatrical screenings. Last Monday night at the Elm Draught House Cinema was no exception. To quote Commander Straker from the UFO TV series episode ESP, “Yes, I always like to look over a convention hall before a conference.” And what a conference it was!
Shortly after I arrived Justice Is Mind’s star Paul Lussier who plays John Darrow and Mary Wexler who co-stars as Judge Wagner arrived along with Bob Leveille who plays Mr. Oxford in the film. Bob, and his Pizza Post, were instrumental in promoting this screening. A couple of weeks ago he announced a nice surprise for us when he worked out an arrangement with All Points Limousine to drive us around for an hour to celebrate and toast our accomplishments to date. While I’m usually “on alert” making sure the screenings run smoothly, it was nice to relax and enjoy this moment with actors who I now consider friends.
After our drive around town, audiences started to arrive. In total we had around 140 attend. I say around because 133 were paid ticket holders (including myself), but I did see a fair number just walk in without paying. That was a shame, because theatres, like filmmakers, need to generate revenue. But that being said, when I’m watching the film and I see the last scene come up I always wonder how audiences will react. Up came my credit and the audience erupted into applause. As Eve Harrington said in All About Eve, “If nothing else, there’s applause… like waves of love pouring over the footlights.” While I was in the lobby, many came up to me and said how much they enjoyed the film. If nothing else, that’s all a filmmaker needs.
Of course you can’t please everyone. One of our location partners (who I won’t name), greeted me at the beginning and then darted out at the end and wouldn’t even make eye contact. Honestly, the travels of an independent filmmaker are like a dramatic TV show. As Max Schumacher said in Network, “And here are a few scenes from next week’s show.”
With 11 theatrical screenings with an average per screen gross of $1,100+, 8th placed highest rated independent film released on IMDB for 2013, higher education and science fiction screenings around the country, a 12 month ranking on Box Office Mojo of 539 out of 11,474 films and an upcoming international premiere through a multi-billion dollar company (public announcement coming soon), I know we have a marketable and commercial project. We all know this is not an easy industry to navigate and is in a constant stage of change, but I do demand that our voices be heard and that you tune in to our show.
So what are a few scenes from next week’s show? I’m working on “the making of Justice Is Mind” that will be a DVD extra, another review is coming out next weekend, I will be following up with a variety of theatres considering Justice Is Mind for screenings, prep for our international premiere in October, having closed captions created for our VOD release and…
Until next week.
Tomorrow night at 7 PM the 18th screening of Justice Is Mind will take place at The Elm Draught House Cinema in Millbury, Massachusetts. Like all our prior screenings, there’s both excitement and nerves. What filmmaker isn’t excited to see their film in a theatre but on the other side they’re nervous because they want to make sure audiences enjoy the film. For me, I truly enjoy attending these screenings. Meeting audiences and hearing their comments is what it’s all about. As writers we tend to work in a vacuum of seclusion, but as a director you are the public face of the film.
As director, I could not be more pleased with the local media support of this screening. The Millbury Sutton Chronicle, Webster Times, Yankee Shopper and Smart Shopper, have all supported Justice Is Mind’s May 19 screening in print. And Bob Leveillee’s Pizza Post radio spot on WTAG and WSRS along with our social media efforts have really rounded out the media plan. Print media reached the towns of Auburn, Dudley, Charlton, Oxford, Webster, Grafton, Douglas, Northbridge, Sutton and Uxbridge. The Yankee Shopper states a reach of over 65,000 mailed copies and WTAG and WSRS report a reach of over 170,000 in central Massachusetts which includes Worcester. For an independent film, with just the will of those associated with the project, notice of this screening has potentially reached 235,000 and that doesn’t include our social media efforts. As always, it will be interesting to see how many are in attendance tomorrow.
This week someone in our local acting community posted a video from a pretty popular filmmaking group that claimed that nearly 90% of filmmakers don’t engage in social media or want much to do with marketing. I find this really unbelievable on so many levels. First, as director, don’t you want to be involved in where and how your film is marketed? Second, unless you’re living under a rock, even distributors, with their substantially reduced marketing budgets for independent films, expect filmmakers to assist in marketing. Personally, unless the deal was financially worthwhile, I would be hard pressed to relinquish control until I reviewed a media plan. Think about it. How many times do we have to read in the trades that a film misfired with audiences because of the way marketing was handled? Transcendence anyone?
In the next few weeks, I’ll be announcing the “International Premiere of Justice Is Mind”. To say I’m excited about this upcoming screening would be a vast understatement. Months in the works, with months to go for planning, I signed off on the paperwork last week.
It was two years ago this month that I announced that funding had been secured to produce Justice Is Mind. I remember that day and where I was very clearly. I was in the Washington, DC area screening the short film version Evidence at a sci-fi convention with Vernon Aldershoff. When I think of the journey so many of us have taken with this film and where we are still going, it truly has been one of the most exciting times of my life. But with that excitement has come dedication, hard work and determination to see a project from start to market.
Speaking of starts, look for the concept poster for SOS United States in the next couple of weeks.
See you at The Elm!