As I approach the end of the latest story I’m writing in the First World Universe, I can’t help but feel a wave of emotions. There’s the excitement of course about completing a new story, but then there is that twinge of sadness as it’s coming to an end. As a writer, we live with our characters. From their victories and failures to achievements and disappointments, their world is revealed for all to see.
While the story is new, some of the characters have already been established and brought to life in First Signal. The returning characters in this story are President Colton, General Reager, Major Sampson, Elisabeth Seward and James Griffin. As I saw how each actor brought these characters to life, it has made the writing of their actions and dialogue a bit easier as they are familiar. But in this story, there are numerous new characters with the creation of Kate Cloverton as the star.
Cloverton, a rising journalist for a major American media company, I realized after the first act is a combination of many journalists I have known over the years. While she’s determined to get the story, she exhibits self-doubt. She questions if the work she does really matters. It’s a colleague of hers that puts her back on track. A colleague who has had some limited success in his own career, but then finds that his efforts hit a brick wall.
I have seen the competitive aspects of journalists first-hand. There are those that are methodical in research and interviews with their eye on the long view without coming to a conclusion prematurely. Then there are those that have an idea for a story and will do whatever they need to do to publish their views. I think we can all agree that the latter has taken over the contemporary world of journalism.
But in this story, Cloverton is sent on a journey by an editor that has a mission of his own. While perhaps well meaning, this editor had no idea that Cloverton’s ingenuity, gut instincts and willingness to take risks, would set world governments and an alien presence on Earth on a collision of Biblical proportions. I should have a first draft completed by mid-November.
A couple of weeks ago after I received our first quarterly payment for First Signal from our distributor Indie Rights, I received a couple of messages from their filmmakers on what I did for marketing. After communicating their messages to our distributor, they asked if I would like to publish a case study on how I marketed First Signal. I was happy to do so.
While I don’t think what I do for film marketing is revolutionary, there is one thing I do that I sadly don’t see employed—consistent marketing. Marketing is all about consistency, scheduling and messaging. For me, I simply calendar what I need to do on a weekly basis and stay the course. What I largely do isn’t based on how much cash I spend, but how much time I spend. If spending an hour a day on marketing yields a positive cash flow, I’d say that’s time well spent.
As 2015 comes to a close, it seems fitting to reflect on the past year as we look forward to 2016. The title of my end of year post is not only about the industry but about the movie Spotlight – “The true story of how The Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.” Having been a magazine publisher and now a filmmaker, Spotlight is an unprecedented film that must be seen. Simply put Spotlight presents the importance of investigative journalism as a filmmaking triumph.
On a personal level, I sadly know more than a few victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. On a knowledge level, very few people in Massachusetts didn’t know about this travesty in one form or another. You either heard about it, or knew a victim. But it was the “Spotlight” team at The Boston Globe that brought light to the darkness of so many. Spotlight is more than just another great movie, it represents the power of film and reminds us about the vital role that journalists have in a democracy. They are the voice for the voiceless.
I write passionately about this because when I was a magazine publisher there were more than a few times when I was pressured by the “powers that be” to silence a story by intimidation. I never caved in. I worked for my readers, not for some institution.
2015 has been a great year for film. From Spotlight, Trumbo, The Martian to the return of Star Wars, there was something for everyone. I almost feel sorry for The Academy. They have some really hard choices to make. But what it proves is that independent film, despite industry reports, is alive and well. This year proved, yet again, that original ideas still flourish.
The highlight for me this year was the 2nd anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind this past August. In addition to a reunion of the cast and crew, our 21st screening was another reminder that audiences want to see original works and they don’t care if those involved are household names. They just want to be entertained.
Perhaps the icing on the cake was the volume of media that covered the event from Worcester Magazine to our first international coverage in The Huffington Post. As Pamela Glasner stated in her article, “Justice Is Mind takes on less of a sci-fi feeling and more of a ‘forward-thinking documentary’ feeling.” All these efforts have been part of a long-term marketing plan to continue to introduce the film to new audiences. You can be sure, there are plans in the works for the 3rd anniversary screening.
This past year I continued to polish my political thriller SOS United States and In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind. When you consider the current political climate around the world and advances in mind-reading technologies, both of these projects continue to be well timed. There are significant efforts around both of these projects that I plan to introduce next year.
If there is one thing I learned in 2015 is that you have to continuously reach out to expand your networks because you’ll never know what’s possible until you try. From direct discussions with private equity groups and hedge funds to presenting new projects to relaunching my personal website and some new clients, this has been a most interesting year.
But as Constance Smith says in Justice Is Mind, “I didn’t promise you an easy case.” Nothing in this industry is easy. It is work done the old fashioned way like an investigative journalist. You research, email, telephone and network. As producer John Davis (The Blacklist) told The Hollywood Reporter about what his father Marvin Davis (who once owned 20th Century Fox) taught him, “Get your ass out of bed. Work your ass off. And when you drill 80 straight dry holes, which he did, make sure you drill the 81st, which he would also do and hit the mother lode.”