Every weekend I set out to post to this blog an interesting bit or two about the entertainment industry and my own quest as a filmmaker. When I learned about the passing of the great Maximilian Schell yesterday, I was reminded by something he said in the special features section of the DVD on the making of Judgment at Nuremberg, “This an industry of chances and luck.” I’ve referenced it before in this blog and it’s something that I most certainly agree with. But just as I was typing up this post, it came across the news that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in an apartment in New York City. Schell died at the age of 83, but as Hoffman was only 46, the media is already speculating on the cause.
For me there are two films that instantly come to mind when I think of these two great actors. For Schell it was his Oscar winning performance as Hans Rolfe in Judgment at Nuremberg and for Hoffman it was his Oscar winning performance as Truman Capote in Capote. Audiences today, tomorrow and for generations to come will see the work these legendary actors brought to the screen.
I often watch films from the 30s, 40s and 50s. I wonder what it was like to be part of the industry back then in the heyday of the studio system. Although produced in 1961, Judgment at Nuremberg certainly fell into that world. Likewise, Capote will, if not already, be viewed decades from now as a classic. That’s the greatness of this industry. No matter what part you play, whether it be in front of or behind the camera, you live on forever.
Hoffman was quoted as saying “Creating anything is hard”. There’s no question about the truth in that statement. No matter what your path is in this industry, creating is hard and it comes down to luck and chances.
These past two weeks the entire world has been front and center on news surrounding the United States’ National Security Agency and a “whistleblower/traitor” that is now “residing” in Hong Kong. Whatever your opinion is on this matter one thing is certain—someone has pitched a story to a producer, a script is being written and a film will go into production by the end of this year.
In Justice Is Mind one of the tracks in the story is loss of privacy. Our primary character, Henri Miller, makes an elected choice to give up privacy with that decision secured by biometric signatures. Miller’s information is digitized, sent electronically to a foreign company and held in a central library of like “minded” information. Trapped by his own memories, he soon finds himself on trial. But in an age of social media and immediate news gathering, while the law may say “innocent until proven guilty”, let us not kid ourselves. Despite the democracies that we live in anyone charged is guilty first and only innocent after the public says so.
When it comes to marketing Justice Is Mind, I have been working closely with my entertainment attorney Arnold Peter. Sure, we are submitting to targeted film festivals and making presentations to sales agencies and distributors, but the major push for the film will be in the very democracies that have allowed us, the citizen, to sign away our rights of privacy by our own choice. Speaking of choices, I’d love to have Justice screen in Tehran (that probably just got me on a list).
One country that we will be having a presence in is India—the world’s largest democracy. This would not be my first foray into that country. My first short film First World was the only science fiction film to screen at India’s first national discussion on science fiction. It was an honor and a distinction that I will never forget. Presenting Justice Is Mind in India is just as important as the United States as the whole point is to establish discussion around key areas of the film—where does privacy start and stop?
In the digitized and social media world we live in the loss of privacy in the general sense must just be accepted. One of my favorite films, Gattaca, sequences DNA and decides your societal fate. In Justice Is Mind your memories decide your legal fate. Make no mistake, these sciences are largely here in the year 2013. Maybe not as developed as the films they are represented in, but like Star Trek literally invented the cell phone, fiction will be fact soon enough. Get used to it or live in a cave.
When it comes to writing, production and directing a film you want your audience to leave thinking. That’s how a film establishes a long shelf life. That’s how a film finds audiences long after its world premiere. That’s why films like Judgment at Nuremberg, 2001 and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner still resonate today. They had something to say and weren’t afraid to say it. Justice Is Mind is not politically correct. It is designed to elicit conversation and to remind us that our life is largely dictated by the choices we make. And in the case of Justice the choices of…sorry you’ll have to wait until the film is released for the end of that sentence.
Thankfully our democracies still give us the right of choice. And like those that we elect to office to represent us in our respective governments, we want our films to also win in the court of public opinion. Because it really comes down to three words–
WE THE PEOPLE.