In Justice Is Mind the fictional trial was The Commonwealth v. Henri Miller. In reality Justice Is Mind was primarily filmed in The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This past week, Justice Is Mind’s editor Jared Skolnick, who is also an award winning filmmaker, was featured in an article titled “Hey, Hollywood and Bollywood — how about Valleywood?” The story in The Valley Advocate stated that Jared “makes movies in the Valley because this is where he’s from and where he began building his professional network.” The same holds true for me. Even when I was living in Los Angeles in 2007 and cast the two leads in First World in the “Golden State” of California, I filmed the project in Massachusetts? Why? Because this is where I’m from.
Having lived in both New York City and Los Angeles, I can certainly understand the desire to be at the epicenter of the entertainment industry. Having been on a network TV show, a city like Los Angeles can be very exciting when you are working on the high end of the industry. I know numerous actors (some I’ve trained) and filmmakers who have left Massachusetts for the hope of fame and fortune. I firmly believe if you have the desire and will to move to these cities you should. You will never know until you try. For me, I’m glad I had my experience in both these great cities, positive ones from a career point of view, but my creative energy and the launching of all my projects has originated in Massachusetts. It’s not something I set out to do, it just happened that way. My new personal website, www.markashtonlund.com, chronicles the journey.
Case in point, the making of First World and Justice Is Mind. Both of these projects were enormously ambitious between the number of talent involved and needed locations. I had to work in a region where I knew the people and their general enthusiasm about being part of the film. Why film in a location that will require permitting, location fees and local regulations just to look cool, when you can film somewhere else for free working with enthusiastic location partners in exchange for promoting their business?
For me, as I did with Justice Is Mind, once I give the green light to a project I like to move along at reasonable pace in pre-production. Simply put, time is money whether literally or figuratively. As some may have noticed from postings to this blog, I have generally already scouted most of the locations for SOS United States and to some degree for In Mind We Trust.
But as we have seen from the latest film markets, the greatest challenge filmmakers on all levels have is in securing production financing for their projects and a return on investment. You don’t have to be a fortune teller to recognize that it always comes down to equity and what the investor wants. To say there has been an about face in film financing you just have to revisit articles that the trades wrote around the latest American Film Market and then there was this blog post over at Film Specific. But there is one piece to “The Commonwealth” financing pie that keeps films in the state.
This Thursday I announce that Justice Is Mind will go live on another VOD platform which has over 170 million users around the world. What’s so interesting to me is the constant ever changing world of film distribution. Most of the VOD platforms we are now on didn’t even exist when I wrote the business plan for Justice. Imagine where this business will be in the next five years.
Speaking of business plans, I’m about two-thirds completed with In Mind We Trust. While this plan certainly has many characteristics that are similar to SOS United States in terms of demographics and the Cold War overtures, there are of course numerous differences. It’s highlighting those differences in terms of marketing and public relations that will certainly aide the project as it moves forward.
One area that has sparked quite a bit of discussion has been the past-life reincarnation of Henri Miller in Justice Is Mind. In In Mind We Trust this area of the story is fully realized. How incredible was it that NBC News, and countless other media outlets, reported this past week about one ten year old boy who details a past life he had as a Hollywood actor. The report itself is fascinating and you can watch it at this link. Personally, I do believe in past lives. Like the research and science that’s part of “thought identification” mind-reading, this will be another area that I’ll be watching develop.
As for developments there is an upcoming movie called Women in Gold that stars Helen Mirren in which she plays a character who seeks to reclaim a piece of artwork that was stolen during The Third Reich, a claim that winds up at the Supreme Court. Based on a true story, there are the parallels between that film and Justice Is Mind and In Mind We Trust. In Justice, the painting in question is Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man that engages a conflict between Henri Miller and his father Joseph Miller. In In Mind We Trust, we learn the backstory of the painting and how it came into the possession of Henri Miller.
Of course some things have changed from a business point of view, locally, here in Massachusetts. Our state’s film tax credit may soon disappear. In my view, the credit obviously, is a good thing. But as I understand the way our state’s tax credit is written, it does need an overhaul. An overhaul is one thing, but a termination is something else. The large studio productions that shoot in the state will just take their business to other states and an entire industry will simply atrophy. Many businesses have made significant investments that will have to be written off in terms of infrastructure and jobs. Simply, there has to be another alternative.
While we didn’t qualify for the state tax credit on Justice Is Mind, we would on In Mind We Trust, SOS United States and First World. If, by example, In Mind We Trust is produced for say around $100K plus on the low budget end, it won’t matter really if there’s a credit or not. But bring in a multi-million dollar budget with named talent and suddenly, and rightly so, you are looking elsewhere as it comes down to the overall project. Think about it. A film, even with a budget of $500,000, can earn a credit of 25%+. That’s not money you leave on the table, you simply take the table to another state or country that maximizes your capital.