For those that have ventured down the road of producing a film, there are numerous details to attend to. But one thing that is truly paramount is character and story background. This week I sent the actors and crew a multi-page document that provides not only the character backstory but terminology associated with the “First World” universe.
While Justice Is Mind was about mind reading, I honestly can’t expect actors or crew to read mine. First, I find the phrase “motivation” to be terribly overused. Rather, I like to give the actors and crew the big picture. It’s easy for a director to drone on about this or that or whatever. But when someone reads in black and white what the backstory is or universe they are in, it makes the process so much easier. It also fosters thoughtful creative input.
As for creative, this week also yielded some interesting conversations regarding costuming. In First Signal, four of the characters have very specific looks. Two are outfitted in Nehru styled suits, while two are Air Force officers. It’s the latter that saw the progress we were looking for. From discussions with an Air Force base military store to a costume company that outfits the military in my favorite TV show, the aim is to have these actors outfitted accordingly.
Speaking of actors, I received a call a few days ago from an actress that was beyond frustrated with the fact that she hasn’t secured representation. Is she talented? Yes. Does she have a solid resume? Yes. The one thing I stressed in this industry is that nothing is simple or easy. There are no shortcuts. And the one unwavering thing you need is patience. But comparing my work to yours or another actors is not the route you go. And when you start tuning out the advice you sought because you aren’t hearing what you want, you might need to rethink your career. This industry is waiting for no one, but it may respond if you have talent, a viable idea or a unique project (film or TV). I say may because I will quote the late Maximilian Schell, “This an industry of chances and luck.” Even after all his years of fame from Happy Days, Henri Winkler still auditions.
I do seem to be having good luck with the DJI Spark. I have to say this is a very smart drone. It takes a bit of getting used to operating virtual joysticks (there is an optional controller you can buy), but there’s so many flight options that are brilliantly automatic. At the end of the day all a filmmaker wants is a great shot.
Finally, I just finished reading James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty. No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, this is an important read. In the hyper partisan, media obsessed world we live in, it’s too easy to make snap judgments without knowing or caring about the facts. That’s really what our country comes down to does it? Facts, truth and loyalty to the constitution of the United States and those that defend it.
Unless you are living under the proverbial rock, all of us involved in the industry are paying close attention to Cannes. For me, I’m always interested in the business of distribution and marketing because at the end of the day you have to get your film seen. With VOD distribution all the rage, there’s no wonder that Netflix’s Ted Sarandos is being so widely quoted—and rightly so.
As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, on any given week there are numerous things I try to accomplish for my projects. From pitching, to writing, to editing, to marketing, there’s always something going on. But this week, things jumped ahead.
With Justice Is Mind successfully distributed, my attention has largely turned to my current slate of projects with First World, SOS United States and In Mind We Trust. While I continue to market Justice Is Mind on a daily basis, the goal is to secure the necessary partnerships to bring the next project forward. That goal took several steps forward this week with a great Skype meeting with a producer and his team in the United Kingdom. From my days in publishing, to our recent partnership with Cunard Line for the international premiere of Justice Is Mind on the Queen Elizabeth, I’ve always enjoyed working with colleagues “across the pond”.
The one thing any filmmaker will tell you is that this is an industry of partnerships and collaboration. From the actors, crew, location, marketing and distribution partners, over two hundred people from two countries were involved in Justice Is Mind. For good reason, I keep in touch with most of them. One of those reasons is a new project I’m working on.
My friend Alberto Mercado is a published author and a wonderful photographer. Al photographed Justice Is Mind’s screenings in Sturbridge and Millbury. His photos were such a hit they soon started to show up as headshots on IMDB and Facebook.
A few weeks ago at a party at his house we started talking about the “mechanics” of filmmaking. The conversation was not dissimilar to one I had with my investors in Justice Is Mind back in 2012. Al wanted to see one of his books made into a motion picture. He attended several of Justice Is Mind’s theatrical screenings, including my short film Evidence, so he knew what my capabilities were. But was there a story? Indeed there was. A great story. One that I wanted to tell.
Oddly enough, Al thought I was reading his book A Rose for Essie Mae when in fact I was reading Winds of Fall. In the end, he was glad I read Winds instead. So I am pleased to announce that I have been commissioned to write a screenplay adaption of Alberto Mercado’s book Winds of Fall and to direct the feature. The plan is to complete the script this summer with Al financing the production for either this fall or spring.
Like the funding that came together for Justice Is Mind, the road to the Skype meeting, our screening on the Queen Elizabeth and the journey to bring Winds of Fall to the big screen, you just don’t know where the next opportunity is going to come from. As the late actor Maximilian Schell said, this is an industry of chances.
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.
When I received the email newsletter this morning from Olde Mistick Village Art Cinemas with its subject line Now Showing, I just assumed it was only going to mention the feature films the Mystic, CT theatre was exhibiting over the next few days. To my surprise, Justice Is Mind: Evidence was included in the offerings not just as Now Showing but as an Exclusive Showing. Either way, it’s beyond cool and I’m looking forward to introducing Evidence to audiences on Saturday, February 18. Our showtimes are 1:45, 4:10 and 7:00.
Since Evidence’s theatrical premiere at the Strand Theatre on January 20 and our online premiere on Constellation.TV on February 2, momentum has certainly been building for the project. Oh sure, a couple of film festival notify dates have come and gone without acceptance, but after two seconds of “I wonder why they…” you just move on.
About an hour before our online screening, I received word that IndieFlix picked up Justice Is Mind: Evidence for distribution. Elated, didn’t even begin to describe how I felt on that news. Needless to say, I announced the deal after our online presentation. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that a company believes enough in the product you made to market it to their customers. Stay tuned for the release date.
I think it was actor Maximilian Schell who said it best in the DVD extras from Judgment at Nuremberg, this really is an industry of chances and luck. But we also know that this industry, like any other, is also about hard work and perseverance. I believe the latter presents the former in due time. Point in fact, the anonymous contributor who donated $1,000 to our crowdfunding campaign this past weekend. A contribution of any size is very much appreciated, but one on that level signaled to me that Justice Is Mind is a project on the go.
With just over two weeks left to our IndieGoGo campaign and countless investor presentations out for consideration, sure we have a way to go before the feature can be green lit, but for anyone that has sought to raise capital to produce a motion picture it’s all about honing something else…the pitch.