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Posts tagged “media

Follow Up

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I will say one thing about frequent snowstorms in New England. It gives one plenty of time to follow up and organize. This is that time of year when one looks at their weather app not for the sun or rain, but when the next storm is coming. But go to a local grocery store the day before and you might think it’s the second coming, the day after a nuclear attack or other such apocalypse. If you’re visiting from out of the region when a storm is on the horizon, it really is something to see.

As for what’s on the horizon that would be the premiere of Serpentine: The Short Program on March 6 at the Strand Theatre and our VOD premiere on Amazon and other platforms on March 7. It’s a multi-layered marketing plan with a dual local and national push. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s about the follow up.

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The day we wrapped principal photography on Serpentine: The Short Program. Sturbridge, MA November 6, 2016.

Whenever I pitch the media it always starts with an email. This gives an editor or reporter time to consider what I’m presenting. Sometimes coverage comes from just the email pitch. But I’ve found that a follow up call a few days later puts a personal touch to it. In today’s world of the endless pitch combined with the challenge of resources afforded by most outlets, a phone call can make the difference.

I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that we are bombarded by media alerts, postings, email and text on a non-stop basis when we first wake up. What’s important and what isn’t. What gets attention and what doesn’t. I do believe that when you put the personal touch of a call to what you’re presenting, it makes you stand out a bit more than the rest. Just this past week, I had some great conversations with editors about Serpentine and other interesting subjects.

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Completing the closed captions on Serpentine for Amazon.

This is the time of year of the awards shows and the film markets like Berlin. As I normally do when the markets are running, I read the daily reports in The Hollywood Reporter. They give a great insight into trends and what is and isn’t selling. It’s always interesting to me to follow a film from concept to film market to theatrical release. This is not a quick process by any means. As I’ve often said, the actual production of the film is the easy, and fun, part. It’s the pre and post production along with the release strategy that is the most time consuming. But being snowed in does give one plenty of time.

Interviews.

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Above The Fold

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Ice and Espionage. That was the title of the article about Serpentine that appeared on the cover this week of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  While so much of our media is consumed online, there is nothing like a printed newspaper.

It was last Monday when I started to get Google Alerts that the article that ran the previous week in the MetroWest Daily News had been picked up by the Associated Press. The article was published by outlets all over the United States. But seeing it “above the fold” on the front cover of a newspaper was not only particularly special but important for our promotional efforts.

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Paul Lussier as Philip Harrison, a mysterious sponsor, and Kim Gordon as Marlene Baxter, the President of the American Figure Skating Federation, in Serpentine.

In as much as I am a filmmaker, I’m a marketer. As I’ve stated before, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing if nobody knows about it. I’ve often used the word herculean to describe the process of making a film. The same thing can be said about securing press. It’s one thing  after a film is released, but at this early stage of Serpentine it’s even more welcome to promote the overall concept of the film – the sport of figure skating meets the Cold War.

As a former magazine publisher, I can see why they wanted some counter editorial on the cover. But coverage that worked from a reader interest point of view. Considering the political atmosphere in the United States that has polarized both sides, it makes sense to bring to readers an interesting project that just happens to have government intrigue in its storyline. It also lends credence to the fact, that figure skating, despite its challenges in the ratings over the last decade, still holds interest by general audiences. I saw this first hand at the World Figure Skating Championships in Boston and there are more than a few figure skating films and TV projects in development (I, Tonya anyone?).

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Philip Harrison’s Bentley was supplied to the production by Foley Motorsports of Shrewsbury, MA

Of course the next steps to bring Serpentine to life is the post-production process. Having handed over the hard drive to our editor, conversations with our special effects supervisor and listening to score elements by our composer, the process is moving along nicely. Our aim is for a mid-February 2017 release on Amazon Prime along with select theatrical performances and promotion.

Regarding Amazon, it looks like they will soon be taking the route of Netflix as they seek to roll out their service in 200 countries. Obviously, as a filmmaker, this comes as great news. Since my films went up on all of Amazon’s platforms the exposure and viewership has increased substantially. And unlike some VOD services, Amazon pays filmmakers on every transaction. It’s a business model that works for all concerned. For the consumer they make the choice of what to watch without someone acting as a curator. For the filmmaker it offers an opportunity to showcase your hard work to a global audience. Honestly, there’s no point in doing this if it’s just going to sit on a shelf!

The post production process is one of organization and creativity. Take for example our composer Daniel Elek-Diamanta. Like his efforts on Justice Is Mind, he starts before he has seen one second of footage. Our collaboration begins with conversations about the story and the general atmosphere. He so hit the target the other day that I placed his score with some of the footage to see how it would work. Suffice to say, it brought Serpentine to life and will probably be the general theme of the film.

Page One.

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World Reunion

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Philippe Candeloro and Lynn Plage.

As I was driving to Boston on Wednesday to attend my first World Figure Skating Championships since 2003, there was the fair share of wondering, and a bit of apprehension, how things would go. In years long past, there was a series of things I had to accomplish from interviews, to pictures, to attending the right functions and even going to the right official hotel bar post events (and perhaps the coveted invite to the after party). It was a tried and true agenda that served me well. But that was well over a decade ago when the sport was at its height in popularity in the United States. But now, there was no agenda just observation. To turn a phrase, I needed to get a lay of the ice.

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Ari Zakarian and Christine Brennan.

I passed through the same security gate that I long remember from attending the Stars on Ice and Champions on Ice tours.  The former is still with the sport but vastly abbreviated, the latter is sadly gone. Indeed, I knew that the “studio system” of the sport had long passed. But like the Hollywood of yesterday, motion pictures are still made, they are just presented differently. And different is the current state of the sport of figure skating. But it is the familiar faces of those off the ice that have always made the sport tick.

After riding a freight elevator to the 9th floor (this is the slowest elevator in the world, best bring a snack) to the media center I soon saw Lynn Plage. Lynn is the sport’s consummate publicist who has promoted, guided and mentored more skaters, events and journalists than I could ever count. No sooner did we exchange the mutual reunion greetings and obligatory “catching up” and it was like we picked up where we left off those years ago.

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Tonia Kwiatkowski.

And while there are the publicists there are also the journalists. The sport has many fine journalists that regularly cover the sport, but there is the quintessential reporter of them all, Christine Brennan of USA Today. I met Christine at my first World Championships in Birmingham, England in 1995. We shared a train down to London after the event and she taught me the “pyramid” in writing. These are life lessons and moments you never forget.

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Christine Brennan, Jirina Ribbens (Exec. Director Ice Theatre of New York) and David Baden.

Arriving at the media seating I was soon greeted by Ari Zakarian. In those early days I needed a “foreign correspondent” who was everywhere and knew the European and Russian world of the sport. I armed him with a pager and the reports flowed in. In those pre-internet days, it was all about print for the latest news. Now an agent to skaters, event producer and country representative, his days of hard work traversing the globe had paid off.

Sheryl Franks

Sheryl Franks.

As for agents, like the importance of having a solid publicist to promote the skaters and sharp journalists to report on them, there is David Baden of IMG. I’ve known so many agents over the years, particularly those that work in “Hollywood”, but no agent works harder for his clients than David. But David also was the consummate collaborator. I can’t tell you how many marketing partnerships I worked on with David, partnerships that worked for all concerned. At the end of the day, it’s about building a mutual business.

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Kim Merriam and Beth-Anne Duxbury.

Of course there is the one component that all publicists, journalists, agents and producers need and those are the skaters themselves. I’m not just talking about technically proficient skaters, I’m talking about those that have a personality. Those that understood that it wasn’t enough to just to land the jump you had to present yourself just as much off the ice as on. Philippe Candeloro is such a skater and it was great working with him on one of my skating cruises. Running into him and Tonia Kwiatkowski, another skating cruise alum, fondly reminded me of when we boarded Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas for a skating event at sea! (Cruise ships and events. Does this sound familiar? Justice Is Mind’s international premiere on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth).

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Moira North.

Indeed, the teams of people I worked with during my days publishing a figure skating magazine, most certainly led to my work as a filmmaker. Working with actors (skaters), crew (productions) and marketing/PR elements in the sport most certainly paved the way. But there was a path before that was the foundation of what I do today.

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Dick Button.

A couple of weeks ago Sheryl Franks and Elin Schran sent me a Facebook event invite for a reunion party at World’s.  This was one, if any, of the few social events happening during World’s but my invitation was a maybe until I committed to attend. Of all the parties I have been to over the years in skating, this one, I think, may have won the Gold medal.

My best friend Kim Merriam and I were the first ones to arrive (Kim was one the producers on Justice and we used to skate together back in the early 80s). But soon, skaters and coaches I worked with locally started to arrive, then the personalities from the legendary Dick Button, Tenley Albright, Ken Shelley and Paul Wylie, to venerable producers of Broadway and skating events (some on cruise ships!), to choreographers, coaches and those that have long linked the sport behind the scenes with their executive experience and philanthropy. One of these great links is Moira North who founded The Ice Theatre of New York. Coordinating their annual gala one year during my New York City days was a real eye opener on how to run an event. Lots of lessons learned!

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Darlene Parent.

As for lessons, I’ll never forget my first credentialed event as a member of the media. It was called Skates of Gold and was held at the old Boston Garden back in 1993. It was at the post event reception that I first met Dick Button. I remember mustering up the courage to introduce myself and mentioned I was going to start a figure skating magazine. He graciously smiled and said, “How very good for you.” For anyone that knows Dick you can picture the response! He soon became one of our biggest supporters and a friend.

One of the absolute highlights of the party for me was seeing my old skating coach Darlene Parent. When I lived in New York City in the 1980s and got up at 4 in the morning to skate (before I went to work at TIME magazine), I trained at the old Sky Rink. Not only was Darlene my skating coach she was also the chef and made us breakfast after our lessons. She would literally show us moves while flipping an egg (you can’t make this stuff up!).

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Ken Shelley.

Indeed, this week has been a world reunion and great trip down memory lane. But in the here and now in 2016, like the entertainment industry itself, the sport of figure skating is going through a transition. A transition that has seen its fan base seismically erode. Some say it’s the change in scoring. Some say it’s because the United States hasn’t produced “stars” like it once used to. Some say it’s because there was a saturation of sameness back in the heyday of the 1990s. Some say there wasn’t enough innovation.  What’s the answer? Perhaps a bit of all those reasons. But something tells me that this downward trend could possible see a bit of reverse.

One only has to see the enthusiasm of the Japanese and Russian audiences to know that the sport is alive and well in those markets. I have seen video excerpts of a figure skating event in Russia that literally presented the sport as “Cirque du Soleil” on ice. These events were sold out. But there was something else that was nearly sold out as well—the events this week at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships. Is this a new trend? It could be.

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Dennis Grimaldi.

If you told me 14 years ago that the United States would medal in ice dancing I would have laughed in your face. But here we are in 2016 with Maia Shibutani / Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock / Evan Bates winning the silver and bronze medals respectively. While the United States men did a glorious job, it’s all about the quad. I wish I could say it wasn’t but it is.

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It was so great seeing Michelle Kwan again.

As for an electrifying moment, Ashley Wagner’s win of the silver medal ended the 10 year drought of an American woman winning a medal at the world championships.  Skating last to a capacity audience you could just tell with every second passing this was going to be a performance best for Wagner.  Her gracious enthusiasm at the press conference reminded me of earlier days. Could those days be returning? One thing is for sure, this is a sport about personalities and Wagner certainly understood that off ice is just as important as on.

In the end this is a sport that endures. It is owned by no one but graced by everyone. It is these collective contributions that have always given the sport its edge and vibrancy. That may sound like a colloquialism, but this sport will never be judged by a stopwatch and because of that uniqueness it earns a special place as both sport and art.  And just like Hollywood itself, figure skating is about performance and box office. Some pictures do well and some…well…you get the point.

As for the entertainment industry, having accomplished what I wanted to this past week, I return to writing my political thriller around the sport and art of figure skating.

Finally, I just have one thing to say to the organizers of the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships and all those that made it a memorable event.

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Ashley

Ashley Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist, at the press conference.


Media Alert

Justice Is Mind featured in The Huffington Post -

Justice Is Mind featured in The Huffington Post – “Arrested Memory – Justice Is Mind”.

Last week I wrote about the five year journey of Justice Is Mind. This past week proved that time, perseverance and indeed patience pays off.  Unless you are in the lexicon of the literal handful of filmmakers that can roll out of bed, utter an idea and get national attention, pounding the pavement is what the rest of us do.

It was early May when the idea for a second anniversary screening for Justice Is Mind came to me. While I’m beyond thankful to all our theatrical partners, having worked with Cinemagic on two previous occasions (New Hampshire premiere and Sturbridge), pitching them again was a logical choice. Sturbridge, Massachusetts is centrally located (where we shot most of Justice), the film looked fantastic in this theater and we had a record audience after solid media placements in the local press.

With Jamie Blash at Four Winds Farm in Worcester Magazine.

With Jamie Blash at Four Winds Farm in Worcester Magazine.

Having been a magazine publisher for over ten years, I can well appreciate being on the other side of the desk when I was being pitched a story. The key, as I’ve long learned, is to have an angle for all concerned. I wrapped up my final interview last week, forwarded a variety of requested artwork and then waited.  To say I am pleased with the result would be an understatement.

Our early placements first appeared in the Worcester Herald and The Examiner a couple of weeks ago. Those early placements helped awareness enormously. This week our efforts continued.  First, a listing in The New Uxbridge Times, then a feature showed up in the South County edition of the Yankee Shopper, followed by a complete pick up of our press release in the Auburn and Sturbridge editions of Smart Shopper and then a great cover page story in the Sturbridge Villager. What I love about these publications is that they are direct mailed to households in their region.

When Worcester Magazine first ran a feature on Justice Is Mind in 2013 I was elated. They really captured the essence of the film at a time when the project really didn’t have any history aside from just being released. Flash forward to 2015 with a new editor and writing team and they were interested in our progress to date. The result was a wonderful two page spread that captured the entire project over our five year mission.  It was made even more special as they had a photographer shoot Jamie Blash and me at Four Winds Farm. Jamie runs the farm and was featured as the horse trainer in Justice Is Mind. Her farm was also one of our locations. I am beyond thankful to all these outlets for their continued support.

Justice Is Mind on the cover of the Sturbridge Villager.

Justice Is Mind on the cover of the Sturbridge Villager.

And while Justice Is Mind has been fortunate to have some excellent reviews and great coverage tied to our theatrical screenings, national media attention has been elusive. Look, I get it, thousands of films are produced every year and to get the attention of a national media outlet really does take time, something unique or just plain luck.  But the combination of all three I think worked in our favor.

I had completed the interview a couple of weeks earlier but kept it to myself as I know full well that the national media landscape changes quicker than New England weather. The writer even messaged me early Thursday morning to say she was waiting to see if they would either publish or reject her story. I learned years ago that unless you are doing live TV, there is simply no guarantee that your story will run—it doesn’t matter how great you think it is!

Just as I was getting ready to light a cigar (I love cigars!), Pamela Glasner messaged me. The Huffington Post published her story – Arrested Memory “Justice Is Mind”. In that moment all that had been worked on by so many was now receiving national media attention.  On that scale, it is simply an honor to be acknowledged for your work. But indeed this accolade is shared with each and every one of us involved in Justice Is Mind. I know we all join in saying at least these three words,

Thank you Pamela!

Justice Is Mind in the Yankee Express

Justice Is Mind in the Yankee Express.


Justice Is News

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Last week I talked about some fantastic numbers regarding our IMDB rankings for 2013. It looks like I have some additional numbers to report, in this case, the reach of some newspapers that carried articles regarding our upcoming March 24 screening at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA.

I first got word that our story appeared in the Southbridge Evening News from a friend that introduced me to the reporter. As this paper’s online edition is only available to subscribers, we met in a parking lot so he could give me a copy. While I was waiting in my car, suddenly the movie All the President’s Men flashed with the parking garage scene when Robert Redford meets with Hal Holbrook.

Spencer New Leader

Needless to say I thought the reporter did a great job. And then it dawned it on me. The parent company of this newspaper also owns several others, including my hometown paper. Suddenly the reports started to come in. The story ran in the Webster Times, Spencer New Leader and the Sturbridge Villager. While the Southbridge Evening News is subscription based, the other three are generally mailed to requesting households. By my minimum estimate, 40,000+ households now know about Justice Is Mind and our upcoming screening. As I grew up in the area, I heard from a lot of folks I haven’t seen in decades. Suffice to say March 24 will be a reunion on numerous fronts.

No sooner did the story break across these newspapers, than one of our location partners for Justice Is Mind worked out a promotion in connection with our upcoming screening. More on that next week!

Justice Is Mind was filmed primarily in Oxford. MA.

Justice Is Mind was filmed primarily in Oxford. MA. Toula Coin as the reporter.

Marketing and promoting a screening takes time. Generally, when I am negotiating a date with a theatre we ask for at least 30 days out to properly market a screening. Audiences don’t just magically show up, particularly for an independent film. The theatres we have worked with have been nothing less than spectacular. They know we work as hard as we can to make the screenings as successful as possible. But while I would love to see Justice screen at every theatre we pitch, it’s a reciprocal business arrangement that needs to mutually work. I learned this when I worked in figure skating listening to promoters bring events into buildings—what works in one venue might not work in another.

Four Winds Farm in Oxford, MA served as part of the Miller estate.

Four Winds Farm in Oxford, MA served as part of the Miller estate. Henri Miller (Vernon Aldershoff) talks to his daughter Nancy (Chara Gannett).

Speaking of reunions, like our last screening in Plymouth, March 24 will bring together several of the actors in Justice. To see who has confirmed attendance as of today, visit our Facebook event page at this link.  For us, it’s like visiting with family. Indeed, when you work with people so closely when making a film you develop lasting friendships. For audiences, they get a chance to meet those that brought the story to life.  It’s a unique experience that is usually only reserved for world premieres and film festivals.

And while our next screening is my top priority, there is the continue push to markets and venues far away from New England along with our related VOD plans. But for this moment, it’s nice to be home.

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