This past Saturday marked the 12th screening of Justice Is Mind since our world premiere last August. And while we have screened to enthusiastic audiences from New England to Los Angeles, our screening at Plimoth Cinema was particularly exciting as audiences were tremendously enthusiastic and supportive of the film. Adding to the excitement, fourteen actors from Justice were present. Not since our world premiere in Albany did we have such a turnout. The result? A record single screening box office gross for Justice Is Mind!
The enthusiasm and support carried forward to some terrific unsolicited posted comments “Justice Is Mind was brilliant and a film worth seeing more than once.” “Quite the twist and an amazing piece of movie magic.” “As good or better than so-called “studio” films.”
For me personally the evening was an emotional roller coaster. While I knew the local actors in the film were going to be in attendance, I didn’t expect to see Vernon Aldershoff (who lives in the Albany, NY region). Here I am standing around talking to some attendees and I casually look over at the box office and there he is buying a ticket! What a wonderful surprise that was. Oh but it didn’t stop there. No sooner after talking with Vern for a few minutes than did a gentleman introduce himself to me – a cousin who I have not seen since I was about five. When he told me he has been following my career and came down special to see me it was pretty moving. In that instant I realized that I have a family bigger than what I’ve always thought. Something tells me it’s time for a family reunion!
As I’ve posted before, successful screenings like this do not magically come together. A very special thanks to Mary Wexler (Judge Wagner) and Gail Sullivan (Helen Granger) for all their hard work and dedication. Since the January 11 screening was announced both of them have worked tirelessly to promote the event. Their hard work was front and center on Saturday night.
Just before the weekend started we had some great media placements. PAC-TV was our first TV interview. Based in Plymouth, they just did an amazing job presenting Justice Is Mind and bringing the story to the Plymouth actors that were in the film. The Barnstable Patriot also published a terrific article titled “Whose mind is yours, anyway?” My favorite passage by writer Lee Roscoe, “In the film, past life memory and future mind tapping by machines merge in a psychological thriller, which develops slowly and then grips you with its logical twists and mysteries, haunting you afterward.” Sadly, despite a written agreement, Cape Cinema (Dennis, MA) pulled Justice Is Mind (the day after our screening in Plymouth) claiming we weren’t supporting the upcoming screening. Seriously. To protect the reputation of the film I forwarded the email trail to the press we were working with and our lawyer. The trail not only proves opposite what Cape Cinema stated but that this “theatre” wasn’t supporting us either despite their agreement to us. Unfortunately, there are those unprofessional types you come up against in this industry but I’ve never been one to let one small storm cloud get in the way of great weather. Moving on.
And so with a new box office gross record in hand for Justice Is Mind, a thank you again to Mary, Gail, the actors, the attendees (including my cousin!) and the Plimoth Plantation for a fantastic screening. As we prepare for our VOD release, while working on additional theatrical screenings, please take a moment to view our pictures from Facebook from Saturday’s screening.
They are used during times of war and for government continuity. They are a place where thoughts can be concentrated and orders can be given. In so many ways, it is also how a writer works – in a bunker.
When a screenplay is written it just doesn’t magically come together with a few keystrokes. A writer creates an entire world in their head with numerous characters, plots and scenes coming to life. For me at least, this has to be done in a bunker-like fashion. I need quiet. I need to concentrate. You will never find me writing in a coffee shop or with other writers at a retreat. Call me an isolationist, but I just don’t want the distraction. Honestly, some of the best ideas for scenes (particularly of conflict) come to me when I’m at the gym. Go figure. All writers have their oddities and that is mine. OK I have another, I get strange looks from my cats when I’m talking out dialogue.
I’m also not the type of writer that spends months creating these worlds only to option it off to a production company to let someone else create their view of my vision. Sure, an immediate paycheck is nice (if at all), but I take a long term view of my projects – development.
Having launched and managed a publishing company in a previous life, I think I’m just used to writing business plans (yes, I still believe in them) and working all the angles to raise the capital and making it happen. As I’ve said in previous posts, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing your written word come to life.
I’ll never forget my early days of developing Justice Is Mind. Yes, the idea came to me when I was working on the sequel to First World. Although I have written the feature length screenplay and produced a short film version for First World, as that is a multi-million dollar project, it’s just taking more time to develop. My goal with Justice Is Mind was to write, produce and direct a large scale feature on a micro budget to prove what I could and ultimately wanted to do. The proof was in our world premiere last August.
Heading into 2014 with our 9th and 10th theatrical screenings for Justice Is Mind on January 11th (Plimoth Cinema) and 24th (Cape Cinema) and with our Video on Demand plans coming online shortly, now could not be a better time for independent filmmakers. Simply put, we have a myriad of options to distribute on countless platforms. As I continue with our distribution plans for Justice Is Mind, which includes more theatrical screenings in the United States, the international push begins in earnest this year.
What has happened with the development of Justice Is Mind, started with First World and now will continue with my new political thriller – you build your base of supporters which includes actors, crew, marketing partners, investors and fans. From world building on paper to bringing it to life, but like all realities you have to keep it in check and it has to be managed. For me it all comes down to the bunker with a desk in the corner.
Next stop. Plymouth.
With 2013 coming to a close, I was reflecting the other day on the numerous theatrical screenings we have had for Justice Is Mind along with the substantive media placements and following we are developing. I took a moment to review my business plan for Justice and while digital distribution was front and center (and still is), theatrical distribution just didn’t seem to be in the cards as no theatrical distributor was attached to the film at the time. My how times have changed since writing the business plan three years ago. Filmmakers can largely self-distribute and save on the countless fees associated with the process.
Earlier this week our first check arrived from a theatre. It was our share of the box office for a one time screening. To say I was elated would be an understatement. It wasn’t the amount of the check that mattered. What mattered was that revenue was coming directly to us. If we had a distributor that handled our theatrical screenings, I’m fairly certain it would have all gone to them with only a small percentage (if anything at all) to us. Like filmmakers, distributors need to make money as well. A share of percentage is well understood, but it’s the related fees that can really suck up any profit. In an earlier post, I mentioned one “self-theatrical-distributor” that wanted to charge us $900 for a DCP (Digital Cinema Package) or else we couldn’t work with them. As this company is currently all the rage in the industry, of course I was interested in contacting them. But after reviewing their contract, they were only a facilitator and brought zero to the table. We are already providing the deliverables, posters and public relations, why shouldn’t we share the maximum return with the theatre and us? Why involve a middleman? Certainly, distributors are very much needed for a national rollout as they bring all their departments to bear and in those cases it simply comes down to economy of scale for a return. But distributor or not, filmmakers still need to market their films. Check out Film Specific’s blog post “Why Selling Your Film Is Not Somebody Else’s Problem.”
Although this year is winding down, Justice Is Mind certainly isn’t. As we prepare for two January screenings in Massachusetts (with what looks like Connecticut in February), along with the implementation of our VOD and international release plan, our public relations and marketing efforts continue.
In regard to public relations, I had a great time with Mary Wexler (Judge Wagner) and Gail Sullivan (Helen Granger) at the Plimoth Cinema this week. Gail arranged for PAC-TV in Plymouth to interview us for the January 11 screening. I also wrapped up an interview with a local newspaper that is more tied to our January 24 screening at Cape Cinema in Dennis. As of today, it looks like the PAC-TV airdate is set for January 9. I’ll post the link after it airs.
It is nice to see that all the work being done by so many is being noticed by outside parties. I was really pleased to learn yesterday that IMDB showed Justice Is Mind as one of the Top 10 Highest Rated Independent Films for 2013. With all the other films above us featuring some well-known actors, it proves another point that has been widely reported over the years, and falls in line with the consolidation of agencies, a movie does not need stars to carry a film.
This past week was a particularly exiting one for Justice Is Mind. Although we have been screening Justice at various venues since our world premiere in August, this is the first time we had two screenings in one week. One was our state premiere in New Hampshire at a theatre chain (Cinemagic) and another was our second screening in Maine but our first matinee (Railroad Square Cinema). For the first time since our premiere, I felt the enthusiasm the audience had for the film.
Admittedly the audiences at our previous screenings have been enthusiastic and very supportive, but for me it was simply a shift in what I was paying attention to. In New Hampshire it started when I saw Justice Is Mind on the digital marquee with a time slot under Hunger Games. And then while pictures were being taken with actors, crew and guests suddenly there it was – ticket holders were lined up to see Justice Is Mind. Believe me, seeing customers come in to buy a ticket to watch your film is very rewarding.
The same thing happened in Maine yesterday. I arrived early and was just chatting up the theatre staff when I picked up a mailer they had at the ticket counter. And there was Justice Is Mind’s write up right next to Philomena. No sooner did I finish reading the mailer then people started to arrive to see Justice Is Mind.
I can only speak from my own personal experience with this process, but this was the point in time when I felt we had arrived so to speak. Are we in a wide national release? No. But we are in a traditional limited release and gathering press along the way. Another great article appeared in the Union Leader this past week.
What I know all of us associated with Justice who were present at these screenings did enjoy were the numerous questions not only about the story but about the process of how a film is produced, marketed, etc. These were very enthusiastic audiences that not only want to watch an interesting story unfold on the big screen they want to know how it was all put together. Of course you can’t please everyone. I did hear someone say they didn’t like the ending. Oh well. In each of these two screenings I was sitting in the back of theatre just listening to the audience. When do they laugh, comment and gasp. I know from yesterday most didn’t see the ending coming…good!
With our next two screenings in Massachusetts on January 11 and 24 (with Connecticut on the horizon), the long range plan for Justice is a simple one – developing an audience so when we go to VOD/DVD and foreign markets we have a base of enthusiasts and a digital footprint.
That next step in the distribution chain isn’t one to be taken lightly and needs to be taken seriously. This past week I had to tell one distributor (and one pretending to be one) I wasn’t interested in doing business with them. The reasons are various but the point needs to be made – these are people you are going to be in business with for a long time just owing to the contracts involved so mutual respect is important. I can emphatically state, we are not desperate to do a deal simply to have a deal.
When I was at both of these screenings this week I was also reflecting on the number of people involved in making this project happen. It was probably because I was being asked by so many how a film comes together. In all honesty, and as I’ve mentioned this before, creating a film does take an army. This is why filmmakers are so passionate about their work because we know the legions of people that are involved in the process. This process isn’t restricted to those of us that created the film – it’s the theatres and their staffs, our event photographers, the media outlets and the audiences that breathe life into our work.