I have often stated that there is so much more into filmmaking than making the film itself. While one naturally wants a quality project that maximizes available resources, it’s also about getting the word out. Although social media helps, there is nothing like a media placement that drives awareness and needed attention. Thank you to the Ice Network and Community Advocate for that attention.
This past week Lois Elfman, my former business partner, wrote a great article for the Ice Network. This article was particularly important for a variety of reasons. First, in addition to the article itself, the Ice Network will also be streaming Serpentine: The Short Program after our March 6 premiere at the Strand Theatre. Second, from 1993 – 2004 Lois and I published a figure skating magazine. For nearly a decade it reigned as the world’s largest under our leadership. There wasn’t a skater, official, ISU member nation or skating club that didn’t know about it. But the Ice Network is today what we published yesterday. Indeed, it was an honor to see this article on their site as it reaches the sport on a worldwide basis.
It also important to mention that there was a third party to this story, albeit a bit behind the scenes this time. That would be acclaimed skating coach Thomas J. McGinnis who also was our business partner at the skating magazine. Tommy not only saw the vision I had for the magazine at the very beginning, but for Serpentine as well. Thus his much appreciated Executive Producer credit you will see when the film is released.
A film release not only consists of a marketing plan but a test. This past week I went to the Strand Theatre for a DVD test of Serpentine: The Short Program and a DCP test of Justice Is Mind. While the Strand screened Justice back in 2013 from a DVD, we now have the film in a DCP format. Both tests went great. I’ll say this, out of all the theaters I have screened Justice Is Mind the Strand presents the best picture and sound. There is nothing like seeing your film come to life on the big screen and that thrill was just as exciting with Serpentine.
Serpentine: The Short Program also got the green light from Amazon Instant Video this week. I say green light because that’s literally what happens with the circles on the Amazon platform when everything is cleared to go. We did have one red light as our original poster submission just said Serpentine. It had to also include The Short Program. Starting on March 7 the film will be available on Amazon in the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany and Austria.
Finally, I will conclude this post with the importance of art. On Friday night my mother and I saw the acclaimed National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine at the famed Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. Part of the program included Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 “From the New World” by Antonin Dvorak. One of my particular favorites. The strength, precision and passion in which the symphony played under the direction of Theodore Kuchar presented one of the most exciting symphony performances I have even seen.
I say strength because unless you live on another planet the continued existence of Ukraine hangs in the balance with the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea to say nothing of the armed conflict on their Eastern border. I simply ask every American reading this blog, how would you feel if another country walked across our border and occupied part of our country? The proud history of the Ukrainian people existed long before the United States was even a thought. While this historic national symphony of a challenged peoples tours our great country, isn’t it time the United States helped restore the greatness of another before it’s too late?
Conduct music not war.
After seven months of writing and research, along with attending a World Figure Skating Championships this past March for inspiration, I announced my latest project on Friday. Serpentine – A champion figure skater finds herself in a government conspiracy involving her missing mother and a Cold War mystery that culminates at the world championships in Moscow. The official website can be found at this link.
The name of the project came to me the first week I started to write it. In figure skating the word “serpentine” is used throughout a variety of areas from figures to footwork, to spiral sequences and generally consists of an “S” type of pattern. Serpentine is also mentioned in cryptography and as a code word. For this project the title Serpentine links all aspects of this story.
For independent filmmakers it’s one thing to write the screenplay and come up with a title, but then there are numerous aspects that need to be addressed prior to launch – writing a logline and synopsis, building a website, sending the script to trusted sources for review and comment, registering the script with the Writers Guild of America and U.S. Copyright Office and submitting the title to IMDb and other sources (thank you Rotten Tomatoes!). Then comes development and bringing the project to life.
Those that follow me on social media or this blog, know some of the groundwork that I’ve been developing. In as much as it’s important to keep a public face, there are those countless conversations and presentations that go on behind the scenes that are not discussed publicly until they are a done deal. Remember Justice Is Mind’s international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth? That was months in discussion before the approved press release. I could have announced Serpentine months ago, but I wasn’t finished with the screenplay and had to ascertain a variety of areas within the sport to see if I wanted to move forward. But forward we are moving.
I could not be more encouraged by the response Serpentine has received since Friday. But suffice to say the next couple of weeks will be inordinately busy. From developing location deals to securing talent, I plan to post this week for cast and crew. The goal is to produce the short sometime in October with an early 2017 release. If all goes well, the idea is to produce the feature in 2017 with release after the Winter Olympics in 2018.
Does this plan sound remotely familiar? It should. I produced a short film version of Justice Is Mind titled Evidence in 2011. The release of the short in 2012 led to the production of the feature film later that year with a 2013 release. In the case of Serpentine, the plan is produce the first ten pages of the script that introduces the primary characters and storyline.
Before I close this post, I want to thank those that have supported me in developing this story. Your words of encouragement and comments on the project have been greatly appreciated over the past weeks and months.
But foremost in those thanks goes to Adam Starr who designed the concept poster you see below. I have been working with Adam since 2000 on numerous projects. In fact, the first project he did for me was a corporate promotional video for my old publishing company. In terms of posters Adam designed First World, Evidence and Justice Is Mind. To learn more about Adam and the story behind the poster, please visit the website.
On the ice. Representing…
Russia. Spain. Taiwan. First, the email came in from a colleague if I could assist a filmmaker in Spain to register his film in the United States. That was followed by a university in Taiwan that wanted to license Justice Is Mind. As the week drew to a close a distributor in Russia approached us about a VOD for Justice in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
In the world of filmmaking “chain of title” is critical to establish a variety of documented steps of ownership rights to a film. As a former magazine publisher, I’ve been working with copyright matters for years. Sadly, I’ve seen some projects that don’t take this matter seriously. If you don’t have a properly established chain and necessary releases, it can severely complicate matters when it comes to dealing with a distributor. The chain starts with registering the script. Believe me it’s worth the fee.
The next chain of events this week came when I was contacted by a university in Taiwan that wanted to have Justice Is Mind for their library. Obviously, I was flattered and directed them to the variety of download and streaming options for the film. I even pitched them to screen the film like we did at some domestic universities here in the United States. It will be interesting to follow this development. Perhaps it could serve as a model for international university screenings.
On Thursday we received an offer for Justice Is Mind from a distributor in Russia that wants to distribute our film on a variety of VOD platforms in that part of the world. While I’m still reviewing the agreement, unlike some other recent distributors that approached us, this one appears to be pretty buttoned up. This is when I go back to my magazine experience and a phrase from President Reagan “Trust but verify” when it comes to foreign companies. I don’t say this because of the United States/Russian connection that Reagan was referring to during the Cold War, but from a business point of view with independent verification aka “due diligence.” Because once you sign on the dotted line and transfer the film assets, it’s done.
What has been very interesting for 2015 is how much the film industry has changed on the global stage. Everything from financing to production to distribution has literally taken a 180 degree turn. Some will say for the better, some for the worse. It all depends on your point of view. Film Specific had an interesting take on all of this last week. Their webinar can be found here. But if there is one thing that prevails in all of this it’s marketing. Yes, I’ve written about this before. In my view it’s marketing on all fronts, from presenting new projects to potential investors such as SOS United States and In Mind We Trust, to the continued marketing of established projects such as First World and Justice Is Mind. As I’ve said before, consistency is key for the long term.
Of course while all this was going on, I was patiently awaiting the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I remember sitting in a theater in 1977 and seeing Star Wars come to life. Was it that moment that I wanted to be a filmmaker? I don’t know. All I do know is that with all the issues the world is facing right now it’s great to see a film that brings everyone together in a unifying force to enjoy a medium that the world over appreciates.
Last Monday I finished the first draft of the sequel to Justice Is Mind. By the early reports from those that have read it, they really enjoy the story. Certainly as a first draft there are edits, but all in all, I’m happy with it. It’s a continuation and expansion of the original story.
I think in the back of my mind I always had the idea for the sequel and planted clues all along the way in Justice Is Mind. Now with the sequel completed, it is also set up to continue as a pitch for a TV series.
When I first started to contemplate the sequel there were a variety of things that I knew would encompass a continuation. First, the sequel would start where the original left off. With a sequel you have to assume that some won’t see the original so you need some background to carry it forward. As I’ve publicly stated, Henri Miller has not been killed. It’s his resurrection that bridges the world of science and mysticism. From intelligence agencies, to secret courts, to scientific companies and the exploits of the Miller family, the story concludes at the Supreme Court of the United States.
The majority of the characters from Justice Is Mind return, but it’s in the sequel where we learn more about them and their various motivations. Combining the original characters with a variety of new voices, brings a new story to life that travels from New England, to Washington, DC, to Germany, Russia and Italy. From Senator Caraway leading the congressional investigation into pre-life memories to General Blair of Joint Special Operations Command on terrorism in Washington, DC to the President of Reincar Scientific. But through all this, the story centers around the Miller family. From the horrors of World War II to the present, the secrets of the Miller family are revealed in vivid detail.
In all my writing and research over the years, I can’t remember tackling something as involved as the sequel to Justice Is Mind. From past life regression, to intelligence operations, to the secretive FISA court, to Germany in World War II and studying case law and procedure for the Supreme Court of the United States. Personally, that’s one area of writing I enjoy – the research. You wind up learning things that you would probably never know unless you experienced it personally or actually wrote about it. While a satisfying experience, it is a labored one. This is why I’m such an advocate for laying the foundation with a complete and vetted script. The last thing I want to think of during production is the story, I just want to shoot.
While Justice Is Mind has 42 speaking parts (not including extras), the sequel has 61 with Margaret and Henri Miller leading in the number of dialogues and scenes. In so many ways the production of Justice Is Mind was a proving ground in terms of what was possible to accomplish. The sequel takes it up a deserving few notches – Margaret, Henri and Cast of Hundreds. Yes, a slight turn in title to a book about the making of my favorite film of all time –Gone With the Wind. For those that love that movie, I highly recommend Scarlett, Rhett, and a cast of thousands: The Filming of Gone With the Wind.
Those that follow me know me well enough that I’ve already started the process of developing the sequel for production. But that being said, a few observations of the New England entertainment market. We need a TV series in the region that incorporates a diverse set of talent – both known and unknown. As Justice Is Mind proved, talent on both sides of the camera need not be a household name for success.
What’s next? Synopsis.
I wasn’t at all surprised last week to see the news reports that the United States military was finding counterfeit electronic parts in its supply chain that have been made in China. Our politicians shouldn’t be surprised either.
America’s politicians are so busy worrying about, yet again, another election that the business of the United States and its position as a world power are quickly eroding to second world status. It’s automatic with our two-party system – we just can’t have a politician talk about the importance of the business of America we have to have their party affiliation tacked on. Guess they aren’t worth listening to unless you can identify them as a D, R…or maybe even…dare I say it…I.
So what’s happened these past couple of weeks? China has not only launched a military reconnaissance satellite but successfully accomplished its first “space docking” in Earth orbit. Sure, the United States and then Soviet Union accomplished these great feats in the 1960s, but we can’t forget why they succeeded in the first place. Both our countries were knee-deep in the Cold War and were determined to best each other no matter what the cost. The result? Through our paranoia of each other and our ideals, we developed technology and related advances in science that have greatly benefitted all of mankind. History is being repeated all over again.
Why are we, the United States, not fully cooperating with China? Oh, wait, that’s right. China has that awful record of human rights violations. Sure, I’ll give you that China fails on a variety of fronts in that arena, but is the United States any better? Let’s see, we have unyielding unemployment, poverty, riots in the streets, protestors in most major cities, our veterans that defend our democracy are treated horribly and in the center of it all a two-party political system that is driving a knife through the very fabric that made this country great and a world power in the first place – innovation.
America it is time to innovate again. Not just domestically, but globally. It’s time to abolish this ridiculous sanctions limit on aeronautical engineers cooperating with the Chinese. Is our country so naïve to think that the thousands of engineers that have been furloughed from America’s space program are going to wait around for a D, R or I to get things moving again?
America you can have your cake and eat it too. You know you are capable of negotiating anything and everything when you want too. You’ve done it before you can do it again. Remember what President Reagan said “Trust, but verify.” That’s all we need to do with China.
On the eve of insolvency of the United States of America, the landing of the space shuttle Atlantis on July 21 brought to a close a thirty year program of tremendous progress in science, space exploration and international cooperation. It also reminded me of what America is capable of when it sets its collective mind to accomplish something great. Sadly, my country has lost its greatness in a sea of politics.
A Rasmussen Report poll said that 50% of respondents thought the space shuttle was worth it with a CNN poll reporting that over 50% thought it was bad for America to end the space shuttle program. America is at the precipice. Does our nation continue to lead? Or are we going to be led?
One doesn’t have to be a political scientist to know that China is now in the economic driver’s seat. Their ownership of $1 trillion plus of our bonds is surely going to hold court in the debt ceiling issues of the United States, and they are most certainly going to eventually be “left seat” in manned space exploration. I strongly predict that the United States will be reaching out to China to service the International Space Station because, mark my word; some myopic politician will botch the deal with Russia to continue servicing the ISS while NASA is in the Apollo/space shuttle valley of the 1970s.
As the United States “reset” their relationship with Russia, our government must “reset” the way it operates constitutionally. The time has come. I’m not advocating a change to a dictatorship, but you’d have to be living under a rock not to realize that Washington, DC is in perpetual “special interest” gridlock. There simply has to be a better way.
It’s time for the words United and States to stand together again so that we can all take another “giant leap.”