This past Wednesday I registered to attend the American Film Market (AFM). It’s a market I’ve been wanting to attend for some years. It’s interesting, the last time I was in Los Angeles was in 2013 for the West Coast Premiere of Justice Is Mind that took place during AFM but wasn’t connected to it. Now I return to network and to introduce my six film projects.
As I was uploading the details of my projects on Cinando (you receive a one year membership for registering at AFM), I was fondly remembering the long journey to this point. My first short film, First World, had its first screening in Los Angeles in 2007. Never in a million years did I think I would be returning to the city six years later with a feature film in hand that wasn’t the feature film version of First World.
Since the day I penned my first screenplay, I’ve worked with over 250 actors, crew and other partners to bring my projects to life. As I’ve often referenced, being a director is akin to that of the conductor of an orchestra. A director is only as good as the instrumentalists that make up its actors and crew. The process of creating a film is like writing a symphony only in this industry it’s called a screenplay.
The screenplay is the very foundation of everything this industry is about. You can’t build a stage to shoot without a solid foundation. But this does take me to a bit of a rant. I find filmmakers conducting auditions without a completed screenplay to say nothing of forwarding a side to actors. How on Earth are you expected to get a quality audition from an actor without the benefit of them reading from your script? It happened again this week when I was asked to audition and the filmmaker refused to send sides from the actual script. My response? Pass. This is also an industry of time management with very little to waste.
Time is what’s ticking as the days lead up to my November 1 flight. There’s making sure all my project listings are current, setting up meetings and working on some new artwork. Of course, like getting ready to put a film into production, there’s a hundred other details.
I’ll still never forget that day when I stumbled upon that famed 60 Minutes broadcast on “thought identification” that eventually led me to writing Justice Is Mind. As some of you know, I was actually researching mind reading technology for a sequel to First World. Who would have thought in 2010 I would be sitting here the last couple of months in 2014 and writing the sequel to Justice Is Mind.
Writing the sequel to Justice Is Mind has been an experience. Up to page 25, with a mountain of notes, it has been interesting revisiting characters I haven’t really thought much about since I wrote Justice Is Mind back in 2010. Sure, I dealt with the characters when filming the feature but by that point the script had been written, vetted and ready to go. I don’t’ believe in on set rewrites unless a scheduling emergency comes up that forces an adjustment. In my view, you write a screenplay with a sense of quiet and imagine the characters doing this and that. A film set, by design, is a noisy experience and really isn’t conducive to writing creatively.
Naturally, I’ve had more than a few inquiries on what the sequel will be about. Without giving away too much, the sequel picks up three months after the original story. Yes, there are familiar characters from the original, but already I’ve introduced a few new characters. The one thing I do before I set out to write a screenplay is to have an ending. Justice Is Mind always had the ending it did. I’m not saying I’m so rigid that I would never change an ending, but having one at the start, for me, provides a light at the end of the tunnel to work towards. And, thankfully, the title of the sequel came to me a few days ago.
Regarding Justice Is Mind, I’m pleased to announce that we are also now streaming on IndieReign! This brings us to four platforms that are streaming the film with additional platforms coming online soon. This is why the time has come to write a sequel. Justice Is Mind is not only in the market, but throughout our screenings and the comments I’ve heard there are a variety of parts that resonate with the audience. In fact, there were two audience members from two different screenings that said the comments they did that caused the direction I’m taking for the sequel.
This also represents a new time for First World and SOS United States. I’m actively presenting both projects to interested parties for development. The one thing I try very hard to do is to not get lost in all the noise associated with this industry. It’s very easy to get absorbed about VOD, SVOD, this trend, that trend, A list today, C list tomorrow, etc. In the end it comes to one word and one word only – equity. Whether you are producing a low budget feature like Justice Is Mind or something in the few millions like First World, part, or most of the equity (translation cash), must be put up before a project will proceed. As I mentioned last week, all movies start with the screenplay. Where they go from there is up to the market.
I’ve always enjoyed both the creative and business side of the entertainment industry. I find it just as much fun to write a cool scene as it is to negotiate a screening and pitching it to the press. I guess there is another word that is applicable to my work.