This past week was another exciting one for both space history and the space program. From the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon on July 20, 1969, to new images from New Horizon’s flyby of Pluto and the discovery of ‘Earth’s cousin’ Kepler 452b , NASA continues to excite and motivate a new generation just as it did back during the days of Apollo.
I have always loved the space program and, of course, science fiction. From Destination Moon in 1950 to Apollo 11 in 1969, we see time and time again the influences movies have in the real world and visa-versa.
The same can hold true for the science fiction of mind reading I postulate in Justice Is Mind. Just this week, two articles came out that not only further the conversation of neuroscience in the courtroom, but the actual real world implications of the science of mind reading.
In fact, the origins for Justice Is Mind are in the space program of the 1960s. When I was writing the sequel to First World, the idea came to me that on return to the installation on the Moon, inhabitants had to pass through a “mind reading like” device to gain entry. Thus some simple research brought me to a “thought-identification” story on 60 Minutes. The rest, as they say, is history. Justice Is Mind was written, produced and released with our second anniversary screening coming up on August 18.
Regarding the promotional efforts I do for First World, Justice Is Mind and SOS United States, it is always interesting to me to see which one gains the most traction. This past week First World spiked sharply with my Apollo 11 posts, SOS United States saw its highest impressions ever with the U.S. Embassy opening in Cuba and Justice Is Mind increased dramatically with a story titled, “Scientists Say They Can Read Your Mind, And Prove It With Pictures“.
Marketing a film takes time, consistency of message and perseverance. The major studios have the benefits of seemingly endless marketing budgets and A list actors. For a truly independent film like Justice Is Mind, it’s important to have a hook and to see what resonates with audiences. For this project, I have always seen consistent engagement when it comes to media related articles that have to do with mind reading and their real world applications in court or the perceived abuse by government.
When doing my follow calls to the media this week, the one thing that has resonated well was that the sequel is in development and that a concept trailer exists. We shall see how this all pans out in the next couple of weeks as we lead up to the second anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind on August 18 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA.
Yes, the title of this post is a twist on the book Scarlett, Rhett and a Cast of Thousands, but I was reminded just the other day on what goes into making a feature film. It was early summer in 2013 and our world premiere date for Justice Is Mind was set for August 18, 2013. Yes, the film was edited and scored, but we were still under the gun on those numerous last minute items like color correction and sound mixing. The one thing left to finish was the closing credits. It wasn’t until I started to add everyone in when the number of names credited was finalized at 201. But add in the employees of our location partners and the number was well north of that. It’s true when they say it takes a village, or maybe in the case of Justice Is Mind a small battalion, to make a feature film
With our Second Anniversary screening coming up on August 18 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, planning is well underway. As I’ve mentioned before, I treat every screening like it’s the first one. The deal with the theatre is secured; cast, crew, location and marketing partners are notified; a press release is sent and then there is the media pitch. My special thanks to the Worcester Herald and Examiner for their early coverage of the special day.
I am delighted to confirm that several of the stars, co-stars and featured performers have already confirmed their attendance. While many of us have traveled the theatrical release tour together, August 18 will mark for the first time in two years the coming together of those that I haven’t seen since the world premiere. Indeed, we are all looking forward to it.
But aside from a reunion of some of the cast and crew, it is about presenting Justice is Mind to new audiences. The work that goes into the production of a feature film is monumental. Indeed, some producers I know are starting to pull back on producing projects as they are time intensive. But when a film is finished, when you see it play in a theatre, your TV or even your smart phone, you realize at that moment that all the sleepless nights, self-doubt and over analysis is over. The work that has been put in by so many is being presented to the world. Thus, you want to do it again and again. At least I do.
The film industry is changing even more rapidly that it was when I first created the world of Justice Is Mind. But at the end of the day content is still king. There are now more platforms available to watch a film than ever before and they need product to fill their pipelines. Whether it’s a tentpole like the upcoming Star Wars (I can’t wait) or a truly independent film like Justice Is Mind, there is something for everyone.
The days are long. You feel there will never be an end in sight. But then there is that moment after the final rendering that the heart and soul of a cast of hundreds comes to life. For it has been the reception that Justice Is Mind has received that has led to the development of the sequel In Mind We Trust. By this time next week, the concept trailer will be released.
Justice Is Mind – The Second Anniversary Screening – August 18, 2015.
Tickets now on sale.
When I wrote Justice Is Mind in 2010 I don’t recall thinking about a sequel. It’s hard enough getting a feature film made in the first place, never mind a continuation of the original story. But no sooner was Justice Is Mind released in 2013 than ideas started to come together from one of the underlying plots in the film – the government’s involvement with mind reading and one family’s search for the truth. After about four months of intense research and writing, In Mind We Trust was complete.
One of the more popular ways to bring projects to life is with a concept trailer also known as “proof of concept”. One of the most popular of these trailers was for a project called The Leviathan. I love high concept sci-fi and this had it in spades. By all reports it looks like The Leviathan will be turned into a feature film.
In Mind We Trust is not only high concept, it also involves the intricacies of intelligence agencies, past life regression, stolen artwork and complex legal issues around the Fourth Amendment. The aim with the concept trailer is to distill it down to just over a minute and to find just the right video clips to make it work. In my search for clips, the ones I thought were going to be impossible to find showed up on the first search, while some I expected to be easy took me a few days. But in the end, I believe I have a workable presentation. At 2:36 the concept trailer starts with Justice Is Mind and then introduces the key elements of In Mind We Trust. The plan is to release it just prior to Justice Is Mind’s 2nd anniversary screening on August 18 at Cinemagic.
As for the upcoming 2nd anniversary screening on August 18, things are moving forward nicely. Tickets went on sale this past week, some listings are showing up and Pizza Post is back on board with their special promotion (ticket purchasers get a dollar for dollar redemption). Look for our press release next week.
There was a great article in MovieMaker magazine this week about the 2015 Produced By conference in Los Angeles. You can read the article at this link. For me, there were so many excellent takeaways. From, “Don’t be afraid to cold call or email”, “Partnerships with companies”, “A great script is the foundation for any project” and “Never produce a project you don’t feel good about”.
But perhaps the most important statement at the conference was, “The one thing that was said in ALL panels regardless of the topic. CONTENT IS KING!! At the end of the day, all that matters is what’s on screen or going to be on screen.”
On Thursday Justice Is Mind arrived on BitTorrent Bundle! I largely learned about BitTorrent through the media around the film Hits and the journey that project took to reach that platform. Of sheer coincidence, Justice Is Mind and Hits share an actor by the name of Ken Holmes. Ken played Christopher Thomas in Justice Is Mind and is just amazing at promotion on social media. He does a masterful job of not only promoting himself but the films he’s involved in. Actors take note this is what a director looks for – a talented actor who also understands the world of social media.
On BitTorrent Bundle not only is the feature film available to both stream and download, but our bundle includes the trailer, short film, screenplay, press kit, interviews, Q&A and select stills. In essence, for $4.99 you have the whole Justice Is Mind experience from script to screen and beyond. I have to say working with BitTorrent has been great. Their customer service and attention to detail is first rate.
What I mentioned in my press release is that when I wrote the screenplay and business plan for Justice Is Mind these platforms didn’t even exist. Now, they command users in the millions. I revisited my business plan for First World and SOS United States this week as well. While First World did discuss VOD, it still incorporated DVD estimates. Let’s just say DVD has now been discarded as a revenue stream you can count on never mind estimate. As I just wrote SOS United States several months ago, largely and thankfully, not much had to be updated on that front. With some investor and production meetings coming up in April, I know I’m going to need updated versions of these plans. As I near the end of the business plan for In Mind We Trust, the one area of revenue that’s critical for distribution is theatrical as it develops media and creates the audience that drives initial VOD traffic.
This past week a good friend of mine mentioned that he wants to turn one of his books into a screenplay. Nothing is more exciting than seeing the words you have written come to life. I remember to this day being on the set of First World watching the actors breathe life into characters that only existed on paper. To see it accomplished in a feature film like Justice Is Mind is a whole other milestone. In addition to sending him the script to Justice Is Mind, I also sent him this wonderful article by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman the Editor of Script magazine. I had the great pleasure of meeting Jeanne at the premiere of Justice Is Mind’s trailer at an Upstate Independent event in 2013.
Her article is a must read for anyone involved in the industry but specifically those that are involved in the world of screenwriting. There are so many wonderful takeaways and quotable lines. From “When a great script is sitting in front of an executive, they don’t give a shit how much or how little money you spent learning how to write it. They only care that they are going to make money on your words.” To “There are indeed charlatans in this business, as there are in any business. Do your research.”
My advice is pretty simple for anyone that wants to get involved in the world of screenwriting. Remember, your writing is different than my writing. Watch films that you enjoy that have done well in the market and then hunt down their screenplays. Watch the film again and then read the screenplay. You’ll see how things are done in print and how they translate to the silver screen.
But do ask yourself the following before opening your wallet, “By paying this fee am I helping my career or theirs?” Remember it’s your career first.
During the course of any week there are a mountain of activities I try to accomplish. From pitching media, potential marketing partners, additional distribution outlets, theatres and investors. It’s just part of the world of independent filmmaking and making your voice heard in a literal sea of other projects. The word “filmmaker” means a bit of everything these days.
Just this week Jon Reiss published a post on Seed & Spark that claimed 30,000 – 50,000 films are produced on an annual basis with limited (if any) distribution options. Yes, I have come across filmmakers that after the “one big screening” you never hear about that film again. Or, worse, they thought film festivals were going to be the answer for revenue. At the end of the day, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer because every film is different. For me, it just comes from a near obsessive drive to market my projects and controlling my rights. I’m fine with signing some rights away if the deal makes sense—but it has to make sense not only for the film but for the wallet as well. Bottom line, I, along with so many others, have worked too hard to see something disappear.
When I was publishing magazines, my former staff can attest to my determined push to give the magazines their widest possible distribution. The same holds true for my film projects. I’m not going to wait for opportunity, you present an opportunity for someone to consider. The world of filmmaking, is getting more competitive and involved from a technical and logistics point of view. But in my opinion, it’s also opening a world of opportunities. It’s just like auditioning. You might go for fifty auditions, get five callbacks and maybe one gig. The same is true when I presented Justice Is Mind for our theatrical release. I probably pitched fifty plus theatres. In the end a dozen picked up the film and we had a theatrical release with reportable revenue.
This weekend I finished some editing updates on In Mind We Trust the sequel to Justice Is Mind. My next steps in the process are the development of a business plan and laying the ground work. But like I do for First World and SOS United States, I present these projects in multiple levels. Yes, all three of these projects can be produced on the “indie” route or could involve a “mid-studio” level budget. It really just comes down to what makes sense.
If there is one thing that came out of the Academy Awards this year was that independent films were front and center. The studio system is sadly leaning primarily towards tent poles and super hero films. While I have no issues with that (I loved the Man of Steel), it will, simply by market demand, create opportunities for smaller films. As one of our supporters who saw Justice Is Mind in a theatre said on Facebook this morning, “I thoroughly enjoyed Justice is Mind and am certain that the sequel will be just as good, if not better. I also feel that Justice is Mind was far superior to many of the films that hit local theaters.”
While any filmmaker loves comments like that, I also know that Justice Is Mind has not been for everyone. That’s the world of filmmaking or any performance art, you develop a thick skin that accepts both accolades and admonishment.
This week should start pretty interesting. I’ll be testing Variety Insight & Vscore’s service for the next couple of days. I had a demo on Friday. It’s a fascinating and comprehensive service.
This week the planet Earth lost one of its most beloved citizens – Leonard Nimoy who passed away at 83. Known around the world as “Mr. Spock” from Star Trek, it was Nimoy’s portrayal of the character that led so many of us to the world of science fiction and science.
I was too young to see the first run of the classic TV series, but was soon introduced to it in syndication in the 1970s along with the animated series. Like so many it was the character of Mr. Spock and the ideals of what “The Federation” stood for that drew me to the world of Star Trek.
Although arguably Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is by far the best Star Trek film ever made, personally, I lean much more toward Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In that film Nimoy’s idea of the “Cold War” ending in space between the Federation and Klingon Empire, was much more appealing. It wasn’t just warp drive towards a space battle, it was a multi-layered story of differences between “worlds” and “species” interwoven with Shakespearian overtones and personal beliefs. When Captain Spock says, “There is an old Vulcan proverb: only Nixon could go to China” that said it all.
There’s no question that Star Trek has influenced my life. While I was growing up in a small town, my best friend and I formed a club. Not just one club, but then associated member clubs that grew to 11 in three states – a Federation of sorts. While running my old publishing company we use to refer to it as “The Federation” owing to the reach the magazines had in every country along with its editors. Perhaps the most fun I had with my admiration for Star Trek was being cast in a fan made series several years ago. I got to the wear the uniform and sit on the bridge of a Starship!
But it’s now in my writing that I create non-linear stories. Like in Star Trek VI, they are involved and branch out from a single starting point. With First World it starts from the Apollo 11 missions, in SOS United States a message in the desert, in Justice Is Mind it’s a mind reading procedure. Like the Star Trek I grew up with and the later films (not JJ Abram’s), I write stories that make you think. That make you ask, what if? Indeed, In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, asks that very question.
So as I reflected this past week on the admiration I had for Leonard Nimoy and the influence Star Trek and the character of Mr. Spock had on me, we all can take comfort knowing that his creative works, indeed all our creative works, will…
Live long and prosper.
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.
This weekend I hit page 110 of the sequel to Justice Is Mind. For the last several pages the characters and related plot points have been converging to an end point. It’s moments like this in my writing that I find myself going back to the beginning of the script to make sure I haven’t left anything out. But this is the first draft, and like any first draft, there will be edits.
As some may know, one of my favorite authors is Barbara Taylor Bradford who wrote A Woman of Substance. I came across an interview she did in Gotham last year on what some of her writing secrets are. She makes an outline that doesn’t go more than 10 pages. That’s generally about the same practice I employ. For me, I want to have an idea where the characters are going, but to give them flexibility if some new idea or plot twist comes up. In fact, I already adjusted the ending a bit for the sequel.
The one thing I don’t do is over edit. I really believe you can edit too much and water down what may have been OK in the first place. But this is all personal preference. Of course, if a project has been green lit there are those adjustments that sometimes you just need to make for a variety of reasons. I was looking at my first draft for Justice Is Mind back in 2010. I’ll just say this, thank God I changed the last ten pages!
But like Emma Harte in A Woman of Substance had her “Plan with a capital P”, I have the same thing with the “Justice Is Mind” project. It may take some time to implement, and I certainly won’t divulge it all here, but with a short and feature film completed, a sequel in development and notes for the fourth leg of this project, it’s moving. With each leg the goal is to continue to increase the profile of the project. Ambitious? Sure. But so was the feature film.
Speaking of the feature film, I’m pleased to report that Justice Is Mind can now be streamed on Roku through the new VHX channel. VHX just announced it last week. It’s certainly a great development and it just gives audiences more viewing options. I’m hoping to announce some additional distribution options for Justice Is Mind shortly.
On the political front I was more than delighted to read last week that relations between the United States and Cuba continue to thaw. In my political thriller SOS United States, it’s Cuba that comes to the aide of the United States. When I think of the number of times I have travelled in the Caribbean (mostly by cruise ship) only to see Cuba just over the horizon. It’s time this failed embargo is lifted.
And just as I was finishing up this blog post one of our supporters said, “You know when folks see a movie I don’t think they really get the work, the really hard work the writer has thinking up every word and making it come out sounding natural.” Suffice to say I appreciate those words!
From the writing of the screenplay, raising the money, producing, directing and marketing, audiences really have no idea what goes into the production of a film. And as Emily Best of Seed & Spark said in an article this week, “Every film is a business.” Because in today’s day and age of independent filmmaking, there is one thing you need to have.
This morning I was reading the Hollywood Reporter’s excellent profile on filmmaker Christopher Nolan. I loved his quote, “If you want to make a calling card, you go to Kinkos. You don’t spend three years of your life putting a film together”. That could not be truer when making a feature film.
For the Justice Is Mind “project” it started in 2010 with the script, 2011 with the short, 2012 with the feature and 2013 to the present for the release and general marketing. Simply put, filmmaking is a long tail business. Yes, it’s all very exciting and “cool” to be shooting a film, but these are projects that we are married to for years. By example, my first short film First World was produced in 2006 and released in 2007. It’s 2015 and revenue is still coming in on monthly basis. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the value in a film library. I just have three films in my library, but imagine a company with hundreds of titles all earning some sort of revenue on a monthly basis.
With First World under consideration and SOS United States completed at the script stage, I just passed the 95 page mark on the sequel (yes, I have a title) to Justice Is Mind. The story, is much bigger in terms of scope. Instead of a trial in Massachusetts, we are at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. Am I ready to release the title and logline? Not yet. While I’m happy where the story is going, I always remain “open minded” on direction.
For me writing and developing a story is like playing chess. The pieces of your story might move in a typical fashion at the start, and just when you think I’m going to give you what you want, I’m going to turn it. As Unsung Films said about Justice Is Mind, “And this is when the film changes gear for one last time, turning into a science fiction tale – unexpectedly and viciously.” Yes, there will be a couple of unexpected turns in the sequel. But like Justice Is Mind, the clues start early.
One of the reasons why I admire Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker is because he creates original stories that resonate (I loved Inception). Personally, I’m really over the homogenized films that are created to appeal to the widest possible audience, but don’t tell a story. Seventy years later Laura is still a great film. Likewise with the 1968 production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s what we call long tail!
According to the Hollywood Reporter 2014 box office was down 5% from last year marking the biggest drop off in nine years. Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me. I just know from the audiences that saw Justice Is Mind, they want original stories. I understand the economics of why a studio spends $150 million on one motion picture, but imagine dividing that budget by 10? We know there are all kinds of original stories just waiting to be told. In the end it comes down to what audiences want to see and how they want to watch.
Yes, I have gone to Kinkos. To print scripts.
There is, as some have surmised, an entire back story to Justice Is Mind. When I set out to write a story believe it or not I think of the ending right after I think of the original idea. Point simply, I have heard too many times “I have a great story but I don’t know how to end it.” Point in fact, I wrote a screenplay with a friend years ago that takes place in Ogunquit, ME. It was a thriller. Oh we had a great first and second act but dear god that last act was just a travesty. Sometimes not having an ending when you start out does have a positive outcome…can anyone say Casablanca? Flash to 2013 and it should be interesting to see what World War Z looks like. I understand they reshot the entire last third of the film. I can say first hand there was a sense of calmness, in my opinion, when we were shooting Justice because we all knew how it was ending and we weren’t tinkering with it. Screenwriting is not a democracy and it most certainly can’t be decided by committee.
Again, I can’t speak for any other screenwriters, but when I write I’m always thinking sequel or a continuation of the story or part thereof. Why not? Sure, some films rightly stand alone, but if it resonates with the audience for a continuation you have notes and concept ready to go. A single feature film can take years to develop, why have it end at the first installment if there’s an interest in more? As some of you know, the seed for Justice Is Mind was planted in my First World story about a machine that can read memories to track where certain people have been. When we were shooting Justice the idea for a sequel started to come to me but more importantly the ending realized itself just a few days ago when I was looking through some VFX images. Of course the real test is how audiences are receiving Justice once it’s released and what resonates with them. I may have the most fantastic idea for a sequel but if research shows that audiences are gravitating to one particular part of the story, there’s your market research. Why go against the tide when you can ride the wave.
Already I have been able to ascertain certain conclusions from our early marketing for Justice. The audience is skewing 60% female to 40% male with the United States, India and the United Kingdom making up the highest traffic. On age, our largest numbers are in the 45-54 range. But what gets the most attention to a post? Special effects. Yes, every time I post a special effect image our reach sometimes triples from regular status updates. Conclusion? It’s not just men that like special effects, women enjoy them too.
Will these numbers hold up when Justice is screened? Who knows. The marketing of a film is perhaps the trickiest of them all. The goal is to develop positive word of mouth, and a following of fans that will support the endeavor and create that wave of enthusiasm. While the big studios can employ a marketing department to at least attempt to shield their risk, as an independent filmmaker working on meager resources, we must take advantage of the myriad of online services now available to us. And as we have recently seen, even the most robust marketing campaigns can’t shield some major films from audiences misses.
Thankfully with Justice Is Mind we can push in genres that are specific — sci-fi and drama. The world of sci-fi has changed a lot in the last several years, while space franchises are still flying to distant worlds, stories that are Earth and “mind” based are growing (I still miss Fringe). And in the world of drama, Justice has started to book law schools to screen the film for the legal drama that it is. What better way to develop a following than presenting a film in these types of forums.