Yesterday was another exciting Cars & Coffee event at Rosecliff in Newport, RI. While there are many car shows in the region, they don’t have the backdrop and atmosphere of Gilded Age mansions. What’s unique about this show is the range of cars from the classic Volkswagen Beetle to Lamborghini and beyond, this event brings people together from every walk of life.
After the show I visited the Audrain Automobile Museum to see their latest exhibit – Fun, Fast and Fabulous. While I once owned a pretty fast car (Acura NSX), for me it’s about the fun and the fabulous. This exhibit most certainly did not disappoint! With a 1910 American Underslung Traveler and 1930 Duesenberg Model J, it’s well worth the trip to Newport to see these works of art. Yes, as I saw on their website, the Audrain is more of an art museum that presents classic and contemporary automobiles.
Over the last several weeks I have been on a variety of weekend trips. The one thing that makes the recording of all this possible is the present world we live in – digital photography and filmmaking. Sure, the digital process has been around for many years, but its democratization has made it possible for so many of us to not only preserve history for future generations, but to create some history ourselves.
Case in point I finally located the box of VHS tapes of the numerous TV interviews I made between the early 1990s to early 2000s. This week I start the process of their conversion to digital. This particular time in figure skating no longer exists. It was a time when the sport operated like the bygone days of the movie studios. There were two major companies that literally controlled certain skaters and venues with a few independents that rounded out the industry.
What will I do with all this footage? First, it depends on how well it converts. A variety of articles I’ve read claims the shelf life to be 10-15 years based on numerous factors. But one tape I had from my 1994 appearance on the Montel Williams Show played great. Time will tell how this project concludes.
While there are some filmmakers that harken back to the days of producing on film, the digital process has made it possible from an economic point of view for filmmakers like me and countless others to produce. Gone are the days when this was an industry in the hands of a few with distribution outlets controlled by a literal handful of companies. Now, with the right project, the tools are in all our hands to get the word out.
But getting that word out in today’s digital world is perhaps even more involved than it was ten plus years ago. Why? Because everyone is doing it. The key, in my view, is to have something that people want to share. By nature human beings are social creatures and sharing is what we do. By example these Cars & Coffee events. I discovered this event through a promoted post on Facebook. From there it was an RSVP and sign-up on their email newsletter. The result was bridging the past with the present.
July 9, 2017 | Categories: filmmaking, General | Tags: American history, Audrain Auto Museum, classic cars, digital film, Duesenberg, figure skating, filmmaking, Newport Mansions, Newport Rhode Island, photography, Rosecliff, social media, The Montel Williams Show, VHS | Leave a comment
I was walking down Park Avenue in New York City last Thursday on a way to a meeting and soon found myself strolling down memory lane. 3 Park Avenue started to loom higher and higher as I walked toward 20th street. It’s not the tallest building in the city by any measure, but the memory it holds for me was my first job in the big apple. The year was 1983 and it was a mailing list company. Of course it’s 2017 so I stopped to take a picture of the building and posted it to social media.
Time has flown since those early days. Did that first job help in my quest to become a magazine publisher years later? Did it lay some sort of foundation to my TV work? Then films? That of course is hard to tell, but I do believe every experience leads to another that builds to another. Some jobs we love and some we detest. At best we learn from the experience and move on. This first job was fine. It did teach me how mailing lists were sourced and sold.
The meeting I had was part of a larger goal of mine. Let’s just say that since I reactivated my SAG-AFTRA membership I’ve been looking into things. But like so many I see on social media these days, I don’t broadcast every detail of my business activities until either a deal is done or it makes sense to do so. Seriously, why take the chance that a premature post could jeopardize a future opportunity (and don’t even get me started about those that take to social media complaining they didn’t get a part!)? Look none of us are perfect when it comes to social media. In the old days we would call our best friend and just rant on the phone, now it’s a quick post so the world can see…the world!
But while I was reflective of the past, I don’t live in it. In those early days it was a literal production to get the word out on something. You had to hope that a radio station, newspaper or TV network picked up what you were pitching. Now you can broadcast live on social media. Indeed, it has democratized the world of promotion and is a godsend to the entertainment industry.
Would I have been able to reach around the world with First World, Evidence, Justice Is Mind or Serpentine: The Short Program with the budget I had? Never. But like the days before social/electronic media, you still need a message. You just can’t post “watch me” you need to give someone a reason to in the first place. In my early days of publishing, my press releases would be faxed, now they are electronic. But they are press releases with the same general substance of title, summary and body. The adage some things don’t change is true. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
As for things not changing, a trip to New York wouldn’t be complete without meeting Lois Elfman, my former business partner, for dinner. It was over dinner twenty years ago when I mentioned to Lois my intention to start a figure skating magazine. Now decades later it’s other projects. My thanks to her again for the great article about Serpentine she wrote for the Ice Network and securing the film’s distribution on their VOD platform.
April 15, 2017 | Categories: film industry, filmmaking, First World (movie), General, Justice is Mind, political thriller, Serpentine, SOS United States, video on demand | Tags: First World (movie), Ice Network, Justice is Mind, magazine publishing, memory, mindreading, New York City, SAG-AFTRA, science fiction, Serpentine movie, social media | Leave a comment
With picture lock on Serpentine coming up probably this week, the marketing plan I’m putting in place for this film won’t exactly be created from scratch. Having published a consumer magazine in the sport for just over ten years, let’s just say I have a pretty good understanding of this market. Oh sure, things have changed over the years, but not that much. Case in point, I’ve been presenting the opening credits to a variety of industry insiders over the last couple of weeks.
But this project isn’t just targeted to the sport. As a political thriller that traverses a variety of countries and covert situations, the aim is to reach a broader audience. As I state on our website Serpentine is “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Americans meet the sport of figure skating with a hint of Madam Secretary”.
Of course since my time publishing magazines, we now have online streaming and social media. Both have been a godsend to the entertainment industry and a must for independent filmmakers like myself. Platforms that are essentially free that reach around the world. Just over ten years ago, if I wanted to reach a market in a foreign country I had to buy premium newsstand placement and display ads. While the latter still has a place, geomarketing on social media is de rigueur.
But with these new mediums come a lot of noise. If you let it happen, it’s very easy to get caught up in someone’s vortex of whatever. Seriously, unless it’s somewhat business related or of personal interest to me, I just tune it out. I always make an effort to ask myself if what I’m posting is improving my brand or my business. Sure, we all have our positions on a variety of things and “milk toast” posts are boring, but it really comes down to how others are perceiving you. I know I’ve made more than a few social and business related decisions simply by what someone is posting. Social media is like the SETI project. The majority of signals are just noise, but on occasion there is that “WOW” moment.
On the marketing front it has been interesting watching a variety of screeners through the SAG Awards voting process. While some of these films have done an outstanding job of marketing, others have just failed miserably. Because I read the trades I generally know what the films are doing before they reach the market. Does that influence my vote? No. Because making a film is hard enough and if you are part of the voting process it should be watched. There’s no question that I believe Arrival is a brilliant film in concept and execution and I’ve been more than public about my disdain for one filmed in my home state. But having started to watch Hidden Figures, the story simply grabs you right out of the gate. Or maybe I should have said the launch pad!
But through all this I do see a bright future for independent film. Oh there are those that complain about this and about that. Financing has always been difficult and getting a film together can be just as involved as a Moon launch, but filmmakers are an innovative bunch. We cut through the noise, drive around the roadblocks, scale the brick walls and every other obstacle and persevere. To partially quote Theodore Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort…”
January 8, 2017 | Categories: Apollo Missions, film industry, filmmaking, General, NASA, political thriller, screenwriting, Serpentine | Tags: Arrival, figure skating, filmmaking, geomarketing, Hidden Figures, Madam Secretary, SAG Awards, Serpentine, SETI, social media, The Americans, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy | Leave a comment
Being in the entertainment industry is about navigation. It’s knowing when to set course for a destination, entering course corrections and when you need to retreat—sometimes at high speed (“General quarters! All hands man your battle stations!”). Those that know me, know that I’m a person of lists. For me it’s my navigation chart. Some things I act on daily, others are listed for future missions.
One mission that was accomplished this past week was securing the registration of U.S. Copyright for a foreign filmmaker. While this director knew they needed a copyright, particularly a U.S. one, they needed someone who had some experience, particularly in film. My last post talked about establishing networks and this is exactly where this new business relationship came from—a longtime colleague.
It’s one thing to charge a fee for a specific service. We do that in our everyday lives, from oil changes to dining out. But it’s something else when someone tries to charge for “access” “introductions” or worse “promises”. Let me turn a phrase from President Nixon, “Let me making this perfectly clear there are no promises in the entertainment industry.” Sadly, this a trend that continues to expand unchecked. From casting directors hosting “acting workshops” to producers offering a menu of services. Let me be clear again, these are only avenues for revenue on their end not work on your end.
This past week I encountered another producer selling services. When I made the initial pitch I appreciated the quick response. I soon found out why. While I was referred to the person that heads up their “production department” the conversion we had a couple of days later was such a waste of time. Had to love when he said they weren’t taking on any new projects and then referred me to a laundry list of their services to gain access to their contacts. Funny, I thought you weren’t taking on new projects? If that wasn’t insulting enough this “producer” had ZERO enthusiasm and wasn’t engaged at all (he also mentioned they had overhead to cover). If you’re trying to sell something at least try to be enthusiastic. Reminded me of a well-known theater chain based in Texas who wouldn’t screen Justice Is Mind because we didn’t have a DCP at the time but then had the balls to have their rental office try to get me to four wall one of their theatres (we don’t four wall). I have been called lots of things, but stupid isn’t one of them. Short of it a network is built on relationships not purchased contacts.
As for networks, there is a trend in social media that is picking up great steam. More and more paper.li users are sharing posts relative to SOS United States and Justice Is Mind. Just this past week, both films were picked up by these “papers”. What I love about paper.li is the users curate interesting coverage in a great presentation. Check out these papers here and here.
The one thing this industry is all about is presentation and there are a few things on my list that are getting closer and closer for execution. There is one element that continues to present a project as serious because it means that the filmmakers are committed beyond the written word…
January 16, 2016 | Categories: cyber attack, film industry, filmmaking, First World (movie), General, In Mind We Trust, Justice is Mind, political thriller, screenwriting, SOS United States | Tags: concept trailer, copyright, Fail Safe (movie), film financing, filmmaking, Justice is Mind, mindreading, paper.li, political thriller, Seven Days in May, social media, SOS United States | Leave a comment
Too often we read about the resolutions and promises people make as they enter a new year. The end of one year and the birth of another does seem like the time to reflect on the past and hope for the future. But there is one thing that needs to be the driving force – a plan.
In the entertainment industry planning is the foundation of everything. From the script to production to marketing, the only way to get things done is to make a plan and to stick with it. For me it starts with my weekly lists; the daily posts to the social media pages I manage, the Google alerts that assist in public relations/marketing, the pitches to investors, the plans for productions, etc. Like NASA, I’ve always believed in shooting for the Moon (and beyond). But we all know that NASA’s plan wasn’t just a speech by President Kennedy at Rice University in 1962. It was long term planning that resulted in Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon in 1969.
Nothing is more disheartening when you ask someone about a project they were all excited about months ago with more social media posts than you can track, only to inquire and you get their stoic face of “how dare you ask.” When someone asks me “how are your projects coming along” my response is pretty standard “they’re moving along.” That means that I have been doing at least the following: writing/editing the script, pitching projects to investors, working on concept art, talking to agents/managers, etc. Sadly, people only think you’re doing something when you have a tripod set up with a camera. What they don’t know is that when you reach that point you have, hopefully, established a solid foundation because even more work is ahead after you wrap that last scene – post production, distribution and marketing. Believe me when I tell you that Justice Is Mind had a five year long plan of writing (2010), production (2012) and distribution/marketing (2013-present). Without a plan none of our achievements would have taken place.
The one I always compete against is myself. I look at one project I accomplished and want to make the next one better. I think they call that progress. Yes, the plans I have for SOS United States, In Mind We Trust and First World are ambitious. But there does reach a point with any given project when you can see it happening. I remember when this threshold started to approach with Justice Is Mind. Is it a culmination of planned and sustained efforts? Being in the right place at the right time? Or, to quote the late Maximilian Schell, “This an industry of chances and luck.” In my view it’s about being “present” and in the moment. In an industry filled with those looking for attention, you have to make a plan that calls for it.
As for attention, I want to take a moment to thank my readers. Every year I receive an audience report from WordPress. I’m pleased to announce that this blog is read in 92 countries. Curiously, the most active post for 2015 was A Narrative. In that post I talk about writing the last pages of In Mind We Trust. Indeed they were written in 2015 for 2016 presentations.
January 2, 2016 | Categories: Apollo Missions, film industry, filmmaking, General, In Mind We Trust, Justice is Mind, NASA, political thriller, screenwriting, SOS United States, space program | Tags: Apollo 11, entertainment industry, film financing, First World (movie), Google, Justice is Mind, marketing, maximilian schell, NASA, President Kennedy, screenwriting, social media, SOS United States | Leave a comment
For those of us that market products in the modern world, we know that social media is a vital component for any marketing plan. But we also know the highs and lows that such platforms bring. This past week, I read a fascinating article titled Why Twitter’s Dying. While Twitter’s economics have been in the news as of late, the article spoke to a broader issue around social media platforms and the general abuse of its users. This article is really worth a read because everyone I talk to is thinking about the points this author raises.
But while social media can have its pitfalls, it also can bring substantive rewards. Last Sunday I sent a tweet about my favorite show Madam Secretary. The official Twitter account for the show retweeted mine resulted in over 6,000 impressions. Yes, pretty impressive for something that just took me about a minute to generate. But on the other side, when I was trying to locate a photo and went into the archive on Justice Is Mind’s Facebook page I found a horribly derogatory comment from an actor that auditioned for the film. Yes, I deleted it. Sadly, jealousy and bitterness is a large part of the abuse on these platforms. Social media, to quote Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, “It’s a sword. It cuts both ways.”
Certainly social media has assisted in marketing Justice Is Mind and my other projects, but the real driver is press. Anyone can post to social media (and even buy “likes”), but reporters are still the gatekeepers to their audiences, audiences built the old fashioned way by delivering content their customers want to read, customers that have either been acquired by a paid subscription, advertising or both. None of us in their right mind would pay for a social media platform, but we still pay for a subscription to a media outlet in one form or another. You are either going to shell out some money or sit through an ad. Content isn’t free.
But content is what this is all about isn’t it? If you don’t have interesting engaging content, nobody is going to care. Filmmaking is about developing content and we have seen a seismic shift in how it’s marketed and distributed. Just this week, Paramount Pictures announced a new release experiment of shortening the theatrical release window of the latest Paranormal Activity film before it goes to VOD. Will it work? Who knows because VOD numbers are a guarded secret in the industry.
While VOD is the primary gateway towards distribution for so many films, I strongly believe that a theatrical release of some sort is critical. Not only do reporters take a film more seriously if it’s “in theaters” but you are developing an audience along the way that can only help when you arrive on VOD. But like all things in this industry, you have new companies looking to exploit the promises of VOD distribution at the expense of the filmmaker. Yet again this week I received an email from a well-known distributor/aggregator claiming the benefits of working with them but paying upfront for distribution to platforms. Seriously upfront.
The film industry is just like the world of magazine and book publishing, companies promising the literal Moon without any skin in the game. As a well known writer said in her latest email newsletter about service companies in her industry, “They claim to make your journey easier, more profitable, give you access to people you’d never meet otherwise. What you don’t realize is that many of them are simply attempting to make a buck off your eagerness.”
October 17, 2015 | Categories: General | Tags: distributors, Facebook, film financing, film industry, filmmaking, In Mind We Trust, independent film, Justice is Mind, Madam Secretary, Mommie Dearest, Paramount Pictures, Paranormal Activity, social media, Supreme Court, theatrical release, Twitter, VOD | Leave a comment
I’ve always had an agenda. My present agenda is pretty obvious, getting one or more of my slate of film projects into development. When I was reading about Joel Silver’s financing saga, it reminded me of the countless projects I am aware of that are in the development stage or still looking for a distribution home.
From government and commercial space program interests, to military and political conflicts to the mysteries of neuroscience and reincarnation, the market for First World, SOS United States and In Mind We Trust (the sequel to Justice Is Mind) is most certainly there. What it simply boils down to is equity. Ask any filmmaker, even the ones on the recently released The 30 Most Powerful Film Producers in Hollywood in the Hollywood Reporter, it doesn’t matter the size of the project they all require some equity.
But it’s more than just cash, it’s the ability to see a project through from start to market. Notice I didn’t say “finish”. Yes, it’s all very exciting making a film and being on set, but none of it matters if the film isn’t released or distributed. It saddens me when I see a project I’m familiar with, or have been tracking, get sidelined for whatever reason. Look, make no mistake about it, filmmaking is not easy. The commitment level it takes is in years, not months, if you hold the title of writer, producer or director.
In my business plans it’s stated that my commitment to a project once it gets the greenlight is, at minimum, two years. Look at Justice Is Mind as an example. Script was written in 2010, short film produced in 2011, feature film produced in 2012, released in 2013 and marketed through 2015 (and beyond). Studios understand this level of commitment or else they wouldn’t have a library of films. Seriously, how long does it take to update a Facebook page or post to Twitter? It’s one thing coming across a website, but nothing screams abandoned like a social media account that hasn’t been updated in months or years. This is an industry of perception.
I often reflect on my early efforts with First World. I wrote the script in 2006 and produced the short film version later that year. The film was released in 2007 and I spent over three years marketing the film that resulted in twenty screenings along with a DVD and VOD release. As of this writing, First World is still generating strong VOD sales.
But my current agenda is just that, an agenda I need to put together for a production meeting this week.
May 2, 2015 | Categories: First World, In Mind We Trust, Justice is Mind, SOS United States | Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, film distribution, film financing, film producers, filmmaking, First World (movie), Germany, In Mind We Trust, Joel Silver, Justice is Mind, marketing, Military, National Security Agency, neuroscience, reincarnation, Ron Howard, social media, SOS United States, space exploration, theatrical release, video on demand | Leave a comment
Having completed up to page 41 on the sequel to Justice Is Mind this morning, I’m now at that point in act two where the characters are starting their journeys in earnest. What’s going to happen to Henri Miller? In the quest to save Henri, what will Margaret Miller find? What do Constance Smith and John Darrow reveal at the congressional hearings? And what has Judge Wagner been appointed to? And these are just the recurring characters from part one. Indeed, when I’m writing I try very hard to not go with the obvious but to present the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, turns. 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.”
What I have learned with the sequel is that if I can imagine a fictional situation, scary, it seems to exist in some sort of preliminary form. From DNA memory sequencing to secret courts in the United States. Like it or not we now live in a world where technology, privacy and science are all part of our daily lives. Growing up we yearned for a future of flying cars and a Jetson’s life. But in all actuality, do our homes and lives look any different from the early 1980s? But what has changed since then is how we personally interact on a daily basis. Between social media, the storage of our data and the electronic world we live in, privacy is all but gone (just ask Sony Pictures Entertainment). In the sequel to Justice Is Mind, one particular question will come to light – what’s your right to privacy?
So while I continue to write the sequel with its variety of twists and turns, this past week was also investor conversations and some interaction with the industry. Let me just say this to filmmakers looking for funding – don’t be fooled by “bright and shiny” brochures and fancy looking websites with all kinds of claims. Unbelievably, a company that reached out to me last week claimed they invested millions in a slate films. Of course I asked the names of these films for my own due diligence. Sure, but not after I paid a retainer. Sorry, I don’t recall having the word idiot stamped on my forehead. I didn’t bother to tell them that a simple search on IMDB revealed zero listings for these people.
But on a more festive note (this is the season!), I have found it pretty straight forward to simply call the people you want to reach from investors to agents and production companies. Everyone is entitled to say no (we all do it), but I find the soft and brief phone pitch followed up by an email with more information can easily lead to some nice conversations. Building relationships takes time and trust. Everyone in this industry, it doesn’t matter who, is looking for the next deal, connection, gig or whatever.
I did, however, have the opportunity to submit First World to an agency. In as much as I know the story inside out, I haven’t read the script in a couple of years. It is amazing what a fresh set of eyes can bring. While the script has been vetted, nominated for few awards, produced as a short film and is registered, there was always a brief interaction with the President and Secretary of State that I felt just didn’t click. Well, I think it came to me when I read the script on Friday and made the adjustment before I emailed it. It was just two lines of dialogue but to a writer, and indeed to an audience, they can make all the difference.
December 7, 2014 | Categories: First World, Justice is Mind, SOS United States | Tags: congressional hearings, film financing, First World (movie), Justice is Mind, NASA, Orion, privacy, Queen Elizabeth, recurring characters, Royal Navy, sequel, social media, Sony Pictures, SOS United States, video on demand, VOD | Leave a comment
We all know the old adage. You get one chance to make a first impression. But in the world of independent filmmaking, impressions are what make a project. It’s not just about releasing your key art, trailer and feature, it’s about building an audience along the way on both the consumer and industry side so when those events do occur you’ve already built some sort of market for your project.
Developing an audience and awareness for a film (or any project for that matter) takes time and is not easy. Sure every filmmaker wants the widest possible release for their film, but unless you have major studio level financing behind you (and even that may not work…remember John Carter and Battleship) or strike literal gold on the viral front, you have to package your project the best you can with the resources available to you so when you start talking to distributors you have something in addition to the film to present.
Last week we released the first official poster for Justice Is Mind. I came up with the concept in September but really had no idea it could work visually and still get a message across. Justice is a large story with numerous undercurrents that revolves around a first of its kind criminal trial. But it does center on a key theme—the science fiction of MRI-like mind reading technology and its consequences.
When the statistics on our press release indicated over 100,000 headline impressions I was wondering what triggered this avalanche of audience. I went to Google and typed “Justice is Mind official poster released” and over 300,000 results returned. What I discovered is that Justice hit on science fiction, real estate, writing, restaurants, courtroom news, independent film and a variety of other topics including town specific news (Oxford, MA, etc.). Suffice to say, the press release was very successful. Why? That’s a pretty good question. Something in the release triggered the push it received. While it was certainly in the keywords and phrases, the resulting data will well figure into the continued marketing of Justice Is Mind.
With the poster now listed on impawards, movieweb, themoviedb, movieposterdb and others, Justice Is Mind is being nicely presented on forums outside of this website, our Facebook page and soon to be launched dedicated website. In regard to Facebook, I was really pleased to learn that the demographics for Justice Is Mind are pretty evenly split among all age groups. But women win with 55.6% of overall reach.
But other impressions are even more important and they have nothing to do with the world of social media. You can have the greatest marketing program behind you, but without great photography and performances it doesn’t matter. Again, it comes down to first impressions. Having seen the rough cut of the first 22 minutes of the feature and heard the same with the score, the product is looking great. The post-production process really is like building a car. It’s designed (pre-production), fabricated (production), built (post-production) and driven to market.
Our next event will be the official trailer. The one thing I can impress is that there will be a post or two…or three…or…
P.S. And for those of you following me on Facebook or Twitter, this past week the DVD of the short film version, Justice Is Mind: Evidence, was released on Amazon. The short will also have its ninth screening at Loscon on November 25 in Los Angeles!