Marketing planet Earth one project at a time.

Posts tagged “space program

First Still

Capturing the essence of a movie usually starts with the one sheet (poster), followed by stills and then the trailer.  It’s about developing the film’s brand and the PR campaign around it. For First Signal, the first official one sheet was designed by Daniel Elek-Diamanta (who is also our composer). The poster represents the famed “Earthrise” photo from Apollo 8 along with some sort of alien satellite or ship between the Moon and Earth. As the First Signal story is rooted in the Apollo space program, I thought the blend of science fact with fiction would make for a compelling picture.

With editing well underway, the next step in the branding process is to tell First Signal’s story through carefully chosen stills. Quoting Arthur Brisbane from an article in 1911, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”

Our first “picture” tells part of the First Signal story with Air Force One arriving in Brussels, Belgium. To the casual observer they just see Air Force One over a newscast. But for those that are following First Signal, they will see much more.  Not only does the still lend to the logline, an emergency meeting with the President, it represents the arrival of Earth’s most well-known plane. I say Earth’s because something else arrives later in the story. The rotating planet Earth in the chyron graphic is later identified as another world. But it’s the crisis in Ukraine that leads to a government conspiracy to thwart an insurgent military action that’s at the heart of the First Signal story.

Over the weeks and months ahead, the idea is to create a campaign to bring awareness to First Signal for its release in 2020. When you consider the tens of thousands of films made in any given year, the marketing and communications efforts need to be just as well thought out and planned as principal photography was. For First Signal it’s about building off our early press.

As for building, next week I start the research process for AFM. But prior to AFM, I’ll be presenting First Signal next week to some interested parties that are traveling to Toronto.  

Finally, I’m re-presenting First Signal’s one sheet now with credits. As you will see, it truly does take a village to make a motion picture. While a director has a vision and acts as conductor, they are only as good as their orchestra. 

Next still. 


Second Test

Arrival shot at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

No sooner did we finish our first pre-production test on January 26 at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center did we plan our second one for March 4. This was going to be more than a handful of shots and walkthrough. Our second test would involve lighting, sound and set construction.

I believe pre-production is the most important aspect of planning a film. It is this phase where even the slightest detail gets ironed out. How does the set look? Is the audio clear? What lens will work best for this shot? Because before you know it, the first day of production has arrived and you can only hope you covered all your bases.

The primary set of First Signal

When we first arrived, the main room we were going to shoot in was empty like a clean slate. One by one we brought the tables in and configured them to the set I had envisioned. There is that surreal experience as a screenwriter when you see a set coming to life that until that moment has only existed as words on a page.

One other critical component to our test was in camera special effects. So often in our modern world of filmmaking when we see a screen or monitor in a movie it’s shot with the actors without an image. The image, or special effect, is then put in during the post-production process. That was largely the case with Justice Is Mind when all 170 special effects were put in during post-production. In camera special effects for Justice wouldn’t have been practical as the majority had to be custom designed. For First Signal, the presentation that takes place during the primary scene is largely a slide presentation of still images. Thankfully that portion of the test was successful.

Paul Noonan will play General Reager in First Signal

When we go into production I want the actors to actually look at something real. Not only does it help them get into the moment of their character, but it greatly assists with eyeline and saves an enormous amount of time in post-production. There is also something authentic about the lighting from a projector that can be used to enhance a particular character or moment.

The idea for doing in-camera special effects for this scene came from the movie Fail Safe. In the scenes at the Pentagon the image we see is rear projection. But in the command center it’s actually front projection. I can only imagine what the pre-production process was like on that film never mind the timing the actors and crew had to accomplish on set as that effect was film not a still image.  

Patience McStravick will play Major Sampson in First Signal

With our interior work completed we moved outside for a combination of drone and ground based photography. This is the scene where one of the major characters arrives at a “military base.” I’ve previously taken drone footage of the Discovery Center, but this was my first time tracking a vehicle. It’s all about practice!

Fail Safe

Suffice to say First Signal’s second test went great. None of this would have been possible without the expertise and dedication of Daniel Groom, the Director of Photography; Patience McStravick, one of the producers who stars as Major Sampson and Paul Noonan who stars as General Reager. And a special thanks to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. To turn their phrase, thank you for having us in your “universe.”

As we plan for an end of April start date with one dress rehearsal prior, some critical components of the production started to arrive this week…

…props.

A replica of the Apollo 11 plaque

The Launch

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy lifts off from pad 39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

I programmed SpaceX’s launch date into my calendar. The upcoming launch of the Falcon Heavy was an event I wasn’t going to miss! But as can often happen with a launch, the time (and even date) can change at a moment’s notice. When the launch time did change, I went to the gym. As the time ticked down, most of the news oriented stations started to report on what was either going to be an historic success or a catastrophic failure.

I soon found myself paying attention to who was watching and who wasn’t. Yes, there were a good number of people watching (particularly in my age group). But then there were those that just didn’t seem to care. Judge Judy and Dr. Phil are fine enough shows, but you only get one chance at seeing history in the making and remembering where you were at the time. While I remember seeing the later Apollo missions on TV, at four years old I was a bit too young to remember Apollo 11.  To this day I still remember those grainy black and white images. But today’s broadcast was being carried in vivid HD.

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Moonbase Alpha in Space: 1999

Watching the Falcon Heavy liftoff from the same pad as Apollo 11 was epic. It reminded me of what’s possible when we join together to create greatness. It’s this type of science, cooperation, ingenuity and forward thinking that makes this country great not myopic politicians. Although the political winds of the Cold War set the space program on the course it achieved in the 1950s and 60s, it’s private enterprise that will take us on the next step of this final frontier.

There’s no question that my following of the space program led to my interest in science fiction. While the 60s had Star Trek (again, a bit before my time), my introduction to science fiction was in the 70s with such programs as UFO and Space: 1999. Each of those programs had a base on the Moon along with a fleet of ships.

Justice Is Mind - Henri Miller's memories processiing

The thought identification process in Justice Is Mind.

Launching oneself into the world of screenwriting also carries its own set of risks (but not nearly as much as an actual rocket launch!), the primary one being the risk of getting a story wrong. Writing an original story is not an easy process. It takes time and research. When I set out to write a story, I usually do some baseline research so when I start to write I don’t need to stop until I reach that next point of needed additional research.  When I wrote Justice Is Mind the first phase of research was around thought identification with the second phase being the legal process around a court proceeding. For First Signal, the majority of the research revolved around satellite communications and the Deep Space Network.

As the submission process continues for First Signal, I’ll also be having a meeting this week with a filmmaker. I recently saw some of his work and he had that number one thing that’s so important when working with a crew – inspiration.  From my own projects to others, I’ve been on a variety of sets over the last year. And while inspiration is expected from actors, it’s just as important with members of a crew. You can easily see who’s on point and who needs a sharpening.

Next meeting.

atranta

The Earth as seen from Lunaria in First World.


The Field

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What one of the locations may look like.

This morning I finished up the notes for the prequel to First World. The next step is to place it in Final Draft and iron it out. That’s generally the process I use when writing a script. I write out the scene structure and dialogue in Word first. I just find it 10x easier to make quick adjustments in Word before formatting in Final Draft. But when I take that next step in Final Draft that’s when the final story starts to take shape.

I’ve written a variety of scripts over the years. Some produced, some waiting for a deal, but this is one that I specially wrote to produce independently. In the end I’ve stayed with three locations and what will be a liberal use of stock footage. But unlike First World, I think this story has given me the opportunity to really create a solid backstory for two of the main characters. It also examines a presidency in crisis along with an out of control military leader.

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A scene takes place in NATO.

As with Justice Is Mind, writing an original story is not easy. We receive our initial round of inspiration but then it’s up to us to figure out the rest. What I always aim to do is to have a beginning and ending in mind. Sure it may change some along the way, but if I have in mind the beginning of Act I and the ending of Act III, then I’m good to start. In my view an Act II should always be what I call “the mess” because that’s what the characters are trying to make sense of and resolve.

This story has a solid protagonist and antagonist. It was my goal to give each side not only a reason for their actions but the ability to carry them out. As a writer we wear many personality hats to create our stories. Many is the day when I thank God I’m working alone because I talk my dialogue out. I don’t think the strange looks from my cats qualifies as the need for being institutionalized, but if a neighbor randomly heard me talking like my characters I’d probably be visited by some sort of federal agency.

Once the first draft is done later this week I’ll be sending it to the actress that inspired me to write it. For me, it’s pretty easy to write a character when you model it on the actress that will play it. However, for the rest of the characters involved, one of my plans is for a table read. I never did that for Justice Is Mind owing to a variety of matters, not the least being the size of the cast, scheduling and time constraints. In the end that worked out fine. But with this project as the majority of the action takes place in a conference room and a field, it’s important to get the character interaction just right.

Next stage.

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The First World story centers around the Apollo space program.


The Intrepid

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The USS Intrepid in World War II. Now a museum ship in New York City.

When I was living in New York City in the 1980s there was ship docked a couple of avenues away that I would sometimes notice. In those days it was a dawn walk down 10th avenue in the morning on my way to Sky Rink before I went to work at Time magazine. That ship was the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid.

Last week I traveled to the city to spend the day at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. I’m not sure if there is another museum in the world that offers an aircraft carrier from World War II, the Concorde, the Space Shuttle Enterprise and the Galileo shuttle from the famed TV series Star Trek.  Needless to say among the array of exhibits there’s plenty to do!

Galileo

The Galileo shuttle from Star Trek.

When I was researching and writing both First World and SOS United States there was so much at the museum that touched on these stories. Not only do both involve aircraft carriers, the basis for First World is the 1960s space program and the return of the Concorde in SOS United States as Commonwealth One for the Prime Minister of the UK. It’s one thing researching a subject, it’s entirely another to experience them in real life.

Of course, being a Star Trek fan, I know the museum is getting a Star Trek exhibit in July. What I didn’t know is when I walked into the Space Shuttle pavilion I would see the Galileo shuttle from the TV show! I had just watched a documentary on the group of fans that saved this storied piece of TV history from a piece of discarded junk to a restored prop of broadcast quality. Yes, it was a total geek out moment seeing this iconic prop.

Enterprise

The Space Shuttle Enterprise.

As for history, I remember seeing the Space Shuttle Enterprise on TV when it did its atmospheric tests in the 70s. Although I saw the Space Shuttle Discovery some years ago at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the way the museum has the Enterprise displayed along with its related history and exhibits made the pavilion one of the highlights of my visit.

When I was at the museum I took two guided tours, Pacific War: USS Intrepid in WWII and Concorde a Supersonic Story. For the respective price of $15 and $20, they were wonderfully informative and were essentially private tours. For WWII it was another guest and myself. The tour was all the more interesting as the other guest was a veteran of the Korean War. If it wasn’t for those brave men and women that serve in our military, we would be living in an unrecognizable world today.

Cabin

The Concorde cabin.

Having always been a fan of the Concorde, I saved what turned out to be a private tour until the end of the day. If you grew up in the 70s the Concorde was all over the news. Simply put she was so far ahead of her time that just to see the plane was a cool experience. I first saw Concorde in 1985 on my first trip to London as she was taxing at Heathrow. As I understand it from the terrific guide I had, this is one of the few Concordes in the world that you can actually go into. When I was sitting in the passenger seats I was just thinking to myself about the amazing conversations and deals that went down in the cabin during her time in service.

Cockpit

In the cockpit of the Concorde.

As for time, I met up with my former business partner Lois Elfman for a wonderful dinner at Bistro Citron (highly recommended!). I first met Lois during my days in New York City at the offices of the Ice Theatre of New York (for insiders Moira’s loft). As many know we went on to launch a newsmagazine for the sport of figure skating that we proudly built into the world’s largest with an “intrepid” team.

Speaking of building, I just completed the second act of the political thriller I’m writing around the sport of figure skating “If she skates the way she did at sectionals she’s going to worlds.  And the Federation can’t stop it.”

Warp drive.

Lois

With Lois Elfman.


The Markets

As in the movie Fail Safe, the majority of SOS United States takes place in war rooms and bunkers.

As in the movie Fail Safe, the majority of SOS United States takes place in war rooms and bunkers.

This past week, just as I finished some updates to SOS United States, the American Film Market began. No sooner does it start than this article in Deadline comes out lamenting the “slim pickings” and quoting a variety of industry executives from, “It’s the lightest market in memory. TV is definitely sucking up talent” to “It’s much tougher now to find those projects that have that clear theatrical profile.”

Attaching talent, even in the best of markets, has always been a challenge. But clear theatrical profile?  How is that truly defined? Having secured a limited theatrical run with Justice Is Mind that had talented but unknown actors, I often wonder what metrics these “executives” use when measuring a film for commercial appeal. This has always been an industry where you had to think outside the box, particularly when you are introducing something new to the market.

Justice Is Mind has benefited from mind advances in mind reading technology  and neurolaw.

Justice Is Mind has benefited from mind advances in mind reading technology and neurolaw.

There’s no question there has been a seismic shift in talent from film to TV, that’s why I have positioned In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, as a pilot for a TV series. Sure, it could be a standalone feature, but it just makes sense to have this option when presenting. I remember many years ago when I attended Mipcom listening to execs wishing they could bring some of the theatrical talent over to TV.  This is an industry that shifts like the tides. It’s just a matter of product and timing.

Speaking of product, a couple of weeks ago I was approached by a “distributor” for Justice Is Mind for an “exclusive” deal in a major market.  Sure I’m always interested in a new deal, but it has to make sense. No sooner did we conclude our initial call and documents arrived with the most ridiculous terms and requirements I have ever seen. Um, no, I will not reedit the opening and end credits of my film to include a laundry list of producers to make it look like you produced the film. Um, no, I will not upload my film for you to review to a mysterious website that can only be accessed by you after the fact. It was laughable. And if you say you have distributed hundreds of films, you best have a listing on IMDb. Just when you think you’ve seen everything you see something new.

Just like in First Word, China continues its missions to the Moon.

Just as in First Word, China continues its missions to the Moon.

As for timing, I never would have thought that after I wrote First World that China’s space program would truly boom the way it did or that the cyber attacks I present in SOS United States would become so front and center.  When I first wrote Justice Is Mind that idea was born by one broadcast on 60 Minutes about ‘thought identification’ and my passion for a good legal drama. Could I have ever imagined the advances in mind reading technology and neurolaw? No, of course not.

In my view it’s impossible to time the market from an industry or consumer standpoint. If you have an idea for a new movie or TV series, just write it and then do everything you can to produce it. In the end, it all comes down to what the consumer wants and the way they want to watch it.

“Let them lead us.” SOS United States.

A possible reprieve for the S.S. United States.


Real World

From the In Mind We Trust concept trailer.

“Portrait of a Young Man” from Justice Is Mind as seen in the concept trailer for In Mind We Trust. The painting has been missing since World War II.

When I wrote Justice Is Mind in 2010 I had no idea that the science of mind reading and its related legal and ethical implications would present itself in the real world the way it did (Pamela Glasner’s article in The Huffington Post pretty much sums it up).  There’s no question this public awareness helps when I market the film.

In the sequel, In Mind We Trust, part of the storyline picks up from the end of Justice Is Mind – lost artwork from WWII. In the story it’s revealed that Wilhelm Miller worked in transportation whose responsibility was to ship stolen artwork via train, artwork that disappeared at the end of the war and begins to resurface through the Miller family.

China's Long March-2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.

China’s Long March-2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.

It is oddly ironic that over the last few weeks there has been substantive media attention to an alleged underground NAZI gold train that disappeared at the end of the war.  Apparently, a death bed confession revealed its whereabouts.  There’s no question that there are countless unresolved mysteries from that time period. And the stealing of artwork, gold and other treasures during the war is another horrid atrocity that the world continues to face and rightly so.  Now that Poland’s military is involved in the search, we should have a resolution one way or the other sooner rather than later.

But then we move forward in time to First World and SOS United States. When I wrote First World back in 2006 sure China had ambitious plans with their space program. But I had no idea it would move along at the pace it has. There’s no question, that unless something substantive happens to China’s economy, that country will land a man on the Moon. Much like the space race when the Soviet Union successfully put Sputnik in orbit, it was a wake-up call to the United States. And wake-up our country did by landing a man on the Moon in 1969. Curious how Russia announced this past week they are going to the Moon. Something tells me that China and Russia will soon be cooperating.

In SOS United States the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is targeted by a foreign power.

In SOS United States the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is targeted by a foreign power.

This of course brings us to SOS United States. Although China is moving along at a rapid clip, they are disadvantaged in certain areas of military might, particularly in aircraft carrier development, thus the conflict in my political thriller around the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and her ordnance.

But it is the continued cyber-attacks by groups in China directed against United States interests that really is the crux of the world we live in and a major plot element in SOS United States. And let us not forget how Chinese warships entered United States waters off Alaska this week.

In my view, every film whether the subject is good, bad or indifferent needs some sort of hook. Something that will pull the audience in from the real world while they escape into the narrative world of a movie.

New World.

Cyber attacks inside the United States that have been directed from China.

Cyber attacks inside the United States that have been directed from China.


The Ashton Slate

In SOS United States the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier intercepts the SS Leviathan ocean liner.

In SOS United States the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier intercepts the SS Leviathan ocean liner.

With the business plan for In Mind We Trust completed, work now begins again in earnest to market my slate of films for development, The one thing I have learned about this industry since I made First World, and during my time as a magazine publisher, is that investment can come from anywhere at any time. They key, as I learned with Justice Is Mind, is to be ready when the time is right.

Christopher Nolan said it best in the Hollywood Reporter a couple of weeks ago when talking about his career, “The thing that happens to a lot of people is that you get that opportunity, somebody says, ‘I really loved your film, what else do you have?’ And if you don’t have anything, or if you’ve just got vague ideas, it’s very difficult to take advantage of that moment, and that moment doesn’t come around again,” he said. “You’ve got to jump on it.” Obviously, I agree.

In In Mind We Trust "McCarthy Era" Congressional hearings on mind reading take place.

In In Mind We Trust “McCarthy Era” Congressional hearings on mind reading take place.

My feature length screenplay First World worked great to make the short film version in 2006. Yes, that project as a feature is years in development, but the short film version is in the market and the script award nominations have served as a great foundation. Just over the last couple of months, sales of the short film have tripled from this time last year and China is moving along at breakneck speed with their space program. Timing is better now to present. As this article on Hollywood.com shows, some projects just take time to develop.

The idea for SOS United States came to me when I was in the process of managing the theatrical release of Justice Is Mind. I’ve always loved the political thrillers made during the Cold War. The idea of developing a story that pits the President of the United States against the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as they deal with a potential nuclear device on a commercial ocean liner bound for Boston, certain reflects the political and military tensions we see in the world today.

In First World the story revolves around NASA's Apollo 11 mission and what was discovered on the Moon and then classified.

In First World the story revolves around NASA’s Apollo 11 mission and what was discovered on the Moon and then classified.

But it was the sequel to Justice Is Mind that called to me this past November. I always figured that, “someday I would write a sequel”. But I didn’t know it would develop so quickly. For me, when I get an idea I just need to run with it. The result is In Mind We Trust. With a story that reunites a number of the original characters from Justice with new characters against the world covert surveillance, government power, reincarnation and the horrors of World War II, the screenplay, like Justice Is Mind, is a demonstration of competing genres that I believe work well together. As Unsung Films said about Justice Is Mind, “Mark Lund’s film is a thriller-gone-courtroom-drama-gone-sci-fi.  Such extreme shifts in genre should not work. But they more than work in this case.”

Through all this is the navigation of a changing industry and the needs, interests and wants of investors. As I learned from my original investor in my old publishing company, to my backers on Justice Is Mind, these things take patience and perseverance and being ready when the time is right. It’s about staying a course that is true to the projects and to never capitulate.

Full ahead.

The foundation for the business plan for In Mind We Trust is expanding on the theatrical release of Justice Is Mind.

Like Justice Is Mind, the business plan for In Mind We Trust calls for a theatrical release. 


In Partnership

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The one thing I learned when publishing magazines is that your distributors, in all their forms, are your partners. Produce a good magazine and it will sell. Likewise, the same is true for a movie. But all this requires marketing on a day to day basis. A case in point, would be our last United States theatrical screening at the Chatham Orpheum theatre in September. It was a partnership between their theatre and Justice Is Mind. We both had one goal, sell as many tickets as possible and generate press. Not only did we have a great turnout and positive press, we also established a great post screening working relationship.

I’m delighted to announce that the Chatham Orpheum Post Production Services delivered our first DCP of Justice Is Mind last week! Some of you may be wondering what a DCP is. To quote Wikipedia, “A Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is a collection of digital files used to store and convey Digital cinema (DC) audio, image, and data streams.” While we always had our theatrical DVDs, now we have another theatrical option with DCP.

While I have yet to come across a theatre that can’t play from a DVD, it’s great that we now have a DCP option as the majority of theatres across the United States have converted to a digital format. I don’t profess to be an expert on this tech, but theatres do like to have this option. That being said, when Justice Is Mind was released in 2013 better than ½ the theatres we screened in still had not converted to digital. In the end, this just gives us another option. My special thanks to the Chatham Orpheum for their great work! To learn more about their DCP services please visit their website or email them at this address.

If the cyber-attack on Sony and subsequent pull of The Interview from the major chains demonstrated anything, it is that theatres are your partners and communication is key. While VOD is of course important, I still believe in the release model of theatrical distribution first followed by VOD. I think trying to marginalize theatres is a mistake. I read this past week about a film that got into Sundance, didn’t receive a distribution deal they thought was worth anything and is now is trying to fund a theatrical release by renting theatres and “then fans can pay what they want to see the film”. Aside from not agreeing with four walling (renting) for a variety of reasons, a pay what you want is a horrible precedent to set. In all our theatrical screenings, audiences paid whatever the general ticket price was for that theatre and market.

In the sequel to Justice Is Mind a congressional hearing is convened in 2026 to address a new development in mind reading by Reincar Scientific.

In the sequel to Justice Is Mind a congressional hearing is convened in 2026 to address a new development in mind reading by Reincar Scientific.

Margins in this business are squeezed enough for everyone. Do you admit someone to watch a movie in a theatre for $1 when the person behind them was going to pay $10? As my business partner said the other day there is an issue with perception in value. Yes, for VOD, the $1.99 rental is pretty standard. But the economics of that rate for a theatrical screening (via paying what you want) just won’t cover costs.  Because what this all comes down to is how do investors get paid back when margins are so thin. It’s just simple economics of cost and revenue.

As I hit the 100 page mark of the sequel to Justice Is Mind this weekend, I truly wonder what the marketplace will be like by the time that film is released.

Act III.

 

In line with First World, the Diplomat reported that China leads the space race.

In line with First World, the Diplomat reported that China leads the space race.


Story First

Justice

Another AFM is over. Aside from attendance being up, I’m not sure how much has changed from last year (or even the year before). We all know that foreign sales agents want top talent so they can sell internationally and VOD is disruptive.  This “disruption” if you will has been in the works for years. But like the bygone days of magazine publishing when publishers refused to accept the internet, if one thing has changed this year it is that the industry has finally woken up to the reality that VOD is where this industry is and where it’s going for the foreseeable future.  At the click of a mouse consumers will decide what they want and when they want it. But regardless of the trends it does come down to telling a story first and, oh yes, on a reasonable budget.

The sequel to Justice Is Mind along with First World and SOS United States partially take place in Washington, DC.

The sequel to Justice Is Mind along with First World and SOS United States partially take place in Washington, DC.

The foundation of every movie starts with the screenplay. In all this “noise” about the state of the industry it still surprises me how suddenly the screenplay becomes a sidebar in the conversations. How many times do we read about this “A lister” or that “A lister” attached to such and such a project. A lot of excitement, press, accolades and then the film comes out and it just doesn’t resonate with audiences…for whatever reason…and never recoups their budget. This is one trend that’s terrible for the industry. While the A lister may go to win an award for best performance, someone or some company is adding up losses. And losses are never good in any business.

With China's space program on the rise and its film market second only to the United States, the premise of  First World is more commercial.

With China’s space program on the rise and its film market second only to the United States, the premise of First World is more commercial.

But with VOD platforms on the exponential rise, budgets simply need to be adjusted as the DVD market has collapsed. I absolutely agree with AFM’s Managing Director Jonathan Wolf when he said, “We’ve got 50 companies who are in what we call mini-booths, where they only spend $3,900 for the space yet they’re bringing films and having a commercially acceptable experience. If you can make a couple films for $300,000 and sell each for $600,000, you have a business.” My political thriller SOS United States has a budget just north of $300,000.

I read a great story in IndieWire this week titled “Why It’s a Great Time to Be an Independent Filmmaker” by Naomi McDougall Jones.  She could not be more right when stating, “I believe there are those who crave what I crave as an audience member; to be genuinely surprised; to have my own prejudices exploded; to leave the theater altered from whom I was when I went in.” These are the same comments I’ve heard from audience members that have seen Justice Is Mind.

The recently revealed cell phone spy program and nuclear maintenance issues fall into the story of SOS United States.

The recently revealed cell phone spy program and nuclear maintenance issues fall into the story of SOS United States.

Justice Is Mind and Jones’s film, Imagine I’m Beautiful, are apples and oranges in genre, but share the same type of approach to the market. We have a theatrical run, press and VOD. It’s all very doable. But it’s also work done the old fashioned way. It takes time (lots of it), research and effort.

But if there is one new trend from AFM this year that’s a major positive are the new distributors entering the market. With studios focusing on tentpoles they have created a need for the rest of the market. As Cinedigm CEO Chris McGurk tells Variety, “The majority of filmmakers have to be interested in a new model for releasing indie films, and you could not say that two or three years ago.”

Watch Justice Is Mind on Amazon Prime Instant Video!

Watch Justice Is Mind on Amazon Prime Instant Video!

And so as I write the sequel to Justice Is Mind and present First World and SOS United States for investment and development, I too believe this is a great time to be an independent filmmaker.  It just takes the three ‘p’s I have often mentioned: plan, perseverance and patience.

Act Two

The sequel to Justice Is Mind starts at this scene at then end of part one.

At the end of part one, the sequel to Justice Is Mind starts here.


The Crowd

What happens to Henri Miller in the sequel to Justice Is Mind.

What happens to Henri Miller in the sequel to Justice Is Mind?

It was one year ago yesterday that Justice Is Mind had its west coast premiere in Beverly Hills, California and it was just over a week ago that we had our international premiere on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. In a sea of films looking for attention, my goal since day one with Justice was to make every attempt to stand out from the crowd. Just take a read of the AFM dailies, there are a dizzying amount of films looking for attention and distribution.

I have never been one to follow the crowd. I don’t believe in doing what everyone else does just to be “in” or perceived as “popular”.  Conformity has never been my strong suit. Ask anyone that has followed my career from publishing to film, I have always carved a niche for my projects.

What of the judges and lawyers when memory becomes the rule of law?

What of the judges and lawyers when memory becomes the rule of law?

I believe the verdict is in on Justice Is Mind. Having been screening the film theatrically for over a year the majority of audiences and reviewers have enjoyed the film.  Audiences didn’t care about the “star power” of the characters. They just wanted to see a good story. Honestly, I don’t know why distributors (particular foreign sales agents) don’t understand that as well.  On the Queen Elizabeth that was the test. An international audience from all over the world that applauded when the film ended. It wasn’t about the stars in the film, it was about the story in the film. Thankfully, the industry is changing and rightly so.

What is Reincar Scientific doing with these memories? What does the United States Department of Homeland Security want?

What is Reincar Scientific doing with these memories? What does the United States Department of Homeland Security want?

Unbelievably the trend as of late is that there’s plenty of capital but not enough bankable talent to sell the films into foreign markets. One industry executive quoted in Variety stated “From a financing perspective, it’s never been better. But it’s not about the money; it’s about the talent. The challenge right now in the independent market is getting talent to commit and stay committed”. But films are still being financed. One look at an AFM daily or the thousands of films that are produced every year contradicts that assertion. I think what this comes to is looking for the perfect project. Dear God we know that doesn’t exist because there’s one factor that no actor, producer, director, distributor, sales agent or investor can gauge…the audience.

What brings Margaret Miller to Germany and Italy.

What brings Margaret Miller to Germany and Italy.

With the rise of VOD, theaters hungry for films that tell a good story (the building in China is off the charts) and unique screening opportunities (like we did with Justice on the Queen Elizabeth), Justice Is Mind proved that a quality story works in the market from theatrical, VOD and special events. All this without “star” actors.  When I was publishing many years ago I was told time and time again that nobody would read my magazines without known writers. Really? That’s why I had the number one magazines in our market.  Don’t follow the crowd, make the crowd.

In SOS United States an ocean liner races across the Atlantic Ocean and with it the possibility of a nuclear device that pits the United States and United Kingdom on brink of war.

In SOS United States an ocean liner races across the Atlantic Ocean and with it the possibility of a nuclear device and war between the United States and United Kingdom.

As a diehard fan of cinema from classics to contemporary, I have nothing against “stars” but projects shouldn’t be defined around “A” list talent. We all know that at the end of the day it comes down to what the audience wants.

Perhaps the best advice I ever received was to have a few different projects at the ready because you really don’t know what will resonate at the right time. I have First World, a science fiction epic; Justice Is Mind, a psychological sci-fi thriller and SOS United States, a political thriller. With Justice Is Mind produced and distributed, today I continue to market that film while presenting First World and SOS United States to interested parties to secure production. Tomorrow, I start to write the sequel to Justice Is Mind.

Next chapter.

In First World, China announces its first manned mission to the Moon - four years ahead of schedule.

In First World, China announces its first manned mission to the Moon – four years ahead of schedule – which unravels a worldwide cover up of what Apollo 11 discovered in 1969.


The Interview

One Man's Trial-page-0

Since Justice Is Mind premiered last August I’ve been interviewed by a variety of reporters. Whether they were about the legal aspects, the loss of privacy or the science fiction of the FVMRI procedure, each one of these interviews had a particular angle. For the record, I am beyond thankful for each article. As a former magazine publisher I know how inundated editors and reporters are from the countless pitches they receive.  When they take the time to write about our independent film it makes this journey all the more special.

This past week I was interviewed by a reporter who asked me what my motivation was to make Justice Is Mind given how hard this industry is. My answer came quick, “To see it accomplished.” When one thinks of the numerous obstacles one must overcome to produce, complete and distribute a feature film, there is an innate sense of satisfaction seeing a project years in the making go from thought to screen. I remember sitting next to my best friend and her husband who backed the film in Albany, NY at our world premiere, and being beyond excited to see the start of Justice Is Mind on the big screen. Indeed, I know this excitement was shared with the over 200 people involved to make Justice Is Mind a reality.

First World starts when President Kennedy addresses a  joint session of the United States Congress on May 25, 1961.

First World starts when President Kennedy addresses a joint session of the United States Congress on May 25, 1961.

As I’ve said before, I’ll say again, navigating this industry is not easy by any stretch. No matter what side of the camera you are on, the competition is endless. I shudder to think how many times we all heard the word “no” throughout our respective journeys.  A couple of weeks ago when a parent asked me what advice I could offer his son who wanted to be an actor, I offered the same answer a producer gave me when I was 18, “You have to want this industry more than anything.” Watch the movie All About Eve when the character Bill Sampson sums up what it takes.

The next two months will be nicely busy for Justice Is Mind. With our Cape Cod premiere on September 18 at the Chatham Orpheum Theater, the Viewster Online Film Festival from September 11-25 and our international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth on October 29, the journey continues.  Part of this journey was the Chatham Orpheum Theater’s press release. Check it out at this link.

In SOS United States a Cyber Pearl Harbor cripples the nation's military satellites.

In SOS United States a Cyber Pearl Harbor cripples the nation’s military satellites.

And while Justice Is Mind is introduced to new audiences, I continue to present First World and SOS United States. When I set out to write a screenplay, I write a story that’s interesting to me. Who would have thought that when Justice Is Mind was released that mind-reading and loss of privacy would be so front and center in the news. With First World it has been interesting to see where China is today with their space program versus when I wrote the script in 2006. As for SOS United States, who could have guessed that the military situations I presented in that story are so prevalent now. But putting that all aside, if it’s one thing I learned about investors, the pitch process is never the same as they all have different motivations.  Adaptability is key.

The voyage continues.

Justice Is Mind - Chatham - September 18, 2014