I have been a space enthusiast ever since I was kid. I remember to this day some of the last Apollo missions to the moon, a time in our nation’s history when the United States achieved great accomplishments, when we worked through the problem to solve the impossible. But while the 1960s was a time America moved forward in the direction of science, it was far from forward when it came to civil rights.
Last night I saw the acclaimed Hidden Figures to a packed audience at The Strand Theatre in Clinton, MA. I’ve been wanting to see this movie ever since I heard about it. The story itself can best be summed up by its logline, “The story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program.”
The balance in story that director Theodore Melfi achieved between the rapid progress of the space program contrasting to the glacial pace of civil rights, created not only a must see film but one with a lasting message of hope. Hidden Figures is a movie that champions the possibilities of the human race when working towards a common goal, in this case the space race between the United States and Soviet Union. Indeed this is a movie for the history books, one that will be long remembered decades after its release.
But long remembered was another character in the film, astronaut John Glenn. This past week Glenn was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. It was on February 20, 1962 that he boarded Friendship 7 at Cape Canaveral. It was this pivotal moment in the fledgling space program that was prominently featured in Hidden Figures.
Perhaps the one thing that made last night’s screening so memorable was the reaction of the audience when the credits started to roll—applause. When a film moves an audience to such a degree that they enthusiastically applaud that does make the journey for all those involved in making the film a worthwhile endeavor.
As I have often said, movies need to be seen in a theater. While I’ve been a champion of VOD since its inception, it is the theatrical experience that creates the event. In that moment a group of complete strangers (usually) get together for a single purpose—to be entertained.
In a few short weeks, Justice Is Mind will have its International Premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Indeed, for more reasons that I can count, I am looking forward to this trip. And with my PowerPoint filmmaking seminar completed and all the other details attended to, it just comes down to the final organization before I leave for Rome.
Justice Is Mind is now in the international market. Since our arrival on, VHX, Viewster and Amazon (with other VOD platforms to follow), our film has left its domestic home for an international audience. Our screening on the Queen Elizabeth will be the launch event. I cannot think of a more fitting setting than an ocean liner in the Mediterranean Ocean. For the first time in the history of the film, those in the audience will have no direct connection to the movie other than their interest in seeing it. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about as a filmmaker. Introducing your work to new audiences.
The process of marketing Justice Is Mind internationally started back in 2011 when the short film version was produced. Did I know where Justice Is Mind was eventually going to go? No, of course not. No filmmaker has a crystal ball that can predict the future. What we do have is hope, ambition and determination and work tirelessly to accomplish what we do.
But as I’ve learned from our theatrical screenings, reviews and articles, every film needs to have some sort of hook to target and reach an audience. Theatrical screenings have been pivotal to Justice. With each one I learn something new whether it be demographics or areas of the film that resonate with an audience. Live screenings give a filmmaker a chance to interact with an audience that VOD will never really be able to do. While VOD is the revenue generator for independent film, it’s the theatrical audiences that are the driving force.
There have been so many discussions on the pros and cons of theatrical and VOD, particularly when it comes to windows. I can easily see the point of the theatres. Why would they want a film to also be available on VOD the same day it’s released in theaters? From a filmmakers point of view, it comes down to revenue and getting a maximum return on a limited marketing budget. This is a conversation and debate that will long continue.
This past week I made a variety of presentations for First World and SOS United States. And while making these pitches, I offered a hook on why I think they are marketable commercial projects. For First World, there is a new space race between governments and corporations. For SOS United States, we have a global military coalition targeting a variety of worldwide situations.
But until those projects get funded, the marketing focus is on Justice Is Mind. Just yesterday a great mini-feature was published on Fraking Films. Always nice when a story starts, “Today I’m excited to share with you a great looking indie film called Justice Is Mind.”