With the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in full swing, I enjoy reading the dailies and the state of the industry. What was a relatively unusual trend is that The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and IndieWire all generally reported that this market may be a slower one due to a conflux of trends; from the availability of cast driven projects to disappointments at the box office from previous festival sales. Truth be told, there is no crystal ball to predict what will resonate with audiences.
But if there is one thing that has to resonate with me, it’s inspiration. If I am not inspired by the subject matter, if I don’t believe in the material, if I can’t envision it on the screen, I can’t get behind it. One only has to witness the disaster that was the latest iteration of Fantastic Four. The film was a forced project for the sake of “rights” rather than passion.
With all my projects they are driven by something that inspired me. Whether it was the Apollo space program for First World, mind reading technology for Justice Is Mind or government conspiracies in SOS United States, it is the underlying material that motivates and inspires me. It’s not enough for me to be a filmmaker, I must be a promoter as well. Because if I don’t believe in the project why should anybody else.
This past week I ran into someone at my gym who has seen my films and he asked “How do I do it?” He was asking about the recent press we had around the second anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind. My response was pretty quick, “Because I believe in it.” I know how Justice has resonated with audiences. I know what their reactions have been after the screenings. But it was also coming up with an angle for the latest media push – second anniversary, positive audience reactions and a sequel in development with In Mind We Trust. It gave the media something to tell their audiences.
And this is what the industry is all about – the audience. I sometimes think this vital attribute is missed by the vacuum atmosphere of festivals. An audience at a film festival is vastly different from one at the local theater. At a festival you are probably a cinephile or industry executive and will see just about anything, but it’s the real world of the local theater that shines light on what an audience wants to see.
As The Hollywood Reporter stated, “Despite a challenging climate for indie film financing” projects are getting done because of valuable co-productions. Indeed this is an industry about partnerships. I learned this when our location partners for Justice Is Mind also became valuable marketing partners. It’s about inspiring others to see your vision.
The one thing that consistently amazes me in the world of filmmaking is the creativity everyone brings to the table. This is one of the areas that I enjoy the most. I’m not sure if my post production team will agree with me or not, but after I give my general direction on something, I let them simply create. Imagine. I’ve often heard these nightmarish stories of directors that berate everyone involved to obsessive extremes or worse the other side of it when no direction or organization is given. Once, I had the unfortunate experience of working with a disorganized director as an actor and it was a nightmare (I felt like Captain Kirk on the Enterprise B!). I always aim for a comfortable middle. But at the end of the day it is the responsibility of the director that the vision is executed by all concerned.
As we are entering the final stages of post production, I look at the smoothness of the story our editor Jared Skolnick has created for Justice Is Mind and I wonder if he read my mind on my fondness for dramatic storytelling from Hollywood of the 1940s and 50s. The same holds true for my friend and our special effects guru Adam Starr. I’ve worked with Adam for well over ten years on other projects, and while I will be the first to admit that I used to get a bit hot headed in those early days, it was all for the best of the project. Adam is another one who is good at mind reading (I guess that works well with the Justice Is Mind story). I send off my notes and presto out comes something that would simply rival any top special effects house. Then there is our composer Daniel Elek-Diamanta, someone I have never met who lives in the United Kingdom. When I first listened to samples of his work, I just heard the sounds of Justice coming to life.
Like any industry, you create teams of people you enjoy working with. But no other industry ties that together more than filmmaking. Of course, we aren’t all going to agree on everything and we all have our own point of view on how something should be executed. But once you work on a set you can clearly understand how you see the same people working together over and over again. It’s not so much on the acting side, but on the production side you want to work with people whose work you know and who you trust. Look at someone like J.J. Abrams. He often collaborates with the same team. I’d say that’s worked out OK for him!
But look this isn’t always a bed of roses either with everyone singing Kumbaya. During Justice Is Mind I had the unfortunate job of having to let people go during the production and in post-production (and there was some pre-production drama too). You’re either part of the team or you’re not. Simply, in this business time is money and I don’t have the time to figure out what your issues are. Besides, it’s woefully unfair to those putting in the effort to produce a quality product.
Coming into the last couple of months of post-production I could not be more thankful to the entire team (on both sides of the camera) that is making Justice Is Mind possible. We all know that producing a feature film is not easy. As we have seen this past week, actors like Zach Braff took to Kickstarter because they couldn’t get the deal they wanted, famed director Steven Soderbergh vented on the wild west of filmmaking (has it ever been anything less?) and digital distribution continues to “adjust” the establishment. But through it all you need content and a team that can deliver. And like Captain Kirk and his crew on the Enterprise, it would be pretty cool to board a ship with the crew I’ve been working with the last several months.
U.S.S Justice standby for departure.