S.O.S. United States. The call went out by the SS United States Conservancy this week and was answered by media around the world. From The New York Times, to The Telegraph to CBS, the famed ocean liner SS United States may be auctioned by the end of the month and scrapped unless a buyer, developer or investors save America’s flagship. As the conservancy’s Executive Director Susan Gibbs stated to CBS, “We have never been closer to saving the ship and never closer to losing her”.
After World War II, the United States government realized the value ocean liners could bring when Cunard’s Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were converted into troop ships during the war. Partially funded by the government, the SS United States keel was laid in 1950 and was launched in 1951. A technological marvel, she projected American pride around the world and shattered speed records during her sea trials sailing through the ocean at 38 knots or 44 miles per hour. She won the eastbound and westbound Blue Riband for speed records in 1952 and still, to this day, holds the westbound title. So advanced were her propellers and steam turbine engines, they were classified Top Secret until the 1970s. In the event of war, she could quickly be converted to a troop ship for 15,000 soldiers.
Of course, with jet travel literally taking off in the 1960s, the SS United States along with the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were withdrawn from service. While the Queen Elizabeth was lost in a mysterious fire in Hong Kong, the Queen Mary is still with us as a museum ship in Long Beach, California. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Queen Mary on a few occasions. That liner still projects to this day a symbol of an era that should be remembered, not scrapped.
I have long wanted to write a story that revolved around an ocean liner. A story that also enveloped the complexities of world governments and the atmosphere of the Cold War, but set in the present. In SOS United States we learn that the “world’s fastest ocean liner” is heading to New York and may, or may not, have a nuclear device on board. Modeled after the SS United States, the ship is called the SS Leviathan. In the real world the SS Leviathan was originally called the Vaterland until it was seized by the United States government after World War I and became the flagship of the United States Lines; the same line that would eventually build the SS United States. It was maritime engineer William Francis Gibbs who renovated the Leviathan and who went on to design his dream ship the SS United States. Entirely self-taught, he devoted himself to this singular passion.
And now that same passion has been picked up by his granddaughter Susan Gibbs. Her tireless efforts, determination and commitment to save this ship reflects the best in America—pride.
Stated Gibbs, “It’s our shared history as a nation.”
SS United States
I have often posted about my background in publishing and how it relates so well to my work as a filmmaker. When publishing was a robust industry that lived in print, the pitch process to raise capital to launch a new magazine pretty much mirrors how it’s done today in the independent film industry. You’ve written a script, have a business plan and spend a good deal of money printing both to present. But two areas I have paid obsessive attention to is the migration of print to online and consumer marketing. Just like publishing, this is the present world of filmmaking.
I’m pleased to announce that on Thursday, July 10, 2014 Justice Is Mind will have its video on demand premiere on VHX! Please visit our site at this link or visit us on our primary website for a special discount. Our Deluxe Package is akin to a DVD with numerous special features.
While Justice Is Mind will roll out on other mainline VOD platforms very shortly, it’s important that we have at least one “direct” VOD platform. As I used to sell magazine subscriptions directly off our website, we also had subscription agents that sold for us. You want both, because you want to be everywhere. I used to publish niche magazines in the sports and collectibles markets, is filmmaking really any different? I have a product and I need to develop as much conversation as possible. I also need to make it accessible in whatever manner a consumer wants to buy it. Whether it’s direct on VHX or on another mainline platform, a sale is a sale.
VHX is by far, in my view, the best direct VOD platform from a filmmaker and consumer point of view. The beauty is in the “storefront” of web design that makes it not only easy for consumers to navigate, but as a filmmaker the marketing tools they give you to bring your film to the world are light years ahead of the others. I strongly suspect in their business plan someone had a publishing background or at least worked in direct response. And here’s another plus, excellent customer service. As filmmakers we all know there are a ton of new online services from VOD, to theatrical crowdsourcing, to crowdfunding—the difference is in customer service.
When I produced First World in 2006 (released in 2007), the idea then (as now) was to present a short film version of the feature to interest investors. As I followed that plan, I also learned of science fiction conventions around the world that wanted to screen the film. I also learned of CreateSpace (through Withoutabox) to sell our film online and on DVD. To this day (actually yesterday) I still get a monthly payment for that film.
With Justice Is Mind’s International Premiere on October 29, 2014 on the Queen Elizabeth, our Video on Demand premiere set on VHX for July 10, 2014 and other screening opportunities and VOD platforms coming online, this course has enabled me to set sail with a new project – SOS United States. And like I continue to do with First World, the process of getting SOS United States into production will just mean arriving at the right port of call. There’s a port for every film, it’s just a matter of navigation and setting a course.
Yes, this is an exciting time for filmmakers. The studio system is gone and thankfully the days of the gatekeepers are numbered. We now live in an age of consumer demand and wants. As filmmakers we are only limited by the creativity of our marketing plans.
Justice Is Online.
As I was driving to Pittsburgh last Sunday for our screening the following day at Carnegie Mellon University, I had plenty of time to think. For me, I’m always planning ahead. Projecting that next plan for Justice Is Mind and other projects I have in development. Ask anyone who has worked with me, or even remotely knows me, I don’t live in the past but simply reflect on it.
The following day as I arrived at Carnegie Mellon University and saw Vernon Aldershoff’s truck (Vern stars as Henri Miller) I realized another milestone had been achieved for the film—we were screening at the very heart of what inspired me to write Justice Is Mind in the first place. From our world premiere in Albany last August to our screening at Carnegie, each one of our screenings is carefully planned, coordinated and executed by a varied team of enthusiasts that make them happen.
Meeting Dr. Marcel Just, and some members of his team, was very inspiring as he talked about some of the latest research they were conducting. Prior to the screening we had a tour of the Brain Imaging Center. It was fascinating to see first-hand where this research was conducted.
Walking into Baker Hall’s Giant Eagle Auditorium there were nearly eighty people in attendance. My sincere thanks to Shilo Rea, the Director of Media Relations for the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, for doing such a masterful job at bringing this screening to life. For the first time in the screening of the film we had an intermission to break for pizza and refreshments sponsored by the school. After the screening, I had a great Q&A with a diverse audience in attendance. From academics, students and administrators to film enthusiasts, indeed the screening could not have gone better.
On the way back from Pittsburgh, my focus turned to our May 19 screening at The Elm Draught House Cinema in Millbury, MA. But before that screening occurs, by the time I publish this post Justice Is Mind will be screening at Penguicon in Detroit. The tour continues!
Our marketing for May 19 is moving along nicely. We had a great write up in the Yankee Shopper and Pizza Post has again sponsored a radio spot to promote the screening. Reflecting on our past screenings, it truly does come down to partnerships to make these happen. With just over two weeks to go until The Elm believe me the follow up and marketing continues right up to the day.
Looking forward, our VOD distributor mentioned to me yesterday that Justice should be available within the next 2-12 weeks depending on the platform. Indeed, as we have been receiving requests for Justice from a variety of different countries, it will be exciting to present Justice to a global audience.
But even while we move towards VOD, our theatrical and event screenings are continuing in earnest. On that note, I’m looking forward to announcing a unique international screening in the next couple of weeks.