I arrived at the theater shortly after 8 AM on Tuesday for a complete run through of Justice Is Mind prior to the festivities that evening. Why? Although we screened the film twenty times before, this was the first screening in a DCP format. Although the file was QC’d (quality control), I had to make sure there were no issues. Here I was sitting alone in a theater watching the highest quality of the film unfold. I normally don’t watch the end credits roll to the end, but this time I did reflecting on the literal army of people involved in the making of Justice Is Mind.
No sooner did my mother and I arrive back in Sturbridge later in the afternoon did the reunion start. First Jeremy Blaiklock, our Director of Photography, joined us for a drink and then Vernon Aldershoff, who stars as Henri Miller, came over to our table for a visit. It was then that this screening took on a new meaning for me—it was a reunion.
One by one they started to arrive. While I have seen the majority of them at various screenings, I was particularly excited to see Robin Ann Rapoport who plays Margaret Miller. The last time I saw her was at the world premiere two years ago. In all honesty, while we are all involved in other projects and jobs, it was like we just saw each other yesterday. So many of us remarked that, for whatever reason, this project has kept the “JIM family” together. But in the end, it does come down to performing for an audience.
As the end credits started to roll for me a second time that day, suddenly the audience started to applaud. We’ve had applause before, but I don’t remember it being this enthusiastic. This was an audience that got the story. They knew when to laugh and when to take certain moments seriously. Their comments after is truly what this process is all about. When a reporter said to me the next day in an email, “The film was excellent! I loved the style! It definitely was similar to Law & Order, like you previously told me!” As a filmmaker accolades like this are always great to hear!
After the screening many of us went to dinner and for the first time in the history of this project we just sat and enjoyed each other’s company. And, shockingly, we talked about things other than the film industry! But, of course, we all want to work together again.
I cannot thank the “JIM family” the media and Cinemagic enough for making the second anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind such a special occasion. It’s one for our history books.
So while I continue to present Justice for future screenings, events and distribution possibilities, my primary efforts are focusing on the next project. As the last five years can attest, I don’t jump into projects lightly. I believe in quality over quantity because at the end of the day it all comes down to two words.
Last week I wrote about the five year journey of Justice Is Mind. This past week proved that time, perseverance and indeed patience pays off. Unless you are in the lexicon of the literal handful of filmmakers that can roll out of bed, utter an idea and get national attention, pounding the pavement is what the rest of us do.
It was early May when the idea for a second anniversary screening for Justice Is Mind came to me. While I’m beyond thankful to all our theatrical partners, having worked with Cinemagic on two previous occasions (New Hampshire premiere and Sturbridge), pitching them again was a logical choice. Sturbridge, Massachusetts is centrally located (where we shot most of Justice), the film looked fantastic in this theater and we had a record audience after solid media placements in the local press.
Having been a magazine publisher for over ten years, I can well appreciate being on the other side of the desk when I was being pitched a story. The key, as I’ve long learned, is to have an angle for all concerned. I wrapped up my final interview last week, forwarded a variety of requested artwork and then waited. To say I am pleased with the result would be an understatement.
Our early placements first appeared in the Worcester Herald and The Examiner a couple of weeks ago. Those early placements helped awareness enormously. This week our efforts continued. First, a listing in The New Uxbridge Times, then a feature showed up in the South County edition of the Yankee Shopper, followed by a complete pick up of our press release in the Auburn and Sturbridge editions of Smart Shopper and then a great cover page story in the Sturbridge Villager. What I love about these publications is that they are direct mailed to households in their region.
When Worcester Magazine first ran a feature on Justice Is Mind in 2013 I was elated. They really captured the essence of the film at a time when the project really didn’t have any history aside from just being released. Flash forward to 2015 with a new editor and writing team and they were interested in our progress to date. The result was a wonderful two page spread that captured the entire project over our five year mission. It was made even more special as they had a photographer shoot Jamie Blash and me at Four Winds Farm. Jamie runs the farm and was featured as the horse trainer in Justice Is Mind. Her farm was also one of our locations. I am beyond thankful to all these outlets for their continued support.
And while Justice Is Mind has been fortunate to have some excellent reviews and great coverage tied to our theatrical screenings, national media attention has been elusive. Look, I get it, thousands of films are produced every year and to get the attention of a national media outlet really does take time, something unique or just plain luck. But the combination of all three I think worked in our favor.
I had completed the interview a couple of weeks earlier but kept it to myself as I know full well that the national media landscape changes quicker than New England weather. The writer even messaged me early Thursday morning to say she was waiting to see if they would either publish or reject her story. I learned years ago that unless you are doing live TV, there is simply no guarantee that your story will run—it doesn’t matter how great you think it is!
Just as I was getting ready to light a cigar (I love cigars!), Pamela Glasner messaged me. The Huffington Post published her story – Arrested Memory “Justice Is Mind”. In that moment all that had been worked on by so many was now receiving national media attention. On that scale, it is simply an honor to be acknowledged for your work. But indeed this accolade is shared with each and every one of us involved in Justice Is Mind. I know we all join in saying at least these three words,
Thank you Pamela!
There is nothing more exciting as a filmmaker than seeing your film come to life in a theatre. It is in that moment that the memories of its development and production come to light. The months you spent writing the script and the time it took to raise the funding to make the film. And just after you hear “that’s a wrap”, more work begins until you have a completed project. Oh yes, then there is marketing and distribution. Welcome to my world.
This past Thursday was the DCP screen test of Justice Is Mind at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA. Although I was more than pleased with our theatrical DVDs, the clarity and crispness of the DCP was incredible. We’ve screened at two of their theatres before, but this was the first time I saw a DCP of the film. Some of you may be asking, what the hell is a DCP?
A DCP is a Digital Cinema Package. It’s what theatres now generally receive from the studios, distributors and filmmakers. While I have yet to come across a theatre that cannot play a DVD, the default standard now is DCP. And my thanks again to the Chatham Orpheum theatre for making our DCP.
On August 18 Justice Is Mind will celebrate its 2nd Anniversary with a special event screening at Cinemagic. Although this will be our 21st screening, I treat each screening like it’s the first one. I still feel like a kid in a candy store when I see Justice come to life on the big screen. The day I don’t feel that way is the day I set sail from this industry. I was particularly reflective when I was reviewing the last five minutes of the film and the credits started to roll. When you see over 200 names and companies, you quickly realize it takes a small army to make a film.
But this is an industry that never rests. Since the world premiere of Justice in 2013, I have written the political thriller SOS United States and In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind. The pitch process is just as much on the front lines now as it was when I was presenting Justice in 2011. Just this week, I pitched First World to a producer that I thought for sure would have been interested (Chinese investor). It was a quick pass. Instead he asked what else I have in my slate and is now looking at SOS United States and In Mind We Trust.
Just as Justice Is Mind came together, the same formula and efforts apply to my other projects. At the end of the day, not only do you need to find the right producing partners, but almost literally the planets need to line up just right. It’s one thing to follow a film market like Cannes, AFM and Toronto and read about X projects that got picked up, funded or whatever. What is never talked about are the countless projects looking for some sort of home. Thankfully, Justice Is Mind has found a home.
So as I ramp up marketing plans for the 2nd Anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind, writing Winds of Fall continues while presentations move forward on SOS United States, First World and In Mind We Trust.
It’s hard to believe that the 2nd Anniversary of the world premiere of Justice Is Mind is coming up on August 18. I am, therefore, delighted to announce that Justice Is Mind will celebrate its 2nd Anniversary at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Massachusetts on August, 18, 2015!
To say time flies by would be an understatement. This is particularly true when you are doing the day to day marketing of a feature film. August 18 will mark the 21st screening since our world premiere. While Justice is available on VOD, there is nothing more exciting as a filmmaker than to see your work on the big screen. And with Justice now also available in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) thanks to the Chatham Theatre, for the first time we may be seeing the film at its highest resolution. I thought our theatrical DVDs were great, but seeing a DCP sample of Justice several months ago was truly incredible.
It’s interesting when you set out to make a film, because you just don’t know what market forces and conditions are going to exist when your film is released. Case in point women in film. Who would have thought that the inequities of women in leading roles in films would be at such a forefront in the media? Thankfully, Justice Is Mind is evenly split between men and women. For me as a screenwriter it just makes sense from an overall “reality” point of view. As Reese Witherspoon told the Hollywood Reporter at the Produced By conference the other day, “I was just reading scripts, and the scripts were sort of diminishing. I just started to notice they were making less movies for women, and that meant less parts for women.” Thus, Witherspoon started to produce films a few years ago.
Speaking of women in film, Mary Wexler, who plays Judge Wagner in Justice Is Mind and is one of our producers, posted a wonderful article in New England School of Law Alumni Magazine about her work as a lawyer, involvement in the film and mention of the sequel In Mind We Trust. Her quote, “Justice allowed me to combine my love of acting and my passion for the law,” said it all for me.
Above all else, filmmaking is a passion. Yes, there is the important economic and commercial side, but at the end of the day filmmaking is just pure fun. For me whether I’ve been on set as a TV personality, actor, producer or director, I’ve loved every moment of it. Now having been fortunate enough to see a feature film of my own produced, and the journey it can take you on, yes, I plan to do this again..and again.
Just yesterday I passed the 30 page mark on the screenplay adaption of Winds of Fall, while some possible producing and financing partners are reviewing SOS United States, First World and In Mind We Trust. This is not an easy industry by any stretch of the imagination and is one of patience. When I read that over 30,000 films were being marketed at Cannes in some capacity or another, thankful for our accomplishments to date with Justice Is Mind doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.
Tomorrow evening Justice Is Mind will have its 10th theatrical screening and 15th overall if we include our law school and science fiction conventions to date. When I met with our editor earlier this week for the video and sound check at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, we both remarked on how fast time flies. It seems like just yesterday we had our world premiere in Albany in August.
Having a theatrical screening, or any type of screening for that matter, doesn’t mean just booking a date and arriving with the DVD. They are weeks in the planning. When we plan a screening I like to have at least four weeks notice to so we can properly pitch the local media. Having been a magazine publisher I know editors need time to consider pitches, assign writers and then plan for publication. In my view radio and TV are no different. Unless you are “breaking news” you need to be programmed into the schedule.
I have to say going to a theatre for a test run is always an exciting time for me. Sitting in an empty theatre watching your movie play is a pretty surreal experience. But I suspect surreal will most certainly be tomorrow evening. Over the last couple of weeks I have heard from so many different groups that plan to attend, from childhood friends, to new acquaintances I have met through our social media efforts, indeed tomorrow evening will certainly represent a wide variety of attendees. This doesn’t even include those who have read about the screening in the local press or heard our radio commercials.
Those are the new audiences to Justice Is Mind that those of us associated with the film welcome with open arms. I’m reminded about one particular couple who attended our screening in Ogunquit, ME. My mother and I ran into them the following day. Who were they? Enthusiasts of independent film who were intrigued by the concept of Justice Is Mind. They saw our film poster outside the theatre earlier in the day and did some online searches to learn more. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to tomorrow night!
As this past week came to a close, in addition to some of the final deliverables and information being sent to our VOD distributor, I received confirmation of another state premiere and a fantastic screening opportunity at a university that will bring the concept of Justice Is Mind to its origins. I plan to announce both tomorrow evening.
Keeping up with the industry can almost be a full time job in and of itself. But there comes a point when you just have to shut off the data stream and go with what you think is best for you and your project. Honestly, the “talking head” experts some of these trade publications are constantly quoting can put you on a roller coaster of contradiction. I’ll just say that I take the “grain of salt” approach to this industry as I did in publishing. Simply put, I’m not a follower.
Producing a true independent film means that you literally have to create what a studio does, but with limited resources. But that doesn’t mean no resources it just means being inventive and wearing multiple hats. Sometimes at the same time!
Take for example this past week. Filmmaker: With our March 24 screening at Cinemagic in Sturbridge coming up, I’ve been talking with the theatre on when we will run our test. Publicist: Then there is the follow up to media outlets I pitched our screening to and a special promotion by Pizza Post. Producer: Talking to possible financial backers for my next project. Distributor: Talking to a digital aggregator for Justice Is Mind in addition to a variety of theatres that are interested in screening the film. Writer: Presented the idea for a concept poster for my political thriller to a graphic artist. Accountant: Review our financials and prepared 1099 filings.
Personally what I enjoy the most about filmmaking is the opportunity to wear these many hats. I love to write. But when my brain needs a creative break, I can turn to some dry financials or mark down some notes for another story that has come to mind when working on another. That’s how Justice Is Mind came to life. When I was working on the sequel to First World, I was at a scene that involved a mind reading machine. Suddenly the concept of Justice came to being.
But through all this perhaps the most exciting for me is when we have a screening of Justice Is Mind on the calendar. There is nothing quite like the experience of seeing a film you created come to life. The moment I hear those first few bars of music and see the opening quote, the journey of four years and over two hundred people, there is an innate satisfaction of accomplishment.
On accomplishment, my sincere thanks to Bob Leveillee of Pizza Post who plays Mr. Oxford in Justice Is Mind. As some of you may know, we filmed several scenes at Pizza Post. For our March 24 screening, Bob has offered ticket holders a dollar for dollar credit at Pizza Post. I first met Bob back in 2011 when we filmed the short film version Evidence. He has been a terrific supporter from the start and now a good friend. Check out the great radio spot he created as part of this promotion that is running on a couple of local stations.
As for friends, it looks like our screening on March 24 is going to be a reunion of so many friends from my childhood to the present. I was reminded from talking to one of my friends from second grade about the organization of forts we made when we were younger. Indeed, it has been a journey.
“One Man’s Trial Against Science, Faith and History” – Justice Is Mind.
Last week I talked about some fantastic numbers regarding our IMDB rankings for 2013. It looks like I have some additional numbers to report, in this case, the reach of some newspapers that carried articles regarding our upcoming March 24 screening at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA.
I first got word that our story appeared in the Southbridge Evening News from a friend that introduced me to the reporter. As this paper’s online edition is only available to subscribers, we met in a parking lot so he could give me a copy. While I was waiting in my car, suddenly the movie All the President’s Men flashed with the parking garage scene when Robert Redford meets with Hal Holbrook.
Needless to say I thought the reporter did a great job. And then it dawned it on me. The parent company of this newspaper also owns several others, including my hometown paper. Suddenly the reports started to come in. The story ran in the Webster Times, Spencer New Leader and the Sturbridge Villager. While the Southbridge Evening News is subscription based, the other three are generally mailed to requesting households. By my minimum estimate, 40,000+ households now know about Justice Is Mind and our upcoming screening. As I grew up in the area, I heard from a lot of folks I haven’t seen in decades. Suffice to say March 24 will be a reunion on numerous fronts.
No sooner did the story break across these newspapers, than one of our location partners for Justice Is Mind worked out a promotion in connection with our upcoming screening. More on that next week!
Marketing and promoting a screening takes time. Generally, when I am negotiating a date with a theatre we ask for at least 30 days out to properly market a screening. Audiences don’t just magically show up, particularly for an independent film. The theatres we have worked with have been nothing less than spectacular. They know we work as hard as we can to make the screenings as successful as possible. But while I would love to see Justice screen at every theatre we pitch, it’s a reciprocal business arrangement that needs to mutually work. I learned this when I worked in figure skating listening to promoters bring events into buildings—what works in one venue might not work in another.
Speaking of reunions, like our last screening in Plymouth, March 24 will bring together several of the actors in Justice. To see who has confirmed attendance as of today, visit our Facebook event page at this link. For us, it’s like visiting with family. Indeed, when you work with people so closely when making a film you develop lasting friendships. For audiences, they get a chance to meet those that brought the story to life. It’s a unique experience that is usually only reserved for world premieres and film festivals.
And while our next screening is my top priority, there is the continue push to markets and venues far away from New England along with our related VOD plans. But for this moment, it’s nice to be home.
The entertainment industry is all about numbers. What’s your budget? How many likes? How many theatres? What’s your box office gross? As most know, I’m pretty open about some numbers and keep others close to the chest. By example, the budget for Justice Is Mind is under $25,000, our 10th theatrical screening is coming up and over 200 people were involved in the production of the film in one way or another.
This week I was interviewed by a couple of reporters in connection with our March 24 screening at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA and some of our numbers were part of the conversation. I was working on a follow up email to one of them in regards to films released in 2013. I suddenly came across a list on IMDB “Highest Rated Feature Films Released In 2013”. To my surprise, I learned that 8,709 films were released in 2013 – eight thousand seven hundred and nine! Those are some numbers.
I’ve previously reported that Justice Is Mind finished as 8th Highest Rated and 42nd top US Grossing Box Office on the similar “independent film” list of 220+ films. I was a bit worried to start the search on THE list for 2013. To my surprise and elation, Justice Is Mind finished 2013 as the 185th Highest Rated and 419th for top US Grossing Feature! Finishing in the top 2% and 5% respectively for our independent film is a true honor of effort by so many. I smiled even more reflecting on an email I received earlier this week when a “film buyer” for a theatre in the Southwest said “Were you looking to four wall a theatre or do a rental? I’m not sure that there is enough commercial potential for us to play your film.” Clearly this “expert” judged the film based solely on the “recognizable stars” of the film rather than running some numbers that would be available to this theatre based on our box office to date. After I responded with our results, media placements and that we don’t rent theatres, I never received a response.
In this industry, like any industry, knowledge is power. I know that phrase is overused but it still rings true. There are forward thinking people in every industry that are willing to take a chance to try something new. And if you don’t think out of the box on occasion you are simply going to be left behind. I remarked to one of the reporters that if we do the best job we can when a theatre takes a chance on us that may pave the way for another independent filmmaker to present their project down the road. You know the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover. The same thing rings true for films.
We are now in an industry that is producing more and more content because that’s what audiences want. That’s not going to change. To the “gatekeepers” that are restricting entrance to new voices, you know that just creates opportunity for new ventures and forward thinking existing platforms to embrace said voices. Just today I read this story on IndieWire about a documentary that was passed over by distributors until it found someone that believed in their project.
Justice Is Mind – March 24 – Tickets now on sale!
I’m pleased to announce that Justice Is Mind will screen on March 24 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. As some of you may remember we worked with Cinemagic on our New Hampshire premiere last December. I could not be more appreciative and thankful for their support of Justice and independent film.
Whenever we announce a screening it is a mobilization of the army of supporters that have made all our screenings possible, from our cast and crew to the numerous enthusiasts we have been building over the last year. No sooner did I announce the screening than friends of mine in Sturbridge sent notice to their friends and so on. Simply put the marketing and exhibition of a feature film is not a one person show. So with our press release out and our Facebook event page set up, the process now begins to present the screening to the media and local businesses.
Today also marks another milestone. I finished the business plan for SOS United States. Thus, I have more work cut out for me as I look to secure investors in that project. Someone asked me the other day about First World and how that is coming along. Believe me, that’s not a project I have forgotten about. In fact, I’ve started to revisit it with some concept art and plan to start presenting that project again as early as next week. Certainly with China showing real progress in their space program, the timing for the story is certainly better. And that’s what it all comes to in this business – timing.
In the trades we read about the films being green lit, but not so much about the long journey to get there. For example, the acclaimed Black Swan took ten years to make and the long journey of Dallas Buyers Club has been well reported.
There’s no question that there’s a variety of literal chaos going on the industry. I try to keep up with the latest by reading a variety of trade publications but in the end you just have to go along with what you think is best. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, there is no perfect formula. It doesn’t happen that way in this business. Producing a film, even studio material, is a speculative venture at best but we do it because we love doing it.
As we venture into our tenth theatrical screening of Justice Is Mind, I am reminded about all the wonderful screenings we have had and the support they have received. These are not easy feats to achieve. They take more work than you can imagine. But in the sea of storms the industry waxes on about, there is a calmness that takes over a screening when a film starts to roll on the big screen.
“My three Ps: passion, patience, perseverance. You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker.” – Robert Wise