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Posts tagged “technology

The Tests

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Testing the drone over Quinsigamond State Park in Worcester, MA.

One thing I’ve often talked about is testing. Whether it’s a screen test prior to a theatrical screening or testing equipment prior to a live event, I’m adamant about testing prior to production or going live.

I still remember to this day, that despite testing equipment the day before, a major live event I produced years ago ran into a major technical problem during the show. What happened? Someone behind the scenes decided to “think” and change the program without consulting anyone. The result? A total screw up. Thankfully the embarrassment was resolved in short order and the venue credited us $14,000 for their mistake.

Production is time and money. If you don’t set aside time to rehearse, test and think things through, the results can be disastrous if not embarrassing.  In the past two weeks I have witnessed two major meltdowns with camera equipment during auditions. How does that happen in today’s day and age? And why don’t you have a backup system ready to go at a moment’s notice? It’s called preparedness.

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As for preparedness, I attended the Memorial Day services at Battleship Cove last Monday. Not only does this museum do a wonderful job in organization and presentation, it’s the location itself that brings forward the meaning of this national holiday. When you are standing on the deck of a battleship that fought in World War II, it doesn’t get any more real than that.

I’ve been to Battleship Cove on a several occasions. There’s always something new to learn and discover. When so many are engaged in the here and now, it’s important that we take the time to never forget how and why well over 50,000,000 perished in World War II.

With less than two weeks to go until First Signal’s table read, pre-production continues on a variety of fronts. At this stage of the production it’s more waiting to hear from certain parties for confirmations, etc.  I will say the DJI Spark continues to perform well for the required drone shots.

Shot list.

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At the USS Massachusetts. Mark 12 5″/38 caliber gun firing on Memorial Dy.


First Market

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A panoramic picture of the field where First Signal will be shot.

As we are about one month away from First Signal’s table read on June 16, we had a location confirmation lock with the expansive field we needed. I couldn’t be more pleased with this location. It’s exactly what the script called for.

As this location is on private property I won’t reveal its location. With an outdoor location, private property is better to shoot on. Why? It’s about privacy. While I’m all about someone learning the process of making a film, the actual process of making one is time consuming detailed work. On private property you don’t have onlookers watching from the sidelines and getting in the frame of the shot. But it’s also about taking pictures and posting them to social media, etc. Unfortunately, the wrong picture can ruin an entire film. Anyone that works in the industry knows the general policies that go with on set photography.  Most sets have “still photographers” that take a variety of pictures that encompass an entire production.

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In First Signal the opening credits travel from the Moon to the Earth.

While additional locations are being scouted, along with numerous other behind the scenes activity, the one thing I’m very cognizant of is the film market itself. There is no better market than Cannes to provide a fresh perspective on where the industry is going.  As Alex Walton of Bloom tells the Hollywood Reporter. “International distributors are in need of product, but they’re also incredibly cautious because they’re in need of the right product. There are fewer films, fewer packages and fewer things to buy, so when we approach Cannes now, even compared to five or six years ago, it is with a completely different mindset,” Adds Entertainment One CEO Darren Throop who tells the Hollywood Reporter, “The whole concept of buying a good package on the open market and reselling it to cinema, pay and TV — that whole model has changed. The very foundation of independent film has changed.”

The one thing that has changed in the last several years is the development of franchises and the sci-fi genre has pretty much been a solid bet.  As a director my job is to create a quality film that’s ready for the market. But as a producer I am making a bet on the market. It’s an interesting line to balance.

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Directing Vernon Aldershoff in Justice Is Mind. In First Signal Vern plays General Reager.

But putting aside numbers, market share and all that comes after the fact, it is the process of making a film that’s the most exciting. Watching the actors and crew bring life to your story is tremendously satisfying. As a screenwriter we spend hours, weeks and months behind a computer coming up with, what we hope, is an interesting story. But it’s seeing that story emblazoned on the silver screen that makes the entire process a worthwhile endeavor.

Part of that process is equipment. Yesterday, I purchased a drone for a pivotal shot at the end of the film. But no sooner did I complete this purchase and I’m suddenly thinking of all the other creative areas we can use a drone in First Signal. This technology has changed so much since we used one in Justice Is Mind. Add to that the cost has come down exponentially. This is why the process of filmmaking is so enticing and exciting. The democratization of the entire process from creating to distributing has changed for the better.

Technology.

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The drone shot at the end of Justice Is Mind.


The Theater

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A pitch for First World goes out this week. 

Innovation or disruption – Forbes has a nice comparison with this article. As an entrepreneur, I’m all about looking at an industry and seeing how a new product can be developed, launched and marketed. But innovation and the popular word “disruption” does need to coexist within an establishment of some sort.

Case in point when I developed a newsmagazine for the sport of figure skating in 1993, I was told time and time again “don’t do it”. Why? Because at the time the sport was just used to small fan based publications that narrowly reported on the sport as an “industry”. I saw it as something for the general consumer audience that watched the sport on television and responded to direct response commercials and frequented newsstands.

At times it was like pushing a square rock up a mountain, but push I did and it soon became the world’s largest magazine for the sport at a time when figure skating was exploding in popularity. Losing the title in a boardroom battle in 2004 certainly wasn’t a career highlight, but in hindsight it was the best thing that ever happened to me because both publishing and figure skating were rapidly sinking as an industry. In “Titanic” terms I left the “ship” at Cherbourg at the apex of our influence and wasn’t on the bridge watching the ship sink.

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Imagine as the SS Leviathan in SOS United States.

Every industry goes through some sort of course correction and while print is still with us, the news is largely relegated to the web and companies either adjusted or failed. The same holds true for the entertainment industry. As filmmakers our projects are made digitally. Gone are the days of producing on film. While there are some directors that still insist on the medium, the bottom line is the invention and distribution of digital media have enabled filmmakers like myself to produce. I’m not interested in nostalgia if it means I’m relegated to the unemployment line.

When I produced Justice Is Mind I was determined to get it in to theaters. I was told time and time again I needed to go through a booker or distributor. Well unless they had a contractual lock on a theater, I discovered that theaters are all approachable. They simply require a few logical things. 1) The film meets a professional standard point of view, 2) You act as distributor and provide them with the necessary “media” of DVD/DCP, posters and artwork, 3) You will market the hell out of it to drive audiences to the theater.  The latter is actually, in all honesty, the most important. Nobody cares about your film unless you tell them to care and give them a reason to go to theater (or watch it online).

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At the Cape Cod Premiere of Justice Is Mind in 2014.

These past couple of weeks we have seen this new disruptive technology called Screening Room. Just do a search and you’ll see the myriad of industry and consumer articles. While I’m all about creating something new to drive audiences, this technology is a terrible idea. We know the moment a film is released to theaters it’s pirated. Now, imagine a service in which you can skip the theater and watch it at home the day it’s released. The image and sound is captured at a higher quality and then uploaded to the net. I for one cannot imagine an entertainment industry without the theater.

I think Netflix and Amazon finally realized that after they buy a film it needs a theatrical release component or it will simply get lost in the world of VOD. Sure it might be seen by millions on their platforms, but will anybody know? And while I’m the biggest supporter of VOD, the net of the issue is that when a film is in a theater it is considered by the press and the public differently. It is packaged, presented and showcased. It brings people together in forum that can’t be replicated in a living room. The media we secured for Justice Is Mind can be directly attributed to our theatrical release.

As for figure skating, and so many sports, while TV ratings have been challenged and fragmented, there is still an enthusiastic audience of supporters that attend the events – like a theatrical release. It is those supporters that will be at the World Figure Skating Championships in a couple of weeks in Boston—supporters that may be interested in the political thriller I’m now writing around the sport.

New audiences.

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Looking forward to attending in a couple of weeks.


September Days

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The Barnstable Patriot summed up Justice Is Mind nicely, “In the film, past life memory and future mind tapping by machines merge in a psychological thriller, which develops slowly and then grips you with its logical twists and mysteries, haunting you afterward.”

From September 11-25, Justice Is Mind will be part of Viewster’s Online Film Festival (#VOFF). Their theme for this festival is “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid”.  There have been several moments after our screenings when attendees have said they are “scared” for this technology. In fact, one attendee at a screening even said something along the lines they are “terrified “of what these “mind reading” machines could do.

Point in fact, maybe they should be scared or at least concerned. An article was published in the International Business Times this week titled, “Mind Reader: Meet The Man Who Records and Stores Your Thoughts, Dreams and Memories.” The subtitle “US startup MMT has become the first to commercialise the storing of memories.” Is the technology I postulate in Justice Is Mind here in 2014? I’m not sure. But one thing is certain from all the articles about mind-reading that have been published over the last year, this technology will be science fact in the future and it will be part of our everyday lives. I simply envision it to be as commonplace as checking a box before you have an MRI. Do you want an FVMRI?

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For sure, Viewster will open up an international market for Justice Is Mind. Domestically, I could not be more excited for our Cape Cod Premiere on September 18 at the Chatham Orpheum Theater.  With so many films looking for an audience, that’s exactly what theatrical screenings do – build audiences, awareness and, just as important, press.  What better way to launch onto Viewster’s festival when you have over 100,000 Google entries along with audiences that have seen the film and journalists that have reported on it pushing awareness.

These September initiatives will push nicely into October when Justice Is Mind has its International Premiere on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth ocean liner on October 29. Part of the onboard program will be a filmmaking seminar I’ll be presenting to guests a few days before.  It’s a 45 minute PowerPoint presentation that will introduce attendees to the world of independent filmmaking. When one considers what goes into making a feature film, I think audiences will have a whole new appreciation on the process.

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What Adrien Brody said in The Wrap really sums up the efforts of so many of us in this industry, “It is obviously a very competitive profession. It takes a tremendous amount of luck to be at the right place and the right time and to nail it when given the opportunity.” Having worked on both sides of the camera I could not agree more. To say this industry is competitive is an understatement. It takes tremendous will, determination and perseverance. In closing I am reminded about a quote from the character Paul McGill in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Women of Substance.

“We are each the authors of our own lives.”

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