As I drove to the Strand Theatre in Clinton on Monday, I was wondering just how many people would show. At our premiere in Albany at the Palace a few weeks earlier the audience was largely “friends and family” so there was an immediate comfort level. And that was a good thing to launch Justice Is Mind.
I arrived in Clinton at 5 PM and drove past the Strand. And there it was on the marquee all by itself Justice Is Mind. Yes, I saw it running on the marquee in Albany, but we were part of a festival there. Here, it was only for us, only for Justice. A film I first started alone at my desk that has now swelled to over two hundred was playing at a theatre. And earlier that day when our IMDB listing reflected the showing, it somehow felt like we arrived.
Walking through the lobby I saw our poster included with other film memorabilia and first run feature films. For me, I have dreamed of this since childhood – a film of mine was playing in a theatre. After I met with owners Rob and Bill and gave them the DVD, I met with our photographer and started going over the evening. Yes, ever the producer and director!
And then the audiences started to arrive. A nice amount of familiar faces including several key actors with the film. A special thank you to actors Vernon Aldershoff, Mary Wexler, Michele Mortensen, Kim Merriam, Shannon McNamara and Bob Leveillee. Not only where there friends, family and location partners that turned out, but regular theatre goers who wanted to see what Justice Is Mind was all about. In total, we had 150 attend the Massachusetts premiere and I couldn’t have been more pleased. The verdict? Generally all positive comments and audiences seemed to genuinely enjoy the film. In my view, the postings on social media pages spoke for themselves.
Not one to rest (much), I was up in Ogunquit, ME on Wednesday promoting our next screening on September 28 at the Leavitt Theatre. Walking to just over 30 hotels and businesses with a film poster and press release in my hand, I presented Justice to as many people as I could. Yes, it was boots on the ground (OK, Nike) as I told complete strangers about a film of mine that was having its Maine premiere in their town. They were all welcoming and I had some great conversations with so many. While social media is great to pitch the masses, there is nothing like a face to face presentation.
After walking my legs off (like Mildred Pierce did in the movie of the same name), I met up with a filmmaker friend of mine for coffee. Shortly after, we went to the Leavitt to test run Justice. My friend made the introduction and got us the deal. What I thought was going to just be a 10 minute test turned into an hour. Both of them enjoyed what they saw on the big screen. If it wasn’t for dinner plans they both had, I think we would have had a complete test run of Justice!
Yes, this week was a good one. But for all the good, you sometimes have to deal with the not so good. I’m not one that deals with negative people very well, in fact I avoid it whenever possible. There are great challenges in any business, particularly in this industry. As I start to work on my Independent Filmmaking: Script to Screen presentation next weekend for Talent Tools “Back to School for Actors” program one thing I will encourage for all attendees is to never give up, hold your head up high and rise above those that don’t share your vision and passion. At the end of the day I have a film to either write, make or promote and if you’re in my way I promise you I will just run you over.
Next stop – Ogunquit!
No, I didn’t make up the title of this week’s post. It was the title of a story that appeared in a Worcester Magazine article “Justice trumps privacy in Justice Is Mind”. Suffice to say I was enormously pleased with the piece. The writer, Cade Overton, really captured not only the essence of the film but how it fits into the real world we live in today.
Marketing a film, particularly an independent one, is not easy by any stretch. You are in a constant state of submitting whether it be to the media, distributors, festivals, networks, events, agents, etc. And as I prepare my notes for an upcoming workshop I’m teaching the end of the month, the three P’s come to mind plan, perseverance and persistence.
From a business plan implementation point of view, this past week for Justice Is Mind went really well. I’ll just say publicly, that two original programming execs got back to me about Justice. These are not only very positive developments, but ones that have been established over time from other projects I’ve been working on. Building relationships like this take time and to add another P….patience. So fingers crossed here.
Pitching a project takes some bit of calculation and planning. By example, Justice Is Mind, First World and my new political thriller will never be pitched to Lifetime. What would be the point? Programming executives receive pitches all the time so the goal, obviously, is to have something that they may be interested in rather than wasting their time. Speaking of, somehow I got onto some list of “producers to submit materials to”. While I only develop my own work (for now), I was getting pitches from writers to produce their comedies. A little research on their end would have shown that’s not a genre I’ve ever been involved in (although I do love a good comedy…oh the days of Rodney Dangerfield!). Thankfully, I found the website and removed my profile.
Speaking of planning, The Wrap this week talked about how digital sales are increasing exponentially amidst the continued decline of DVD sales. I could have told The Wrap about this two years ago after our distributor just stopped selling DVDs altogether. What’s being considered internally now with Justice is the digital distribution side. To be sure, there’s no shortage of platforms and viewing options available. The key, in my view, is to establish an audience for the film first with our theatrical, sci-fi and law school screenings so when the film is available digitally, there is a footprint out there of enthusiasts.
What is of particular interest to me at the moment is the continuous changing landscape of this industry from the development of projects, the financing, delivery and then distribution. There is generally no playbook. Oh the practical still exists of course, finance and shoot the movie and get it to audiences. The sea of change is in the layered platforms of distribution that are pulling revenue and audiences away and towards each other. In the end, it’s about the distribution of rights.
But in the beginning it is to quote Bill Sampson in All About Eve, “Wherever there’s magic and make-believe and an audience, there’s theatre.”
And so with our Massachusetts premiere coming up on Monday night at The Strand Theatre in Clinton, we return to where the Justice Is Mind project first exhibited with the short film version in 2012. I leave you with a quote from Marlene Dietrich in Judgment at Nuremberg.
“It should be quite an evening.”