A couple of weeks ago I sent an update to the actors and crew of First Signal about what our release strategy may look like. I believe, if all goes according to plan, our first theatrical screening will be sometime in October. I hope that follows with additional theatrical and festival screenings into the second quarter of 2021 with a VOD release around May.
As someone who reads the trade publications, I see how release dates and general overall strategy is changing on a daily basis. This article in The Hollywood Reporter today, pretty much summed up the current state of the industry. Fortunately for First Signal, the film itself wrapped principal photography last year and just finished post in early June. So, all things considered, our release strategy hasn’t changed all that much.
I do believe one of the real issues that’s going to face this industry next year is available inventory of new product. With very little being produced over the last several months, eventually this empty space will catch up to the industry. I believe this is why we are seeing studios and distributors stagger their releases from the 3rd quarter of this year into 2021. They need commercial films to bring audiences back to theaters. Honestly, who really wants to see a previously released movie in a theater when you can watch it from the comfort of your sofa for a fraction of the price? Of course, I would love to see classics return to the silver screen. Particularly those from the 1930s, 40s and 50s!
So far, the festival market is going well for First Signal. I was delighted to receive a Best Director win from the Eurasia International Monthly Film Festival last week. To receive an accolade of this stature from a festival is truly an honor. This is all about building a momentum so when First Signal goes to VOD, a hopeful following has built up for the film. From a media point of view, there is so much noise to cut through to get noticed.
The release strategy I’m looking to employ is the model I did with Justice Is Mind. It started with a world premiere followed by a limited theatrical and special event run before it went to VOD. My feeling with Justice, and now First Signal, was to follow the studio model. If it works for them, why try to reinvent the wheel? I just adapted it for the scale of my project. At the end of Justice Is Mind’s run, we had numerous media reports and reviews that helped propel the film when it was released on VOD.
On August 18, 2016 Justice Is Mind will celebrate its third anniversary. The same week that will see the website completed for the figure skating political thriller I’ll be announcing soon. Some ask where does the time go, for me it’s about taking the time to develop projects that I’m passionate about.
When I was writing Justice Is Mind back in 2010 writing a political thriller around the sport of figure skating was the furthest from my mind. The same could be said about Justice Is Mind when I was writing First World in 2006. As a screenwriter, it’s the idea that first calls to me and then if it sticks around a while I start to write those first few pages of a screenplay. I’m not one that writes a story using index cards, beet sheets or other devices, rather I let the story unfold as I build characters and the world they live in.
When I look at my dashboard on Amazon Video Direct and see how my films are doing across all their territories, yes, it’s a pretty cool feeling. Just like when you see your film screen in a theater. There is that sense of accomplishment that all involved in the project can share. Because, making a film is a project that does involve a village.
It is precisely because it takes a village that developing a new project takes a considerable amount of planning. Part of that planning is visiting possible locations, meeting with potential talent and laying the foundation before I seek to bring on a crew. This past week I had a great meeting at Northstar Ice Sports and from that meeting went to a local competition at the Cape (one that I competed in myself many years ago!).
I forget how small a world the sport is. No sooner do I arrive and I see one of the judges who I used to talk to regularly when I was actively involved in the sport. We still to this day reminisce about our time together at an International Skating Union Congress in Davos, Switzerland back in the 90s. I was one of the few members of the media to attend and she was moving up the ranks in the judging system. It was also nice running into a couple of coaches I haven’t seen in a while. All in all it was a great time.
This morning I was reading C. Hope Clark’s latest email newsletter and there was a particular passage that really stood out, “We should strive to be in awe of our work, and awe-struck by others. Instead of production, maybe we ought to focus on our power to seek and create awe. After all, wouldn’t you rather be remembered for the one, lone book than the fact you published a lot of forgettable stories? Or maybe you can find a place in the middle, but to do so, you need to slow down and think about the quality you produce.” I couldn’t agree more with her statement as it greatly applies to filmmakers.
If you’ve ever sat through the end credits of film you see the number of people that were involved that made the film come to life. Unlike a stage production that can be tweaked along the way once you wrap a film, it’s up to creative editing, or god forbid expense reshoots if you didn’t get what you wanted in the first place. I can thankfully say we didn’t need to do any reshoots on Justice Is Mind.
While there won’t be a special theatrical screening of Justice Is Mind this week, there will be online promotion to further introduce the film to a worldwide audience and build momentum for the sequel In Mind We Trust.
Indeed, while past projects continue to be promoted and marketed a new one is about to be announced.
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!
Exactly one month from today Justice Is Mind will celebrate its Second Anniversary on August 18 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, MA. Actors and crew continue to RSVP their attendance, traditional and social media is picking up, photographers are confirmed and the theater has the film. Believe me there’s still plenty to do with the media follow ups and general marketing push, but the event is tracking well. For me it comes down to planning and organization. Time moves quickly and before you know it you are seeing your event come up on the horizon.
When I was writing In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind, there were a few things I wanted to make sure the sequel captured. First, the Miller family was still the nucleus of the primary story while key plot points from part one (Justice Is Mind) were expanded. In the case of In Mind We Trust it was the government’s involvement with mind reading and their partnership with Reincar Scientific. Also, when you consider TV shows like The Blacklist, Fringe, etc., audiences enjoy what I call “intelligent intrigue”.
I am pleased to present the concept trailer for In Mind We Trust. The trailer can be watched on Vimeo or YouTube. My aim with the concept trailer was to introduce elements from Justice Is Mind that carry forward into the sequel In Mind We Trust. From part one we know the United States government and intelligence agencies are, for some reason, involved with mind reading technology. The answers become clear in the sequel, thus the concept trailer sheds some light on where the story will go. And as the U.S. Supreme Court has now become the defacto policy maker in our government, the concept trailer, like the screenplay, ends at America’s highest court in the land.
Of course, I want to thank Daniel Elek-Diamanta for the tremendous score he wrote for the concept trailer. The gravitas of his score just brings the entire concept trailer to life. Those of you that have been following Justice Is Mind know that Daniel scored the entire film. Indeed, as one of our actors said recently, it’s worth the price of the ticket just to hear his score. For those of you that can’t make our screening on August 18, please visit www.justiceismind.com for VOD viewing options.
But the real new horizon this week was not a movie, it was the actual New Horizons interplanetary spacecraft and successful Pluto flyby on July 14. The word “stunning” doesn’t even begin to describe the quality of the images New Horizons set back to Earth.
I was a bit too young (4) to appreciate the Apollo 11 Moon landing, but the excitement shared around the world about New Horizons encounter with Pluto was truly one for the history books. From NASA’s scientific achievement to the sheer enthusiasm of audiences around the world waiting and watching for those early pictures. I can only imagine how the New Horizons team felt when they were waiting for the spacecraft to communicate after its closest flyby. Nearly ten years in space, and years of planning before that, and you are waiting for a signal, until…
New Horizons phoned home.
To learn more about New Horizons and its historic mission to Pluto, please click this link.
Yes, the title of this post is a twist on the book Scarlett, Rhett and a Cast of Thousands, but I was reminded just the other day on what goes into making a feature film. It was early summer in 2013 and our world premiere date for Justice Is Mind was set for August 18, 2013. Yes, the film was edited and scored, but we were still under the gun on those numerous last minute items like color correction and sound mixing. The one thing left to finish was the closing credits. It wasn’t until I started to add everyone in when the number of names credited was finalized at 201. But add in the employees of our location partners and the number was well north of that. It’s true when they say it takes a village, or maybe in the case of Justice Is Mind a small battalion, to make a feature film
With our Second Anniversary screening coming up on August 18 at Cinemagic in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, planning is well underway. As I’ve mentioned before, I treat every screening like it’s the first one. The deal with the theatre is secured; cast, crew, location and marketing partners are notified; a press release is sent and then there is the media pitch. My special thanks to the Worcester Herald and Examiner for their early coverage of the special day.
I am delighted to confirm that several of the stars, co-stars and featured performers have already confirmed their attendance. While many of us have traveled the theatrical release tour together, August 18 will mark for the first time in two years the coming together of those that I haven’t seen since the world premiere. Indeed, we are all looking forward to it.
But aside from a reunion of some of the cast and crew, it is about presenting Justice is Mind to new audiences. The work that goes into the production of a feature film is monumental. Indeed, some producers I know are starting to pull back on producing projects as they are time intensive. But when a film is finished, when you see it play in a theatre, your TV or even your smart phone, you realize at that moment that all the sleepless nights, self-doubt and over analysis is over. The work that has been put in by so many is being presented to the world. Thus, you want to do it again and again. At least I do.
The film industry is changing even more rapidly that it was when I first created the world of Justice Is Mind. But at the end of the day content is still king. There are now more platforms available to watch a film than ever before and they need product to fill their pipelines. Whether it’s a tentpole like the upcoming Star Wars (I can’t wait) or a truly independent film like Justice Is Mind, there is something for everyone.
The days are long. You feel there will never be an end in sight. But then there is that moment after the final rendering that the heart and soul of a cast of hundreds comes to life. For it has been the reception that Justice Is Mind has received that has led to the development of the sequel In Mind We Trust. By this time next week, the concept trailer will be released.
Justice Is Mind – The Second Anniversary Screening – August 18, 2015.
Tickets now on sale.
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.
I am pleased to announce that Justice Is Mind is now available on the theatrical distribution platform Tugg! To quote their website, “Tugg is a web-platform that lets YOU bring the movies you want to your local theater.” Tugg is a dynamic theatrical service that I have been aware of for the last couple of years.
For those of you that follow this blog, you know that Justice Is Mind has had a successful theatrical run. Out of 20 screenings to date, 12 have been theatrical. As none of these theatres have been rented (1 was sponsored), with an average attendance capacity of over 80% for each screening, we know the demand is there. What drove ticket sales? Promotion, media, networking and legwork. Each theatrical screening of Justice Is Mind averaged $1,113 per screen.
The simple difference with Tugg is the following; instead of the vast majority of tickets being sold the day of a screening, they are sold in advance. By example, let’s say someone wants to screen Justice Is Mind at their local theatre and they live in the Midwest. They request a screening at this link and then promote using the various tools that Tugg offers, combined with their marketing efforts and whatever marketing assistance we can provide. Once the threshold of tickets are sold in advance (it varies by theatre), the screening is confirmed and the promoter receives 5% of the ticket sales. It’s a win win for everyone. Why? Because if by some chance not enough tickets are sold in advance by a certain date, the screening doesn’t happen and nobody is charged. To learn more, please visit this link and our listing on Tugg for more information.
When Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth last October, several of the guests remarked that they wished our film was playing at their local theatre. Tugg is the program that can make that happen!
The world of filmed entertainment, and in particular independent filmmaking, continues to undergo all kinds of market stresses. I talked about some of those issues last week and Variety outlined a host of them in an article titled Broken Hollywood. But I also truly believe that today the independent filmmaker has all kinds of opportunities to get their work seen. Justice Is Mind is a prime example of what’s possible; a theatrical run, convention and university screenings along with an international premiere on an ocean liner. Combine those screenings with various VOD platforms, including Amazon Prime and VHX, and the distribution mix works. With our arrival on Tugg, more VOD platforms on the way along with some additional screening plans being worked on, our efforts are far from over.
Speaking of efforts, the first draft of the sequel to Justice Is Mind is nearly complete with the story’s arrival at the Supreme Court. I’ll announce the completion of the first draft and then there will be the requisite edits before I can send the script out for review. Thus another reason to continue promoting part one – Justice Is Mind.
From the start of our trip on October 23 until we returned home on October 29, our voyage on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth ocean liner could not have gone better. From joining the ship in Rome, to the outstanding weather and ports of call, to “White Star” hospitality of shipboard staff and crew, to the wonderful reception my filmmaking seminar and the international premiere of Justice Is Mind received, it was a combined holiday and business trip I will never forget.
I have traveled with a variety of cruise lines, but Cunard’s approach simply brings back a time when sailing by ocean liner was the way everyone traveled. The Art Deco design throughout the ship with artwork of Cunard’s history on display creates an atmosphere of a bygone era updated for the modern traveler.
My mother and I sailed with Cunard in 2006 on the Queen Mary 2, so we had an idea of what to expect. But as this voyage also combined a filmmaking seminar I was presenting along with the international premiere of Justice Is Mind, it helped to know the atmosphere prior to boarding.
A cruise invites one to socialize. To participate. To engage with new people from all other the world. From the author of The Witcher Keys by a guest to My Way to the Seven Seas by a crew member, to lecturers like Kim Sharman of the Royal Navy, the creative energy on the ship was just amazing.
But amazing also goes to the quality of food on board. I think someone at Cunard took a page from The Lord of the Rings. There is literally sometimes 1st breakfast and 2nd breakfast followed by “elevenses”, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner (thankfully we had late seating at 8:30 PM!). Experiencing quintessential afternoon tea by the English on board an ocean liner is something not to be missed. While I loved the Britannia Restaurant, our favorite place to dine was the Verandah Restaurant. Simply put, two of the best meals I have ever had.
Of course it was Justice Is Mind that brought us halfway around the world. A film that started as an idea back in 2010 landed us on the Queen Elizabeth one of “The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World”®. While my filmmaking seminar was relatively standard on the process of creating a motion picture with Justice Is Mind as an example, this would be the first time in the history of the film that we would screen to an audience that had no connection to the project. Suffice to say, I was more than a bit anxious on how it would be received. Justice Is Mind is not a standard drama. From mind reading via an MRI, to courtroom battles, to reincarnation all the way back to World War II, it’s, as one reviewer put it, “A thinker with a psychological edge”.
When the credits started to role the audience erupted in applause. Relieved, happy and grateful immediately came to mind. Some offered hugs while others stated their sheer enjoyment of the film. Oh I’m sure there were those that didn’t care for it, but when I was hearing words of support from guests throughout the rest of the voyage, it was a great feeling.
My heartfelt thanks to Cunard for selecting me as a guest lecturer and for the staff and crew on board the Queen Elizabeth for welcoming my mother and me on the trip of a lifetime. And, of course, to the guests of the Queen Elizabeth that sailed on voyage Q418. Indeed, an adventure, a holiday, an experience to be remembered forever.
The journey continues.
In a few short weeks, Justice Is Mind will have its International Premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Indeed, for more reasons that I can count, I am looking forward to this trip. And with my PowerPoint filmmaking seminar completed and all the other details attended to, it just comes down to the final organization before I leave for Rome.
Justice Is Mind is now in the international market. Since our arrival on, VHX, Viewster and Amazon (with other VOD platforms to follow), our film has left its domestic home for an international audience. Our screening on the Queen Elizabeth will be the launch event. I cannot think of a more fitting setting than an ocean liner in the Mediterranean Ocean. For the first time in the history of the film, those in the audience will have no direct connection to the movie other than their interest in seeing it. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about as a filmmaker. Introducing your work to new audiences.
The process of marketing Justice Is Mind internationally started back in 2011 when the short film version was produced. Did I know where Justice Is Mind was eventually going to go? No, of course not. No filmmaker has a crystal ball that can predict the future. What we do have is hope, ambition and determination and work tirelessly to accomplish what we do.
But as I’ve learned from our theatrical screenings, reviews and articles, every film needs to have some sort of hook to target and reach an audience. Theatrical screenings have been pivotal to Justice. With each one I learn something new whether it be demographics or areas of the film that resonate with an audience. Live screenings give a filmmaker a chance to interact with an audience that VOD will never really be able to do. While VOD is the revenue generator for independent film, it’s the theatrical audiences that are the driving force.
There have been so many discussions on the pros and cons of theatrical and VOD, particularly when it comes to windows. I can easily see the point of the theatres. Why would they want a film to also be available on VOD the same day it’s released in theaters? From a filmmakers point of view, it comes down to revenue and getting a maximum return on a limited marketing budget. This is a conversation and debate that will long continue.
This past week I made a variety of presentations for First World and SOS United States. And while making these pitches, I offered a hook on why I think they are marketable commercial projects. For First World, there is a new space race between governments and corporations. For SOS United States, we have a global military coalition targeting a variety of worldwide situations.
But until those projects get funded, the marketing focus is on Justice Is Mind. Just yesterday a great mini-feature was published on Fraking Films. Always nice when a story starts, “Today I’m excited to share with you a great looking indie film called Justice Is Mind.”
As a filmmaker, there’s nothing more exciting than attending a theatrical screening of your film. But the Cape Cod Premiere of Justice Is Mind this past Thursday at the Chatham Orpheum was particularly special. Why? I had two sets of family attending this screening. My real family and the “Justice” family.
Thursday was our 12th theatrical screening (19th overall) and over the past year various cast members (and some crew) have attended the screenings. These reunions are always terrific. Sure, we all have our own lives, but the screenings are a reunion of friends as we celebrate something we all worked on together. For so many of us involved in this project, producing a feature film was a dream come true. It’s moments like this that should be enjoyed.
Also in attendance was my real family as well. In addition to my mother who played a member of the jury, my cousin, who lives in Dennis, and her brother and his wife who were visiting from Minnesota, joined the festivities. As I shot my first short film (First World) in Dennis at my cousin’s house in 2006, it was nice to show them where this journey as a filmmaker has taken me over the years.
But our screening last week was just different. For me it felt like one big party. I think this was due in large part to the atmosphere of the Chatham Orpheum itself. An intimate, state of the art venue that seats 147. In addition, there’s a full restaurant/bar in the lobby that just creates this social atmosphere of excitement around the experience of watching a movie. Add in friends and family and presto…party!
We are now entering the last four days of the Viewster Online Film Festival. In addition to being able to watch Justice Is Mind for FREE at this link, you can also vote, share and comment. Viewers also have the opportunity win a FREE trip to London for two! I have to say I think Viewster has done a fantastic job with this online film festival. For a film like Justice Is Mind we are able to present it to the world, for Viewster it brings in new audiences to their site. It’s a win-win for all involved.
With Justice Is Mind now available on Amazon and shortly coming online to other VOD platforms, I now focus on the upcoming international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth for the end of October. Although my PowerPoint presentation for the filmmaking seminar I’m hosting onboard has been done for a few weeks, now I work on my narration.
The one thing I love about movies is the discovery aspect. Sure Justice Is Mind is still being actively marketed, but how about when someone comes across it twenty years from now? One of my favorite courtroom dramas is Witness for the Prosecution. Made in 1957, I first came across the film several years ago. Thankfully with the proliferation of VOD, movies are discoverable with a simple search on what you are interested in watching.
Of course development continues for SOS United States and First World. For every filmmaker there is that journey to secure investment. But now that I’ve traveled this road once already, I have a better map on direction. Because if there’s one thing that’s always changing direction, it’s the film industry.
The high seas.
Who would have thought that just over a year after our world premiere we would be part of worldwide online contest, have a theatrical screening, go live on one of the world’s largest VOD platforms and have an international premiere in just over a month on an ocean liner? What this tells me is that all films are not created equal in terms of “following the book of distribution” and that sometimes things just take time to build. But to say I am thankful to the cast, crew, theaters, reporters and distributors that have worked with us would be a vast understatement. And then there are the audiences that have supported Justice Is Mind since the beginning. From a social post to attending a screening, without an audience a project will goes nowhere.
On Thursday, September 11, Justice Is Mind went live on Viewster’s Online Film Festival. Click this link to watch for FREE. In addition you can vote, comment and participate with social media for the opportunity to win a free trip for two to London! For those of you that will share our link socially, Viewster asks that you include the hashtag #VOFF. Please hashtag #JUSTICEISMIND as well! Our official press release can be found at this link.
And this coming Thursday, September 18, Justice Is Mind will have its Cape Cod Premiere at the Chatham Orpheum Theater. While this will be our 19th screening, for me personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the “Justice family” again. Indeed, I was quoted about that in the Cape Cod Times this past week in a great article of support for the screening. I’ve been involved in so many productions and events over the years but, for some reason, Justice is special. The reporter asked me about this and my response was pretty straight forward, all of us involved were on a collective mission to see the project all the way to the end. I know I’ve set the bar high for my next film, but that’s what this industry is all about raising the bar. Speaking of bar, they have one at the Chatham Orpheum. I will most certainly be having a drink…or two!
I also wanted to extend a thank you to the Cape Cod Chronicle and the Worcester Herald for their coverage of our September 18 screening. Supportive media are a driving component to building audiences.
But it was this morning that Justice Is Mind went live on its first major VOD platform through Kinonation. I’m pleased to announce that Justice is available on Amazon Prime and Instant Video. Now in addition to Viewster’s 18 million plus, we are part of a platform with Amazon that not only delivers 20 million plus through Amazon Prime, but another countless millions through Amazon Instant Video. For anyone that has purchased anything through Amazon, or sells on Amazon, we are all aware of the power of this platform. Like Viewster, Amazon is algorithm based. The more views, comments (good or bad), likes, shares, etc. helps a film succeed. I can only speak from experience working with them on First World. A special thanks to Roger Jackson and his team at Kinonation. Filmmakers, check them out. They are great to work with.
Next stop…The Chatham Orpheum Theater!
On September 11, 2014 at 3 PM GMT the Viewster Online Film Festival (#VOFF) will commence and run through September 25. The public will decide if Justice Is Mind advances to the jury who will announce the winners at the Raindance Film Festival in the United Kingdom on October 5th. While everyone wants to win, I’m just honored that Justice Is Mind was selected. For the first time, worldwide audiences will have the opportunity to see Justice Is Mind online for FREE. As soon as the direct link to Justice Is Mind is sent to us by Viewster, I will post it here…and promote the hell out of it!
What’s terrific about Viewster’s festival schedule is that, for our film, it runs right through our Cape Code Premiere on September 18 at the Chatham Orpheum Theater. This is akin to the popular “day and date” releases I have been reading about for the last few years. How it impacts on Justice Is Mind will be very interesting. Will we see a spike in votes? Praise? Critiques? Whatever plays out, it can only help.
The one thing all filmmakers love is organization. Both Viewster and the Chatham Orpheum Theater are so wonderfully organized. From the “creators kit” Viewster sends its filmmakers to the Chatham Orpheum’s staff and marketing team, it’s a filmmakers dream working with organizations that want to work with you.
I know it sounds cliché, but we are all in this together. VOD platforms and theaters need quality content and filmmakers need distribution outlets from traditional to digital. As I’ve said before, I will say again, I cannot stress enough the importance of both. Theatrical screenings build audience, awareness and press that just benefits you when you go to VOD. Likewise, VOD provides long term revenue to filmmakers. The old adage if you build it they will come, in my view, just doesn’t apply to movies. You have to market to call attention to yourself. If you aren’t going to toot your own horn who is?
Speaking about promoting, I’ve been reading the daily trade reports coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival. Again, it’s an honor if your film is selected, but dear lord the competition for attention is beyond the beyond. When you read about the quiet market and how distributors are now placing films with A list cast on direct platforms like Vimeo on Demand, you know this is an industry in transition. But I still hold true to consumer curation. As long as a film is “findable”, audiences will watch what they want to watch either in a theater or online.
For anyone that has followed me on any regular basis, you know I’m all about marketing. Simply put it doesn’t matter what you do if nobody knows about it. When I first published niche sports magazines in the early 1990s, well before anything called the internet, we had, and still do to some degree, this wonderful device called direct mail. You can be sure that when the net came into reality I put our web address on our direct mail efforts. I was advised by so many “experts” not to do that. Seriously. Isn’t it up to the consumer how they want to buy your product? The same holds true for film, you just have to be in as many places as possible. You want to hear conversations like, “I saw this at the Orpheum” “I watched it on Viewster” and after October “I saw it on the Queen Elizabeth”.
From the global platform of Viewster to the intimate audiences at a state of the art theater like the Chatham Orpheum, this will be a tremendously exciting month for Justice Is Mind.
Day and date.
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?
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.
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.”
It was one year ago to the day (tomorrow technically) that Justice Is Mind had its world premiere at the Capital District Film Festival in Albany, New York at the beautiful Palace Theatre. Family and friends of cast and crew were coming in from all over the United States to celebrate the debut of an independent film four years in the making. I might add that the weather was perfect.
Although my mother and I arrived the day before it wasn’t long that I started to see some of the actors that I hadn’t seen since we wrapped production the previous October. I remember one of the first people I saw was Mary Wexler who plays Judge Wagner. We were having lunch and I said to my mother, “Here comes the judge!” Our world premiere wasn’t just the debut of Justice Is Mind it was a great reunion of new friends.
The premiere went off without a hitch. No sooner did I arrive home and I started to work the phones and email. I was already pitching Justice Is Mind to distributors and I was waiting to hear back from certain film festivals we submitted to, but since Albany the film had a momentum. A momentum I wasn’t going to put on hold while waiting for others to get back to me. Before I knew it, we had the Massachusetts premiere at the Strand Theatre followed by the Maine premiere at the Levitt Theatre and so on. The theatrical screenings continued and included universities and science fiction conventions. Justice Is Mind was finding its way in a sea of films looking for attention.
With our international premiere coming up on October 29 on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth, I am delighted to announce two new developments since my last post. Justice Is Mind will have its Cape Cod premiere on September 18 at the beautifully restored Chatham Orpheum Theater in Chatham, Massachusetts! And on the film festival front Justice was accepted into the Viewster Online Film Festival out of Zurich, Switzerland that will commence on September 11 and run until the 25th! I’d say it was a good week.
When I was looking through the collection of photos taken during our many travels this year, I cannot be more thankful to the cast, crew, theatres and patrons that have supported Justice Is Mind. Generally a film is released, plays theatres for a bit and then goes to VOD/DVD in what is becoming increasingly shorter windows. But here we are, a full year later, and Justice Is Mind is still…dare I say it…top of mind?
I think what has made this journey so successful is that all of us associated with Justice, and even our partners along the way, have taken a collective approach to promoting the film to the best of our ability without taking the spotlight off the project. The amount of work that goes into making a feature film is colossal. Sure, we all have “next projects” we are working on, but as long as there is an interest, as long as there is the will, there is always a…
A year ago this week I was in the final days of preparing for the world premiere of Justice Is Mind on August 18, 2013 at the Palace Theatre in Albany, NY. The film itself was completed and pressed to our theatrical DVDs the week earlier. I knew the majority of the cast and crew would be coming and we were able to secure some local media.
After Justice Is Mind wrapped production on October 13, 2013 we entered the post-production phase. The film needed to be edited, scored, special FX needed to be built, sound mixed, color corrected and a variety of other post production matters. When I considered the number of locations (15), actors (over 120), special FX (170) and a host of other matters, Justice Is Mind was not a “small” feature by any standard. I’ve produced before, but Justice Is Mind was by far my most ambitious project to date. The journey from script to screen may simply result in a DVD or digital file, but for anyone wanting to make their own feature film the details are in the middle and beyond.
Since our world premiere on August 18, Justice Is Mind has had the good fortune to screen in theatres, at universities and science fiction conventions throughout North America. Ambition did not just exist in post-production nor end after our world premiere. The ambition and efforts of so many involved in the project resulted in an independent film that stood out from the crowd.
When you consider that over 50,000 films are produced in any given year, I can’t help but be proud of our results to date. According to IMDB Justice Is Mind was ranked as the 8th “Highest Independent Film Released in 2013”, 42nd “Top US Grossing Independent Film Feature Films Released in 2013” and 48th “Most Popular Independent Film Feature Films Released In 2013”. Over on Box Office Mojo, out of ALL films released in 2013 (including studios), our film finished 538 out of 687. Am I bragging? I’m doing what all major studios and the independents do, I’m promoting. I’m advertising our progress to date. If the majors do this so can the “true” independents that need all the social media and print space we can get. These efforts have resulted in the upcoming international premiere of Justice Is Mind on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth on October 29. I’m also hoping to announce a domestic theatrical screening that’s scheduled for September.
Has this been an easy journey to date? Absolutely not. Even with these results, one still has to deal with a provincial attitude that permeates in an industry that is resistant to change. But there are the progressives. Those that understand about consumer demand. Those that look at the aforementioned results and simply conclude—audiences want to see this film. Consumer demand is front and center when it comes to Video on Demand.
With our Video on Demand launch on VHX in July, Justice Is Mind has just gone up on Reelhouse and will soon be available on other VOD platforms. Celebrating our anniversary week, Justice Is Mind can be streamed at $2.99 or purchased for $5.99 at Reelhouse. Over at VHX you can buy the feature film for $2.99 or our deluxe package of videos (including the feature) for $5.99. Enter the special coupon code ANNIVERSARY on the buy option at Reelhouse or deluxe option at VHX and save an additional $3 for a total purchase price of only $2.99.
Full steam ahead.
I am always the first to arrive and last to leave our theatrical screenings. Last Monday night at the Elm Draught House Cinema was no exception. To quote Commander Straker from the UFO TV series episode ESP, “Yes, I always like to look over a convention hall before a conference.” And what a conference it was!
Shortly after I arrived Justice Is Mind’s star Paul Lussier who plays John Darrow and Mary Wexler who co-stars as Judge Wagner arrived along with Bob Leveille who plays Mr. Oxford in the film. Bob, and his Pizza Post, were instrumental in promoting this screening. A couple of weeks ago he announced a nice surprise for us when he worked out an arrangement with All Points Limousine to drive us around for an hour to celebrate and toast our accomplishments to date. While I’m usually “on alert” making sure the screenings run smoothly, it was nice to relax and enjoy this moment with actors who I now consider friends.
After our drive around town, audiences started to arrive. In total we had around 140 attend. I say around because 133 were paid ticket holders (including myself), but I did see a fair number just walk in without paying. That was a shame, because theatres, like filmmakers, need to generate revenue. But that being said, when I’m watching the film and I see the last scene come up I always wonder how audiences will react. Up came my credit and the audience erupted into applause. As Eve Harrington said in All About Eve, “If nothing else, there’s applause… like waves of love pouring over the footlights.” While I was in the lobby, many came up to me and said how much they enjoyed the film. If nothing else, that’s all a filmmaker needs.
Of course you can’t please everyone. One of our location partners (who I won’t name), greeted me at the beginning and then darted out at the end and wouldn’t even make eye contact. Honestly, the travels of an independent filmmaker are like a dramatic TV show. As Max Schumacher said in Network, “And here are a few scenes from next week’s show.”
With 11 theatrical screenings with an average per screen gross of $1,100+, 8th placed highest rated independent film released on IMDB for 2013, higher education and science fiction screenings around the country, a 12 month ranking on Box Office Mojo of 539 out of 11,474 films and an upcoming international premiere through a multi-billion dollar company (public announcement coming soon), I know we have a marketable and commercial project. We all know this is not an easy industry to navigate and is in a constant stage of change, but I do demand that our voices be heard and that you tune in to our show.
So what are a few scenes from next week’s show? I’m working on “the making of Justice Is Mind” that will be a DVD extra, another review is coming out next weekend, I will be following up with a variety of theatres considering Justice Is Mind for screenings, prep for our international premiere in October, having closed captions created for our VOD release and…
Until next week.
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.
Just prior to any screening of Justice Is Mind there is the usual set of nerves. Will audiences show up? Will they like the film? I also say a few words to the audience prior to the start of the film. Each one of these “opening statements” is a bit different but they always end when I introduce the concept of Justice Is Mind starting with “Imagine a not too distant future…” Someone asked me how I’m able to talk to audiences like this. Simply, I rehearse what I’m going to say. That’s what this industry is all about no matter what side of the camera you are on – the rehearsal and the performance.
After having a pre-event drink with my former classmates from grade school, I went over to the theatre at 5:30. Although that was an hour and a half before the film started, there’s a system I like to employ – meet with the photographers and get a feel for the surroundings. Every theatre is different and each has its own atmosphere.
It didn’t take long for audiences to arrive. From childhood friends to new supporters who read the media coverage we had in print and on the radio. For me, it’s always great to see the “JIM family” arrive. By that I mean the actors and crew that have traveled this journey with me for nearly two years. This was our tenth theatrical screening and there is a certain camaraderie among us that makes these screenings thoroughly enjoyable for all in attendance. And in attendance did they come. We set a new single screening record for Justice Is Mind with 159 in attendance and $1,570 in box office. To see photos from the event click album one and two.
The process of filmmaking is really a set of impossibilities that you overcome. Writing the story, raising the money, producing the film and, finally, distributing. This is an industry where the odds are against you from day one because of the quasi creative, entrepreneurial and business aspect that a film needs to have. But with 10 theatrical screenings under our belt, I updated our IMDB listing to include The Ashton Times as a theatrical distributor because, frankly, that’s what we’ve been doing that wouldn’t be done any different than with a traditional theatrical distributor. We strike a deal with the theatre (we don’t rent), pitch the local media, set up targeted promotions and engage social media.
Just prior to the start of the film I announced that Justice Is Mind will be screening on April 28 at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). For those of you that have followed this project for the last few years, I was inspired to write this story when CMU’s Dr. Marcel Just was interviewed on a 60 Minutes story about mind reading using fMRI techniques. With Dr. Just opening the film along with both of us having a Q&A with audiences after, this is one of those honors in life that doesn’t come along often.
Writing. The foundation of all things. For all of us that write creatively we are initially inspired by something. For Justice Is Mind it was 60 Minutes. For First World it was the Apollo space program. For SOS United States it was our current political climate.
There was a moment on Monday when I was standing just outside the theatre and a few final folks were walking in. As I opened the door for them it was in that instant when a strong sense of appreciation waved over. From the first word to an open door.