I first became interested in the RMS Titanic through my mother. In the 1970s she was a member of the Titanic Historical Society and received their magazine The Titanic Commutator. This was a wonderful black and white publication that featured interesting stories about the famed ship, interviews from survivors along with a host of other information about ocean liner travel, etc.
My interest in the Titanic continued with the history of ocean liners and then the more contemporary cruise ships. I took my first cruise in the early 1980s (If I recall it was on the MS Starward). Traveling by cruise ship is my preferred way to travel. The last cruise my mother and I took was on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth in 2014 where we had Justice Is Mind’s international premiere. Combining my love for cruise travel with filmmaking was a dream come true.
When I was visiting Battleship Cove a few weeks ago with my friend and fellow filmmaker Daniel Groom, we went to the Maritime Museum (which is part of Battleship Cove) to see the Titanic model used in the movie Titanic that starred Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck. I then remembered the Titanic Historical Society and their museum. No sooner did I get home and I confirmed that the museum still existed and was located in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. Needless to say, we made plans to visit.
For those that are interested in the history of the Titanic, the Titanic Museum is a true gem. This private museum (thus, no pictures) sits in the back of a Henry’s Jewelry store. As the website states, you step back in time to the 1950s when you enter. Founder Edward Kamuda’s sister welcomed us and was a wonderful fountain of information, history and stories I never heard before about the ship and the world around it.
There are countless interesting artifacts for visitors to experience. Two particular objects I enjoyed seeing were the display consoles that Dr. Robert Ballard donated to the museum. These were the consoles that revealed the discovery of the Titanic in 1985.
When the movie Titanic came out in 1997, I was hoping to, somehow, get some coverage into the figure skating magazine I was publishing at the time. Fortunately, I received a photo of Michelle Kwan from a taping of The Tonight Show with Kate Winslet and then the Ice Theatre of New York had a Titanic themed event. After the issue came out, through a connection I had, Kathy Bates (who played Molly Brown in Titanic) autographed the article for my mother.
The history of the White Star Line that owned the Titanic is a storied one. After Cunard and White Star merged in 1934, the White Star name all but disappeared in the following years until Cunard introduced Cunard White Star Service. To quote from Cunard’s website, “Today, Cunard White Star Service® is a lasting legacy of our historical connection to the White Star Line and honors the golden era of these elegant and luxurious vessels.”
In Serpentine the name of the fictional skating association is The American Figure Skating Federation. In the real world it’s called U.S. Figure Skating. It seems fitting that as I continue work on the domestic and international marketing plans for Serpentine, the United States and Canadian national figure skating championships are underway.
The one major difference between the fictional world of Serpentine and the reality of today’s skating world is that there are no lyrics in Serpentine’s skating music. When I was at World’s last year and heard more than one skater perform to the theme of Titanic with dialogue from the film after the ship sank (with sinking skating performances to match), what do you even say except ‘Who approved this?’ Imagine offering the movie Airport ’77 on a transatlantic flight. Sorry, I just digressed.
This past week I continued building out the marketing and launch plans for Serpentine. Indeed it’s like building a federation of sorts. By one definition a federation is “the action of forming states or organizations into a single group with centralized control.” Given the political climate we can forget “the state” for a moment and just focus on organization. Yes, I strongly believe in centralized control especially when marketing a product. Many years ago it was magazines, now its film. In today’s challenging film market there’s no question that you need a well thought out plan with some sort of hook to market a film.
With Sundance well underway I’m starting to see articles in the trades and consumer press about the new complexities surrounding the distribution of independent films. Yes, there are those films like Hidden Figures that find a growing following. Then there are those like Silence that literally fall silent at the box office. For Hidden Figures the marketing was clear and powerful, the untold story of African-American women “computers” in the early years of NASA’s space program. For Silence there were too many articles about the director complaining about budget and pay.
We are no longer just filmmakers we are marketers. Last week I talked about living in a bubble. While the accolades at film festivals are certainly welcoming and inspiring, it does come down to translation into the real world. In the world of Serpentine, that means the primary VOD platform will be Amazon Prime, with marketing to include all the member nations of the International Skating Union with a primary focus on select other countries.