As a screenwriter, we generally write what interests us. I’ve always been fascinated with science fiction, dramas and political thrillers. Justice Is Mind is principally an intense drama that combines a solid sense of mystery and science fiction elements, while First World is primarily a science fiction adventure. My latest screenplay is a political thriller set in New England. I draw my motivation from various real world events: Justice Is Mind—advanced MRI technology; First World—the Apollo space program; the political thriller—the Cold War.
Anyone that writes a screenplay wants to see it produced. Seriously, what’s the point of writing it if you don’t want to see it come to life. But ask ten screenwriters how they want to see their work produced and I promise you you’ll get ten different answers. For me, I want to produce my own work. Both First World and Justice Is Mind were first made as short films before I raised the money for the feature film version of Justice Is Mind. Honestly, I’m glad Justice Is Mind came to life as a feature film before First World. With what I learned during the process of producing Justice I can apply that to First World from a budget and production point of view.
A friend of mine on the west coast has written a few screenplays in different genres and is only interested in having someone else produce them. As he said to me last week, “I have no interest in producing or directing.” Those are career choices we make. But I look at it like this, there are thousands of screenplays being written that are looking for a production home. I know, because I receive at least one or two pitches a week from produced screenwriters. I’m not talking just about independently produced screenwriters, I’m talking about writers that have had major studios either option or produce their work at some point during their career. The point—everyone is looking for money. Sure, I’ll produce and/or direct someone else’s work, but I won’t actively seek financing for those projects. As I’ve said before, raising money is perhaps the biggest obstacle a producer faces.
Which brings me to the title of this post—timing. When you write a screenplay, you are just hoping that it’s timed right for the market, i.e. distributors and audiences. This is something that is almost impossible to predict so you just have to go with it and hope that by the time your project is finished the market is receptive to it. But I firmly believe that regardless of the genre, there are always audiences for great films.
The news from European Film Market in Berlin this past week could not be more excellent for Justice Is Mind. As the Hollywood Reporter reports in their story, Adult-Oriented Dramas on the Rise, films that target adult media-savvy women are in demand. One market insider tells the Hollywood Reporter, “Films that appeal to a female audience are broader in appeal because the women will take men along.”
With the rough cut of Justice Is Mind nearly complete, everything is moving along nicely for a mid-summer release. In addition to our wonderful online placements of the trailer, we have been invited to show the trailer at two events in the next four weeks. On February 24 at the Actors & Movie Fest in Boston and on March 5 at Upstate Independents in Albany, New York.
As for timing, at the request of one investment group that contacted me last week, time to send the business plan out on First World. Is the time right for this to be the next project? Only time will tell.
Last night I attended the Actor’s Demo Reel Showcase by Talent Tools which turned out to be a terrific reunion with some of the actors from Justice Is Mind. Talent Tools is a company that produces demo reels, websites, resumes and other important business related services for actors (I highly recommend them). My thanks to Talent Tools owner Becki Dennis Buchman for inviting me and having me speak to the attendees. Of course what was particularly enjoyable to me was seeing some of the actors I worked with on Justice.
When I saw Richard Sewell (Joseph Miller) and then his wife Kim Gordon (Constance Smith), I was instantly brought back to our days on set and the quality of work we all produced. Also at this event from Justice was Jeanne Lohnes (Reincar executive), Mary Jane Brennan Sangiolo (juror), Paula Dellatte (secretary to Dr. Pullman) and Curtis Reed (who played the valet). Although I worked with these actors and saw their capabilities, I was really looking forward to seeing their demo reels. Suffice to say the quality of talent we have in New England continues to impress and inspire me. And now that talent is being seen far away from the Northeast in the trailer for Justice Is Mind.
This past week the trailer was picked up by Moviefone, AOL Entertainment, Huffington Post, SciFi-Movies and a variety of other platforms. Kim Gordon in particular is the face for the trailer on AOL Entertainment. The reach the trailer is receiving has already brought forward sales agents interested in licensing our foreign rights. With the rough cut now at over an hour, progress is well underway on the feature.
But whether you are a producer, actor or somewhere in between, it all comes down to marketing. For the actors, last night they were polishing their work with high quality materials for producers, casting directors and agents to see. For the work I’m now doing on Justice, it really is the same thing when presenting the project to interested distributors and sales agents. Thankfully we now live in a world where producing quality materials can be achieved without breaking the bank.
In the end though it does come down to talent and it has to start somewhere. As I mentioned last night, one doesn’t simply wake up in the morning and say “I’m important”. It takes many years of dedicated hard work to prove and hone your craft. Even more important is when we learn from each other. This is an industry that despite your experience level, there’s always room to grow. Of course that doesn’t mean that you sign up for everything but pick and chose what’s best for you. There’s a lot of companies that hang out their shingles, but like I highly recommend Film Specific for learning about distribution, the same would hold true for a company like Talent Tools for what they offer actors. Both offer completely different services, but in the end want you to look your best in an industry that takes the word competition to a whole new level.
As I mentioned to the group last night, and as I’ve stated before, the great actor Maximilian Schell said that this is an industry of chances. I think we all agree that it’s worth taking a chance for what we believe in.