With the business plan for In Mind We Trust completed, work now begins again in earnest to market my slate of films for development, The one thing I have learned about this industry since I made First World, and during my time as a magazine publisher, is that investment can come from anywhere at any time. They key, as I learned with Justice Is Mind, is to be ready when the time is right.
Christopher Nolan said it best in the Hollywood Reporter a couple of weeks ago when talking about his career, “The thing that happens to a lot of people is that you get that opportunity, somebody says, ‘I really loved your film, what else do you have?’ And if you don’t have anything, or if you’ve just got vague ideas, it’s very difficult to take advantage of that moment, and that moment doesn’t come around again,” he said. “You’ve got to jump on it.” Obviously, I agree.
My feature length screenplay First World worked great to make the short film version in 2006. Yes, that project as a feature is years in development, but the short film version is in the market and the script award nominations have served as a great foundation. Just over the last couple of months, sales of the short film have tripled from this time last year and China is moving along at breakneck speed with their space program. Timing is better now to present. As this article on Hollywood.com shows, some projects just take time to develop.
The idea for SOS United States came to me when I was in the process of managing the theatrical release of Justice Is Mind. I’ve always loved the political thrillers made during the Cold War. The idea of developing a story that pits the President of the United States against the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as they deal with a potential nuclear device on a commercial ocean liner bound for Boston, certain reflects the political and military tensions we see in the world today.
But it was the sequel to Justice Is Mind that called to me this past November. I always figured that, “someday I would write a sequel”. But I didn’t know it would develop so quickly. For me, when I get an idea I just need to run with it. The result is In Mind We Trust. With a story that reunites a number of the original characters from Justice with new characters against the world covert surveillance, government power, reincarnation and the horrors of World War II, the screenplay, like Justice Is Mind, is a demonstration of competing genres that I believe work well together. As Unsung Films said about Justice Is Mind, “Mark Lund’s film is a thriller-gone-courtroom-drama-gone-sci-fi. Such extreme shifts in genre should not work. But they more than work in this case.”
Through all this is the navigation of a changing industry and the needs, interests and wants of investors. As I learned from my original investor in my old publishing company, to my backers on Justice Is Mind, these things take patience and perseverance and being ready when the time is right. It’s about staying a course that is true to the projects and to never capitulate.
This morning I was reading the Hollywood Reporter’s excellent profile on filmmaker Christopher Nolan. I loved his quote, “If you want to make a calling card, you go to Kinkos. You don’t spend three years of your life putting a film together”. That could not be truer when making a feature film.
For the Justice Is Mind “project” it started in 2010 with the script, 2011 with the short, 2012 with the feature and 2013 to the present for the release and general marketing. Simply put, filmmaking is a long tail business. Yes, it’s all very exciting and “cool” to be shooting a film, but these are projects that we are married to for years. By example, my first short film First World was produced in 2006 and released in 2007. It’s 2015 and revenue is still coming in on monthly basis. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the value in a film library. I just have three films in my library, but imagine a company with hundreds of titles all earning some sort of revenue on a monthly basis.
With First World under consideration and SOS United States completed at the script stage, I just passed the 95 page mark on the sequel (yes, I have a title) to Justice Is Mind. The story, is much bigger in terms of scope. Instead of a trial in Massachusetts, we are at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. Am I ready to release the title and logline? Not yet. While I’m happy where the story is going, I always remain “open minded” on direction.
For me writing and developing a story is like playing chess. The pieces of your story might move in a typical fashion at the start, and just when you think I’m going to give you what you want, I’m going to turn it. As Unsung Films said about Justice Is Mind, “And this is when the film changes gear for one last time, turning into a science fiction tale – unexpectedly and viciously.” Yes, there will be a couple of unexpected turns in the sequel. But like Justice Is Mind, the clues start early.
One of the reasons why I admire Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker is because he creates original stories that resonate (I loved Inception). Personally, I’m really over the homogenized films that are created to appeal to the widest possible audience, but don’t tell a story. Seventy years later Laura is still a great film. Likewise with the 1968 production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s what we call long tail!
According to the Hollywood Reporter 2014 box office was down 5% from last year marking the biggest drop off in nine years. Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me. I just know from the audiences that saw Justice Is Mind, they want original stories. I understand the economics of why a studio spends $150 million on one motion picture, but imagine dividing that budget by 10? We know there are all kinds of original stories just waiting to be told. In the end it comes down to what audiences want to see and how they want to watch.
Yes, I have gone to Kinkos. To print scripts.
For those that follow me on Facebook and Twitter there is nothing unusual about me offering a one word status update “writing”. It usually happens on weekends when I write this blog, but it was primarily for a new screenplay I was writing through a good part of 2013 and early this year. With Justice Is Mind in theatrical release, an idea suddenly came to me about an idea for a political thriller. It was the same for Justice Is Mind when I was working on First World. The idea just happens and then before I know it, I fire up Final Draft and start writing.
I am pleased to present the political thriller SOS United States – A visit by the Prime Minister turns into a political crisis when the President learns that a nuclear bomb is on an ocean liner heading to Boston.
Inspired by the Cold War political thrillers Fail Safe and Seven Days in May with the contemporary pacing of Clear and Present Danger, I have always enjoyed this genre of film that revolves around government conspiracies, intrigue and deception. Another one to add to this would be Advise and Consent.
With SOS United States announced, my efforts begin in earnest to raise the capital to produce the film ($300,000). This isn’t a project that I plan to shop around to option, this is a film that I plan to direct. That being said, it all starts with the concept poster. The poster you see here was designed by the talented Jestyn Flores of Pixel Eight Design. I met Jestyn through Shannon McNamara. Shannon plays the court clerk in Justice Is Mind. Yes, it is a small world!
But while all this was going on, there was something else I was waiting for—another review of Justice Is Mind was scheduled to publish on Saturday night. While I was working on the closed captions file for our VOD distributor (Kinonation), this coming review was top of mind. With our VOD release coming up, along with our international premiere, the goal, naturally, is to secure positive press. After I finished the closed captions file (Zencaptions is great!) and uploaded it to Kinonation I went over to the reviewers website and there it was.
“It’s Mark Lund’s writing that makes these interactions what they are, for there is so much intelligence in the dialogue.” When I read this part of Angeliki Coconi’s review of Justice Is Mind on Unsung Films there was a moment when I almost started to cry. Yes, for all the Swedish stoicism I project, it’s my French half that takes over in moments like this. There is nothing more satisfying than having your work acknowledged. But in addition to my work, I always like when a reviewer calls out actors for their performances. In the case of this review it was Kim Gordon (District Attorney Constance Smith), Paul Lussier (Henri Miller’s lawyer) and Carlyne Fournier (Dr. Eve Pullman). When I think of the hours they put in to develop and prepare these very involved, and dialogue heavy, characters, I just want to thank them again (and all the actors and crew) for making Justice Is Mind possible.
When I think of the hours, days, weeks and months I have sat behind a computer writing, researching, re-writing, printing, presenting, etc., reviews from Frisco Kid, The Barnstable Patriot and now Unsung Films, makes this process all the more worthwhile. But it has been the local press that has fired up interest in the film, from the Spencer New Leader to Worcester Magazine to the Nashua Telegraph, which brings audiences into buildings that translate to word of mouth, social media, etc. It’s all part the plan to present Justice Is Mind and now SOS United States to the widest possible audience.
Of course, I am not so taken with our accomplishments to date to know that there will not be some difficult navigating down the road. Indeed, for all the red carpets, there are those business issues I’ve had to deal with along the way (some not so pleasant). There will be those that love what you do and there will be the detractors. Indeed it can get very hot in the kitchen, but that just means that something is cooking.
On the bridge.