As 2015 comes to a close, it seems fitting to reflect on the past year as we look forward to 2016. The title of my end of year post is not only about the industry but about the movie Spotlight – “The true story of how The Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.” Having been a magazine publisher and now a filmmaker, Spotlight is an unprecedented film that must be seen. Simply put Spotlight presents the importance of investigative journalism as a filmmaking triumph.
On a personal level, I sadly know more than a few victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests. On a knowledge level, very few people in Massachusetts didn’t know about this travesty in one form or another. You either heard about it, or knew a victim. But it was the “Spotlight” team at The Boston Globe that brought light to the darkness of so many. Spotlight is more than just another great movie, it represents the power of film and reminds us about the vital role that journalists have in a democracy. They are the voice for the voiceless.
I write passionately about this because when I was a magazine publisher there were more than a few times when I was pressured by the “powers that be” to silence a story by intimidation. I never caved in. I worked for my readers, not for some institution.
2015 has been a great year for film. From Spotlight, Trumbo, The Martian to the return of Star Wars, there was something for everyone. I almost feel sorry for The Academy. They have some really hard choices to make. But what it proves is that independent film, despite industry reports, is alive and well. This year proved, yet again, that original ideas still flourish.
The highlight for me this year was the 2nd anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind this past August. In addition to a reunion of the cast and crew, our 21st screening was another reminder that audiences want to see original works and they don’t care if those involved are household names. They just want to be entertained.
Perhaps the icing on the cake was the volume of media that covered the event from Worcester Magazine to our first international coverage in The Huffington Post. As Pamela Glasner stated in her article, “Justice Is Mind takes on less of a sci-fi feeling and more of a ‘forward-thinking documentary’ feeling.” All these efforts have been part of a long-term marketing plan to continue to introduce the film to new audiences. You can be sure, there are plans in the works for the 3rd anniversary screening.
This past year I continued to polish my political thriller SOS United States and In Mind We Trust, the sequel to Justice Is Mind. When you consider the current political climate around the world and advances in mind-reading technologies, both of these projects continue to be well timed. There are significant efforts around both of these projects that I plan to introduce next year.
If there is one thing I learned in 2015 is that you have to continuously reach out to expand your networks because you’ll never know what’s possible until you try. From direct discussions with private equity groups and hedge funds to presenting new projects to relaunching my personal website and some new clients, this has been a most interesting year.
But as Constance Smith says in Justice Is Mind, “I didn’t promise you an easy case.” Nothing in this industry is easy. It is work done the old fashioned way like an investigative journalist. You research, email, telephone and network. As producer John Davis (The Blacklist) told The Hollywood Reporter about what his father Marvin Davis (who once owned 20th Century Fox) taught him, “Get your ass out of bed. Work your ass off. And when you drill 80 straight dry holes, which he did, make sure you drill the 81st, which he would also do and hit the mother lode.”
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!
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.”