No the title of this week’s post doesn’t refer to a meeting hall, but the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. This famed building assembled the Saturn V and Space Shuttle vehicles and will be home to the Space Launch System in the future. Assembly building could also refer to the process of creating a film.
This past week I have been quietly talking to certain actors and crew about First Signal. While I mentioned last week the plan to produce this film in August, I’m purposely being quiet on who exactly is involved until after the fact. Yes, a few actors have already been cast and I started to reach out to crew. Of course it’s exciting to bring a project to light, but there is a method to this “secrecy”.
Those that follow me have probably noticed that I haven’t published one line of dialogue, mentioned a proposed location or stated who is already with the project. For First Signal this is all about building a comprehensive branding and marketing campaign around this “First World” universe. Much like the careful thought and preparation that goes into the assembly of a space vehicle, the same holds true for a film (but not nearly as complicated!).
With the number of films being created due to the democratization of the process of filmmaking, I believe it is imperative to have some sort of solid public relations and marketing campaign tied to your project. I did this with the magazines I published and have carried this discipline to my film projects. I say discipline because that’s what you need when making a movie. Yes, it’s all very exciting when you are on set and actually making a dream come to life, but the years, months, weeks and days leading up that moment is one of careful planning and execution. In particular, the genre of science fiction takes a certain amount of world building to make it original.
Of course what this also comes down to is making a project interesting for a consumer audience. This article in The Hollywood Reporter addressed the gamble films take with a box office release versus selling to Netflix. I firmly believe it was the limited theatrical release we had for Justice Is Mind that led to the majority of press reports and consumer awareness.
Honestly, unless a film has some sort of momentum owing to cast or concept, how do you differentiate one movie from another in the sea of video on demand? Do you hope it’s discovered on VOD or do you give it a consumer marketing push first with a theatrical release? I’ll always believe the latter makes the most sense.
Last week I had a meeting with a filmmaker about the development of First Signal. While he knows I watched his work, what immediately struck me was that he watched some of mine as well. Isn’t this what the process is all about? Learning about each other’s work before you work together?
When I’m in a pitch meeting with a possible producer, I might not watch all the movies they’ve produced, but you can be sure I’ve watched some. When I’m looking to cast an actor, I read their resume to see if we have any common background or talking points. Likewise, when I’m cast in a project I always look up the director. You never know where a conversation of mutual interests can take you.
I figured the meeting was going to go well, but you never really know until you have a face to face. The result of that meeting was a change in process on the production of First Signal. While a table read was nearly cast and scheduled, the decision was made to go straight to auditions in April with production in August.
The decision to forgo the table read really came down to a few things. First, there were some scheduling conflicts in early March, a preliminary working budget was largely agreed to and it appeared to be an extra step in the process that we just didn’t need. Naturally, once the actors have been cast the requisite rehearsals will take place prior to shooting. A formal casting notice will be posted on Backstage and New England Film in late March, but for now please visit this link for more information.
The process of making a feature film is an exciting one, but also a careful one. It all comes down to planning and execution. When I think of the days when I produced some major events (some out of the country), and what has gone into my film projects, I’m a firm believer in the importance of pre-production. A film is like a train. Once the train leaves the station it’s almost impossible to stop. Best to have everyone board at the station rather than trying to jump on while racing down the tracks.