Finding the right producer for a film is like casting the right actor. If you don’t get it right, the film falls apart. With a 51% film festival selection rate, SOS United States has been well received on the circuit. Prior to the script’s film festival run it had been read by a variety of people in and out of the industry. With those early comments in hand, some adjustments were made. But at the end of the day a script is the vision of its writer.
For those that have watched my films or read my work, my stories are involved not simple. They ask the audience to think and reflect. This is why I watch films and series that have very involved storylines. Films created by Christopher Nolan and author John le Carré are my inspiration. To be frank, I don’t have any interest in creating “simplified” work. It’s just not the type of entertainment I’m interested in creating.
Case in point I recently had a meeting with a producer I was looking forward to speaking with. Before I make a pitch, I just don’t look at a producer as a funding source but one that has produced films that could generally fall into the genre of the story I’ve written—in this case SOS United States.
The meeting started off on a positive note with the exchange of pleasantries. When we started talking about the script, this producer did make some solid observations about changing the villain country in light of recent world events, moving up the timeline a couple of years and some other salient points. But then it sadly become clear that this person only skimmed the script and then wanted to stamp their personal opinions on certain matters that made no sense to the story.
In this industry when a script is being reviewed, it often comes back with notes. I believe notes should identify true issues in a script not as fodder for personal opinions or spite. Is there a plot hole? A lack of character development? Is the intended story plausible? Has the story gone off track? Dialogue issues? But when a note or comment is conveyed that is just personal, and even spiteful, that’s when I lose interest in who I’m talking to. I’d rather see a project of mine go unproduced, rather than have it twisted into something I don’t recognize just for the sake of having it produced. Frankly, I couldn’t direct something I don’t believe in and have my name on it.
Like my search for finding the right distributor for First Signal, the same holds true when finding the right producing partner. While it’s important to be enthusiastic about your projects, the key is not to be desperate to do a deal for the sake of a deal. Oh, when I think of some of the ridiculous things some distributors said for First Signal. From you need to have a monster to sign this contract with a quarter of a century term. How easy some make it to say – no thanks. In the end First Signal found a great distribution partner with Indie Rights.
In a few weeks I’m visiting one of the locations that will be featured in SOS United States. It’s a location that inspired me to write this story in the first place. Perhaps like I eventually accomplished with Justice Is Mind and First Signal, something will come to mind that will enable me to produce SOS United States as an independent project through The Ashton Times.
As an independent filmmaker finding an audience is probably one of the most challenging aspects of the process. I recently had a meeting with a filmmaker who has largely left the industry owing to their frustration in getting their work seen. Any distributor will tell you that it’s the responsibility of the filmmaker to market their film. That’s just the way it is. Simply, there are so many films being made and the profit margins are so thin (if they even exist on most projects), that a distributor can’t justify, and usually doesn’t have the staff, to separately market each film.
But there is another aspect of this industry that every filmmaker (and even actor) needs to be aware of, the charlatans that sell their services and expertise. Having been in this industry for over twenty years, I promise you that 95% of them aren’t worth the electrons in the emails they send.
Two weeks ago I was approached by a filmmaker who tried to sell me his services as a marketer. First, if you’re going to pitch your services, know who you are pitching to. Not only was this filmmaker from the distributor I use for one of my films, but I also prepared and published a marketing case study to this group. Putting aside that he may have missed the communications in the group, it was clear he never reviewed my film’s website or social media channels. But when I reviewed his film, there was barely any social media presence to say nothing of a solid IMDb page. My point is simple; if you are pitched a service do some due diligence first.
But like any other product, once it becomes known and an audience is developed, you get the naysayers and the critics. It’s just par for the course. While it did take time for me to develop a thick Kevlar-like skin, and nobody likes seeing negative comments, just remember this – with every posting and interaction they are just propelling your product.
With over 700,000 trackable views on one VOD outlet alone, with a projected 1,000,000 plus on all channels, I am more than pleased with First Signal’s results to date. While I was hoping the film would find an audience with the marketing plan I implemented, I had no idea it would do as well as it has.
But with that kind of audience it takes a certain amount of management and interaction. Yes, I do interact with those that have a constructive comment about First Signal, but I just don’t waste the time with those that have spiteful comments. Seriously, what’s the point. Arguing on the internet doesn’t change minds, it just unnecessarily raises blood pressure. But at the end of the day every comment, good, bad or indifferent just raises your profile and profitability.
As I’ve often said to many in my circle, if you get into this business for endless accolades, you will be sorely disappointed. The goal, in my view, is to do good work that is appreciated by an audience that discovers it. By example, I love the work of Salvador Dali, but others may loath it. I’ve never understood the hype around 2001: A Space Odyssey but love The Andromeda Strain.