Last week First Signal’s participation in the film festival circuit concluded with our final official selection at the Mesa International Film Festival. With 29 official selections and 17 wins, I couldn’t be more pleased. When a filmmaker enters a film festival there is no guarantee of acceptance, never mind a win. To each and every film festival that believed in First Signal, I say thank you.
Throughout First Signal’s festival run I communicated with a variety of festival operators all over the world. The passion they bring to their festival is just as enthusiastic as we bring to our films. In a sea of competition between festivals and films, when we work together, we create a stronger industry. For it is the world of independent film that sustains the market on all sides of the camera.
With First Signal properly distributed through Indie Rights and marketing ongoing, efforts turn more fully to SOS United States and the completion of my latest story in the First World Universe. These past couple of weeks have been very kind to SOS. With the script winning Best Screenplay at the L A Live Film Festival and an official selection at the Austria International Film Festival, the story, forgive the pun, is sailing along nicely in the festival circuit.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been working on breaking down SOS for hopeful production next year. Having now produced two feature films (and a few shorts), with more experience comes more awareness. This can certainly be a double-edged sword. You instinctively know what’s needed to produce, but you want to bring a certain quality to the final product. In other words, stepping up my own game. Whenever I set out to produce a new project, I compete against myself. I simply ask, did I bring more to this project than the last. As long as I can answer that question with an affirmative yes, I feel that I’ve truly accomplished something.
I see so many in this industry rushing from one project to another without fully completing anything. Case in point the project I was involved in this past summer as an actor. Principal photography wasn’t even completed, and I was hearing about two other projects they were filming right away. When I asked what the distribution and marketing plans were for the project we were on, total deer in the headlights.
As for completing things, my new story in the First World Universe has truly turned into a universe of its own! With 52 speaking parts, it slightly exceeds Justice Is Mind and certainly many more than First Signal. The story primarily revolves round 10 characters with 5 of those being from First Signal.
However, as I come into the final pages of the story, this is where all the loose ends need to be tied up to some degree. While I have my 20+ odd pages of notes, I feel like I’m on final approach to landing and going over checklists. One thing not checked and a character or plot point, might not be resolved. I can’t speak for any of you reading this post, but how many of us have watched a film and then said to ourselves…whatever happened to?
As I approach the end of the latest story I’m writing in the First World Universe, I can’t help but feel a wave of emotions. There’s the excitement of course about completing a new story, but then there is that twinge of sadness as it’s coming to an end. As a writer, we live with our characters. From their victories and failures to achievements and disappointments, their world is revealed for all to see.
While the story is new, some of the characters have already been established and brought to life in First Signal. The returning characters in this story are President Colton, General Reager, Major Sampson, Elisabeth Seward and James Griffin. As I saw how each actor brought these characters to life, it has made the writing of their actions and dialogue a bit easier as they are familiar. But in this story, there are numerous new characters with the creation of Kate Cloverton as the star.
Cloverton, a rising journalist for a major American media company, I realized after the first act is a combination of many journalists I have known over the years. While she’s determined to get the story, she exhibits self-doubt. She questions if the work she does really matters. It’s a colleague of hers that puts her back on track. A colleague who has had some limited success in his own career, but then finds that his efforts hit a brick wall.
I have seen the competitive aspects of journalists first-hand. There are those that are methodical in research and interviews with their eye on the long view without coming to a conclusion prematurely. Then there are those that have an idea for a story and will do whatever they need to do to publish their views. I think we can all agree that the latter has taken over the contemporary world of journalism.
But in this story, Cloverton is sent on a journey by an editor that has a mission of his own. While perhaps well meaning, this editor had no idea that Cloverton’s ingenuity, gut instincts and willingness to take risks, would set world governments and an alien presence on Earth on a collision of Biblical proportions. I should have a first draft completed by mid-November.
A couple of weeks ago after I received our first quarterly payment for First Signal from our distributor Indie Rights, I received a couple of messages from their filmmakers on what I did for marketing. After communicating their messages to our distributor, they asked if I would like to publish a case study on how I marketed First Signal. I was happy to do so.
While I don’t think what I do for film marketing is revolutionary, there is one thing I do that I sadly don’t see employed—consistent marketing. Marketing is all about consistency, scheduling and messaging. For me, I simply calendar what I need to do on a weekly basis and stay the course. What I largely do isn’t based on how much cash I spend, but how much time I spend. If spending an hour a day on marketing yields a positive cash flow, I’d say that’s time well spent.