It should come as no surprise that I monitor First Signal (and Justice Is Mind) on a regular basis. This involves checking their respective IMDb and social pages along with various searches. In today’s world, it’s too easy for a page to get hacked, manipulated or commented on that requires a correction. But then there are the moments that yield good news.
This past week First Signal went live on Vudu. To quote from Wikipedia, “Vudu is an American digital video store and streaming service owned by Fandango Media.” Fandango, and their subsidiary Rotten Tomatoes, are leading services of film listings, ticket sales, review aggregators, streaming services and related information. With Vudu’s listing, this brings First Signal’s platforms to six representing global reach.
As I reflect on the reach that First Signal now has, I was reminded about a day on set when one of the actors asked me if First Signal would get released. Sadly, in the independent film world, it happens more often than not, that films are not released. I promised this actor that as my name was at the top of this film, it would get a release.
When we learned last week about the cancellation of Batgirl with its $90 million budget, the general response was, “They already spent $90 million just release it to digital.” First, there are countless reasons why this film may never see the light of day. I believe The Critical Drinker hit the nail on the head on why Batgirl was shelved. If the film was going to get a theatrical release, they would have to spend tens of millions more to market it. For a digital release, the general reasoning was quality of the film from test audiences. In their view, the studio would rather take a tax-deductible loss over bad reviews, audience displeasure and a very probable public box office bomb. But whatever the true reason is, film cancellations do happen.
For me, I truly believe this process starts with a sound script that when reviewed is looked at for the entertainment value, not the delivering of a message or particular point of view. The latter should be relegated to documentaries, when you know from the get-go what you’re getting into. Audiences are particular. Their currency in cash and promotion is invaluable. As a screenwriter and filmmaker, my goal is to entertain across a targeted genre and demographic. As Samuel Goldwyn famously said, “If I want to send a message I’ll use Western Union.”
A few days ago I released my Director Reel. You can imagine the challenge in reviewing hours of footage and seeking to select scenes that represent my work. At the end of the day, this is an industry of opinion, review and judgment. We aim to entertain with the ideas we create in our minds. The work in bringing these ideas to life is a challenge like none other. But when everything comes together from the completion of the film to embracement of audiences, it is a challenge worth accepting.
Over the weekend I attended another wonderful re-enactment event at the American Heritage Museum. The Battle of Bunker Hill was produced with enthusiastic re-enactors that brought to life one of the famed early battles in the American Revolutionary War. While I have attended numerous re-enactment events, these re-enactors went out of their way to engage with attendees to discuss this critical time in American history. Suffice to say I learned a few things!
While producing a movie is all about pre-production, rehearsals, etc., these re-enactment events are like watching a movie unfold in real time over several hours rather than months. Yes, most of these groups have all worked together, but their ability to produce this type of entertainment so quickly is impressive. For those of you in the New England area, the re-enactors from this past weekend will next perform at Old Sturbridge Village on August 6 &7.
This past week, First Signal received its quarterly VOD payment from Indie Rights. I could not be more pleased with our results to date. While I was reviewing the reports, I learned that First Signal secured a territory sale in South Korea. This is yet another milestone that First Signal has achieved. From our VOD placement, 1M+ views on YouTube and now a territory sale, First Signal is well on its way to achieving an awareness I only dreamed of.
Those of us that produce true independent feature films, do so because we love to tell stories. While we always hope for a return on our investment, it honestly isn’t top of mind. Yes, staying within a budget that has some hope for a return is important, but that cannot be the driver. The driving motivation to produce must first be a love of the craft.
I remember towards the end of principal photography on First Signal, that despite sweltering 100-degree heat, I was just vey excited to work those final days. Perhaps it was the realization that I knew the quality we produced the previous weeks, or it was getting into the rhythm of doing something that just felt natural. Whatever the reason, I do look forward to the day when I’m bringing my next project to life.
As for my next project, I completed my director reel a few days ago and will post it sometime this week. Having reviewed my previous five films and cutting out scenes that looked interesting, the challenge to select was just that: a challenge. The question begs to be asked, just what is a director reel? Having reviewed countless reels from other directors the question, in my view, is still unanswered. Some focus on cinematography, others focus on an intense scene or two, while some focused on visual effects. To be frank, they were all over the place.
In the end, I selected a variety of scenes and moments over a track of music that I believe reflect the scope of work I’ve produced over the years. For me, I wanted to show versatility in my directing ability. From conceiving a scene in outer space, to a confrontation between actors, to sports; my goal was to present a well-rounded view of my directing capabilities. While this reel doesn’t have a singular story arc per se, I think it does reflect that I like to tell stories that are unique in concept and execution.