In the weeks leading up to the private screening of First Signal at Chunky’s, I was preparing for the biggest single marketing push I have every done for a project. I had my lists of contacts and colleagues to email, the media to pitch, the social media plan to execute. It’s like the quiet before a storm. While the storm is not destructive akin to weather, it must nonetheless be navigated.
But before First Signal was to be launched around the world, there was the private screening on April 25. Some of the cast and crew I hadn’t seen since we wrapped principal photography two years earlier, some I just saw a few days ago. One by one they and their guests arrived in true red carpet style.
While the Oscars was being produced on the other side of the country that night, First Signal had the evening it deserved. As I mentioned to a few in the days leading up to the night, this is an experience in independent film that doesn’t happen on a regular basis. My mother told me some time ago that life is about experiences. While bringing First Signal to the world was not without times of great difficulty, it is the end result that matters. The experience of seeing it on the silver screen for all in attendance to enjoy is something that will be remembered forever and never can be taken away. After First Signal screened and we took one last group photo, it was time to say my final “thank you” to the cast, crew and attendees. For tomorrow was to bring First Signal’s VOD launch around the world.
On April 26 First Signal launched on Amazon in 68 countries and territories around the world. That VOD launch was followed by Google Play, YouTube Movies and Tubi. The moment Amazon was live, the marketing plan that has been in development since January was launched. The press release went live, the email newsletter went out, hundreds of emails to the industry, media and other interested parties while engaging our social media channels—First Signal was global.
I’m still thankful to this day that I ran a media company that had magazines distributed around the world. When you have world placement of your brand, in this case a film, the responsibility and monitoring of such brand goes up exponentially. While the navigation of such a launch brings the inevitable negative commentary, I just equate it to a large wave that goes over the bow of an ocean liner. Full steam ahead means such waves are plowed through as we continue to call on new ports.
These new ports of call (VOD platforms), rocketed our placement on IMDb to 3,059 out of 560,000+ feature films. To say I am thankful to our distributor Indie Rights would be an understatement. When I think of the number of distributors/sales agents I met with over the last two years to discuss First Signal, it was Indie Rights that not only checked all the boxes a filmmaker wants, but they brought something to the table that is the prime currency in this industry – a sterling reputation. Honestly, that’s what a filmmaker should need and want the most. To work with reputable people and organizations that deliver. My special thanks to Linda, Michael and the Indie Rights team for all your great work. But our work is far from over as marketing and sales efforts continue.
April 26, 2021 will always be known to me as the day The First World Universe launched around the world. As my efforts continue to market First Signal, I also look now towards the sequel, First Launch, to interest production partners.
As I mentioned during my welcoming remarks at First Signal’s private screening, being an independent filmmaker is a herculean task but a most rewarding one. Because for a moment in time a group people (many strangers to each other) come together for a mission. And if they are successful, their efforts live on long after a premiere.
The forecast for First Signal’s world premiere on March 26 was for rain. One of the actors and I were actually tracking the weather during the day. Suddenly, as if instructed by Mother Nature, the sky cleared in the afternoon. While driving to the Greenfield Garden Cinemas to debut a film that I have arguably been working on in concept for over a decade, I was just slightly numb. While I was happy with the final result, I haven’t seen some of the actors and crew since we wrapped production in 2019. Naturally, I wanted them to be happy with it. But one thing was certain. After this past year, it was wonderful to be out socially. That was the overriding feeling of everyone—and having a world premiere was the icing on the cake.
Daniel Groom, the Director of Photography and Editor, arrived before I did. After a few moments of catching up we found ourselves in the theater for a few pictures. Then shortly thereafter, the actors started to arrive. In so many ways it was like I just saw them yesterday. After about an hour of pictures and catching up, First Signal was about to debut.
With my welcome speech concluded, I found myself in my seat with a bag of heavily buttered popcorn. My only worry was that the projection would stop or that there was some sort of error on the DVD. But before I knew it, I found myself actually being able to relax. The one hour and forty-two minutes went by pretty quickly. The moment First Signal cut to black the theater erupted in applause. I could not be more thankful to the cast, crew, theater and audience that made First Signal a reality.
One thing I realized this past week was the importance of a theatrical release. Whether it’s a one night, one week or one month engagement, the important thing for any film is to get “booked” by a theater. When your film is booked, it goes into a system that is linked to a variety of other sites. From IMDb to Rotten Tomatoes, it establishes the film from an industry point of view. I have to say I was pretty proud to report our box office revenue. Call me old fashioned, call me an elitist, it doesn’t matter—I’m just pretty damn proud that I was able to report “box office revenue” yesterday.
Soon First Signal will be released digitally, and an entirely new audience will be introduced to the film. There will be those that love it, those that hate it and those that will simply discover it. At that point, my director hat will hang on the wall, while I replace it with one that says marketing director. For the next several months it will be my job to promote the film across as many channels as I can. I do look forward to bringing First Signal to the world.
But putting aside accolades and achievements, there was something I noticed last Friday that needs to mentioned—support. There were some audience members that drove for hours to support either the theater, the film, the actors or all three. They were there because they knew the dedication, perseverance and drive that goes into this industry. Whether you own the theater, direct the movie, operate a camera or act in the film, this industry is about community. It’s about like-minded people coming together for a moment to provide that one thing that can unite us all – entertainment and an escape to an imaginary world.
The day after First Signal had its world premiere, I received an email from a woman who took her grandson and great grandson to see the film, “Your film was enjoyed by myself, 16 y.o. grandson, and 11 y.o. great grandson on Saturday at Garden Cinema. Congratulations, thank you for sharing your artistic creation of a fantastically believable story that was very interesting, well-acted and just plain fun. Stepping over the threshold of the theater was itself mesmerizing and just got better from there. My heart was warmed by the minutes the boys excitedly shared their particular thoughts and impressions about the intelligence-based film as we drove home.”
And that ladies and gentlemen is why we do what we do.