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.
Two days after the world premiere of First Signal, Daniel Groom and I taped interviews with some of the staring actors for up the upcoming VOD release. These videos will be published in increments as a series over a twelve-week period.
I have always enjoyed the interview process and talking about a variety of subjects. For me I don’t force ideas or new ventures, they just seem to present themselves. When I started a figure skating magazine back in the early 90s, it was because I wanted something to read about the news of the sport. Justice Is Mind came to being after writing the sequel to First World and seeing a show about mind-reading on 60 Minutes. First Signal was born out of sitting in a bunker-like room at the Naval Justice School and revisiting my notes from First World. Stay tuned for our first episode and announcement.
A few days prior to our world premiere, I pitched another theater about screening First Signal. As the details weren’t finalized at the time, I didn’t talk about it. But just days after the actor interviews, the New Hampshire premiere of First Signal at Smitty’s Cinema was confirmed. This past Thursday, Patience McStravick (Major Ellen Sampson), Paul Noonan (General John Reager) and I found ourselves in Tilton, NH at another premiere!
Smitty’s Cinema is a four-location chain based in New Hampshire. What’s great about these local theaters is their enthusiasm. From the moment the deal was confirmed, they went to work on marketing the premiere. Combing their efforts with ours, resulted in a successful screening. To support our efforts, The Concord Monitor ran a great story with The Laconia Daily News picking up our press release.
As I noted with our world premiere at Greenfield Garden Cinemas a few weeks earlier, I witnessed with Smitty’s Cinema—local communities supporting theater and independent films. The shared experience learning about a new film in the paper, to seeing the film in a theater to talking about the film after screening, theaters bring communities together.
Today, I am putting the final touches on a private screening for First Signal. Tomorrow will be a celebration of cast, crew and our guests before First Signal is released to the world. In some ways it feels like this journey is coming to end, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is nothing really ends in this industry, it’s always about new beginnings.