I remember like it was yesterday when First Signal was on the festival circuit and I was reviewing and having conversations with distributors. The duplicity of so many with their endless fees and one-sided life-binding contracts combined with promises that frankly I knew where going to go nowhere, wasn’t exactly a recipe for lifting spirts. But it was the discussions I had with Indie Rights that presented the first honest and straightforward approach to film distribution that was truly a breath of fresh air. I knew going into it, that we were weren’t just handing First Signal over to them and that was the end of it. It was a partnership – they distributed while I marketed.
As Indie Rights continues to find outlets to distribute First Signal, I continue the marketing process. Although it has been a year since First Signal was released, the film is consistently performing on established outlets like Tubi and Amazon while finding new audiences on YouTube. With over 800,000 views in the last four months, YouTube is a platform that delivers solid advertising revenue to its filmmakers while delivering a global audience.
But the one thing I can definitively state today is that First Signal is technically in the black. While I didn’t “bet the ranch” from a budget POV, my investment was a solid one that I was hoping to eventually recoup. This milestone has given me confidence that one can be “in business” as an independent filmmaker. When I say independent filmmaker, I’m not talking about those that are connected to studios, mini-majors, millionaire investors or the like, I’m talking about those that look at their personal savings and investment accounts and say to themselves, “OK, I believe in this project. I’ll take the risk.” Fortunately, in the case of First Signal, the risk paid off.
As for the next risk, a filmmaker friend and I visited Battleship Cove last weekend. With the USS Massachusetts appearing prominently in one of the opening scenes of SOS United States, I’m starting to visualize the production coming together. But like First Signal, and Justice Is Mind, it will come down to finding a variety of key locations to make this political thriller come to life.
On reflection of this revenue milestone, it took over a decade to bring the First World Universe to life with First Signal. While there was the short film version of First World to introduce this new concept in 2007, it was the production of a feature film in First Signal that has truly started the franchise. With the positive feedback First Signal is receiving on YouTube as an audience indicator, developing this new sci-fi franchise for production has taken on a renewed purpose.
When I set out to write First Signal in 2017 my goal was to simply write a prequel to First World. What I couldn’t have foreseen was the timeliness of the film when it was released in 2021. It was in 2017 when The New York Times suddenly released videos that purported to be UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). Provided by Luis Elizondo, who was once the head of the Advanced Aerospace (or Aviation) Threat Identification Program, the videos sparked a media frenzy the world hasn’t seen in decades on this subject.
In early June the head of the U.S. intelligence community along with the secretary of state will be delivering to the U.S. Senate a report on the topic of UAPs also know as UFOs. What will be revealed in that report and what will be disclosed to the public, I’m fairly confident will be two different things. But one thing is certain, the questions on who or what is behind these videos simply will not stop. In fact, any concealment by the government will only further exacerbate the claim that the government is hiding something from the public.
I was about halfway through writing First Signal when these videos were released. While I wanted to include them in the story, I also wanted to broaden the “government coverup” aspect to not only include the central storyline of First Signal, but what the government may or may not do during such a crisis.
In one scene, General Reager states quite clearly that public doesn’t have the right to know the truth, “I call it protecting the people from themselves.” President Colton echoes his position when she states, “There are some matters of state that can’t be disclosed.” Do I believe that this may be the case with the upcoming June report? Who knows. But given present world events, I don’t think those of us that would frankly welcome an alien presence on Earth are going to be told much…if anything.
But putting aside my personal feelings on the matter of UFOs, the media around this subject is most certainly a boon for films like First Signal. As an independent filmmaker we do what we can with the resources we have to attract attention to our projects. Yet we always hope for some sort of outside influence to further propel our films forward. This happened with Justice Is Mind when suddenly “thought identification” technology was in the news during the time the film was released.
One does have to wonder if this report to Congress could create something on the order of an Operation Troy like we see in First Signal. Honestly, if the military knows about an alien presence on Earth or in our solar system, wouldn’t they use every conceivable method at their disposal to fully understand it? Of course they would along with, more than likely, linking with the militaries and intelligence agencies of other countries. They say knowledge is power, but sometimes one must also ask the question, “Do you really want the answers to the questions you seek?”
On a personal level, I do hope in my lifetime we definitively learn that we are not alone in the universe. I truly believe that this knowledge will benefit our planet not hinder it. As Cedric Yonah says in First Signal, “This is a time to study and investigate. Can you imagine what you could learn from them?”