A couple of weeks ago I sent an update to the actors and crew of First Signal about what our release strategy may look like. I believe, if all goes according to plan, our first theatrical screening will be sometime in October. I hope that follows with additional theatrical and festival screenings into the second quarter of 2021 with a VOD release around May.
As someone who reads the trade publications, I see how release dates and general overall strategy is changing on a daily basis. This article in The Hollywood Reporter today, pretty much summed up the current state of the industry. Fortunately for First Signal, the film itself wrapped principal photography last year and just finished post in early June. So, all things considered, our release strategy hasn’t changed all that much.
I do believe one of the real issues that’s going to face this industry next year is available inventory of new product. With very little being produced over the last several months, eventually this empty space will catch up to the industry. I believe this is why we are seeing studios and distributors stagger their releases from the 3rd quarter of this year into 2021. They need commercial films to bring audiences back to theaters. Honestly, who really wants to see a previously released movie in a theater when you can watch it from the comfort of your sofa for a fraction of the price? Of course, I would love to see classics return to the silver screen. Particularly those from the 1930s, 40s and 50s!
So far, the festival market is going well for First Signal. I was delighted to receive a Best Director win from the Eurasia International Monthly Film Festival last week. To receive an accolade of this stature from a festival is truly an honor. This is all about building a momentum so when First Signal goes to VOD, a hopeful following has built up for the film. From a media point of view, there is so much noise to cut through to get noticed.
The release strategy I’m looking to employ is the model I did with Justice Is Mind. It started with a world premiere followed by a limited theatrical and special event run before it went to VOD. My feeling with Justice, and now First Signal, was to follow the studio model. If it works for them, why try to reinvent the wheel? I just adapted it for the scale of my project. At the end of Justice Is Mind’s run, we had numerous media reports and reviews that helped propel the film when it was released on VOD.
I will say one thing about frequent snowstorms in New England. It gives one plenty of time to follow up and organize. This is that time of year when one looks at their weather app not for the sun or rain, but when the next storm is coming. But go to a local grocery store the day before and you might think it’s the second coming, the day after a nuclear attack or other such apocalypse. If you’re visiting from out of the region when a storm is on the horizon, it really is something to see.
As for what’s on the horizon that would be the premiere of Serpentine: The Short Program on March 6 at the Strand Theatre and our VOD premiere on Amazon and other platforms on March 7. It’s a multi-layered marketing plan with a dual local and national push. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s about the follow up.
Whenever I pitch the media it always starts with an email. This gives an editor or reporter time to consider what I’m presenting. Sometimes coverage comes from just the email pitch. But I’ve found that a follow up call a few days later puts a personal touch to it. In today’s world of the endless pitch combined with the challenge of resources afforded by most outlets, a phone call can make the difference.
I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that we are bombarded by media alerts, postings, email and text on a non-stop basis when we first wake up. What’s important and what isn’t. What gets attention and what doesn’t. I do believe that when you put the personal touch of a call to what you’re presenting, it makes you stand out a bit more than the rest. Just this past week, I had some great conversations with editors about Serpentine and other interesting subjects.
This is the time of year of the awards shows and the film markets like Berlin. As I normally do when the markets are running, I read the daily reports in The Hollywood Reporter. They give a great insight into trends and what is and isn’t selling. It’s always interesting to me to follow a film from concept to film market to theatrical release. This is not a quick process by any means. As I’ve often said, the actual production of the film is the easy, and fun, part. It’s the pre and post production along with the release strategy that is the most time consuming. But being snowed in does give one plenty of time.
Although summer doesn’t formally end until September, it’s the end of August when many of us reflect on what we’ve done. For some reason summer says you have to do things. Personally, the summer is just another set of months for me, albeit it’s warmer! But from some cool day trips, to planning the 2nd anniversary screening of Justice Is Mind to adapting a book into a screenplay, I would say my summer has been pretty complete if not complex.
Regarding Justice Is Mind’s screening on August 18, I had a pleasant surprise this past week. Although I knew she took some pictures and asked a few questions, I didn’t know the reporter from the Sturbridge Villager was planning a follow up story. But follow up she did when this story appeared in the Sturbridge and Charlton Villager along with the Webster Times. My thanks to Olivia Richman and her enthusiastic post-screening coverage of Justice Is Mind!
Our record media coverage of this screening certainly helped our VOD placements. Just after the screening Yidio, a video aggregator, sent out a notification that “Justice Is Mind is Hot”. The only way that was possible is if an inordinate number of people were watching and/or searching for the film. I’ll certainly take it!
This past weekend marked another milestone. I finished the adaption of Winds of Fall into a screenplay. My work on this project was actually mentioned in the Sturbridge Villager two weeks ago when they ran a story on Al Mercado’s new book. This is a story that is entirely character driven and largely set in the late 1960s. More on this project as it develops.
As for projects, with fall around the corner, it’s also time to make sure First World, SOS United States and In Mind We Trust are up to date along with their respective business plans. The summer is a great time to write and update, but it’s the fall months where new activity really starts in the film world. Anyone involved in film finance knows this is a process. Presentations made months ago can suddenly start to yeild conversations.
It has been interesting. For the last few years, my summers have largely been planning stages while the fall has seen the most activity. In 2012 it was the making of Justice Is Mind, in 2013 it was the primary theatrical run, in 2014 it was the international premiere, let’s see what the next few months brings.