Anyone that follows the entertainment industry knows that the entire playbook on how films are being released and marketed has been thrown out. Last year, films that were slated for a theatrical release went direct to the streamers. Others held back until there was a thaw in the global crisis. Some released last year. Some…. Well, you get the picture…literally.
For First Signal, once the film was complete last year, I started with the film festival market. This worked out well from a brand building point of view. The majority of festivals were virtual and did a wonderful job at marketing and promoting. As the festival run was coming to an end, I planned for our world theatrical premiere to be followed by a couple of more screenings before we went to VOD. I wanted to capitalize on the press we had to date and the social media presence we were developing from the festivals.
First Signal’s VOD release through our distributor Indie Rights could not have gone smoother. Within the first week we hit the top ½ 1% of all films listed on IMDb, there was a dip the following week, but by week three we were trending again in the top 1%. How this all translates from a revenue point of view I won’t know for some months. While marketing continues in earnest to promote our VOD efforts, I see no reason why theatrical can’t also be part of the mix. In my view, it’s about giving customers choices on how they want to experience a film.
I am delighted to announce that First Signal will have its Massachusetts premiere on Sunday, June 27 at 2 PM at the historic Strand Theatre in Clinton, MA! You can read our official press release at this link. The June 27th screening will mark my fourth film at the Strand. I remember like it was yesterday when my short film Evidence screened after J. Edgar. It was a thrill beyond words to see this short film come to life on the silver screen. While I certainly hoped to make the feature length version of Justice Is Mind, I had no idea that I would be screening the completed feature at the Strand two years later.
My point to all of this, is simple. Whether it’s VOD, theatrical, a special event, film festival or other venue, each moment should be seized because at the end of the day they all complement each other. With tens of thousands of films vying for eyeballs and attention from consumers and the media, every action that can bring attention to a film can only be a good thing.
As for attention, I’m also pleased to announce that First Signal won Best Screenplay and Writing at the Harrogate Film Society Festival Features in the United Kingdom. It’s very exciting just to be accepted to a festival, but to win is a true honor. Because when a film reaches the win stage, it has gone through many levels of vetting and review. In essence, it’s a vindication that as a filmmaker you’re on the right track.
Of course, one can never rest on their “laurels” as new projects need to be realized. That same week of First Signal’s win, my political thriller screenplay SOS United States won Best Screenplay at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Film Festival. As I’m making every effort to raise the capital to produce this story next year, each accolade is another step towards that goal.
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?”