This past week First Signal premiered on The Roku Channel. With Roku, First Signal is now available on five major VOD platforms and is virtually available anywhere in the world. While I was certainly hoping for a solid distribution deal when I was producing First Signal, I honestly had no idea where the film was going to go. The one thing I was sure of, is that the film had to be placed properly if I was to continue developing and producing films.
On the subject of producing, over the last couple of months I’ve been participating in a variety of seminars and discussions on film financing. While the industry has changed from a technology (production) and distribution POV, the world of film financing is still populated with the usual characters and discussions – i.e., if you pay for services, you have a better chance of success.
Before I get into the weeds on film financing, let me break it down. When I say film financing, I’m talking about raising a couple of million (or more) to produce a feature film or a series. The “dream” way is that an agent, producer or production company discovers your work and sets up the project. The way that takes “work work” is pitching and presenting your project to the aforementioned entities. This is where the usual characters and discussions apply.
While there are many qualified, talented and connected people that are selling their services and introductions, all I can say is caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. When you listen to these people there is a narrative that populates the majority – if you don’t do it their way, you won’t be successful. While listening is important, at the end of the day you just must throw caution to the wind and produce. There is no easy path to producing. Whether you do it yourself or in partnership with others, the risk and reward are the same. The only difference is the dollars – are they yours or someone that’s investing in you.
One thing I learned when revisiting this world of film financing, is that I discovered that some folks that were pitching their projects over ten years ago are still pitching and paying along the way. How much money do you need to spend on contests, experts, etc. to get that perfect approval? You could spend from here to next never and still not get a green light. But one thing you can do, is listen, research, plan and then produce – on your own. I’ve taken this approach on five occasions with three shorts and two features. Had I waited for all the planets to align, my two feature films, Justice Is Mind and First Signal, would still only exist as a script.
Although I’m often approached by filmmakers on a variety of topics, I never sell my services. What works for me, might not work for you. What I do contribute is my experience. Some may like my approach, while others might find it too direct.
All this being said, while I continue to pitch and present, I’m actively working on self-producing my next project. I can’t wait for next never!
Since First Signal wrapped production in 2019 I have written the next two stories in the franchise – First Report and First Launch. While I could probably pull off First Report from my own resources, First Launch requires a substantive seven figure budget. With First Signal rapidly approaching a key VOD milestone, I’m also starting to receive more and more inquiries on when part two will go into production. Both developments are obviously good news and positive indicators that the story has been well received.
The production of First Report would in fact be the next two feature films in the franchise (it’s one story, but a 190-page script). Whether my next feature film is in the First World Universe or is SOS United States, the key is being able to develop and produce a product that exceeds the first. As a filmmaker I owe it to myself to raise the bar on quality and substance.
When I was visiting Newport yesterday, I couldn’t help but remember that First Signal was born out of my work at the Naval Justice School. It took an experience at a military base, to bring that project to life. Similarly, when I visit any of the Newport mansions, I see the sequel to First Signal clearly as President Colton resides at an estate in First Report.
As I was touring Rosecliff yesterday, I remember producing a photo shoot at this storied Gilded Age mansion with Nancy Kerrigan for my old figure skating magazine. It was about 20 years ago when, for a brief moment in time, I was producing at my favorite of all Newport mansions. Time will tell if President Colton exits the ballroom to the sweeping ocean front lawn and boards an awaiting Arctran.
But that is what this industry is all about – imagination. From coming up with an idea, committing it to paper and then bringing it to life on the silver screen is an experience like none other.
But until that next moment of pre-production arrives, it’s about experiences. As some may have noticed from this blog and my social media posts, I’ve been doing a fair amount of weekend day trips. While these are a nice getaway, they also open my eyes to the possibility of locations and other resources to bring the next story to life.
I mentioned to a colleague last month, that I’m at that stage where I am far enough out from my last feature film to start working on another, but I’m not going to rush the process either. Frankly, I’ve never quite understood those that jump from producing one project to another without properly releasing or marketing the final product. I understand the desire to produce, but isn’t it also about developing an audience?