As 2020 was drawing to a close I received word that First Signal won Best Screenplay at Indo-Global International Film Festival. With what 2020 brought to so many, this award was a welcome bit of good news to end the year. Despite everything, First Signal had a great 2020.
2021 will be ushering in changes on so many levels. Whether they be personal, professional or global, transition is in the air. We can either stand still to see what those changes are or ride the waves of trends and change to see what best suits us all. I can only speak for myself personally when I say that I now carefully plan and analyze before I make a decision. Despite what is thrown at us on a daily basis, I continue to believe that the world is filled with opportunity. For me, it’s about aligning myself in circles that I want to be part of. I can’t roll a square boulder up a hill, but I feel I can control the roll of such boulder on the other side with the right team of friends and colleagues. I’ve always believed in partnering with those that want to accomplish something—that want to go forward. Nothing is worse than those that subscribe to the “Debbie Downer” mentality!
Of course, one decision I need to make soon is the company that will eventually distribute First Signal. As of today, I’ve narrowed it down to five. Last year was certainly the year of education when it came to sales agents and distributors. But as a fellow filmmaker said to me, “they all sell to the same outlets.” As there’s only one Amazon, Tubi, etc., what it comes down to is how they present the film to the outlets, how they market and what their terms are. While the terms may differ in deal length, percentages and expenses, there is one deal point that I can’t agree to—a title change.
While I understand that films have a change in title depending on certain factors, changing the name of First Signal is a dealbreaker for me. Over the last ten plus years I have developed the First World Universe. First Signal is the “first” entry in this new franchise to be followed by First Launch, First World and so on. There has been substantive branding over the last decade that has included everything from press to traditional and digital marketing along with numerous film festivals. Sales agent may view a title change as a way to optimize sales, but the casual disregard of years of branding seems callous to me. However, one also needs to be flexible. Nobody gets everything they want in a negotiation. That’s not realistic. The key, I believe, is to strike a balance that works for both parties.
Next week will also start some promotion for SOS United States through FilmFreeway. I’m pretty excited to see where this new venture goes while I continue to market First Signal and the development of the First World Universe.
Many years ago, while I was in living in Los Angeles a friend in the industry gave me some solid advice–You need to have more than one project going at any time. And when I was working endlessly trying to get First World funded, another friend of mine said to me—Why don’t you try to write something else while developing this one? It was hard to hear advice that went against my steadfast one-track mentality, but taking that advise created Justice Is Mind, First Signal and hopefully soon SOS United States.
Today I received notice that First Signal is a Semi-Finalist in the International Moving Film Festival in Iran. This marks our 21st film festival acceptance. I could not be more pleased with our results to date. What I’m particularly enjoying is the global reach of First Signal. From the United States to India; the United Kingdom to Russia; France to Iran, these are just some of the countries that selected First Signal for their festivals. What these festivals represent is a worldwide acceptance of the story in the film. I never wrote First Signal for one particular audience or demographic, I wrote it to appeal to a wide and culturally diverse audience.
There are thousands of festivals to submit to and a limited budget for submission fees. Too often we hear the same lecture about the importance of getting accepted to the top tier festivals. Worse media outlets continue to support that narrative. I read in Videomaker magazine last week that “the rest of them are worthless.” That pious elitism by inexperienced biased journalists in the industry does nothing but insult festivals and filmmakers. There are countless wonderful film festivals that make it their mission to review, accept and promote all types of films. This industry is about the voices of many not the few.
As First Signal has reached the halfway mark on the festival circuit, I’m excited to see what 2021 brings (I think we will all be glad to leave 2020!). There are many things from a marketing and promotion perspective that I hope to introduce next year. The goal is to develop some noise to cut through the traditional and social media clutter.
While First Signal continues into 2021, it’s time to look forward towards the sequel First Launch—The President faces a military coup and extrasolar war when a covertly built second generation space shuttle reveals a worldwide military destined to confront an alien presence on Earth. First Launch takes place two years after the events in First Signal and weeks before the events in First World. I always let my screenplays “sit” for a bit before I write the synopsis. In my view a synopsis is probably the hardest thing to write. There are many ways to write a synopsis. I endeavor to keep mine to one page and not to give everything away. You can read the synopsis at this link.
It’s hard to believe that my idea for this “First World Universe” started in 2006 when I wrote First World. Here we are fourteen years later in 2020 with the start of that universe being First Signal. I remember like it was yesterday making the endless pitches for First World. I looked at the submission file the other day and it was staggering. But when you are determined to do something you see it through as long as you possibly can. Sometimes things happen quickly, sometimes they can seem to take forever. But when a film project is finally realized, the time from concept to completion just evaporates.