As an independent filmmaker finding an audience is probably one of the most challenging aspects of the process. I recently had a meeting with a filmmaker who has largely left the industry owing to their frustration in getting their work seen. Any distributor will tell you that it’s the responsibility of the filmmaker to market their film. That’s just the way it is. Simply, there are so many films being made and the profit margins are so thin (if they even exist on most projects), that a distributor can’t justify, and usually doesn’t have the staff, to separately market each film.
But there is another aspect of this industry that every filmmaker (and even actor) needs to be aware of, the charlatans that sell their services and expertise. Having been in this industry for over twenty years, I promise you that 95% of them aren’t worth the electrons in the emails they send.
Two weeks ago I was approached by a filmmaker who tried to sell me his services as a marketer. First, if you’re going to pitch your services, know who you are pitching to. Not only was this filmmaker from the distributor I use for one of my films, but I also prepared and published a marketing case study to this group. Putting aside that he may have missed the communications in the group, it was clear he never reviewed my film’s website or social media channels. But when I reviewed his film, there was barely any social media presence to say nothing of a solid IMDb page. My point is simple; if you are pitched a service do some due diligence first.
But like any other product, once it becomes known and an audience is developed, you get the naysayers and the critics. It’s just par for the course. While it did take time for me to develop a thick Kevlar-like skin, and nobody likes seeing negative comments, just remember this – with every posting and interaction they are just propelling your product.
With over 700,000 trackable views on one VOD outlet alone, with a projected 1,000,000 plus on all channels, I am more than pleased with First Signal’s results to date. While I was hoping the film would find an audience with the marketing plan I implemented, I had no idea it would do as well as it has.
But with that kind of audience it takes a certain amount of management and interaction. Yes, I do interact with those that have a constructive comment about First Signal, but I just don’t waste the time with those that have spiteful comments. Seriously, what’s the point. Arguing on the internet doesn’t change minds, it just unnecessarily raises blood pressure. But at the end of the day every comment, good, bad or indifferent just raises your profile and profitability.
As I’ve often said to many in my circle, if you get into this business for endless accolades, you will be sorely disappointed. The goal, in my view, is to do good work that is appreciated by an audience that discovers it. By example, I love the work of Salvador Dali, but others may loath it. I’ve never understood the hype around 2001: A Space Odyssey but love The Andromeda Strain.
Yesterday I ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen in few years. The first thing he asked me was “How’s the writing going?” I told him about First Signal and a few other things going on. As he runs a successful business in Worcester, I asked him how the salon was. He responded “Busy.” I really didn’t have to ask him that because I know his salon is always busy. He’s been working on building his brand for years.
It took some years to build my brand in figure skating and equally as long as a writer and filmmaker outside of the sport. Building a brand isn’t something that happens overnight. It builds from one project to another. However, we now live in a world where people think that having a large social media following is a brand. Social media, in my view, is great for amplifying what you’re doing in the real world. But without a foundation of something, it’s just likes.
When I started to revive the First World Universe to write First Signal a few years ago, I realized after reviewing all my original material and the media we had at the time, that I created a unique brand. One with its own voice. With First Signal I finally had the opportunity to present this world as a feature film. The first in what I hope to be a series of films in the First World Universe.
With the trailer nearly complete, the marketing train will soon be leaving the station. Once it leaves it can’t come back. While post-production has been going on in earnest with countless notes with the editor, composer and VFX artist, I’ve been working out the marketing plans for the trailer and ultimately the feature. All of us on the post-production team know how important it is for the trailer to present the film. At the end of the day it’s about selling the feature.
As for the First World Universe, I’m just over the thirty-page mark for the sequel. This is the story that takes place before the events in First World. In my view, writing a sequel is no easy feat. You must balance the established characters and their stories with something new. I think one of the most interesting sequels was 2010 from the legendary 2001. Starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow and Helen Mirren, 2010 created a wonderful “what if” possibility.
In the sequel to First Signal the following dialogue happens in the Oval Office
“Exactly. Now he’s operating covertly and illegally. If you lose and Reager legitimately controls the military and his commander in chief is complicit, history books won’t judge your actions today, because they’ll be none left. It will be the end of civilization.” – Elisabeth Seward, National Security Advisor to President Helen Colton
That dialogue derives from actions around Operation Troy in First Signal.
“General if I sign this. What’s the objective of Operation Troy?” – Helen Colton, President, United States of America.
“Identification.” – General John Reager, Commander, Air Force Space Command
This week I write the draft press release and email newsletter to announce the trailer. As for when the trailer will be released? Sometime in February