A Titanic Story
I first became interested in the RMS Titanic through my mother. In the 1970s she was a member of the Titanic Historical Society and received their magazine The Titanic Commutator. This was a wonderful black and white publication that featured interesting stories about the famed ship, interviews from survivors along with a host of other information about ocean liner travel, etc.
My interest in the Titanic continued with the history of ocean liners and then the more contemporary cruise ships. I took my first cruise in the early 1980s (If I recall it was on the MS Starward). Traveling by cruise ship is my preferred way to travel. The last cruise my mother and I took was on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth in 2014 where we had Justice Is Mind’s international premiere. Combining my love for cruise travel with filmmaking was a dream come true.
When I was visiting Battleship Cove a few weeks ago with my friend and fellow filmmaker Daniel Groom, we went to the Maritime Museum (which is part of Battleship Cove) to see the Titanic model used in the movie Titanic that starred Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck. I then remembered the Titanic Historical Society and their museum. No sooner did I get home and I confirmed that the museum still existed and was located in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. Needless to say, we made plans to visit.
For those that are interested in the history of the Titanic, the Titanic Museum is a true gem. This private museum (thus, no pictures) sits in the back of a Henry’s Jewelry store. As the website states, you step back in time to the 1950s when you enter. Founder Edward Kamuda’s sister welcomed us and was a wonderful fountain of information, history and stories I never heard before about the ship and the world around it.
There are countless interesting artifacts for visitors to experience. Two particular objects I enjoyed seeing were the display consoles that Dr. Robert Ballard donated to the museum. These were the consoles that revealed the discovery of the Titanic in 1985.
When the movie Titanic came out in 1997, I was hoping to, somehow, get some coverage into the figure skating magazine I was publishing at the time. Fortunately, I received a photo of Michelle Kwan from a taping of The Tonight Show with Kate Winslet and then the Ice Theatre of New York had a Titanic themed event. After the issue came out, through a connection I had, Kathy Bates (who played Molly Brown in Titanic) autographed the article for my mother.
The history of the White Star Line that owned the Titanic is a storied one. After Cunard and White Star merged in 1934, the White Star name all but disappeared in the following years until Cunard introduced Cunard White Star Service. To quote from Cunard’s website, “Today, Cunard White Star Service® is a lasting legacy of our historical connection to the White Star Line and honors the golden era of these elegant and luxurious vessels.”
I remember like it was yesterday when First Signal was on the festival circuit and I was reviewing and having conversations with distributors. The duplicity of so many with their endless fees and one-sided life-binding contracts combined with promises that frankly I knew where going to go nowhere, wasn’t exactly a recipe for lifting spirts. But it was the discussions I had with Indie Rights that presented the first honest and straightforward approach to film distribution that was truly a breath of fresh air. I knew going into it, that we were weren’t just handing First Signal over to them and that was the end of it. It was a partnership – they distributed while I marketed.
As Indie Rights continues to find outlets to distribute First Signal, I continue the marketing process. Although it has been a year since First Signal was released, the film is consistently performing on established outlets like Tubi and Amazon while finding new audiences on YouTube. With over 800,000 views in the last four months, YouTube is a platform that delivers solid advertising revenue to its filmmakers while delivering a global audience.
But the one thing I can definitively state today is that First Signal is technically in the black. While I didn’t “bet the ranch” from a budget POV, my investment was a solid one that I was hoping to eventually recoup. This milestone has given me confidence that one can be “in business” as an independent filmmaker. When I say independent filmmaker, I’m not talking about those that are connected to studios, mini-majors, millionaire investors or the like, I’m talking about those that look at their personal savings and investment accounts and say to themselves, “OK, I believe in this project. I’ll take the risk.” Fortunately, in the case of First Signal, the risk paid off.
As for the next risk, a filmmaker friend and I visited Battleship Cove last weekend. With the USS Massachusetts appearing prominently in one of the opening scenes of SOS United States, I’m starting to visualize the production coming together. But like First Signal, and Justice Is Mind, it will come down to finding a variety of key locations to make this political thriller come to life.
On reflection of this revenue milestone, it took over a decade to bring the First World Universe to life with First Signal. While there was the short film version of First World to introduce this new concept in 2007, it was the production of a feature film in First Signal that has truly started the franchise. With the positive feedback First Signal is receiving on YouTube as an audience indicator, developing this new sci-fi franchise for production has taken on a renewed purpose.