As I approach the end of the latest story I’m writing in the First World Universe, I can’t help but feel a wave of emotions. There’s the excitement of course about completing a new story, but then there is that twinge of sadness as it’s coming to an end. As a writer, we live with our characters. From their victories and failures to achievements and disappointments, their world is revealed for all to see.
While the story is new, some of the characters have already been established and brought to life in First Signal. The returning characters in this story are President Colton, General Reager, Major Sampson, Elisabeth Seward and James Griffin. As I saw how each actor brought these characters to life, it has made the writing of their actions and dialogue a bit easier as they are familiar. But in this story, there are numerous new characters with the creation of Kate Cloverton as the star.
Cloverton, a rising journalist for a major American media company, I realized after the first act is a combination of many journalists I have known over the years. While she’s determined to get the story, she exhibits self-doubt. She questions if the work she does really matters. It’s a colleague of hers that puts her back on track. A colleague who has had some limited success in his own career, but then finds that his efforts hit a brick wall.
I have seen the competitive aspects of journalists first-hand. There are those that are methodical in research and interviews with their eye on the long view without coming to a conclusion prematurely. Then there are those that have an idea for a story and will do whatever they need to do to publish their views. I think we can all agree that the latter has taken over the contemporary world of journalism.
But in this story, Cloverton is sent on a journey by an editor that has a mission of his own. While perhaps well meaning, this editor had no idea that Cloverton’s ingenuity, gut instincts and willingness to take risks, would set world governments and an alien presence on Earth on a collision of Biblical proportions. I should have a first draft completed by mid-November.
A couple of weeks ago after I received our first quarterly payment for First Signal from our distributor Indie Rights, I received a couple of messages from their filmmakers on what I did for marketing. After communicating their messages to our distributor, they asked if I would like to publish a case study on how I marketed First Signal. I was happy to do so.
While I don’t think what I do for film marketing is revolutionary, there is one thing I do that I sadly don’t see employed—consistent marketing. Marketing is all about consistency, scheduling and messaging. For me, I simply calendar what I need to do on a weekly basis and stay the course. What I largely do isn’t based on how much cash I spend, but how much time I spend. If spending an hour a day on marketing yields a positive cash flow, I’d say that’s time well spent.
When First Signal was released on VOD on April 26, my goal at the time was simply to promote and market as much as I could. From digital marketing, email, video and traditional print, the aim was to simply get the word out. When First Signal was in post-production, I was already working on the marketing plan. I looked at what I did with Justice Is Mind some years ago and updated it with the best practices of the day. As I often do, I laid out the plan by day, week, month, etc. It was very comprehensive the first three months and then tapered down to what I call standard marketing.
In the world of filmmaking, unless you are doing a theatrical release and can measure box office receipts on a daily basis, you have to wait to see how your efforts faired. By example, I wasn’t going to know how our marketing efforts for the 2nd quarter did until the start of the 4th quarter. The reasons for the wait are numerous but suffice to say there’s a lot of data that has to be received, compiled and sorted between the various platforms and distributors. For the 2nd and part of the 3rd quarter, I was fairly aggressive with First Signal’s marketing plan. I set a monthly cash spend on digital media along with some other online activities. But as I wasn’t sure if it was going to fully work or not, I suspended the cash spend shortly into the third quarter. Marketing in many ways is all about testing. Basically, you’re drilling for oil. You have these charts and seismic reports that indicate certain areas may have, in this case an audience instead of oil, so you just have to hope where you put the drill yields some black gold.
You can only imagine my anticipation in waiting for these reports. While I love all facets of filmmaking, at the end of the day it’s business. When the reports arrived Friday night, I have to admit my hand shook a bit as I was scrolling the list until I came across First Signal. I kept looking at the line for a moment, because I wanted to make sure I was looking at the information correctly. The results for the 2nd quarter were in. My cash marketing investment brought a ROI of 1,733%! Naturally, I was thrilled. If anything, else, it proved that consistent marketing works.
But marketing, like producing a film, is a team effort. To the actors and crew that helped promote First Signal publicly and privately I say thank you. To the audiences that attended one of our theatrical screenings or watched online, you are the reasons why filmmakers like me are able to continue producing. But through this all, a special thank you to Linda Nelson, Michael Madison and the team at Indie Rights for distributing First Signal. For without a quality distributor all the marketing efforts are for naught.
Although I won’t be releasing figures publicly for a variety of market and contractual reasons, I will leave you all with this. I have been working in marketing for over twenty years. I was fortunate at an early age to work alongside some of the most brilliant marketers I have ever known. As they taught me at the time, I now pass along. Marketing is the key when launching and promoting a product. I have often said you can have the greatest product in the world, but if nobody knows about it, nobody cares. The adage if you build it, they will come is a misnomer. Simply, some of the world’s greatest products employ multi-faceted marketing programs that continue to bring awareness long after they were built.