Last week First Signal’s participation in the film festival circuit concluded with our final official selection at the Mesa International Film Festival. With 29 official selections and 17 wins, I couldn’t be more pleased. When a filmmaker enters a film festival there is no guarantee of acceptance, never mind a win. To each and every film festival that believed in First Signal, I say thank you.
Throughout First Signal’s festival run I communicated with a variety of festival operators all over the world. The passion they bring to their festival is just as enthusiastic as we bring to our films. In a sea of competition between festivals and films, when we work together, we create a stronger industry. For it is the world of independent film that sustains the market on all sides of the camera.
With First Signal properly distributed through Indie Rights and marketing ongoing, efforts turn more fully to SOS United States and the completion of my latest story in the First World Universe. These past couple of weeks have been very kind to SOS. With the script winning Best Screenplay at the L A Live Film Festival and an official selection at the Austria International Film Festival, the story, forgive the pun, is sailing along nicely in the festival circuit.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been working on breaking down SOS for hopeful production next year. Having now produced two feature films (and a few shorts), with more experience comes more awareness. This can certainly be a double-edged sword. You instinctively know what’s needed to produce, but you want to bring a certain quality to the final product. In other words, stepping up my own game. Whenever I set out to produce a new project, I compete against myself. I simply ask, did I bring more to this project than the last. As long as I can answer that question with an affirmative yes, I feel that I’ve truly accomplished something.
I see so many in this industry rushing from one project to another without fully completing anything. Case in point the project I was involved in this past summer as an actor. Principal photography wasn’t even completed, and I was hearing about two other projects they were filming right away. When I asked what the distribution and marketing plans were for the project we were on, total deer in the headlights.
As for completing things, my new story in the First World Universe has truly turned into a universe of its own! With 52 speaking parts, it slightly exceeds Justice Is Mind and certainly many more than First Signal. The story primarily revolves round 10 characters with 5 of those being from First Signal.
However, as I come into the final pages of the story, this is where all the loose ends need to be tied up to some degree. While I have my 20+ odd pages of notes, I feel like I’m on final approach to landing and going over checklists. One thing not checked and a character or plot point, might not be resolved. I can’t speak for any of you reading this post, but how many of us have watched a film and then said to ourselves…whatever happened to?
When I was notified this week that SOS United States was a finalist for Best Feature Screenplay in AFIN International Film Festival, I was thrilled. The last several weeks have been good to my political thriller screenplay with festivals “boarding” the concept.
It’s one thing to write a screenplay, it’s another to develop it. When I wrote SOS, I was coming off the release and marketing of Justice Is Mind – my first feature film. For me, I need to be in the valley of quiet before I start to write another screenplay. When I’m actively producing or releasing a film, I find there are simply too many distractions to properly concentrate to allow new characters and stories to come to life. Likewise, it would be a disservice to the marketing and release of a film if my attention was on writing another story. At the end of the day, we are creating and marketing a brand. I’ve always believed that each component needs to be taken as seriously as the other.
As I near the 80-page mark in my latest screenplay in The First World Universe, I find that my writing process is starting to change. As this story tracks two other storylines along with the primary line, I find after I write out a particular scene in Word, I need to let it sit for a day or two so other thoughts come to mind. Once some of these new strings to the story come forward, it’s another round in Word before I go to Final Draft. I applaud those that can write in Final Draft from the get-go. For me, I’m thinking in so many voices and moments so rapidly that I need to type as fast as I’m thinking. Someone asked me recently, how I came up with the latest idea. It originates with this one line from First Signal.
Of course, there is one thing that every filmmaker looks forward to and that’s the quarterly payment from the distributor. My two feature films are placed with two different distributors while my three shorts are placed direct. When I think how much the world of film distribution has changed in the last ten years it just boggles my mind.
When Justice Is Mind was released in 2013, theatrical was humming, traditional media was plentiful, social media was growing and Amazon was the place to be for VOD. Flash forward to the present and while the mechanics are still there, the metrics and dynamics have changed dramatically. I’ll say this, as Justice Is Mind has been on both SVOD and AVOD platforms for some time, I can say without a doubt that AVOD platforms (Tubi) are the revenue generators for independent film. In the next couple of weeks First Signal will receive its first distributor payment. It will be very interesting to see performance by platform when compared to its marketing spend and promotion.