Anyone that follows the entertainment industry knows that the entire playbook on how films are being released and marketed has been thrown out. Last year, films that were slated for a theatrical release went direct to the streamers. Others held back until there was a thaw in the global crisis. Some released last year. Some…. Well, you get the picture…literally.
For First Signal, once the film was complete last year, I started with the film festival market. This worked out well from a brand building point of view. The majority of festivals were virtual and did a wonderful job at marketing and promoting. As the festival run was coming to an end, I planned for our world theatrical premiere to be followed by a couple of more screenings before we went to VOD. I wanted to capitalize on the press we had to date and the social media presence we were developing from the festivals.
First Signal’s VOD release through our distributor Indie Rights could not have gone smoother. Within the first week we hit the top ½ 1% of all films listed on IMDb, there was a dip the following week, but by week three we were trending again in the top 1%. How this all translates from a revenue point of view I won’t know for some months. While marketing continues in earnest to promote our VOD efforts, I see no reason why theatrical can’t also be part of the mix. In my view, it’s about giving customers choices on how they want to experience a film.
I am delighted to announce that First Signal will have its Massachusetts premiere on Sunday, June 27 at 2 PM at the historic Strand Theatre in Clinton, MA! You can read our official press release at this link. The June 27th screening will mark my fourth film at the Strand. I remember like it was yesterday when my short film Evidence screened after J. Edgar. It was a thrill beyond words to see this short film come to life on the silver screen. While I certainly hoped to make the feature length version of Justice Is Mind, I had no idea that I would be screening the completed feature at the Strand two years later.
My point to all of this, is simple. Whether it’s VOD, theatrical, a special event, film festival or other venue, each moment should be seized because at the end of the day they all complement each other. With tens of thousands of films vying for eyeballs and attention from consumers and the media, every action that can bring attention to a film can only be a good thing.
As for attention, I’m also pleased to announce that First Signal won Best Screenplay and Writing at the Harrogate Film Society Festival Features in the United Kingdom. It’s very exciting just to be accepted to a festival, but to win is a true honor. Because when a film reaches the win stage, it has gone through many levels of vetting and review. In essence, it’s a vindication that as a filmmaker you’re on the right track.
Of course, one can never rest on their “laurels” as new projects need to be realized. That same week of First Signal’s win, my political thriller screenplay SOS United States won Best Screenplay at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Film Festival. As I’m making every effort to raise the capital to produce this story next year, each accolade is another step towards that goal.
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.