This coming Sunday, June 27 is the Massachusetts premiere of First Signal at The Strand Theatre in Clinton, MA. Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to our next screening. Since First Signal arrived on VOD in April it’s been continuous steady marketing efforts, but a screening is an event. As such, it should be promoted that way. To that end, I was very pleased to see The Item’s “Area native film, ‘First Signal,’ gets Massachusetts premiere at The Strand” article in the latest issue.
When I was reflecting on my past films at The Strand, it was The Item that always published a solid article before a screening. Those notices are a godsend to any filmmaker as they not only alert audiences to a screening event but contribute to the overall branding of the film. Securing press for a VOD only release of an independent film is not easy. But a theatrical screening? That sets it apart from the tens of thousands of other films vying for ink and eyeballs.
As I mentioned to a friend in the industry a few weeks ago, the media and filmmaking landscape has changed significantly since I released Justice Is Mind in 2013. Simply, there are more films being released and less media outlets to report. And if they can report, page counts and staff have been reduced. My point—getting media attention takes work and is harder. Yes, there are countless blogs and then there is social media, but a “newspaper article” is quite grand as they reserved space for you. Almost like a film festival, they vetted what they are going to report.
In regard to marketing and promotion, we are eight weeks into First Signal’s series of actor interviews. For those that want to gain some insight into the creation of First Signal and how the world of independent filmmaking works, you can check them out at this link. As each interview was about 35 minutes long, we had them broken down into three parts for each actor. Starting this Saturday, I’ll be posting part three of each actor’s interview. Look for a new one each Saturday for the next month.
Today I went to the American Heritage Museum (where we filmed First Signal’s actor interviews), to attend their Tanks, Wings and Wheels event. The team that brings this museum to life does so in a way that has you leaving with a unique perspective on the history of war. From the introductory film to the WWI trench experience to the “Winds of War” War Clouds room followed by the main exhibits, the American Heritage Museum is a total immersive experience brilliantly presented. For those of you that are interested in learning more about this outstanding military history museum and attending some of their unique events, check them out at this link.
Shortly after my last post, the news came that Beyond the Curve International Film Festival had awarded First Signal Best Sci-Fi Movie. About a week later Aasha International Film Festival granted us the same award. It’s one thing to be accepted into a festival, it’s another to win an award. My sincere thanks to both festivals.
One thing I have noticed since First Signal started on the festival circuit was what festivals do for marketing and promotion. Some just don’t notify filmmakers through Film Freeway, they actively promote official selections and award winners on numerous social media channels, their websites and newsletters. This is a marketing practice that I’ve employed for many years.
When those festivals awarded us Best Sci-Fi Movie not only did I post enthusiastically to my social media channels, but included the news in my email newsletter. Naturally, I’m posting this news to my blog and have it on First Signal’s official website. Whether you are a film festival, filmmaker or actor, promotion is critical to stand apart in a field dominated by those that want to be heard. This industry is a visual one, being seen is paramount. But there is that line between being a braggart or promoter. I always aim to promote to bring awareness to a project or something of substance. “Look at me” postings don’t go very far with audiences. At the end of the day it’s about asking yourself, why do audiences need to know what I’m promoting?
As First Signal continues down the festival route, AFM returns “virtually” next month. As the registration fee is nominal, I plan on attending. I’m going to be particularly interested to learn about any new VOD/PVOD trends and what distributors stand out from the rest. In their case it’s not so much about promotion but reputation. I’ve previously posted about some unscrupulous sales agents and distributors that have approached me about First Signal (and other filmmakers I know about their projects). The one thing I’ve learned is not to be desperate to do a deal. It’s about taking the time for due diligence. I look at it like this, you wouldn’t buy a house without a home inspection, so conduct the same when a sales agent wants to do a deal—contact filmmakers that have signed with them.
While there’s no question that all our respective streaming channels are being put to excellent use, sadly the theatrical industry is struggling. Although Tenet did its best to bring audiences back to theaters in the United States, there simply wasn’t enough studio content to keep audiences coming back. When Regal announced the closure of all their operations in the United States, others like AMC and some smaller chains have vowed to stay open with some innovative marketing. I guess time will tell what type of market will emerge. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins had this observation, “It could be the kind of thing that happened to the music industry, where you could crumble the entire industry by making it something that can’t be profitable.” Remember folks, every industry needs to be profitable to be an industry—that also goes for the production of the films that go into the theaters. Without profitable returns, product won’t get produced.
In closing, whenever someone asks me “Is it safe” I never think about the current situation, but rather this film.