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.
In the weeks leading up to the private screening of First Signal at Chunky’s, I was preparing for the biggest single marketing push I have every done for a project. I had my lists of contacts and colleagues to email, the media to pitch, the social media plan to execute. It’s like the quiet before a storm. While the storm is not destructive akin to weather, it must nonetheless be navigated.
But before First Signal was to be launched around the world, there was the private screening on April 25. Some of the cast and crew I hadn’t seen since we wrapped principal photography two years earlier, some I just saw a few days ago. One by one they and their guests arrived in true red carpet style.
While the Oscars was being produced on the other side of the country that night, First Signal had the evening it deserved. As I mentioned to a few in the days leading up to the night, this is an experience in independent film that doesn’t happen on a regular basis. My mother told me some time ago that life is about experiences. While bringing First Signal to the world was not without times of great difficulty, it is the end result that matters. The experience of seeing it on the silver screen for all in attendance to enjoy is something that will be remembered forever and never can be taken away. After First Signal screened and we took one last group photo, it was time to say my final “thank you” to the cast, crew and attendees. For tomorrow was to bring First Signal’s VOD launch around the world.
On April 26 First Signal launched on Amazon in 68 countries and territories around the world. That VOD launch was followed by Google Play, YouTube Movies and Tubi. The moment Amazon was live, the marketing plan that has been in development since January was launched. The press release went live, the email newsletter went out, hundreds of emails to the industry, media and other interested parties while engaging our social media channels—First Signal was global.
I’m still thankful to this day that I ran a media company that had magazines distributed around the world. When you have world placement of your brand, in this case a film, the responsibility and monitoring of such brand goes up exponentially. While the navigation of such a launch brings the inevitable negative commentary, I just equate it to a large wave that goes over the bow of an ocean liner. Full steam ahead means such waves are plowed through as we continue to call on new ports.
These new ports of call (VOD platforms), rocketed our placement on IMDb to 3,059 out of 560,000+ feature films. To say I am thankful to our distributor Indie Rights would be an understatement. When I think of the number of distributors/sales agents I met with over the last two years to discuss First Signal, it was Indie Rights that not only checked all the boxes a filmmaker wants, but they brought something to the table that is the prime currency in this industry – a sterling reputation. Honestly, that’s what a filmmaker should need and want the most. To work with reputable people and organizations that deliver. My special thanks to Linda, Michael and the Indie Rights team for all your great work. But our work is far from over as marketing and sales efforts continue.
April 26, 2021 will always be known to me as the day The First World Universe launched around the world. As my efforts continue to market First Signal, I also look now towards the sequel, First Launch, to interest production partners.
As I mentioned during my welcoming remarks at First Signal’s private screening, being an independent filmmaker is a herculean task but a most rewarding one. Because for a moment in time a group people (many strangers to each other) come together for a mission. And if they are successful, their efforts live on long after a premiere.