While I was reviewing my end of year post from last December, it ended with “See you at the premiere of First Signal in 2020!” Well, I think we all know how film premieres went this year. But while the world did stop on so many levels, industry activity did continue. Seemingly overnight film festivals went from live events to virtual. As of this date First Signal has been accepted into 23 festivals, winning 11 with 4 as finalist. All things considered, 2020 worked out well for First Signal.
Events over the last several months have been involved, complicated and fraught with emotion. There isn’t a person or industry on the planet that hasn’t been affected. We all have our positions and reasoning behind them. But as I’ve stated to many the world can’t continue like this and must get back to normal. Not new normal, but normal. The one thing I have learned is where I want to place myself socially, in business and with my projects. Although 2020 could have been a stationary year if I wanted it to be, it wasn’t on numerous levels both personally and professionally. I don’t sit still, and I never give up. But now it’s time to move forward. Let that be the new password in 2021.
With First Signal now at the halfway point on the festival circuit, I will start to plan for theatrical screenings over the next months to be followed by our VOD release. Those plans alone will occupy the first half of the year. Regarding the VOD release, I have planned a special event to introduce First Signal to streaming audiences. It’s called Project Shinar.
In addition to promoting First Launch, the sequel to First Signal, for development, I’ve started to break down SOS United States. Production may not happen next year, but I know from my experience with First Signal, that a detailed break down of the project can only help when SOS goes into production. As I’m looking for a producing partner for SOS, the more I have to present the better.
The search for a producing partner isn’t just about financing, it’s about finding a good match. Do we share the same vision for the project? If they aren’t from the industry, it’s about making sure they understand that investing in a film is a multi-year commitment. I firmly believe that anyone investing in an independent film should look at a project first with passion and second with economic return. This is not to say that films don’t yield a return, it’s the fact that such a return can be years in the making. But one thing we all know in this industry is that content is king. Especially, completed content.
Of course, to get that content on to the streaming platforms you need a distributor (or aggregator). Although I have about a dozen companies interested in First Signal, I’m looking at two (one of which I’ve done business with before). Signing with a distributor should be a very well thought out decision. One thing I have learned this past year is to conduct substantive due diligence on any distributor or sales agent that comes knocking. That diligence is a simple as contacting filmmakers that have signed with them. How did they market your film? What was their fee structure? Are you getting paid every quarter? If you worked for years to make your film, you want to make sure the company that will have the rights for years is someone you want to be in business with.
With 2020 coming to a close, I wanted to extend a final thanks to the post-production team of First Signal that saw the completion of the film during some very trying times. The result is something we can all be very proud of. Finally, to the film festivals. Your belief in First Signal as an official selection has meant the world to those of us that brought it to life. Our sincere thanks and gratitude.
Today I received notice that First Signal is a Semi-Finalist in the International Moving Film Festival in Iran. This marks our 21st film festival acceptance. I could not be more pleased with our results to date. What I’m particularly enjoying is the global reach of First Signal. From the United States to India; the United Kingdom to Russia; France to Iran, these are just some of the countries that selected First Signal for their festivals. What these festivals represent is a worldwide acceptance of the story in the film. I never wrote First Signal for one particular audience or demographic, I wrote it to appeal to a wide and culturally diverse audience.
There are thousands of festivals to submit to and a limited budget for submission fees. Too often we hear the same lecture about the importance of getting accepted to the top tier festivals. Worse media outlets continue to support that narrative. I read in Videomaker magazine last week that “the rest of them are worthless.” That pious elitism by inexperienced biased journalists in the industry does nothing but insult festivals and filmmakers. There are countless wonderful film festivals that make it their mission to review, accept and promote all types of films. This industry is about the voices of many not the few.
As First Signal has reached the halfway mark on the festival circuit, I’m excited to see what 2021 brings (I think we will all be glad to leave 2020!). There are many things from a marketing and promotion perspective that I hope to introduce next year. The goal is to develop some noise to cut through the traditional and social media clutter.
While First Signal continues into 2021, it’s time to look forward towards the sequel First Launch—The President faces a military coup and extrasolar war when a covertly built second generation space shuttle reveals a worldwide military destined to confront an alien presence on Earth. First Launch takes place two years after the events in First Signal and weeks before the events in First World. I always let my screenplays “sit” for a bit before I write the synopsis. In my view a synopsis is probably the hardest thing to write. There are many ways to write a synopsis. I endeavor to keep mine to one page and not to give everything away. You can read the synopsis at this link.
It’s hard to believe that my idea for this “First World Universe” started in 2006 when I wrote First World. Here we are fourteen years later in 2020 with the start of that universe being First Signal. I remember like it was yesterday making the endless pitches for First World. I looked at the submission file the other day and it was staggering. But when you are determined to do something you see it through as long as you possibly can. Sometimes things happen quickly, sometimes they can seem to take forever. But when a film project is finally realized, the time from concept to completion just evaporates.