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.
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.