As an independent filmmaker finding an audience is probably one of the most challenging aspects of the process. I recently had a meeting with a filmmaker who has largely left the industry owing to their frustration in getting their work seen. Any distributor will tell you that it’s the responsibility of the filmmaker to market their film. That’s just the way it is. Simply, there are so many films being made and the profit margins are so thin (if they even exist on most projects), that a distributor can’t justify, and usually doesn’t have the staff, to separately market each film.
But there is another aspect of this industry that every filmmaker (and even actor) needs to be aware of, the charlatans that sell their services and expertise. Having been in this industry for over twenty years, I promise you that 95% of them aren’t worth the electrons in the emails they send.
Two weeks ago I was approached by a filmmaker who tried to sell me his services as a marketer. First, if you’re going to pitch your services, know who you are pitching to. Not only was this filmmaker from the distributor I use for one of my films, but I also prepared and published a marketing case study to this group. Putting aside that he may have missed the communications in the group, it was clear he never reviewed my film’s website or social media channels. But when I reviewed his film, there was barely any social media presence to say nothing of a solid IMDb page. My point is simple; if you are pitched a service do some due diligence first.
But like any other product, once it becomes known and an audience is developed, you get the naysayers and the critics. It’s just par for the course. While it did take time for me to develop a thick Kevlar-like skin, and nobody likes seeing negative comments, just remember this – with every posting and interaction they are just propelling your product.
With over 700,000 trackable views on one VOD outlet alone, with a projected 1,000,000 plus on all channels, I am more than pleased with First Signal’s results to date. While I was hoping the film would find an audience with the marketing plan I implemented, I had no idea it would do as well as it has.
But with that kind of audience it takes a certain amount of management and interaction. Yes, I do interact with those that have a constructive comment about First Signal, but I just don’t waste the time with those that have spiteful comments. Seriously, what’s the point. Arguing on the internet doesn’t change minds, it just unnecessarily raises blood pressure. But at the end of the day every comment, good, bad or indifferent just raises your profile and profitability.
As I’ve often said to many in my circle, if you get into this business for endless accolades, you will be sorely disappointed. The goal, in my view, is to do good work that is appreciated by an audience that discovers it. By example, I love the work of Salvador Dali, but others may loath it. I’ve never understood the hype around 2001: A Space Odyssey but love The Andromeda Strain.
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.