Anyone that follows the entertainment industry knows that the entire playbook on how films are being released and marketed has been thrown out. Last year, films that were slated for a theatrical release went direct to the streamers. Others held back until there was a thaw in the global crisis. Some released last year. Some…. Well, you get the picture…literally.
For First Signal, once the film was complete last year, I started with the film festival market. This worked out well from a brand building point of view. The majority of festivals were virtual and did a wonderful job at marketing and promoting. As the festival run was coming to an end, I planned for our world theatrical premiere to be followed by a couple of more screenings before we went to VOD. I wanted to capitalize on the press we had to date and the social media presence we were developing from the festivals.
First Signal’s VOD release through our distributor Indie Rights could not have gone smoother. Within the first week we hit the top ½ 1% of all films listed on IMDb, there was a dip the following week, but by week three we were trending again in the top 1%. How this all translates from a revenue point of view I won’t know for some months. While marketing continues in earnest to promote our VOD efforts, I see no reason why theatrical can’t also be part of the mix. In my view, it’s about giving customers choices on how they want to experience a film.
I am delighted to announce that First Signal will have its Massachusetts premiere on Sunday, June 27 at 2 PM at the historic Strand Theatre in Clinton, MA! You can read our official press release at this link. The June 27th screening will mark my fourth film at the Strand. I remember like it was yesterday when my short film Evidence screened after J. Edgar. It was a thrill beyond words to see this short film come to life on the silver screen. While I certainly hoped to make the feature length version of Justice Is Mind, I had no idea that I would be screening the completed feature at the Strand two years later.
My point to all of this, is simple. Whether it’s VOD, theatrical, a special event, film festival or other venue, each moment should be seized because at the end of the day they all complement each other. With tens of thousands of films vying for eyeballs and attention from consumers and the media, every action that can bring attention to a film can only be a good thing.
As for attention, I’m also pleased to announce that First Signal won Best Screenplay and Writing at the Harrogate Film Society Festival Features in the United Kingdom. It’s very exciting just to be accepted to a festival, but to win is a true honor. Because when a film reaches the win stage, it has gone through many levels of vetting and review. In essence, it’s a vindication that as a filmmaker you’re on the right track.
Of course, one can never rest on their “laurels” as new projects need to be realized. That same week of First Signal’s win, my political thriller screenplay SOS United States won Best Screenplay at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Film Festival. As I’m making every effort to raise the capital to produce this story next year, each accolade is another step towards that goal.
Last week I hit page 30 on this prequel story to First World. The title and logline came to me about halfway through this initial draft. With notes for the next two acts generally outlined, I’m aiming to have a first draft completed in January.
It’s always interesting how these new projects start. The idea came to me in September when I was at the Naval Justice School (NJS) talking with a couple of the actors about developing a new story. For the last two weeks I’ve been back at NJS with most of the students returning for this next class.
For me it comes down to motivation. If I’m not motivated to write a story, it just won’t be written. I firmly believe that environs make all the difference. When you are around other creative types and engaged in the kind of work you enjoy doing, it’s amazing how ideas start to generate with collaboration bringing new opportunities.
Of course it’s one thing to write a screenplay, it’s another to produce it. This one is being written in the same fashion as Justice Is Mind, to produce independently without pitching to the industry. While there’s obviously nothing wrong with the industry pitch, that process goes in fits and starts. Hot one day, cold the other. Ask anyone in this industry and that’s just the way it is—if you take the traditional route.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s one thing to produce a feature film, it’s another to promote it. I have to know if I’m OK devoting the next 2-5 years of my life developing and promoting a project. Justice Is Mind was literally a five year commitment. From screenplay (2010), short film version (2011), production of the feature film (2012), release of the film (2013) and marketing (2013-2015). I still promote Justice of course, and I continue to pitch the sequel, In Mind We Trust, as the basis for a TV series.
The “First World” project is about developing a franchise. It always has been. But commitment is important in this industry. It’s not just about making the film, it’s about staying with it for the long haul. As I learned with the short film version of First World and Justice Is Mind, you never know where a project can take you. It was a series of pitches that saw First World have a premiere in India at their The First Ever National Discussion on Science Fiction and Justice Is Mind having its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth.
The creation of a new story is always an adventure, a journey into the unknown. Believe me when I tell you, it’s a trip worth taking.