Last week First Signal’s participation in the film festival circuit concluded with our final official selection at the Mesa International Film Festival. With 29 official selections and 17 wins, I couldn’t be more pleased. When a filmmaker enters a film festival there is no guarantee of acceptance, never mind a win. To each and every film festival that believed in First Signal, I say thank you.
Throughout First Signal’s festival run I communicated with a variety of festival operators all over the world. The passion they bring to their festival is just as enthusiastic as we bring to our films. In a sea of competition between festivals and films, when we work together, we create a stronger industry. For it is the world of independent film that sustains the market on all sides of the camera.
With First Signal properly distributed through Indie Rights and marketing ongoing, efforts turn more fully to SOS United States and the completion of my latest story in the First World Universe. These past couple of weeks have been very kind to SOS. With the script winning Best Screenplay at the L A Live Film Festival and an official selection at the Austria International Film Festival, the story, forgive the pun, is sailing along nicely in the festival circuit.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been working on breaking down SOS for hopeful production next year. Having now produced two feature films (and a few shorts), with more experience comes more awareness. This can certainly be a double-edged sword. You instinctively know what’s needed to produce, but you want to bring a certain quality to the final product. In other words, stepping up my own game. Whenever I set out to produce a new project, I compete against myself. I simply ask, did I bring more to this project than the last. As long as I can answer that question with an affirmative yes, I feel that I’ve truly accomplished something.
I see so many in this industry rushing from one project to another without fully completing anything. Case in point the project I was involved in this past summer as an actor. Principal photography wasn’t even completed, and I was hearing about two other projects they were filming right away. When I asked what the distribution and marketing plans were for the project we were on, total deer in the headlights.
As for completing things, my new story in the First World Universe has truly turned into a universe of its own! With 52 speaking parts, it slightly exceeds Justice Is Mind and certainly many more than First Signal. The story primarily revolves round 10 characters with 5 of those being from First Signal.
However, as I come into the final pages of the story, this is where all the loose ends need to be tied up to some degree. While I have my 20+ odd pages of notes, I feel like I’m on final approach to landing and going over checklists. One thing not checked and a character or plot point, might not be resolved. I can’t speak for any of you reading this post, but how many of us have watched a film and then said to ourselves…whatever happened to?
When First Signal was released on VOD on April 26, my goal at the time was simply to promote and market as much as I could. From digital marketing, email, video and traditional print, the aim was to simply get the word out. When First Signal was in post-production, I was already working on the marketing plan. I looked at what I did with Justice Is Mind some years ago and updated it with the best practices of the day. As I often do, I laid out the plan by day, week, month, etc. It was very comprehensive the first three months and then tapered down to what I call standard marketing.
In the world of filmmaking, unless you are doing a theatrical release and can measure box office receipts on a daily basis, you have to wait to see how your efforts faired. By example, I wasn’t going to know how our marketing efforts for the 2nd quarter did until the start of the 4th quarter. The reasons for the wait are numerous but suffice to say there’s a lot of data that has to be received, compiled and sorted between the various platforms and distributors. For the 2nd and part of the 3rd quarter, I was fairly aggressive with First Signal’s marketing plan. I set a monthly cash spend on digital media along with some other online activities. But as I wasn’t sure if it was going to fully work or not, I suspended the cash spend shortly into the third quarter. Marketing in many ways is all about testing. Basically, you’re drilling for oil. You have these charts and seismic reports that indicate certain areas may have, in this case an audience instead of oil, so you just have to hope where you put the drill yields some black gold.
You can only imagine my anticipation in waiting for these reports. While I love all facets of filmmaking, at the end of the day it’s business. When the reports arrived Friday night, I have to admit my hand shook a bit as I was scrolling the list until I came across First Signal. I kept looking at the line for a moment, because I wanted to make sure I was looking at the information correctly. The results for the 2nd quarter were in. My cash marketing investment brought a ROI of 1,733%! Naturally, I was thrilled. If anything, else, it proved that consistent marketing works.
But marketing, like producing a film, is a team effort. To the actors and crew that helped promote First Signal publicly and privately I say thank you. To the audiences that attended one of our theatrical screenings or watched online, you are the reasons why filmmakers like me are able to continue producing. But through this all, a special thank you to Linda Nelson, Michael Madison and the team at Indie Rights for distributing First Signal. For without a quality distributor all the marketing efforts are for naught.
Although I won’t be releasing figures publicly for a variety of market and contractual reasons, I will leave you all with this. I have been working in marketing for over twenty years. I was fortunate at an early age to work alongside some of the most brilliant marketers I have ever known. As they taught me at the time, I now pass along. Marketing is the key when launching and promoting a product. I have often said you can have the greatest product in the world, but if nobody knows about it, nobody cares. The adage if you build it, they will come is a misnomer. Simply, some of the world’s greatest products employ multi-faceted marketing programs that continue to bring awareness long after they were built.