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.
The Massachusetts premiere of First Signal at The Strand Theatre could not have gone better. As this theatre has screened the majority of my films to their enthusiastic audiences, it’s like returning home. Aside from the superior picture and sound quality at The Strand, their customers are true film aficionados.
One, prior to the start of the film, mentioned to me how much she loved independent film and was particularly excited to see something that was produced locally. Another woman and her grandson, who both love science fiction, asked me if they could have the poster that was on display in the lobby as a souvenir. When she asked if we would sign it, Chris Goodwin (who plays James Griffin in First Signal) and I were more than happy to oblige. Honestly, it’s these types of moments that you remember with fondness—people that simply appreciate the work that goes into making a motion picture.
The next leg on the “First Signal Tour” has us returning to the place where it all started – The McAuliffe-Shepard Discover Center. This coming Friday at 9 PM outside under the stars, First Signal will have a free screening to the public. It seems fitting that a film about an alien civilization from another world is exhibited among a sea of them. Who knows, perhaps like the story in First Signal, one of them will be looking.
I still remember the day when I first visited the Discovery Center, from seeing the 1:1 replica of the Mercury rocket soaring to the heavens outside to the innovative exhibits inside that were all things space and terrestrial science. When one conversation led to another and we found ourselves filming in May 2019, the entire atmosphere of the Discovery Center fit perfectly into the First Signal story. As a filmmaker, I could not have asked for more and will be forever grateful to those at the Discovery Center for providing the backdrop in the world of First Signal. To learn more about this Friday’s screening, please visit the Union Leader’s story “Sci-Fi film ‘First Signal’ takes over McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.”
And while First Signal will be streaming to the stars, across this world the film is being represented by our distributor Indie Rights at the Marché du Film (Cannes). This is my first film represented by a distributor at this market. Will First Signal see some additional sales in foreign markets? Perhaps some new distribution opportunities? Only time will tell of course. But the important thing is that First Signal is there.
As a filmmaker, we always want more for our films, but I can honestly say that I’m more than thrilled to see the accolades, media, distribution and theatrical opportunities that have already been bestowed on First Signal. My thanks to all that have made it possible.