While First Signal continues through the festival circuit and SOS United States just starts with festival submissions, my next decision is to decide who I’m placing First Signal with for VOD. For once the decision is made, I need to have faith in those that will be handling the majority of the rights for the next several years. But after over a year of research and discussions, I’ve narrowed it down to two companies. Look for a formal announcement shortly.
With First Signal largely wrapping up its festival run in April, my attention is now turning to theatrical. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had conversations with a small chain and a few independent theatres. The plan is the same I implemented with Justice Is Mind—one evening theatrical screenings in select markets. Of course, the world has changed over the last year with some of the theaters asking for multi-night screenings. Naturally, that would be fine with me!
There still lies the misconception that indie filmmakers must four wall (rent) a theater to get their movies screened. While I won’t divulge my method for getting films into theaters (sorry some things are my own process), my aim is to always present a win/win situation for the theater and the film. Today, more than ever, theatrical is critical not only to the survival of theaters but the film industry in general.
I understand on one hand why studios are pushing back the release of their major films, but on the other hand they just need to pick a date and get on with it. Simply, there will never be a perfect time. People will either go to the theater or stay home, it’s as simple as that. But if theatrical collapses, that is going to be not only a financial disaster for the industry, but for the local economies these theaters serve. I personally know of four theaters that are closed. Not because of draconian lockdowns, but because they can’t get contemporary product in the hope of some traffic. Seriously, would you go to a theater if that same film was on Amazon or Netflix?
I was asked the other day when I’m going to film my next project. Truthfully, I see this year largely being the marketing of First Signal’s theatrical and VOD release and breaking down SOS United States for a 2022 start date. First Launch, the sequel to First Signal, is being actively presented. But that project will require a substantial investment. Project Shinar, however, is moving along.
Since my last post, I’m delighted to report that First Signal has picked up two additional Official Selections. When I was looking at our laurels the other day, I couldn’t help but notice the international reach these festivals have. This type of placement will work well when First Signal goes to VOD.
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.