While I was reviewing my end of year post from last December, it ended with “See you at the premiere of First Signal in 2020!” Well, I think we all know how film premieres went this year. But while the world did stop on so many levels, industry activity did continue. Seemingly overnight film festivals went from live events to virtual. As of this date First Signal has been accepted into 23 festivals, winning 11 with 4 as finalist. All things considered, 2020 worked out well for First Signal.
Events over the last several months have been involved, complicated and fraught with emotion. There isn’t a person or industry on the planet that hasn’t been affected. We all have our positions and reasoning behind them. But as I’ve stated to many the world can’t continue like this and must get back to normal. Not new normal, but normal. The one thing I have learned is where I want to place myself socially, in business and with my projects. Although 2020 could have been a stationary year if I wanted it to be, it wasn’t on numerous levels both personally and professionally. I don’t sit still, and I never give up. But now it’s time to move forward. Let that be the new password in 2021.
With First Signal now at the halfway point on the festival circuit, I will start to plan for theatrical screenings over the next months to be followed by our VOD release. Those plans alone will occupy the first half of the year. Regarding the VOD release, I have planned a special event to introduce First Signal to streaming audiences. It’s called Project Shinar.
In addition to promoting First Launch, the sequel to First Signal, for development, I’ve started to break down SOS United States. Production may not happen next year, but I know from my experience with First Signal, that a detailed break down of the project can only help when SOS goes into production. As I’m looking for a producing partner for SOS, the more I have to present the better.
The search for a producing partner isn’t just about financing, it’s about finding a good match. Do we share the same vision for the project? If they aren’t from the industry, it’s about making sure they understand that investing in a film is a multi-year commitment. I firmly believe that anyone investing in an independent film should look at a project first with passion and second with economic return. This is not to say that films don’t yield a return, it’s the fact that such a return can be years in the making. But one thing we all know in this industry is that content is king. Especially, completed content.
Of course, to get that content on to the streaming platforms you need a distributor (or aggregator). Although I have about a dozen companies interested in First Signal, I’m looking at two (one of which I’ve done business with before). Signing with a distributor should be a very well thought out decision. One thing I have learned this past year is to conduct substantive due diligence on any distributor or sales agent that comes knocking. That diligence is a simple as contacting filmmakers that have signed with them. How did they market your film? What was their fee structure? Are you getting paid every quarter? If you worked for years to make your film, you want to make sure the company that will have the rights for years is someone you want to be in business with.
With 2020 coming to a close, I wanted to extend a final thanks to the post-production team of First Signal that saw the completion of the film during some very trying times. The result is something we can all be very proud of. Finally, to the film festivals. Your belief in First Signal as an official selection has meant the world to those of us that brought it to life. Our sincere thanks and gratitude.
A couple of weeks ago I sent an update to the actors and crew of First Signal about what our release strategy may look like. I believe, if all goes according to plan, our first theatrical screening will be sometime in October. I hope that follows with additional theatrical and festival screenings into the second quarter of 2021 with a VOD release around May.
As someone who reads the trade publications, I see how release dates and general overall strategy is changing on a daily basis. This article in The Hollywood Reporter today, pretty much summed up the current state of the industry. Fortunately for First Signal, the film itself wrapped principal photography last year and just finished post in early June. So, all things considered, our release strategy hasn’t changed all that much.
I do believe one of the real issues that’s going to face this industry next year is available inventory of new product. With very little being produced over the last several months, eventually this empty space will catch up to the industry. I believe this is why we are seeing studios and distributors stagger their releases from the 3rd quarter of this year into 2021. They need commercial films to bring audiences back to theaters. Honestly, who really wants to see a previously released movie in a theater when you can watch it from the comfort of your sofa for a fraction of the price? Of course, I would love to see classics return to the silver screen. Particularly those from the 1930s, 40s and 50s!
So far, the festival market is going well for First Signal. I was delighted to receive a Best Director win from the Eurasia International Monthly Film Festival last week. To receive an accolade of this stature from a festival is truly an honor. This is all about building a momentum so when First Signal goes to VOD, a hopeful following has built up for the film. From a media point of view, there is so much noise to cut through to get noticed.
The release strategy I’m looking to employ is the model I did with Justice Is Mind. It started with a world premiere followed by a limited theatrical and special event run before it went to VOD. My feeling with Justice, and now First Signal, was to follow the studio model. If it works for them, why try to reinvent the wheel? I just adapted it for the scale of my project. At the end of Justice Is Mind’s run, we had numerous media reports and reviews that helped propel the film when it was released on VOD.