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.
Two days after the world premiere of First Signal, Daniel Groom and I taped interviews with some of the staring actors for up the upcoming VOD release. These videos will be published in increments as a series over a twelve-week period.
I have always enjoyed the interview process and talking about a variety of subjects. For me I don’t force ideas or new ventures, they just seem to present themselves. When I started a figure skating magazine back in the early 90s, it was because I wanted something to read about the news of the sport. Justice Is Mind came to being after writing the sequel to First World and seeing a show about mind-reading on 60 Minutes. First Signal was born out of sitting in a bunker-like room at the Naval Justice School and revisiting my notes from First World. Stay tuned for our first episode and announcement.
A few days prior to our world premiere, I pitched another theater about screening First Signal. As the details weren’t finalized at the time, I didn’t talk about it. But just days after the actor interviews, the New Hampshire premiere of First Signal at Smitty’s Cinema was confirmed. This past Thursday, Patience McStravick (Major Ellen Sampson), Paul Noonan (General John Reager) and I found ourselves in Tilton, NH at another premiere!
Smitty’s Cinema is a four-location chain based in New Hampshire. What’s great about these local theaters is their enthusiasm. From the moment the deal was confirmed, they went to work on marketing the premiere. Combing their efforts with ours, resulted in a successful screening. To support our efforts, The Concord Monitor ran a great story with The Laconia Daily News picking up our press release.
As I noted with our world premiere at Greenfield Garden Cinemas a few weeks earlier, I witnessed with Smitty’s Cinema—local communities supporting theater and independent films. The shared experience learning about a new film in the paper, to seeing the film in a theater to talking about the film after screening, theaters bring communities together.
Today, I am putting the final touches on a private screening for First Signal. Tomorrow will be a celebration of cast, crew and our guests before First Signal is released to the world. In some ways it feels like this journey is coming to end, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is nothing really ends in this industry, it’s always about new beginnings.