Tomorrow starts the virtual version of the American Film Market (AFM) and my third attendance. Although deals are being done, nothing can replace the in-person experience of a film market (or film festival). That being said, AFM has created a great virtual gateway to the market. In some ways, I think they’ve enhanced the experience.
The experience will consist of numerous conferences around all sorts of industry subjects. One subject of interest to me (and I know countless other filmmakers) are the ones that center on distribution, sales agents and standing out from others. I will be particularly interested to see how AFM handles the sales agent discussion. Although there are a handful of companies I’m still in communication with, there were several others that approached us with absolutely terrible deals to say nothing of nightmare reputations (after I checked references with some of their client filmmakers).
However, one positive market development is the demand for content. Brian Beckmann, CFO of Arclight Film tells Screen Daily, “There are a lot of people looking for content right now. We’ve had nine months with very few productions getting off the ground… so we’re going to run into a supply and demand issue.” A fellow filmmaker opined several months ago that the lack of product could provide an opportunity for quality films that aren’t star driven. But then the question begs to be asked, but what about next year’s film markets? When you consider the lead time for pre-production, principal photography and post-production, one could be talking 18-24 months from greenlight to delivery. Regardless, I’m glad I have several scripts already written.
These past couple of weeks have seen some wonderful developments on the festival circuit for First Signal. Paul Noonan, who plays General Reager, won a Best Actor award at the 1st Monthly Film Festival. The trailer is up for a 2020 Best Trailer award at Changing Face International Film Festival (the trailer won their monthly festival May). First Signal is also now an Official Selection at Eurovision Palermo Film Festival, Miami Independent Film Festival and Hollywood Gold Awards. My thanks to the festivals and their respective juries for introducing First Signal to new domestic and international audiences.
When you’re writing a screenplay you really have no idea the path your project is going to take. It could go into production in short order or could be in development for years. While we always want to do more in this industry to challenge ourselves and bring our stories to life, I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve completed two feature films (and three shorts). Only time will tell what that next feature (and adventure!) will be.
Since I returned from AFM last month, in addition to post-production work, I’ve been building out the marketing and release strategy for First Signal. For marketing, it’s about verifying media contacts, researching new outlets, creating talking points and a million other details. The goal is to create awareness and reach First Signal’s intended audience. I don’t shirk those responsibilities. In fact, it’s part of my job as a filmmaker.
The one thing that was painfully apparent at AFM, albeit not surprising, was the limited marketing/pr resources that a sales agent/distributor was going to bring to any single title. This is not necessarily the fault of the agent/distributor, it simply comes down to resources. If they have a couple of hundred films in their respective catalog, there is only so much time they can allocate. But at the end of the day, they must have some sort of plan—especially if they want to charge for it.
I recently turned down a contract from a sales agent. While the contract was littered with tens of thousands of dollars in fees, there was no marketing and release strategy for me to review. It was simply, send us your film (at considerable expense), we’ll see if we sell it, but we’ll still charge the film along the way. Um..no thanks. It shocks me that these one-sided contracts still exist. To turn a phrase “Send it and forget it” does not apply to film distribution.
Post-production is well on its way for an April completion. I wrote the trailer up just over a week ago. The VFX areas of the film are on their way to our visual effects supervisor. Every Sunday for the last few weeks I receive a section of score to review. Although I believe it’s important to maintain a schedule with an end date, it’s equally important not to be rushed. On the marketing side, I have a general idea of where and when I see our first screening. Will it be a “world premiere” or just a private screening? That I’m not sure yet, but plans are moving forward.
My notes for the sequel to First Signal are starting to turn into some actual writing. I generally have the concept for the beginning and end. The sequel will be a continuation of events in First Signal while incorporating a good part of the storyline from my ebook First World: Covenant. I can always tell when the motivation to start writing again hits me—an idea for a scene or line comes to me and I stop what I’m doing and note it.
EXT. THE PLANET SHINAR – 8282 BC
Satellite images of the Earth like planet Gliese 581 d come into view.
Good afternoon my fellow citizens. This government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the military buildup on the Channel Islands in the Southern Provinces.