It should come as no surprise that I monitor First Signal (and Justice Is Mind) on a regular basis. This involves checking their respective IMDb and social pages along with various searches. In today’s world, it’s too easy for a page to get hacked, manipulated or commented on that requires a correction. But then there are the moments that yield good news.
This past week First Signal went live on Vudu. To quote from Wikipedia, “Vudu is an American digital video store and streaming service owned by Fandango Media.” Fandango, and their subsidiary Rotten Tomatoes, are leading services of film listings, ticket sales, review aggregators, streaming services and related information. With Vudu’s listing, this brings First Signal’s platforms to six representing global reach.
As I reflect on the reach that First Signal now has, I was reminded about a day on set when one of the actors asked me if First Signal would get released. Sadly, in the independent film world, it happens more often than not, that films are not released. I promised this actor that as my name was at the top of this film, it would get a release.
When we learned last week about the cancellation of Batgirl with its $90 million budget, the general response was, “They already spent $90 million just release it to digital.” First, there are countless reasons why this film may never see the light of day. I believe The Critical Drinker hit the nail on the head on why Batgirl was shelved. If the film was going to get a theatrical release, they would have to spend tens of millions more to market it. For a digital release, the general reasoning was quality of the film from test audiences. In their view, the studio would rather take a tax-deductible loss over bad reviews, audience displeasure and a very probable public box office bomb. But whatever the true reason is, film cancellations do happen.
For me, I truly believe this process starts with a sound script that when reviewed is looked at for the entertainment value, not the delivering of a message or particular point of view. The latter should be relegated to documentaries, when you know from the get-go what you’re getting into. Audiences are particular. Their currency in cash and promotion is invaluable. As a screenwriter and filmmaker, my goal is to entertain across a targeted genre and demographic. As Samuel Goldwyn famously said, “If I want to send a message I’ll use Western Union.”
A few days ago I released my Director Reel. You can imagine the challenge in reviewing hours of footage and seeking to select scenes that represent my work. At the end of the day, this is an industry of opinion, review and judgment. We aim to entertain with the ideas we create in our minds. The work in bringing these ideas to life is a challenge like none other. But when everything comes together from the completion of the film to embracement of audiences, it is a challenge worth accepting.
This past week Justice Is Mind went live on Hoopla. To quote from their Facebook page, “hoopla digital partners with public libraries across North America to provide online and mobile access to videos, music and audiobooks. Enjoy thousands of movies, TV shows, videos, music and audiobooks that library card holders can borrow from their public library.” As I wanted to get Justice Is Mind into libraries at some point, our placement on Hoopla just took care of that across the United States.
When I say some point, I talk about a possible DVD for Justice Is Mind. Yes, on the back burner, is the possibility of making a DVD for Justice. I say possibly, because anyone that’s involved on the distribution side of the industry knows that profits in this sector have sunk like the Titanic (particularly for indie-films). Just go into any Wal-Mart and see the studio quality films in the $5 bin or even more market reality when you see a studio film at a dollar store for well a dollar. Because digital distribution doesn’t really involve a manufacturing component, it’s simply easier to execute on a domestic and international level. But believe me there are costs involved for VOD. Let’s just say that closed captioning in languages other than English gets a bit pricey.
There was a pretty good article on IndieWire this week titled “You Can’t Bulls—t’ And 6 More Revelations On How To Market An Indie Film.” I could not agree more with this statement “Even in the age of VOD, nothing beats the theatrical experience.” As I saw with Justice Is Mind in terms of audience and media placements, nothing does beat a theatrical experience. Simply, when you gather a group of people into a room to see a film it becomes a shared experience. There wasn’t one screening of Justice in which attendees didn’t ask questions or discuss the film after in the lobby.
When I set out to write a new screenplay I’m already thinking of how the project will be placed in the market. What angles does it have that I can pitch to a theater, distributor, school or convention? First World was a pretty straight forward science fiction film. But as a psychological sci-fi thriller, Justice Is Mind is a bit of a genre hybrid. But the one common theme was the ethics around mind reading and it’s possible, if not probable, ramifications on society.
While some in the industry complain that there are too many movies being made, I believe there’s never enough. Because there are always those hidden gems that one can discover and promote. The gem in the world of distribution is in fact VOD. When you have library after library of films available to stream instantly, they certainly take up less space than a DVD! But don’t get me wrong, I do love my DVD collection.
It’s these new platforms like Hoopla that offer a terrific new avenue of options to Amazon and Netflix (Justice is on Amazon). More importantly, and call me old fashioned, Hoopla works with libraries. When you have traditional publishing working with digital publishing, the experience can only be a positive one because it yet again gives the customer that one thing they want – choices.