The progress toward a milestone I was tracking happened early last week. First Signal was viewed over 1,000,000x on YouTube. When Indie Rights, our distributor, placed First Signal on the site I honestly didn’t know how it would be received. What I did know, that unlike Amazon and Tubi, I would know how many viewed the film and then there would be the public comments. It didn’t take long for me to discover that First Signal found its true audience on YouTube.
This is one of those milestones that all of us associated with the film can be proud of. Who would have thought that a truly independent film such as First Signal would receive so much attention and solid commentary. Suffice to say, I could not be more pleased. Of course, the goal is to build on this popularity when I introduce the First World Universe to producers.
One thing I have learned about releasing and marketing an independent film is that the process is ongoing. The model I follow is what I see the studios do (of course on a much smaller budget!). There is the primary marketing push leading up to and during the theatrical run. Then another big push for the VOD release followed by steady promotion to keep the film visible. And that really is the goal, to stay visible.
When you consider the number of films just being released on Amazon, Tubi, Netflix and YouTube alone, staying visible is a challenge. Visibility in the eyes of the consumer requires a consistent message. In the case of a film, I’m asking for someone to watch it. Some may watch immediately on release, while others may take months to decide only to do so because they see a steady bit of marketing.
Another project I am actively working on is my director’s reel. While my personal website has a variety of on camera reels, I realized I don’t have a reel that illustrates my work as a director. For the last month I have been watching all my films and selecting scenes that I believe look interesting. Once I finish the selection process, I’ll aim to put together some sort of storyboard so when the reel is viewed it’s just not random clips, but imagery that ties into some sort of cohesive story set to a score.
Reviewing all my films has certainly been a trip down memory lane. I was living in Los Angeles when I put together the short film version of First World. Thankfully, I worked with a talented filmmaker and VFX wiz by the name of Adam Starr to bring it all together. Then there was the short film, Evidence, to see if my concept about mind-reading technology in the courtroom sparked interest. Within a year of the completion of that short the feature length version of Evidence, Justice Is Mind was in production. Justice was no small production with over two hundred people involved on both sides of the camera! But then my interest returned to figure skating when I produced the short film version of my political thriller Serpentine with The Short Program. Perhaps someday that project will be produced as a feature.
But not everything in this business happens immediately. I produced First World in 2006 and it took until 2019 to bring the First World Universe to life with the production of the first feature film in the series – First Signal. During a lunch with an agent friend while I was at the American Film Market in 2019, he remarked my steadfastness and commitment to see this new franchise come to life. You see, we had a lunch in 2005 when I completed the screenplay for First World. Let me just say, that time does fly by!
After four years of development, First Signal is ready for release. With our world premiere at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas on March 26 for a one-week engagement, I can’t help but reflect on all the moments that are leading up to this Friday. I still remember that day in Newport, RI at the Naval Justice School when Patience McStravick and I started talking about some sort of film that would largely take place in one room. Then taking those thoughts and going through my “First World” archive to create First Signal. Eager to put First Signal into production, Patience introduced me to an intrepid filmmaker by the name of Daniel Groom. With the producing team set, First Signal moved from script to reality. That reality comes to life on Friday at 7 PM in a theater—the way it was intended.
From our world premiere, some of us will then travel to another location a couple of days later to tape actor interviews as part of our upcoming VOD release marketing efforts. The marketing plans that have been developed over the last several months are probably the most extensive I’ve laid out for a project. For it’s not just the local marketing tied to our world premiere, but literally reaching the world after First Signal is released to VOD. It’s more than just social media posts but coming up with ideas and content that introduces First Signal to targeted audiences.
On the local front I could not be more pleased with our coverage to date. With reporting in The Greenfield Recorder and The Republican, our engagement at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas is being well publicized. We could not have asked for a more exciting theater to have First Signal’s world premiere. Out of all the theaters I’ve worked with in the past, the marketing and public relations efforts that Isaac Mass (the owner of the theater) has been putting into First Signal’s world premiere are second to none. These are the types of partners that are wonderful to work with because of the passion they bring. They’ve created a sense of community, which is what the theatrical experience is all about. To Isaac, his wife Angela, and the team at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas—thank you for everything.
In other news, I also received word that First Signal passed QC (quality control) from our distributor Indie Rights. This is indeed good news as we are clear for VOD release. I’ll be announcing our VOD release plans in April.
This coming Tuesday I’ll be at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas for First Signal’s screen test. Having attended these tests with my first feature film Justice Is Mind, I have to say this is another moment in the process that’s exhilarating. In a dark theater suddenly years of work, and the efforts of many, come to life.