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.
On Thursday I returned from my second attendance at the American Film Market (AFM). By all accounts, it went well. This year I was accompanied by Daniel Groom, First Signal’s director of photography and editor. He was also representing his own feature film Alternate Ground.
My attendance at AFM in 2018 was generally a fact-finding trip and learning how a film market works. Yes, I had meetings, but it was more to promote projects in development, like First Signal, and to represent my first feature film Justice Is Mind. It’s important to note that AFM is not a film festival. Yes, AFM has screenings, but they are mostly for buyers and sales agents. AFM is one of a handful of film markets around the world. Simply put, these markets are where deals are done for independent filmmakers.
Preparing to attend a film market is the same as pre-production on a film – preparation. You research who you want to meet, make a pitch and hope for a meeting. Like an actor preparing for a part, you rehearse, memorize and have talking points. If you can’t articulate your own film, it’s hard to expect sales agents and buyers to take any interest. In a curious twist, I was in a meeting when someone wanted to present their film regarding locations they were looking for. Oddly, they couldn’t really present the logline or what the general concept was.
I would say my last meeting at AFM was the probably the best one of the market. First, they were specifically looking for films like First Signal. I met with the principal of the company and two representatives. In their suite, I was able to make a complete pitch for First Signal. From development, production to goals for a series of films in the First World Universe. I stressed the importance of marketing and kept an open mind on their points, some of those points being working with them to plan for a rollout in upcoming markets.
There is another point that’s stressed at AFM and that’s professionalism. From scheduling meetings in advance to how to introduce your projects when you don’t have a meeting scheduled. All in all, my experience was positive. But here I was in a booked meeting with a sales agent when another filmmaker arrived, interrupted my meeting and pretty much insisted the agent give them a few minutes. The agent mentioned they were in a meeting, but this filmmaker didn’t care. I just looked at this filmmaker blankly taking it all in. When the agent returned and apologized, the first thing I said was you don’t need to apologize for someone else. I’ll just say this—it’s all about first impressions.
In the end, AFM 2019 was a great market for what I was representing. This industry is rapidly changing from an economic point of view. The differences between 2018 and 2019 were apparent and stark. It’s truly about being adaptable and going with the flow. Having worked in the publishing industry, I’ve seen the advent of digital change. I knew some years ago that VOD/streaming was going to truly be the primary revenue driver for most independent filmmakers. That reality is now here.
But as you will see from my pictures, my trip wasn’t all business. From the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, to the Queen Mary, Griffith Observatory and the USS Iowa, I always enjoy my visits to “Hollywood.” I also discovered a new navigation app called Waze. Given the traffic challenges in LA (although I think they’re worse in Boston), I highly recommend it!