As an independent filmmaker finding an audience is probably one of the most challenging aspects of the process. I recently had a meeting with a filmmaker who has largely left the industry owing to their frustration in getting their work seen. Any distributor will tell you that it’s the responsibility of the filmmaker to market their film. That’s just the way it is. Simply, there are so many films being made and the profit margins are so thin (if they even exist on most projects), that a distributor can’t justify, and usually doesn’t have the staff, to separately market each film.
But there is another aspect of this industry that every filmmaker (and even actor) needs to be aware of, the charlatans that sell their services and expertise. Having been in this industry for over twenty years, I promise you that 95% of them aren’t worth the electrons in the emails they send.
Two weeks ago I was approached by a filmmaker who tried to sell me his services as a marketer. First, if you’re going to pitch your services, know who you are pitching to. Not only was this filmmaker from the distributor I use for one of my films, but I also prepared and published a marketing case study to this group. Putting aside that he may have missed the communications in the group, it was clear he never reviewed my film’s website or social media channels. But when I reviewed his film, there was barely any social media presence to say nothing of a solid IMDb page. My point is simple; if you are pitched a service do some due diligence first.
But like any other product, once it becomes known and an audience is developed, you get the naysayers and the critics. It’s just par for the course. While it did take time for me to develop a thick Kevlar-like skin, and nobody likes seeing negative comments, just remember this – with every posting and interaction they are just propelling your product.
With over 700,000 trackable views on one VOD outlet alone, with a projected 1,000,000 plus on all channels, I am more than pleased with First Signal’s results to date. While I was hoping the film would find an audience with the marketing plan I implemented, I had no idea it would do as well as it has.
But with that kind of audience it takes a certain amount of management and interaction. Yes, I do interact with those that have a constructive comment about First Signal, but I just don’t waste the time with those that have spiteful comments. Seriously, what’s the point. Arguing on the internet doesn’t change minds, it just unnecessarily raises blood pressure. But at the end of the day every comment, good, bad or indifferent just raises your profile and profitability.
As I’ve often said to many in my circle, if you get into this business for endless accolades, you will be sorely disappointed. The goal, in my view, is to do good work that is appreciated by an audience that discovers it. By example, I love the work of Salvador Dali, but others may loath it. I’ve never understood the hype around 2001: A Space Odyssey but love The Andromeda Strain.
With the one year anniversary of First Signal’s theatrical release coming up, I also realize we are soon going to hit a milestone on VOD. I hope to announce what that milestone is soon. But the one thing that never stops is the continued pitching for development along with new ideas for future projects.
Just this past week, I was pleased to receive a request from an established producer to review SOS United States. Will this review turn into a deal? Who knows, but the important thing is that there is activity with this project. When developing a project for production, it’s all about activity.
Since I completed First Report, I’ve had a variety of meetings and conversations around some new projects, from a conspiracy thriller to a documentary involving the sport of figure skating. While I’ll always cherish my time in the sport, I honestly just don’t see myself returning in any capacity. Although I didn’t watch the Winter Olympics (I haven’t watched an Olympics since I was in Salt Lake City in 2002), it was reading about another scandal that just cemented my decision.
But a new conspiracy thriller is certainly exciting to me. When the idea was brought up this weekend the creative wheels just started to turn. Before I knew it, we almost had a completed outline. This idea is particularly interesting as it’s linked to a major historical event.
While I’m working on this new idea, I’ve started to reread First Report to break it down for possible production. As I wrote Justice Is Mind and First Signal, First Report could be done as an independent production within the scale of those films. Although at 194 pages, First Report is either two feature films or a limited series. The key is to secure the right locations and scheduling. From there it’s budgeting and pre-production planning.
Having just reorganized some of my production files, I was reminded about the months First Signal spent in pre-production. I believe that phase is the most critical when making a film. Yes, the actual production (principal photography) of the film is important along with post-production. But, in my view, if everything is properly organized, along with contingency plans, it just makes for literal smooth sailing.
Of course there’s no smooth sailing in film distribution, just constant navigational challenges. In the world of VOD it’s about pivoting. For so many years, it was Amazon’s TVOD/SVOD (transactional/subscription video on demand) that filmmakers clamored for. But now the tables have turned as it’s Tubi and YouTube’s AVOD (advertising video on demand) where the money is. Thankfully, First Signal has a distributor in Indie Rights that does a masterful job at pivoting!