I remember like it was yesterday when First Signal was on the festival circuit and I was reviewing and having conversations with distributors. The duplicity of so many with their endless fees and one-sided life-binding contracts combined with promises that frankly I knew where going to go nowhere, wasn’t exactly a recipe for lifting spirts. But it was the discussions I had with Indie Rights that presented the first honest and straightforward approach to film distribution that was truly a breath of fresh air. I knew going into it, that we were weren’t just handing First Signal over to them and that was the end of it. It was a partnership – they distributed while I marketed.
As Indie Rights continues to find outlets to distribute First Signal, I continue the marketing process. Although it has been a year since First Signal was released, the film is consistently performing on established outlets like Tubi and Amazon while finding new audiences on YouTube. With over 800,000 views in the last four months, YouTube is a platform that delivers solid advertising revenue to its filmmakers while delivering a global audience.
But the one thing I can definitively state today is that First Signal is technically in the black. While I didn’t “bet the ranch” from a budget POV, my investment was a solid one that I was hoping to eventually recoup. This milestone has given me confidence that one can be “in business” as an independent filmmaker. When I say independent filmmaker, I’m not talking about those that are connected to studios, mini-majors, millionaire investors or the like, I’m talking about those that look at their personal savings and investment accounts and say to themselves, “OK, I believe in this project. I’ll take the risk.” Fortunately, in the case of First Signal, the risk paid off.
As for the next risk, a filmmaker friend and I visited Battleship Cove last weekend. With the USS Massachusetts appearing prominently in one of the opening scenes of SOS United States, I’m starting to visualize the production coming together. But like First Signal, and Justice Is Mind, it will come down to finding a variety of key locations to make this political thriller come to life.
On reflection of this revenue milestone, it took over a decade to bring the First World Universe to life with First Signal. While there was the short film version of First World to introduce this new concept in 2007, it was the production of a feature film in First Signal that has truly started the franchise. With the positive feedback First Signal is receiving on YouTube as an audience indicator, developing this new sci-fi franchise for production has taken on a renewed purpose.
In the weeks leading up to the private screening of First Signal at Chunky’s, I was preparing for the biggest single marketing push I have every done for a project. I had my lists of contacts and colleagues to email, the media to pitch, the social media plan to execute. It’s like the quiet before a storm. While the storm is not destructive akin to weather, it must nonetheless be navigated.
But before First Signal was to be launched around the world, there was the private screening on April 25. Some of the cast and crew I hadn’t seen since we wrapped principal photography two years earlier, some I just saw a few days ago. One by one they and their guests arrived in true red carpet style.
While the Oscars was being produced on the other side of the country that night, First Signal had the evening it deserved. As I mentioned to a few in the days leading up to the night, this is an experience in independent film that doesn’t happen on a regular basis. My mother told me some time ago that life is about experiences. While bringing First Signal to the world was not without times of great difficulty, it is the end result that matters. The experience of seeing it on the silver screen for all in attendance to enjoy is something that will be remembered forever and never can be taken away. After First Signal screened and we took one last group photo, it was time to say my final “thank you” to the cast, crew and attendees. For tomorrow was to bring First Signal’s VOD launch around the world.
On April 26 First Signal launched on Amazon in 68 countries and territories around the world. That VOD launch was followed by Google Play, YouTube Movies and Tubi. The moment Amazon was live, the marketing plan that has been in development since January was launched. The press release went live, the email newsletter went out, hundreds of emails to the industry, media and other interested parties while engaging our social media channels—First Signal was global.
I’m still thankful to this day that I ran a media company that had magazines distributed around the world. When you have world placement of your brand, in this case a film, the responsibility and monitoring of such brand goes up exponentially. While the navigation of such a launch brings the inevitable negative commentary, I just equate it to a large wave that goes over the bow of an ocean liner. Full steam ahead means such waves are plowed through as we continue to call on new ports.
These new ports of call (VOD platforms), rocketed our placement on IMDb to 3,059 out of 560,000+ feature films. To say I am thankful to our distributor Indie Rights would be an understatement. When I think of the number of distributors/sales agents I met with over the last two years to discuss First Signal, it was Indie Rights that not only checked all the boxes a filmmaker wants, but they brought something to the table that is the prime currency in this industry – a sterling reputation. Honestly, that’s what a filmmaker should need and want the most. To work with reputable people and organizations that deliver. My special thanks to Linda, Michael and the Indie Rights team for all your great work. But our work is far from over as marketing and sales efforts continue.
April 26, 2021 will always be known to me as the day The First World Universe launched around the world. As my efforts continue to market First Signal, I also look now towards the sequel, First Launch, to interest production partners.
As I mentioned during my welcoming remarks at First Signal’s private screening, being an independent filmmaker is a herculean task but a most rewarding one. Because for a moment in time a group people (many strangers to each other) come together for a mission. And if they are successful, their efforts live on long after a premiere.