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!
It’s hard to believe where the time goes. While it sometimes seems like we filmed First Signal this past summer, it was actually two summers ago with the film being released this past March. With marketing continuing to support our VOD and other efforts, the obvious question is…what’s the next producing project.
Earlier this week SOS United States won Best Screenplay at the Washington Film Festival. This marked our 13th official selection. With nine of these festivals honoring the script with awards, I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception the story is receiving on the festival circuit. It certainly helps to be able to mention these accolades when I’m pitching the project to producers.
Yesterday I hit the halfway mark on my latest screenplay in the First World Universe. With my goal of completing the story by November with the idea of producing it myself, this just may be my next production. This particular story is most certainly a political thriller that just happens to sit in the sci-fi genre. With the creation of a new character titled Kate Cloverton, who is a reporter for a Washington DC newspaper, this story will see the return of several characters from First Signal.
There is, however, one thing I’ll be patiently waiting for over the next couple of months—the first sales reports of First Signal’s VOD release. While the release and marketing strategy worked as planned, there is one factor that is largely out of my control—copyright infringement.
No sooner was First Signal released and it appeared all over YouTube and certain offshore websites. Thankfully, as long as you can prove ownership, it’s very easy to issue a takedown notice and have a film removed from YouTube. However, offshore websites, are literally another world that consists of a labyrinth of site ownership, foreign law, etc. etc. In the end, I just have to hope that piracy didn’t overrun profits for a negative return.
Last weekend we finished filming that WWII short I mentioned in my last blog. It’s nice to meet new actors and crew on these projects as I’m always thinking ahead to when I produce my next film. I can say, without reservation, that if I ever need to film a WWII scene, I’ll use reenactors for authenticity. When we arrived at our final location last Saturday, waiting for us were three WWII vehicles and a motorcycle. The level of detail was spot on. It will be interesting to see what the final product looks like.