The final days leading up to principal photography are ones that give the word “multitasking” a whole new meaning. Throw in a last minute casting and that brings it to a new dimension. But as I look at my lists, what I’m crossing off and what we have left to do, things are moving along.
I’m also pleased to announce that Wendy Hartman will play President Helen Colton in First Signal. Although I’ve known of Wendy’s work for some time, we haven’t had the opportunity to work together. But the one thing I have admired is her dedication to any project she becomes a part of. Welcome Madam President!
It would have been too easy to throw the towel in when I received the news that someone was pulling out this close to the start of production, but I have never been one to throw a towel. When you reach a certain point in this process you just double down and pursue all avenues.
After the auditions in Nashua I drove up to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center for a last minute location check. Our first day of shooting will involve just two locations, but it’s those last minute looks that are important. While visiting I had the most fascinating conversations with a few of the staffers about all things science and science fiction. They showed me some of the new shows in the planetarium. Every time I visit the Center I “discover” something new.
One area art direction I did some work on this past week was having Belgian license plates created for the first scenes we are shooting. I believe in authenticity and making every effort to get it right. A special thanks to Adam Starr for creating the plates and to my friends at FedexOffice for bringing them to life.
With some final fittings this week and picking up the tailored Air Force Uniforms, First Signal will soon be filming.
From when I started writing the script in 2017 to where we are today, I think of the journey and dedication of so many to see this project through. I can’t help but be reminded of when I started to put this “First World” universe together back in 2006 with the screenplay First World, to the short film version in 2007 to a near greenlight of the feature film version in 2008 until the economy crashed. It was from my writings in First World that the genesis for Justice Is Mind was born. That project seemed a lifetime ago until I was driving home yesterday and actually drove by one of the restaurant locations in New Hampshire we used in that film.
I believe this quote from Theodore Roosevelt sums up what many of us feel in this industry when a project finally moves forward after years in development – “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Like so many of us in this industry, I don’t think I’m alone in sometimes looking at my resume of work and reflecting on what it took to accomplish some of those achievements. Just this past week I reposted my first TV interview from The Montel Williams Show in 1994. Those early days when I was launching my figure skating magazine. I remember the flight they booked for me the day before was cancelled because it was snowing. So what did I do? I drove to New York City.
When the PBS documentary I filmed last August broadcast this week I marked it as another milestone in my career. Shot entirely on green screen, we were all animated in post-production. The results were impressive and seamless. I highly recommend Reconstruction: American After the Civil War. Putting aside my involvement, the documentary chronicles a time in history that most don’t know enough about. If you think we live in trying times now, you’ll think differently after you watch this documentary.
My first experience with green screen came when I was cast in a Star Trek fan film back in 2007. I have to say that experience helped when I was cast on the PBS project. When you work on an actual set it’s pretty easy to get your bearings, but when you are in a green environment it’s all about imagination and staying focused.
When I was standing in the theatre of MS Queen Elizabeth liner in 2014 getting ready for the international premiere of Justice Is Mind, I reminded myself what it took to get to this point – determination and sacrifice.
Great projects require great sacrifice. Nothing in this industry comes easy or quick. If you aren’t willing to put the time in, you need to find another vocation or avocation that doesn’t require anyone to count on you. Professionalism has nothing to do with union status, it has to do with integrity and character.
Last Sunday night an actor decided it was OK to withdraw four weeks before principal photography was going to start on First Signal. As I had to be on set at 5 AM in Boston for another project, I decided to continue with the day and report for my call time. Although I was only cast as background on the set I was reporting to, people were counting on me. I wasn’t going to withdraw because I was having a bad day. Instead, I used the day as a reflection point.
When you do background work you have time to observe. But when you’re standing outside in the cold and rain for over 10 hours things suddenly become all the more real. When one of the assistant directors asked me to walk in a certain diagonal direction when “camera” was called, it was that moment when I was glad I was cast in this part. You see, in this business, there are no small parts. I believe everything is cumulative and simply leads to the next opportunity.
As a director we learn to continuously brush things off. We know making a film is an arduous task. We know we are going to receive endless requests for this and asks for that. We know that writing a script, raising the capital, securing locations, interviewing crew and auditioning actors are the responsibilities we assume. It is the commitment that we make to ourselves and others. But the one thing that none of us have a tolerance for is unprofessionalism. Why should we? Why should we give pardon to one at the sacrifice of all?
I have always endeavored to be the eternal optimist and believe everything happens for a reason. Sometimes great projects take greater time.