This past week I adapted the first 20 pages of my screenplay SOS United States into a first draft novel. Having run it through some programs, it seems to be about 37 pages so far in book form. If all goes well, I think I’ll have a completed draft by the end of March.
I have to say it’s nice to have a new project to work on. Particularly one that I know will be produced at some point next year. By produced, I mean published. Whether it’s picked up by a traditional publisher (which is ideal) or I self-publish (and I act as publisher through The Ashton Times), it will see the light of day. And, of course, while this is all happening, I continue to work on getting the film version produced.
When I was touring The Elms in Newport yesterday, I started talking to one of the docents about the process of filmmaking. As some of you may know the HBO series The Gilded Age was partially filmed at The Elms and other Newport mansions. Standing in the kitchen, she remarked about the sheer number of people it took, along with time, to produce a scene. She continued by saying that now having seen how the process works, the illusion of how movies (or in this case TV) are made is gone.
This certainly is a natural reaction to those outside the industry watching the production process. But it’s a process that gives any witness an appreciation of the patience involved in bringing these stories to life. The same can be said for publishing a book. While a book may appear to involve only one person (the author), there is a team that brings it to life and eventually to market.
I titled this end of year post Station Keeping for a reason. Planning for the next film (or book) takes time with the majority of the work being in the creation phase. From writing, finance, pre-production, etc., the consumer only sees the finished product on their screen or bookshelf. I call this period ‘the valley’ when I’m planning, writing, editing and pitching new projects. In other words, sometimes our ships are in port for refurbishment, renovation or some other activity that requires they be properly docked before sailing towards another adventure.
In addition to a trip to Florida earlier this year (love visiting NASA!), one thing I took advantage of in 2022 were a variety of weekend events. My many travels to Newport for Cars & Coffee (Audrain Auto Museum) along with the American Heritage Museum and New England Air Museum were certainly the highlight. While having an enjoyable experience is always nice, I usually learn something new or interesting that I can incorporate into my creative world. I have always been a proponent of traveling whenever you can. Whether it’s a day trip or weeklong adventure, expanding one’s horizons and new experiences certainly helps me as a storyteller.
As this year comes to close, I want to thank those that have watched and propelled First Signal around the world. Now available on numerous VOD platforms, its dedicated viewers like you that make independent film like First Signal possible.
The First Ten
Yesterday I finished the first ten pages of SOS United States as a novel. The process I’ve taken is to take one page of script a day to write in novel form. This process seems to be working as it gives me time to fully describe a scene that sometimes isn’t available in a screenplay. By example, “The second-generation Concorde raced above a cirrocumulus cloud formation at Mach 2. The radiance of the sun reflecting on the aviation marvel highlighted the white fuselage and its livery – The Commonwealth of Nations.”
What I’m enjoying about this form of writing is the ability to get into the minds of the characters to let the audience know what they’re thinking while keeping it from the characters in the book. In a screenplay, unless you do voiceovers, the internal thought process of the characters needs to be portrayed visually which can be a bit of a challenge. I will say that All About Eve and Sunset Blvd. (poor Joe Gillis!) do a masterful job at voiceovers.
There’s no rush or hard deadline to finish a first draft. My feeling is as I get more comfortable with this medium, I’ll turn more than a page of the screenplay a day into a novel. The one saving grace I have is that the screenplay is completed so there’s a solid outline. Of course, I am adding and deleting words of dialogue here and there. I’ve also been expanding some scenes to add gravitas to certain moments.
In my view I think the best adaptation of a book to the silver screen (in this case it was a made for TV mini-series) was Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance. As someone who has read the book several times, I was a bit nervous when I first learned of the TV adaption. But as the series was produced by the famed Diane Baker, who played Laura O’Neill, the series stayed true to the book and was a tremendous success. The series was also directed by the late Don Sharp who really understood the mini-series genre.
On another front I have been very encouraged by the continued enthusiasm of audiences asking me when the second installment of The First World Universe will be produced. Having hit over 1.2 million views on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, First Signal has truly found its audience. As a filmmaker it’s very encouraging to receive comments and direct emails from those wanting to see more.
While First Signal did have a conclusion of sorts, there’s no question that it is set up for a sequel. Having written both First Report and First Launch, there are a wide variety of factors on when the next installment will go into production. Suffice to say, I’m working on it!
Over the course of any given week, I see a variety of filmmakers working hard to bring their vision from script to screen. I’ve been very fortunate and lucky to have produced and released two feature films. Independent film production is an arduous task. In addition to capital, it takes time, patience and perseverance. Even in the best of circumstances it can take years to bring a sequel to market (Avatar: The Way of Water).
This all being said one cannot just sit and wait for an opportunity to present itself. As I mentioned to a friend the other day, if I waited for others to hire me for the opportunities I’ve had as a publisher and filmmaker, I’d still be waiting. There’s always a way to get something done. It may take years. The result may look different. You may be a bit tired from the effort. But you will have one thing others that wait around don’t…
…a completed project.