The Final Third
Last week I started on the final third in the novelization of SOS United States. At this point, I don’t see anything getting in the way of my goal to complete a draft by the end of March.
I will say turning a screenplay into a novel, isn’t as easy as it sounds. In a screenplay the entire process is visual. Of course, there are numerous methods in cinema to ascertain what a character is thinking. But in a novel, it can be described in detail along with their surroundings. When I immerse myself in these fictional worlds, I want the audience to experience what I’m thinking. Case in point, the bunker the President and Prime Minister find themselves in. Both the screenplay and novel were inspired by this real-world property in the Adirondacks.
Writing this novel has been a wonderful exercise to really understand the story, the characters and the world they live in. While I still believe the screenplay holds its own, the novelization of the story has grown both in character development and world building. Had the screenplay not done well in the festival circuit, I would probably be revisiting it a bit. But as it did win a variety of awards, I don’t want to tinker with it beyond contemporary updates to technology, etc. There is such a thing in this creative writing process as over analysis and self-doubt. It’s taken some time to learn as a writer, but at some point, you just need to literally put the idea to bed as a completed screenplay or book.
I wrote the screenplay for SOS United States nearly a decade ago. Unlike the screenplays and films in the First World Universe or Justice Is Mind and the sequel In Mind We Trust, SOS United States was a standalone. I’m not exactly sure where the original idea came from, but it does combine my interest in espionage, spies and intrigue in governments and multi-national corporations. I look forward to the day when the book and movie are released to the world.
Speaking of the First World Universe, I’m delighted to report that First Signal has garnered over 1.3 million views on YouTube! The film continues to spark all kinds of conversations on the VOD platforms and social media channels. While the range of interest (or non-interest) is all over the place, the bottom line is that nearly two years after its release, First Signal is still being talked about. Whether viewers love it, hate it or fall somewhere in between, all a filmmaker (or author) can hope for, is that the work is talked about.
I believe part of the driving force behind First Signal is the continuous reporting on UFOs, UAPs, mystery balloons and other atmospheric and aerospace anomalies, that are crossing every news service and social media platform. It also doesn’t hurt that the U.S. Department of Defense is publicly involved in the identification of this ‘phenomena’ and have set up an internal office to address it. Who knows, maybe elements of First Signal are true!
In closing, I took some time this week to revisit my first feature film Justice Is Mind. I was preparing some writing samples for a presentation and came across a variety of things linked with this project. When I found the filmmaking seminar presentation I did on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth in 2014, it brought a smile to my face. I was reminded about the challenges I had to get Justice Is Mind off the ground and then realized that if you work hard enough, stay focused and stay determined anything is possible.
“The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.” – George Santayana
There is something very satisfying about being at the near halfway mark in the novelization of SOS United States. First, this particular writing exercise has enabled me to not only get very close to this story but to enhance it accordingly. Some areas in the screenplay that I believe will work well on the silver screen, really needed to be expanded on in this forum.
One thing I have learned in a screenplay, versus a book, are the constraints of time. Generally, a screenplay is anywhere from 90-120 pages. I promise you there is no right or wrong length. Screenplays need what they need to tell a story. By example Justice Is Mind was 120 pages (2 hours/33 minutes) while First Signal was just 82 (1 hour/42 minutes).
While I’m not sure where the novelization of SOS United States will conclude page wise, it does seem to be moving in the right direction (as an aside, the associated screenplay is 120 pages). Of course, I have already thought about the marketing aspects of the book once the manuscript is completed. However, I have tabled any action on those elements for now as I don’t want the distraction. Simply, while I do have the script to keep the story on track, there are too many elements in SOS United States that warrant undivided creative attention.
On another front, First Signal continues to perform well in the VOD world. I can’t believe it will be two years in April that the film was released – four years since the film was produced! As the film is still performing financially, with Tubi receiving the most traffic, I still continue to market the title.
Sadly, I see so many filmmakers “forget” their past projects while working on something new. While I understand the need and want to move on to the next, it is the past that brought us to these points. Honestly, weekly social media posts and some paid advertising (if the revenues warrant it) are well worth it when the quarterly checks arrive from the distributor.
I am asked on a weekly basis by First Signal’s fans when I plan to put the sequel into production. This I can promise, once the first draft of SOS United States is completed, I can revisit the First World Universe and the sequel First Report. The key with First Report is that it is actually two films (Part 1 and 2) or a limited series (several episodes). Regardless of how/when it’s completed, it’s nice to know that there’s an audience waiting to see it. I just hope it doesn’t take as long as Avatar (15 years)!
There is an aspect of First Signal and the greater First World Universe that keeps this story front and center. That is the ever-increasing reports on UFOs, UAP’s and the like. Just two weeks ago the Pentagon released a long-awaited report about this phenomena that stated, according to Space.com, “171 reported UAP sightings remain “uncharacterized and unattributed.”
Just what makes up these 171 sightings? We aren’t talking about 1 or 2 or even a couple of dozen. At 171 there is every reason to believe that there is validity, not only to what I postulate in First Signal, but to other stories that revolve around the UFO universe. Two questions beg an answer.
Have extraterrestrials visited us? If they have, are they still here?