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?
I’ve never been one that subscribes to the “new year new me” mentality. You are either going to do something or you aren’t. If you lack motivation, no date on the calendar is going to change that. I simply use the beginning of any new year to start new projects along with matters of housekeeping.
Throughout any given year I tend to accumulate a variety of notes and related ideas to projects I’m working on or plan to work on. For me the week between Christmas and New Year’s is when I do a good amount of organizing. Some things I calendar to act on, others I archive for future reference—an idea I had yesterday, might not be for today but may be for a future tomorrow.
One project that is moving along nicely is the novelization of SOS United States. I’m presently just past the one third mark. In my view the story is transferring well from screenplay to novel. I do find that I’m able to nicely expand on certainly parts of the story that, for matter of running time, just can’t be fit into a feature film.
I can certainly understand the cry from audiences when a favorite book of theirs is transferred to the silver screen and is lacking key moments of plot and/or character development. Generally, the process goes novel first followed by the screenplay. In the case of SOS United States, it’s the opposite. When the draft is complete (still aiming for end of March), it will largely mirror the screenplay with some narrative enhancements.
But as I’ve done with the production of my films (and former publishing company), I’m not waiting forever for someone to publish. For those of us that call ourselves creatives, nothing is worse than the waiting game for acknowledgement. I’ve known actors that have been working at the craft for years and are still waiting for a breakout role. Similarly, I know screenwriters still pitching their scripts in the hope that someone will produce. The same of course is true for writers that want to see their book published.
This isn’t to say that you go broke and produce on your own. One does need some sort of recognition that their craft is worthy before investing your own dollars. In the case of my magazine publishing work, I was involved in figure skating for years and worked at a newsweekly. It was just a matter of the doing (and praying!). As for filmmaking, I had been around the craft through the production of direct response commercials for my publishing company along with my numerous on-camera appearances. Like most that venture into filmmaking, I started with short films before producing features. Even then, I had to make sure I could produce on what I could afford. Self-publishing a book is certainly not an issue. It’s about quality and, of course, distribution and marketing.
In all the aforementioned cases, there was experience and award recognition from festivals. If I didn’t have a combination of both, I don’t believe I would have pushed these ventures to reality. As creatives we certainly have an ego to satisfy. Any creative telling you otherwise, really isn’t speaking truthfully. But I do believe an ego needs to be checked to a degree. In the case of SOS United States the screenplay has been very fortunate to receive several awards and nominations. Now, it’s the process of transferring the story to a book.
Speaking of books, I just finished reading another one of Annie Jacobsen’s masterpieces – Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base. This is the second book of hers I’ve read (the first was Operation Paperclip). Jacobsen’s books are not only brilliantly written, but wonderfully investigated into a final piece of work that is both intelligent and approachable to those that want insight into the secret world of government cover-ups and intrigue.