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political thriller

Next Pass

Concept image for SOS United States

A couple of weeks ago I finished the first edit on SOS United States. I was relatively happy with it and let it sit for five days while I focused on some other work.  After running the manuscript for spelling and grammar, I started to reread the document from the beginning.  I must have instinctively known I was going to do another round of edits before bringing in outside readers and editors, as I certainly found things that needed adjustment. Needless to say, I’m glad I followed my instincts!

The one thing I’ve known throughout my career, is you can never have enough edits. But self-editing is a different thing entirely. First, as the writer we are obviously close to the work. Second, because of this closeness we can fail to see things that will need to be fixed, clarified, etc. etc.  I recently read that a writer should do at least two self-editing rounds. This MasterClass article summed it up, “Writers should do at least two self-editing rounds of their whole book: the first time to edit for big story elements like story structure and narrative arcs, the second time to edit the details, like typos and punctuation.”

Concept image for First Report

I believe the same thing holds true for film editing. All my films have been edited by others. When I complete a film, the editing is done in 10-15 minute blocks. I generally tell my editors to follow the script when constructing the film. After the first draft is complete, I review the block, send over my notes and the process continues until we are both happy with the final product. That being said, I do know two filmmakers that are brilliant at editing their own projects.

As for my next film project, I’m asked weekly what that will be. The simple answer—I don’t know. It will either be First Report, the sequel to First Signal, or SOS United States.  While each will cost about the same to produce, First Report, owing to its 150-page screenplay, is essentially two feature films (part one and part two). SOS United States at 120 pages, is a solid feature that would clock in at over two hours. I think, like every other film I’ve produced, it will come down to timing and “how the stars are aligning.” I know the astrological part may sound a bit ridiculous, but I promise making a feature film is all about timing and things working out cosmically, because when the production train leaves the station, there’s no going back unless you want to lose your entire investment of money and time.

Speaking of investment, there is one platform in the industry that holds a near monopoly and that is IMDb. As they did for the Amazon series Rings of Power, they are now doing the same with the film The Little Mermaid – publicly admitting that they are altering their review system and ratings to make a property look more popular than it is. If this isn’t an unfair business practice in clear violation of federal law around antitrust and other statutes, I don’t know what is. It’s bad enough when consumers and industry discover they’ve been duped, it’s another when a company (in this case Amazon/IMDb) publicly admits it. I truly believe it’s time for the Federal Trade Commission and other government bodies to investigate their practices, because those practices are having a direct negative financial impact on the entertainment industry and consumers.

On a much more festive note, the American Heritage Museum produced their first event of the season with their Tank Demonstration Weekend. The event featured a parade of WWII era tanks including the debut of a fully restored M36 Jackson tank destroyer.  For more information, check out the museum’s website and social media pages at this link.

Next page.

Last Chapter

SOS United States will soon be completed.

With ten pages left to go on editing SOS United States, I’ve started to ponder the next steps in this project. First, I’ll start to research agents and publishers in the political thriller field for their submission/review process.  Just like the world of film, each company has a different process—one that must be followed. I’ll also start to look for an editor for that necessary work. Although, if the manuscript is picked up by an agent/publisher, they would have their own editors to bring to the manuscript. Another step will be to review self-publishing companies. While this method was a bit taboo years ago, like the film industry, it’s been standardized to make it a worthwhile commercial option.

Regardless of how the book winds up in the market, it’s a project completed. There is a certain satisfaction in bringing an idea to life. Whether you are committing it to paper or screen, knowing that it will eventually be shared with an audience is a thrill like no other.  I remember so many years ago, when my first book Frozen Assets arrived in my office. Opening the box from the printer and seeing months and years of work bound into hardcover was something I’ll always be immensely proud of.

My first book!

Works like this don’t happen overnight. So many want to be an accomplished screenwriter or author. What they must understand is that it’s hard work. Work done the old-fashioned way. Research, outlines, writing, rewriting, etc. etc. I’m not a slow or fast writer, I’m more methodical – midrange if you will. I like to move along, but I’m also thinking of the story, the characters, and various arcs. For SOS United States, I found that while the end of the book is basically the same as the screenplay, there are differences that I think give the story more heft, or as I like to say gravitas.

That is what makes a writer a writer. We think of an idea, and we execute. We labor over writers’ block to come up with a way of presenting a story that’s new and fresh. One that we hope will entice the reader to turn a page or to sit through the next minute of a movie. When we consider the centuries of creative writing and the great works that have been created that continue to entertain audiences to this day, I think we all shudder at the thought that something may terminate those efforts of genius—I speak about artificial intelligence.   

Unless you are living under a rock or perhaps the planet, artificial intelligence, better known as AI, has now permeated nearly every industry. The threat to creative writing is the AI may soon replace humans. I have no interest in a book, screenplay or other creative work that has been written by a computer program. Yes, AI is wonderful for customer service, research and the like, but even that takes away from the originality of the human process. By another example, we know AI is actively working in the legal profession, but the mind of a skilled lawyer who has a feel for the law that shapes our society, is something that should never be relegated to AI—less, AI begins to regulate us.

I don’t believe in living in the past. We know that developments in AI and a host of new technologies make our world a better place. But that being said, we must be sure that technology doesn’t replace the gifted thought, creativity and compassion that makes up the human being. For while we created this new technology, let’s not have it recreate us.

“Machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make.” – Nick Bostrom

Next thought.

I tested ChatGPT’s AI when I asked it what my mind-reading film Justice Is Mind was about. I have to say AI got it largely right.