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
Yesterday I ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen in few years. The first thing he asked me was “How’s the writing going?” I told him about First Signal and a few other things going on. As he runs a successful business in Worcester, I asked him how the salon was. He responded “Busy.” I really didn’t have to ask him that because I know his salon is always busy. He’s been working on building his brand for years.
It took some years to build my brand in figure skating and equally as long as a writer and filmmaker outside of the sport. Building a brand isn’t something that happens overnight. It builds from one project to another. However, we now live in a world where people think that having a large social media following is a brand. Social media, in my view, is great for amplifying what you’re doing in the real world. But without a foundation of something, it’s just likes.
When I started to revive the First World Universe to write First Signal a few years ago, I realized after reviewing all my original material and the media we had at the time, that I created a unique brand. One with its own voice. With First Signal I finally had the opportunity to present this world as a feature film. The first in what I hope to be a series of films in the First World Universe.
With the trailer nearly complete, the marketing train will soon be leaving the station. Once it leaves it can’t come back. While post-production has been going on in earnest with countless notes with the editor, composer and VFX artist, I’ve been working out the marketing plans for the trailer and ultimately the feature. All of us on the post-production team know how important it is for the trailer to present the film. At the end of the day it’s about selling the feature.
As for the First World Universe, I’m just over the thirty-page mark for the sequel. This is the story that takes place before the events in First World. In my view, writing a sequel is no easy feat. You must balance the established characters and their stories with something new. I think one of the most interesting sequels was 2010 from the legendary 2001. Starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow and Helen Mirren, 2010 created a wonderful “what if” possibility.
In the sequel to First Signal the following dialogue happens in the Oval Office
“Exactly. Now he’s operating covertly and illegally. If you lose and Reager legitimately controls the military and his commander in chief is complicit, history books won’t judge your actions today, because they’ll be none left. It will be the end of civilization.” – Elisabeth Seward, National Security Advisor to President Helen Colton
That dialogue derives from actions around Operation Troy in First Signal.
“General if I sign this. What’s the objective of Operation Troy?” – Helen Colton, President, United States of America.
“Identification.” – General John Reager, Commander, Air Force Space Command
This week I write the draft press release and email newsletter to announce the trailer. As for when the trailer will be released? Sometime in February