Over the last few weeks I have been reviewing SOS United States and breaking down the script by location for a cost analysis. While I would love nothing more than to realize a multi-million-dollar budget to produce this political thriller “Hollywood” style, I’m also a realist. One thing I’ve learned over the years, is that it could literally take years (if ever) to achieve that type of production.
As I’m often on a weekly call with a filmmaker organization, I hear the same stories from exasperated screenwriters. Their stories all fall along the same lines; their screenplay has done well in festivals, it has been reviewed and analyzed by industry experts, a comprehensive look book has been created along with a filmed teaser. One screenwriter filmed the first 20 minutes of their 90-minute screenplay to show what it would look like as a finished product. You can imagine I wondered why they just didn’t produce the whole thing?
This all being said, I am breaking down SOS United States to produce as an independent film akin to what I accomplished with Justice Is Mind and First Signal. As the script has been well received by film festivals winning a variety of awards, and has been read among my peers, I’m confident about the story. The rest? Well, it’s about securing cooperative locations along with a talented cast and crew. If the following months go well, hopefully SOS United States will be in production by early Summer 2023 with a 2024 release date.
While I work on SOS United States for production, First Signal continues to do well in the market. With our YouTube placement alone garnering over 1.1 million views, the audience and interest in the First World Universe is certainly there. Those that support the film regularly asks me when the sequel will be released. For First Report and First Launch, I am aiming to secure outside production financing as I believe the “franchise” deserves it for the next phase.
But there is one thing that all films require—a fair and equitable marketplace for our product. Over the last several weeks there has been considerable drama around the release of Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. It has been reported that Amazon spent between $715 million to $1 billion on the project. One can appreciate they want to protect their product. But the one thing that can’t be controlled are audiences. Amazon’s attempt to do that by suspending ratings and reviews on Rings of Power has created an unlevel playing field in addition to an unfair business practice.
As I learned from the release of First Signal in particular, audiences either love your film or hate it with a smattering of “middling” reviews. While I would love for Amazon/IMDb to remove all reviews below a 7, I know that isn’t going to happen. But Amazon/IMDb did just that for Rings of Power. At one point First Signal had more reviews on IMDb than Amazon’s new $1 billion dollar property.
As an independent filmmaker we are told time and time again that a high rating and solid reviews will lead to more distribution opportunities. The work I have put in to keep First Signal’s rating as high as possible has been, to use a word I often use in this industry, herculean. But to see a company like Amazon manipulate ratings and reviews to benefit one of their properties at the expense of the rest of us that promote the Amazon machine, is just a horrid business practice—but now it is a precedent that Amazon alone has created.
One of Amazon’s baseless defenses is that because the series is well reviewed, audiences therefore by edict must love it. But then you look at The Terminal List that was beyond panned by critics but loved by audiences. As Amazon has established the precedent, perhaps they should remove the critics?
My point to all this is a simple one and is a lesson from history we should all remember – when you attempt to silence voices you only give them a larger platform to speak.
I was inspired to write Justice Is Mind back in 2011 when I first saw a 2009 segment on 60 Minutes titled Reading Your Mind. The story focused on advances in fMRI technology and rudimentary “mind-reading” that was being researched and studied at Carnegie Mellon University. We had the honor to screen Justice at Carnegie in 2014 in front of the scientists and students that were spearheading this new technology.
As I postulated in Justice Is Mind, imagine the day your memories can be read by a machine. But also imagine the day when your memories can be used as evidence in a court of law. From what I have recently learned that day is apparently here in technology if not soon to be in court. This article in PetaPixel titled, ‘Mind-Reading’ Technology Translates Brainwaves into Photos,” is just one of several recent articles discussing this technology. This article states in part, “The researchers then fed this information into a computer’s artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm which could build an accurate image based on the information from the fMRI scan.” Let us reflect for a moment on what this truly means.
We can certainly look towards many films and TV series on what the future may bring. Star Trek is often referenced as accurately predicting future technology. Frankly, it’s still pretty amazing to me what our “smartphones” can actually do. As has often been discussed, today’s smartphones have thousands of times more computing power than the Apollo era computers. Technology, however, is one thing, but what about the UFO phenomenon?
When I wrote First Signal in 2017, the premise was relatively straight forward. The story was a prequel to the events in First World. Those events were the revelation of an alien presence on Earth. While UFO sightings have been claimed since biblical times, governments have been relatively loath to acknowledge even the slightest possibility of their existence. Oh, there are the countless investigations, public and otherwise, along with more documentaries than I can count, but never before has the government began to embrace the possibility that UFOs, or as they prefer the reference UAPs, exist.
However, over the last year, and just recently, there have been countless articles on the very subject. This article in Space.com titled, “NASA ‘going full force’ to gear up for UFO study,” certainly seems to ask the larger question, “Are they preparing us for some sort of revelation?” Some of the comments on First Signal’s listing on YouTube state, “I really hope this movie is a prophecy” and “It all could be possible and with that if it was or did happen our gov. officials could keep the truth from us all.”
As for whether government officials know more or not on the subject of UAPs, one definitive thing I can say, is that they know about First Signal. One of my marketing priorities was to make sure all the relative agencies knew about the film. From NASA to the Air Force, to members of Congress and The White House, all were on the distribution list.
I truly feel with the James Webb Telescope we will soon learn more about our place in the cosmos than ever before. In First Signal the famed telescope is mentioned in relation to its “future” parking position at Lagrange point 2 (L2). The same place in space that an alien satellite was spotted. Just last week the telescope discovered carbon dioxide on a distant world.
“This is a time to study and investigate.” – Cedric Yonah in First Signal.