When I set out to write First Signal in 2017 my goal was to simply write a prequel to First World. What I couldn’t have foreseen was the timeliness of the film when it was released in 2021. It was in 2017 when The New York Times suddenly released videos that purported to be UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). Provided by Luis Elizondo, who was once the head of the Advanced Aerospace (or Aviation) Threat Identification Program, the videos sparked a media frenzy the world hasn’t seen in decades on this subject.
In early June the head of the U.S. intelligence community along with the secretary of state will be delivering to the U.S. Senate a report on the topic of UAPs also know as UFOs. What will be revealed in that report and what will be disclosed to the public, I’m fairly confident will be two different things. But one thing is certain, the questions on who or what is behind these videos simply will not stop. In fact, any concealment by the government will only further exacerbate the claim that the government is hiding something from the public.
I was about halfway through writing First Signal when these videos were released. While I wanted to include them in the story, I also wanted to broaden the “government coverup” aspect to not only include the central storyline of First Signal, but what the government may or may not do during such a crisis.
In one scene, General Reager states quite clearly that public doesn’t have the right to know the truth, “I call it protecting the people from themselves.” President Colton echoes his position when she states, “There are some matters of state that can’t be disclosed.” Do I believe that this may be the case with the upcoming June report? Who knows. But given present world events, I don’t think those of us that would frankly welcome an alien presence on Earth are going to be told much…if anything.
But putting aside my personal feelings on the matter of UFOs, the media around this subject is most certainly a boon for films like First Signal. As an independent filmmaker we do what we can with the resources we have to attract attention to our projects. Yet we always hope for some sort of outside influence to further propel our films forward. This happened with Justice Is Mind when suddenly “thought identification” technology was in the news during the time the film was released.
One does have to wonder if this report to Congress could create something on the order of an Operation Troy like we see in First Signal. Honestly, if the military knows about an alien presence on Earth or in our solar system, wouldn’t they use every conceivable method at their disposal to fully understand it? Of course they would along with, more than likely, linking with the militaries and intelligence agencies of other countries. They say knowledge is power, but sometimes one must also ask the question, “Do you really want the answers to the questions you seek?”
On a personal level, I do hope in my lifetime we definitively learn that we are not alone in the universe. I truly believe that this knowledge will benefit our planet not hinder it. As Cedric Yonah says in First Signal, “This is a time to study and investigate. Can you imagine what you could learn from them?”
With the trailer edited and scored, we are in the rollout phase as the color grading commences. As each day passes we are rolling closer and closer to the day when the trailer for First Signal is released. I don’t think I’ve prepared nearly as much for the release of any of my film projects. Yes, Justice Is Mind was obviously important to me, but with First Signal being my first feature film in the “First World Universe,” I want to make sure I reach who I need to reach.
When I was talking to an acting friend this past week, we started to talk about certain sci-fi series and movies and what we do and don’t like. For me, I’m not so much into spectacle but story. I’d rather watch a solid story than things getting blown up. Yes, sometimes you need to blow something up, but I feel it should be done within the context of the story, not just for show and tell.
Last weekend we had First Signal’s ADR session. Watching these talented actors bring their characters back was nice to see. It was also an opportunity to show them the trailer and opening credits. Aside from some stills, they haven’t had the chance to see anything since we wrapped last July. I know when I’m part of a project as an actor I anxiously await to see what the product will look like.
With audio complete, the provisional score nearly done, VFX being built and the film close to a lock, I can almost see the light at the end of the post-production tunnel. But this is where all the details come up. From polishing the edit and score, finishing the VFX, sound mixing and color grading, creating a film is an arduous task and all about project management.
One of my favorite “TV” series these past few years has been The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. The entire production on both sides of the camera was first rate. When I started to write the sequel to First Signal it dawned on me the character of Major Sampson could parallel Juliana Crain. In High Castle, Crain was instrumental in the resistance movement and played all sides to achieve her goals. In the sequel to First Signal, Sampson finds herself torn between three worlds – the President of the United States, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Cedric Yonah the Premier of the Synedrion Council. As of this morning I just hit the sixty-page mark and I think I know how I want it to end. I think!
As for films that have a military storyline, I saw 1917 last weekend. I can’t say enough great things about this film. From filming the entire story in one continuous shot, to the production values and acting, 1917 was truly a delight. The cinematography alone is reason enough to see this film. I can only imagine the pre-production planning!
I was reading an email newsletter this morning and the author talked about having to love the journey not only as a writer but as it pertained to sales. As a screenwriter, there is that moment when you feel these characters talking back to you as you type their dialogue and action their elements. When you’re filming your screenplay, you see these characters come to life. When you’re watching your story on the silver screen or your TV, you know you’ve made a sale. There is something immensely satisfying being in the lobby of a theatre when someone asks to buy a ticket to your film. Equally when you get notice that your film has been streamed.
The journey is a long one, with many highways and exits ahead. But it’s a journey that I have loved since I wrote my first screenplay in grade school.
Stay the course.