This past week I adapted the first 20 pages of my screenplay SOS United States into a first draft novel. Having run it through some programs, it seems to be about 37 pages so far in book form. If all goes well, I think I’ll have a completed draft by the end of March.
I have to say it’s nice to have a new project to work on. Particularly one that I know will be produced at some point next year. By produced, I mean published. Whether it’s picked up by a traditional publisher (which is ideal) or I self-publish (and I act as publisher through The Ashton Times), it will see the light of day. And, of course, while this is all happening, I continue to work on getting the film version produced.
When I was touring The Elms in Newport yesterday, I started talking to one of the docents about the process of filmmaking. As some of you may know the HBO series The Gilded Age was partially filmed at The Elms and other Newport mansions. Standing in the kitchen, she remarked about the sheer number of people it took, along with time, to produce a scene. She continued by saying that now having seen how the process works, the illusion of how movies (or in this case TV) are made is gone.
This certainly is a natural reaction to those outside the industry watching the production process. But it’s a process that gives any witness an appreciation of the patience involved in bringing these stories to life. The same can be said for publishing a book. While a book may appear to involve only one person (the author), there is a team that brings it to life and eventually to market.
I titled this end of year post Station Keeping for a reason. Planning for the next film (or book) takes time with the majority of the work being in the creation phase. From writing, finance, pre-production, etc., the consumer only sees the finished product on their screen or bookshelf. I call this period ‘the valley’ when I’m planning, writing, editing and pitching new projects. In other words, sometimes our ships are in port for refurbishment, renovation or some other activity that requires they be properly docked before sailing towards another adventure.
In addition to a trip to Florida earlier this year (love visiting NASA!), one thing I took advantage of in 2022 were a variety of weekend events. My many travels to Newport for Cars & Coffee (Audrain Auto Museum) along with the American Heritage Museum and New England Air Museum were certainly the highlight. While having an enjoyable experience is always nice, I usually learn something new or interesting that I can incorporate into my creative world. I have always been a proponent of traveling whenever you can. Whether it’s a day trip or weeklong adventure, expanding one’s horizons and new experiences certainly helps me as a storyteller.
As this year comes to close, I want to thank those that have watched and propelled First Signal around the world. Now available on numerous VOD platforms, its dedicated viewers like you that make independent film like First Signal possible.
The progress toward a milestone I was tracking happened early last week. First Signal was viewed over 1,000,000x on YouTube. When Indie Rights, our distributor, placed First Signal on the site I honestly didn’t know how it would be received. What I did know, that unlike Amazon and Tubi, I would know how many viewed the film and then there would be the public comments. It didn’t take long for me to discover that First Signal found its true audience on YouTube.
This is one of those milestones that all of us associated with the film can be proud of. Who would have thought that a truly independent film such as First Signal would receive so much attention and solid commentary. Suffice to say, I could not be more pleased. Of course, the goal is to build on this popularity when I introduce the First World Universe to producers.
One thing I have learned about releasing and marketing an independent film is that the process is ongoing. The model I follow is what I see the studios do (of course on a much smaller budget!). There is the primary marketing push leading up to and during the theatrical run. Then another big push for the VOD release followed by steady promotion to keep the film visible. And that really is the goal, to stay visible.
When you consider the number of films just being released on Amazon, Tubi, Netflix and YouTube alone, staying visible is a challenge. Visibility in the eyes of the consumer requires a consistent message. In the case of a film, I’m asking for someone to watch it. Some may watch immediately on release, while others may take months to decide only to do so because they see a steady bit of marketing.
Another project I am actively working on is my director’s reel. While my personal website has a variety of on camera reels, I realized I don’t have a reel that illustrates my work as a director. For the last month I have been watching all my films and selecting scenes that I believe look interesting. Once I finish the selection process, I’ll aim to put together some sort of storyboard so when the reel is viewed it’s just not random clips, but imagery that ties into some sort of cohesive story set to a score.
Reviewing all my films has certainly been a trip down memory lane. I was living in Los Angeles when I put together the short film version of First World. Thankfully, I worked with a talented filmmaker and VFX wiz by the name of Adam Starr to bring it all together. Then there was the short film, Evidence, to see if my concept about mind-reading technology in the courtroom sparked interest. Within a year of the completion of that short the feature length version of Evidence, Justice Is Mind was in production. Justice was no small production with over two hundred people involved on both sides of the camera! But then my interest returned to figure skating when I produced the short film version of my political thriller Serpentine with The Short Program. Perhaps someday that project will be produced as a feature.
But not everything in this business happens immediately. I produced First World in 2006 and it took until 2019 to bring the First World Universe to life with the production of the first feature film in the series – First Signal. During a lunch with an agent friend while I was at the American Film Market in 2019, he remarked my steadfastness and commitment to see this new franchise come to life. You see, we had a lunch in 2005 when I completed the screenplay for First World. Let me just say, that time does fly by!