The First Ten
Yesterday I finished the first ten pages of SOS United States as a novel. The process I’ve taken is to take one page of script a day to write in novel form. This process seems to be working as it gives me time to fully describe a scene that sometimes isn’t available in a screenplay. By example, “The second-generation Concorde raced above a cirrocumulus cloud formation at Mach 2. The radiance of the sun reflecting on the aviation marvel highlighted the white fuselage and its livery – The Commonwealth of Nations.”
What I’m enjoying about this form of writing is the ability to get into the minds of the characters to let the audience know what they’re thinking while keeping it from the characters in the book. In a screenplay, unless you do voiceovers, the internal thought process of the characters needs to be portrayed visually which can be a bit of a challenge. I will say that All About Eve and Sunset Blvd. (poor Joe Gillis!) do a masterful job at voiceovers.
There’s no rush or hard deadline to finish a first draft. My feeling is as I get more comfortable with this medium, I’ll turn more than a page of the screenplay a day into a novel. The one saving grace I have is that the screenplay is completed so there’s a solid outline. Of course, I am adding and deleting words of dialogue here and there. I’ve also been expanding some scenes to add gravitas to certain moments.
In my view I think the best adaptation of a book to the silver screen (in this case it was a made for TV mini-series) was Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance. As someone who has read the book several times, I was a bit nervous when I first learned of the TV adaption. But as the series was produced by the famed Diane Baker, who played Laura O’Neill, the series stayed true to the book and was a tremendous success. The series was also directed by the late Don Sharp who really understood the mini-series genre.
On another front I have been very encouraged by the continued enthusiasm of audiences asking me when the second installment of The First World Universe will be produced. Having hit over 1.2 million views on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, First Signal has truly found its audience. As a filmmaker it’s very encouraging to receive comments and direct emails from those wanting to see more.
While First Signal did have a conclusion of sorts, there’s no question that it is set up for a sequel. Having written both First Report and First Launch, there are a wide variety of factors on when the next installment will go into production. Suffice to say, I’m working on it!
Over the course of any given week, I see a variety of filmmakers working hard to bring their vision from script to screen. I’ve been very fortunate and lucky to have produced and released two feature films. Independent film production is an arduous task. In addition to capital, it takes time, patience and perseverance. Even in the best of circumstances it can take years to bring a sequel to market (Avatar: The Way of Water).
This all being said one cannot just sit and wait for an opportunity to present itself. As I mentioned to a friend the other day, if I waited for others to hire me for the opportunities I’ve had as a publisher and filmmaker, I’d still be waiting. There’s always a way to get something done. It may take years. The result may look different. You may be a bit tired from the effort. But you will have one thing others that wait around don’t…
…a completed project.
It was early in 1994 when the call came in. The Montel Williams Show wanted me as a guest to discuss the “Tonya/Nancy” fallout. Naturally, I was beyond thrilled, excited and, yes, nervous. But I had just launched a figure skating magazine and was eager for all the promotion I could get.
I remember like it was yesterday the days leading up to my first TV appearance. The call with the producer going over details of the planned show. Their booking of my flight to New York and my hotel. In the end I drove to the city the day before as a snowstorm threatened to cancel flights from Worcester. I couldn’t believe I was in New York as a guest on one of the most popular syndicated talk shows of the time. The taping went great and the rest as they say was history – over 15 years of TV appearances around the sport of figure skating (the total count is around 300). Because they wanted me on that show and because I said yes, it launched my career and created a brand in the process. Someone reading this is now asking how much I was paid in cash. The answer is simple – zero. It was exposure.
Throughout my career the one thing I have endeavored to keep is an open mind. When an opportunity presents itself the first thing I look at is the exposure. Is it going to look good on my resume? Might it lead to something else? Will the footage be worthwhile? Perhaps the most important – will I have a good time. Sure, the compensation package is a consideration. But currency shouldn’t just be measured in dollars and cents. Each “gig” is cumulative. By simple example, many high profile “non-cash” TV appearances led to a $2,500 an episode paid gig as a Judge on FOX’s Skating with Celebrities.
Unfortunately, what I’m seeing in this industry lately are closed minds unwilling to see the big picture. An actor, who I booked on a paid gig last year, recently took to social media to call out a listing they saw about how actors apparently weren’t being compensated. Instead of ignoring the posting they thought it was a good idea to take their “vent” to social media to get like-minded people to agree with them. I have seen other similar postings or have heard of those brought to my attention. These actors believe they’re doing the industry a service when in fact they just expose themselves as nonprofessionals. What’s curious about some is that they are represented by reputable agents. Do these agents know what their clients are doing on social media? Sadly, they don’t think about the possible fallout from defamation or that they have now branded themselves as troublemakers. Believe me when I tell you, producers, casting agents, directors and employers look at your social media before hiring you for a gig or a job. I now understand why some of these folks have painfully thin resumes.
To quote Paul McGill in my favorite book A Woman of Substance, “We are each the authors of our own lives, Emma. We live in what we have created. There is no way to shift the blame and no one else to accept the accolades.” Whether I’m creating a project or considering the opportunity to work on one, I always look at career “currency” and how it will increase my brand. This is all about leveraging one project after another. The one thing everyone wants in this industry is to be noticed. I think it’s best to be known for ones accomplishments rather than complaints.
I’m now thinking to myself, what if I said no back in 1994? Would my career have launched? Who knows. But one thing I do know is this is an industry of endless opportunities. It also doesn’t hurt to have a little bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time.