A few months ago while searching for First Signal locations I came across The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH. A museum that honors Alan Shepard and Christa McAuliffe with a “mission is to inspire every generation to reach for the stars, through engaging, artful and entertaining activities that explore astronomy, aviation, earth and space science” is right up my alley of interests.
Last Sunday I took a day trip to visit the museum. When you first arrive you are greeted by a 1:1 scale model of the Mercury-Redstone 3 (Freedom 7) that launched Alan Shepard to space. When you see a life size replica of the space program standing in front of you, it puts those early years of the space program into perspective.
For space and science enthusiasts, this museum really gets it right. You’re first greeted by a NASA funded tribute wall to Alan Shepard and Christa McAuliffe before proceeding to the main exhibits. Some of the exhibits include the experimental XF8U-2 Crusader Jet, the Mercury capsule and developmental path and images of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The resolution of the images this satellite has captured make you feel that you are actually on the Moon. Stunning doesn’t even begin to describe what you’re staring at. Considering that part of First Signal’s story revolves around satellites, I found the CATSAT story to be particularly interesting.
Of course no science museum is complete without a planetarium. The Discovery Center’s 103 seat theater did not disappoint! I arrived just in time for the Take Flight show that brilliantly animated the history and science of aeronautics. After the show, there was the space shuttle simulator (it’s not easy!) that was very engaging. But I felt like I was in a scene from The Andromeda Strain when I took a picture of myself in infrared. Between the static exhibits and the interactive, the museum really has something for everyone. One thing I enjoy the most about developing new projects like First Signal is the research. It takes you to places that you might not normally go.
While I was at the museum, I couldn’t help but remember the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger that took the life of all seven astronauts (including Christa McAuliffe). It reminded me of a quote I used in First World from President Reagan’s memorial speech about the accident. In one line he summed up what the dedicated men and women in the space program represent, not only to the United States but the world.
“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”
– President Ronald Reagan; Houston, TX; January 31, 1986
This past week the editor for Justice Is Mind completed the rough cut of the film. The estimated running time is 2 hours and 26 minutes (146 minutes). I say estimated as it may run a little longer or a little shorter depending on a variety of factors. For me, I generally enjoy longer films. As long as the story moves along, the length shouldn’t matter.
Two of my favorite movies Judgment at Nuremberg (186 minutes) and The Andromeda Strain (131 minutes) were my biggest influences when writing Justice Is Mind. In Judgment the courtroom testimony is evenly balanced between the prosecution and defense. Likewise in Andromeda, the science is explained and demonstrated.
What bothers me the most in some contemporary films is the rush to explanation or worse no explanation at all for a moment that obviously needs one. This is why I have always loved Star Trek, Space: 1999 and the like, they actually explain the science even though such science may not have been invented yet. The audience just wants to hear and see something—thus to be influenced, thus to set the stage for future writers.
This isn’t to say you throw everything and the kitchen sink into a story because you can. I do agree that every scene has to have some sort of contribution to move the story forward. But I always enjoy seeing the characters do something to enhance the substance of their character but not necessarily contribute to the plot or story.
I’m rather passionate about this part of the process not just because I wrote the screenplay, but because I’ve been part of projects when someone took out a chain saw and gutted a story to conform with some sort of perceived “industry standard running time”. The results on these occasions haven’t been pleasant to watch. Incomplete characters, unfinished storylines and story plot holes you could lose a semi in. It’s one thing when you submit a 120 page screenplay to a production company, they option it and they want you to trim to 100 or 110 pages before they start shooting. You either make the changes or you don’t. If you sold/optioned the screenplay to them they can probably do anything they want with “your” story so if they ask you to make the changes, why not at least try rather than let someone do it who really doesn’t know the nuances of your story. But that’s just one example.
When Justice Is Mind is sold to a distributor, I’m sure they will have a variety of areas that need to be adjusted, dubbed or cut. One high profile example that came out of Sundance was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon’s Addiction. Gordon-Levitt will need to cut a graphic sex scene just to secure an R rating. This is when the distributor comes in to have a story adjusted to fit the particular platform. In Justice, while there are no sex scenes, there are several occasions when the ‘F’ word is used. That will be fine for theatrical, but would quickly be dubbed for broadcast television. But am I interested in censoring this now? Not at all. Justice will premiere as it was intended to be told. When someone is holding a checkbook, I will be more than happy to make adjustments.
And speaking of the checkbook, I am pleased to announce that our distributor IndieFlix informed me yesterday that Justice Is Mind: Evidence will be available on Roku next week with Xbox shortly to follow. Look for our press release soon.