I’ve never been one that subscribes to the “new year new me” mentality. You are either going to do something or you aren’t. If you lack motivation, no date on the calendar is going to change that. I simply use the beginning of any new year to start new projects along with matters of housekeeping.
Throughout any given year I tend to accumulate a variety of notes and related ideas to projects I’m working on or plan to work on. For me the week between Christmas and New Year’s is when I do a good amount of organizing. Some things I calendar to act on, others I archive for future reference—an idea I had yesterday, might not be for today but may be for a future tomorrow.
One project that is moving along nicely is the novelization of SOS United States. I’m presently just past the one third mark. In my view the story is transferring well from screenplay to novel. I do find that I’m able to nicely expand on certainly parts of the story that, for matter of running time, just can’t be fit into a feature film.
I can certainly understand the cry from audiences when a favorite book of theirs is transferred to the silver screen and is lacking key moments of plot and/or character development. Generally, the process goes novel first followed by the screenplay. In the case of SOS United States, it’s the opposite. When the draft is complete (still aiming for end of March), it will largely mirror the screenplay with some narrative enhancements.
But as I’ve done with the production of my films (and former publishing company), I’m not waiting forever for someone to publish. For those of us that call ourselves creatives, nothing is worse than the waiting game for acknowledgement. I’ve known actors that have been working at the craft for years and are still waiting for a breakout role. Similarly, I know screenwriters still pitching their scripts in the hope that someone will produce. The same of course is true for writers that want to see their book published.
This isn’t to say that you go broke and produce on your own. One does need some sort of recognition that their craft is worthy before investing your own dollars. In the case of my magazine publishing work, I was involved in figure skating for years and worked at a newsweekly. It was just a matter of the doing (and praying!). As for filmmaking, I had been around the craft through the production of direct response commercials for my publishing company along with my numerous on-camera appearances. Like most that venture into filmmaking, I started with short films before producing features. Even then, I had to make sure I could produce on what I could afford. Self-publishing a book is certainly not an issue. It’s about quality and, of course, distribution and marketing.
In all the aforementioned cases, there was experience and award recognition from festivals. If I didn’t have a combination of both, I don’t believe I would have pushed these ventures to reality. As creatives we certainly have an ego to satisfy. Any creative telling you otherwise, really isn’t speaking truthfully. But I do believe an ego needs to be checked to a degree. In the case of SOS United States the screenplay has been very fortunate to receive several awards and nominations. Now, it’s the process of transferring the story to a book.
Speaking of books, I just finished reading another one of Annie Jacobsen’s masterpieces – Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base. This is the second book of hers I’ve read (the first was Operation Paperclip). Jacobsen’s books are not only brilliantly written, but wonderfully investigated into a final piece of work that is both intelligent and approachable to those that want insight into the secret world of government cover-ups and intrigue.
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.