Although I wrote First Launch, the sequel to First Signal in 2021, I always felt there was a story between the two. With First Signal set in the year 2014 and First Launch in 2016, I started to wonder what happened in the year 2015. It was when I was at First Signal’s last screening in July at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center that the idea came to me. I am therefore pleased to announce:
A reporter’s discovery of a secret meeting between three world leaders could spell the end of life as we know it with the revelation of an alien power on Earth.
I must have subconsciously planted the idea in First Signal, because that’s where it came from. At the beginning of the film, Elisabeth Seward, the President’s National Security Advisor, makes the following observation to Major Ellen Sampson:
When I first mentioned the idea to a few of the actors in First Signal, at first it was going to be a short film —a simple bridge between First Signal and First Launch. But as I started to write it, I soon realized there was more story here than I thought.
While First Report revolves around Kate Cloverton’s investigation into the President’s schedule that leads to the discovery of secret meeting between three world leaders, it’s the actions of those in her orbit that gives the story the gravitas it needs to propel Cloverton’s story.
In First Report we see the President caught between the balance of terrestrial and extraterrestrial affairs, while General Reager’s Operation Troy is still getting a handle on who and what this alien presence on Earth is all about. But we then learn more about this alien power through James Griffin and the real-world issue and fears it’s creating for Major Sampson. In effect, the idea for a short story turned into a two-continent epic.
First Report is probably the most ambitious, intense and detailed story I have ever written. Taking six months to research and write, First Report is a political thriller backgrounded in science fiction. The crux of the plot surrounds itself with the very issues and questions we ask ourselves every day – are we alone in the universe and if not, is the government keeping us in the dark. If the latter, how is it being done and who is involved.
Developing a new science fiction franchise from scratch is no easy task. For me it’s constantly telling myself to “be original” and to pay homage where it makes sense to do so. I endeavor to continuously twist and turn a story as the narrative highway is being built. As Kate Cloverton says in First Report when she is walking down a dirt road to face the truth of her investigation, “Not exactly yellow brick is it.”
With First Signal produced and First Report and First Launch completed as screenplays, my efforts will start to turn towards development. At 193 pages, First Report is either two films or a limited series. The series route does seem to be where things are trending in the streaming world. Of course, only time will tell where the First World Universe will ultimately go.
While First Signal continues through the festival circuit and SOS United States just starts with festival submissions, my next decision is to decide who I’m placing First Signal with for VOD. For once the decision is made, I need to have faith in those that will be handling the majority of the rights for the next several years. But after over a year of research and discussions, I’ve narrowed it down to two companies. Look for a formal announcement shortly.
With First Signal largely wrapping up its festival run in April, my attention is now turning to theatrical. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had conversations with a small chain and a few independent theatres. The plan is the same I implemented with Justice Is Mind—one evening theatrical screenings in select markets. Of course, the world has changed over the last year with some of the theaters asking for multi-night screenings. Naturally, that would be fine with me!
There still lies the misconception that indie filmmakers must four wall (rent) a theater to get their movies screened. While I won’t divulge my method for getting films into theaters (sorry some things are my own process), my aim is to always present a win/win situation for the theater and the film. Today, more than ever, theatrical is critical not only to the survival of theaters but the film industry in general.
I understand on one hand why studios are pushing back the release of their major films, but on the other hand they just need to pick a date and get on with it. Simply, there will never be a perfect time. People will either go to the theater or stay home, it’s as simple as that. But if theatrical collapses, that is going to be not only a financial disaster for the industry, but for the local economies these theaters serve. I personally know of four theaters that are closed. Not because of draconian lockdowns, but because they can’t get contemporary product in the hope of some traffic. Seriously, would you go to a theater if that same film was on Amazon or Netflix?
I was asked the other day when I’m going to film my next project. Truthfully, I see this year largely being the marketing of First Signal’s theatrical and VOD release and breaking down SOS United States for a 2022 start date. First Launch, the sequel to First Signal, is being actively presented. But that project will require a substantial investment. Project Shinar, however, is moving along.
Since my last post, I’m delighted to report that First Signal has picked up two additional Official Selections. When I was looking at our laurels the other day, I couldn’t help but notice the international reach these festivals have. This type of placement will work well when First Signal goes to VOD.