Since First Signal wrapped production in 2019 I have written the next two stories in the franchise – First Report and First Launch. While I could probably pull off First Report from my own resources, First Launch requires a substantive seven figure budget. With First Signal rapidly approaching a key VOD milestone, I’m also starting to receive more and more inquiries on when part two will go into production. Both developments are obviously good news and positive indicators that the story has been well received.
The production of First Report would in fact be the next two feature films in the franchise (it’s one story, but a 190-page script). Whether my next feature film is in the First World Universe or is SOS United States, the key is being able to develop and produce a product that exceeds the first. As a filmmaker I owe it to myself to raise the bar on quality and substance.
When I was visiting Newport yesterday, I couldn’t help but remember that First Signal was born out of my work at the Naval Justice School. It took an experience at a military base, to bring that project to life. Similarly, when I visit any of the Newport mansions, I see the sequel to First Signal clearly as President Colton resides at an estate in First Report.
As I was touring Rosecliff yesterday, I remember producing a photo shoot at this storied Gilded Age mansion with Nancy Kerrigan for my old figure skating magazine. It was about 20 years ago when, for a brief moment in time, I was producing at my favorite of all Newport mansions. Time will tell if President Colton exits the ballroom to the sweeping ocean front lawn and boards an awaiting Arctran.
But that is what this industry is all about – imagination. From coming up with an idea, committing it to paper and then bringing it to life on the silver screen is an experience like none other.
But until that next moment of pre-production arrives, it’s about experiences. As some may have noticed from this blog and my social media posts, I’ve been doing a fair amount of weekend day trips. While these are a nice getaway, they also open my eyes to the possibility of locations and other resources to bring the next story to life.
I mentioned to a colleague last month, that I’m at that stage where I am far enough out from my last feature film to start working on another, but I’m not going to rush the process either. Frankly, I’ve never quite understood those that jump from producing one project to another without properly releasing or marketing the final product. I understand the desire to produce, but isn’t it also about developing an audience?
With the one year anniversary of First Signal’s theatrical release coming up, I also realize we are soon going to hit a milestone on VOD. I hope to announce what that milestone is soon. But the one thing that never stops is the continued pitching for development along with new ideas for future projects.
Just this past week, I was pleased to receive a request from an established producer to review SOS United States. Will this review turn into a deal? Who knows, but the important thing is that there is activity with this project. When developing a project for production, it’s all about activity.
Since I completed First Report, I’ve had a variety of meetings and conversations around some new projects, from a conspiracy thriller to a documentary involving the sport of figure skating. While I’ll always cherish my time in the sport, I honestly just don’t see myself returning in any capacity. Although I didn’t watch the Winter Olympics (I haven’t watched an Olympics since I was in Salt Lake City in 2002), it was reading about another scandal that just cemented my decision.
But a new conspiracy thriller is certainly exciting to me. When the idea was brought up this weekend the creative wheels just started to turn. Before I knew it, we almost had a completed outline. This idea is particularly interesting as it’s linked to a major historical event.
While I’m working on this new idea, I’ve started to reread First Report to break it down for possible production. As I wrote Justice Is Mind and First Signal, First Report could be done as an independent production within the scale of those films. Although at 194 pages, First Report is either two feature films or a limited series. The key is to secure the right locations and scheduling. From there it’s budgeting and pre-production planning.
Having just reorganized some of my production files, I was reminded about the months First Signal spent in pre-production. I believe that phase is the most critical when making a film. Yes, the actual production (principal photography) of the film is important along with post-production. But, in my view, if everything is properly organized, along with contingency plans, it just makes for literal smooth sailing.
Of course there’s no smooth sailing in film distribution, just constant navigational challenges. In the world of VOD it’s about pivoting. For so many years, it was Amazon’s TVOD/SVOD (transactional/subscription video on demand) that filmmakers clamored for. But now the tables have turned as it’s Tubi and YouTube’s AVOD (advertising video on demand) where the money is. Thankfully, First Signal has a distributor in Indie Rights that does a masterful job at pivoting!