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.
The email came in from our special effects supervisor yesterday, “block 6 done”. With one more block to go, the special effects for Justice Is Mind are nearly complete. I can’t speak to how other directors handle their post production work, but I decided early on that the best approach was to edit the film in seven blocks that average about 20 minutes each. As all of us work remotely, we have relied fairly exclusively on DropBox to share files. But sometimes the good old U.S. Postal Service is still needed as part of the delivery process. Simply the number of files involved in Justice are staggering –over 150 hours of film to edit, over 10,000 frames for special effect processing and then there are the special effect sounds (over 200 in one block alone). But with edit files now being locked and sound mixing complete for the first two blocks, Justice Is Mind is well on track for completion. With the last piece of “skyscraper” being the color correction that will take place in June, Justice will have a completed running time of 2 hours and 33 minutes.
This past week it dawned on me that it has been exactly a year since I announced pre-production for Justice Is Mind. In some ways it seemed like yesterday when I was at a science fiction convention in Maryland with Vernon Aldershoff (Henri Miller in Justice) showing the short film version Evidence. Before I knew it, we were shooting the feature. Now the feature is nearly complete. Time certainly does fly by!
But now my time turns towards our premiere date on August 18 in Albany, NY at the Palace Theatre along with a host of other marketing and distribution initiatives. With sales agents actively interested, film festival submissions starting shortly, screenings at law schools and sci-fi conventions being scheduled and looking at independent theatres to book Justice along with an industry screening, timing all these processes is another task in and of itself. And that’s where another area comes into play—strategy.
Take for example the Liberace “drama” Behind the Candelabra that stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Director Steven Soderbergh told the New York Post in January that the movie was originally planned for a theatrical release but was ultimately produced by HBO instead because the story was “too gay” for Hollywood movie studios; curious as Brokeback Mountain was released theatrically. So now the film is debuting on HBO.
My point is that even the best laid plans sometimes need to be adjusted based on the market (as ridiculous as this may be). Certainly, I don’t agree with the studios not distributing Behind the Candelabra domestically, but HBO does also present a great option as well. Thankfully the United States isn’t the elephant in the room it used to be for theatrical distribution. Important, of course, but foreign markets are growing in prominence and importance. For anyone that follows the film industry we are seeing more and more films released internationally first before they bow in the United States.
For Justice Is Mind we may just see some sort of reverse market release. Of course we proceed with our plans in a timely fashion, but if a sales agent comes in and sells our rights to foreign markets that may dictate a whole new distribution and marketing strategy.
Time will tell.