Last night I attended the world premiere of Daniel Groom’s Alternate Ground to a sold-out crowd at Chunky’s Cinema Pub in Nashua, NH. Although Dan has directed several short films, this was his feature film directorial debut. Alternate Ground’s combination of sci-fi and horror worked brilliantly in this UFO abduction film. While watching Alternate Ground unfold, I was reminded of some classic sci-fi and horror films from the 1970s and 80s that I adore. I don’t know if that was his intention or not, but from a marketing point of view it was a brilliant combination of classic film with contemporary storytelling. Suffice to say it was well done.
Prior to the film’s start, Dan remarked to the audience about the importance of independent film and the filmmakers that bring them to life. The word “sacrifice” doesn’t even begin to describe what the filmmakers, cast and crew do to bring art to the silver screen. I promise you the passion in a truly independent film such as Alternate Ground is 1000x more than any studio could achieve. Last night you could see that passion on screen and from those attending. It’s that passion that drives the independent filmmaker to continue pushing forward to do one thing – create.
Some years ago, I was asked by someone why I work so hard on my film projects when the promise of a return is nebulous at best. I simply responded, it’s a story I need to tell. This person continued to press me on the subject until I finally said something on the order of, it’s people like me that create what you see on TV, in the theatres and the books you read. Without creatives there is no substance to society. Without creatives life is just black and white with no color. The person that was pressing me was someone who, sadly, works a terribly boring job. And while I can say I’ve worked many boring jobs in my life, you must find the time to be creative, to express yourself in whatever medium that brings you, and hopefully others, some joy. To Daniel Groom, his cast, crew and partners, you brought a great amount of joy last night.
With the trailer edited and scored, we are in the rollout phase as the color grading commences. As each day passes we are rolling closer and closer to the day when the trailer for First Signal is released. I don’t think I’ve prepared nearly as much for the release of any of my film projects. Yes, Justice Is Mind was obviously important to me, but with First Signal being my first feature film in the “First World Universe,” I want to make sure I reach who I need to reach.
When I was talking to an acting friend this past week, we started to talk about certain sci-fi series and movies and what we do and don’t like. For me, I’m not so much into spectacle but story. I’d rather watch a solid story than things getting blown up. Yes, sometimes you need to blow something up, but I feel it should be done within the context of the story, not just for show and tell.
Last weekend we had First Signal’s ADR session. Watching these talented actors bring their characters back was nice to see. It was also an opportunity to show them the trailer and opening credits. Aside from some stills, they haven’t had the chance to see anything since we wrapped last July. I know when I’m part of a project as an actor I anxiously await to see what the product will look like.
With audio complete, the provisional score nearly done, VFX being built and the film close to a lock, I can almost see the light at the end of the post-production tunnel. But this is where all the details come up. From polishing the edit and score, finishing the VFX, sound mixing and color grading, creating a film is an arduous task and all about project management.
One of my favorite “TV” series these past few years has been The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. The entire production on both sides of the camera was first rate. When I started to write the sequel to First Signal it dawned on me the character of Major Sampson could parallel Juliana Crain. In High Castle, Crain was instrumental in the resistance movement and played all sides to achieve her goals. In the sequel to First Signal, Sampson finds herself torn between three worlds – the President of the United States, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Cedric Yonah the Premier of the Synedrion Council. As of this morning I just hit the sixty-page mark and I think I know how I want it to end. I think!
As for films that have a military storyline, I saw 1917 last weekend. I can’t say enough great things about this film. From filming the entire story in one continuous shot, to the production values and acting, 1917 was truly a delight. The cinematography alone is reason enough to see this film. I can only imagine the pre-production planning!
I was reading an email newsletter this morning and the author talked about having to love the journey not only as a writer but as it pertained to sales. As a screenwriter, there is that moment when you feel these characters talking back to you as you type their dialogue and action their elements. When you’re filming your screenplay, you see these characters come to life. When you’re watching your story on the silver screen or your TV, you know you’ve made a sale. There is something immensely satisfying being in the lobby of a theatre when someone asks to buy a ticket to your film. Equally when you get notice that your film has been streamed.
The journey is a long one, with many highways and exits ahead. But it’s a journey that I have loved since I wrote my first screenplay in grade school.
Stay the course.