The Final Third
Last week I started on the final third in the novelization of SOS United States. At this point, I don’t see anything getting in the way of my goal to complete a draft by the end of March.
I will say turning a screenplay into a novel, isn’t as easy as it sounds. In a screenplay the entire process is visual. Of course, there are numerous methods in cinema to ascertain what a character is thinking. But in a novel, it can be described in detail along with their surroundings. When I immerse myself in these fictional worlds, I want the audience to experience what I’m thinking. Case in point, the bunker the President and Prime Minister find themselves in. Both the screenplay and novel were inspired by this real-world property in the Adirondacks.
Writing this novel has been a wonderful exercise to really understand the story, the characters and the world they live in. While I still believe the screenplay holds its own, the novelization of the story has grown both in character development and world building. Had the screenplay not done well in the festival circuit, I would probably be revisiting it a bit. But as it did win a variety of awards, I don’t want to tinker with it beyond contemporary updates to technology, etc. There is such a thing in this creative writing process as over analysis and self-doubt. It’s taken some time to learn as a writer, but at some point, you just need to literally put the idea to bed as a completed screenplay or book.
I wrote the screenplay for SOS United States nearly a decade ago. Unlike the screenplays and films in the First World Universe or Justice Is Mind and the sequel In Mind We Trust, SOS United States was a standalone. I’m not exactly sure where the original idea came from, but it does combine my interest in espionage, spies and intrigue in governments and multi-national corporations. I look forward to the day when the book and movie are released to the world.
Speaking of the First World Universe, I’m delighted to report that First Signal has garnered over 1.3 million views on YouTube! The film continues to spark all kinds of conversations on the VOD platforms and social media channels. While the range of interest (or non-interest) is all over the place, the bottom line is that nearly two years after its release, First Signal is still being talked about. Whether viewers love it, hate it or fall somewhere in between, all a filmmaker (or author) can hope for, is that the work is talked about.
I believe part of the driving force behind First Signal is the continuous reporting on UFOs, UAPs, mystery balloons and other atmospheric and aerospace anomalies, that are crossing every news service and social media platform. It also doesn’t hurt that the U.S. Department of Defense is publicly involved in the identification of this ‘phenomena’ and have set up an internal office to address it. Who knows, maybe elements of First Signal are true!
In closing, I took some time this week to revisit my first feature film Justice Is Mind. I was preparing some writing samples for a presentation and came across a variety of things linked with this project. When I found the filmmaking seminar presentation I did on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth in 2014, it brought a smile to my face. I was reminded about the challenges I had to get Justice Is Mind off the ground and then realized that if you work hard enough, stay focused and stay determined anything is possible.
“The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.” – George Santayana
As the pre-production process of First Signal continues towards a May launch, I always take the last weekend of any given year and reflect on what I was able to accomplish. The key as I’ve learned over the years is to not spread yourself too thin. I mentioned in my last post, it’s about quality rather than quantity.
One project that I will always be immensely proud of is my work with the Naval Justice School. Acting and directing that project was a true honor. I never viewed it as just another acting gig but rather my small way of giving back to those that serve in our great military. What I always conveyed to the actors was the importance of “staying on script” as the mock trial program was one of the last exercises these law students had before they were deployed.
The contractor for that program then retained me to write a training script for the military. I can’t go into too many details publicly, but it gave me an opportunity to broaden my screenwriting skills while again giving back. When I learned that my script is now part of the orientation program at one of the largest military bases in the country, well, that was another honor.
Outside of the military contracts, my acting work led me to some unique projects. At this stage of my career, a project has to be interesting. It’s not about the check, it’s about the scope. I also need to believe in those that are behind the project. Do they have a vision? Will they see it through to the end? I’m proud to say that the projects I have been part of in 2018 had both scope and vision. There’s nothing more exciting as an actor than working with passionate filmmakers.
Speaking of passion, one of the most exciting things I did this year was drone photography. As some of you may know, I purchased a drone for First Signal. From the beaches of Ogunquit to the mansions of Newport to museums in Concord and Quincy, more doors opened than I could have possibly imagined.
One of those doors of course was the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH. It’s no secret that I love museums, but museums that focus on space, science and aviation are my favorites. When I first walked through the door at the Discovery Center this gem of a museum offered a bit of everything to this enthusiast. But it’s when I asked permission to do some drone photography that more doors opened—the door to First Signal.
Of course the biggest project to come out of 2018 has been First Signal. Undertaking the production of a feature film is a task like none other, but I’ve been through it already with Justice Is Mind and other projects. After ten years in development from the First World story, and as the first in a series, it’s important to get as many things right as possible. Nothing is worse than when a project is rushed into production and you feel like something is off. But when things do come together as you envision, that’s when a project becomes exciting.
The one thing I strive for is enthusiasm and a positive outlook. But anyone that works in this industry knows it’s not easy. There’s always some sort of obstacle, setback or situation to overcome. But it’s also about perseverance, persistence and above all patience.