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.
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.