There is something very satisfying about being at the near halfway mark in the novelization of SOS United States. First, this particular writing exercise has enabled me to not only get very close to this story but to enhance it accordingly. Some areas in the screenplay that I believe will work well on the silver screen, really needed to be expanded on in this forum.
One thing I have learned in a screenplay, versus a book, are the constraints of time. Generally, a screenplay is anywhere from 90-120 pages. I promise you there is no right or wrong length. Screenplays need what they need to tell a story. By example Justice Is Mind was 120 pages (2 hours/33 minutes) while First Signal was just 82 (1 hour/42 minutes).
While I’m not sure where the novelization of SOS United States will conclude page wise, it does seem to be moving in the right direction (as an aside, the associated screenplay is 120 pages). Of course, I have already thought about the marketing aspects of the book once the manuscript is completed. However, I have tabled any action on those elements for now as I don’t want the distraction. Simply, while I do have the script to keep the story on track, there are too many elements in SOS United States that warrant undivided creative attention.
On another front, First Signal continues to perform well in the VOD world. I can’t believe it will be two years in April that the film was released – four years since the film was produced! As the film is still performing financially, with Tubi receiving the most traffic, I still continue to market the title.
Sadly, I see so many filmmakers “forget” their past projects while working on something new. While I understand the need and want to move on to the next, it is the past that brought us to these points. Honestly, weekly social media posts and some paid advertising (if the revenues warrant it) are well worth it when the quarterly checks arrive from the distributor.
I am asked on a weekly basis by First Signal’s fans when I plan to put the sequel into production. This I can promise, once the first draft of SOS United States is completed, I can revisit the First World Universe and the sequel First Report. The key with First Report is that it is actually two films (Part 1 and 2) or a limited series (several episodes). Regardless of how/when it’s completed, it’s nice to know that there’s an audience waiting to see it. I just hope it doesn’t take as long as Avatar (15 years)!
There is an aspect of First Signal and the greater First World Universe that keeps this story front and center. That is the ever-increasing reports on UFOs, UAP’s and the like. Just two weeks ago the Pentagon released a long-awaited report about this phenomena that stated, according to Space.com, “171 reported UAP sightings remain “uncharacterized and unattributed.”
Just what makes up these 171 sightings? We aren’t talking about 1 or 2 or even a couple of dozen. At 171 there is every reason to believe that there is validity, not only to what I postulate in First Signal, but to other stories that revolve around the UFO universe. Two questions beg an answer.
Have extraterrestrials visited us? If they have, are they still here?
Yesterday I finished the first ten pages of SOS United States as a novel. The process I’ve taken is to take one page of script a day to write in novel form. This process seems to be working as it gives me time to fully describe a scene that sometimes isn’t available in a screenplay. By example, “The second-generation Concorde raced above a cirrocumulus cloud formation at Mach 2. The radiance of the sun reflecting on the aviation marvel highlighted the white fuselage and its livery – The Commonwealth of Nations.”
What I’m enjoying about this form of writing is the ability to get into the minds of the characters to let the audience know what they’re thinking while keeping it from the characters in the book. In a screenplay, unless you do voiceovers, the internal thought process of the characters needs to be portrayed visually which can be a bit of a challenge. I will say that All About Eve and Sunset Blvd. (poor Joe Gillis!) do a masterful job at voiceovers.
There’s no rush or hard deadline to finish a first draft. My feeling is as I get more comfortable with this medium, I’ll turn more than a page of the screenplay a day into a novel. The one saving grace I have is that the screenplay is completed so there’s a solid outline. Of course, I am adding and deleting words of dialogue here and there. I’ve also been expanding some scenes to add gravitas to certain moments.
In my view I think the best adaptation of a book to the silver screen (in this case it was a made for TV mini-series) was Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance. As someone who has read the book several times, I was a bit nervous when I first learned of the TV adaption. But as the series was produced by the famed Diane Baker, who played Laura O’Neill, the series stayed true to the book and was a tremendous success. The series was also directed by the late Don Sharp who really understood the mini-series genre.
On another front I have been very encouraged by the continued enthusiasm of audiences asking me when the second installment of The First World Universe will be produced. Having hit over 1.2 million views on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, First Signal has truly found its audience. As a filmmaker it’s very encouraging to receive comments and direct emails from those wanting to see more.
While First Signal did have a conclusion of sorts, there’s no question that it is set up for a sequel. Having written both First Report and First Launch, there are a wide variety of factors on when the next installment will go into production. Suffice to say, I’m working on it!
Over the course of any given week, I see a variety of filmmakers working hard to bring their vision from script to screen. I’ve been very fortunate and lucky to have produced and released two feature films. Independent film production is an arduous task. In addition to capital, it takes time, patience and perseverance. Even in the best of circumstances it can take years to bring a sequel to market (Avatar: The Way of Water).
This all being said one cannot just sit and wait for an opportunity to present itself. As I mentioned to a friend the other day, if I waited for others to hire me for the opportunities I’ve had as a publisher and filmmaker, I’d still be waiting. There’s always a way to get something done. It may take years. The result may look different. You may be a bit tired from the effort. But you will have one thing others that wait around don’t…
…a completed project.