Finding the right producer for a film is like casting the right actor. If you don’t get it right, the film falls apart. With a 51% film festival selection rate, SOS United States has been well received on the circuit. Prior to the script’s film festival run it had been read by a variety of people in and out of the industry. With those early comments in hand, some adjustments were made. But at the end of the day a script is the vision of its writer.
For those that have watched my films or read my work, my stories are involved not simple. They ask the audience to think and reflect. This is why I watch films and series that have very involved storylines. Films created by Christopher Nolan and author John le Carré are my inspiration. To be frank, I don’t have any interest in creating “simplified” work. It’s just not the type of entertainment I’m interested in creating.
Case in point I recently had a meeting with a producer I was looking forward to speaking with. Before I make a pitch, I just don’t look at a producer as a funding source but one that has produced films that could generally fall into the genre of the story I’ve written—in this case SOS United States.
The meeting started off on a positive note with the exchange of pleasantries. When we started talking about the script, this producer did make some solid observations about changing the villain country in light of recent world events, moving up the timeline a couple of years and some other salient points. But then it sadly become clear that this person only skimmed the script and then wanted to stamp their personal opinions on certain matters that made no sense to the story.
In this industry when a script is being reviewed, it often comes back with notes. I believe notes should identify true issues in a script not as fodder for personal opinions or spite. Is there a plot hole? A lack of character development? Is the intended story plausible? Has the story gone off track? Dialogue issues? But when a note or comment is conveyed that is just personal, and even spiteful, that’s when I lose interest in who I’m talking to. I’d rather see a project of mine go unproduced, rather than have it twisted into something I don’t recognize just for the sake of having it produced. Frankly, I couldn’t direct something I don’t believe in and have my name on it.
Like my search for finding the right distributor for First Signal, the same holds true when finding the right producing partner. While it’s important to be enthusiastic about your projects, the key is not to be desperate to do a deal for the sake of a deal. Oh, when I think of some of the ridiculous things some distributors said for First Signal. From you need to have a monster to sign this contract with a quarter of a century term. How easy some make it to say – no thanks. In the end First Signal found a great distribution partner with Indie Rights.
In a few weeks I’m visiting one of the locations that will be featured in SOS United States. It’s a location that inspired me to write this story in the first place. Perhaps like I eventually accomplished with Justice Is Mind and First Signal, something will come to mind that will enable me to produce SOS United States as an independent project through The Ashton Times.
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.