When I was notified this week that SOS United States was a finalist for Best Feature Screenplay in AFIN International Film Festival, I was thrilled. The last several weeks have been good to my political thriller screenplay with festivals “boarding” the concept.
It’s one thing to write a screenplay, it’s another to develop it. When I wrote SOS, I was coming off the release and marketing of Justice Is Mind – my first feature film. For me, I need to be in the valley of quiet before I start to write another screenplay. When I’m actively producing or releasing a film, I find there are simply too many distractions to properly concentrate to allow new characters and stories to come to life. Likewise, it would be a disservice to the marketing and release of a film if my attention was on writing another story. At the end of the day, we are creating and marketing a brand. I’ve always believed that each component needs to be taken as seriously as the other.
As I near the 80-page mark in my latest screenplay in The First World Universe, I find that my writing process is starting to change. As this story tracks two other storylines along with the primary line, I find after I write out a particular scene in Word, I need to let it sit for a day or two so other thoughts come to mind. Once some of these new strings to the story come forward, it’s another round in Word before I go to Final Draft. I applaud those that can write in Final Draft from the get-go. For me, I’m thinking in so many voices and moments so rapidly that I need to type as fast as I’m thinking. Someone asked me recently, how I came up with the latest idea. It originates with this one line from First Signal.
Of course, there is one thing that every filmmaker looks forward to and that’s the quarterly payment from the distributor. My two feature films are placed with two different distributors while my three shorts are placed direct. When I think how much the world of film distribution has changed in the last ten years it just boggles my mind.
When Justice Is Mind was released in 2013, theatrical was humming, traditional media was plentiful, social media was growing and Amazon was the place to be for VOD. Flash forward to the present and while the mechanics are still there, the metrics and dynamics have changed dramatically. I’ll say this, as Justice Is Mind has been on both SVOD and AVOD platforms for some time, I can say without a doubt that AVOD platforms (Tubi) are the revenue generators for independent film. In the next couple of weeks First Signal will receive its first distributor payment. It will be very interesting to see performance by platform when compared to its marketing spend and promotion.
Shortly after SOS United States won Best Screenplay at the Washington Film Festival, I was notified that the script was nominated for another Best Screenplay award at the LA Live Film Festival. Since I entered SOS United States into the film festival circuit, I have been very pleased with the results to date—14 official sections with 4 nominations and 6 wins. My weekly pitching also yielded a production company interested in reading the script. With a standard release form signed, SOS United States is now being reviewed.
While I remain optimistic for production to begin soon, the reality is that it just takes time to get a project off the ground—especially when you’re looking for investment. When you consider that some very notable films have been in “development hell” for years, you wonder how any film gets produced! I had no idea that the Dallas Buyers Club was written in 1992 and finally released in 2013. Patience is certainly key!
When I think about it, Justice Is Mind sailed along pretty quickly. From short film version to feature was two years. However, from script to screen, First Signal took four years. With First Signal, although we had limited locations in the story, they had to be right. Thus, an extended search. In addition, there were casting and schedule adjustments that also caused some delays. But in the end, the project was completed and released.
Part of First Signal’s release is the continued marketing I employ for the film. In addition to regular social media and pitching for new opportunities, I’m always looking for some interesting angle to capitalize on. Last week I posted a video to First Signal’s IMDb listing titled The UAP Revelation. Created in June for our YouTube channel to coincide with the announcement of the UFO report from the Director of National Intelligence to Congress, the idea was to cross promote the UAP video moment in First Signal with the same moment that was being discussed in the mainstream media.
This weekend I completed up to page 61 of my latest story in the “First World Universe.” With my final pages outlined, I’m hoping for a first draft by the end of October. In all my years of screenwriting I don’t think I’ve ever written a political thriller as complicated and involved as this one. We shall see how it’s received when I start sending it out for reviews and commentary.
As for commentary, a special shout out to Dan and Missy Eaton for producing another successful Military History Expo! From the Civil War through WWII, over 200 living historians (reenactors), three battle reenactments and special guests, brought history to life over this two-day event. It was great to see that nearly 1,000 people attended the festivities. Their expo is a wonderful event to not only learn about military history, but to see it come to life.
In regard to some First Signal trivia, the field you see in the film was the location of the Military History Expo when they produced it in Orange, MA. If you look at the still below, you can see the WWI & WWII trenches that were created for the expo. It was a fitting location for First Signal as part of the story goes back to WWII.