North by Northwest
While the title of this post isn’t about one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films, it is about a location that famed film featured – Rapid City, South Dakota. In the late 1970s my family traveled by motorhome across the county. After stopping in Minnesota to visit some family, the next stop before we travelled to Yellowstone National Park was Rapid City, and more specifically, Badlands National Park.
Some forty plus years later in the summer of 2020, my mother and I were looking for some places to holiday that were still open. Places that were wide open in space, but with plenty of “touristy” things to do. We then remembered the trip we took to South Dakota all those years ago. A quick call to the state’s travel bureau and we received a wonderful catalog that outlined countless things to do, particularly in the Black Hills region. From the welcoming hospitality of South Dakotans to the numerous sites to visit, our nearly two-week holiday was one of the best.
A few weeks ago a business opportunity presented itself in the state capital of Pierre. It didn’t take long for me to make travel arrangements back to the “Mount Rushmore State.” There is something quite spectacular about traveling in the off season. When I arrived on Thursday, I first found myself at Mount Rushmore. With probably no more than twenty people at the memorial, it was a unique experience as there were no crowds to “rush” the moment. The history of how Mount Rushmore came into existence (and almost didn’t) is a fascinating one. I highly recommend the book Mount Rushmore by Gilbert C. Fite to learn more.
The next day took me to my meeting in Pierre. Being from the east coast one hears about a 2.5-hour drive and we cringe because of traffic and congestion associated with this part of the country. But in South Dakota the drive from Rapid City to the state capital was uniquely pleasant through sheer natural beauty, fields and wildlife. There were a few moments when I stopped for “Bambi” and family.
Saturday was my day of touring. I made arrangements to visit a store that my mother and I discovered in 2020 – House of Scandinavia. Being Scandinavian (Swedish), the store was a must visit and didn’t disappoint. My next stop was something I wanted to visit in 2020, but didn’t have time – the Minuteman Missile Historic Site.
With three sites along Route 90, the tour started with the visitor center which offered a museum and insightful 30-minute movie on the history of the Cold War, the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile system and the reasons behind their development. The second stop (Delta-01) featured a tour of a launch control facility. It was in these underground bunkers where two Air Force officers were ready to launch nuclear missiles. The third stop (Delta-09) was a view of an actual missile silo with decommissioned Minuteman missile. You can imagine the tour provided some ideas for SOS United States! If you want to learn more about this important time during the Cold War that prevented World War III, this is one attraction I highly recommend.
After my third stop on the Minuteman tour, the Pinnacles entrance station to the Badlands was literally just down the street. There is nothing in this world quite like the Badlands. In fact, it looks and feels like you are on another planet. I think what struck me the most during my visit this year versus 2020, was the void of tourists and how remarkably quite it was. Peaceful and tranquil are just two of the many words that come to mind.
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?