July 20, 1969. The 49th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission – “we came in peace for all mankind.”
Although at 4 years old, I was too young to remember the historic event of the Eagle landing on the Moon, I fondly recall the later Apollo missions in the early 1970s. Those grainy black and white pictures being transmitted from the Moon to our television sets was a remarkable achievement. Indeed, it truly was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In those days the world watched in wonder as the impossible was achieved, not once, but several times.
When you think of the new technologies, sciences and discoveries that resulted from the space program of the 1960s and 70s, it’s clear that a giant leap was achieved on numerous levels. You can’t bring together that many scientists and engineers and focus them on a single end goal without achieving breakthroughs that were literally out of this world. Of course, another result of the space program was the motivation it gave to so many.
In my case, I developed an interest in astronomy which led to my passion for science fiction. When I combined these interests and wrote First World in 2006, I had no idea where that journey would take me. In the film world it led to the production of the short film version of First World in 2007, followed by Evidence and my first feature film Justice Is Mind. In the real world, I have been fortunate to see the space shuttle Atlantis land at Edwards Air Force Base, Discovery and components of the Apollo program at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Enterprise at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and Freedom 7 at John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
In the world of entertainment, two of my favorite TV series that involved the Moon are UFO and Space: 1999 with my favorite sci-fi movie being War of the Worlds (1953). But over the last several years “Hollywood” has produced some excellent must see films. I could list many, but my two recent favorites have been Hidden Figures and Arrival. Two completely different films, but with compelling messages of the possible when faced with the impossible.
As for possible, progress continues on First Signal. With Daniel Elek-Diamanta designing our first promotional poster, the look of First Signal is beginning to take shape. With more location scouting planned over the next several days, I have no doubt that the right location will soon present itself. When a launch is planned, all the conditions need to be right. I don’t want to settle on a substandard location just for the sake of keeping a schedule. Not only do I need to be excited as a director, but I want the actors and crew to feel equally motivated with their surroundings.
I programmed SpaceX’s launch date into my calendar. The upcoming launch of the Falcon Heavy was an event I wasn’t going to miss! But as can often happen with a launch, the time (and even date) can change at a moment’s notice. When the launch time did change, I went to the gym. As the time ticked down, most of the news oriented stations started to report on what was either going to be an historic success or a catastrophic failure.
I soon found myself paying attention to who was watching and who wasn’t. Yes, there were a good number of people watching (particularly in my age group). But then there were those that just didn’t seem to care. Judge Judy and Dr. Phil are fine enough shows, but you only get one chance at seeing history in the making and remembering where you were at the time. While I remember seeing the later Apollo missions on TV, at four years old I was a bit too young to remember Apollo 11. To this day I still remember those grainy black and white images. But today’s broadcast was being carried in vivid HD.
Watching the Falcon Heavy liftoff from the same pad as Apollo 11 was epic. It reminded me of what’s possible when we join together to create greatness. It’s this type of science, cooperation, ingenuity and forward thinking that makes this country great not myopic politicians. Although the political winds of the Cold War set the space program on the course it achieved in the 1950s and 60s, it’s private enterprise that will take us on the next step of this final frontier.
There’s no question that my following of the space program led to my interest in science fiction. While the 60s had Star Trek (again, a bit before my time), my introduction to science fiction was in the 70s with such programs as UFO and Space: 1999. Each of those programs had a base on the Moon along with a fleet of ships.
Launching oneself into the world of screenwriting also carries its own set of risks (but not nearly as much as an actual rocket launch!), the primary one being the risk of getting a story wrong. Writing an original story is not an easy process. It takes time and research. When I set out to write a story, I usually do some baseline research so when I start to write I don’t need to stop until I reach that next point of needed additional research. When I wrote Justice Is Mind the first phase of research was around thought identification with the second phase being the legal process around a court proceeding. For First Signal, the majority of the research revolved around satellite communications and the Deep Space Network.
As the submission process continues for First Signal, I’ll also be having a meeting this week with a filmmaker. I recently saw some of his work and he had that number one thing that’s so important when working with a crew – inspiration. From my own projects to others, I’ve been on a variety of sets over the last year. And while inspiration is expected from actors, it’s just as important with members of a crew. You can easily see who’s on point and who needs a sharpening.
As filmmakers we draw inspiration from other films, life events or experiences to create. It’s been well reported that Gene Roddenberry was inspired by Forbidden Planet to create Star Trek and that George Lucas was inspired by Flash Gordon (and other films) to develop Star Wars.
For me, the inspiration to create First World came from film and television. Two of my favorite science fictions films are The Day the Earth Stood Still and Capricorn One. Then there is the iconic TV show Space: 1999. Sadly, Capricorn One has been largely forgotten but for anyone who wants to see a good space conspiracy thriller with some great actors and cinematography, it’s a must watch.
As for SOS United States, I’ve always loved a good political thriller especially those from the Cold War. Discovering Seven Days in May and Fail Safe along with my love for ocean liners, I created a political thriller that is starting to gain some traction. With political thrillers on the rise, coupled with current world events, the timing is good.
Of course, for those that have seen Justice Is Mind you know what my primary inspirations were – Law & Order, The Andromeda Strain, Fringe and, yes, Dynasty. In so many ways, the genre mix in Justice Is Mind is reflective of what we are seeing today – especially on TV. As for my inspiration for In Mind We Trust? That would simply be Justice Is Mind and a conflux of current events.
It’s one thing making your film but it’s another getting to market. When the aforementioned films were made they were simply distributed by a studio. Pretty standard in those days. Ask any independent filmmaker and you not only have to be the creative behind the script, but a distributor and marketer at the same time.
Reading about the various challenges filmmakers faced at Tribeca to bring their films to market along with a myriad of interesting comments by Julianne Moore about independent films at CinemaCon, while there is tremendous opportunity to get your film in front of an audience, the navigation of this industry on the distribution front continues to intensify and diversify.
There was a pretty good article titled The Distribution Equation on Cultural Weekly that is worth a review. The big question I would love answered is why would independent films with limited theatricals runs sign with a distributor (for theatrical) if that was going to create a loss against the title of your film? It simply makes zero sense from a business point of view. Justice Is Mind has had 12 theatrical screenings and has grossed $13,357. Our total out of pocket costs were just over $500 (mostly from printing posters). On my end it costs nothing but time to present Justice Is Mind to theatres, write a press release and pitch the media. For me, from a business point of view, it’s much more important to show profitability than perception of “we signed with so and so”. “So and so” might look good on paper but red ink is still red ink.
This past week I pitched Justice Is Mind to another eight theatres. Yes, we have had a great run to date theatrically for our independent film, but why not make the pitch. You never know who’s going to say yes.
With 2012 coming to a close, it’s time for a bit of reflection. At this time last year, I was in post-production with the short film Evidence. Today, it’s post-production for the feature film version Justice Is Mind. Suffice to say it’s been a pretty good year. But ending on a positive note is not without its challenges.
After the short film premiered at the Strand Theatre on January 20, 2012, along with several subsequent screenings, the process began in earnest to secure the funding to produce the feature. I’ve been down this path before with First World. You need to hone your logline, synopsis, have a polished script and a business plan. Raising money is a road a filmmaker generally travels alone. The presentations seem endless but that’s just part of the process. For it is a dream that all filmmakers hold on to – the search for funding can take you to the ends of the Earth.
The one thing I have learned is to surround yourself with good, if not great, people. These are people whose opinions you trust and who you want to work with. With each production, event or project I’ve been involved in this circle has grown. It’s not about simple networking (which let’s be honest, can be highly overrated), it’s about that group of people you associate yourself with that will not only bring your dreams to life but theirs as well—mutual passion.
So while my travels didn’t take me to the ends of the Earth to raise the funding to produce Justice Is Mind, they did take me to Houston, Texas where you could say I struck oil. I traveled there on business as a marketing consultant for a construction and intelligent parking solutions company owned by my best friend’s husband. Both Mary Wenninger and Stefan Kneiling knew that I ran a media company for over ten years, but their number one question to me was, “How big an organization or event have you run?” The question was a good one because producing a film (especially during principal photography) is generally nothing more than project management. My thanks again to Mary and Stefan for their support of this project that has not just realized my dream, but the dreams of so many involved in Justice Is Mind.
Regardless of what our politicians do about the “fiscal cliff”, the American dream will not fall off with it. Passion, innovation and building, no matter what times we live in, finds a way to grow. I may have held this dream to produce for over thirty years, but it just proves that anything is possible. So when 2013 comes to a close, I plan to be writing about the newly released feature film Justice Is Mind. As I’ve quoted before from Space: 1999 “The impossible just takes a little longer…that’s all!”
P.S. Sadly the science fiction community lost Gerry Anderson the creator of Thunderbirds, UFO and Space: 1999 and countless other sci-fi TV series and movies this past week. In the 1970s I watched with great excitement as Commander Straker (UFO) and Koenig (Space: 1999) led their troupes through unknown worlds. Thank you Mr. Anderson for inspiring so many with your vision of tomorrow.
When 50 new alien planets are announced in one day, it’s OK to stop everything and blog about it. It’s moments like these in the cosmic scheme of things that can make our day-to-day matters seem trivial, but we know they aren’t. One of my favorite quotes from Space: 1999 bears repeating “There is some frame of order.” What that order truly is none of us really know. Maybe “something” knows on the newly discovered super-Earth HD 85512b that orbits the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the constellation Vela? At 35 million light years away it’s in our cosmic neighborhood.
Hundreds of years ago Europeans looked over the Atlantic Ocean and wondered what existed beyond its own shores. Today it was the European Southern Observatory that looked into the vastness of space and discovered these new lands of tomorrow.
Imagine the day when man lands not just on the shores of a distant continent but on a world not of his birth.
I was delighted to discover Jonathan Cullen’s review of First World: Covenant over at The Future Fire. When I read phrases such as “Its basis is audacious and inventive” and “The protagonist…Kathleen Gould, is absolutely memorable and interesting,” it’s very satisfying as a writer to know that you’ve created something of interest for a reviewer – the all important ingredient for marketing a book.
I agree with Mr. Cullen’s analysis that sometimes the mix of points of view in the same scene can be frustrating. As I write Synedrion, these are important notes I take into consideration as clarification of story is key. First World, in particular, is laden with a variety of characters that are critical to moving the story forward.
It’s curious, Kathleen Gould, the protagonist in Covenant, was just a minor player in the original First World story (she only had about a dozen lines in the script). As some of you know, I wrote Covenant a couple of years ago as a web series and established Gould as a new major player along with the monolithic Bank of Shinar International at One World Trade Center. In Synedrion, Gould takes drastic steps to separate herself from the ever monitoring Central (their computer system). The sequel to Covenant is still on target for a late fall 2011 release.
Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago how I created First World. It all originated out of an idea I had for a scene in which these great “Concorde” style ships just appeared over the beach in Ogunquit, Maine (in the short film the location was Cape Cod) and my further thought that there is no better observation of Earth than from the Moon.
When I read on Space.com this morning that the International Space Station might be getting a name and at one point it was called Alpha, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite science fiction TV shows Space: 1999. Starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, the show is set in year 1999 when the Moon, and the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha (built in the crater Plato), are blasted out of Earth orbit when the nuclear waste dumps explode sending them on a journey through the universe.
NASA named the first space shuttle Enterprise after the starship U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek. I vote the consortium of countries name the International Space Station after Moonbase Alpha. It even looks good in print – ISS Alpha.
To quote Professor Victor Bergman from Space: 1999 “We are Mankind. We came from planet Earth, and we built this base, called Alpha, to learn more about space.”