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.
Capturing the essence of a movie usually starts with the one sheet (poster), followed by stills and then the trailer. It’s about developing the film’s brand and the PR campaign around it. For First Signal, the first official one sheet was designed by Daniel Elek-Diamanta (who is also our composer). The poster represents the famed “Earthrise” photo from Apollo 8 along with some sort of alien satellite or ship between the Moon and Earth. As the First Signal story is rooted in the Apollo space program, I thought the blend of science fact with fiction would make for a compelling picture.
With editing well underway, the next step in the branding process is to tell First Signal’s story through carefully chosen stills. Quoting Arthur Brisbane from an article in 1911, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”
Our first “picture” tells part of the First Signal story with Air Force One arriving in Brussels, Belgium. To the casual observer they just see Air Force One over a newscast. But for those that are following First Signal, they will see much more. Not only does the still lend to the logline, an emergency meeting with the President, it represents the arrival of Earth’s most well-known plane. I say Earth’s because something else arrives later in the story. The rotating planet Earth in the chyron graphic is later identified as another world. But it’s the crisis in Ukraine that leads to a government conspiracy to thwart an insurgent military action that’s at the heart of the First Signal story.
Over the weeks and months ahead, the idea is to create a campaign to bring awareness to First Signal for its release in 2020. When you consider the tens of thousands of films made in any given year, the marketing and communications efforts need to be just as well thought out and planned as principal photography was. For First Signal it’s about building off our early press.
As for building, next week I start the research process for AFM. But prior to AFM, I’ll be presenting First Signal next week to some interested parties that are traveling to Toronto.
Finally, I’m re-presenting First Signal’s one sheet now with credits. As you will see, it truly does take a village to make a motion picture. While a director has a vision and acts as conductor, they are only as good as their orchestra.