While this year is coming to a close, this was the first year that my concept for a new sci-fi franchise was realized with the release of First Signal. This time last year I stated on this blog that I was going to start planning for the theatrical and VOD release of First Signal. I didn’t wait for permission or public consensus, I just set the goals accordingly and executed the plan. The result was the world premiere at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas on March 26, 2021 followed by our VOD release through Indie Rights on April 26, 2021. Like an icebreaker charting unknown Arctic waters, moving forward was the only course.
With six theatrical/event screenings along with a multi-platform VOD release, 2021 worked out well for First Signal. With over 17 film festival awards and an estimated 500,000 views, I could not be more pleased with First Signal’s results to date. Although I was hopeful when I set out to create First Signal, there are so many unknowns when making a film never mind releasing one. Yes, there is a captain at the helm of a film, but without a dedicated cast, crew and audience, a project will just sit in port. If there is one thing I learned throughout this process, it’s about continuing to market and promote after the initial release.
As for continuing, when I was at First Signal’s screening at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in July, I mentioned to a few in attendance my idea for a sequel. I had already written First Launch that was set two years after the events in First Signal. However, I always felt there was a story in between those years.
With the idea now in mind, I started to write. What I thought was going to be a relatively simple storyline, turned into a multi-faceted political thriller that transcends two continents. While the story is a large one, I did write it with an eye to produce it. Having produced Justice Is Mind (with a sizable cast and multiple locations), and First Signal (a tight story with a handful of actors), this next installment in the First World Universe involves a bit of both production techniques. Look for an announcement on title and logline shortly.
This past year introduced SOS United States to the film festival circuit. With over 10 awards to date, SOS is receiving some wonderful attention from the industry. SOS is one of those projects that I would simply love to see come to life on the silver screen. Of course there’s the story itself, but for me it’s seeing the return of the Concorde and SS United States in all their grandeur. There was a moment in time when we had a choice to travel by supersonic air or in transatlantic luxury by sea. Thankfully, with Cunard Line, the latter is still with us.
One thing I enjoyed the most this past year was the theatrical and event screenings we had for First Signal. While those have been challenging since last year, I’m proud to say that they were accomplished. Seeing those that helped bring First Signal to life and meeting audiences that came to support the film, meant the world to me. While I have sadly learned that one the theaters that has screened most of my films is closing, I will forever remember the wonderful memories of those events. Thankfully, they are immortalized in pictures.
I think we can all agree that these last two years have been challenging. But the world has faced challenges before and has come through brighter than ever. They say there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Well, another thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years, is that there are many lights in the tunnel if we just take the time to look. Remember,
“The business of life is the acquisition of memories,” Mr. Carson, Downton Abbey
A New Year
What I love about screenwriting is the research that goes with it. When I wrote First World I learned about the Apollo space program, the Kennedy and Nixon administrations, the Roswell incident and how parts of the United Nations operate. For Justice Is Mind it was the science of mind-reading (“thought identification”), reincarnation, and complex legal issues from the introduction of evidence based on new science to the construction of a criminal trial. Whenever I write science fiction, I think it’s important to have it rooted in plausibility or at least have it explained with a sense of realism (Star Trek is great for that).
The basis for my political thriller SOS United States has always been around this premise – the possibility that an ocean liner may have a nuclear device on board. Where did the idea come from? I’ve always been interested in the Cold War and count Fail Safe and Seven Days in May as two of my favorite movies of the time. Add that interest to my passion for ocean liners and SOS United States was born. It was my mother that first got me interested in ocean liners in the 1970s with our membership in the Titanic Historical Society (Yes, Titanic is one of my favorite films).
With premise in mind I started my research. The ocean liner in my story needed to be fast, luxurious and military-like. It didn’t take long to discover the SS United States. Built in 1952 the luxury liner “was designed as part of a top-secret Pentagon program during the Cold War, which stipulated it could be quickly converted from a luxury liner into a naval troopship in the event of a war.” Needless to say I found my ship. And found her I did. Since the SS United States was retired in 1969 she has been laid up all over the world and is currently docked in Philadelphia. More than once the ship was almost scrapped.
In my original notes the idea was that some company purchased the SS United States and refurbished her. But I quickly discounted that as unrealistic. Instead, I researched the United States Lines and discovered their early flagship the SS Leviathan. With that name, and the original blueprints of the SS United States, a company built a “state of the art” luxury liner, equipped with offensive capability to defend against pirating with a maximum speed of over 50 MPH. I guess my original notes proved to be something more than an idea.
Last week in New York City, Crystal Cruises, a luxury cruise line, “announced it will save “America’s flagship,” the SS United States, and embark on the enormous undertaking of bringing the ship into compliance with the latest standards, and returning her to oceangoing service.” While I figured some sort of redevelopment plan would be put forward, as was done with the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, the fact that the SS United States will actually sail again as a luxury liner just proved once again that if you stay true to your mission with persistence and patience the impossible can become a reality. My congratulations to the dedication of SS United States Conservancy to save and preserve the ship and to the visionary leadership of Crystal Cruises to see the SS United States return to the high seas.
Suddenly the world premiere of SOS United States on the SS United States just became a little more possible. I remember sailing on the Queen Mary 2 in 2007 and saying to my mother how grand it would be to have one of my films screen on an ocean liner. After years of planning and determination, Justice Is Mind had its international premiere on Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth on October 29, 2014.