The First Ten
Yesterday I finished the first ten pages of SOS United States as a novel. The process I’ve taken is to take one page of script a day to write in novel form. This process seems to be working as it gives me time to fully describe a scene that sometimes isn’t available in a screenplay. By example, “The second-generation Concorde raced above a cirrocumulus cloud formation at Mach 2. The radiance of the sun reflecting on the aviation marvel highlighted the white fuselage and its livery – The Commonwealth of Nations.”
What I’m enjoying about this form of writing is the ability to get into the minds of the characters to let the audience know what they’re thinking while keeping it from the characters in the book. In a screenplay, unless you do voiceovers, the internal thought process of the characters needs to be portrayed visually which can be a bit of a challenge. I will say that All About Eve and Sunset Blvd. (poor Joe Gillis!) do a masterful job at voiceovers.
There’s no rush or hard deadline to finish a first draft. My feeling is as I get more comfortable with this medium, I’ll turn more than a page of the screenplay a day into a novel. The one saving grace I have is that the screenplay is completed so there’s a solid outline. Of course, I am adding and deleting words of dialogue here and there. I’ve also been expanding some scenes to add gravitas to certain moments.
In my view I think the best adaptation of a book to the silver screen (in this case it was a made for TV mini-series) was Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance. As someone who has read the book several times, I was a bit nervous when I first learned of the TV adaption. But as the series was produced by the famed Diane Baker, who played Laura O’Neill, the series stayed true to the book and was a tremendous success. The series was also directed by the late Don Sharp who really understood the mini-series genre.
On another front I have been very encouraged by the continued enthusiasm of audiences asking me when the second installment of The First World Universe will be produced. Having hit over 1.2 million views on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, First Signal has truly found its audience. As a filmmaker it’s very encouraging to receive comments and direct emails from those wanting to see more.
While First Signal did have a conclusion of sorts, there’s no question that it is set up for a sequel. Having written both First Report and First Launch, there are a wide variety of factors on when the next installment will go into production. Suffice to say, I’m working on it!
Over the course of any given week, I see a variety of filmmakers working hard to bring their vision from script to screen. I’ve been very fortunate and lucky to have produced and released two feature films. Independent film production is an arduous task. In addition to capital, it takes time, patience and perseverance. Even in the best of circumstances it can take years to bring a sequel to market (Avatar: The Way of Water).
This all being said one cannot just sit and wait for an opportunity to present itself. As I mentioned to a friend the other day, if I waited for others to hire me for the opportunities I’ve had as a publisher and filmmaker, I’d still be waiting. There’s always a way to get something done. It may take years. The result may look different. You may be a bit tired from the effort. But you will have one thing others that wait around don’t…
…a completed project.
The Man From Berlin
No the title of this week’s post isn’t a new TV series, but a character I introduced in Justice Is Mind that is greatly expanded upon in the sequel In Mind We Trust. And with EFM (European Film Market) currently underway in Berlin, Germany, it seemed particularly fitting.
Today marks one year since I wrote the first draft of the sequel. Yes, there have been some tweaks since then, but more of a decision on where to take the project. While Justice Is Mind was produced as a feature film, the next logical direction for the project is to present it as a TV series. I must have had that “in mind” when I wrote the sequel as it sets up the established characters from Justice Is Mind with new characters in a world where mind reading technology has permeated our way of life from the judicial system to immigration to employment and national security.
With Justice Is Mind released to positive reviews and In Mind We Trust written, I’ve been working on the story “bible” for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been down the TV series pitch process before with certain studios and production companies when my agent took out a series I conceived called Frozen Assets. It was essentially Dynasty meets figure skating and I worked with a leading writer of that famed TV show to shape the series. Being in pitch meetings is an interesting process and you really need to have your pitch rehearsed. I knew the sport, but this writer knew the industry. The show wasn’t picked up (figure skating was dying in the TV ratings at the time), but the experience was a real learning curve for me. On a side note my agent almost killed me when we pulled up to the Paramount gate and I said from the back seat of her car, “Jonesy! Hey, Jonesy!”
As for the industry, attention is on Berlin, Germany this week. Unlike Sundance which has turned into a showcase for studio productions and, in my view, lost its purpose as a haven for independent filmmaking, EFM is a unique film market to follow. It presents films from concept to completion. I might add that The Hollywood Reporter does a terrific job with their daily reports.
Reading the reports you can clearly see how the industry has changed the last couple of years. Sales agents want completed films and stars don’t guarantee any sort of success. I think Marc Gabizon of Wild Bunch said it perfectly when he stated in this article, “You see, film is a great business. It’s fascinating, but it’s also dangerous. You can’t forget about the risks, even when you’re successful — maybe especially then. There’s always a risk, but you have to make sure that if you have a flop, it doesn’t topple the whole company. Don’t bet the house on one or two titles.” By flop he was referring to Bradley Cooper’s Burnt.
While nothing is more exciting than announcing a new project, it does come down to risk. As a producer my job is to project a path of realistic profitability. As a director I need to deliver a solid and marketable project.
One trend I see coming out of EFM are the interesting political thriller type projects. This has been a consistent trend over the last couple of years and bodes well for SOS United States.