This past week I adapted the first 20 pages of my screenplay SOS United States into a first draft novel. Having run it through some programs, it seems to be about 37 pages so far in book form. If all goes well, I think I’ll have a completed draft by the end of March.
I have to say it’s nice to have a new project to work on. Particularly one that I know will be produced at some point next year. By produced, I mean published. Whether it’s picked up by a traditional publisher (which is ideal) or I self-publish (and I act as publisher through The Ashton Times), it will see the light of day. And, of course, while this is all happening, I continue to work on getting the film version produced.
When I was touring The Elms in Newport yesterday, I started talking to one of the docents about the process of filmmaking. As some of you may know the HBO series The Gilded Age was partially filmed at The Elms and other Newport mansions. Standing in the kitchen, she remarked about the sheer number of people it took, along with time, to produce a scene. She continued by saying that now having seen how the process works, the illusion of how movies (or in this case TV) are made is gone.
This certainly is a natural reaction to those outside the industry watching the production process. But it’s a process that gives any witness an appreciation of the patience involved in bringing these stories to life. The same can be said for publishing a book. While a book may appear to involve only one person (the author), there is a team that brings it to life and eventually to market.
I titled this end of year post Station Keeping for a reason. Planning for the next film (or book) takes time with the majority of the work being in the creation phase. From writing, finance, pre-production, etc., the consumer only sees the finished product on their screen or bookshelf. I call this period ‘the valley’ when I’m planning, writing, editing and pitching new projects. In other words, sometimes our ships are in port for refurbishment, renovation or some other activity that requires they be properly docked before sailing towards another adventure.
In addition to a trip to Florida earlier this year (love visiting NASA!), one thing I took advantage of in 2022 were a variety of weekend events. My many travels to Newport for Cars & Coffee (Audrain Auto Museum) along with the American Heritage Museum and New England Air Museum were certainly the highlight. While having an enjoyable experience is always nice, I usually learn something new or interesting that I can incorporate into my creative world. I have always been a proponent of traveling whenever you can. Whether it’s a day trip or weeklong adventure, expanding one’s horizons and new experiences certainly helps me as a storyteller.
As this year comes to close, I want to thank those that have watched and propelled First Signal around the world. Now available on numerous VOD platforms, its dedicated viewers like you that make independent film like First Signal possible.
The Gilded Age
A visit to an estate. Military trials at a naval base. A meeting with the Prime Minister. No, this isn’t the plot for a new screenplay (although I have some ideas), but what my last couple of weeks have been like in Newport, RI.
I discovered Newport back in the early 1980s when my mother first brought me down to the seaside city. Touring the mansions and learning about the Gilded Age was something to see for someone who grew up on a farm. It was two decades plus later when I struck a deal with The Preservation Society of Newport County to photograph Nancy Kerrigan at Rosecliff. It’s hard not be awe struck at the majesty of these great “cottages” and imaging the grand parties of days long past.
Although I’ve toured all the mansions, I haven’t visited The Elms since those early days. The self-guided tour is a nice improvement from the live tour guides. It lets you go at your own pace and learn about additional details that time doesn’t permit with a guide. It seemed fitting to my Newport visit that The Elms was built for coal baron Edward Julius Berwind who supplied coal to the Navy. Because back to the Navy it was for the last few weeks.
Last Thursday I finished working at the Naval Justice School as an actor in their mock trial program. This was my “second tour” at the school. While I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of interesting opportunities in the industry, this by far offers not only the ability to act but to learn something in the process.
First, there are generally no set lines per se rather a scenario for your character with action points that must be adhered to. In my view it takes role playing to a whole new level. While there’s a highway and destination for each character, it’s the exits along the way that give the character and the entire scenario depth.
But for me it’s the atmosphere and the importance of the assignment. Yes, I’m working with other actors, but our primary interaction is with the officers, students and staff at the school. In other words this is real life. The students that attend the school are generally all lawyers and graduate from this program for military postings all over the world. Suffice to say we take it seriously. You can learn more about the Naval Justice School at this link.
What was nice about this “tour” was not only working with some of the same actors from the first assignment but meeting some new talent as well. The actors I’m pictured with here at the school are extremely talented. I had the opportunity to see some of them perform their character and they had me believing they were living that person.
Of course I was watching with my director hat on. Because who knows what project I may be working on next or have the opportunity to recommend an actor that is both talented and professional. Just as when I produce my projects, I want to work with actors that understand the word “team” without striving to become the center of attention off stage.
As for talent, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with Lindy Nettleton who invited me to her play reading group. Lindy, as some of you may remember, played the Prime Minister in First World. I’ll still never forget her audition. She arrived with the actor who was auditioning to the play the President. We couldn’t find a quiet place for their audition, so what did these two professionals do? They got into character outside an elevator bank and read their lines…brilliantly!
Finally, for those of you that are car enthusiasts, I highly recommend the Audrain Auto Museum. A must see!