Last week my first feature film, Justice Is Mind, went live on YouTube’s Stash TV through FilmHub. While I continue to do “maintenance” marketing for Justice, the big push is relatively over as the film was released in 2013. But then in August numerous articles were published about advances in mind-reading technology. When I was reviewing the film to promote the recent media and then the YouTube placement, I realized that the story itself takes place in 2024 a year after “Congressional approval” of the FVMRI process in 2023. One asks, where does the time go!
As I approach 2023, another film is now top of mind – SOS United States. Like Justice Is Mind, SOS United States requires multiple locations. These locations are specific in terms of look and function. Of course, at the time I thought securing the dozen or so locations for Justice Is Mind was going to be impossible. But one by one they started to come together. Flash forward to 2018 and I was experiencing some challenges to secure the primary filming location for First Signal. In the end, our location came through with The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.
When “Hollywood” produces a film they can easily secure any location they want. If they can’t find it, they build it. In both cases there are substantial fees paid. But as an independent filmmaker, I rely on securing trade marketing partnerships. By trade I simply mean this, a location provides us the opportunity to film and then I promote the location in our marketing. No monies change hands. This is a practice I’ve been employing in all my films since I produced First World in 2006. It’s a practice that has served my films and marketing partners well.
Having completed the cost analysis, next week starts the location search in earnest. If the locations can be secured, I’ll announce pre-production status for SOS United States. The production plan would be to start principal photography by summer 2023 in the same production fashion as we did with First Signal (weekend and select weekday filming).
I remember like it was yesterday when I secured the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston for First World. It was that moment when I realized that a trade partnership was possible for a premium location. The hotel granted us a one-day use of their Presidential Suite which served as the residence of the Secretary of State. While First World may have been an independent short film, it didn’t have to look like one.
Another element of First World that will be recreated in SOS United States, is a motorcade for the President of the United States. While it obviously won’t be the forty plus vehicles in a traditional motorcade, I am determined for it to have the necessary gravitas. Of course, what’s available now that wasn’t in 2006 is the ability to add vehicles via VFX.
Thankfully, this technology is available to independent filmmakers. In SOS United States the second-generation Concorde appears as Commonwealth One the official state plane of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. When I first watched The Man in the High Castle and saw the Concorde styled jet, I researched who the VFX house was and how they created this iconic craft. Needless to say, the results were pretty impressive.
This all being said, I have confidence in one thing that’s completed and ready to go…
With the trailer edited and scored, we are in the rollout phase as the color grading commences. As each day passes we are rolling closer and closer to the day when the trailer for First Signal is released. I don’t think I’ve prepared nearly as much for the release of any of my film projects. Yes, Justice Is Mind was obviously important to me, but with First Signal being my first feature film in the “First World Universe,” I want to make sure I reach who I need to reach.
When I was talking to an acting friend this past week, we started to talk about certain sci-fi series and movies and what we do and don’t like. For me, I’m not so much into spectacle but story. I’d rather watch a solid story than things getting blown up. Yes, sometimes you need to blow something up, but I feel it should be done within the context of the story, not just for show and tell.
Last weekend we had First Signal’s ADR session. Watching these talented actors bring their characters back was nice to see. It was also an opportunity to show them the trailer and opening credits. Aside from some stills, they haven’t had the chance to see anything since we wrapped last July. I know when I’m part of a project as an actor I anxiously await to see what the product will look like.
With audio complete, the provisional score nearly done, VFX being built and the film close to a lock, I can almost see the light at the end of the post-production tunnel. But this is where all the details come up. From polishing the edit and score, finishing the VFX, sound mixing and color grading, creating a film is an arduous task and all about project management.
One of my favorite “TV” series these past few years has been The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. The entire production on both sides of the camera was first rate. When I started to write the sequel to First Signal it dawned on me the character of Major Sampson could parallel Juliana Crain. In High Castle, Crain was instrumental in the resistance movement and played all sides to achieve her goals. In the sequel to First Signal, Sampson finds herself torn between three worlds – the President of the United States, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Cedric Yonah the Premier of the Synedrion Council. As of this morning I just hit the sixty-page mark and I think I know how I want it to end. I think!
As for films that have a military storyline, I saw 1917 last weekend. I can’t say enough great things about this film. From filming the entire story in one continuous shot, to the production values and acting, 1917 was truly a delight. The cinematography alone is reason enough to see this film. I can only imagine the pre-production planning!
I was reading an email newsletter this morning and the author talked about having to love the journey not only as a writer but as it pertained to sales. As a screenwriter, there is that moment when you feel these characters talking back to you as you type their dialogue and action their elements. When you’re filming your screenplay, you see these characters come to life. When you’re watching your story on the silver screen or your TV, you know you’ve made a sale. There is something immensely satisfying being in the lobby of a theatre when someone asks to buy a ticket to your film. Equally when you get notice that your film has been streamed.
The journey is a long one, with many highways and exits ahead. But it’s a journey that I have loved since I wrote my first screenplay in grade school.
Stay the course.