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.
Over the last few weeks I have been reviewing SOS United States and breaking down the script by location for a cost analysis. While I would love nothing more than to realize a multi-million-dollar budget to produce this political thriller “Hollywood” style, I’m also a realist. One thing I’ve learned over the years, is that it could literally take years (if ever) to achieve that type of production.
As I’m often on a weekly call with a filmmaker organization, I hear the same stories from exasperated screenwriters. Their stories all fall along the same lines; their screenplay has done well in festivals, it has been reviewed and analyzed by industry experts, a comprehensive look book has been created along with a filmed teaser. One screenwriter filmed the first 20 minutes of their 90-minute screenplay to show what it would look like as a finished product. You can imagine I wondered why they just didn’t produce the whole thing?
This all being said, I am breaking down SOS United States to produce as an independent film akin to what I accomplished with Justice Is Mind and First Signal. As the script has been well received by film festivals winning a variety of awards, and has been read among my peers, I’m confident about the story. The rest? Well, it’s about securing cooperative locations along with a talented cast and crew. If the following months go well, hopefully SOS United States will be in production by early Summer 2023 with a 2024 release date.
While I work on SOS United States for production, First Signal continues to do well in the market. With our YouTube placement alone garnering over 1.1 million views, the audience and interest in the First World Universe is certainly there. Those that support the film regularly asks me when the sequel will be released. For First Report and First Launch, I am aiming to secure outside production financing as I believe the “franchise” deserves it for the next phase.
But there is one thing that all films require—a fair and equitable marketplace for our product. Over the last several weeks there has been considerable drama around the release of Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. It has been reported that Amazon spent between $715 million to $1 billion on the project. One can appreciate they want to protect their product. But the one thing that can’t be controlled are audiences. Amazon’s attempt to do that by suspending ratings and reviews on Rings of Power has created an unlevel playing field in addition to an unfair business practice.
As I learned from the release of First Signal in particular, audiences either love your film or hate it with a smattering of “middling” reviews. While I would love for Amazon/IMDb to remove all reviews below a 7, I know that isn’t going to happen. But Amazon/IMDb did just that for Rings of Power. At one point First Signal had more reviews on IMDb than Amazon’s new $1 billion dollar property.
As an independent filmmaker we are told time and time again that a high rating and solid reviews will lead to more distribution opportunities. The work I have put in to keep First Signal’s rating as high as possible has been, to use a word I often use in this industry, herculean. But to see a company like Amazon manipulate ratings and reviews to benefit one of their properties at the expense of the rest of us that promote the Amazon machine, is just a horrid business practice—but now it is a precedent that Amazon alone has created.
One of Amazon’s baseless defenses is that because the series is well reviewed, audiences therefore by edict must love it. But then you look at The Terminal List that was beyond panned by critics but loved by audiences. As Amazon has established the precedent, perhaps they should remove the critics?
My point to all this is a simple one and is a lesson from history we should all remember – when you attempt to silence voices you only give them a larger platform to speak.