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Fan Productions Creating our own Trek canon!

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Old May 11 2011, 07:18 PM   #31
Maurice
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Poopday Machine wrote: View Post
Raiders, I think, has a three part structure. The intro of Indie and the setup with the villain in the South American temple. The Search for and discovery of the Arc, and the chase for and opening of the arc. So...

1. The Idol
2. Indy finds the Arc. The Arc is stolen.
3. Indy gets the Arc back from the Nazis.
Actually, despite its "serial" roots, Raiders follows the conventions of the Three-Act structure fairly closely.

First Act: Introduction
*Introduce Indy the daredevil archeologist
*Introduce Belloq, his rival who states "there is nothing you can possess that I cannot take"
*Introduce Indy's fear of snakes
*Introduce the goal: get the Ark
*Introduce the obstacle: Nazis

Second Act; Complications
*Indy followed by Nazis
*Key item (headpiece) held by bitter former flame Marion
*Nazi Toth arrives and approaches/theatens Marion
*Indy battles Toth's thugs. Toth burns hand on headpiece. Indy and Marion escape with headpiece
*Sallah tells Indy that Nazi's have a headpiece and are digging at Tanis
*Indy learns Nazis have only one side of headpiece and are "digging in the wrong place"
*Marion appears to be killed
*Indy gets into map room at Tanis, uses headpiece to find actual Ark location
*Indy discovers Marion alive, held by Belloq
*Indy leaves Marion because her escape would put his getting the Ark at risk
*Toth reappears: reveal Nazi headpiece based the pattern burned into his hand
*In order to get to Ark, Indy must face his big fear: snakes
*Marion tries to escape, fails
*Indy gets Ark, Indy loses Ark immediately to Belloq, but gets Marion
*Indy and Marion escape death trap
*Indy intercepts truck and gets Ark back
*Indy on boat loses Ark and Marion to Nazis and Belloq

Third Act: Resolution
*Indy confronts Belloq and threatens to blow up the Ark
*Belloq calls his bluff
*Belloq opens the Ark to discover its secrets, but finds it just filled with sand
*TWIST: The Ark IS the real thing and Belloq and the Nazis are destroyed for daring to look within
*Indy & Marion Survive because they turn away as Indy knows the story of the Ark and understands that to look is to die
*Indy delivers the Ark to the government and gets rewarded, but...
*2nd TWIST: The Ark "lost", again, placed in an anonymous crate in an endless warehouse of crates

In fact, I never made the connection that the "lost ark" gets "lost" again in a figurative sense at the end of the movie until I typed up this breakdown!
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Last edited by Maurice Navidad; May 12 2011 at 07:34 AM. Reason: Typos fixed
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Old May 11 2011, 11:24 PM   #32
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I'm wondering whether it's no accident that the act breaks are falling on the animated maps.
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Old May 12 2011, 12:58 AM   #33
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
I'm wondering whether it's no accident that the act breaks are falling on the animated maps.
That's a very interesting observation.

On a sidenote, I'm noticing a surprising lack of animated maps in Star Trek Fan Films.
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Old May 12 2011, 06:17 AM   #34
Captain Robert April
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Probably has something to do with the lack of animated maps in Star Trek.
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Old May 12 2011, 07:38 AM   #35
Maurice
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
I'm wondering whether it's no accident that the act breaks are falling on the animated maps.
I suspect that's not intentional. After all, there's the map from Nepal to Cairo that doesn't fall on a break (or if you consider that the act break, the map of the flight from San Francisco to Nepal doesn't fall on a break).

As to why you don't see it in Star Trek, first, Raiders is homaging films and serials of the 30s and 40s, second, a map of space isn't iconic the way a map of the Earth is.
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Old May 12 2011, 05:19 PM   #36
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I was kidding about adding the maps to fan films, btw... though it might be interesting if someone came up with a cool way to do it.
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Old May 12 2011, 08:59 PM   #37
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

To me, differentiating the 3-part story structure and 3, 4, or 5-act structure is one of time.

As noted, the 3-part story structure is basic to almost all stories, whether movies, TV, books, etc. The act structure is specifically for television, which has a definite length (1/2 hr, 1-2 hrs) and placement for advertisements.

Which brings up a question: is there a good length for a web film, since it's not television? I originally wrote the pilot for New Gods as a 1-hour script, as if for television, but decided to break it into smaller webisodes. Having the act structure made this simple; each act became a separate episode.

What are your thoughts regarding time? Have we been wired by TV and movies to consider .5, 1, or 2 hours the perfect length? Or are we becoming so ADD that we can't sit still for anything over 10 minutes?

And how does this apply to new platforms? Can you watch a full length movie on your smartphone? Or would short films work better?
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Old May 13 2011, 02:04 AM   #38
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I like five minute vignettes. They're literally one act plays. They're logistically easier to arrange, and in general the cast likes them because the characters get to shine more in them.
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Old May 13 2011, 06:23 AM   #39
Maurice
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Narrative films should still follow the basics of Introduce Problem, Complicate Problem, Resolve Problem. If there's no goal then there's no story. A scene or sequence and not necessarily a story. A vignette I think is just a scene or sequence.

As to length: as long as it needs to be to tell a compelling story, and no longer. You can do a story in 7 minutes or less (like this short subject I made 2 years ago...CLICKY). That length need not be a vignette.
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Last edited by Maurice Navidad; May 13 2011 at 09:35 PM.
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Old May 13 2011, 07:43 AM   #40
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

By vignette, I mean a short scene that focuses on one brief period of time and gives our viewers insight into our characters. Are they narratives in that they tell a story? Yep. But that's what makes our production different from other productions: We are not adhering to the format of an hour-long television program. Our stories are as long as they need to be to tell the story of our characters. Many of them are less than 6 or 7 minutes. Some of them are five, six or seven times longer.
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Old December 20 2011, 02:17 AM   #41
Maurice
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Time to revivify or at least reanimate this hibernating topic thread.

Given some recent discussions about new fanfilm series trying to get off the ground, what’s come up again and again is that just about every fanfilm production I’ve ever seen suffers from issues that can be traced right back to the screenplay.

It’s the cheapest thing to fix, as its raw material is the writer’s imagination and skill, however, it’s not easy to do well at all, as most fanfilm stories amply illustrate.

For the past year I’ve been busy working on a TV pilot script I’m hoping to sell (yes, I know the odds against!) and it’s gotta be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written because I’m not just writing one story, I’m writing a story that needs to hint at what the series would be. But in the process of writing this I kept running into a wall in the A-story of the script. It was never working for me. Last week I sat down and started analyzing it, and I realized what was bugging me. And it’s the same thing that is at the heart of what’s wrong with most fanfilm scripts, namely: I didn’t properly set up the story’s problem so that the protagonist could/would have to make a difficult decision in order to resolve it.

So, in hopes that this might help some of you fanfilm writers, I’m going to share my notes on what I call…

The PROBLEM of THE Problem

See next post!
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Last edited by Maurice Navidad; December 20 2011 at 06:04 AM.
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Old December 20 2011, 02:21 AM   #42
Maurice
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

The PROBLEM of THE Problem

Dramatic stories are about solving a Problem, but it's easy to get this wrong.

The fundamentals
  1. FIRST ACT should set up the Problem that faces the Protagonist
  2. SECOND ACT should Complicate the problem, make decisions/action more difficult
  3. THIRD ACT should be where the Protagonist makes a Decision that leads to the action required to solve/resolve the problem
And this requires the Protagonist to experience:
  • an intellectual climax wherein she decides what must be done
  • an emotional climax wherein something impels her to finally take the difficult action
  • which usually leads to an action climax (no sex jokes, please) wherein she actually does what needs to be done
Or...
  • What must the Protagonist DO to resolve the Problem?
  • What decision does he make?
  • What drives it?
  • And what action does he take?
The problem with most fanfilm scripts is that the characters are REACTIVE and not ACTIVE. They are not propelling the story by making decisions; they are reacting to the complication of the moment. That’s passive, not active.

In my script, the Problem was set up in the right place, but the Protagonist made a Decision about what to do to resolve it almost right away. The Second Act Complications ended up being complications of the implementation of that Decision rather than complications of the actual Problem. This is what I’m calling a “False Complication” as it appears to do what the Second Act Requires without actually doing it.

If the Protagonist isn’t forced to make a difficult Decision at the cusp of the Third Act the end result is dramatically inert. If the Decision was made 30 pages ago, all we’re witnessing is a procedural on how the decision was implemented.

In other words, we’re not on an emotional journey with rising stakes and rising tension, we’re just watching the Protagonist dodging roadblocks.

Does that make sense? I can see this could get confusing.

A lot of scripts—even ones that get on TV and into movies—fall prey to this “False Complication” situation. It’s not inherently “wrong”, but neither is it as dramatically satisfying. You want the audience to be on a journey with your Protagonist, and feel their struggles and the difficulty of the decisions they have to make.

* * *

So, to solve The PROBLEM of THE Problem in my script, I went back to fundamentals and decided that the Problem absolutely had to be something that required a very difficult Decision on the Protagonist’s part, a Decision he shouldn’t eagerly undertake, and which had serious possible repercussions for himself.

As a model I went back to some Westerns, including Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven, but as I write this I realize that for the purposes of this forum, there’s a perfect example for this within Star Trek. In fact, it’s the pilot that sold the show: Where No Man Has Gone Before. Let's look at that episode through the lens of what I've described above:

1. FIRST ACT should set up the Problem that faces the Protagonist
Kirk takes a risk and the Enterprise is so seriously damaged that it might never get home
2. SECOND ACT should complicate the problem, make decisions/action more difficult
Kirk’s good friend Mitchell begins to mutate into something increasingly more powerful. As the story progresses, the act of saving the ship becomes more and more imperiled by Mitchell’s growing powers. Kirk is faced with the possibility that saving the ship may require killing his friend, or at least marooning him on a planet where he hopefully won’t be a threat
3. THIRD ACT should be where the Protagonist makes a decision that leads to the action required to solve/resolve the problem. As in:
  • The Protagonist must experience an intellectual climax
Kirk comes to realize Mitchell's changes endanger his ship, ergo Mitchell must be marooned
  • an emotional climax wherein something impels action
Mitchell kills a colleague and escapes, which finally drives Kirk to decide to take the action he has avoided, which is…
  • an action climax
Kirk goes after Mitchell in order to kill him or at least delay him long enough for the ship to escape. He's willing to sacrifice his own life to this, knowing that he's responsible for Mitchell, and won't assign anyone else with the task to kill his friend
  • The Protagonist must be active, not reactive
It’s Kirk’s decision to risk going through the energy barrier that sets up the whole problem, and then he must take decisive action to save the ship. His initial decision sets up everything else that happens. He’s paying a price for the decision he made. Had the skip just been hit by a phenomenon without his deciding to take a risk the dramatic tension would be greatly diminished.
You see? The Problem of the safety of the ship can only be solved by the sacrifice of something else, and the Protagonist must make a terrible decision backed up by action on a seemingly impossible-to-achieve goal.

Discuss.
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Last edited by Maurice Navidad; December 20 2011 at 01:17 PM.
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Old December 20 2011, 02:57 AM   #43
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice Navidad wrote: View Post
Kirk comes to realize Mitchell's changes endanger his ship, ergo Mitchell and must be marooned

Elisabeth Dehner's name is the one missing in this phrase.

I agree with a lot of what you wrote, and it's true that Hollywood blockbusters tend to shy away from this simple story technique, resulting in too many films never surpassing their by-the-numbers scripting.

For instance, two recent movies that I really wanted to like, Green Lantern and Captain America, suffer exactly the problem you describe. Cap's only 'problem' throughout the movie is 'will he get the girl?', or 'will he stop the Skull?'. Despite losing his best friend Bucky, we never get the feeling Cap paid a price, or that he had to overcome a personal price or shortcoming before the end of the movie...

So despite a healthy budget, capable direction and a recognizable protagonist, Captain America failed to reach beyond a mediocre premise and story execution.

Green Lantern fares even worse. I saw both films at about the same time, and my memory of GL is even murkier than Cap. Not a good sign...
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Old December 20 2011, 03:39 AM   #44
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Bixby wrote: View Post
For instance, two recent movies that I really wanted to like, Green Lantern and Captain America, suffer exactly the problem you describe. Cap's only 'problem' throughout the movie is 'will he get the girl?', or 'will he stop the Skull?'. Despite losing his best friend Bucky, we never get the feeling Cap paid a price, or that he had to overcome a personal price or shortcoming before the end of the movie...

So despite a healthy budget, capable direction and a recognizable protagonist, Captain America failed to reach beyond a mediocre premise and story execution.
I completely disagree about Captain America. For more information on my opinion, my posts are in the thread on that topic.

In a nutshell, Cap has to make a decision to give up the girl to save America. It was very moving.
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Old December 20 2011, 03:53 AM   #45
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I thought Captain America was a wonderful example of what that kind of movie ought to be, on every level. Nothing mediocre about it.
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