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Fan Productions Creating our own Trek canon!

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Old December 23 2011, 07:14 PM   #76
MikeH92467
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I haven't watched the entire episode closely enough to make this anything but an off the wall suggestion, but would it be possible to re-edit the episode to excise the Section 31 plot without eviscerating the story flow? Just a thought...
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Old December 23 2011, 07:22 PM   #77
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

MikeH92467 wrote: View Post
I haven't watched the entire episode closely enough to make this anything but an off the wall suggestion, but would it be possible to re-edit the episode to excise the Section 31 plot without eviscerating the story flow? Just a thought...
Possibly, but that wouldn't solve the problem, IMO. It'd really need a rewrite and additional material. And if we were going to do that, we'd be as well just remaking it. Which is actually an idea I've occasionally toyed with, but to be honest the story's been told, warts and all. It is what it is, and I'd rather move on to new material.
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Old December 23 2011, 07:30 PM   #78
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice Navidad wrote: View Post
While I take your point, I agree that perhaps the flaw is in the implementation rather than in the through-line of the story.
I agree, that's pretty much what I was saying upthread.

Maurice Navidad wrote: View Post
What I thought you were trying to get across was what I call "betraying yourself to yourself", in which a character thinks they shouldn't/cannot do something, but their very actions reveal to them that they actually can/should do it. Hunter doesn't think he should be the Captain, but he ends up acting like one, and comes to recognize this in himself.

Am I warm?
That's pretty much spot on. I'll also add, I didn't want Hunter to be 'Captain Perfect' either, I wanted a flawed hero (and I use the term hero very loosely here) rather than another cookie-cutter perfect Star Trek captain. But yes, that is exactly the journey I was going for. I do think it gets lost in the shuffle a bit, and doesn't get the attention it should have, but I do believe the core of that journey is there.

Maurice Navidad wrote: View Post
I agree that the sound issues hurt the overall presentation. I'm not thrown by the accents, but the sound was pretty muddy in places and I did have a difficult time catching everything that was said.
I think it's a major problem, and some of the finer points are undeniably lost to sound issues. It's long been one of the more frustrating elements for me.
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Old December 23 2011, 07:31 PM   #79
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Makes sense. The fact is that "warts and all" it's a pretty damn good story. I hope this discussion has encouraged people to check it out. Merry Christmas to you and all the Intrepid crew across The Pond!
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Old December 23 2011, 07:46 PM   #80
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Thanks Mike. Seasons greeting to you too.
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Old December 26 2011, 12:12 PM   #81
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Re The PROBLEM With THE Problem, I got a PM from someone here about a story treatment they are working on, and I encouraged them to take a step back and address the Problem, Complications and Decision I discussed upthread. As an example, I applied the questions I was asking to one of my short films (Stagecoach in the Sky) to illustrate how simply you can sum up the key elements of a proposed script:
  • Who is the Protagonist and what does s/he need?
Claude Green thinks he wants to become a singing cowboy
  • What is the Problem that the Protagonist faces?
Claude is cocky and loses everything: his money, his pride, and the Girl he just met. He has to get them back
  • What Are the key Complications that make this increasingly difficult?
  1. He's ejected from First Class
  2. Phoenix Phil takes his money
  3. Phil's floosies make Claude's Love Interest think he's interested in them instead of her
  4. Phil's "Muscle" bullies him into retreating
  • What Active Decision must the Protagonist come to?
That having what he wants means he has to start acting like a cowboy hero instead of talking about being one
  • What Action does the Protagonist take to resolve the Problem?
He must stand up to and face down his persecutors
And finally
  • What does the Protagonist learn or fail to learn from the experience?
That anyone can change if they have the right motivation
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Old December 26 2011, 06:54 PM   #82
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

It was I who contacted Maurice,

That advice was very helpful. I am looking forward to rewriting the script. I think I have got my head round it more now. Thanks!
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Old January 7 2012, 07:12 PM   #83
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice Navidad wrote: View Post
Re The PROBLEM With THE Problem, I got a PM from someone here about a story treatment they are working on, and I encouraged them to take a step back and address the Problem, Complications and Decision I discussed upthread. As an example, I applied the questions I was asking to one of my short films (Stagecoach in the Sky) to illustrate how simply you can sum up the key elements of a proposed script:
  • Who is the Protagonist and what does s/he need?
Claude Green thinks he wants to become a singing cowboy
  • What is the Problem that the Protagonist faces?
Claude is cocky and loses everything: his money, his pride, and the Girl he just met. He has to get them back
  • What Are the key Complications that make this increasingly difficult?
  1. He's ejected from First Class
  2. Phoenix Phil takes his money
  3. Phil's floosies make Claude's Love Interest think he's interested in them instead of her
  4. Phil's "Muscle" bullies him into retreating
  • What Active Decision must the Protagonist come to?
That having what he wants means he has to start acting like a cowboy hero instead of talking about being one
  • What Action does the Protagonist take to resolve the Problem?
He must stand up to and face down his persecutors
And finally
  • What does the Protagonist learn or fail to learn from the experience?
That anyone can change if they have the right motivation
A little late to the game here. One of the things that I've taught my creative writing students, ranging from ages 6 to 18, is that stories are about problems that a protagonist must overcome against fierce opposition. The strife of opposing desires, worldviews and agendas are what help create drama and conflict in a story.

As Maurice has said it's easy to get this one wrong, as a great deal of fan productions have. Further, as Maurice has pointed out, most fan scripts have characters that are reactive not active (I'm looking at you "Enemy: Starfleet!" and "Blood and Fire").

And it's a mistake that I made in my own novel, which I wrote as my MFA thesis. Since the novel has been shelved, I don't mind sharing here (although I may go back to the basic idea one day). So using Maurice's above structure:

  • Who is the Protagonist and what does s/he need?
Jaxon Mercado wants to solve the mystery of his brother's disappearance and restart his acting career in the Philippines.
  • What is the Problem that the Protagonist faces?
Jaxon is arrogant and insecure about his biracial heritage, must battle his overbearing mother and a director who may or may not have had an affair with his mother.
  • What Are the key Complications that make this increasingly difficult?
  1. He insults his former co-star and lover on national television and further insults the state of Philippine politics and society.
  2. Jaxon is obsessed with a cemetery where squatters live and where his brother disappeared. He often disobeys his mother to go visit there.
  3. His mother arranges a date with his former co-star, and he must swallow his pride to get back in the limelight.
  4. The director begins "teaching" Jaxon about the plight of the Philippines by taking him on a tour of Manila's seedy side.
  5. Jaxon is beaten and left for dead on a trash heap that is home to squatters.
  6. Jaxon refuses to leave the cemetery.
  • What Active Decision must the Protagonist come to?
This is the problem with this story. Everything happens to Jaxon except for the incident on national television and his refusal to leave the cemetery. He REACTS to his problems rather than ACTIVELY solving them.
  • What Action does the Protagonist take to resolve the Problem?
He must confront his mother, but ... she dies in a bombing thus evaporating any satisfying dramatic resolution to the story.
  • What does the Protagonist learn or fail to learn from the experience?
Another problem with the novel is that Jaxon neither learns or fails to learn from the experience. As a reactive character, he exits the story very much they way he entered, while the characters around him change and grow.
Notice also that the issue about his brother's disappearance is never resolved. Now had I done a better job, I could've made that something that gets us into the story, where the story becomes something else entirely. But I admit I screwed the pooch.

From my example above, hopefully, you can see the missteps that can turn a potentially engaging protagonist into a rather tame character. In fact, there are some interesting elements in the novel (some I'm quite proud of) but those elements are not enough to make a story. They are elements, honestly, in search of a story.
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Old January 17 2012, 05:40 AM   #84
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

USS Intrepid wrote: View Post
Maurice Navidad wrote: View Post
While I take your point, I agree that perhaps the flaw is in the implementation rather than in the through-line of the story.
I agree, that's pretty much what I was saying upthread.

Maurice Navidad wrote: View Post
What I thought you were trying to get across was what I call "betraying yourself to yourself", in which a character thinks they shouldn't/cannot do something, but their very actions reveal to them that they actually can/should do it. Hunter doesn't think he should be the Captain, but he ends up acting like one, and comes to recognize this in himself.

Am I warm?
That's pretty much spot on. I'll also add, I didn't want Hunter to be 'Captain Perfect' either, I wanted a flawed hero (and I use the term hero very loosely here) rather than another cookie-cutter perfect Star Trek captain. But yes, that is exactly the journey I was going for. I do think it gets lost in the shuffle a bit, and doesn't get the attention it should have, but I do believe the core of that journey is there.
USS Intrepid wrote: View Post
I desperately wanted to avoid making Hunter a Mary Sue. Having Hunter come up with all the solutions, then implementing them himself, and being the one to make the big run, then drag Cole to safety would have been just too much to my mind.
Yeah, I was I was driving off to the holiday gathering, I realized that this was the problem with my so-to-speak suggestions. Fact is, I really like how Hunter is not the best in every situation. The chess game scene with Shelby is one of my favorite fan film scenes, period. I like it because it's extremely unpretentious.
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Old January 17 2012, 12:37 PM   #85
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Yeah, I was I was driving off to the holiday gathering, I realized that this was the problem with my so-to-speak suggestions. Fact is, I really like how Hunter is not the best in every situation. The chess game scene with Shelby is one of my favorite fan film scenes, period. I like it because it's extremely unpretentious.
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. I had fun writing and playing it. Never really been satisfied with my performance in it, though that's nothing new.
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Old March 24 2012, 11:17 PM   #86
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Missed Opportunities

I just posted the following in the STAR TREK PHASE II "Kitumba" sneak peek thread, and thought it would be the perfect illustration of looking for missed opportunities in scripts, and how a strong Story Editor can help ferret out these things in scripts.

middyseafort wrote: View Post
GSchnitzer wrote: View Post
We posted the opening teaser for "Kitumba" (until we capriciously remove it again):

While it's good to see that this episode doesn't open with yet another space battle as the hook, there's not enough dramatic tension to reel the audience in. Which isn't just a flaw with this teaser but also a huge flaw in John Meredyth Lucas' writer's work draft (not the same as a story draft) of the Part One script.

Lucas' script suffers from a prolonged dialogue exchange in the transporter room that lasts nearly 15 pages! Mostly, the scene is one extended exposition drop. In fact, Lucas' script doesn't open with the standard teaser open and just jumps right into act one.

So I can see where the PHASE II folks had a difficult time trying to truncate the material into a hook that would snare the audience's attention. I have to applaud them their effort. That being said, they missed an opportunity to create a much more dynamic and exciting teaser that would leave the audience guessing all the way to the reveal of Ksia.

A friend and I, both of us having read Lucas' Part One script, were taking about what would've made it much more dynamic. We came up keeping the ruse of a medical emergency that was in Lucas' script. Rather than dissecting both the original script opening and PHASE II's teaser, I thought I would post what we came up with as an example of creating a more tense, dramatic opening that doesn't need a captain's log or a transporter room filled with too many characters.

Note: BBS code doesn't easily allow for the precise translation of proper script format. I have done my best to approximate what you would find in say Final Draft.

Star Trek: Phase II
"Kitumba"
Teaser

FADE IN:

EXT. SPACE — ENTERPRISE (VFX)

as the great starship hurtles by, its speed enormous, closing in on an older STAR FLEET MEDICAL FRIGATE.

REVERSE ANGLE

as the two ships met, neither one slowing its pace. CAMERA PUSHES in as we …

HARD CUT TO:

INT. ENTERPRISE — CORRIDOR — TIGHT ANGLE

as McCOY rushes down the hall in a MEDICAL PROTECTIVE SUIT, helmet in his hands. OVER THIS:

UHURA'S COM VOICE (filtered)
This is the bridge. Clear all corridors on decks 6 and 7, sections 12 to 17. Sick Bay, stand by with radiation gear.

ANOTHER ANGLE

tracking McCoy, putting on his helmet, as he nears the doors to the TRANSPORTER ROOM, which snap open and a STAR FLEET DOCTOR (female) in the same protective suit as McCoy rushes out. Her helmet firmly in place. Two orderlies, also in protective gear, push a COFFIN-LIKE STASIS BOX, big enough to hold a man, with ANTIGRAV HANDLES.

They all don't stop and continue hurriedly down the corridor.

CLOSE — McCOY and the DOCTOR

DOCTOR

Is the isolation ward ready, Dr. McCoy?

MCCOY

As per your specifications. But it's a damned fool that risks a high-warp beam over … doctor?

DOCTOR
No time for formalities. You sure everything's set … full isolation? This means only you, your top nurse, and the Captain may be allowed in that section.

MCCOY
I get the seriousness of the patient's condition and the risk of contamination. But even with these precautions, it'll be a struggle to keep him alive long enough to get him home.

DOCTOR
That's why we need a starship. The Salk's a good ship, but she's not as fast as the Enterprise.

With that they reach a TURBO-LIFT … as the doors open, they all begin to pile in. The orderlies carefully lifting the stasis box without effort so that it fits into the lift. As the doors close, we hear …

UHURA'S COM VOICE (filtered)

Repeat. This is the bridge. Clear all corridors on decks 6 and 7, sections 12 to 17 … Clear all corridors on decks 6 and 7, sections 12 to 17.

Off Uhura's voice, we go to ...

EXT. SPACE — ENTERPRISE AND SALK (VFX)

Transition shot, showing the two ships still speeding through space ...

INT. ENTERPRISE — CORRIDOR

ANGLE — FAVORING TURBO-LIFT DOORS

as they snap open and KIRK bolts out, shoving through a throng of crewmen clearing out the corridor.

KIRK
Make a hole! Coming through!

The crew parts like the Red Sea as Kirk turns the corner …

ANOTHER ANGLE — CORRIDOR — OUTSIDE ISOLATION WARD

Kirk running through a cleared section. He comes to a stop before the closed doors of the isolation ward. An orderly (one of the two that carried the stasis box) at the door, holding a protective suit in his hands.

KIRK

Radiation suit …

As the orderly hands it to Kirk, the doors part …

DOCTOR (o.c.)
That won't be necessary, Captain. Come in, please.

Kirk waits a BEAT. Then, leaves the suit with the orderly and enters the …

INT. ENTERPRISE — ISOLATION WARD

(Redress of Sick Bay set) The stasis box is in the middle of the room with McCoy bent over taking readings with his tricorder. He shoots up from what he's doing as the doors shut behind Kirk.

McCOY
(to the doctor)
Not necessary?! Are you mad?
(to Kirk)
Jim, you're putting your life in danger.

CLOSE — DOCTOR

DOCTOR
(starts removing helmet)
He's not. Open it.

With her helmet off, we can finally see that the Doctor is in her forties, strikingly attractive without being pretty. Kirk recognizes her immediately.

ANGLE — FAVORING KIRK AND McCOY

KIRK
(to the Doctor)
Good to see you again, "doctor".
(to McCoy)
Do it, Bones.

McCOY
(firmly)
Jim, the radiation … we open that thing and we're all at risk.

KIRK
The "doctor" knows what she's doing. Do it.

With a heavy sigh, McCoy does as Kirk orders. He fiddles with a panel at the foot of the box, and it begins to pop open. We hear a HISS and see a release of GAS.

CAMERA PANS alongside the box as the lid lifts open, like a coffin lid, slowly revealing a figure in some sort of military uniform that we can't fully make out, but is somewhat familiar. However, we can see that he is fully armed.

As the lid fully opens, the figure sits up, revealing a KLINGON smiling ruefully. And with that we …

FADE OUT.

END OF TEASER
18 words of script description came from Lucas. The rest is mostly based on the set up that Lucas had in his script, which I thought was a wonderful opportunity to create an opening that moved and kept the audience guessing with not one but two reveals at the end. A mysterious "doctor" and a Klingon that would have the audience guessing, "who are they?" and "why are they on the ENTERPRISE?"

Also, having the McCoy and Kirk rushing through the corridor gives movement to the teaser, keeps things in motion. It also matches the ships racing to meet each other then keeping pace with one another.

While I know that PHASE II has a limited corridor set, they've done some good camera work to make it seem like they have endless corridors, such as in "Blood and Fire" and WEaT. So I think they'd be up for the challenge of shooting a scene with characters rushing through the corridors.

Act one would then open with a brief Captain's Log explaining the Enterprise speeding near the Klingon Boarder, start as we left off in the teaser with the "doctor" being introduced as Admiral Li (from Lucas' original). Keep the scene limited to Kirk, Li, Ksia and McCoy at the top of act one. I'd probably trim the dialogue as well to keep the pace, but still give the viewer enough information that war is imminent, and that the ship has to take a risky mission deep to Qo'noS (or the Sacred Planet as in the original script).

This way everything is more cloak and dagger than the PHASE II teaser where Kirk, Spock and McCoy discuss the "urgent, cryptic orders have mysterious diverted the ENTERPRISE" in the corridor, then walk into an exposition scene in the transporter room before the reveal of Ksia beaming aboard.
One thing that I've noticed in fan films is that a lot of the scripts could be made better with another script pass, looking for missed opportunities. This is just one example.

A strong Story Editor should be able to spot these opportunities and better shape the nuances of dramatic storytelling in a script. Watching some fan films, I get the sense that there's a rush to get something out that not enough time, as has been discussed in this thread before, has been spent on fine tuning the stories being told.

PHASE II has worked with some amazing writer — David Gerrold, D.C. Fontana, Jon Povill — but there's a sense from their episodes that the production isn't challenging these writers to better obvious flaws in their scripts, where characters are more reactive than active, or opportunities to create more dynamic and energetic scenes instead of characters standing around talking to one another or merely watching something unfold on the viewscreen (looking at you "Blood and Fire").

Now I don't mean to pick solely on PHASE II, which does provide a somewhat entertaining simulacrum. This is something I've seen in other fan films, such as STARSHIP FARRAGUT and HIDDEN FRONTIER. Those series have also had stories where there was plenty of opportunity to up the the dramatic ante, giving more dynamic and energetic scenes.

Thinking through scenes, asking questions, such as "what is needed here?" and "what information does the audience need or doesn't need?", can further help spot these missed opportunities. But it's always good to have a Story Editor whose job isn't necessarily to write scripts, but to either rewrite them and challenge the writers to better them.
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Old March 24 2012, 11:42 PM   #87
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

That's a great analysis, Middy.

Frankly, there's a tendency amongst creators to fall in love with their work and it's difficult to get and maintain the necessary critical distance from it.

It's good to challenge every scene. Why is this scene here? Is it advancing the plot, illustrating the theme, telling us something about the character AND is it entertaining? Ideally, it should be all four of those things. That's very very hard to do, but it's a goal you have to aim for when writing for film/TV.

Exposition has a tendency to be deadly dull, and is best accomplished in situ, rather than via characters standing around discussing it.

The hilarious play "Urinetown: The Musical" nails it in this exchange during the opening scene, titled—appropriately—"Too Much Exposition":

Little Sally
Say, Officer Lockstock, is this where you tell the audience about the
water shortage?

Lockstock
What's that, Little Sally?

Little Sally
You know, the water shortage. The hard times. The drought. A shortage so
awful that private toilets eventually become unthinkable. A premise so
absurd that—

Lockstock
Whoa, there, Little Sally. Not all at once. They'll hear more about the
water shortage in the next scene.

Little Sally
Oh, I guess you don't want to overload them with too much exposition, huh.

Lockstock
Everything in its time, Little Sally. You're too young to understand it
now, but nothing can kill a show like too much exposition.

Little Sally
How about bad subject matter?

Lockstock
Well—

Little Sally
Or a bad title, even? That could kill a show pretty good.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "Is this information for the audience's benefit or the character's benefit?" If the former, you're not doing your job right.
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Old March 25 2012, 12:36 AM   #88
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I think it's a fair criticism that fan film scripts can fall short from not having that one hard-boiled set of eyes looking for ways to push, pull or cajole writers into improving their scripts or failing that to do a necessary re-write. It's fascinating when you look at the background of the TOS classic episode "City on the Edge of Forever". It was rewritten so many times that nobody knows for sure who deserves credit (or blame) for certain changes. However it's always at or near the top of the list of nearly everyone's "best of" lists. Contrast that with the third season where GR, Dororty Fontana, Gene Coon, et.al were gone and look how many weak stories there were compared to the first two seasons. I'm not going to say that "And the Children Shall Lead, The Way to Eden or even Spock's Brain could have beenn turned into classics, but I do think that when you connect the dots and look at the writing process for season 3 and who was overseeing it, and compare it to the first 2 seasons it's pretty easy to conclude that writing and script supervision simply wasn't up to snuff. (no knock on Fred Freiberger, who turned out some episodes that were as good as any in the first two seasons, but just didn't have the support structure IMHO that would have raised the floor on some of the clunkers.)

ETA: I think that Phase II suffers just a bit from hero worship with these excellent writers. I felt that Blood and Fire came across as too much of a polemic and that it would have benefited enormously from one or two more re-writes. Again, that's no criticism of Phase II. What they accomplish is nothing short of amazing and any criticism has to be kept in perspective.
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Old April 4 2012, 03:53 AM   #89
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Speaking of writers, here's me with one last Saturday...

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Old April 4 2012, 06:23 AM   #90
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Oh, right - that's the fan who told off the sci-fi producer who'd rebooted his favorite old space show, on that episode of CSI:

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