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Fan Productions Creating our own Trek canon!

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Old October 12 2012, 12:00 PM   #136
captainkirk
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

On the subject of characters, one thing I've noticed in some fan films is that they add tons of characters. This makes things harder for everyone. It's hard for the audience to keep track of everyone. It's hard for the writers to come up with things for everyone to do in a story. It's hard to find costumes for everyone. But perhaps worst of all, all the characters wind up boring.
It would be far better to have just a few characters that are interesting than a lot of boring ones that don't fill any role.
The only fan film I've seen to handle large casts well is Intrepid. By giving most characters some brief moment of action, or a funny line, they become memorable. When someone's biggest role in an episode is to say "Shields at 47%!" you forget about them.
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Old October 12 2012, 04:50 PM   #137
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I have to agree here. That is important. Sometimes I look at my script and am thinking of casting, and I really DON'T have that many main roles. Here is a quick list of characters we have in "Axanar".

FEDERATION

Garth
Tanaka, XO
Wagner, Tactical Officer (female)
Korax, Intel. Officer (female)

KLINGONS

Commander
XO


That is who the focus is on. That is who has the bulk of the dialogue. Now there are both secondary characters (Admiral, Chief Engineer, Pilot, Fleet Ops Officer), who we don't develop much. And there are characters we only see in one act, like Klingon ship captains (who probably die!) or red shirts (who in "Axanar" are ass kicking spec ops). But you don't get vested in them. And the canon characters you know, Soval or Sarek, Rabau, don't need much development. Except for April, who is we get who we want, will be an instant fan favorite.

So, we have basically have 6 characters (4 protagonists, 2 antagonists) who over 75 minutes or so you will come to know and hopefully love. Character development is really important and probably what gets the most attention in editing (by the talented Dave Galanter). In fact, the development of Garth was the first note I got from Marco Palmieri, the former Star Trek editor for Pocket Books, who reviewed the treatment.

I am also a very open writer. Yeah, it is my script ( I will force Dave to take a co-writing credit), but I take 90% of Dave's edits and put them in. 10% we probably discuss and make some adjustment but usually because Dave missed what i was getting at (which means I probably wasn't clear). Dave is just so damn good.

Well, that is my 2 cents.

Alec
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Old October 12 2012, 04:58 PM   #138
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

You're too kind, my friend. And Marco is the best--I loved working with him and hope to do so again.

And no, you won't get me to take a co-writing credit. :-p This is your story. I'm editing and suggesting and doing what I can to be a good sounding board. But this is your story, and your baby, and I'm enjoying seeing it all come together. We got to see about five seconds of Garth in the original series--the real Garth--and we got to see a couple more minutes in "Going Boldly" the Phase II vignette. There's a very good character there and I think when people see it, they'll understand why Kirk respected and admired him.
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Old November 21 2013, 10:47 PM   #139
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Forgive the bump.

In the spirit of keeping the Fan Film Production Primer thread going, I found this article on writing to be worth sharing. This Scene Sucks: 15 Screenwriting Mistakes to Avoid

Let's be honest - we've all made 'em; hopefully this guide will help avoid them in the future.
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Old November 22 2013, 02:21 AM   #140
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Awesome! Although, the mistakes mentioned don't really address the content, the wants of each character in the scene. Though what it mentions is pretty legit. Want to jump in here and post more lengthy tips again, but my work as an editor is preoccupying my time now.
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Old November 25 2013, 11:29 PM   #141
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I didn't have time to go through all the threads here..... is anyone interested (if it's not here already) in Bob Justman's "original" criteria and notes for judging whether a Trek script actually lives up to what a Trek script needs to be and, thus, is worth producing? ("Original" because I own the original documents with his handwriting on them)
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Old November 25 2013, 11:32 PM   #142
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

andriech wrote: View Post
I didn't have time to go through all the threads here..... is anyone interested (if it's not here already) in Bob Justman's "original" criteria and notes for judging whether a Trek script actually lives up to what a Trek script needs to be and, thus, is worth producing? ("Original" because I own the original documents with his handwriting on them)
You betcha!
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Old November 25 2013, 11:37 PM   #143
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

If you're willing to share, I'm absolutely interested!
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Old November 26 2013, 02:01 AM   #144
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Another great article/list, this time from the auteur du jour, Joss Whedon but from back in 2009:

Joss Whedon's Top 10 Writing Tips

Joss Whedon said:

1. FINISH IT
Actually finishing it is what I’m gonna put in as step one. You may laugh at this, but it’s true. I have so many friends who have written two-thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about three years. Finishing a screenplay is first of all truly difficult, and secondly really liberating. Even if it’s not perfect, even if you know you’re gonna have to go back into it, type to the end. You have to have a little closure.
Obviously, this is something many fan films struggle with on a producing level but it's important to remember that there are probably many more scripts that have been started that never quite got to "The End."

2. STRUCTURE
Structure means knowing where you’re going; making sure you don’t meander about. Some great films have been made by meandering people, like Terrence Malick and Robert Altman, but it’s not as well done today and I don’t recommend it. I’m a structure nut. I actually make charts. Where are the jokes? The thrills? The romance? Who knows what, and when? You need these things to happen at the right times, and that’s what you build your structure around: the way you want your audience to feel. Charts, graphs, coloured pens, anything that means you don’t go in blind is useful.
This. Now, some fan films aren't following the traditional film screenplay format but rather the old five act structure for television. It still applies. What are your act-outs? What's your tease? It matters!

3. HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY
This really should be number one. Even if you’re writing a Die Hard rip-off, have something to say about Die Hard rip-offs. The number of movies that are not about what they purport to be about is staggering. It’s rare, especially in genres, to find a movie with an idea and not just, ‘This’ll lead to many fine set-pieces’. The Island evolves into a car-chase movie, and the moments of joy are when they have clone moments and you say, ‘What does it feel like to be those guys?’
This is arguably the most important item on this list when considered in the context of STAR TREK fan films, based on a series prided on its ability to tell allegorical stories about our lives today by telling stories set in the far future. Give us some meat to feast on. What's the "bottom" of your story?

4. EVERYBODY HAS A REASON TO LIVE
Everybody has a perspective. Everybody in your scene, including the thug flanking your bad guy, has a reason. They have their own voice, their own identity, their own history. If anyone speaks in such a way that they’re just setting up the next person’s lines, then you don’t get dialogue: you get soundbites. Not everybody has to be funny; not everybody has to be cute; not everybody has to be delightful, and not everybody has to speak, but if you don’t know who everybody is and why they’re there, why they’re feeling what they’re feeling and why they’re doing what they’re doing, then you’re in trouble.
I'll point out Star Trek: The Section 31 Files (which I love) as being especially guilty of this. Too often the character of Takila Mak has the witty one-liner or saves the day with some brilliant solution. He was simultaneously the Mary Sue and the Wesley Crusher of that show. At the same time, the real moments of brilliance with the character came when he wasn't doing those things but instead reflecting on his life or trying to solve whatever problem he found himself in. So, don't sacrifice those moments of humanity for the sake of a great punchline or action scene. Give your characters opinions.

Perfect example: In "The Defector," Worf refuses to donate blood to the dying Romulan. You keep thinking he'll come around, but he just doesn't. Because Worf hates the Romulans. It may not be what we'd do, but it's what Worf does. And we can disagree with his decision but it makes him all the more complex as a character that he stuck to his guns.

In the fan films, there's a lovely interaction that came about between Shelby (Risha Denney) and Hunter (Nick Cook) when Star Trek: Hidden Frontier and Star Trek: Intrepid crossed over with each other. The two had a playful, friendly relationship and you believed it. Shelby is always going to be tormenting and teasing Hunter. Certainly a big part of that is the lovely performances by Denney and Cook but it also adds further depth to their characters. These aren't just cookie-cutter Starfleet captains who bend the rules when they have to and fire the phasers and say "Make it so," these were people.

5. CUT WHAT YOU LOVE
Here’s one trick that I learned early on. If something isn’t working, if you have a story that you’ve built and it’s blocked and you can’t figure it out, take your favourite scene, or your very best idea or set-piece, and cut it. It’s brutal, but sometimes inevitable. That thing may find its way back in, but cutting it is usually an enormously freeing exercise.
Or, worst case scenario, save it for another story. I've worked in writer's offices on three network shows so far and one of the things each office had in common was that there was always a board, off to the side labeled "Saved Scenes." And these saved scenes were things that had been written already and cut, or were just random blurbs thrown out in the writer's room during a break session and filed away for (possible) future use. A good example would be Troi and Worf's relationship on TNG, which the writers hinted at as far back as season five. Whether they knew it was going to go there that early on is irrelevant; the point is the idea was there and they could feed it as they saw fit.

6. LISTEN
When I’ve been hired as a script doctor, it’s usually because someone else can’t get it through to the next level. It’s true that writers are replaced when executives don’t know what else to do, and that’s terrible, but the fact of the matter is that for most of the screenplays I’ve worked on, I’ve been needed, whether or not I’ve been allowed to do anything good. Often someone’s just got locked, they’ve ossified, they’re so stuck in their heads that they can’t see the people around them. It’s very important to know when to stick to your guns, but it’s also very important to listen to absolutely everybody. The stupidest person in the room might have the best idea.
It's also important to not view your writing as if it's some hallowed sacred text. Nobody gets it right on the first draft, and 100% of the fan films that have been made or are being produced can, very likely, benefit from another edit or rewrite on the script. That's just facts, yo.

7. TRACK THE AUDIENCE MOOD
You have one goal: to connect with your audience. Therefore, you must track what your audience is feeling at all times. One of the biggest problems I face when watching other people’s movies is I’ll say, ‘This part confuses me’, or whatever, and they’ll say, ‘What I’m intending to say is this’, and they’ll go on about their intentions. None of this has anything to do with my experience as an audience member. Think in terms of what audiences think. They go to the theatre, and they either notice that their butts are numb, or they don’t. If you’re doing your job right, they don’t. People think of studio test screenings as terrible, and that’s because a lot of studios are pretty stupid about it. They panic and re-shoot, or they go, ‘Gee, Brazil can’t have an unhappy ending,’ and that’s the horror story. But it can make a lot of sense.
There's a great story in Hollywood about how a famous producer judged how good the film he was watching by how soon he needed to get up to go to the bathroom. In other words, don't be boring! Keep our attention. I've criticized Phase II's "Blood and Fire, Part II" because a large part of it is just Kirk and crew talking with Kargh on the viewscreen as various bits of melodrama unfold during that space call. After a certain point, it just became me wanting to reach through my screen and yell at the characters "Alright, we get it! Next scene, please!" Likewise, Starship Exeter came to be with the conceit that the production would be completed using as many practical effects as possible and with methods as close to those of 1960s television had at its disposal. Phase II aims to produce new episodes but dresses their films up with all the bells and whistles of what a TV show that would have been broadcast on a Saturday night in 1967 would have (the NBC and Desilu tags, the "you're watching this in living color!" bumper, etc.). The point is, know who you're writing for. It doesn't mean you can't do new things but the people watching are going to expect a certain product when it comes to something as specialized as a fan film. Make sure to honor that expectation.

8. WRITE LIKE A MOVIE
Write the movie as much as you can. If something is lush and extensive, you can describe it glowingly; if something isn’t that important, just get past it tersely. Let the read feel like the movie; it does a lot of the work for you, for the director, and for the executives who go, ‘What will this be like when we put it on its feet?’
At the same time, don't overdo it. We don't need Kirk's life history expounded in a slug line describing his drawing his phaser on a hostile planet. The Shane Black school of screenwriting is fun to read but it's not necessarily applicable to everything. Again though, the same rule that applies to podcasting applies here: DON'T BE BORING!

9. DON’T LISTEN
Having given the advice about listening, I have to give the opposite advice, because ultimately the best work comes when somebody’s fucked the system; done the unexpected and let their own personal voice into the machine that is moviemaking. Choose your battles. You wouldn’t get Paul Thomas Anderson, or Wes Anderson, or any of these guys if all moviemaking was completely cookie-cutter. But the process drives you in that direction; it’s a homogenising process, and you have to fight that a bit. There was a point while we were making Firefly when I asked the network not to pick it up: they’d started talking about a different show.
This could also go back, quite powerfully, I think, to the earlier point about having something to say. And there are absolutely those in the fan film community who could stand to hear the words "Choose your battles" a few more times till it sinks in.

10. DON’T SELL OUT
The first penny I ever earned, I saved. Then I made sure that I never had to take a job just because I needed to. I still needed jobs of course, but I was able to take ones that I loved. When I say that includes Waterworld, people scratch their heads, but it’s a wonderful idea for a movie. Anything can be good. Even Last Action Hero could’ve been good. There’s an idea somewhere in almost any movie: if you can find something that you love, then you can do it. If you can’t, it doesn’t matter how skillful you are: that’s called whoring.”
Not really applicable in the fan film community as most fan films are labors of love for their creators, so this one doesn't really apply directly but its worth knowing/remembering nonetheless. .
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Old November 26 2013, 03:23 PM   #145
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

In regards to fan films I would expand rule number 1 a bit: I would say don't even begin to plan to shoot until you've got a final, polished script. How do you know it's "final" and "polished"? Well, I've got my tongue just a bit in my cheek, but really if you were taking a long car trip on business would you start before you had a route mapped out? You might still have to take detours along the way because of road conditions, weather or mechanical problems, but at least you know where you're trying to end up. Every re-write of the script should reveal previously unforeseen problems either in plot, dialogue and/or character and each of those problems dealt with before shooting starts results in enormous time savers when you start shooting.
To stretch the point even further, you might compare it to a battle plan. I remember a General once saying that no battle plan survives the first shot. However, he added, that's not the point. You want a plan that's quickly adaptable to realities, that gives you multiple options.
While I have great respect for the Exeter crew, with the hints Maurice has given out about the problems involved in putting together the missing act IV, I can't help but think there was a fundamental problem with the script and/or planning in the front end that could have been avoided.
Sure it's hard, but that's why so many fan projects are started and so few are finished. That's also why I'll raise a glass to anyone who can actually get a project released.
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Old November 26 2013, 05:32 PM   #146
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I don't know that I agree with your point about the Starship Exeter script. From what I recall there were other, external reasons that had nothing to do with the script that led to the choice they made to mine footage from Act 4 to complete Act 3.

Regardless, if there's one thing I've learned from my seven years working in Hollywood, it's that half of filmmaking is just problem solving. Working in writer's offices, I learned a ton about writing for TV. At one point, I spent a season working in post production on a show, and was very surprised at how much I learned about writing from that experience, sitting in on edits and mix sessions with our showrunner. You pick up things in those sessions that might never occur to you in your writer's room. Too, you learn how to "write in post" -- what problems you can avoid, and how to fix episodes that might otherwise not work as well on screen as they do on the page.

A great example: Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica did an episode called "A Day In The Life" following a typical day for Adama. It happened to also be his wedding anniversary with is (now dead) ex-wife. So on top of the daily routine, the trials and tribulations of being the commander of the ragtag fleet, we also got the inner conversation he was having with himself and his memory of his ex-wife.

The supplementary podcast commentary that Moore put out is fascinating from a writing perspective because unlike nearly all the other podcasts he recorded for the show, this one was done basically covering his time in the edit room with his editor, and how they wound up piecing the episode together to "make it work," when they realized that as written, it wouldn't track as well on screen as they had thought. I can't recommend Ron Moore's podcasts for BSG enough, and this particular podcast episode for its dual value toward both writing and editing.

Kirk absolutely got it right in Wrath of Khan -- "We learn by doing."

Last edited by doubleohfive; November 27 2013 at 02:03 AM.
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Old November 27 2013, 01:18 AM   #147
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

There was nothing much wrong with the script for The Tressaurian Intersection, apart from a few quibbles I have with a few bits of dialog, and the briefing room scene in Act 3. The editorial process became a sticking point in some respects, in ways I may discuss at some point after the show is finished, but not right now.
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Old November 27 2013, 02:44 PM   #148
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice wrote: View Post
There was nothing much wrong with the script for The Tressaurian Intersection, apart from a few quibbles I have with a few bits of dialog, and the briefing room scene in Act 3. The editorial process became a sticking point in some respects, in ways I may discuss at some point after the show is finished, but not right now.
Well, there certainly was nothing wrong with the script in terms of plot or dialogue. I was referring to unforeseen issues that might have arisen during the shoot, that might have been avoidable. Pure speculation on my part. I'm sure how it got to the point that it did, will make a very interesting story in itself. In the meantime, carry on!
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Old November 27 2013, 11:11 PM   #149
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There are always unforeseen issues. That's why the mantra should always be, "plan everything, come up with contingency plans, and when you've planned everything, keep planning".
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Old November 27 2013, 11:51 PM   #150
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

^^^That's kind of what I was driving at, although my speculation might have been worded better since it could easily be read as a criticism of the Exeter production team, which was certainly not the intention.

Flipping through Whitfield's "The Making of Star Trek" I am struck by how much goes on behind the scenes in putting out unexpected fires and the incredible talent and skill it takes to get a network show out on a weekly basis. It really shouldn't be surprising that such things can significantly delay or completely de-rail a fan project.
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