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Fan Productions Creating our own Trek canon!

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Old February 4 2014, 06:30 PM   #181
doubleohfive
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Bixby wrote: View Post
.

That he did not bother to try tells me that he, Rick Berman, was NOT doing his job, which was to grow his audience numbers as best he can by rethinking what does or does not work, as evidenced with latter-day Voyager and Enterprise's constant ratings plummet.

But again, sorry for my harsh words about TNG...I did like many aspects of it, but disliked quite a bit as well...
Dude, what are you going on about? The man ran and kept Trek on TV for nearly 15 years after Roddenberry died. And while its true, that's not a blanket excuse for the dip in quality in the later years, it's still also one hell of an achievement in Hollywood.

More importantly, it's clear to anyone who reads the letter Maurice was kind enough to share with us here that Stillwell was responding to a professional query. Bringing in the Gorn or Andorians while TNG was still in its early years would be gimmicky. That's not a pejorative, it's just a fact.

Most importantly, you're ignoring the basic fact that for much of his time with the shows, Berman was the showrunner. On those latter three series expecially, he was the top banana and he was making the shows he wanted to make.

You can argue the merit of that all you want but it's not a fault solely to lay at Berman's feet - that's the function of every showrunner on every TV show on the air.

I have my own issues with Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, but on the whole I enjoyed each of them. I watched them and enjoyed them for what they were, not what I expected them to be.
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Old February 4 2014, 09:31 PM   #182
Maurice
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Eric Stillwell was just giving me heads up on possible-trip wires that might get lessen the chances for the scripts to sell. I can see how, with all the submissions the show probably got, that there were probably a lot of fannish submissions playing connect the dots and how elements that hinted at that might cause a first reader to toss it aside.
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Old February 19 2014, 10:30 AM   #183
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

New subject...

DIALOG CLICHÉS WHICH SHOULD BE BANISHED FROM TREK AND TREK FANFILMS

I've been mulling on this for a while, but the recent "Duty Bound" episode of Potemkin reminded me of this topic so I thought it worth bringing up. Apologies to Dave Eversole (the credited writer) but the script opens on two of the most overused lines in Trek; lines which blandly go where everyone has gone before.

Here are a few candidates and why:

"Shields are down to nobodycares percent."
Roger Ebert said it back in 2002:
...I've also had it with the force shield that protects the Enterprise. The power on this thing is always going down. In movie after movie after movie I have to sit through sequences during which the captain is tersely informed that the front shield is down to 60 percent, or the back shield is down to 10 percent, or the side shield is leaking energy, and the captain tersely orders that power be shifted from the back to the sides or all put in the front, or whatever, and I'm thinking, life is too short to sit through 10 movies in which the power is shifted around on these shields...
"Reroute power from life support."
I presume this is supposed to communicate to us how dire the situation is if we're reduced to tapping the energy from the systems that keep us alive. But not only is it a overused contrivance, it's fundamentally stupid. How can the power needed to control the temperature, clean the air and maintain the (apparently indestructible) gravity generators possibly begin to compare to a power system which can move an aircraft carrier sized vehicle at 1000c? It would be like rerouting the power from charging your mobile phone to supplement the power it takes to run a laundromat full of industrial driers.

It's bad because it's trite, meaningless, technically illiterate, and people only use it because they've heard it so often they think it's just what you write in that situation.
"Admiral/Commodore Gueststar, how can the YetAnotherShip be of service?"
Several issues with this one...

The line and its variants are a cliché, but worse is what these lines invariably lead to.

First, this gimmick is most often done by popping up some guest star as top brass on a viewscreen. Its an easy way to get actors shot in different places and different times together in the same scene, but it's so overdone it's become not so much a Star Trek cliché but a Star Trek fanfilm cliché.

Second, these conversations are frequently overly chummy. Not everyone knows everyone else in the service, certainly not on a friendly basis.

Finally, and worst of all, it's dull. Watching people sit at desks Skypeing is visually inert.

It's usually far more dramatic to have the characters in the situation discuss their orders and the implications thereof than having the Captain argue back and forth with the Guest Brass and still inevitably be told "You have your orders."
"Damage to secondary hull/starboard power coupling/whatever"
Unless the damage specifically affects the story in a meaningful way (say, weapons knocked out so they can't fight their way out, forcing the Captain to take a different sort of risk), it's just noise.

Yes, there are fine scripts which have used all of these, but the occasional exception doesn't change the fact that in most cases every one of these could be replaced with something else and not be missed at all. When dialog is interchangeable, it's filler.

And therein lies the big problem with them: they're Mad Libs. Instead of writing lines which actually advance the story or tells us about the characters, many fan writers end up just recycling these prefabricated dialog packing peanuts which fill the scene with words but don't actually say anything.

Truman Capote's flip dismissal of Kerouac, "That's not writing, that's typing," could easily apply to these pernicious little banalities.

My challenge to fanfilm writers is to make an effort to not use these and their ilk. If you can quote a half dozen Trek segments where the line was used (unless it's some standard operating procedure like "Kirk to Enterprise,") then you should probably think of something else the characters should be saying. Your scenes may actually become better because you're actually writing conversation rather than just parroting stock lines, and when that happens then you truly are writing, not typing.
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Last edited by Maurice; February 20 2014 at 09:01 AM.
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Old February 19 2014, 12:58 PM   #184
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

What do you think of TUC and Nemesis? In TUC, Scotty says “shields are weakening“ and the next torpedo is the first one that smashes through the saucer. And that hull breach is then talked about by McCoy and Spock.

In Nemesis, the upper shields go down, so Picard orders Data to turn the ship around (a nice VFX shot during the battle).
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Old February 19 2014, 07:11 PM   #185
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I think the weakening shields issue could just be handled by something along the lines of "compensate". Let the engineer or whomever do their job. Everything else is just technobabble and as Maurice correctly labels it "filler".
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Old February 19 2014, 07:16 PM   #186
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

"Shields weakening/collapsing" is to establish why the ship gets a hole punched through it, but even if you cut those lines out the scene would still make sense.

The other example...you'd think it would be SOP to turn the strongest shield towards an attacker. It's as obvious as "don't turn your back on them" and, again, superfluous. I don't recall the context of the action you cite (I saw Nemesis precisely once and will never watch it again), but assuming the enemy ship was still cloaked, I'd have written something like—and this is just off the top of my head, "Keep turning to keep the strongest shield towards the direction of fire. If he's like me, he'll recognize what we're doing and try to come around to the weaker side. That's what I'm counting on." And make it so he's trying to trick his invisible adversary from attacking from ANY direction to a more specific direction where he could let loose with everything he's got and have a better chance of a hit, which would show Picard thinking and trying to outsmart his adversary, which would tell us something about the character and how he's using his knowledge of himself to outsmart his duplicate. One is reactive and rote, the other is smart and character-specific.
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Old February 24 2014, 10:39 AM   #187
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

From Nemesis:

INT. ENTERPRISE - BRIDGE - FOLLOWING

The bridge SHAKES violently under the ruthless attack--

DATA
We are losing dorsal shields --

PICARD
Full axis rotation to port! Fire
all ventral phasers!
The Enterprise ROCKS from a photon torpedo impact --

DATA
Aft shields are down to forty
percent.

RIKER
(to Helm)
Keep our bow to the Scimitar.
Auxiliary power to forward shields.
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Old February 24 2014, 10:48 AM   #188
Maurice
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

^^^Yep. Meaningless.
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Old February 27 2014, 07:08 PM   #189
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Another great article, again referred to me by Jen Grisanti via Facebook.

The Art of Implementing Notes and Selecting Screenwriting Mentors to Help Your Career

Some of the more pertinent quotes:

You want to avoid the type of people who might derive their self-esteem by putting others down. Exposing yourself to people who will be highly critical, without understanding the creative process and craft of screenwriting will only be destructive and counter-productive.

While you want to find those who can support and help you, careful you don’t look for someone who will simply validate what your want to hear. If you think you want constructive feedback, but secretly only seek validation, your work won’t improve and you will prevent your growth as an artist.

Positive reinforcement and encouragement are great, but a trap many writers fall in to is to allow themselves to be seduced by any and all encouragement. Seeking validation and accepting false encouragement blindly is not good for writers because these get in the way of evolving one’s craft.

While it’s important to receive constructive criticism, it is also important to surround yourself with people who are genuinely supportive of your work and want you to succeed.

Avoid anyone who says you have to do it their way and only their way — unless they hold all the purse strings and you’ve made a conscious decision for financial rather than creative reasons that you don’t mind submitting to their vision.

If you enlist feedback from those whose opinions and work you respect, then even if you don’t agree with a particular critique, there’s a good chance the comment has some level of validity. While the specific suggestion might not resonate for you immediately — if you keep an open mind, you might see that the scene or moment in question may not be working as well as it could. While the specific suggestion might not feel right to you — and it’s good to trust your instincts — at the same time if you keep an open mind, you might come up with a solution that makes the scene better than what you originally created.
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Old February 27 2014, 07:51 PM   #190
Bixby
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice wrote: View Post
"Shields weakening/collapsing" is to establish why the ship gets a hole punched through it, but even if you cut those lines out the scene would still make sense.
Wouldn't it be SO much simpler and be even more dramatic to actually SHOW that the shields are weakening instead of TELLING it (yes, the old cinema staple).

WRATH OF KHAN did this superbly by actually showing the Reliant punching a hole in the shields with its phasers (then a literal hole in the Enterprise's hull), before cutting to a close-up of the bridge tactical screen with the ship's graph clearly showing shields distress (huge blinking sections).

That plus quick cuts showing overall chaos on the bridge, supported by sweeping dramatic music and running/panicking crewmembers everywhere while the main actors desperately try to save the day will pump the viewers' blood a hell of a lot more than having characters just saying random meaningless phrases.
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Old February 27 2014, 08:25 PM   #191
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Bixby wrote: View Post
Maurice wrote: View Post
"Shields weakening/collapsing" is to establish why the ship gets a hole punched through it, but even if you cut those lines out the scene would still make sense.
Wouldn't it be SO much simpler and be even more dramatic to actually SHOW that the shields are weakening instead of TELLING it (yes, the old cinema staple).

WRATH OF KHAN did this superbly by actually showing the Reliant punching a hole in the shields with its phasers (then a literal hole in the Enterprise's hull), before cutting to a close-up of the bridge tactical screen with the ship's graph clearly showing shields distress (huge blinking sections).

That plus quick cuts showing overall chaos on the bridge, supported by sweeping dramatic music and running/panicking crewmembers everywhere while the main actors desperately try to save the day will pump the viewers' blood a hell of a lot more than having characters just saying random meaningless phrases.
Nemesis did do that as well. When they said the forward shields were down to xy percent, there was a shot of the ship getting hit, and in the aft section there was shielding, and in the forwards sections there were no shields but bigger explosions.
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Old February 27 2014, 09:44 PM   #192
Maurice
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
Wouldn't it be SO much simpler and be even more dramatic to actually SHOW that the shields are weakening instead of TELLING it (yes, the old cinema staple).
Yep. Show not tell. Of course I know why this whole "shields down to nobodycares percent" thing started: it's cheaper to have an actor blurt out this line than to visualize anything.

Honestly, I thought about this way back when TNG was on the air. If I'd been the Exec Producer I'd have instructed Okuda to make library of control panel inserts illustrating shields taking hits from various directions, power levels flickering, weapons firing in various directions, impacts getting through the shields, etc. and used these as needed to show what would be too expensive to film (extra space battle shots, etc.).

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
WRATH OF KHAN did this superbly by actually showing the Reliant punching a hole in the shields with its phasers (then a literal hole in the Enterprise's hull), before cutting to a close-up of the bridge tactical screen with the ship's graph clearly showing shields distress (huge blinking sections).
I think you're misremembering the scene slightly. The Reliant hits the Enterprise with NO SHIELDS up. The phasers just slam into the hull.
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Old February 27 2014, 11:22 PM   #193
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I remember reading Ron Moore say that he hated writing space battles because it's so hard to write original dialog for it. One cliché I'd add is where someone makes an odd statement or gives an unusual order and an ensign replies incredulously "Sir?". It's small but it bothers me every time I hear it.
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Old February 28 2014, 12:59 AM   #194
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Yeah, but I love all those little tropes though.

Like when somebody calls the Captain and says "You better take a look at this" without actually telling him what the hell is going on? It's awesome.

Or when a character enters a scene to find another character standing at the window staring out... what the hell are they doing there? I can only imagine walking into my bedroom to find my wife just standing by the window gazing longingly all the time.

I can see why they might be irritating to some, but they're part of the whole heightened stylistic storytelling they developed in the 90's shows, and I get a kick out of them.

A fan film seems like the perfect vehicle to celebrate these things.
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Old February 28 2014, 03:31 AM   #195
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Celbrate? Or beat a dead horse?
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