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Fan Productions Creating our own Trek canon!

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Old February 28 2014, 03:52 AM   #196
Andymator
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Haha, I suppose that depends on both the execution and the audience
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Old March 1 2014, 01:18 AM   #197
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice wrote: View Post
Bixby 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.).

Bixby 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.
Whoops! shows I haven't seen Wrath of Khan in a few years.,,sorry for the goof, but the example is still valid...

True, TNG started having random crewmen blurting out this cliché as a means to keep their budgets down, but they also did the following which had me almost tearing my hair out on a regular basis: towards the end of many episodes where the Enterprise is being confronted by a ship piloted by that week's ridged forehead alien-du-jour, they would build the suspense where it was time for the Enterprise to fire phasers/particle beam/antimatter blast, but because they had blown their budget, they would keep the camera on the bridge crew where they would say out loud what is happening, instead of showing it.

Original Trek might have had a super tight budget back in the day, but they rarely, if EVER disappointed when it came time to show the action...

Last edited by Bixby; March 1 2014 at 12:45 PM.
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Old March 1 2014, 06:56 AM   #198
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

At the very least you pull out a library shot of the ship firing, even if you have to cut to the bridge to report the result.
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Old March 2 2014, 07:02 AM   #199
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Which seems to be what TOS did most of the time.
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Old May 20 2014, 02:34 AM   #200
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice, thanks so much for all your effort in this thread. The resources you're sharing, and the explanations you're providing for the logic behind some industry standards, are invaluable.

Do you have anything you might share about the complications of an ensemble film where numerous characters share similar screen time? It occurs to me that there are three conflicts, which I find equally important, in a script I'm writing. Perhaps your response might just be that it's a bad idea to write that kind of story, but...
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Old May 20 2014, 06:32 AM   #201
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

re ensemble casts.

I was hired a while back to rewrite a feature film which is an ensemble piece. It's got eight major characters, all of whom are equally important to the plot (it's s heist movie with a team of six thieves versus a detective and his client). What I settled on was basically four threads.

Main plot: figure out what unique element each character brought to the story (their skill) and then figure out how it impacted the main plot (the heist), and then...

Subplot A: create a dramatic conflict between the two characters who have a past relationship to the MacGuffin, which creates tension between them but buttresses the main plot (adds significance to the heist attempt)

Subplot B: create tension between the thieves and explore their reasons for being involved in the heist, again supporting the main plot by their conflicts being a "complication"

Subplot C: made one character a wildcard in order to add a chaos element into the story which none of the other main characters were aware of, but which could subvert all the other plots.

Or, in a more general sense, something like:
  1. Figure out what the main plot is (goal)
  2. Figure out what the theme is (what does the story mean)
  3. Figure out what each character has at stake (what do they want, and what are they willing to get it, and what is the line they won't cross)
  4. Figure out which characters have conflicting needs, especially if they're on the same side, because that's where you'll find the drama
  5. Hold up the main theme and figure out how you can use the character conflicts to support, explore or counterpoint it.
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Last edited by Maurice; May 20 2014 at 07:02 AM.
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Old May 20 2014, 11:38 PM   #202
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Thanks so much for the response; I really appreciate your taking the time.

In a sense, I guess the piece I'm writing is really one conflict, with intertwining subplots about how all of these people are experiencing and simultaneously addressing it. So, what you provided there is a helpful framework that I'll keep in mind as I'm giving the idea form.

(I also realize I neglected to thank everyone else who's contributed to this thread. I read the whole thing, so I'm grateful to everyone for their efforts and perspective.)
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Old June 7 2014, 04:19 AM   #203
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

SCRIPTWRITING STANDARDS TIP

The Prelap: Dialog which overlaps a scene change

Ever wonder just how you're supposed to indicate when dialog is supposed to start before a cut? You know, like when you hear dialog starting over the end of one scene and after the cut is revealed to be part of the next one?

That's what's known as a "prelap", and refers to something which overLAPs the PREvious scene.

You do it like this:

EXT. JUDGE CROSS'S HOUSE, WEST SIDE EL PASO -- NIGHT

Nice neighborhood in the foothills of the Franklin mountains. The CAMERA PUSHES PAST a child's bike abandoned in the front yard to find a light in the living room as we PRELAP MIKE CROSS'S VOICE:

MIKE
(prelap)
She was on her way to a conference in Austin...

INT. JUDGE CROSS'S HOUSE, WEST SIDE EL PASO -- NIGHT

Sonya with Judge Cross's husband, MIKE (40s) numb with grief and the shock of what she has just told him. Sonya remains unmoved. She has not tread lightly.

SONYA
Flying?
...or...

INT. CAR (MOVING) - NIGHT
Our mysterious Driver kills his headlights, pulls to the side of the bridge and EXITS the car, moving with purpose...

BORDER TECH #1
(Prelap)
Lights are out on the bridge...

INT. BRIDGE OF THE AMERICA'S SURVEILLANCE ROOM -- NIGHT

A pair of American BORDER TECHS hunched over computer monitors as alarms sound and their CAMERA FEEDS blink to static.

BORDER TECH #2
Cameras too. Hell's goin' on?
Examples from the pilot script for the series The Bridge.
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Old June 10 2014, 09:56 PM   #204
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

SCRIPTWRITING STANDARDS TIP

Script Pages Per Minute

This comes up now and again when talking to fan filmmakers, so I thought it was worth mentioning here.

If you are using an industry-standard script format for film or a TV drama, each page is considered to have an approximate length. (Sitcoms use a very different format, and thus are not discussed here.)
Feature = 1 minute per page
Film = 45 seconds per page
Why the difference? Well, typically TV shows are more dialogue heavy and less "cinematic", thus action as seen on screen occurs faster. Not always the case, but it's the rule of thumb.

This is why scripts for TNG tended to be between 58 and 60 pages to produce episodes of a length of 43 minutes (minus titles and commercials).
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Old June 10 2014, 10:04 PM   #205
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

It's also important to note that page length matters in other ways.

One of the reasons the industry standard font is usually a Courier-based typeface is because every letter is the same width. This may seem entirely trivial, but it can add up when it comes to pages and revisions.

Generally speaking, a single script page can be broken into eight sections, based on the length of the scenes printed on the page in question. How large or small these eight sections then are in relation to each other, on the page, and in relation to the eight divisions on other corresponding previous or following pages, can dictate how much of a scene will be able to be shot in a given day. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but this is basically the jist of it. I have more specific notes at home I can share on this if there's any interest.

This is, if I recall correctly, applicable both to film and television. And Maurice is right - formatting on sitcoms is completely different. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas' pilot script (second draft) for How I Met Your Mother was 56 pages long! For a 22 minute show! Meanwhile, Jenji Kohan's writer's first draft of the pilot for Netflix's Orange Is The New Black was 65 pages long, for a ~42 minute episode. Likewise, Bays, Thomas, and Emily Spivey's writer's first draft for the pilot of How I Met Your Dad was 48 pages long, and very clearly mimicked the format of its predecessor.

Certainly HIMYM and HIMYD are problematic examples as these shows and their format necessitated multiple setups, scenes, flashbacks, and other gags that most other sitcoms do not employ, but the point remains - sitcom scripts are a totally different beast.

Last edited by doubleohfive; June 10 2014 at 11:05 PM.
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Old June 10 2014, 10:59 PM   #206
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Yep. It's tricky. On a feature script I wrote, the Executive Producer was often asking me to shorten the script to bring it down to 120 pages or less (it was about 126), but I had to point out to him there were a lot of action sequences in which some things that took an 8th of a page on paper would be maybe 4 seconds on screen, which I felt threw the time count if you assumed 1 minute per page for the whole thing.
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Last edited by Maurice; June 10 2014 at 11:40 PM.
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Old June 10 2014, 11:13 PM   #207
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Indeed.

When we put out revisions, often I'll find there are pages that "spill" over after the script has been locked. Depending on how much of a "spill" -- one line of action description, a "END OF ACT/EPISODE" notation, etc. -- I sometimes "cheat" the page in Final Draft.

Other times, it's less clear what will be acceptable. If the goal is to keep the episode script at 50 pages, there's often room to play with it, given how each act can start on a new page. Other times, you just bite the bullet and let the program create the "A" page and be done with it.

Either way, the important consideration in each case isn't what will look tidiest on the page itself, but how it will affect everyone down the line from wardrobe to props to set dec to production. They say a script is a blueprint. It literally is, and this is why.

Last edited by doubleohfive; June 10 2014 at 11:52 PM.
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Old June 10 2014, 11:24 PM   #208
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

SCRIPTWRITING STANDARDS TIP

Unusual Script Formats

Most film and TV scripts look something like this:

On Joe, outside Walt's door, looking at his script and
shaking his head.

ANGLE HIS POV INS THE SCRIPT

We see for the first time that the name of the script is "The
Old Mill," by Joseph Turner White.

We hear raucous laughter from Walt, et al, in the b.g.
Or...

Worf signals the team forward, and they slowly begin
picking their way down the Borgified Corridor. It's
not easy -- they have to choose their footing carefully
as they walk through the maze of cables, circuits, and
machinery... Ensign Hawk accidentally steps on some
circuitry, which gives off a BEEP. The entire team
suddenly whirls their lights and weapons on the
unfortunate Ensign, who pales at their sudden attention.

Worf looks irritated, then motions his team to continue
their search. They continue making their way down the
spooky corridor... and as they turn a corner...
But the script for 1979's ALIEN (link) takes a very different tack. Rather than action described in paragraphs it's presented in a series of single sentences, single-spaced.

BRETT
What is it. What hurts.

Kane's face screws into a mask of agony.
He falls back into his chair.

KANE
Ohmygooaaaahh.

A red stain.
Then a smear of blood blossoms on his chest.
The fabric of his shirt is ripped apart.
A small head the size of a man's fist pushes out.
The crew shouts in panic.
Leap back from the table.
The cat spits, bolts away.
The tiny head lunges forward.
Comes spurting out of Kane's chest trailing a thick body.
Splatters fluids and blood in its wake.
Lands in the middle of the dishes and food.
Wriggles away while the crew scatters.
Then the Alien being disappears from sight.
Kane lies slumped in his chair.
Very dead.
A huge hole in his chest.
The dishes are scattered.
Food covered with blood.
Without saying "angle on this" or "close on that", it paints a picture of what you see happening. Every action gets a kind of emphasis which is lost in the more typical paragraph form. These short one line narrative punches create a kind of tension on the page that you'd see in the final film.

Neat, huh?
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Old June 11 2014, 12:28 AM   #209
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Oh I like that. I've never seen it done like that before (the Alien script). I may have to steal it.
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Old June 11 2014, 02:09 AM   #210
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I wish more writers would adhere to studio standards. We've received such a weird variety of script formats, most of which David Eversole ends up reformatting into something we can use.

Using the studio margins, I know how long it's going to take me to film a script, and that's so important to us when we've only got a few available hours to film.

For Heaven's sake, don't send me a 22 page script in 8pt Trebuchet (and yeah, I encountered this two weeks ago) and tell me it's a short episode. Nope, properly formatted it's around 75 pages. Not something we're interested in, I'm afraid.
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