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Fan Productions Creating our own Trek canon!

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Old August 8 2014, 12:32 AM   #256
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
Maurice wrote: View Post
JarodRussell wrote: View Post
Well, House M.D. and CSI work(ed) well with their techno/medobabble.
That's at least usually based on reality, as opposed to saying "Captain, the fauxparticle emanations from the alientech has verbed the madeupium in the component. We have to madeupdefense the ship to prevent it from going kerplowski."
But for the general guy, it makes no difference. Astrophysicists do their facepalms in Trek, and forensics do their facepalms in CSI. The point is, based in reality or not, the scripts are done the same way: Technobabble causes and solves the problem, and there are long scenes of technobabble dialogue.
Sorry, just stumbled upon this thing.

Sure, yeah, technobabble in House, CSI, and Star Trek are just fine for the laymen, but it's not great storytelling. For week to week, having to churn out 24 episodes in ten months, it works. You try to churn out 24 episodes. You're probably going to have to reroute the binary plasma flow to the auxiliary deflector controls to get rid of the thingy on the hull.

But what sets this down a rung is that it's cheating the audience from a real emotional moment. People love Star Trek for the toys and the shiny things moving through space, but they love the characters the most. Typically, debates between which show was better don't have anything to do with tech, but with who was better (my money is always on Picard. You want to serve on the ship with a guy who can talk his way out of any situation).

That's why you should never, or rarely, use technobabble. Trek is about exploration. Not necessarily technology. City on the Edge of Forever? Balance of Terror? Star Trek II? Identity Crisis. Far Beyond the Stars. The Visitor. Heck, even Lolani.

These episodes all function on the crux of a character making decisions based on emotion or personal logic. They used their brains in order to further the story. It's because a character was a bit more wily or a little smarter or acted differently. It wasn't because a character made the tech do the tech.

It's because Spock made the call that nothing else could fix the ship unless he went in there and did the thingy with his hands. You never questioned the logic of it, you just knew that it had to be done.

When you're writing your fan film, ask yourself, "Are my characters making active decisions?" or "Are my characters making the tech make the active decision?"

TLDNR: Technobabble=bad. Your characters are smart, so use their personal abilities to fix the problem.
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Old August 8 2014, 12:39 AM   #257
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

And therein is the cheat of technobabble: you can almost always throw it out without hurting the script one iota. In fact, it leaves you more room to tell your story.
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Old October 6 2014, 11:58 PM   #258
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

New topic...

THE MIDPOINT TWIST/TURNING POINT
aka
  • The Mirror
  • The Reversal
  • The Mindfuck Moment
  • The Commitment to the Journey
I’ve read a lot of different descriptions of this over the years, but none really group all of what I consider to relevant into one bite-size package. So here I’ll summarize in a way that I hope will be useful.
This is a pretty fundamental element in a TV or movie script that you may not even be aware of.

Basically, right at the midpoint of the story, smack in the middle of the second act (as opposed to a commercial TV "act"), there is a moment where everything changes. It's a context-shifting point in which the curtains is raised for the first time, enlightening the protagonist and/or audience to what is really going on, what the stakes are, etc.

To pull out a fanfilm example, Dennis’s script for “The Tressaurian Intersection” features a classic example of a Midpoint Twist. Just after the Exeter secures the Starbase-destroying “weapon” the Tholians appear and it’s revealed that the “weapon” is their property, and that it is a “prototype” of something bigger, affecting the goals and enlarging the problem.

In short, at the midpoint new information causes the protagonist’s course to be changed. Some for-instances:
  • Star Wars: Our heroes are off to deliver the plans to Alderaan, but discover the Death Star instead and have to shift from merely delivering the plans to rescuing the Princess.
  • Breaking Bad (pilot): Walter White has been reacting to his terminal cancer diagnosis but when he realizes a former student of his is a wanted meth producer, he turns this into an opportunity to reclaim his self worth and make money for medical bills by blackmailing the former student into partnering with him to make and sell meth.
  • The Wrath of Khan: Kirk discovers that Khan is the one after Genesis and this changes him from reacting to his midlife crisis to actively fighting to save the ship and stop Khan.

Now, it’s important not to think of this midpoint just in M. Night Shyamalan “twist” terms. The midpoint twist isn’t necessarily a big twist like what “I see dead people” means. It’s frequently more of a Turning Point, a reveal in which the course of the story pivots from one trajectory to another and the problem deepens.

As the a.k.a.s above indicate, there’s more than one thing that can happen at this point beyond a Turning Point :

The Mirror
Another thing which frequently happens at the midpoint is that the action reflects the ultimate resolution of the story. For instance, if the hero ultimately wins at the end, the midpoint is a small victory for her, but if the hero ultimately loses at the end, the midpoint is a low point (whereas the culmination of the second act tends to be the opposite of the climax: if the hero wins at the end, his lowest point is at the end of the second act).

Jumping back to a Trek example here, above I related the Khan Turning Point, but in this same moment there is a Mirror of the ending: at the end Kirk outsmarts Khan but at a cost (Spock’s life), but here is the smaller reflection of that as Kirk outsmarts Khan but the Enterprise is damaged and Peter Preston dies.

The Reversal
Meaning a reversal of expectations. Although it doesn’t always happen here, a classic “reverse” frequently occurs at a film’s midpoint. A fun example is in Ghostbusters. For the first half of the second act Venkman is trying to put the moves on Dana, but when he shows up for their date it turns out she’s possessed and starts putting the moves on him instead, and now he rejects her.

The Mindfuck Moment
Sometimes the midpoint is real mind bender where you realize that what you thought was going to happen isn’t going to happen. Take Friedkin’s To Live And Die In L.A. in which ($poiler Alert!) the nominal protagonist Richard Chance is blown away at the middle of the story, leaving his up-to-now unsure new partner to take over the narrative. But, dead or not, Chance “lives on” because his partner becomes more and more like him. so by the end, basically he's become Chance.

The Commitment to the Journey
In “The Tressaurian Intersection” the Turning Point here is where Garrovick decides to commit himself to a course of action even though he has done his duty from Starfleet’s point of view: he has secured the “weapon” that destroyed the Starbase, and could fly home and let Starfleet analyze it, but he decides instead to investigate further and risk everything to save a race he actually hates.


Finally, from a protagonist point of view, the midpoint can often be seen to be the moment at which the hero goes from being reactive to the problem (Garrovick trying to locate the weapon before the Tressaurians can use it again) to active in trying to resolve the true nature of the problem as revealed by the twist (Garrovick discovers the weapon is a prototype of something far more dangerous).

Discuss.
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Last edited by MauriceNavidad; October 7 2014 at 11:13 PM. Reason: because typos!
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Old October 7 2014, 06:03 PM   #259
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice wrote: View Post
Discuss.
Nothing much to add today, except that the explanation you give was clear, concise, educational, and helpful for me.

Probably the thing I have to think about the most here to understand is the reversal.
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Old October 8 2014, 03:55 AM   #260
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I put up some sample pages of scripts I've written on my website, if anyone is curious to see some examples of how I write the stuff we're discussing here (link).

By the way, I am tweeting now, mostly about filmmaking and writing. So if you're a Twitter user you can find me here (link).
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Old October 13 2014, 11:31 PM   #261
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I recently had an lively email exchange with a member here over a script he was working on. He asked for blunt criticism—the kind I never give unless asked for—and he got it. But in the process the conversation touched on a lot of points about story structure, the act structure, and the difference between theme and plot. I decided to excerpt some of my notes and share them here, since they relate to topics touched on previously.

Continuing with...

THE MIDPOINT TWIST/TURNING POINT

One thing that came up was whether or not a two-part episode should be written under the umbrella of a single Three Act structure, or if each episode/segment should have Three Acts of their own. The example posed was "The Best of Both Worlds", and while writing my response I realized it relates to the topic of the midpoint twist. To wit:

What's the end of Part One? It's the Midpoint Twist/Turning point. We thought we were fighting the Borg; now we're fighting Picard. We've been reactive to this point (trying to occupy the Borg so Starfleet can assemble a defense), and next we must actively try to subvert the damage done by his assimilation. The Second Act culmination is the recovery of Picard (resolving the immediate problem but not the big one). In short: the two-parter is one story.
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Old October 18 2014, 09:12 PM   #262
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This superb article showed up in my Facebook feed this morning, all about whether or not you need screenwriting software for your scripts, why the free alternatives might not be the best choice for you, and why formatting is so important.

Do I Really Need Screenwriting Software?
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Old October 19 2014, 09:54 AM   #263
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

doubleohfive wrote: View Post
This superb article showed up in my Facebook feed this morning, all about whether or not you need screenwriting software for your scripts, why the free alternatives might not be the best choice for you, and why formatting is so important.

Do I Really Need Screenwriting Software?
Let me say up front that I'm not arguing this with you, doubleoh, but I'm genuinely interested in hearing thoughts on the following from you and some of the fan filmmakers here.

I agree that proper formatting is super important if you're serious about doing a professional, salable script. But a recent exchange with Andreich re scripts for fan productions has made me question how useful professional style production documents are to most fanfilm makers.

Let's be frank: most people making fanfilms are dilettantes (and I use that word in the archaic and not pejorative sense here) with only a cursory understanding or interest in how it's "supposed" to be done. If a fanfilm's producers and crew don't understand how to read and break down a script for shooting, then how much will these tools matter?

But, yes, pagination is paramount.

************

As to the article itself, while I think there's some good info in the article, sadly, the writing is bad. The author has poor organization and random seeming paragraph breaks. Take this paragraph (please):
Of course, pagination happens automatically with Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter. If you use Microsoft Word, you must “insert” page numbers. Your script should always look professional and inviting to read.
The underlined does not logically follow the former.

I also question this guy's knowledge base when he writes:

A client called me the other day and wanted to know why neither Final Draft nor Movie Magic Screenwriter could import her script. The answer was because she was using a freebie formatter that created files that could not be imported by another software application. In addition, she could not save her script as a PDF file or even as an RTF file. She was sunk; she ended up retyping her complete screenplay using—you guessed it—one of the two major screenwriting applications. Oh, the lost time!
Seriously? Note he fails to name the freebie app. Doesn't it save even plain text? Even if not, how about opening the script in that originating non-standard software and resorting to the old brute force approach:
  • Highlight text
  • COPY
  • PASTE into notepad/textedit
  • Save as unformatted text
  • CUT from text editor
  • PASTE into standard screenwriting software
  • Apply STYLES as needed
  • Tidy it up
Tedious, certainly, but 100x easier than actually retyping it. I suspect he just never thought to suggest that.
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Old October 19 2014, 12:43 PM   #264
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

I've used a variety of options, from Word templates when I started (and I used them very badly) to Celtx (which I thought was fine) to finally settling on Final Draft (which I like quite a bit).

I'm still just scraping the surface of Final Draft's features, and I'm still learning how to format properly (something Maurice has been very helpful with) but I am determined to try and approach it as professionally as I can.
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Old October 19 2014, 02:42 PM   #265
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Excellent points all, Maurice. I'll see if I can answer everything.

For starters, I shared the article here mainly with the whole discussion about the old Mind Sifter script still bouncing around in my head. Not really because of anything to do with that script specifically, but more out of the general idea at large regarding professional software vs. the alternatives available.

Like Nick, I started out (at a young age!) with basic word processors. (I remember struggling to make PFS WindowWorks and later, Windows 95 trying to master formatting. I basically just did it as I went. Pain. In. The. Ass.) I later switched to Final Draft, once I became educated on how powerful a tool it can be.

I also recalled the conversation we all had with Randy over at Project: Potemkin re: scripts and screenwriting software and thought the aforementioned article might elaborate other reasons I may of forgotten or just hadn't thought of at the time to share.

But you're right on all counts. The article itself is sloppy. I'd say that has more to do with the blogosphere journalism that is all over the internet these days, but it didn't bother me that much.

Regarding the free software he mentions and then fails to mention, I found that a bit odd as well. I don't know why he would leave such an important piece of information out of that particular section, unless he genuinely was instructed not to give that product any "press," as it were.

Regarding whether or not fan film producers would need professional software, it's a three-edged sword I think.

You've got people like the Phase II crowd who insist they are running their show as a professional production. Nick himself admits, that's what he's striving for as well. I applaud the effort. Too, not everyone knows or has access to the wealth of information we have and it felt like a good segue piece on the subject.

But you make a great point that fanfilm producer's needs are likely not conducive toward having a professionally prepared script via Final Draft or MovieMagic. That's neither an attack nor a criticism. I guess I was approaching the whole thing from the perspective of my last job at CBS, (a terrible experience to say the least) where nobody, not even the executive producers, knew how to use Final Draft. Formatting, pagination, everything! It was all a mystery to them. And these are people who should, who need to know how to read and break down a script!

Anyway. I get your points on the grammatic and general faults of the article itself, but my intent was only to offer more information on screenwriting software, and especially to those who might be wondering if they want to use professional software.
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Old October 19 2014, 06:02 PM   #266
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Just a thought from someone who does not know the first thing about writing or using a film script (if it's deemed worthless, no problem): it seems that the first thing to do is get something on paper (or saved document) in some form. If you have good ideas you at least have them preserved and have the opportunity to work them into a more polished form, or at least get them into the hands of someone who can put them into usable shape. I mention this because I remember hearing John Landis say that Dan Aykroyd's first draft of the Blues Brothers was full of great ideas but nowhere near any sort of usable script. Of course, that movie turned into a cult classic. Landis read it, liked it and sorted through the "great ideas" and worked them into a script. To me that was a clear message to not let any perceived lack of knowledge about script writing stop you from at least getting started. Everyone started somewhere.
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Old October 19 2014, 07:23 PM   #267
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Mike: Was Landis saying that the script wasn't formatted properly or just that the script was full of good ideas but just not shootable? Those aren't necessarily the same thing. Process isn't the same thing as product, after all. (Heck, I write longhand in notebooks and hammer dialog out in textedit before putting it down in Final Draft. Even when writing in Final Draft I often just bang out dialog in textedit just so I'm focused on the words and not the formatting.)
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Old October 19 2014, 07:47 PM   #268
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Likewise, Robert Rodriguez included his script for El Mariachi in his book Rebel Without A Crew, detailing the production of that film (his first) and it really just amounted to a long outline of descriptive paragraphs. Nowhere near industry standard, but enough for him to know what he needed to get shot and how so he could cut the film together properly in post.

Myself, I generally gather all my notes and scribbles from wherever I've managed to jot them down, cull everything together into some sort of outline in Word and then go through it meticulously to find my scenes, act breaks, etc. before I even open Final Draft. It tends to be arduous in the beginning, but once I'm "Final Draft" stage, it's a breeze because all the hard stuff has been worked out.

YMMV of course.
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Old October 20 2014, 12:33 AM   #269
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

Maurice wrote: View Post
Mike: Was Landis saying that the script wasn't formatted properly or just that the script was full of good ideas but just not shootable? Those aren't necessarily the same thing. Process isn't the same thing as product, after all. (Heck, I write longhand in notebooks and hammer dialog out in textedit before putting it down in Final Draft. Even when writing in Final Draft I often just bang out dialog in textedit just so I'm focused on the words and not the formatting.)
I think it was all of the above. Aykroyd frankly admitted he had no idea of how to write a script and that it took a lot of work to turn those ideas into something usable. I think the takeaway in either case, don't let a lack of experience stop you from at least getting something going.

ETA: I'm going from a recollection of listening to the commentary track several years back. If you have the DVD or can find it, you'll get a much more detailed (and accurate) picture.
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Old October 20 2014, 01:13 AM   #270
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Re: Fan Film Writer's Primer

double post...sorry

Last edited by MikeH92467; October 20 2014 at 05:32 PM.
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