Fan Film Writer's Primer

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Maurice, May 2, 2011.

  1. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Whatever one thinks of soaps (and I think decent writing at that rate is simply not possible, and decent acting almost as hard) soap actors are heroes... in the ancient Greek God sense of heroes, namely they do the humanly impossible. James Franco asked to be on a soap (General Hospital) for precisely that reason. I cannot imagine doing a soap for a week, and these people do it for years, often until a week or two before they literally DIE. They are marathoners, and I take my hats off to them. I'd love to hear Gene Francis and Jonathan Frakes have a conversation about learning lines. Yikes! :rommie:
     
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Jumping back a bit to the topic of dialog that should die...

    Technobabble
    SOURCE (link)
     
  3. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, House M.D. and CSI work(ed) well with their techno/medobabble.
     
  4. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "The warp drive is broken" "Then fix it!" "Aye Sir"
     
  5. captainkirk

    captainkirk Commander Red Shirt

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    One of the things I liked in STID (which other people didn't like about it) was the simple and obvious way Kirk fixed the warp core. He didn't do it by typing on a console or with a bunch of made-up technobabble. It reminded me of how in TOS when there was a problem Scotty had to climb into a jeffries tube and put the ship back together by hand.
     
  6. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Actually, GR addressed that issue in "The Making of Star Trek". He talked of replacing two pages of a script where the writer went into great technical detail on how to turn the ship around with the command "reverse course!"
     
  7. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Because fixing a piece of highly complex 23rd century technology should appear simple and obvious.
     
  8. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There was a great moment in the Tressaurian Intersection where the Science Officer offered to go into detail of the mathematics of how the device worked. The captain waved her off and told her to cut to the chase in plain English. Much more satisfying than technobabble.
     
  9. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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."
     
  10. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I wasn't defending House, you know. I said "at least based on reality," which is hardly a rousing endorsement.
     
  12. captainkirk

    captainkirk Commander Red Shirt

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    That depends on what it is. For a big dramatic moment having it all done with technobabble would have made it too nerdy. But it's something that always annoyed me in later Star Treks where the ship is under attack, the shields are down and they can be fixed simply by diverting power or repolarizing something. To me it's far more dramatically satisfying to see someone physically putting the ship back together than pressing a bunch of buttons.
     
  13. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    And people usually don't understand why I can't watch lawyer shows... thank you.
     
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    SCREENWRITING SOFTWARE

    This came up in a Project Potemkin thread no long ago. Most industry people use Final Draft because it's something of a standard. However, over the years it's become an increasingly pricy option and many no-budget filmmakers would rather spend their few pennies elsewhere.

    CeltX can be a good alternative, but there are some limitations to it's free (student/amateur) version.

    MS Word's .doc and .docx formats are pretty commonplace to a number of different programs, but they are not really compatible with the tools other screenwriters use, so working with writers accustomed to those tools can become a logistical issue.

    Well, there's apparently another alternative. My writing partner recently looked into the open-source screenwriting software Trelby (link to a review).

    It's proper screenwriting software, free to use, and imports and exports to industry standard formats, allowing cross-compatibility with people using Final Draft of CeltX. It also runs on Windows, Linux and OS X platforms (but the lattermost needs work, apparently).

    Have a look (link).http://www.trelby.org/
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A SCREENWRITER'S RESOURCE

    The Write to Reel (link) website and forums are a great resource for writers and wanna-be writers. There are many discussions about screenwriting in general and specific scripts in particular, with many many screenplays available for download (you have to register to do so, and it can take a few days to get approved).

    As an example, here's a topic on Screenwriting techniques that improve our writing (link) with a lot of tips.
     
  16. KennyMadison

    KennyMadison Ensign Newbie

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    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.
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    New topic...

    THE MIDPOINT TWIST/TURNING POINT
    aka
    • The Mirror
    • The Reversal
    • The Mindfuck Moment
    • The Commitment to the Journey
    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. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2014
  19. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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