Fan Film Writer's Primer

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

  1. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    How, exactly, by the way? I was so busy being cute about tennis puns that I forgot to ask this earlier.

    (And all of our personal taste is in question, brother. We're regulars on the TrekBBS, after all. :p)

    Oh, I think the resource you've provided here is incredibly valuable. Not that I count as a "fan filmmaker" but you've certainly made me a much more educated viewer -- which I guess Karzak might not thank you for because that's how I came to be calling shenanigans on what I thought were comparisons being made in his post in the first place... but I certainly thank you for it. :techman:
     
  2. Karzak

    Karzak Commodore Commodore

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    I had several issues with the film's script, the primary reason being a simple lack of characterization. I didnt care for the "Queen Bitch WHore" line (but let's not go down that road again) and an overreliance on the space ships and battles.

    :lol: Too true. Too true.

    Well since you mentioned it I'll add to the praise, even if it will sound ungenuine. I haven't really read it often but perhaps I should go back and do so to better educate myself before commenting further.
     
  3. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Tastes vary, you're certainly entitled to yours and I wouldn't suggest otherwise.

    I got exactly what I expected from Prelude and enjoyed it quite a bit. Mileage varies. Perhaps you'll find more to enjoy in the feature, which won't be following the faux documentary format. :)
     
  4. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I read through most of the thread but I know it is a bit older, and wanted to ask a question.

    I like doing fan productions, but want to craft it in less than ten minutes. Could someone please provide an example of the three act in such a time frame?

    Thank you in advance!

    Also, I'm sad I missed the tennis puns.
     
  5. Karzak

    Karzak Commodore Commodore

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    Anyone who hasn't ought to check out the Bitter Script Reader. Excellent on-the-ground advice and perspective from a working writer in Hollywood.

    This particular entry caught my eye today, all about writing spec scripts for established properties. This is from the end of the entry, but the entire piece is worth reading:

     
  6. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    True, the chances are higher because you can pitch an original script to every studio in the world. But I still wouldn't consider writing a script for an established franchise a waste of time. There STILL is a chance that it hits the right notes.
     
  7. Karzak

    Karzak Commodore Commodore

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    Did you read the entire blog post I linked to? Or did you just read the blurb I quoted here?
     
  8. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I also read the other article where he states that he thinks it's a waste of time. I disagree.

    He also makes that Baseball pitcher analogy. It's not impossible if you're good and take your chances. It's only impossible if you're not good.

    The attitude of the person he replied to is wrong. Not the principle of wanting to write for an established property.
     
  9. Karzak

    Karzak Commodore Commodore

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    It's not just about being good and taking chances. It's about understanding the politics of writing for a studio. You are right however that the attitude of the person he replies to is wrong, but that's only part of what this was about. Too many people seem to think it's just a simple matter of sitting down and cranking out a hundred pages of script and that that's all it takes to write. The Bitter Script Reader's blog entry is trying to show that there's a LOT more involved in the process.

    That's how I read it, anyway.
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think that it's better to write original pieces for a different reason: namely, finding your own voice. When you're writing in an established format for established characters you basically have a template laid out for you. I started off pitching scripts to ST:TNG (through an agent), but when I look at those scripts now I realize I was filling in the blanks instead of actually learning how to write and structure a teleplay. Also, Star Trek uses some narrative shortcuts—notably the log entries—to "cheat" around things that more conventional scripts have to deal with head-on. Such shortcuts don't encourage good writing habits.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
  11. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    I posted this up in the Star Trek: Anthology thread, but it would probably be as useful to be included here, and with a bit of elaboration.

    [yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oj5GjmDT0G4[/yt]

    To repeat: the first video clip from the second Trek pilot episode (Where No Man has Gone Before) in very few seconds clearly establishes many personality traits we have come to associate with the two series leads, Kirk and Spock.

    Both the acting and the words spoken show Kirk as charming, relaxed, confident and yes, a trifle cocky. Spock comes off as a bit arrogant, reserved, intellectual, overconfident, and totally flustered when his commanding officer unexpectedly beats him at chess.

    Some recent fan film productions mistakenly believe that rapidfire showcasing of many characters and the enumeration of some sort of career accomplishment will pass as actual character work. Basically this is the same if we transpose it to a modern-time drama, with characters saying: ''pleased to meet you, Darryl Jones, your thesis at the university of Wichita made everybody notice you at the offices of Shaidye, Leach & Bickers''

    Basically all this reveals is that your character went to school and wrote something supposedly interesting, but reveals BUBKISS about who they actually are. And frankly when you meet someone in real life, do you actually recite from your work resumé? Perhaps we do, but we usually add some real character bits, such as:

    Darryl Jones: ''yes I wrote it for my final paper at Law school, but I was always more interested in journalism, specifically crime news. My father was a police officer who was gunned down while on duty, but his case was never solved. I took advantage while in college to research all those old files and I managed to find his killer. Best feeling ever!''

    So basically when writing Trek scripts, remember that nobody cares what this or that character did in his past before signing up for this new tour of duty, unless it is absolutely relevant to the current story. Yes, coming up with an elaborate backstory where you have your pet character having been yet another of Kirk's academy classmates, and serving on 7 different noteworthy ships while a fellow crewmember to obscure character XYZ from the original series might be fun as a writing exercise...

    But it'll NEVER make said character interesting until he is injected with an actual personality...
     
  12. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Thanks for reposting that here, Bixby. That opening from "Where No Man ... " is a great scene to point out how to write better character moments that serve more than an info dump of a character's dossier.

    When I craft characters, I'm more interested in figuring out what they want and to what lengths they would or wouldn't go to get it. For instance, I'm writing a science-fiction script and I know what my main character wants, but I don't necessarily know everything in her backstory. I have a vague idea where it informs what the character is hoping to accomplish in the script, and how that forms her worldview. But I don't have a document that outlines her biography.

    I don't need to have all the dots filled, like what happened to my character's kitty when she was seven.

    Also, I feel it allows me to discover things about the character as I go along and opens up the possibilities to other story ideas.

    Aaron Sorkin uses a similar approach.

    In the first season of "The West Wing," Sorkin didn't know that Bartlet had MS. It wasn't until he wrote an episode where the president got ill and his wife, Abby, gave him a shot. It was in that script he knew two new things about those characters: Abby was a doctor and Bartlet had MS. And those two bits led to further stories, and gave us one of my favorite episodes of the series, "Bartlet for America."

    TL;DR: You don't have to know every minute of your characters. Figure out what drives them, what their worldview is and what they want in your story. Then figure out that for all the characters and how that creates conflict in your story.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
  13. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    Thanks for responding and the insight on the West Wing, RTR.

    I just wanted to add this: It's been some time since I've seen Ridley Scott's ALIEN, but that film is a great example where you know next to nothing about the 7 main characters' past lives before the movie begins. All it needed was very strong casting, the distinct characterizations by the actors and a great script to succeed.

    Apparently the original screenplay never even indicated what gender the characters were, and Ripley was even assumed to be played by a man until Scott chose Sigourney Weaver for the role.
     
  14. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Which speaks to the strength of the original script, in my opinion.

    Thank you both for sharing the insight and analysis. Gave me a lot to think about :)
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I agree with the above posts re character. Too many books and articles about writing stress creating elaborate backstories for characters, which generally adds little to the actual character and even tends to ossify them into behaviors which nay not serve the story even before you've written them into it. Characters are defined by what they want, what they need, and how far they will go to get those things. When I write, creating a mental model of a character's personality and finding their voice is typically way more important than creating a C.V. In the show I'm writing now I started by mashing up traits and bits of character of real people I know and have worked with, creating interesting (I hope) composite personalities with distinct ways of speaking who will drive the narrative in interesting ways. I don't know next to anything about their lives prior to a few years earlier, but I don't need to. Motivation-wise, where they are now is far more relevant than where they came from.
     
  16. Karzak

    Karzak Commodore Commodore

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    Meanwhile, Bitter Script Reader knocks it out of the park again!

     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I am ALWAYS learning something as I write. I think accepting that you and your script are not automatically brilliant is a good place to start. You also have to be willing, and preferably seeking, blunt critiques of how to make the work better, and be willing to take it to heart. Too many beginning writers I meet (and a few experienced ones) chafe at making changes.

    I just got coverage (notes to the layman) on a 5th draft feature film script, and even after this many drafts the coverage is 13 pages long (that's one page for every 9 pages of script). Them's the realities of pro feedback.

    Examples from the coverage:

     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  18. Karzak

    Karzak Commodore Commodore

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    Someone once said to me "Nothing's ever perfect." And I generally try to apply that to everything I write. The advice, suggestions and comments I inevitably get are almost always helpful, and hopefully in service of making whatever I'm working on better, at least that's how I've always interpreted them. If someone cracks a joke about how something seems off or doesn't work, I try not to take it personally. Some people are sensitive -- I know I was the first time I had someone read something of mine and they didn't like it, but its a little like getting dumped. the more it happens and the more experience you have going through it, the less it hurts.
     
  19. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    My writing partner and I live by what Roger De Bris said in The Producers (1967), "Be brruutal! Be brrrrruuuutal Because heaven knows they will." We often say, "Like that... only good."
     
  20. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I prefer saying, "Just make it not suck." We've even written it up on the whiteboard at work, attributed to me, of course. ;)