Fan Film Writer's Primer

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

  1. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    I tend to agree with Middy. One of the things we tried to do with Intrepid was play with the format a bit. I'm not convinced we were terribly successful, but we did try and break from the norm. Ironically, I think we've been drifting back towards the status quo as time has moved on. Must try harder. :)
     
  2. DAYoung

    DAYoung Commander Red Shirt

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    *subscribe*
     
  3. Psion

    Psion Commodore Commodore

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    Well, Middy, I'm convinced. Thanks for a really thought-provoking series of posts. Have some karma!

    ...

    Oh. That's right, we don't have karma here. Here, have a couple of approving Bolians, instead. :bolian::bolian:
     
  4. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Haven't watched INTREPID in awhile, but I did appreciate that you guys were trying to stretch the format. Gotta say tho' the one thing I do like about INTREPID is the down-to-earth quality of the characters. They seem more like working officers, not a bunch of stuffy shirts who spout off the Prime Directive at the drop of a hat.

    Thanks, man! :bolian: Hoping to crank out more of these types of posts. After all, I got my MFA in creative writing so I could teach and I am an editor/writer by profession. So I really enjoy writing these posts. My goal is to help fan film writers improve their scripts, their stories, like Maurice's in starting this thread.
     
  5. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    An interesting list of the "22 Rules of Storytelling -- According to Pixar" is making the rounds today. I put my current script up against it and fared pretty well (19/22). Check it out here:

    And, for posterity/discussion's sake, here it is:

    #1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

    #2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

    #3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.

    #4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

    #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

    #6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

    #7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

    #8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

    #9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

    #10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.

    #11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.

    #12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

    #13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.

    #14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.

    #15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

    #16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.

    #17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.

    #18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

    #19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

    #20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

    #21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?

    #22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
     
  6. Tom Hendricks

    Tom Hendricks You move! Premium Member

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    Which ones of the rules of storytelling didn't you cover in your script? Just wondering...

     
  7. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    #9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
    #18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
    #22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
     
  8. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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  9. Psion

    Psion Commodore Commodore

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    "#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating."

    It worked for Trek 2009. ;)
     
  10. Gep Malakai

    Gep Malakai Vice Admiral Admiral

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    FILM CRIT HULK has another very good take on the issue here:
    http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/hulk-presents-the-myth-of-3-act-structure/

    Unlike the Writer's Store link, though, he doesn't argue against acts at all, but rather for dividing a story into as many acts as the story requires (5, 9, 12, whatever). His basic argument is that an act break happens when the main character(s) makes a choice that sends the narrative in a new direction, and as such, 3 acts is actually way too few to make an engaging story.

    It's a interesting way of looking at it, and hearkens back to Maurice's comments elsewhere that fan films tend to have passive protagonists who don't act to move the story forward. You get a bland, unstructured mess that way - even in professional films. *COUGHGREENLANTERNCOUGH*
     
  11. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The problem with a lot of critiques of why a rule should be rejected is that they frequently ignore why the rule exists in the first place. Sure, there are lots of ways to tell stories, and—as I pointed out much earlier in this thread when I diagrammed a couple of shows—they don't always fall perfectly neatly into a 3-act structure.

    BUT it's also true that many many popular story types hold to the basic tenets of the 3-act, which, as before, break down to:

    1. Introduction = Introduce Problem
    2. Exposition = Complicate Problem
    3. Climax = Overcome or fail to overcome problem (often tied to a decision)
    One can rightfully quibble over things like whether there really are such things as "inciting incidents" or whatnot, but when you boil it down to the 1, 2, 3 above, that really does cover an awful lot of stories.

    Many rules are rules because they work. This applies to writing, lighting, editing, etc.

    Cinematography rules weren't concocted by cinematographers with a penchant for making up structure, but came out of practical observation of what worked on the screen. You can go back to the early silent era and find some of the action hard to follow because the filmmakers hadn't yet noticed which kinds of shots worked together to make a coherent narrative. Do you know why camera coverage in a scene tends to be closer to directly in an actor's eyeline the closer the shot is to them? There IS a reason, and I bet you can guess it since I just raised it as an issue, but absent that knowledge you're not making as informed a decision as you could be, ergo you're less likely to producing an effective scene than you would if you knew the rules.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012
  13. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'd change that statement into "... if you knew the rules".
    You don't have to follow them if you don't want to, but you should know what you're doing and why you're doing it.
     
  14. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Good point. Long before Picasso became the greatest abstract artist ever, he was a superbly trained traditional artist. He may have broken every rule in the book when he turned to cubism, but he knew exactly what he was doing and why. Jean Luc Godard, did the something with a film in the 60's. He deliberately used weird camera angles and distracting cuts to create a specific effect. Going back to the Phase II episode "The Child", I really appreciated the fact that the director and editor worked in a very conservative fashion. I don't recall a single place where I thought an edit was awkward or distracting, which is an incredible accomplishment for even the best of fan productions. They got some criticism for being conservative, but I thought they did a great job and used exactly the right style for the story.
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You're right on that word choice. I tweaked that, as it's more what I meant than the word I'd written.

    Exactly. I like to say you need to be able to walk before you can run.

    I don't want to pull this into a discussion about cinematography, as I was merely using it illustrate a principle about "rules". The real topic here is writing, after all.
     
  16. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think your bottom line is pretty clear: know the rules first, once you know them inside and out, break them as you see fit in the interest of good storytelling.
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I dunno if I'd go as far as "as you see fit" because that makes it sound like these things are obstacles to be overcome rather than what they are, which are guidelines. But you've more of summed up my sentiment.
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I was reading through some correspondence from original Star Trek production, and one thing that got mentioned frequently in notes on the scripts was misuse of "aye" "yes sir" and "negative". As I see this a LOT in fan films (and, as Middyseafort points out, Babylon 5 is rife with it), I thought a little cheat sheet about this might be useful:
    "Aye" means "understood", not yes. "I don't want to see another tribble!" "Aye."

    "Aye aye," means "order understood and I will carry it out", and not yes or an emphatic yes. "I want you to get every tribble off this bridge!" "Aye, aye, sir!"

    "Yes" and "No" are the appropriate responses to questions, as in, "Have you tried hailing them?" "Yes, sir." Do not use "affirmative" and "negative".

    "Affirmative" and "Negative" are NOT used in normal conversation. They are "voice procedure" cues used over radios, etc. Like the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, they are used over communications equipment where it's possible that "yes" or "no" can be missed or misheard, much the way you'd say "niner" instead of "nine" because the latter can be mistaken for "five", or why Craps dealers say "Yo-leven" instead of "eleven" because the latter can be misheard as "seven".​
     
  19. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    By those standards, TOS was very guilty of misusing "affirmative" and "negative". Each made it on the air, as an answer in person to a yes or no question posed in an official capacity.

    Here's an example from Court Martial [http://www.chakoteya.net/startrek/15.htm]:
    Here's an example from The Doomsday Machine [http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/35.htm]:
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Doesn't mean they were right!