Fan Film Writer's Primer

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

  1. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That's great and concise advice.

    One of the tricks I use when I get stuck is to change how I'm writing. I'll try something like just writing dialog and no screen directions, or writing what I want the dialogs to mean as opposed to the actual wording, or writing what the subtext is (the character is really saying, please don't go, but their words are masking that, etc.).

    Another thing that works for me is to write scenes that don't belong in the script, just to get a feel for how the characters interact, like, "what would the conversation be like if they were stuck in traffic after a long day?" or "what would they do if they saw a mugging?" or whatever. It's a good way to figure out who the people are and how they react, which can in turn suggest things about how they might behave in the actual scenes in the script.
     
  2. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    ^^ I love that idea, Maurice.

    Years ago, I did something similar for a project I was working on with a friend. My friend was dissatisfied however with the development of two characters - a couple - in the story. So I spent a weekend writing just a blurb about these two, what their daily life was like, their routine, their breakfast conversation with the Sunday paper, etc. to illustrate everything else we'd already sort of devised for the couple in the actual short film we were ramping up to produce.

    Those breakfast scenes never made it into the film, but they were hugely informative for the characters as we continued writing and for the actors when we were filming. And while Sunday breakfast might not be the most exciting or original of scenes, for our purposes it worked quite nicely.
     
  3. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    Now, see, that's interesting for me. As the executive producer and being in charge of the casting, I find actors who are intriguing people. Our scripts are bare bones in terms of how the characters interact with each other, and I put it on our cast to put how they see the characters into their performances.

    For example, Rachel and Jeremy were discussing their characters. Both work the third shift, she as third shift watch commander, he as third shift senior medical officer. They took themselves aside during pre-shoot activities (makeup, wardrobe, practice, lighting and sound) and ironed out how they wanted to interact with each other. When we were ready to shoot, they nailed their scenes. Just absolutely nailed them. That's what we like to see, and for the most part we do.

    When the second season rolls out starting in January, I think people we see what I'm writing about, and appreciate the talent of the people involved.
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^Actors can bring a lot to the table, but, obviously, you still need a solid table. ;)

    On Polaris the two leads came up with a small and subtle bit of physical business which implied things about the relationship of their characters which were not in the script per se. It tells us what they're thinking in a subtle way.
     
  5. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    This is a great article by Timothy Cooper about short films, but has a few great nuggest that could easily apply to writing as well:

    Sharing here because by and large, the majority of the fan films we enounter here have more in common with short films than they do with features, and sometimes more than even actual broadcast hour-longs.

    7 Simple Secrets for Making an Outstanding Short Film

    Some pertinent points to consider:


    The entire article is worth reading and isn't all that long, but these points especially are ones I would point all fan film writers and producers to consider and pay attention to.
     
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Jumping back a bit to Dramatic Structure, and specifically 3-act vs. 5-act vs. other forms, I was working on an episode template for a proposed series and in doing some research on various approaches I came upon a blog which had some posts I thought might be useful to some of you here.

    1. An entry about (link) Arch Plot and Classic Design, which breaks down a three-act story into 11 Story Beats.
    2. In the above, there's a (link) very nice diagram illustrating these points re a motion picture script. It also lists a bunch of alternate terms for the same beats, which should make it easier to align this with other sources you may have read.
    3. And here's (link) a breakdown of Toy Story which illustrates this structure in practice.

    I hope this is of some use.
     
  7. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Great and succinct little essays. Thanks Maurice. :)
     
  8. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    Ditto. Loving all of it. Thanks for sharing, Maurice!
     
  9. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Heres another little fun nugget. Many Trek fans are pretty familiar with the Writer's Guides to the various shows, and especially the do's and don'ts from the original, but it's rare to encounter such notes for other series, especially Star Trek's 1960s contemporaries. Well, I found this little gem (link) related to the long-running NBC series Bonanza:

    Points like this are very similar to those in the Trek Writer's Guides, especially those about involving the main characters and seeing the stories through their eyes, something which a lot of fanfilm writers need to cleave to.

    I find particularly interesting the ones which concerns technical and cost limits (no outdoor night shoots, fires, mines, etc.).
     
  10. Taylirious

    Taylirious Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This is great cause I am not formally educated in writing for film and really haven't written a story since HS. Good stuff here and in the other thread as I said. :)
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I was digging through some very old paperwork last night and ran across this, back from whence I (unsuccessfully) tried to sell a script to ST:TNG. Unlike some others, I didn't go the "open door policy" method but rather got an agent (in fact, mine was Ron D. Moore's first agent) who had contacts with the show. This is why I was able to submit some written pitches instead of spec scripts (though I did those as well). I thought some of you might be interested in the kind of feedback one gets from actual writing departments.

    One thing you'll notice is that the memo very carefully sidesteps suggesting that the author do anything because the WGA would look upon that as an "assignment". Instead the memo points out things that could potentially be issues with the stories pitched.


    I'd forgotten what a lot of these pitches were until I dug them out of my files, and in retrospect it's obvious that most were too plot-centric and not about the characters propelling the story. Also, I should have genericized the aliens instead of doing callbacks to earlier shows, since that made the stories seem more "gimmick"y than they actually were.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2014
  12. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    And one of my few complaints about TNG was that we never saw most of the aliens we met in TOS and never found out what happened to any of them. It seems to me there could have been the twice-a-year script which had a really good story which happened to involve a race we'd already met. I don't see why that's any more gimmicky than repeated Q stories.

    OTOH, I confess TNG is my favorite ST series, so it's hard to argue with results.
     
  13. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    ''the producers often hesitate to employ what they refer to as ''gimmicks'' from the original series''...

    Perhaps they should have decided to use the gimmick that might have made Riker, Troi, Crusher, LaForge, Wesley actually compelling as characters, hmmm?
     
  14. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    barb, that's TNG keeps using and using the few antagonist character the audience DOES like until they become a shadow of what they were initially...(the Borg, the Dominion, Q, etc...)
     
  15. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    I found them perfectly compelling, nor am I alone. Mileage, clearly, varies. Do we really need yet another TNG vs TOS, 'my show is better than yours' debate? Or maybe we can just agree that people have widely varying tastes and leave it at that.
     
  16. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    Agreed.

    Bixby: I found all the characters on TNG quite compelling, thankyouverymuch. To each his own.

    The other thing to consider is that Roddenberry had basically laid down a veto on bringing back aliens from TOS. He was against Worf's existence, for crying out loud. That we got Vulcans, Klingons, and Romulans isn't altogether surprising but let's remember the context of that first year on the show when leveling our criticisms, shall we?
     
  17. Hau’oli Lanui

    Hau’oli Lanui See where the sky meets the sea, It calls me Premium Member

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    Did you ever rework them? Ever actually write a script based on any of the pitches? Just wondering…
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I actually wrote "The Day Before Doomsday" and "None So Noble". I don't recall the dates they were submitted, though. I'll have to look in my files. I also wrote one more titled "The Unseen". Partly as possible submissions and partly just to get the hang of writing teleplays. "The Unseen" was never submitted, and I really liked it except for the last act, where I overreached. These were all before my agent explained to me that the show was typically resistant to use elements and characters created by non-staff writers because of potential payments around their re-use, so I stopped using them on my later pitches.

    Here's the top of Act One for "None So Noble":

    I verbally pitched some new ideas to my agent in summer 1990 and one, called "Skin Deep", cast Riker in a heavy role where he actually menaced Troi, and in the end we'd learn that his body had been hijacked via a neural implant and he was being "puppetted" by a Romulan agent in order to create a false emergency, cause a saucer separation, and steal the stardrive in order to deliver it to the Romulans. In the end Troi was going to have to risk killing Riker to stop it, so it really would've been a good use of her. This was a season before "The Mind's Eye", so they hadn't really done anything like it at that point. That was the one my agent said "That one," to, but by then I got wrapped up in other work and put the Trek script pitching aside. Probably too bad because "Skin Deep" could have been a really good vehicle for Frakes and Sirtis to stretch, I think.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2014
  19. Duane

    Duane Captain Captain

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    Very cool. Thanks for sharing.
     
  20. Bixby

    Bixby Captain Captain

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    I am aware of this rule. I'm also aware that Roddenberry and others came up with this when TNG was supposed to be more like its season one, stand-alone episodes and, like the original Star Trek, always stay out in deep space and likely never focus on Earth nor showcase Starfleet physically. But with television series being affected by the Hill Street Blues effect (continued storylines, overall arch, some soap elements, etc.) this was all changed...except some of those in charge, namely Rick Berman (the ''producer'' mentioned in Maurice's letter), never adapted that edict to the sweeping changes made in late 80s television and their own series.

    I admit my arrogance re: TNG characters, sorry if it rankles many of you, though I do have great affection for the first 6 seasons of DS9.

    But I got plenty annoyed with the mention in Maurice's letter about Rick Berman's dislike for TOS ''gimmicks'' (what the hell is that?)...A good story is a good story is a good story...If a stellar writer like Alan Moore (yes, the British comics writer) can craft amazingly textured, mature and thought-provoquing stories out of what many might perceive as childish concepts in american/british comic books, then why can't his writers do the same for Andorians and Gorns?...

    That he did not bother to try tells me that he, Rick Berman, was NOT doing his job, which was to grow his audience numbers as best he can by rethinking what does or does not work, as evidenced with latter-day Voyager and Enterprise's constant ratings plummet.

    But again, sorry for my harsh words about TNG...I did like many aspects of it, but disliked quite a bit as well...