Fan Filmmaker's Primer

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Maurice, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, and it doesn't have to be here and now. I realize this thread has so far been about camera work, and now sets.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2011
  2. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think one of the things that hampers fan films is the need for the scripts to reference canon endlessly. If you think about it, the adventures in the original 79 episodes of Star Trek rarely have any effect on other episodes. I can only think of two times off the top of my head -- "I, Mudd" referencing "Mudd's Women," and the reference to Corbomite in "The Deadly Years" that harkens back to "The Corbomite Maneuver" subtly when Sulu exchanges a glance with Chekov.

    But in most of the Star Trek fan films I've seen, they're constantly referencing minute details from all Star Treks throughout the franchise, often combining elements to make the continuity to fit the canon better and making something that was always episodic television (actually five different series of episodic television -- seven if you include the movies) into something that seems like a sprawling epic that was pre-planned all along.

    Now, in theory, this is pretty cool. But in reality, if an audience isn't fully versed in every episode of Trek (sometimes including every comic or novel as well), then the episode won't stand on its own. And, if the fan filmmakers go the extra mile to bring people that maybe aren't as fully versed in the canon up to date, it often makes for some rather clunky exposition.

    This is something I grappled with a lot in my writing and have really tried to veer away from. If you approach a Trek fan film as a stand-alone story in the universe, I think you're a lot better off than if you try to pen an episode that combines TOS episodes, 45, 56 and 78 without contradicting anything said in TNG 35, 42, 111 while taking into consideration what was mentioned in episode 27 of DS9 and episode 12 of VOY. And don't forget explaining why the transporters in ENT are one color, but another color in your film.

    I think you should just write a good story and add everything else in for seasoning.
     
  3. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    I agree completely. In general, the story of an episode should be completely independent of anything else in whatever universe you're writing for. From our Series Bible:
     
  4. DestinyCaptain

    DestinyCaptain Commander Red Shirt

    I think small references to the Trek Universe are okay, but they should never be the focus of an entire scene or story thread. If you treat Trek as a future historical time frame, then there are certain events and people to reference. If you were filming a story set in the Navy in the 40s, you'd reference the war and principal people even if the story was set at a stateside assignment. However, that same story should not obsess over those things as a part of it's own unique tale to tell.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2011
  5. lennier1

    lennier1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In Trek terms it's not that much different. In case of Potemkin (movie era after ST6) if there's a plot dealing with the Klingon Empire I wouldn't be surprised if there's a throwaway line about "The Treaty" (Organia) or "The Accords" (Khitomer).
     
  6. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    This is the sort of thing I was referring to --

    Helmsman: "Captain, there's no hope of getting out of this. We're completely surrounded."

    Captain: "I heard about Kirk's Enterprise being in a similar situation during their first five-year mission. But in their case, it was unstable piece of transwarp space... and they were able to get away by passing out of our dimension."

    Science Officer: "Yes. That was near what later was called the Tholian Empire."

    Medic: "Too bad we can't use that now. We're doomed."

    Science Officer: "Maybe. Maybe not. I have a friend that served on the Enterprise-D. He was aboard up until she crashed on Nimbus III -- "

    Captain: "Ah, yes. Picard's ship. I shed a tear when I first heard about that beautiful lady going down. But the 'E' is a fine replacement."

    Science Officer: "Please, Captain. Stay focused. Anyway, my friend, Geordi, told me about the time they used a Tachyon Pulse to open up a small tear in space. A tear that might be large enough for a ship to pass through."

    Captain: "A Tachyon Pulse! Of course! Make it so!"

    Helmsman: "Not so fast, Captain. Even if we're able to open up a hole in space large enough for our ship to pass through, we'd have to move at at least Warp 6 to get away."

    Captain: "So what. The lives of over 430 men and women are at stake."

    Medic: "Don't tell me you've forgotten about the Federation Council order of Stardate 47314.5."

    Captain: "Oh -- the one about not going to Talos IV?"

    Medic: "No! The one that proves that you can't go faster that Warp 5 without being extremely detrimental to all life in the universe!"

    Captain: "How could I be so stupid? They don't prepare you for this sort of thing in the Kobyashi Maru."

    Helmsman: "Actually, Captain. All may not be lost. We can go faster that Warp 5 in the case of an emergency."

    Captain: "Excellent! Science Officer! Release that Tachyon Pulse!"

    Science Officer: "Aye, Sir!:

    Captain: "Helmsman, Maximum Warp!"

    Helmsman: "Aye, Sir!"

    Medic: "I don't believe it. You did it again. You turned death into a fighting chance to live."

    Captain: "I just hope we come out on the other side near the Bajoran Wormhole. I could really use a stiff drink at Quark's Bar on Deep Space Nine."

    Medic: "With our luck, we'll end up in the Delta Quadrant, lost on space with Voyager. I hate that EMP they have as doctor."

    Captain: "What's the matter, Doc? Remind you of someone?"

    The crew all has a good laugh as they warp off to their next mission...
     
  7. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    Funny you should mention that. During an encounter with the Klingons, Captain Grigory certainly mentions the treaty, but he doesn't go into into all the details of it anymore than we'd examine the details of the current Russo-American accords while maneuvering in the North Sea.

    Absolutely true! For Potemkin, we really aren't interested in sequels (we have a no sequels clause), and we don't want all these references to previous Trek episodes/movies. We want to take our audiences to somewhere new.

    @Melonpool: Love it! I always think of that "Warp Five Keeps the Universe Alive!" nonsense as being one of the lowest points in Trek history, along with the VOY statement that we can't turn while in warp. LOL But you're quite right. I don't want any scripts in our inbox where there's anything along the lines of "Well, on Stardate--" BUZZ! Sorry, your time is up.
     
  8. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    You know, after I typed this up, I thought it might actually make a funny vignette.
     
  9. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    You should develop it for your series!
     
  10. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    Another irritating bit that some folks tend to jump on is the overuse of various TOS soundtracks. Again, look back at TOS: There are plenty of scenes with no music whatoever! Now take a look at the early New Voyages offerings. They don't go ten seconds without some piece of original TOS music in the background.

    Music should only be included if it helps the scene, not because we now have access to the original soundtracks.
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Music is actually a dangerous drug when editing. Music trumps visuals. If you have a happy shot but put sad music on it, the music won't be colored by the picture, but the other way around. Ergo, putting finished, polished music on an edit makes the sequence feel more complete than it might be. What you should do is try to get as much of the emotion from of the scene as possible via the editing choices.* Typically, music should only be added AFTER you've got an edit that does as much of the heavy lofting as possible.

    *EDITED TO CLARIFY LANGUAGE.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  12. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    A bit of ambiguity in the meaning of the phrase "get out". To clarify your meaning here, you do mean this:
    1) You should try to make the emotion the way you want it to be, as much as possible, through the use of editing choices alone, so that the scene does not rely exclusively on the music to communicate emotion.
    and not this:
    2) You should make your editing choices in order to eliminate as much of the emotion from the scene as you can, so that it is largely the soundtrack that defines the emotional tone.
     
  13. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I believe that was clear enough via context.

    EDIT: Went back and edited the aforementioned post to clarify this.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  14. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    Sorry, sometimes I'm dense. :vulcan:
     
  15. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Out there... thataway.
    The first statement.
     
  16. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Speaking strictly as a viewer and not as a maker of fan films, one suggestion I'd have is to avoid making your film or series an example of what I've dubbed "YASYAC" -- Yet Another Ship, Yet Another Crew.

    So your show or series is about the Whatchamacallit-class USS Thingamajig, launched on stardate xxxxx.x. The captain is a 47-year-old, androgynous, one-third human, one-third Ferengi, one-third water buffalo, your first officer is a Betazoid-Andorian-Caitian-Excalbian-Talosian-Sheliak hybrid, and the deputy chief engineer's name is Hank.

    So what?

    Why should I care about your ship and your crew? What's the compelling reason to watch? What is it that distinguishes the USS Thingamajig from the USS Yadayadayada?

    I would encourage fan filmmakers to put a unique twist on their projects -- something to make their works stand out in some way.
     
  17. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    Howzabout a fanfilm about the absolutely worst ship in the fleet? :D
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That would be Quark.
     
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  19. lennier1

    lennier1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You forgot to add: "And why does that ship/station have to play a deciding role in yet another war which was started just for the sake of that fanfilm (series)?"
     
  20. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Been a while since I posted. Let's jump into a topic that's related to both writing and shooting...

    SHOW, NOT TELL

    One thing Star Trek does too much--and fan filmmakers ape to an extreme--is a tendency to have too much talking. Everything is described in dialog rather than portrayed visually. But this is contrary to what film does best: which is communicate story through visuals.

    Let's look at a fine example of showing instead of telling from the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. At this point in the film we've learned that Eddie Valiant's brother was killed by a Toon, and that Eddie doesn't work Toontown. It's also established that he has a thing with Dolores, the waitress at the Terminal Bar across the street. That's pretty much all we know about Eddie until this scene. In it, Eddie, upon seeing pictures of his late brother with him and Dolores, casts a longing gaze to the desk next to his own. The camera then executes a slow move, making a circle across the adjoining desk and we see the following as the camera pans across and lingers on each of these, before ending up back on Eddie.
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    In this one short scene--essentially a single shot--we learn everything else we need to know about Eddie for the rest of the film:
    • The dust shows he hasn't touched his late brother's desk, which shows how much he misses him or can't accept the loss
    • He and his brother were involved in helping Toons in the past
    • He and his brother were the "clowns" of the police department
    • He and his brother were circus clowns as kids, along with their dad
    • Dolores worked with them in their detective agency, which was founded 9 years earlier (the photo is dated 1938 and the film takes place in 47)
    • Finally, Eddie has passed out, drunk (we can tell by the empty bottle), over the photos that brought on this melancholy
    In less than a minute of screen time we get all this information about the character without a word of dialog. Little of it seems important at that point in the story but everything shown in this single shot informs plot points and Eddie's behavior throughout the rest of the film.

    For instance, we know Eddie has lot of experiences with Toons, so his knack for getting them to do what he wants makes sense (tricking Roger into drinking the drink he doesn't want, for instance).

    Furthermore, we see that he's not shocked by the insanity of Toontown when he goes there, and that's because we know he has a history of working for Toons.

    Even more important, at the climax of the film he does a bunch of comic slapstick to get the weasels to "laugh themselves to death". If we didn't see that he'd been a "clown" on the police force and a literal clown with Dad in the circus, this comic activity would seem out of character and appear to come out of left field.

    Chances are, most audiences didn't or couldn't consciously remember virtually any of what was shown on the desk pan, or even that it was shown, but the information was communicated regardless, so it all makes narrative sense, and really no one questions Eddie's behavior later because it's set up.

    This is but one example, but I think it's demonstrative that it's possible and desirable to communicate story and character points via what you show on the screen rather than what a character says.

    Lesson: Don't tell us how your character feels or why they're doing what they do. Show us!
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
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