Publishing an Original Sci-Fi Screenplay

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Matthew Raymond, Jan 5, 2019.

  1. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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  2. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    By page 6 of "Encounter at Farpoint" the Enterprise crew has been stopped by Q, who's flash-frozen a crewman and threatens, "Now, go back or you will certainly die!" setting up danger and a mystery. Stay tuned! By the same point in "Emissary" Sisko's lost his wife and barely escaped with his son. By that point in TWOK the simulator room has played out and we've had a "WTF is going on" moment to get us engaged. Etc.

    12 pages into "The Phoenix Child" nothing has happened but exposition. There's no "hook" to make a reader want to go on. No professional first-reader would get to page 12. I suggest the first thing you ought to do is find a hook to get the audience invested in what's happening; then you can start the exposition.
     
  3. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    This.
    And exposition is best delivered in conflict. Not walking around talking. When people want/need something from the other. Not because they just need to be told.
     
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  4. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Thanks for the feedback. I've begun reworking the beginning to move up the inciting incident to at least page 7. I plan to move some stuff around, but some scenes I'll cut entirely. I'll try to have a revision out by Sunday.

    I've started using Fountain instead of Google Docs, so you might see minor format changes in the final PDF. As for the Fountain files, I'm going to put them on GitHub and manage them as an open source project, since it's a Creative Commons license, after all. People will be able to file bugs and submit patches, just as they could with source code.
     
  5. Nakita Akita

    Nakita Akita Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I cannot read it just yet. I will be able to tomorrow, but I'm curious as to the relevance of the sexuality of the captain?

    Is it later an "issue"?

    I would think in a future time genitallia issues would go the way of, for example a girl from St. Joseph's dating a boy from St. Andrew's, the shock!
    If you understand my meaning.

    Sometimes these descriptors drag a story a direction that is unnecessary or too much information.
    I'll stop now. I'm probably not conveying this correctly and will just make everyone mad.

    Edit, read just the first couple of pages of
    The story.
    The fact that the Captain receives a description and the other characters do not strikes me as odd and slightly off putting.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Going back to the "hook" subject, you can do a TON in a few pages. In a feature film script I was hired to (re)write, by page 3.5 someone's blown a hole in the Berlin Wall (in 1989) and an attempted robbery has ended in murder. By page 10 the MacGuffin has been introduced and a car chase ending with a would-be thief diving into the Spree has happened. That's a classic example of how you open a script: you get the audience engaged by the action and get them asking questions like, "who is that thief?", "what do they want?", "what's important about that [MacGuffin]?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
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  7. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Let's just say that the Captain is in a relationship that would be considered taboo by both Earth and their homeworld, but for completely different reasons. Don't want to spoil a future episode, so that's all I can say.
    I think I do, but I don't get the reference.
    I'm going to have to figure out how to communicate a lot of things through action that is currently being done in exposition. It may be an issue of me thinking that some information is important when I really could be cut.
    Originally, I had little to no description to give the director and casting more flexibility. That was obviously a mistake. I've since put in light descriptions for most of the characters, but I did so in about an hour and it probably needs more polish.

    @Maurice, thanks for the advice. Do you know where I can find a script on the Internet that has a similarly tight opening? Should I just look over some Star Trek scripts?
     
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  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Star Trek feature scripts are not great examples of screenwriting in general, so I wouldn't recommend going there for lessons, albeit TMP, TWOK and TUC have cracking good openings.

    I always recommend people read non-scifi screenplays/teleplays because that removes the veneer that so many people mistake for the substance. Chinatown has a great but simple opening that establishes what kind of guy Jack Nicholson's character is. Inglourious Basterds because the opening is quiet and intimate but tense as fuck and establishes what kind of monster the primary villain is.

    Patton (link), there's a great opening, and it's just a monologue against a flag, but the words...they tell you just what kind of sonuvabitch Patton was. But most of us can't write that kind of gold.

    There's a difference between a great script open and a great movie/show open, as sometimes the latter is invented later in editorial.

    The basic rule of film storytelling is enter the story as late as you can and get out as soon as you can.


    As to character descriptions, don't describe them like you're telling people how to recognize them in a lineup, you want to do something which gives a sense of what the characters are like, such as:

    MR. AND MRS. VAIL ARRIVE from within, both teetering on the far end of middle-age and dressed for a black tie event. She’s elegant and sophisticated and knows it. He has all the poise of a bulldog stuffed into a tuxedo, and half the charm.​
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2019
  9. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    Also: are you writing a screenplay or a pilot? They are different beasts. They are adjacent, but not the same.

    A screenplay is telling a story. A pilot is telling a story, introducing the story engine and demonstrating the format.

    If this is a pilot, read pilots. If this is a screenplay read screenplays. And read both.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
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  10. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    @Maurice, You know, that Patton script is funny because I think it breaks several rules I've been told about screenwriting in the first page:

    (Note: These are not complaints. Just observations based on stuff I've read about screenwriting on the Internet.)

    1) Keep the paragraphs in your actions to about 3-4 lines. The description of Patton is massive by comparison.

    2) Don't use exclamation points in your dialogue; it's up to the actor to decide how to express your dialogue. "At-ten-shun!"

    3) Don't reference the audience. "He glares down at us, the audience."

    To be fair, though, I don't think obeying these rules would have made for a better script in this particular case.
     
  11. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    Conventions also change over time.
     
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  12. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Very true. I hadn't thought of that.
     
  13. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I've updated "The Phoenix Child". This version was created using the Fountain markup syntax, and features some changes to the first act. I've basically moved the inciting incident up about three pages and pushed back some of the character interactions. Here's the link:

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1NBktx0ZSr664RsgXUcAkSz6RPhD7Q9ZM

    I've also created a project on GitHub. You can find the Fountain version of the pilot there. That's also where I'll be putting future scripts upon completion.

    https://github.com/Barrier15/Scripts
     
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There are always exceptions to rules. The Patton script open is flat out unconventional, but little
    of what you cite applies. Of course you ! "At-ten-shun!" And of course it references the "audience" because in this scene Patton is speaking to it.

    That aside, you can break the rules when you're experienced enough to understand what you're doing and/or you have enough industry cred where no one will look askance at it. The problem for many beginners is they take this as carte blanche and figure they can do whatever they want without first understanding why the rules are the rules.
     
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