Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Star Trek ScripTipps

With Star Trek Into Darkness beaming into theatres in just two days, the just-released ebook ScripTipps: Star Trek is a fun way for screenwriters to revisit the 2009 J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. The in-depth script analysis is loaded with screenwriting tips and tricks that can be applied to any screenplay.

Screenwriters Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman certainly had their work cut out for them restarting this particular franchise. Aiming to impress casual fans and newbies alike, they knew they would also have to answer to a vocally fickle group of hardcore Trekkers. They needed to reintroduce seven beloved characters and establish a new and endearing origin backstory for each that would land them all in their familiar positions on the bridge of the Enterprise by the end of the movie, without those predictable paths being too predictable along the way.

The movie also needed to work as a standalone story that could accommodate a guest appearance by 77-year-old Leonard Nimoy as the original Spock, and his presence had to be logical and organic to the story or the movie would not have been made. That’s like juggling seven knives on a high wire, without a net, during an earthquake.

You may not be writing a reboot of a major studio-controlled franchise with 40+ years of canon to draw from and build upon, but lessons learned from studying the creative choices Orci & Kurtzman made in crafting this box-office smash can be applied in other screenwriting situations. For example, you may be writing a vampire movie (ugh, please don't). You'll want to respect and use the established lore of the genre while also giving it something new. Or werewolves, or zombies, or anything in an established genre (westerns, horror).

Writer/director Jonathan Levine faced similar questions when adapting Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies earlier this year. In it, zombies acquire memories of their victims when eating their brains. Would zombie fans accept this new conceit or revolt against it as an abomination of zombie canon? It's the same line Orci, Kurtzman, and Abrams had to tread.

Explore how they masterfully handled this and other everyday screenwriting techniques, such as writing a two-hander with co-protagonists who start as enemies then come together to battle the main antagonist, writing an antagonist who drives the story, writing a game-changing midpoint, writing toward a specific endpoint that is known in advance by the audience, and finding the best place to start your story through rewrites and trial and error. All this and more is examined in-depth in the brand new Star Trek ScripTipps screenplay study guide.

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