Appearance Reports - 1993
New York City
On Saturday, Brannon Braga was on stage. Braga denied the fact that potential ST:VOY are appearing but admitted that Cadet Sito is appearing in 'Lower Decks'. ST:TNG Finale is not written. Ron Moore and Brandon Braga is writing it. It involves Q - completing the circle (Q appeared in the pilot ('Encounter at Farpoint')). Braga denied the fact that potential ST:VOY are appearing but admitted that Cadet Sito is appearing.
The Star Trek Writers' Workshop
Lolita brought in Ron and Brannon, saying, "I think the guys are getting impatient." Ron and Brannon seated themselves and started trying to describe what sorts of stories they were looking for, both as spec scripts and as pitches.
What Makes a Good Star Trek Script:
Brannon and Ron consider pitching a horrible thing to have to do, and distrust anyone who says he likes to pitch: "We're writers, not salespeople."
The attendee then managed to completely flabbergast Brannon by saying, "You remember that pitch? It's the one you interrupted by coming in to ask Rene if you smelled." Brannon gawked at him for a second, then Ron began laughing and a look of horrified realization appeared on Brannon's face. He was then forced to explain exactly what had happened that day:
A number of the staff had been complaining that they smelled something nasty in the writers' room. The writers and various other people spent a good deal of time taking the room apart to try and find the source of the stink; the theory was that some small animal had died in there somewhere, but they were unable to find the hypothetical deceased beastie. Finally, Ron turned to Brannon and said, "No offense, Brannon....but I think it's *you*." Brannon, offended, went off to get a second opinion on this, and walked into Rene Echevarria's office in the middle of the attendee's phone pitch to ask Rene whether or not Rene thought Brannon smelled. Rene said "Yes", and eventually Brannon figured out that what everyone (except for him) was smelling was his new shirt, which he wore without washing first. Some new shirts are washed in formaldehyde, and that was the odor that everyone else in the room kept smelling. So Brannon went home and washed his shirt, which took care of the problem. Of course, for the rest of the Workshop, Ron Moore took every possible opportunity to rib Brannon about the way he smelled.
April 04, 1993
The Next Generation Writers' Workshop
Ron and Brannon began with a slide show. In addition to showing the writers in their natural habitats. The slides included offices with people typing away, script conferences, quick catnaps, and lots of good strong coffee, there were a few tidbits of intriguing information.
The Board is a list they began maintaining of all the pitches that fall into particular categories: time travel, Jack Crusher, "space pirates", "Data becomes God" etc. The board began when they got four "moth queen" stories in a single week and decided "hey, we should start keeping track of these things." This board includes their own pitches at meetings, and was meant as an illustration of how easily most pitches are pigeonholed.
The quick guideline for stories is that they should be something with an SF idea in them, but centering on the characters we all know and love. If it's an "ordinary" idea that could make it on another show with only minor changes, it's probably not much of a Trek story unless you can manage to give it a twist.
The goal of any pitch is to STAY OFF THE BOARD.
If you're invited in to pitch, this is what to expect: What you're doing is trying to sell your story ideas to the person sitting in front of you at this point. As a general rule, you pitch three to five story ideas. The rule of thumb they use is that your write-up for each pitch should be about a page and a half, double-spaced, for each idea and not more than that.
The pitch should focus on the emotional "arc" followed by the characters involved. What happens, and what results from the events that happen to them. That's basically it. Don't get bogged down in detail or you're dead, because the people listening to you won't be able to process that much detail any more than you could.
"Okay, so, you've sold a story from your pitch. You're all set to write the teleplay now, right? Wrong." -- Brannon Braga
From the pitch, you then write a "story outline." This is a bit longer than the pitch, and outlines what happens over the course of the story. It gives the main, broad strokes of the story without filling in many of the details. Another point that was emphasized here is that writing a story outline usually involves collaboration and lots of it.
"So, now you're ready for the teleplay, right? Wrong again." -- Brannon Braga. "Then, you "break" the story." This is the most grueling, difficult part of writing an episode. "Breaking" a story involves taking your story outline and fleshing it out, scene by scene. It doesn't mean writing the dialogue -- that's not important yet. What is key is writing a "road map" to the show -- what happens in every scene of every act, and what does it accomplish?
CAN WE TALK YET?
Now you can start to write the teleplay. The rule of thumb is that each page is roughly 45-50 seconds of screen time, and that each scene is on average is two to three pages long. This is the fun part of the process, because most people enjoy writing dialogue. Keep the scene descriptions basic. The point was made that by far, one of the biggest problems in scripts they get is too much detail. You have to be able to trust in the directors and the cast to get your points across don't rein them in too strongly. Read the dialogue aloud. Every character has a certain way of speaking and it's only by trying to read your dialogue aloud that you'll be able to really tell whether it's workable.