Monday, January 30, 2012

Roberto Orci Talks on Sequel Writing Process, Time Jump

The other day Zachary Quinto commented on the Star Trek sequel script saying, "There was a writer's strike the first time so they weren't able to let the script evolve. Now it's really changing...on a regular basis." Apparently that caused some concerns among fans (not entirely sure why since drafts are the norm). Seeing this concern on TrekMovie, Bob Orci wrote their comments about the writing process and revealed that while the sequel will have a time jump; it may not necessarily be the real world gap of four years.
boborci: First, this movie is by no means written by committee. It has been written by ONE team. Me, Alex [Kurtzman], and Damon [Lindelof]. Thanks to the protective umbrella of the success of our first movie and JJ Abrams, we get less studio interference than almost any other production around. This process is the OPPOSITE of script by committee.

As for a full time trek staff, you should know that we have been working on the video game, the comics, and the story for the last two years. Trek has never been far from our minds. And we were doing all of that without even having a deal with the studio to do so (and our deal is only for script. all other stuff is pro bono to make the universes consistent). We were acting in good faith.

The reason the script wasn’t finished until recently is mostly for strategic philosophical reasons. We were not willing to turn anything in until we knew for sure that we had a start date, based on JJ’s availability. If we had written the script a year ago and it sat on the shelf, it would not have been current. Nothing messes up a script like it sitting on the shelf, because then everyone does get time to second guess and wonder, and then movies fall apart.

Finally, you should know the story hasn’t change, the structure hasn’t changed, and the action sequences haven’t changed. Most changes are minor. The changes I suspect Quinto is referring to are the character interactions as we fine tune the level of their various friendships. How well they all know each other and what they’ve all been through off screen is a nuanced yet essential part of the actors understanding where they are coming from with each other. While discussing the exact same plot elements, what they’ve been through colors their attitude toward each other. And given that the time past in real life is different than the amount of time passed in the movie world, it takes a polish to get it just right. That’s what polishes (a legal contractual word in our contract) are for.

Does any of this mean the movie will be any good? No. But if it’s no good, it will be because we were wrong to execute exactly what we wanted. Not because we changed our minds or someone changed our minds for us.

boborci: as an interesting addendum, the weirdest kind of changes comes from how JJ wants to move the camera. Thanks to advances in film making, we can move the camera around the ship in ways you couldn’t before — so sometimes lines will change or even who says them may change based on their position on the set relative to the coolest choreography of the camera moves. Keeps you on your toes as a writer for sure, but is fun and worth it.

To me a "final" script has three stages - pre-production, production and post-production. The script was in the pre-production phase that allows for the most tweaks and changes to meet the studios, actors, directors and budget needs. Because both practical and computer generated visual effects require much more advance prep time, the main action pieces with large scale effects usually get locked in pre-production. These usually can't change much because the cost of a change can be in the millions. However the more "quiet" moments like what is said on the bridge, what the B storylines might for the various sub-characters and the like can continue to be tweaked and altered if they don't directly impact the "locked" portions of the script.

Once production starts, further changes may occur. Maybe a particular scene isn't working or an actor ad libs a better line. Finally, how all these are put together in the editing room and how the effects are done in post-production can change the script even further. Entire story arcs could get dropped, characters disappear and more. With enough creative editing, it’s possible to turn an action script into a love story. This constant (usually minor) alternations to the script occur pretty much on every film made.

If you think this is bad, just look to Star Wars Episodes 1-3 for what happens when the writing, directing and editing is done by one person causing this script tweaking process to get short circuited. The best idea can come from one person, the improvements to that idea come from many people. While there may be a "final" draft of the script, the script is never finished until the film is completed.

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