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Genre: Biopic
Premise (from writer): In 1964, writer Gene Roddenberry struggles to get his vision on television – a show called “Star Trek”.
Why You Should Read (from writer): Three reasons. One – unlike other biopics which give you the whole Wikipedia routine, my script focuses on a year-long period in a man’s life, during which he has a clear goal. Two, it could generate a discussion on the act of using licensed properties you do not own in a spec written as a sample. (Like “Wonka”, which I am certain will not be made unless Roald Dahl’s zombie corpse approaches a production office, gobstopper in hand, and signs off on it while offering casting notes: “Two words: Get Gosling.”). And, three, my script comes from the heart. My father passed on in ’91, when I was kid, and one of the things he instilled in me was a love of science fiction, particularly “Star Trek”.
Writer: Jack McAuley (based on the books, “Inside Star Trek” by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, “Star Trek Creator” by David Alexander, and “Star Trek Memories” by William Shatner with Chris Kreski
Details: 106 pages

star_trek_original_series_show

Man, there were some HARSH reactions to last week’s batch of amateur scripts. Let’s remember that we’re trying to be critical but supportive. The idea here is to help writers improve.

Because no single script won out in AO, I’ll be reviewing the most talked about entry, “To Boldly Go.”

I’ll start off by saying the Black List LOVES these scripts. In fact, if the Devil came to me and said, “If you don’t write a screenplay that makes the Black List this year, you’re coming down to hell with me,” the type of script I’d choose to write wouldn’t even be a contest. I’d write about a famous author’s early life and the influences it had on his greatest work. It’s like Black List crack that set-up.

And the scripts don’t even have to be that good! From the ones I’ve read, I’d say at least half are boring. It seems that the idea alone carries enough weight to overshadow the execution. It’s this secret formula that’s only talked about in basements between successful writers (“Can you believe how rich we are now? All we had to do was write about an author’s early life!”)

To Boldly Go starts off introducing us to a young Gene Roddenberry and his father, a police officer. The two are strolling through the neighborhood when the father makes a racist remark after spotting a young black boy. This is followed by a montage that covers Roddenberry’s service in World War 2 as a pilot and his eventual transition into commercial piloting.

After Gene nearly dies in two plane mishaps (one a crash), he decides to move into a job less suicidal: screenwriting (clearly, Roddenberry has never written before). He moves to Los Angeles and finagles his way onto some TV shows, until he comes up with an idea for his own show, a science fiction series where a space ship crew travels the galaxy. This was in 1964, at a time where nobody had attempted something of this scope on television.

The remainder of the story chronicles the making of the show, everything from finding a director to casting the part of Spock. When the studio doesn’t like what Roddenberry comes up with, they give him a second chance for some reason, and he recasts everyone (save Spock) and turns the show into more of an action-adventure. Although the show was cancelled after three seasons, it would later inspire five spin-off series and twelve feature films and become one of the most recognized science-fiction brands ever. It is the original “Universe” approach that every studio in town has adapted today.

gene-roddenberry-star-trek-birthday

Gene Roddenberry

One of the things I still have a hard time grasping in screenwriting is theme. Sometimes it feels so clear and other times wholly elusive. But today’s screenplay helped me understand theme about as well as I’ve ever understood it. And that’s because there wasn’t any. And that’s what kept To Boldly Go from working.

Instead of there being a unified message to keep going back to in To Boldly Go, we got a hodge-podge of events that happened to Roddenberry over the course of his lifetime – mostly in relation to Star Trek. Everything from Roddenberry’s infidelity to escaping a plane crash to looking for an associate producer. Put frankly, the message was all over the place.

I went back to the comments for Amateur Offerings, and someone brought up how interesting it was that Roddenberry’s father was a racist, and how that was an inspiration for him to create a racially diverse cast on Star Trek.

Now THAT to me is a story. THAT to me is a theme you can hang a movie on. And yet, it’s BARELY covered at all here.

Instead, we get the technical details of how the show came together (the hiring of the costume guy, the production designer, the music guy). There’s no drama in that (or at least there wasn’t any here). Even William Shatner, who it’s well known is one of the most difficult people ever in show business, is rosy and happy and agreeable in this.

If you know, going in, what your theme is – say it’s a man hellbent on changing the white-washing of television shows because his father was a racist – then it’s easy to figure out what does and doesn’t belong in your script. Take Roddenberry’s infidelity. Can infidelity lead to drama? Sure. But since it has no bearing whatsoever on a man trying to break down racial barriers in television, there’s no reason to include it.

Personally, I think that’s a great storyline to focus on – the race stuff. Because nobody knows that. Everybody knows that Spock has weird ears. With a biopic, you have to give us the stuff we don’t know and a young boy who was so affected by his father’s racism that he wanted to change the world with a multi-ethnic show – that’s a fucking movie right there. I’d go see that. What I wouldn’t go see is a highlight reel of kooky things that happened on the Star Trek set. There’s no depth to that.

This leads to my second problem with the script which was the lack of conflict. For a show that was so cutting edge and unlike anything that came before it, where was all the resistance? Where was that one executive who hated the idea and was constantly trying to kill it? There was no drama on that side of the story. It was, again, technical historical bullet points combined with occasional goofy memories (having to stop filming because pigeons were on the set).

For example, when the show’s pilot goes bad, they’re just offered another pilot on the spot. The characters don’t have to do anything, don’t have to earn anything. They simply get a call that says, “We didn’t like that. Try again.” The last thing you want to do in any script is magically solve problems for your characters. You need your characters to encounter obstacles and then to overcome them themselves, regardless of if that’s not the way it happened in real life.

This scene, in particular, embodied the casual, “no problem’s really that bad” nature of the script. It comes after the network reads the three potential scripts for the new pilot.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.42.44 PM

As you can see, even when there are problems, they’re just solved instantly. All the characters have to do is listen.

There are some dialogue issues here as well. Mainly, the characters sound too stiff, technical, or robotic. Take this line from Roddenberry when he’s told he has to reshoot the pilot: “But they want me to get rid of Spock. I am therefore going to keep him, anyway.” I don’t know anybody who talks like that who isn’t sitting on a leather chair in front of a fireplace smoking a pipe. How bout, “They want me to lose Spock. They might as well tell me to lose space.” Relax the dialogue. Have a little more fun with it. Contractions, overlapping, less formal-speak. All those things will help.

I do think there’s more leniency in the industry when it comes to these scripts. A lot of people are just keen to go down memory lane. I remember that’s exactly how that Black List Chewbacca script played out two years ago. But for me? I need more. And I think writers should demand more of themselves as well. Give us a unifying theme. Give us more conflict. More drama. Little highlights here and there are fun. But they shouldn’t be the centerpiece of your script.

I hope these notes were helpful for Jack because I do think there’s a story here somewhere and with the industry falling over itself for these kinds of scripts, I think it’s worth figuring out.

What did you guys think?

Script link: To Boldly Go

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Unless it’s a conceit that’s built into the premise, repeating things in screenplays very rarely works. I lost a lot of interest when we went through this whole pilot only to be told that we would now participate in the exact same process for a second pilot. I suppose if the second run-through is significantly different from the first, it might work, but this one wasn’t. It felt like the same general issues (casting, figuring out the script) that we’d already dealt with. In a movie like “Edge of Tomorrow,” the repeating structure is an essential component of the premise. Here, it just feels like we’re doing the same thing over again.

  • carsonreeves1

    If your comment gets stuck in moderation, it means I’m at Avengers!

    • S.C.

      Carson’s at the pictures… let’s say nasty things about him behind his back!

    • Randy Williams

      And if you get stuck in Avengers, you sat on Milk Duds.

      • carsonreeves1

        I’m going to one of the few theaters in Los Angeles that actually cleans their theaters. So I’m [probably] safe. :)

    • JakeBarnes12

      Bring a book.

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      This discussion of theme makes me almost shed a tear :*-) Your theme-monster claws are becoming sharp.

  • Andrea Moss

    I remember an anecdote regarding Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Uhura in the original Star Trek show. It seems that when she wanted to leave the series for pursuing a career in theatre, Martin Luther King asked her to continue playing that iconic role, because of the lack of positive black characters on TV. THAT is a scene that could lift your script.

    • S.C.

      That’s a f###ing great story! I don’t know if the script spans that far, but if it does, that story should go in.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Plus with a racial theme, the story could higlight the first televised interracial kiss.

        • S.C.

          There’s a bit about them seeing MASTER OF THE WORLD and wanting a similar interracial cast. Nice scene, but the dialogue is awkward.

          • Frankie Hollywood

            Hey Scott, do you happen to have the script for Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice? I’ve got the day off and would love to read it.
            Please and Thank You.
            lanzoweyn@live.com

          • S.C.

            No official script for Dawn of Justice, but I sent a couple of Batman related scripts (incl. early version of Justice League) so check you inbox.

          • Frankie Hollywood

            Thanks, I appreciate it.

  • S.C.

    Flicking through the script, the dialogue doesn’t flow naturally. Lots of sentences start “Well,” or “Listen,”. There’s a lot of f-words, which – though almost undoubtedly authentic – give the characters a samey feeling. And are probably inappropriate to the potential audience for this script.

    Characters introducing themselves by their full name: “Who are you?” “I’m Majel Barret”. “What’s your name?” “Dorothy Fontana.”

    Wouldn’t it seem more natural to call themselves Majel or Dorothy (or Dot).

    Not having read the whole script, and not knowing EVERYTHING about Star Trek, I can’t vouch for the script’s accuracy. One problem with these type of scripts – like Carson says there are lot of them – is they are written with 20/20 HINDSIGHT. This can make for funny jokes – “This show won’t last 100 episodes!” – but inaccurate. I might read a bit more and see if I can point some things out. Right now, my dinner is ready!

    • S.C.

      OK, had my dinner…

      This is a great story, great title, reasonably well-written. Maybe more of a TV movie than a Black List script, but if this is the story the writer wants to tell, stick with it.

      Biggest problem: dialogue. Here’s some of it. Gene Roddenberry and a “friend” Christopher Knopf (that’s all the description he gets) have just seen MASTER OF THE WORLD with Vincent Price.

      KNOPF
      Well, it’s a cock-up of Verne, but Richard Matheson’s script packs a hell of a punch.

      RODDENBERRY
      That’s not what got me. Picture this: a weekly dramatic series where a crew in the late-1800s has a series of adventures on a giant dirigible. And just like the movie, we keep the crew multi-ethnic, multi-racial. Black, white, Asian, all working together to bring peace to the world.

      KNOPF
      That’s beautiful.

      RODDENBERRY
      I know.
      (BEAT)
      They’re cancelling “The Lieutenant”. So I need to give them something new, something better.

      I like the scene, it’s an important scene, so it can stay in the script. But it’s so awkward.

      “Richard Matheson’s script packs a hell of a punch.” Did it? Judge for yourself.

      But I’ve never left a movie, turned to my companion and said “Aaron Sorkin’s script packs a hell of a punch”. Sounds more like a film critic than a movie goer.

      “Black, white, Asian.” I don’t know if Gene would have said “Black, white, yellow” but what he says sounds more like someone from now. How about “White, black, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, women.” Makes him a little less PC, but it sounds more real (and putting women at the end makes it sound a bit less pompous, might even get a laugh).

      (BEAT). Why? Did the writer really need to tell the actor to take a pause at that moment? I don’t think so.

      Fixing the dialogue would be one of my top priorities for this script.

  • Andrea Moss

    I think the script need more stakes. Come on! We’re talking about a show that had ALL the tickets to be a failure: the genre (sci-fi in a TV landscape where procedurals and soap operas were sure hits); the cast (a black woman in a prominent role?, a Russian positive character in the Enterprise crew?, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COLD WAR?); the money (the entire show was made on a shoestring budget); the ratings (Star Trek wasn’t a success at the beginning, the network kept the show in the air because they hadn’t a replacement)… Nevertheless, Star Trek ended up becoming one of the most successful franchises of all time. This is a classic underdog story. That’s the movie!

  • brenkilco

    The travails of putting on a show have been the basis of lots of good movies. From 42nd street to The Bandwagon to Noises Off to Topsy Turvy to Birdman. Mostly ones set in the theatre but there’s no reason the time tested formula couldn’t work with a TV show if the technical roadblocks and character conflicts were well drawn. Doesn’t sound like this gets much right. Reminds me of that Anthony Hopkins picture about Hitchcock and the making of Psycho from a few years ago. Not exactly boring but there was scarcely any conflict and other than providing Hopkins the chance to disappear into makeup it really didn’t have much reason to exist.

    • S.C.

      I liked HITCHCOCK, though I was just maybe in a good mood for it. It was very low key, but I liked that. Disagree on the conflict; I think it was fairly clear that Hitch was putting all his money, his house – Bellagio Road! – on making this movie.

      I loved Hitchcock’s reaction when Joseph Stafano (Ralph Macchio) says he is seeing a psychiatrist!

      I loved Hitchcock telling Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) that he could have made her a star, and Vera replying that she take her clothes to the dry cleaners by herself (that is lead a normal life).

      Favorite moment: Hitchcock conducting the audience during the shower scene.

      • Randy Williams

        “She won’t be nude, she’ll be wearing a shower cap”

        One of the best lines ever.

        Thanks for sharing this!

        • cjob3

          “I didn’t have nothing on. I had the radio on.” – Marilyn Monroe

      • brenkilco

        I’m a huge Hitchcock fan, but found that movie only minimally enjoyable. Maybe because I thought the whole thing was bullshit. Have read the book on the making of the movie and I knew it had been an incredibly smooth production with hardly any headaches. The whole thing cost about $800,000 dollars, chicken fee even in in those days. Nobody was worried. Certainly not Hitchcock, by then a millionaire several times over.

        • S.C.

          That’s going to be a problem with today’s script. There are lots of Star Trek fans, and they’ll spot when things aren’t accurate. Then again, if everything if super-accurate it might be super-boring. Tricky.

          • brenkilco

            I see another problem This is a story about a hustling TV producer trying to get his show made. What difference does it make ultimately that it’s Star Trek? Just so an audience can say, ooh there’s Spock. Maybe the efforts that went into getting The Gong Show on the air were a lot more interesting. I’m seeing lots of Treckie sizzle but no dramatic steak.

          • walker

            “Trekkie” usually spelled with two k’s. Of course it is not a word so whatever. Just trying to boldly goad.

          • brenkilco

            My badd.

          • S.C.

            The Gong Show was in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, right?

  • Randy Williams

    “You need your characters to encounter obstacles and then to overcome
    them themselves, regardless of if that’s not the way it happened in real
    life”

    Could there be ways to institute this without coming across as putting things in people’s mouths?

    Everyday obstacles we all experience and recognize, for instance. Bad traffic, technical glitches, demands of family, finances, health. Any one of those things might be placed within the Solow office scene that was cited and gum up the gears and not seem far fetched to have actually happened.

    Using a minor character’s perceptions? If a head secretary walked into that office and Solow asked her to find a bandaid and she spots Roddenberry’s shirt cuffs spotted with blood, she can exit and exclaim to her office staff that Roddenberry is threatening to kill himself if that nonsense science fiction script isn’t chosen over his other crap.

    When, in fact, he got stabbed by a script’s brass brad.

    • Jack F.

      Thanks, Randy. I agree that using minor characters’ reactions could make the office scenes pop, and give them a stronger visual component.

  • mulesandmud

    I was a real bastard to this script over the weekend.

    Luckily, Jack was a great sport about it. I’m glad we can continue the conversation here; it means I get another chance at contrition.

    That doesn’t mean I’m going easy on this thing. Brace yourself, Jack.

    I’ve read most of TO BOLDLY GO at this point, picking it up and putting it down. Skimming big chunks. Re-reading certain pages half a dozen times out of anger, confusion, or curiosity. Hate-closing the file, then immediately opening it up again.

    I see huge potential in this project, and that’s exactly the kind of script that I will fling across the room when I see it misfiring. You never see me getting worked up over a bad idea executed badly, because who cares?

    Carson is 100% right about his conflict comments – most scenes basically amount to one character reporting facts (well-researched, I’m sure) to another character in a way that moves us through the production process. Very logical – I’m sure Spock would approve – but where’s the messy human emotion that makes for real drama? You need to inject more Kirk and McCoy into this thing.

    Carson theme comment is also partially true, though my friend C has never been an expert on theme. The script does in fact lay out the importance of race as an issue, more than once. The problem is, it keeps this subject in the margins. To really make the script about an issue, you need to put that issue at the center of the debate.

    There was a moment in the script around page 20 where, while slogging through a fairly aimless scene in a 60s TV studio, Roddenberry casually remarks ‘NBC canned my race episode. Cowards.’

    This was one of those moments where I said “fuck you” to my computer screen (this happens sometimes).

    That sounds so fucking interesting! A man of principle losing a battle to an industry that can’t see its way toward progress! Why not catch a glimpse of him fighting that fight? Let us see what drives this guy, instead of hearing about it secondhand while nothing especially interesting is happening.

    Someone here already mentioned putting more focus on Nichelle Nichols. That’s such a great idea – she’s a living embodiment of the race theme! And Roddenberry had an affair with her too! Sex and theme, a great combination. The drama around her character is overflowing with potential, and yet she hardly exists in the script, except as a footnote on the second to last page. That’s crazy!

    I’m not going to post page notes here, because honestly I don’t think the script is in a place where page notes will help. Not even close. Jack, you need to re-break this story completely, with the same basic core premise (the struggle to get STAR TREK made) but an entirely new structure. I suspect that structure should start in the 60s and feel very contained (as you promised it would in your WYSR, so help me god I will never forgive you for that lie, just kidding, except not totally kidding).

    Other smart folks have suggested that you might use a flashback structure, with the 60s as the present, jumping back at points to glimpse relevant aspects of Roddenberry’s past. Done well, I think this could be a great, sophisticated approach to the material.

    But before you get to that, we need to put you on a strict workout regiment.

    Exercise #1: WATCH MORE MAD MEN

    I suspect you watch some already. If not, well, get to it. Here is a show that knows how to channel the zeitgeist of the 60s in a way that reflects its characters and provides thematic shape. Also, Roddenberry is basically Don Draper as a sci-fi geek – a charming, philandering but oddly principled creative guy whose complicated past has given him a unique perspective on the world.

    In addition to period and character relevance, look at the way that MAD MEN uses flashback as part of a structural plan to reveal aspects of our main character at strategic times, always to complicate the drama happening in the present.

    Exercise #2: WATCH AND READ STORIES ABOUT WRITERS

    Maybe my biggest frustration about the whole script is that it tells a story about a writer, but gives us no clue why or how he writes. It totally glosses over how he got into the industry. Makes minimal effort to show us his process or where he gets his ideas.

    You are a writer. This is something you know about – use it! Make readers feel that you’re providing unique insight into the writing process. I’m not saying that we need to see scenes of him at his desk scribbling. I’m saying that at regular intervals we should have the realization “Oh! That’s where he got that idea!” That might be boring in a different story, but here there’s a built in suspense because we’re waiting for him to have iconic STAR TREK ideas (character names, Spock’s pointy ears, etc.), which make for constant fun.

    Example: why did I have to go to Wikipedia to understand that William Parker was a major inspiration for Spock? Knowing that might almost have been enough to justify what felt like the needless inclusion of Roddenberry’s police years in this story.

    Go back and look at great films that let us peek at a writer’s process. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. ADAPTATION. MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS (one of my personal favorites). See how they use the writer’s work as a way into their head, and as a way to amplify the drama rather than digress from it.

    Exercise #3: GET ORGANIZED

    Go through your research and make some lists. Your favorite stories from Roddenberry’s life. Key STAR TREK details that you want to highlight. Major events of the time period. Any potential characters. Do this objectively, without trying to assemble them into a story. Then look at everything you’ve gathered, asking yourself which elements you most gravitate towards. Then, and this is the really important part, ask yourself WHY. Seeing where your interest draws you gives hints to where your story’s focus should really be.

    Exercise #4: REWRITE THIS FUCKER WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE

    Not racial prejudice though. That would be a problem.

    You’ve got something here, Jack. Now you need to do the work until we know exactly what that something is.

    If I can help you further, I’m happy to. This is an idea worth doing right.

    Good luck with it, truly.

    • S.C.

      I’m not sure Jack has to redo the whole story on this one. The dialogue needs sharpening up, but I think he’s telling the story he wants to tell, and the story that Star Trek fans would most want him to tell, which is the birth of Star Trek.

      I’ve only skimmed through the script – it’s a breezy read – and while it’s far from perfect, it’s a good first draft, laying out all the possibilities for a rewrite (which is what a good first draft should do).

      Maybe Jack was a bit premature in showing us his work so far.

      • Jack F.

        Thanks, SC, for your kind words. I agree about the dialogue needing tightening. More conflict, more (as Carson said) contractions. Maybe I was a bit hasty in letting this one out, but if I hadn’t, I would not be getting such great help from you guys.

    • Will_Alexander

      The writer should take these well-considered notes to heart.

      This is a GREAT opportunity for a movie. Someone down the thread asks, “Why Star Trek? What’s so important about Trek?” It’s in the title of this script. What Trek is about is PUSHING into the future, as opposed to waiting on it to come.

      There’s a metaphor even in the idea of warp drive. If I understand the fictional concept of warp correctly, what it does is reach out to a distant point in space, grab it, and then BRING IT TO The Enterprise. That’s how it gets around the problem of faster-than-light travel.

      All this is to say that if you’re telling the story of the man who pushed Trek into the world, tell the story of why he did it (to push the world just a little bit into the future, to reach out and grab the future and bring it to the audience so they could see it), and make it really damn hard for him.

      I’m jealous of the idea. What I would give to write this script. Huge potential here.

      • Jack F.

        Thank you, Will. I will follow Roddenberry’s lead and push this script even farther.

      • Linkthis83

        Yes…but you have Nikola Tesla!!!!

        • Will_Alexander

          Tesla belongs to no one man. He belongs, instead…

          (puts on sunglasses)

          …to the ages.

          YEEEEEEEAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

          • Ninjaneer

            Hey Will, did you ever submit Hightower to anything besides SS AF? It’s been awhile but I remember liking it.

            Do you have a Tesla script? Was it reviewed on SS?

          • Will_Alexander

            Hightower got some attention at Anonymous Content for about a second, and I have a Tesla script that Carson put up on AOW, but it didn’t get picked for the Friday review.

          • Ninjaneer

            Cool, I found it and will give it a read. Tesla was a fascinating guy. I’m an engineer so his kind of crazy is right up my alley.

            I also love that you mention The Prestige in your comments from that AOW. That is my favorite movie/script. It’s a masterclass on mystery/thriller story structure.

          • Will_Alexander

            I really appreciate it, Ninja. Email me your thoughts at willalexander1 at yahoo, please. I hope it’s worth your time.

          • Will_Alexander

            Ninja, how are you? I’m really curious about your thoughts on my Tesla script if you’ve had a chance to open it up. Even if your thoughts amount to, “I couldn’t make it past the first page.”

    • Jack F.

      Thank you, Mules. Soderbergh uses the two parts of “Che” to contrast a successful revolution with a failed one. You got me thinking: I could flip the model. Gene could pull himself from the ashes of his failed Lieutenant episode and push himself with “Star Trek”. Exorcising his past (which can be dealt with flashbacks) and reaching from parts of it, he gets the show on the air. You pull no punches, my friend, and it helps.

      • mulesandmud

        Now you’re talking. Demonstrate how his past is relevant to his present. Find meaningful moments to peek backwards in time while still moving the story forward. Add depth while keeping the momentum.

        Make sure you’re building real drama in both the past and the present. The conflicts in the flashbacks can be more thematic and compartmentalized, giving us glimpses of all the different lives this man has led, but the conflicts in the present needs to feel progressive and unified. Find the character relationships that put the script’s important ideas in opposition, so that when people talk, they’re not just agreeing, but rather living the story’s essential debate.

        Most of all, tell us about Gene. This is a character study. Show us how interesting he is, tease us with his contradictions, his tensions. Then peel back the layers and help us understand the why behind the who. Don’t make him a saint; the same way that you appreciate me not pulling punches on a project you love, the audience appreciate you not pulling punches on a man they love. Make us love him, then reveal us what an asshole he is, then make us root for him anyway.

        Don’t punt on this, man. Really go for it.

    • Linkthis83

      When notes are inspired and emotional, you know there’s a story worth telling in those pages. When those pages make you angry, it’s either because you know the writer(s) and know they are capable of more, or it’s because there truly is something great in the script and it pisses us off that we have to give notes at all. We just want to sit back and enjoy this awesome story and we don’t get to do that.

      (“Fucker” is my go to word when I’m frustrated with great concepts/stories – It’s really a compliment and term of endearment when I use it – much like you have here)

      Great notes, Mules!

    • S.C.

      Can I just check: 15 people (so far) have upvoted this comment. That’s a lot.

      Are you ALL saying that Jack should scrap this script and do a complete page-one rewrite?

      • Linkthis83

        my vote is for the effort, thoughtfulness, passion, critical, though-provoking, sincere, time consuming, considerate, bold, etc…type of reply Mules gave here. Since I haven’t read the script, I don’t know if I agree or disagree. However, feedback like this is valuable for the writer because in my opinion, he should visualize doing these things to his script and see what value he gets from that process. I never believe people should take popular advice and immediately implement it. As mules highlighted, it comes down to what pieces with which the writer connects and feels he can utilize to enhance his intention.

        • S.C.

          Thanks for the clarification, Link, and anyone else. I think it’s important for Jack to realize that, simply because a popular commentator is being voted for, it doesn’t mean everyone agrees with everything he says.

          It just seems strange – normally I’m the one urging people to scrap their scripts, and it seems I’m the only one today who thinks he should just give it a polish!

      • Howie428

        For me this would indeed categorize as needing a page one re-write. However, more specifically I’d say that it needs a conceptual rethink. It might be that some of the material can be reused, but the big picture story design of this needs developing before the specific scenes are pinned down.
        I’ve said for a while that you either outline before or after you write a draft of a script, but at some stage you’ve got to outline. It looks to me like this is a script that needs another round of outlining.

        • Kirk Diggler

          ‘Conceptual rethink’ is indeed what it needs. And that means PAGE ONE.

    • Poe_Serling

      Hey Mules-

      As usual, a ton of great stuff to mull over… not only for the featured AF writer but for all of the visitors to this site.

      Exercise #2: WATCH AND READ STORIES ABOUT WRITERS

      I’d encourage the writer of TO GO BOLDLY to up his research and delve even deeper into the writing life/goals/habits of Roddenberry himself.

      With a little help from Goggle, I was able to unearth this little nugget from an old GR interview:

      “I am a writer… I write to please myself. I’ve never done it for the audience, and I never intend to do it for the audience. I will always be pleased if you like what I wrote for myself.”

      Just another quick glimpse into Roddenberry’s thought process when it comes to writing. Could that insight be used as a defining moment in a script? Perhaps. It is ultimately up to the writer of this project to make that decision.

      • ThomasBrownen

        “Exercise #2: WATCH AND READ STORIES ABOUT WRITERS”

        I’ll just take this as an opportunity to mention that Saving Mr. Banks is still one of my favorite scripts and movies about writers.

    • carsonreeves1

      This is one of the most helpful comments I’ve ever read on this site!

  • walker

    A little surprised by this selection. Although it is undoubtedly a decent subject for a HW movie, the script felt like an unfocused first draft. Not to mention the thorny rights issues. Tampa Bay by Chad Rouch was the most accomplished script among last weekend’s competitors.

  • cjob3

    Great review and great suggestions on this one. The race theme is an excellent suggestion. This is the script I thought I’d be most interested in, but for me, the winner last week was TAMMY. I’d like to see that get another chance one day. (Maybe under a different name.) I didn’t read much of TAMPA BAY – but that seemed like a great premise too.

  • Jack F.

    Jack here. Carson, thank you for this opportunity. Already your advice has me making notes on theme and conflict. More opposition. Bigger stakes. Making the trauma of Gene’s father’s racism more up front and center. And cutting down on the fan service. Your encouragement and criticism (and that of the SS community) will help me push my script to the next level.

    • S.C.

      Jack, you have achieved something that many amateur screenwriters have not – you have written a script that I might want to see made into a movie!

      Is it perfect? Of course not. No script is. Certainly no script that sells is perfect, only capable of being made better.

      I would urge you to take notes from different people but be wary of those who might tell you to take your story in a direction you are unhappy with. Most important thing, in my view, is to make the dialogue a bit sharper. You’re a funny writer, with great subject matter. Better dialogue would help sell it (or get a manager, etc.).

      One other point: Focus on this script, sure, but don’t forget to write other scripts too. A writer is about more than one script. It’s about quantity AND quality.

      Best of luck! Sorry… Make it so!

      • Jack F.

        Thank you, SC. I will engage.

  • IgorWasTaken

     

    If you know, going in, what your theme is – say it’s a man hellbent on
    changing the white-washing of television shows because his father was a
    racist – then it’s easy to figure out what does and doesn’t belong in
    your script.

    Carson, excellent point. But the writer could tweak things to overcome your very next point and do it in a way that strengthens the theme overall –

    Can infidelity lead to drama? Sure. But since it has no bearing
    whatsoever on a man trying to break down racial barriers in television,
    there’s no reason to include it.

    If Roddenberry’s attention to the race element is presented as “fidelity” to the fact that the world is diverse, then Roddenberry’s infidelity could be structured as the B-story.
     

  • Eddie Panta

    For the record, I actually liked the excerpt of scene SOLOW’S OFFICE used in the article.
    It’s pretty funny, and realistic, network guys are “yes men”, so to me, it worked.
    No one wanting to make a decision is a big problem. As a matter of fact, I thought it cut right to the issue.

    But the airplane crash scene does indeed exude a casual, no problem, vibe. Roddenberry’s dialogue: “It’s all right, everyone. Hang in there, and we’re gonna make it through this” Doesn’t seem to click with the tragedy that transpires in the scene.

    I think if the writer can address the issue of suspense in the airplane crash scene, then it would make a great opening to the story.

    Love the title page font.
    Good Luck with the script.

  • pmlove

    What I learned: AOW can serve as a good proxy to the film industry. Here we have a script that reportedly isn`t in a place where it is ready for actual notes yet but it can still beat out the competition based largely on it`s concept – a true story based on some books.

    It`s time to reopen Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and pull together that Spielberg vs Friedkin vs Lucas script.

    Congrats to Jack – I haven`t read the script in full but I`m impressed by the response it is getting. Good luck!

    • S.C.

      Since the execution is always going to be up for debate, AOW will often come down to strongest concept.

      If a person has a strong concept but the execution isn’t perfect (as, arguably, is the case today) he can take advice and rewrite the script.

      If a person has a weak concept AND the execution isn’t perfect…. what can you say? Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? “You’re just grinding metal”? Polishing a turd?

      Strong concept wins.

    • Jack F.

      Thanks, Pm. Moving forward – maximum warp.

  • Poe_Serling

    Congrats to the writer of TO BOLDLY GO for nabbing this week’s AF slot, and I hope all the from the feedback from AOW and today allows you to take your script to the next level.

    I’m pretty confident that there’s a media market and eager fan base out there for a project about ‘The Great Bird of the Galaxy.’

    ” A lot of people are just keen to go down memory lane [for the right story]”

    Pencil my name onto that list. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional nostalgic stroll, especially if it’s a childhood favorite from Rerun Heaven aka weekday afternoons from 3-6pm.

    • Jack F.

      Thanks, Poe, for the encouragement and advice. With all the awesome notes I’m receiving from everyone, I feel confident in moving forward and doing what has to be done.

  • Howie428

    I just watched “42” and it’s interesting to see how it took on the challenge of biography for a positive lead who makes a famous positive contribution.

    The elephant in the room for this kind of story is that we all know how great it worked out in the end. You have to milk that side of it and give the audience the key beats of that story, but it won’t be enough for a compelling movie.

    The creation of Star Trek is a tough one to crack because it doesn’t have big success moments, like hitting a first home run. It also didn’t become a big success until years after the show first aired. Also, let’s face it, there’s something quite wonkish about the development and milestones for a TV show, e.g. “The ratings are in,” “What are they?”, “They are numbers on this bit of paper, read ‘em yourself!” Obviously this stuff can be made exciting, but it doesn’t happen naturally.

    That being the case, it seems that the story has to fall back on character. Given that Roddenberry set the philosophy around Star Trek, he seems the natural choice. He obviously led an interesting life, but it’s an open question as to whether the Star Trek part is the most compelling part of it. Once the TV show is in production then the philosophy has already been set, which means that for me the most compelling aspect of the story is over.

    What’s needed is a way to show us how Roddenberry came to have that philosophy and how he applied it to Star Trek…

    For me the take on this might be to frame it around the disagreements that happened as The Next Generation was being put together. Roddenberry as an old man dogmatically attached to his creation and needing to learn that it now has a life of its own and that he needs to let it go. As he goes through that process we can flashback to the origins of the earlier show and see how he developed his attitudes and fought earlier battles to create the thing he cares about.

    • Jack F.

      Thanks, Howie. It is damn fascinating how Roddenberry’s relationships with long-time associates like D.C. Fontana soured during the writing of Next Generation.

  • Andrea Moss

    One possible solution to avoid the biopic traps and the paint-by-the-numbers execution would be to focus on the positive effect that the show had in the audiences, rather than the ratings. For example, imagine this: in one scene, a black girl sitting in her room, idly flipping channels of a vintage TV with her remote control. Bored. Incensed. We see the world through their eyes while she’s switching from one channel to another. Click. A car commercial. A white family appears in a dream house with a black maid. Click. A five stars hotel spot. Luxury everywhere. Lots of people, but the only African-Americans are depicted carrying luggage or opening doors. Click. And suddenly…

    She looks at a scene of this new series, Star Trek. The future. Outer space. A spaceship. Not, she’s looking at Lieutenant Uhura, official of the Starfleet.

    And in that exact moment, she’s engaged.

    For first time in her life, she looks at a black woman on TV that’s not depicted as a servant or a maid. In a position of authority. Brave. Intelligent. Stunning.

    And this is the true power of the show, not the ratings or the legacy. The power to change minds. The power to change society.

    • cjob3

      I love that

    • Jack F.

      Thank you, Andrea. It’s a nice image and a clear evocation of the impact “Star Trek” has and continues to have.

  • klmn

    “I’ll start off by saying the Black List LOVES these scripts. In fact,
    if the Devil came to me and said, “If you don’t write a screenplay that
    makes the Black List this year, you’re coming down to hell with me,” the
    type of script I’d choose to write wouldn’t even be a contest.”

    • Bacon Statham

      Can’t beat a bit of Bobby Johnson.

  • S_P_1

    OFF TOPIC

    Relevant

    Eyestorm Productions is seeking scripts. Their requirements may fit some writers perfectly.

    http://www.writersstore.com/scriptxpert-script-search-eyestorm-productions/?et_mid=746367&rid=240497399

    • klmn

      It’s a contest disguised as a prodco, run by an advertising agency. Fifty dollar entry fee for a contest with no track record.

      Caveat emptor. (Pardon my French).

      • S.C.

        Agreed; stick with Nicholl and Scriptshadow 250.

        • klmn

          I wouldn’t be quite that restrictive. But check the comments on Moviebytes about any contest you’re thinking of entering.

  • S_P_1

    OFF TOPIC

    Relevant

    Inspirational and further reinforcement of what it takes to succeed.

    http://www.scriptmag.com/features/writers-breaking-in-senior-year-arthur-pielli-andrew-knauer?et_mid=746200&rid=240497399

  • Kirk Diggler

    I read the first 15 and felt it got off on the wrong foot. Well, I think it continues making mistakes, giving us an almost 3 page recreation of Roddenberry’s “The Lieutenant” tv show. Now I know Leonard Nimoy was on that show an it’s important to show that Roddenberry/Nimoy had an early relationship (including his future wife Majel Barret) but we’re given a literal recreation of a tv show (3 pages!) instead of a little character moment with Nimoy.

    However I do like how you jump into the Majel Barret affair. Then you give us 3 pages of Herb Solow and Lucy Ball and some guy named Katz. Blech! Keep it about Gene, because that’s what Gene and his immense ego would do and that’s where your story is.

    I like the bit with D.C. Fontana (she could be a great supporting character) and Gene’s pitch for Star Trek.

    Page 43 is wholly unnecessary.

    The ’rounding up’ of the important players, Robert Justman, William Theiss etc isn’t that great. Here is the Justman scene:

    RODDENBERRY: What do you want to do in your career, Bob? What is important to you?

    JUSTMAN: I’ve been an Assistant Director for a while, and I believe I’m a good one. But I want to use creativity and contribute ideas rather than merely using my time and energy.

    It sounds like a man reading from his resume….

    The ‘making of the Enterprise’ montage (it’s one page of screen time) with Matt Jeffries ends with Roddenberry seeing the drawing he came up with….

    RODDENBERRY: That’s it. You did it. That’s our Enterprise.

    One of the most iconic ships ever created ends in a rather one-note scene. It’s all a bit too safe. Where is the awe?

    Read further to the casting scene (or at least Gene and others TALKING about who they should cast) and it just has this paint by numbers approach. Why aren’t we seeing, I don’t know, a screen test? Instead of talking about Susan Oliver, who played the sexy Vina in the original pilot, show her being asked to wear her skimpy wardrobe and maybe objecting to Roddenberry’s “every woman on my show will be in a short skirt’ paradigm. William Theiss’s costumes were pretty bare and….to crimp from the title, bold for their time, this would be a chance to infuse conflict in a scene (even if Susan Oliver didn’t have a problem, use a little creative license). For all his forward thinking on racial issues he didn’t have a problem depicting women as sex objects.

    And when Gene suggests he wants Deforest Kelly to play the original doctor in the pilot (not Dr McCoy btw), he is turned down. Why does Gene cave so easily? Show him fighting for Deforest Kelly, even if he doesn’t win the first round. When he gets Kelly cast in the 2nd pilot to play his iconic Dr McCoy part, it’ll have a little more meaning that Roddenberry always gets what he wants.

    I agree with Carson, everything is played far too nice. There needs to be bigger conflicts in Gene struggling to get what he wants. The original pilot was no where near as diverse as Star Trek would eventually become. In fact, the only real diversity was putting Majel Barret as a woman on the bridge in a position of power. There may indeed be a scene that relates these events later, but I’m already 50 something pages in and this is where your theme should be, Roddenberry fighting to make sure that all the different ethnic groups are included in his ship. Maybe seeing Gene lobbying for a person of color to be on the bridge and being turned down would make it more interesting. HOW did he get his way? What happened between the first pilot (lily white) and the second pilot (an Asian man included but still no Uhura), to the final series casting of including a black woman on the bridge?

    Maybe that’s where the focus should be. His fight for the things the writer touches on earlier (witnessing racism) then seemingly abandons for the next 40 pages. So yes, I 100% agree with Carson that should be the theme here, and there seems to be ample evidence that Roddenberry was stonewalled in his attempt for a diverse cast and then overcame it somehow. NBC hated Majel Barret as an actor, disliked her turn as Number One.

    In fact, Nimoy as Spock ended up taking over that role (emotionless 2nd in command). How did that effect his relationship with Majel? And funny enough, even after Majel and her character was rejected from the show in the 2nd pilot, Roddenberry still managed to get her cast as Christine Chapel early in the 1st season. He just threw a blond wig on her and hoped the execs wouldn’t notice.

    The focus for Gene’s fight for a diverse cast in trying to get a tv show made (external) might work well with his insistence on casting his mistress in important roles (internal). He was a complicated man and this script only touches on those points but that’s the film I’d like to see.

    • Poe_Serling

      “NBC hated Majel Barret as an actor, disliked her turn as Number One. In
      fact, Nimoy as Spock ended up taking over that role (emotionless 2nd in
      command). How did that effect his relationship with Majel?”

      The network told me to get rid of Number One, the woman first lieutenant, and also get rid of “that Martian fellow” … meaning, of course, Spock. I knew I couldn’t keep
      both, so I gave the stoicism of the female officer to Spock, and married the actress who played Number One. Thank God it wasn’t the other way around. I mean Leonard’s cute, but… — GENE RODDENBERRY

      **With a beloved classic series such as Star Trek, there’s almost endless supply of info and stories to cherry-pick from to craft into a screenplay.

  • BennyPickles

    Just wanted to say that if Jack hasn’t already checked out ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’ – a film about the creation of the Sci-Fi TV show Doctor Who in 1963 – it could prove to be incredibly helpful in unlocking some of those script issues.

    It’s a perfect example of how to approach the genesis of a television series, whilst maintaining all the conflict and intensity that a film needs. So long as you don’t mind a few tears towards the end…

    • Jack F.

      Thanks, Benny. I will be sure to check it out.

      • Buddy

        If I remember well, in MAD MEN’s season 4 or 5, one of the guys from the agency is trying to break in TV shows, writing a spec script for STAR TREK… ;-)

  • Murphy

    I just read it thanks to your recommendation.

    What a pile of crap. Seriously, one of the worst screenplays I have ever read. How on Earth is this on the blacklist at all?

    It appears to have been written by a child with no knowledge at all of how a story should be told. It is only on the blacklist because it is memorable, due mostly to it’s total awfulness. There is a lesson there.

  • Murphy

    Although I did witnesses “the most epic one-shot I ever will” so I guess that is a good thing.

  • Sullivan

    Am I the only one who thought there were way too many montages and they were way…too…long?

    • Poe_Serling

      Sergei Eisenstein: No.

      Me: Yeah, you could easily cut out one or two of the montages without really impacting the story being told. However, if the writer still feels the info is crucial to the plot line, you could always sneak it into another scene or find a creative way to present it differently within the pages of the script.

  • carsonreeves1

    Ah ha. That makes more sense then.

  • Midnight Luck

    If you haven’t read it, Carson gave his thoughts on the entire Blacklist, which included The Wilde Ones,

    The Wilde Ones only got 6 votes on the BL:

    6 VOTES
    THE WILDE ONES
    Writer: Tyler Shields
    Premise: In a corrupt Southern town, a dangerous sociopath runs bareknuckle boxing fights that pit its youths against each other.
    Thoughts: See this is what I was hoping for as opposed to a script like Southpaw, which takes too straight-forward of a look at boxing. You gotta approach subject matter in a unique way!
    Want-to-readability Factor: 6

    http://scriptshadow.net/2014-black-list-thoughts/

  • ripleyy

    I actually like Tyler Sheilds, but no way should that may go anywhere near writing. Even his directorial debut looks awful. Some people just aren’t meant to do other things than what they’re good at.

  • verah

    De-lurking to say please keep at this story. I can’t add to anything that has been already said, but you have a built-in market for the making–the real making–of the show that we have loved for decades. And I mean decades. As a child, I watched the Original Series when it was original, since it’s first season on TV and I have loved Kirk and Spock and McCoy and Uhura and Sulu and Starfleet and the Vulcans and the Klingons and the Romulans ever since.
    What I’d really love is to see a whole miniseries based not only on getting Star Trek going, but on it’s heyday, and its death, and even its return to life on the big screen. (Guess I did have sort of a comment after all….)
    Here’s hoping I get to see this on a big screen someday!

    • Jack F.

      Thank you, Vera for the vote of confidence.