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Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made it to a Theater Near You - For Better or Worse

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Written by two-time Star Trek script writer David S. Cohen, Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made it to a Theater Near You - For Better or Worse delves into the development and creation of some of the most famous - and infamous - movies ever made. With interviews from the writers, directors and production staff, Cohen attempts to find out the perfect recipe for a box office success.

While Star Trek itself is not discussed in the main, Cohen does speak candidly about his own involvement in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and his experiences working with the production team on the episodes "Destiny" and "Crossover", in the book's introductory chapter.

SummaryEdit

From the book jacket
In this fascinating survey of contemporary screen craft, David Cohen of Script and Variety magazines leads readers down the long and harrowing road every screenplay takes from idea to script to screen. In interviews with Hollywood screenwriters from across the board – Oscar winners and novices alike – Cohen explores what sets apart the blockbuster successes from the downright disasters.
Tracing the fortunes of twenty-five films, including Troy, Erin Brokovich, Lost in Translation, and The Aviator, Cohen offers insider access to back lots and boardrooms, to studio heads, directors, and to the over-caffeinated screenwriters themselves. As the story of each film evolves from the drawing board to the big screen, Cohen proves how a script is written, sold, developed, and filmed can be just as dramatic and intriguing as the movie itself-especially when the resulting movie is a fiasco.
Covering films of all kinds-from tongue-in-cheek romps like John Waters's A Dirty Shame to Oscar winners like Monster's Ball and The Hours-Screen Plays is an anecdote-filled, often inspiring, always revealing look at the alchemy of the movie business. With Cohen as your expert guide, Screen Plays exposes how and why certain films (such as Gladiator) become "tent poles", those runaway successes every studio needs to survive, and others become train wrecks. Full of critical clues on how to sell a script – and avid seeing it destroyed before the director calls Action! – it's the one book every aspiring screenwriter will find irresistible.

Excerpts of copyrighted sources are included for review purposes only, without any intention of infringement.

ContentsEdit

Writing for Star TrekEdit

"Destiny"Edit

In his introduction for the book, David Cohen describes, among other things, his experiences of writing as a child and how the "sci-fi geek" inside of him led to him contacting the writers of one of his favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Who Watches The Watchers". "It turned out the script had been written by two APA clients, Hans Beimler and Richard Manning." Cohen recalled. "So I called their agent in the LA office and told him how much I'd enjoyed the episode. He said to call them and tell them. I called their office at Star Trek. Their assistant said, 'When are you coming out here to visit?'. Visit? Visit the Paramount lot? Visit the set? So that December, despite a nasty case of bronchitis, I got on a plane for Los Angeles. Got to watch part of an episode being shot ("Yesterday's Enterprise"). Came back feeling itchy to be part of it. Began to tumble around an idea for a Star Trek story I wanted to see."

After returning home and watching another Star Trek episode that was as bad as "Who Watches The Watchers" was good, Cohen thought to himself "I can do better than that". A few days later, Cohen then contacted his old school friend Martin Winer and asked him if he wanted to co-write a Star Trek script. Winer agreed and the two of them submitted a spec script for The Next Generation, flying out to Los Angeles to pitch their idea to the producers. Though initially enthusiastic about their idea, the TNG staff then realized that Cohen and Winer were taking their story in a direction they didn't want to go with the show and the script was rejected.

Following that disappointment, Cohen and Winer set about working on another script, this time for the new Star Trek show Deep Space Nine. Enthralled with the premise Sisko as Emissary, Cohen decided to write a story about prophecy, a prophecy which Sisko must fulfill even at the behest of Starfleet. They called the script "Destiny". It was soon bought by the studio and before long both Cohen and Winer were meeting with showrunner Michael Piller who praised them on producing "the best spec script ever".

However, Piller saw a number of changes he wished to make to the script and asked the duo to rewrite it. But no matter what they did to it, the producers just didn't think it was ready. In the end, it received a rewrite from a staff writer and aired a few months later. Cohen was disappointed with the final version. "Not a word of our dialogue made it in," he recalled. "...they kept the basic "A" plot and some of our characters. For some reason, though, they mentioned the prophecy but somehow left out the information that the Emissary had a role to play in the prophecy, so as far as I'm concerned the story basically makes no sense. Buncha guys running around trying to stop Sisko doing something, without ever saying why it matters whether he does it or not. I still get a headache when I watch it."

"Crossover"Edit

During rewrites of "Destiny", Cohen and Winer were asked to look over a script the staff writers had written that dealt with the mirror universe, the episode that was to become "Crossover".

Initially titled "Detour", Cohen and Winer thought the script "stunk" and read like a parody. With just five days before shooting, they stayed up all night and developed an outline they were happy with before submitting it to Ira Steven Behr. Behr looked it over, gave his thoughts on the outline and then asked the two of them to have a go at writing the script. In just a few hours, Cohen and Winer had produced the first two acts.

But the script wasn't well-received and despite further attempts, the producers just weren't satisfied with it and the script was passed to somebody else to finish.

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