It all started with the web, actually for me it all started with a writing project in college, but then later it all starts with the web, but not at first. Iíll just start at the beginning. I had this writing for media class when I was junior in college. I was loving the class and making lots of noise with my initial projects. We did a documentary script, a public service announcement and then the fun stuff started. The teacher decided to teach us television format.
I really donít think that television format was even supposed to be a part of the class, but that guy taught it anyway. Iíll never forget that guy, his name wasÖ Actually I canít remember his name, but he opened doors for me that I would never have opened in a million years. It was a new type of storytelling which appealed to the impatient, give-it-up-now man I was back then and still am today. I fell in love with it instantly and then came the final project.
We were told to write a television format script for our favorite show. I, at this point, was a casual Star Trek watcher. I wasnít a Trekker at all. I enjoyed the show, but didnít know the names of every guest star or how many times Picard had ever said, "make it so." I was about to do a teleplay for Seinfeld when I realized that I was pretty good at this. People were actually paying attention when I read my projects. I won some cool little gum-ball machine award that blessed Mr. Blahfadabah gave out one day. I started looking around for shows that would accept scripts from spec writers without agents. I found Star Trek, Deep Space Nine. The plan was not to waste all the work I planned to put into this on making some readable wall paper. I would to try and sell it.
I had always enjoyed Sci-Fi and had written some pretty cool short stories. I began to think of compelling character based ideas to base a story on. The first idea I came up with, that got written into about 12 pages, involved Julian Bashir being kidnapped and Garak having to team up with Odo to get him out. Looking back at that idea, it seems rather compelling, but I wasnít getting too far with it.
It then just hit me. I wanted to see Jake Sisko as a Borg. Thatís all I had, but I wanted Ben Siskoís personal nightmare to tale place. Jake had to be a Borg, Yup. So then I just had to figure out how to make that happen.
I couldnít really turn Jake into a Borg. The Borg were property of TNG and I didnít want to take any liberties that may get my idea thrown out. (I later lost this sensibility). It would have to be a dream of some sort. At this point, I didnít care what the story was, all I wanted was Jake and Borg and Dream. There were 3 points that needed to be strung together some how. So I just started writing.
When I was done I had a story called The Wealth of Dreams about an alien from another galaxy who was struggling to adjust his communications abilities to work in this part of space. His people communicated in dream states, intermingling in each otherís minds. The Wealth of Dreams turned out to be like, Nightmare on Elm Street meets DS9. The alien, christened Charlie, traps Odo in some nightmare where a Quark, who looks liked he has rigormortis, keeps him battling in a pit fight.
The point was that he needed Odoís unique mind to recalibrate himself to be able to communicate while awake. In the meantime, the crew was having nightmares galore, (including Jake going nutso Borg) a group of angry Vedekís were trying to shut down Quarkís and Kira was struggling with an unconscious violation bordering on rape.
The teacher, Mr. Puffanstuff, loved it. I got a string of Aís that went all the way around the border of the cover. He refused to believe that it was my first teleplay writing endeavor, which was highly flattering. I passed it along to a few friends and they loved it too. That was it, I had the bug. I wrote two more scripts in short succession. I wanted to get it right, as you only have two shots at passing in spec scripts with the special submission program.
I wrote Chance of a Lifetime and Soul Mates. (There are big mistakes chronicled here)
Both of these were DS9 scripts that involved major guest stars. Soul Mates involved captain Picard and Chance of a Lifetime was a Q story, though incidentally is my most favorite work.
List of DO NOTS If you are thinking of writing a Star Trek spec script, read these words and read them well. Do not include any throwbacks, sequels, stars from other Trek series or, heaven forbid, make references to other science fiction. Make it original. Use the characters that exist on the present show. As Jerry Taylor said, "Put them on the head of a pin and find a way for them to wriggle out of it."
Do not make the guest stars the pivotal characters in the story. I know, Star Trek gas done that on rare occasions with the Riker-is-an-alien-trapped-with-Bebe-Neuwirth episode and the Voyager one with the Dinosaur descendants (somebody help me with those names.) The people that wrote those episodes get paid to not only write Star Trek, but are also the producers, or they have the producerís ear. You do not have the producers ear. You want to sell a script to Star Trek and see your name in lights. You must remember to be humble and keep things under control. Iíve heard so many fans talking like - "Wouldnít it be cool if the Borg showed up on DS9 and then the Romulans and the Borg had this incredible battle and the station gets destroyed and everyone is trapped on Bajor andÖ" The budget rolls into the tens of millions and the universe of Star Trek is changed forever.
I say these things not as an authority, remember I made these mistake on THREE of the Trek scripts I wrote. Iím saying these things because Jerry Taylor and Rene Echevarria told me so. Iíve gained some sensibility since that time though and was very satisfied with our showing at Paramount, but I did blow my two spec script submission by sending in Chance of a Lifetime and Soul Mates. Needless to say, these were rejected with a form letter thatís a heartbreaker. By the way, rejection is part of this game. A big part. If you canít handle that, put your aspirations away.
So they were rejected, I had these scripts laying around that no one but Star Trek could ever buy and they had already rejected them. I decided the best thing for them was to put them on public display. I uploaded Chance of a Lifetime and Soul Mates about a year ago. The public reaction has been astounding, people freaked. People loved not only the fact that both scripts were decently written and compelling, but that I had put gone through the trouble of making them available to the world.
Now this is when this all started, Peter Borreggine was surfing the net one day and happened to stumble upon Chance of a Lifetime. Peter contacted me by Email. He had pitched to Star Trek a few times and hadnít been bought yet. He had looked over Chance and liked what he saw. He asked me if I wanted to help him out on his next generation of pitches for a pitch session scheduled by phone a few months off. Needless to say, I agreed. Sure, I wanted the world to be able to read my script on-line and sure, I loved the nice Emails I got but this was the real reason why I had done this. I wanted people who knew people to contact me. I wanted the scripts to open doors for me. Peter made that happened.
There was more to this story though, Peterís wife Elainey was sick, she was dying of diabetes. This was more than just a desire to be a screen writer that fueled Peterís passion, he wanted to have a script bought in time for Elainey to see it on screen. Unfortunately, a few weeks before the phone session was to happen, Elainey passed away in the night. The goal now was to build a monument to his beloved, to write her name in the stars.
Understandably, we had to cancel our pitch session, neither of us was really up to it. Another pitch session was canceled too, due to scheduling problems. It began to look like this would never happen.
Then the call came. It was Peter on the line with some incredible news. We had been invited out to Paramount to pitch in person to Voyager! I never heard someone so happy. I had never heard someone so close to his dream. Without two thoughts I sprang at the opportunity. I was going to Paramount.
Remarkably, it got better! Peter called back about a week later to let me know that we were not only going to be pitching to Voyager, but to DS9 as well! At that time, we still didnít know exactly who we would be pitching too.
Then it got even better! It turned out the we would be pitching to Jerry Taylor for Voyager, the creator of the series! Wow, this was unreal. I hoped that this wasnít all some big deranged dream that I was having.
As the weeks got closer, I made several trips down to Maryland to work with Peter in developing the pitches for both shows. We came up with some pretty wild stuff and had to throw some stuff out. Sometimes several of our ideas would come together and become one bigger idea. Sometimes nothing happened for a while and we would break for pizza.
Needless to say, the creative process is complicated. You really need to lock yourself in a room and jump around and talk in character voices and act things out. You also have to role play the parts of the producers. Flush out any details that they may have objections to and address them.
So we had all of our stories neatly written into one page pitches by the time we left for LA, right? Wrong. We were tinkering on the plane. We were tinkering in the hotel room. We were tinkering as we walked onto the lot.