Posts Tagged ‘ETs’

How to read a screenplay

22 January 2020

When I got my first idea for a piece of fiction, I used the platform I was familiar with, WordPress, to present it here:

However, I was interested what this idea would look like as a movie, so I started a script for it (not totally finished yet). In that process, I learned a bit about how writers make scripts for movies.

The screenplay

It’s a bit of an odd-looking thing. There’s lots of room in a screenplay to scribble notes in the margins and such. The dialogue runs down the center of the page and is pretty narrow. The movie business has been using this format for years. It must work for them.

The more “scrunched” format of the ordinary novel, or even stage play, is apparently partly a function of the costs associated with printing paper books. We have become used to a printed format where most of the page is filled with words – with perhaps the occasional illustration.

Because computer files don’t require paper, it is now possible to publish movie or radio or stage scripts in the form in which they are actually used by directors, actors, technical people, etc.

The idea of publishing in this format appealed to me mainly because the punctuation rules for written dialog are so involved that I didn’t particularly want to learn them. I have read many stories written in the ordinary way, and I must say, it seems totally natural as one is reading. Yet one might notice that if you were just watching two people talking, all the “he said’s” and so forth would not be necessary, and you would have to judge their intentions and emotions by the expressions on their faces, not by extra lines in the written story. I wanted to present just a basic visual idea of how I thought a story could play out, so this “sparse” form seemed like it would suit my purposes.

Technical aspects

Somewhere it is written, “every screenplay begins with the words FADE IN and ends with the words FADE OUT.” This may be technically correct, but I saw no reason to include these in my screenplays. These are camera (or effects) instructions and most of that will be missing from pre-production screenplays. The story is carried forward through its scenes, the action and dialog between characters.

If you sit down and watch almost any modern film or video, you will notice how often the environment of the shot can change. A stage play, like the old sitcoms, might take place entirely in one location. That was a simple and economical way to tell a story. Motion pictures have always pulled away from that limitation, like radio dramas and novels before them. In a modern motion picture the viewer may even become confused about exactly where the action is taking place. In the screenplay, each change of scenery must be announced by a SCENE entry (in all caps). It is up to the Director and Cinematographer and Editor to decide whether the scene changes are obvious or confusing to the viewer.

Traditionally, any inside or indoor scene description begins with “INT.” for “interior.” And external or outside scenes start with “EXT.” for “exterior.” Though I was loose with this rule in View From The Forest, I followed it more closely in Space Captain. It is also traditional to indicate time of day in the scene header, at least “day” or “night.” In my screenplays I often left this out.

Under the scene title is the action, a description of what is going on in the scene, who appears in it and where they are located. A lot of this is up to the screenwriter. Where it seems that certain aspects of the scene should be obvious, or left up to the imagination of the Art Director (or someone else), the descriptions here might sometimes seem minimal. Technically, this description helps Art, Costumes, Props, Lights and others determine exactly what they need to provide for each scene, as well as informing the actors of what they are supposed to be doing.

The dialog consists of a narrowed column of text running down the middle of the page. It may include (parentheticals) indicating voice tone or demeanor, or whether we see the character while he is speaking or only hear him over the phone or off in some other room. Each character is announced by a short name or nickname in all caps before his lines. It is traditional for only one character to speak at a time, but there are ways to make the dialog messier if this is desired for artistic effect.

With the caveat that I am a beginner in all this, the above are the basic technical points to keep in mind while reading a screenplay.

View From The Forest

This story is offered as a short introduction to the most basic concepts of Permaculture, along with my long-lived love for trees and forests. The main characters are two trees who live side by side in a small forest. Though the idea of talking trees is not a new one, my studies perhaps give a new perspective on what they might say to each other if they really had that capability.

View From The Forest screenplay

inside the arboretum

Space Captain

Space Captain screenplay

Space Captain is a story of three ETs who get trapped on Earth in the long distant past and make peace with their fate. I got the idea from my Scientology studies, then ran into a version of the song Space Captain, which I vaguely remembered Joe Cocker doing a long time ago. The idea of the song went perfectly with my story idea, so I picked the song title for the name of this story.

The ET Problem

3 July 2016

In Part 21 of the story, LRH begins to introduce us to the ETs who have begun to swarm around Earth. He gives descriptions of body appearances which I believe are largely fanciful. For example, the Tolnep have bodies composed of something akin to stainless steel, and have poisonous fangs like snakes. He also gives short descriptions of their ships which I believe are less fanciful: sphere-shaped; triangle-shaped; cigar-shaped. A key ET – the “small gray man” – remains unidentified, though he seems to hold some sort of senior intelligence and/or diplomatic function.

All these races are of course “space opera,” which is to say that their economies are involved in inter-planetary trade. They have – we can imagine – commercial ships and, in the case presented here, military ships which are there to protect their lines of “commerce.”

In the situation presented by this story, each ET group has a “niche” in the overall inter-galactic economy, which is dominated by the Psychlos due to their apparent monopoly on the technology of teleportation, usually called “transshipment.” Transshipment allows the Psychlos to place military assets wherever they are needed instantly and with no sign of approach, giving them a tremendous political advantage.

The economic niches occupied by the others are briefly enumerated at the beginning of Part 22: the Tolneps are involved in the slave trade; the Hawvins trade in copper and silver; the Bolbods trade in used machinery; the Jambitchow seem to be pirates. There are also the Hockners, who seem to be aspiring political rivals to the Psychlos.

Relative Importances

Battlefield Earth traces the physical – and intellectual – journey of a single very brave individual through many problems of survival. At every level he finds urges – very human urges – to succumb as well as to survive. As sickening as the urge to succumb is to an individual very much committed to survival, it is certainly quite real. Yet it signals the existence of what is known as a “game.” A game is an illusion of conflict for the entertainment of the players, where no actual conflict exists or needs to exist. It is clear from research that life’s unit beings are immortal. Thus any situation where “survival” becomes important must exist at the level of game, and not be, ultimately, real. In playing the various games of life this is worth keeping in mind, as silly and esoteric as it may sound to you.

The trick to handling our situation on Earth would be to rehabilitate our awareness of certain basics of existence that we decided to ignore in order to have a game.

Battlefield Earth

26 June 2016

In 1980, before I was involved in Scientology, LRH began writing a work of “pure science fiction” which came out as Battlefield Earth. It was published in 1982, and after I joined the Sea Org I bought a copy and read it. Later, I lost that copy, but recently purchased another one, also a First Edition. This one comes wrapped in a leather cover, reminiscent of those used by the hero to hold the books he found that helped him recover the Earth for human habitation.

I more recently ordered the audio book (which is unabridged and 44 CDs long!) and have started “re-reading” it in that fashion. It’s a great job, though I don’t know who’s going to sit through 47 and 1/2 hours of CDs to listen to the whole story. But it is a good story, and I am going through it again to pick any important points I missed or am uncertain about.

Some points I do remember:

Earth is plagued by the genocidal presence of an off-world inter-galactic mining company, run from its home planet of “Psychlo.” Almost everyone from Psychlo lacks compassion, and is therefore basically psychotic. They will kill any other life form without remorse, even each other. Later in the story, it is discovered that this trait is installed at birth in the form of some sort of electronic implant. One Psychlo who escaped being implanted helps the hero discover this.

Hubbard gives the Psychlos a huge Achilles Heel; their atmosphere explodes in the presence of ionizing radiation. This is real science fiction; I don’t know of any real planet or civilization where the biology is that different. All I’ve ever heard of is carbon-oxygen based biology. There are some non-biological life forms. More than likely, they predate biology.

Working with this notable Psychlo weakness, along with their normal “human” foibles, the hero finds a way to blackmail them into backing off Earth, and leaving the rest of the universe alone as well. The success in bringing peace to the cosmos is notable and worth studying. Real criminality is a problem everywhere, and there are clues here that might help us conquer it.

The book, in its second half, includes some major space battles. On the web I have noticed some references to similar events in nearby space. Again, the future of planets and great issues of war and peace are at stake in this current set of events.

It used to be that science fiction was seen as an indirect way to communicate about real Earthly situations. That view no longer holds. The “stage” has widened; it now includes the entire cosmos.

Bill Tompkins in his book mentioned several times that he had become convinced that Teddy Roosevelt was right: That to go far, one must speak softly, but carry a big stick. Though Roosevelt attributed the proverb to West Africa, there has been difficulty tracing it to there, as their own lore has been oral, and Western study of it has been spotty. But time and time again, thinkers come to the conclusion that any “peace” is held together by the carefully targeted threat of overpowering force. In the movie (and book) “The Mouse that Roared,” peace is brought to Europe by instilling the belief that if anyone starts a war, a bomb will go off which will eradicate the entire subcontinent. And in Battlefield Earth, peace is won in a similar way.

This seems to be one of many paradoxes that we must live with.