So, uh, I haven't read the whole thing yet (271 pages!) but if you're like me and have a general interest in the development process, Michael Piller's draft memoir of writing the Star Trek: Insurrection script has apparently been released. Enjoy? Apparently it was supposed to be published earlier this decade but by the time he died in 2005 the project had been packed up and put in storage. AICN has a link to a .doc file containing the book, which they appear to treat as totally legit and not some illegal copyright thing.
Intro wrote:Now that it’s all behind me, I can smile (finally) about what we went through... all the stories we threw away, the drafts that didn’t work. I invite you now to walk a couple years in my shoes. Look at the development process from the writer’s point of view. Second-guess me. If you’d been writing the script would you have made the same decisions I made? Would your movie be about the girl who broke our hero’s heart and the best friend he’s sent to kill, the rag-tag army of space mariners, the mysterious society of alien children, the treacherous Romulans, the mutes, the android squad, the holographic stand-up comedian, the lecherous three hundred year old munchkin, the masked race of Generation ‘X’ aliens...
...none of whom made my final draft.
But maybe they would have made yours. Maybe your script would have been entirely different from mine. Let’s find out.
With two notable exceptions, the development process of Star Trek: Insurrection wasn’t much different from the development process of any motion picture script. Exception number one: everyone knew from the start this picture would actually get made. Most scripts are written without that knowledge. This was to be the ninth installment of the franchise. It was not only scheduled for production before the script was written; it was scheduled for release before the script was written. December, 1998. So, from the moment I was hired, I heard the clock ticking.
Exception number two: I was the writer from start to finish. Many of the movies you see have been written by several writers even though their names may not appear on the screen. Writers are often brought in like tag-teams, the original writer followed by an “action” writer followed by a “character” writer followed by a “dialogue” writer and on and on. (In one major action movie last summer, after a half-dozen or so top-notch writers had worked on the screenplay, the producers brought in the entire staff of a popular television sitcom to make the dialogue funnier.) The difference here was my history with Star Trek as head writer for the television shows and a long working relationship with producer Rick Berman. Had it been any other circumstance, there’s no question in my mind that, before the final draft was completed, I most certainly would have been fired.
Chapter 1 wrote:That fraction of a second between nightmare and waking. Except it isn’t a fraction of a second anymore, it’s been days, weeks and I’m still in a free-fall, trying to snatch bits and pieces of a script that are falling with me, desperately trying to assemble them in some coherent manner before I crash.
How could I have been so wrong? Where had my instinct failed me? How do I fix it? Is it even fixable? In three months, this movie will be going into pre-production and I don’t have a clue what to do.
There’s no point in trying to sleep. Once I wake up to pee in the middle of the night (the curse of middle-age), my mind goes back to work. I tell it not to. Whatever you do, don’t think about the script. But as I lay in the dark staring at the ceiling, my eyeballs move back and forth looking for the metaphorical daylight. There’s got to be a way to make this script work.
The guards on the overnight shift at the front gate are used to seeing me arrive at dawn. They greet me by name and ask how the script’s going - everyone on the lot knows I’m doing the next Star Trek movie - and I smile and say, fine and ask one of the guards about his new baby and I drive in under the famous Paramount arch and park in the first space in the empty producer’s parking lot. I know Rick Berman will walk by that space on the way to his office and will see that I was the first one in the lot. As though that’ll earn me an ‘A’ for effort if everything else fails.