Ever heard of Dogma 95? Not exactly my favourite films in the world, but the rules of Dogma were meant to get things back to basics. A good crash course for it can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8nR72S7MxI
Last year sometime a friend of mine, who shall be now known as Sam Wilson, and I were ruminating on Science Fiction movie writing and production. Avatar had just come out, and we were up to season five of a very flash looking restart of Doctor Who.
At the time I was chewing over how one could do something similar about getting back to basics with short SF stories. Among other things thrown into the mix was a special features documentary on (Doctor Who) The Hand of Fear DVD. A lot of the actors, special effects people, and writers almost fell into their jobs at Doctor Who, or at every least seemed to be surprised that they were working on the show. It got me thinking about the state of television here in Australia, and what chances are there for people interested in producing good SF TV/movie/film like there would have been in the UK in the 1970s.
If you pull the budget out of a Science Fiction story, it brings the script to the fore. Immediate examples that spring to mind are Primer, and the odd, cool YouTube short videos that people make (ie,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tXsO35TQ-0 or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWqI0U3pBdA).
I put together ten commandments that would become SF Dogma 10, where audience accessibility and easing production were the motivators. Sam and I wrote some scripts that adhered to the rules. (These scripts are available for download under the resources section of the SF Dogma 10 project page.)
And now I give the rules to the world.
Let it be known that to attain SF Dogma 10 compliance, the script and finished film must accede with the following ten commandments:
1. The film must contain some element of Weird or so-called Science Fiction.
This can be plot, setting, or dialogue.
2. The title must not contain any made up words.
This first point is to lower the boundary of entry for audiences that are not traditional SF readers/obsessers. As soon as they see a word they don’t understand, the mind has to work harder to interpret it. Some people revel in that. Some do not. In the interests of casting the net for an audience as wide as we can, work harder on your title.
– The Call of Cthulhu
– The Belgariad, The Malloreon, The Ellunium, The Eddingsificationplex
– “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman
– The Illustrated Man
– Snow Crash
– Darwin’s Radio
– Jennifer Government
– The City & The City
3. Filming must be done on location. Sets must not be constructed.
Only film a nuclear reactor core if you have access to a real nuclear facility. Don’t build it in your kitchen with cardboard and tin foil. Settings must be real locations: kitchens, cafes, town libraries, pubs, parks, etc. This not only lowers the boundary for entry for viewers (who tend to scoff at Doctor Who low production values and miss the story) but also lowers time and monetary costs for producers.
4. Computer Generated Imagery is forbidden.
I know that there are many tools that are available, but could end up looking worse than a faked set. Embrace Christopher Nolan who, where possible, goes for mechanical shots rather than painting the screen with CGI.
5. No soundtrack music.
Ever seen The Wire? Like that.
6. No visually alien/temporal settings.
The look of it is Now. It could be that it’s set in a future where it’s modelled it to look like Now. But otherwise Now. This does not refer to physical settings. It could be set in a biodome on Venus that happens to look like a Melbourne office block.
7. The film must not contain any elements from other works, save those in the public domain and under Creative Commons licence.
No fan movies of Star Trek.
8. Not to feature any labcoats, save for locations or circumstances where labcoats are actually worn.
Let’s kill that cliché right here.
9. The film and script must be made available under the Creative Commons license.
More on this point later.
10. The final film must be no longer than 10 minutes.
Say what you need to and get out of there.