Cosmic Castaways – Writing the Script

By on October 24, 2013 in

We spent an enormous amount of time working on the script for Cosmic Castaways – almost as much as time as it took to render the show. When we were writing the first draft of our show script, I was reading a book from Seth Godin called Linchpin, which is a manifesto on creativity and shipping projects out the door.  One passage from the book had a strong influence on me:

Seth-Godin-Linchpin-270x170Any project worth doing involves invention, inspiration, and at least a little bit of  making stuff up.  Traditionally, we start with an inkling, adding more and more detail as we approach the ship date.  And the closer we get to shipping, the more thrashing occurs.  Thrashing is the apparently productive brainstorming and tweaking we do for a project as it develops.  Thrashing might mean changing the user interface or rewriting an introductory paragraph.  Sometimes thrashing is merely a tweak; other times it involves major surgery.

Thrashing is essential.  The question is: when to thrash?

In a typical amateur project, all the thrashing is near the end.  The closer we get to shipping, the more people get involved, the more meetings we have, the more likely the CEO wants to be involved.  And why not?  What’s the point of getting involved early when you can’t see what’s already done and your work will be redone anyway?

The point of getting everyone involved early is simple: thrash late and you won’t ship. Thrash late and you introduce bugs.  Professional creators thrash early.  The closer the project gets to completion, the fewer people see it and the fewer changes are permitted.

We tried to do all of our thrashing early, and once we had all agreed on the script, we did not make major changes. I think this really helped the final show.

One of the other things we also did early on that really helped was to all agree on some basic principles as to what we wanted in the show. Those principles were:

  • The show must be as scientifically accurate as possible.
  • The show must be entertaining for a general audience.
  • The show should focus on a few key ideas – three or less.
  • The show should be “evergreen” – not depend on date-specific information.
  • The show should be compatible with K-12 educational standards, so that planetaria can use it to show to children.
  • The show should be convertible into the different all-dome formats, and eventually on online video, such as You Tube or Vimeo.
  • The show should be as visually interesting as we can get it.
  • The show should be open to feedback in all phases, so that we can improve it, and get useful feedback for any potential future shows.
  • The show should be organized so that if we did get additional funding or help, we could improve the production values.

The final version of the script can be found here. In addition, we did put together a simple story board using PowerPoint for each scene.

Science on the Half Sphere’s first full-length planetarium show is Cosmic Castaways.  In this series of posts, we will talk about how the show was made.  The goal is to help other people interested in making full-dome planetarium shows see what we did, and hopefully avoid our mistakes!

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