For this assignment we were given the task to create a schematic that illustrates the story plots of all the characters in J.J. Abrams’s “Star Trek“, when they are both on and off screen. Basically, so we could theoretically create a new movie from the same events. This was to give us an insight into the complexity involved in a successful narrative.
Luckily, I really loved this movie. I’m a total sci-fi freak
I love anything to do with space, aliens and explosions… Chris Pine ain’t too bad either! I get to work on this project with my previous team (Hollie and Niamh).
Our lecturer, Conánn, gave us Noah Hawley’s TV series adaptation of “Fargo“ (written by Joel and Ethan Coen 1966) as an example. Each season of the TV adaption has an anthology format (a different story and characters each episode or season – “American Horror Story” is a prime example that has an anthology format although it maintains the same cast the whole way through), being set in a different era along with a different story, cast, and set of characters.
“I like the idea that somewhere out there is a big, leather-bound book that’s the history of true crime in the Midwest… You can turn the pages of this book, and you just find this collection of stories. … But I like the idea that these things are connected somehow, whether it’s linearly or literally or thematically. That’s what we play around with.” – Noah Hawley
In a typical linear story, the audience only sees certain parts of the “central” characters’ story but all around them – what they don’t get to see – are the rest of the characters’ and their own stories. A schematic would allow us to plan out the unseen events of the peripheral characters. This schematic would be a great aid to a director who wanted to make the same movie from a different perspective or even a different movie from the same events.
The filmmakers sought inspiration from novels such as Prime Directive, Spock’s World and Best Destiny to fill in gaps unexplained by canon; Best Destiny particularly explores Kirk’s childhood and names his parents.
So a schematic is simple diagram. It’s a representation of all the elements of a system (in this case, characters) using symbols or pictures. It can be a blueprint or a map but in this case it’s a timeline.
The London underground was designed in the 30’s by engineering draftsman, Harry Beck, who based the map on electrical circuits. Is there something in the movie that we can base our schematic on?
The London underground was redesigned by a map expert (Max Roberts) into a more curved version:
Upon reading through his site I discovered this image and I thought it would be cool to represent our schematic physically rather than just a flat image:
We could also model a schematic on Maya, light it up, animate a few bits and turn it into a gif. Would be pretty cool!
I looked up map art and found these:
Maybe we could do something with layers; print timelines on transparent paper and put them together to reveal the Star Trek badge or something else iconic to the film?
There is this website that lets you design your own underground, you can change the names of stations and everything! It will come in handy if we want to alter the shape of our timeline.
I went through some of the second years’ blogs to see how they tackled this project. On Aisling’s I found a spreadsheet that her team made to categorise the notes for the movie but also to have a visual representation of the missing events that they would need to create for some characters at certain points in the movie.
We watched the movie and took notes of what the characters were doing at each major plot point. I did this on a spreadsheet so when my team met up we were able to transfer all our notes onto it. Niamh managed to transfer all the notes into the table and go more in-depth. This helped us later on to get accurate placement when deciding the off-screen events.
Star_Trek_movie_notes (On screen appearances and notes.)
Once we had all the on-screen events down, Hollie and I started working on the off-screen points for the characters. To save time we then decided to split the remaining characters between the three of us.
This movie is quite tricky as it involves an alternate reality. Spock (Prime) travels back in time and changes the course of history, therefore creating an alternative reality (in which Spock and Kirk aren’t friends yet) that is the course of the movie!
Movie plot timeline:
Once we had our notes arranged, I drew it out on paper to get an actual idea of what it will look like.
We then started researching into how we were going to visually represent it. Niamh showed us images of the traditional Enterprise consoles from the original series:
I don’t think we could really arrange our schematic into a recognisable shape, that has anything to do with Star Trek, without changing the layout – and after all the work put into figuring it out, I wouldn’t want to try!
We wanted icons to represent important points in the movie and Niamh suggested looking at the game “Dragon Age Inquisition” as it has pictures to represent key plot points within the interactive story:
I love the simplicity and colours and the grittiness makes it really interesting!
“Shrek” is another example. At the start of the movie the protagonist (Shrek) is reading a storybook that sets the scene and prepares the audience for the story that will take place:
yet slightly more distant example is the opening sequence for “Game Of Thrones”. The sequence changes for every episode depending on the locations visited within the show; it represents the locations of the story instead of events in the narrative.
I found a minimalist artist who had done some posters for “Star Trek”, Nicolas Beaujouan:
This page contains minimalist artwork (and their artists) focusing on the Star Trek universe. This is one of my favourites:
Marie Bergeron uses two predominant colours in her art. After watching “Star Trek”, I noticed that that film has two key colours; orange and blue. This delicate balance of opposing warm and cool is disrupted by, dominantly green, Romulan scenes. Scott Chambliss (production designer) was inspired by the architect, Antoni Gaudí and uses bright colours to reflect the optimism of Star Trek, as well as using the original TV series’ control monitor’s colour scheme to bring across the retro-futuristic style.
Patrick Connan is another minimal artist but in contrast to Bergeron, uses simpler and more solid shapes – which we think is better suited for our schematic:
James White is another minimalistic artist who focuses on retro futuristic art:
His work varies in style but I really like his Star Trek one (just like the Dragon Age cards).
Hollie looked at map symbols for the schematic trails:
With our schematic draft down on paper, Niamh converted it into a digital version using Adobe InDesign. I designed the icons for each of the 20 characters while Hollie did the icons for the major plot points. Some of my initial icon ideas for Kirk:
We all liked the last design and it was the best choice in terms of the amount of time we had to complete the project. It’s based off the promotional poster:
Here are all the character icons for the schematic. I painted the space backdrop as well as the badge layer and for the faces I filtered over images from the movie itself. The colours are of that from their shirts in the original TV series:
These are Hollie’s icons for the major plot points in the film:
Our Trello research board.
So here’s our final schematic and the presentation we gave on this project!