They have been referred to here as the current ‘Supreme Court’ of Star Trek, but the collaboration between JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Bryan Burk, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman goes far beyond the final frontier. Today’s Variety has a lengthy feature on Abrams team and how they have come together to create projects that are at the top of the Hollywood buzz list, including some insights into the process of creating the new Star Trek movie. Excerpts below.
The Abrams ‘Cabal’
In the feature "Abrams keeps it all in the fan family", Variety explores how JJ Abrams has maintained a cadre of creative talent for his various projects, noting that he is "a magnet for like-minded creatives who share his professional DNA: hard-working, prolific anti-elitists who revel in pop culture and strive to deliver highly commercial fare with flair." Variety refers to this group, which includes the Star Trek ‘Supreme Court’ as well as others as "a tightly knit creative cabal that continues to work frequently with one another."
Damon Lindelof (producer on Star Trek and show-runner for Lost) explains:
Lindelof: We’re the first generation of fanboys who are now in a position to make (films and TV shows) for each other — stuff that we’d want to watch ourselves
Writer Alex Kurtzman (collaborator with Abrams on Alias, M:I:III, Star Trek & Fringe) elaborates:
Kutzman: What’s made us all come together in a way is that we recognize each other as long-lost brothers. We were influenced by the same things growing up. I think that on some level, we are all attempting to replicate the emotions that we felt with the movies we saw as kids. We come to story from a similar place.
Kurtzman’s writing partner Roberto Orci explains how this place they come from is the belief that character is as important as f/x and plot twists:
Orci: When your audience is only thinking about the sci-fi or the fantasy part of your movie, you’re in trouble. You have to connect on an emotional level.
The Star Trek Collaboration
The article also goes into some detail on how the collaboration worked while they were making Star Trek:
Another shared trait among the group is what Abrams calls "that sick workaholic gene" and a work ethic — honed in the grind of episodic television — that thrives on collaboration. Abrams, Kurtzman, Orci, Lindelof and Burk spent many hours together hashing out the basic story for the "Star Trek" reboot — knowing what a tricky assignment they had on their hands — while Kurtzman and Orci would bring the group pages to review as they progressed on the screenplay.
The continued emphasis was to make the pic work as a buddy drama even for non-"Star Trek" aficionados.
"You try different things on," Lindelof says. "You can’t be afraid to mess up. … And we argue with each other all that time. That’s what is good about the process."
Says Orci: "The best idea wins. Collaboration wins. It’s not about individual achievement when we get together."
And the same team will be back for the second Star Trek, this time with Lindelof working even closer with Bob and Alex on the story. But we still don’t know if Abrams will continue double duty as producer and director, or if he will bring in a new director.
The Supreme Court and their Spocks: (L-R) Roberto Orci, Leonard Nimoy, Damon Lindelof, Zachary Quinto, J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Bryan Burk.
(w/ Stratton Leopold on far right, early unit production manager on Star Trek)
Photo: Al Ortega – ComicCon 2007