This afternoon, screenwriter Roberto Orci hosted a panel with director Jon Favreau about their upcoming alien-Cowboy mash-up Cowboys & Aliens after which, Orci conducted select press interviews.

In our interview, we managed to mine for a  few tidbits and teases about the sequel to 2009’s phenomenally successful reboot Star Trek.

One of the goals that Cowboys & Aliens has set for itself is to take a fantastical, even outlandish circumstance, and then act as if it were really happening — so that the humor and excitement is born out of the genuine human reactions – rather than mocking or “getting cute” with the material. Orci has had a fair amount of experience working within the framework of an expansive storyline, experience that lent itself to the creation of Cowboys & Aliens. “You start to learn what works and what doesn’t work from before,” Orci explained.

“But every time you go out there, it’s the same blank page, and it’s the same horrible process. But in all of the genre stuff we do, we always say, what is the little theme that would be an independent movie if you didn’t have robots or space ships or Klingons? And if you have that story, then maybe you’re on the right track. In Star Trek, it’s a brotherhood of opposites that have to come together. In Transformers, it’s a kid growing up to adulthood. In this, we wanted to make sure we found the same kind of character starting place that allows everything else to happen around it.”

As far as beginning with a blank slate is concerned, the first Star Trek movie, in a sense, cleared the deck for this current iteration of the franchise to explore the world with a new set of actors, and a fresh tone. When asked how Star Trek 2 will expand on what was created with the first film Orci responded:

“I think we get to be a little bit more daring with the theme. The first one had to be an origin story – or we felt it had to be an origin story – it was kind of ‘Star Trek Zero’ – how did it all start? So to do that organically, you had to get each character in his or her place. Now, they’re all together from the beginning, and so now they’re all going to face, I think, a theme that is different and potentially more challenging than just: they met and they’re kind of facing this force of nature in Nero. So the theme of their family is going to be something great to explore that you don’t get in the first movie.”

Although Star Trek was overwhelmingly well received, there have been some fan complaints. As a result, Orci enjoys engaging with the fans – and, in response, makes meta references to the criticism in his scripts.

“Because I do see what fans think online, very much in ‘Star Trek,’ it is a sequel that you can genuinely say that the fans are consultants on. Now they’re caught up with us, they know exactly what the first movie was, and any one of them could go out now and generate a couple of story ideas for what this could be. So it’s a fun guessing game, and you do get to incorporate some of the complaints – you cannot just answer them, but voice them in the movie. I enjoy that – I enjoy seeing what people say, even if it’s super nasty.”

Orci also offered an example of a potential response the film might make to a popular critique of the film:

“Yes. Well, some people thought Kirk, did he become Captain too fast? It’s easy to think of, well, we’ll look through a place in the story – without giving anything in the story away – where someone can look at him sideways and go, “you sure became Captain fast!” And for anyone to say that, whether we do or not, that’s just an example. I’m not saying if for sure we’ll do that, you can do those kinds of things and suddenly your criticism is part of the movie, and it’s kind of fun if you’re a fan to see that incorporated.”

With multiple projects in the production pipeline, Orci has become a master of time management, and finds that switching focus can actually assist his creative process, though there are of course challenges:

“The hardest part is time. But in terms of your mind, it’s actually nice to get away from stuff you’re doing, you get a little bit of perspective and time gets elongated when you’re thinking about something else. If I spend two days thinking about ‘Star Trek’ instead of this movie, when I come back to this movie, it’s like I’ve been gone two weeks, and it allows me to come back fresher, so it surprisingly helps each other.”

Star Trek 2 is scheduled for release on June 29th 2012.

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