I had the pleasure of speaking to Andre Bormanis. Andre was not only a Science Consultant, Writer and Producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, he is also an extremely accomplished and interesting guy in other ways!
A few weeks ago I managed to catch up with Andre as he is working on a few different writing projects and combing Hollywood for his next major gig!
Andre! It’s a pleasure to have you for an interview at SebRT.com – I don’t say this to everyone, but ever since I first saw you interviewed, I have wanted to talk to you.
We know what the job title was, but what exactly did you do on Star Trek?
I started as the science consultant on the final season of ST:TNG. I wrote about a half a dozen episodes of Voyager. I was brought on as a full time writer on Enterprise in 2001, and became a co-producer on that show during its fourth season.
I understand you worked as a writer on Brannon Braga’s Threshold. What would have happened if the show had not been cancelled after 13 episodes?
Threshold was a lot of fun. It was a terrific show…we had a great cast! It was a wonderful experience working on that, an opportunity to write a show set in the present day, which was a nice change of pace from Star Trek. I thought it was a terrific idea, based on this “contingency plan” that [lead character Molly Caffrey] created. She had to put together a group of mis-fit scientists. Clearly not squeaky clean! The character dynamics were just terrific. Unfortunately we only got to do 13 episodes. I would love to do a show like that again.
The plan that Molly created anticipated three phases if the aliens who contacted us were hostile. If the aliens established a base of operations on Earth we’d go to phase 2: Foothold. That was kind of what we imagined season 2 of the show would be about. If they actually ended up capturing most of the Earth we’d move to phase 3: Stranglehold. The human remnants would be fighting a guerrilla action against the aliens to take back the planet. That was just sort of a very rough outline of how the series might have developed. When you’re writing a TV show you can only get so far ahead of yourself! You don’t want to put yourself in a straight jacket and make the show dictated rather than written. You can buy the DVD box set, I encourage you all to do that J!
Describe a day in the life of a writer / producer on Star Trek.
Mostly my responsibilities involved developing stories, writing stories, and writing and re-writing scripts. At any given time there were 7 or 8 people on staff. For the first two seasons of Enterprise we did 26 episodes each season and we had to have a new script ready roughly every 10 days or so. We started writing about 5 weeks before the season began production. We had several stories figured out, initially; we tried to be 5 scripts ahead. As the season went on we tended to fall behind. The hard part is not writing the script, it’s coming up with the stories.
I understand that you have been working on a screenplay. What is it? And what is it about?
It’s a science fiction comedy. A two-hour, feature length movie. I wrote it with Clay Graham, who was the Executive Producer of The Drew Cary Show. We grew up together in Arizona. We wrote it last summer. It’s a present-day science fiction comedy about a group of people who meet in high school…they see a UFO… it haunts them. All of their plans for college and what they want to do with their lives fall apart. We move to 20 years later and the guys have become friends and are still kind of obsessed with this UFO. Then they see it again on CNN. The airforce says it’s a classified military experiment. Our guys know this is crap. So they decide to break into Area 51; they recruit a Vietnam veteran to get them in. Tonally it’s along the lines of Men in Black – that sort of humor.
I am holding your book “Star Trek Science Logs” – Interesting book. How did you come to write it?
It came out about ten years ago! I used to do a lot of magazine writing, popular science style. The science behind the science fiction was my job on Trek. I thought it would be fun to look at some of the science on the show and look at the basis in reality for some of the technology.
You had writing credit on an interesting episode of Star Trek Voyager, “Waking Moments.” What made you choose to write about dreaming? Do you dream lucidly yourself?
I used to have lucid dreams…I have not had them for a number of years now. I was thinking about a possible story for Chakotay. Given that he has a Native American heritage I thought this would be a good area for him. I pitched it to Jeri Taylor and then I sat down in the writers room and we broke the story. Ken Biller helped a lot on the script.
Did (Do) you find yourself gravitating to a particular character to write for?
On Star Trek: Voyager I really liked Seven of Nine, and Tuvok and Chakotay. On Enterprise, Phlox, Trip, Archer and T’Pol were fun to write for. As I evolved as a writer I started to devise stories as journeys and conflicts among the characters, rather than starting with a science fiction premise…
I understand you’re trying to get signed onto a new show at the moment. What shows would you like to work on? In what role?
My goal is to be a writer / producer again, as I was on Threshold. There are a lot of pilots being shot right now. There are several that look interesting. It is hard to say at this juncture what shows are going to get picked up. It’s a little early to start picking winners at this point. Bryan Fuller who worked on Voyager wrote a new pilot that looks really good. If that goes to series I would really like to work on it.
Tell me about The Planetary Society. I understand you work with Star Trek Voyager’s Robert Picardo there…
The Planetary Society was founded over twenty-five years ago by Carl Sagan to promote public interest in space science and exploration. Bob Picardo is on the Board. I’ve worked with them over the years as an informal consultant, and a writer for their magazine. We do a lot of public education, conferences, special events to celebrate milestones in space exploration – it’s a great group, well worth supporting. Check out their website at http://www.planetary.org.
What excites you about physics and astronomy?
So many things! The discovery of extra-solar planets – one was just found that could be “Class-M” as we used to say on Star Trek: Earth-like. There’s a new particle accelerator that’s being built in Europe that will hopefully answer some basic questions about the origin of matter. These are exciting times in science.
I understand that you are an accomplished pianist…what is your style?
Mid-nineteenth through early twentieth century classical, but I’ve been learning modern jazz lately too. I love Chopin, Satie, Ravel, Gershwin, and Burt Bacharach.
Can you recommend any books to people who want to do what you do?
In terms of writing for film and television, “Story” by Robert McKee is pretty good. You can also buy lots of published screenplays these days. Read all the classics: Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Chinatown, and anything else you can get your hands on. Pay close attention to how they’re written, particularly in terms of structure and dialog.
Do you have any advice or helpful tips for young people wanting to produce/write [for TV or film]?
Keep writing. The only way to get good at it is to do it day after day, year after year. Most of what anyone writes is junk. The people who eventually succeed are the ones who keep working, keep improving their craft.
One last question, I am asking everyone this at the moment: What are your thoughts about Star Trek XI and would you be interested in working on it?
I hope it’s a great success. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. I wouldn’t be particularly interested in working on it though. I spent thirteen years in the Star Trek universe. I’m interested in doing other things now.
What’s next for Andre Bormanis?
I wish I knew! But not knowing what’s next is part of the fun. Like most of our Star Trek characters, I believe that life should be an adventure. It’s not as much fun if you know everything that’s coming…
A very special thanks to you Andre for joining me, best of luck this season!
If you would like to find out more about Andre Bormanis or read his credits please see his profile on IMDB. If you have any questions please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and make any and all comments here with the comment button. Stay turned to SebRT.com for an interview with Robert Picardo, the holographic doctor!
Copyright 2007. Sebastian Prooth. http://www.SebRT.com