J. D. (John Daniel) Payne is a scriptwriter who made headlines in 2014 when he was selected as one of three writers who will write the screenplay for the next Star Trek film.
Payne is originally from McLean, Virginia, and a graduate of Yale University. He began his studies at Yale in applied physics engineering because of his love of the sciences. He also loved science fiction, and by the time he had finished high school, he had written a novel, several plays, short stories, and a bunch of poetry. Although he loved writing, he felt he should pursue a responsible career in the sciences.
While serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, he was drawn to the power of individual life stories. Back at Yale after his mission, he continued his studies in science, uncertain how he could ever make a living as a writer. He switched to English when he noticed that he was stealing time from his problem sets to work on his screenplays.
After graduation, he lived at home for seven months while he polished a few scripts. His mother drove with him from Washington, D. C. to Utah, and then flew home, leaving him to drive the rest of the way to California by himself. He worked as a private tutor while he wrote.
Payne and his longtime writing partner, Patrick McKay, began collaborating in high school. While they were both attending universities in the Northeast, an L.A.-based producer came to Yale, and after his presentation, solicited pitches. Payne pitched an idea he and McKay had been tossing around. The producer asked him how soon he could get that to him and Payne responded with “Two weeks.” They had never previously written a screenplay and didn’t know how to do it, but on their spring break the following week, they produced their first script.
The Star Trek script will be their seventeenth script together, although only seven of those have officially been in development at a production company and studio.
Payne and McKay have done a few projects with J. J. Abrams’ company Bad Robot. The offer to write the Star Trek Three screenplay came through that working relationship.
Start Trek Three is set to release in 2016, which is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek’s initial TV release.
Payne lives in Los Angeles with his wife Rachel, an opera singer and actress.