One of my favorite aspects of Star Trek fan films (and fan films in general) is the sheer variety you get from all of the different fan productions. Even from the same group—such as the uber-prolific folks at POTEMKIN PICTURES who have released upwards of seven dozen individual fan films (you can view them all here)—there are still surprises to be had. As DeForest Gump once said, “Fan films are like a box of Spican flame gems…you never know what you’re gonna get.” (Okay, I just made that up.)
Anyway, I had one of those very pleasant surprises when I watched the recently-released second fan film from Potemkin Pictures‘ newest film Creative Group, STARSHIP WEBSTER, under the watchful eye of show-runner RANDY LANDERS, now living in Lexington, Kentucky. The 7-minute vignette is titled “A Voice in the Dark” and features a character alone in his quarters recording a series of log journal entries. That might not seem overly impressive but for one notable thing: the entire fan film, all of the monologue, is delivered in a single take! And the performance is surprisingly solid for a fan film, suggesting a fair amount of acting experience.
Take a look…
Randy explained to me that the script was written by BILLY SWANSON, one of the members of the new Starship Webster Creative Group, and the actor playing the main role of Commander Robert Hawkins. Initially, the producers in the group came up with the idea of doing a series of shorts to introduce the crew, ultimately intended for no-contact filming during the pandemic. Billy created a one-person character-study, wrote an outline of what he wanted to do, practiced it, and recorded it into his phone.
Randy took a watch and loved the vignette; it was a great look at his character’s backstory. The only problem was that it seemed like it was filmed on a cell phone in someone’s bedroom. So Randy asked Billy to come to the studio to film it using Randy’s lighting, green screens, camera, and sound equipment. Randy set up the green screen and a table for the bed, a chair from the bridge set, and a uniform. He set up the camera and the mics, lined Billy up, and turned the equipment on. Then Randy walked 10 feet across the room, sat in their remaining captain’s chair, and watched Billy do his thing.
So Billy was literally the actor, writer, and director. It was one single continuous shot, so there really wasn’t much for Randy to do except adjust the lighting, add the VFX for the officer’s quarters, and make sure it looked good in post. Randy provided the following comment…
“He did three performances of the same play, each consecutively longer. I prepped all three by keying in the officer’s bed from ST:TMP, played with the lighting a little, then sent them to him. Billy chose the third performance (which I agreed was the strongest), and we tweaked the lighting a little more. We added a little music from a local musician, and a variation of the Webster theme from another local musician. We vetted it and released it. It’s possibly one of the quickest releases we’ve ever had. It’s a tour de force for him, in my opinion.”
Billy himself provided some insight on his own acting background and training, his experience with conventions and cosplay, and most interesting of all, his brief work as a professional wrestler!
I was always enamored with the rough and tumble heroes of the popular movies of my childhood, and when I found out at the age of 3, that people could do that for a living, I was locked in. So lots of Star Trek V, Indiana Jones, Batman, and Total Recall influence there.
Since then, I’ve followed that path as best I could, with theatre camps as a kid, high school plays, and a college career in theatre arts. Here and there, I’ve bounced around the scene of Lexington, KY theatre and filmmaking, but I always had a hard time getting into projects that fit with my “Working Joe” job schedules.
One of my proudest theatrical works was with a play about wrestling titled The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, where I played all of the jobber wrestlers in the show. I also received a radial torsion fracture that required a titanium plate and nine screws for my left arm, because this was before my proper wrestling education (and that is a common greenhorn botch).
I had become a lifelong fan during the late 90’s during the “Attitude Era,” doing backyard wrestling matches and whatnot as a kid until it was time for college. The agreement with my parents was that I was going to do a semester at UK (University of Kentucky), and then I could go for my pick of wrestling schools. This was around 2004/5, and a lot of family emergencies sorta derailed those plans.
I kept up the physicality, and eventually one of my good friends—professional wrestler Bishop Blake—clued me into an opportunity to train and work in Paris,KY. I did a bit of proper training and had some fun…bucket list matches before I left.
ON COSPLAY AND CONVENTIONS…
I largely stick to the Lexington Comic and Toy Con (LCTC), partially because it is local, and partially because I can’t afford much more. I’ve been attending that con since 2013, and it is always a special occasion where I really let loose, especially when in costume/character.
My Webster character has its roots in cosplay, as his rank and big red coat were formed for a Trek cosplay. Obviously, Hawk has grown beyond that rough draft a bit, but he’s been knocking around in my head for a while.
I’m always down to get silly with the various communities—like the Star Wars one—and interact with fans, booths, and artists to really get the energy up. I love playing around with like-minded convention goers and acting a fool in character for days at a time. I’ve only hijacked panels, like splitting a shot of fine bourbon with the Comic Book Men and agreeing with William Shatner on Star Trek V being not so bad. Before the pandemic, things were in motion to bring that energy to the Webster Group and LCTC, but there it is.