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Fan Film Friday – Interview with Arianna & Christopher Andrews of ARIANNA’S ENTEPRISE

By July 27, 2018 Fan Films

At the beginning of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Admiral Kirk quips, “Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young…”  If he only knew!

Hot off the heels of the adorable and well-crafted Cerbasi Trek (starring brothers Peter and Nicholas Cerbasi, 12 and 9 years old, respectively), the captains just keep getting younger as 8-year-old ARIANNA ANDREWS takes the center seat in ARIANNA’S ENTERPRISE…an equally-impressive 6-minute fan film.

This isn’t Arianna’s first time in front of the camera, though.  Her first fan film came out three years ago back when Arianna was only 5 years old.  And while the view totals for most of her releases are only in the hundreds, her 13-minute Coraline 2 fan film has nearly 2 million views!  You can watch her earlier work by clicking here.  But right now, let’s take a look at how Arianna handled her first visit to the 24th century…

As a dad myself, I smiled the whole time as I watched this adorable little girl put in a top-notch acting performance along with her father (a professional actor and writer) and her mom.  I reached out to Arianna’s daddy, CHRISTOPHER ANDREWS, with enthusiastic praise and some questions for him and his daughter.

Arianna went first, and yes, these are her actual answers…

Arianna Andrews in the command chair and Christopher Andrews at tactical

JONATHAN – I just loved your fan film, Arianna!  Even at the age of 8, you’re a really good actor.  Do you take any acting lessons?

ARIANNA – I don’t take any *classes* for acting.  But my dad teaches me on what to do on some of the films.

JONATHAN – I see that you’ve also come up with the stories for some of the fan films that you’ve appeared in.  Which do you like more: creating stories for fan films or acting in them?

ARIANNA – Acting in them!

JONATHAN – Would you like to be an actor (or a writer) when you grow up…just like your daddy?

ARIANNA – Right now, I actually want to be an astronaut when I grow up, to study rocks in space.

JONATHAN – Awesome!  I think you’ll make a fantastic astronaut.  So besides acting, what else do you do on set to help out while filming?

ARIANNA – I do whatever my dad asks.

JONATHAN – What made you first want to start making fan films?

ARIANNA – I was interested in being in one of the movies, so I did my *own* movies.

JONATHAN – Speaking of which, your Coraline 2 fan film has been viewed nearly 2 MILLION times…and it stars YOU!  How does it feel to be such an Internet hit?

ARIANNA – I feel like I’m an adult already!

JONATHAN – How did you prepare for your role in Arianna’s Enterprise?  Did you watch the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” a lot of times and really study how Captain Picard delivered his lines?  Or did you just decide to do it all by yourself in your own way?  Or maybe a little of both?

ARIANNA – I studied “Yesterday’s Enterprise” to work on the *speed* of the lines, then did a little of my own.

JONATHAN – Did you learn all of your lines before shooting everything?  Or did you learn the lines one bit at a time for each scene as you were shooting them?

ARIANNA – I learned everything first.  Daddy and I would practice in the car.

JONATHAN – Are you a fan of Star Trek?  Have you watched a lot of episodes?  If so, which Star Trek series have you watched, and who is your favorite Star Trek character?

ARIANNA – Yes, I love Star Trek!  I’ve watched all of the first series and the animated series and the original movies, and now I’m watching The Next Generation with my parents.  I like the original series best so far.  My favorite character is Kirk.

JONATHAN – Was it hard work filming Arianna’s Enterprise… or were you having too much fun to think it was hard work?

ARIANNA – It was fun!

JONATHAN –  How long did it take to film all of your scenes in total?

ARIANNA – I spent two days filming my scenes, but I read my lines off-camera for all the other actors, too.

JONATHAN – What is the most difficult thing about acting in front of a green screen?

ARIANNA – My ponytail could be a problem, because the green screen sometimes showed through it, and suddenly my ponytail disappears!

JONATHAN – What do you think your next fan film project(s) will be?

ARIANNA – We have a short Halloween video to do, and then we’re making a sequel to “Arianna’s Duel.” And after that I would like to do a Supergirl video.

JONATHAN – Now that you’re officially a fan filmmaker, Arianna, do you have any special message you’d like to share with other fan filmmakers out there?

ARIANNA – Have fun!

And here’s some questions I asked Daddy…

JONATHAN – Okay, the first question I just HAVE to ask is about the two characters in in the film who look almost exactly alike.  In the credits, there is both a Christopher Andrews and a Daniel Andrews.  Your IMDb page lists your given name as Daniel Christopher Andrews.  Are you using two different names in the credits, or do you have an amazing look-a-like identical twin brother?

CHRISTOPHER – LOL.  It’s just me.  Crediting both “Christopher Andrews” and “Daniel Andrews” started back with Batgirl Begins, where I did play twin brothers. Doing that, as well as listing “Daddy as Himself,” served to spread out the credits—at least a little bit—so that everything wasn’t “Christopher Andrews” over and over again.

JONATHAN – My apologies in advance for this next question, but it’s an important one to ask.  Based on certain aspects of your production, including the title and the legalese at the end, it seems that you are familiar with the Star Trek fan film guidelines.  Guideline #3 states: “The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production.”  You’re recreating the climactic sequence from “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and including clips from that episode.  Did you decide to just roll the dice on that one and assume the studios aren’t going to want to bother with the inevitable headline, “CBS and Paramount Sue Adorable 8-Year-Old Trekkie”?

CHRISTOPHER – Yeah, I must admit, I lost track of…shall we say…the “nuances” of Rule #3 as the project grew.  I mean, I knew we were, technically, doing a recreation, but I’d hoped that changing some of the dialogue and nearly all of the characters might help distinguish ourselves.

Having said that, I realize, in retrospect, that we crossed the line by using the exterior shots (with some modifications), and especially putting LeVar Burton on the main viewer.  I do hope that CBS/Paramount will forgive us.

And the “legalese” at the end is true.  We are doing this for Arianna’s enjoyment, not to benefit financially in any way (we do not attempt to monetize our YouTube videos).  So…please don’t sue us!

JONATHAN – Personally, I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about, Christopher.  So what made you, your wife, and your daughter first start creating fan films?

CHRISTOPHER – A few years ago, I was explaining to Arianna how green screens and motion-capture work, and she asked if we could do something like that. I figured, why not?

That first project, Arianna Meets Tin-Tin, was fairly simple, inserting her into clips from the movie The Adventures of Tin-Tin.

Arianna with Tin-Tin

Then, for Arianna Meets Toy Story, we dropped her into the climax of Toy Story 3.

After *that* … things stepped up a notch.

Arianna asked if I could put her into Star Wars. So I was thinking about where I could drop her in next to R2-D2 or whatnot.  And then it occurred to me how isolated the actors/characters are when they’re in their X-wings.  So we made Arianna Meets Star Wars (which, sadly, has been blocked on YouTube), where I replaced all of Mark Hamill’s shots with Arianna—but she wasn’t playing “Luke Skywalker,” she was *Arianna* Skywalker.

That’s how the ball got rolling, and we haven’t stopped since.

Arianna Skywalker

JONATHAN – What led you to choose Star Trek: The Next Generation as your latest fan production…and more specifically, why a recreation of the finale to “Yesterday’s Enterprise” rather than some other episode or something original?

CHRISTOPHER – Somewhere between Batgirl Begins and Coraline 2, Arianna started asking about doing a Star Trek fan film.  We did a quick-and-easy video where she “beamed” into our kitchen, but that wasn’t enough to scratch her itch.

We had started watching The Next Generation together by that point, so that’s where my brain was.  I, again, tried to think of simple places to drop her into the show, but her expectations have grown a little beyond that.

Then I started thinking about “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” because that episode was coming up soon, and it had always had a special place in my memory, being one of the first TNG episodes where the action got “intense.”

Arianna had not come up with any specific/original Star Trek story ideas of her own, and she enjoyed “Yesterday’s Enterprise” very much once she watched it.  And when I located a CGI recreation of the TNG set, I thought, “Why not reenact the climax of that episode?”  And it evolved from there.

JONATHAN – How familiar are you with other Star Trek fan films and series?  Which is/are you favorite(s)?

CHRISTOPHER – I’ve seen a few of them over the years.  My favorite is probably Star Wreck, the Finnish fan-series created by Samuli Torssonen. I love how that series went from looking extremely crude in 1992 to near-professional quality by 2005.

JONATHAN – That was one of the very first fan films I’d ever seen online.  (I definitely need to do a blog about that one!)

In your “Behind the Scenes” video for Arianna’s Enterprise, you show the layers of compositing that went into your finished product…full of people on the bridge with those in the back softer and out of focus.  What application did you use for that, and how long did the editing process take for the full video?

CHRISTOPHER – Adobe After Effects—and a specific plug-in, Keylight 1.2—were responsible for all the compositing.

We estimate that we spent around 300 hours working on Arianna’s Enterprise, but that’s a grand total…including all the filming with the green screen and so on.  Calendar-wise, it took over 2 months (not counting a short “practice run” we did last year).

It’s difficult to separate what percentage was specifically in editing, because it all overlapped.  For instance, we filmed most of the background characters on our first filming day—Yvonne-Red, Michael-Gold-1, Christopher-Red, etc. (almost all of our filming was done on a series of Saturdays).  Then, during the week before our next filming day, I started compositing the shots, to get a feeling for heights, angles, and proportions beyond what story-boarding could do.

We filmed over six different Saturdays and one Sunday, and editing was taking place during all of it.

JONATHAN – You’re an accomplished actor and writer, Christopher.  But you obviously have additional talents for directing and post-production.  What is your training in the latter two?  Did you study things like compositing in school, do you do it professionally, or did you just pick it up along the way?

CHRISTOPHER – I’ve had no formal training in either directing or compositing, though I’ve been fortunate enough to work with talented directors, especially Jonathan Lawrence.

I learned some of the basics of Adobe After Effects by osmosis, and later more specific tricks from Video Co-Pilot.  I also learned a lot about green-screening from the behind-the-scenes videos of Sin City, and again, from Video Co-Pilot.

The only professional directing/editing jobs I’ve had were for a trio of Pilates videos, the “Pilates-4” series.  Beyond that, it’s all been fan films and other personal projects.

JONATHAN – It looks like “Mutti” is really into all of this, as well.  Is your wife an actor, too, or involved in the entertainment industry in some way?  Or is she just totally patient and supportive?  Or both???

Arianna’s “mutti” (mother), Yvonne Isaak-Andrews

CHRISTOPHER – Yvonne has dipped her toes into the entertainment industry, though she’s usually behind the scenes.  For instance, back when I was doing community theatre, she would often serve as stage manager.  Likewise with all of our video projects; she truly is my co-producer.

It also helps that she, too, is a huge Trekkie and loves science-fiction, superheroes, and so on.

JONATHAN – Do you and Arianna and “Mutti” (Yvonne) foresee making more fan films…and if so, what genre(s) do you think you’ll be tacking next?

CHRISTOPHER – Yvonne and I will keep doing these as long as Arianna remains interested and continues to have fun.  As Arianna noted above, our next couple of projects are already planned out, though we do tackle them one at a time (usually).

The one sub-genre Arianna and I have discussed that we have not yet touched would be fan-trailers—making fun, pretend trailers that appear to represent feature films, but are really *just* the trailer (John Fiorella’s Grayson would be my favorite example).

Auralnauts put out a great “How To Make a Blockbuster Movie Trailer” video, and we’ve talked about how that could be a fun way to make her third “Arianna’s Duel” video.

The only drawback: viewers who don’t “get it” might start expecting/demanding actual finished products to match our faux-trailers! So that’s something we’ll have to consider, too.

JONATHAN – So what was it like directing your own daughter?  Some of your productions—like Coraline 2—must have been very demanding for a youngster to film.  How did Arianna handle the challenges of learning her lines, dealing with multiple takes and the occasional line flubs, and all of the other minutiae that must go into even the simplest productions?

CHRISTOPHER – Arianna has been great to work with, but she *is* just a child.  I learned early on that it was best to encourage goofiness from time to time.  In the “Behind the Scenes” of Arianna’s Enterprise, you’ll notice that 3 of her 4 outtakes were deliberately provoked by me.  The same goes for Arianna Meets Star Wars – Behind the Scenes (which is still viewable on YouTube).

Letting her know that it’s okay to act silly sometimes kept things fun and made it “sting” a little less when I had to reign her in.

It’s also been wonderful watching her acting grow over time.  She’s just a kid, yes, but I noticed a big jump from Coraline 2, where she was sometimes just saying the words, to Arianna’s Enterprise, where she was really getting into the part.

JONATHAN – Well, as one dad to another, let me say that I think you’ve got a wonderfully talented daughter and a really great kid there, Christopher.  I can’t wait to see what Arianna and her “team” produce next!

CHRISTOPHER – Thank you so much for your kind words, Jonathan.  We appreciate your interest and support.

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