With INTERLUDE in the final month or so of post-production, my goal of making a Star Trek fan film is nearly complete. The trailer came out last month and seems to have been very well received by most people who didn’t mind the Space: 1999 music. (For those who did mind…well, the world didn’t end, did it?)
Back in November of 2018, my idea of making a fan film was just a crazy suggestion that I’d made to JOSHUA IRWIN, curious to see what a filmmaker of his abilities could do with the nearly-finished USS Ares bridge set to shoot on.
The next twelve months became a rollercoaster ride—starting off slowly and then accelerating as I began to crowd-fund and work through pre-production with Josh and VICTORIA FOX, our director. By the time we reached November of 2019, one year later, I silently prayed that we’d crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” because we had two full days of shooting planned, fifty people coming to the studio that weekend, and thousands and thousands of dollars had already been spent without the ability to afford a “do over” if we screwed anything up.
In this 2-part blog—likely the last until the premiere on July 25, 2020—I would like to share with all of you some of my most cherished memories of the November shoot. It was, unquestionably, the highlight of the entire filmmaking experience because that was when nearly everyone came together at one time.
During pre-production, by comparison, almost everyone worked either individually or in small groups, getting things ready for production. And after the footage was shot, things shifted to the director, editor, sound-mixer, composer, VFX person, and of course, the producer overseeing it all. But by that point, most of the time, much of the work was being done individually or, at most, in small groups holding production meetings via conference calls.
But it was at the film shoot(s) when all of the excitement happened and all hands—or most all of the hands—were on deck. So here are some of what were the biggest highlights for me personally during that magical weekend…
MY BIGGEST DONOR IS NOW MY BFF!
Has someone ever come into your life and you just feel as though you’ve known them forever? That’s the way it seemed when I met Ray for the first time that Friday afternoon. It felt like we’d been close friends through countless lifetimes and, after five or so decades in this life, had finally met up again and picked up right where we’d left off!
It didn’t start out that way, though. Back when the Interlude GoFundMe campaign was barely a month out of the starting gate, I woke up one morning to discover a $3,000 donation. Now pause for a second and think about that. Someone you’ve never met before or even heard of has just given you $3,000 to go make a Star Trek fan film. Folks, it was SURREAL! And to be honest, I had no idea what to say to this guy. I mean”Thank you!” didn’t seem to be nearly enough. But I had to start somewhere.
Naturally, Ray would be invited to the set and get an associate producer credit. Also, unless somebody else donated a larger amount, Ray would be the one getting his name written on the Games of Thrones memorial paper coffee cup placed somewhere in Interlude. Giving Ray details about the shoot gave me the perfect excuse to reach out to him. And once we started chatting, well, all the pieces just fell into place.
Now, the phrase “nicest guy you’ll ever meet” gets casually thrown around a lot, but in Ray’s case, it’s an understatement. He insisted on driving me from the Atlanta airport 50 miles to Lawrenceville. No big deal you say? Well, consider that his flight from Dallas got in SIX HOURS before mine! And he didn’t just hang out in Atlanta all that time. Ray drove his rental car 45 minutes to Lawrenceville, checked into his hotel, went over to hang out with ALEC PETERS for a bit, and then drove all the way back to Atlanta to get me…this time through rush hour traffic (about 80 minutes). He waited for me at baggage claim, offered to carry my bags (I mean, come on!), and drove us both back through more rush hour traffic. My $3,000 donor was now my personal chauffeur and valet! As I said, surreal.
But really, the drive just provided time for two fans of Star Trek and fan films and the Electric Light Orchestra to bond and rekindle a reincarnated bromance. The whole weekend, Ray shuttled me around, and it was just a wonderful new friendship that felt like a comfortable old friendship. Ray even got an opportunity to play the executive officer of the USS Artemis. I think he had a FANtastic time, too.
In the months since then, Ray and I have kept in touch, IMing and chatting on the phone from time to time. Having this special new person in my life has been a true highlight of making Interlude.
THE MAGICAL LOOK ON STEPHEN SHUEY’S FACE
In a blog I posted shortly after the November shoot, I briefly discussed KAREN and STEPHEN SHUEY. They had previously driven up from Tampa, FL (an 11-hour drive) to work on AXANAR the month before—Karen doing the tailoring of the uniforms and her adult son Stephen helping out with wardrobe.
The two of them agreed to make the trip again for Interlude. The sewing work Karen did over what became four very full days in Lawrenceville could have easily cost in the thousands of dollars, but she and Stephen did it simply for gas and lodging, which I was all too happy to cover!
When I arrived that Friday, Karen was set up in Alec’s basement, sewing machine and several uniform tunics laid out on the table in front of her, stitching on chest patches by hand.
Her son Stephen is a big fellow, and I had been informed by Karen beforehand that he is on the autism spectrum and might seem a little awkward to some people. Honestly, if she hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known! Geeky and nerdy, perhaps (aren’t we all?)…but Stephen was not at all awkward. And truly a heart of gold and enthusiasm to match it—Stephen was bursting with excitement!
I got settled in, checked out all of the tunics, and hung out with Ray and Karen and Stephen and TREY McELVAIN and his wife NICOLE and Alec. Then Stephen approached me with a very hesitant question. “I know you’re probably gonna say no, and that’s okay,” Stephen began, “but I just wanted to ask: can I be in your fan film? I can just be an extra somewhere. It’s okay if you say no.”
I thought for a moment. I don’t begrudge fan films who use more hefty fans (heck, I’m pretty overweight myself), but I’d really wanted to have actors and extras in Interlude who looked believably like they could serve in Starfleet.
And then I looked at Stephen—not at his body but at his face—looking so enthusiastic and soaking in every moment of this amazing weekend…just as I was. My answer came almost immediately, “Sure, Stephen, you can be an extra.” The resulting smile on Stephen’s face is something I’ll hold with me for a long time, and it’s what fan films are all about. Stephen promised to hold in his stomach while the camera was rolling, but there are ways to frame actors so you don’t see much anyway. And truth to tell, in the final cut, Stephen is only on camera for about five seconds while we pan around the USS Artemis bridge. But those five seconds will mean the world to him…and that, my friends, is the magic of fan films.
WATCHING THE STUDIO SLOWLY TRANSFORM FROM QUIET TO BUSTLING
After Interlude debuts, I’ve got a few more behind-the-scenes blogs and videos to share…and one of those is a compilation showing the “setting up” period that begins with my arrival at Ares Studios just before 8:00am Saturday morning and ends just as the directors are about to yell “Action!” It’s an awesome mini-documentary, and I won’t ruin it by giving away too many details now. But I will share just a few small things.
The first was the moment that I walked into the studio. About a half-dozen people were already there, and they all had jobs that they were busy doing. SCOTT GOODMAN, who had volunteered to pick up and return the 36 folding chairs and 10 folding tables for the cast and crew to eat on, had not only set up everything already, but he’d purchased and covered the tables with plastic sheets so people wouldn’t get splinters!
It was at this moment that I realized, “Holy crap, this is MY shoot!” Now, technically, a shoot is always considered to be the director’s shoot. He or she runs the show. But the producer (me) is in charge of making sure that the director has everything that she or he needs, that everyone shows up, that there are no unexpected or unpleasant surprises that can delay or interrupt filming. My job was to make sure that Josh, Victoria, and everyone else could do their jobs…and their jobs were to work as a team to shoot an amazing fan film.
Over the course of the next couple of hours, people slowly started arriving. On the video, you’ll see things steadily transform from relative serenity into a bustling “organized chaos” of thirty-plus people. And here I was, simultaneously trying to document everything on video for Fan Film Factor, introduce myself to everyone as they arrived, make sure nothing was going wrong that had to be fixed, make producer decisions when needed (like where to have the hair and make-up people setup—ultimately deciding on Garth’s quarters!)…all while simply trying to soak it all in.
I was also trying hard not to freak out. Y’see, Josh and Victoria (along with our production sound-mixer EARL HALE) had left Arkansas late the day before and were driving 12-14 hours across for states in the rain at night…and they hadn’t called or texted me! Visions of my three most important people, crashed off the road in a ditch, were constantly going through my mind until they arrived at about 9:20 a.m. and I started breathing again.
At the same time, I was also thinking about all of the other things that might go wrong. What if we didn’t have enough extras show up? What if there were some problem with the costumes…or the bridge set…or the electronics? What if the wrong camera equipment had been shipped by the rental company by accident? A thousand doomsday scenarios were constantly flashing through my mind, alleviated one-by-one as more people arrived and I could see that these folks were all well-prepared and true experts at their jobs.
SEEING PEOPLE IN UNIFORM FOR THE FIRST TIME
The first person I saw in uniform was actually on Friday night when Ray Myers tried on a red tunic to be an engineer on the USS Artemis. (Later on, Alec—well, Garth—would “promote” Ray to first officer and give him a gold tunic to wear instead.) But the morning of the shoot, as more and more Artemis bridge officers emerged from the dressing room in their uniforms, things suddenly became both real and surreal simultaneously. It’s hard to explain, but somehow seeing these people in bright-colored tunics just “amped up” the set.
And it wasn’t just, “Hey, people are wearing Star Trek uniforms.” You get that at any decent convention. It’s that these uniforms looked so AWESOME on these people! I remember seeing Trey McElvain for the first time in his gold helmsman tunic. Trey is pretty buff and trim, and the tunic fit him like a glove! I suddenly saw him as the pilot of the Artemis. He was no longer my buddy Trey…even though he was. So hard to explain in words, but definitely a highlight moment of my weekend.
And don’t get me started on how good WARREN HAWK looked as Jakande! You can read all about that moment (and see the video) here.
This seems like a good place to end Part 1. (Actually, I know this because I’ve already written the whole thing, and this is almost exactly the halfway point.) Come back next week for the conclusion: the bridge set, the name game, the food, and the hugs.