I’ve said it many times: anyone can make a fan film. You don’t need elaborate sets or meticulously crafted costumes. You don’t need expensive equipment or a cast of many (or even any) actors/friends/fellow fans. Sometimes all you need is, well, you.
In today’s blog, the role of “you” is being played by Scottish Trekker STEVE INGLIS, who just released his first Star Trek fan film, SOLE SURVIVOR. He posted it to YouTube and linked to it from a comment on the Fan Film Forum Facebook group.
As I began playing the video, it looked like I was gonna have to sit through 15 minutes of a static shot of some guy talking to the computer. Oh, well…no such thing as a bad Star Trek fan film, right? But much to my very pleasant surprise, this production turned out to be much more than just that. I mean, yes, it was a static shot of one guy talking for 15 minutes, but that was just the foundation of was turned out to be a very engaging viewing experience. The main character was masterfully played by Steve himself, and the story moved along at a decent pace with an unexpectedly suspenseful ending.
Take a look for yourself…
Considering it was a first-time effort with only two people listed in the credits—Steve Inglis and writer/director TOM DUNE (plus clip music from ZAKHAR VALAHA from Pixabay)—this was a pretty impressive fan film! And to underscore the “do it yourself” nature of this project, the credits also listed the following:
Wardrobe – Ikea
Hair – Yes
Makeup – No
Lighting – Borrowed
Naturally, I wanted to learn more about these two Scottish fan filmmakers, although I could only find one of them, Steve Inglis, on Facebook. Tom Dune didn’t appear to be listed anywhere…not even as a Facebook friend of Steve’s. I would soon find out why that was when Steve agreed to do the following interview…
JONATHAN – Welcome to Fan Film Factor, Steve, and to the world of fan filmmaking!
STEVE – Thanks very much for having me! I didn’t envisage anyone seeing my little project, let alone be interviewed about it, so consider me humbled.
JONATHAN – Well, humble or not, you should take a bow for completing and releasing a Star Trek fan film. Most Trekkers go through their lives never doing that.
Anyway, let’s start off with you and your writer/director Tom Dune. Where do you both live, what do you blokes do for a living, and how do you two know each other?
STEVE – I’m based in a small village in north Scotland, about half an hour from Dundee.
JONATHAN – Dundee? That’s where NICK COOK of the fan series INTREPID lives! Do you know each other?
STEVER – Unfortunately, I don’t know Nick, but I’ve watched all of the Intrepid series and really enjoy those films. I actually first came across the series after watching an old Chewin’ the Fat sketch on YouTube called “Taysiders in Space,” which is downright hilarious, so imagine my joy at finding proper fan films from folks based not too far down the road. I’ve watched some behind-the-scenes footage from their earlier filming days and took inspiration from how they achieved what they were able to. I’d love to pick his brain one day for sure man!
JONATHAN – Nick, you listenin,’ mate? I may have found another Scottie fer yer ship! Anyway, back to you, Steve…
STEVE- Well, I live with my wife and two awesome kids. We’re a family of rock and roll geeks, so it’s all punk rock, metal, science fiction, and horror films in this household.
My wife is a Paramedic Practitioner, and I work in the public sector, so I don’t get much free time to work on my passion projects. But when I do, I write music and play guitar with my band, Crooked Little Vein. Half the band are based in Australia now, so it’s fair to say I like a challenge. I also play drums and write stories under my pseudonym (spoiler alert)… Tom Dune.
JONATHAN – Oh-ho, so you and Tom are the same person! Well, that makes this project even MORE impressive, as it really was a one-man-show. So what made you decide to create a Star Trek fan film?
STEVE – Making a short film has been something I’ve wanted to explore doing for quite some time but never quite had the time or tools to actually do over the years. In mid-2021, I had a health scare, so on the back of that I decided to stop procrastinating and just go for it. Being a long time Star Trek fan (mostly TNG, VOY and latterly ENT), as well as other fan films, I decided to pull from that world and set out on my own voyage into the strange new world of film-making.
JONATHAN – Are you a fan of fan films then?
STEVE – I’ve been watching fan films for a good few years thanks to YouTube and, having had the idea to do a monologue piece set aboard an escape pod, I came across a fan film called A LONG WAY FROM HOME released last year, which really gave me the motivation to believe it could be done. There are so many brilliant fan films out there such as PRELUDE TO AXANAR, INTERLUDE, PACIFIC 201, and more, all made with varying budgets, but a whole lot of passion and respect for the franchise.
JONATHAN – What did your family say while you were making Sole Survivor? Are they proud of you for finishing it, or do they just think you’re weird? (In the case of my wife and son, the answer is “yes.”) I assume your youngest has no real opinion yet, butt does your older one like Star Trek at all? How about the missus?
STEVE – Haha. Well, my wife is not a fan of Star Trek at all but, being used to me being ‘strange’ after 13 years together, just rolled with it. “Whatever makes you happy,” she said, with a cheeky glint in her eye. It’s been great to have had her support and, yes, for putting up with me being weird! She’s an incredible person all round. My family are happy to see me having finished a project I’ve been working on, as they know how much time it takes and how little time in between work, family life. and other commitments I actually had to do it in.
My eldest is the coolest dude in the room and has flirted with Star Trek a few times. He enjoys TNG now and again but favours superheroes much more these days. My youngest, believe it or not, is my Number Two when it comes to watching Star Trek. She’s a little over 2 years old and will actually ask to watch “Trek” when it’s time for her bedtime bottle. It’s the best excuse ever, when dad is feeling the itch to watch an episode or two. I love them both to pieces, and seeing their enthusiasm gave me that extra motivation to keep going.
JONATHAN – How long did this fan film take to complete from inception to posting?
STEVE – I first wrote the draft screenplay in late July 2021 and released it in February 2022, so it took me seven months and probably somewhere around 100 hours all in from start to finish.
I used a green screen and composited a 3D set around the live action – something I had to learn to do as I was putting it together. It was certainly a bit strange to work with no physical props to play off, but enjoyable all the same.
STEVE – The dialogue being shot in one continuous take was probably not the wisest idea for a first go! I had quite a bit to memorise, but I felt I was more able to stay in the moment doing it that way, so it payed off as far as pushing my limited ‘acting’ ability. I’d say 90% of the script was memorised, including the length of the breaks I needed for ‘computer’ and ‘Captain Forbes’ responses. After my first couple of rehearsal runs, I decided to change some things up, resulting in some of the dialogue being improvised on the fly whilst shooting. That being the case, you might just catch Ensign Rowe having a sneaky look at his cheat-sheet rested upon his knee once or twice. That said, at the time of shooting, I didn’t wear contact lenses, so I could barely read it anyway!
JONATHAN – Ha! Well, you did a very impressive job, Steve, and your performance came across as very natural and believable. Have you had any formal acting training or experience?
STEVE – That’s really very nice of you to say. I have no acting training whatsoever, aside from being the narrator in some school plays when I was a kid. In the months leading up to shooting, I studied and rehearsed everywhere I could, from the car to the shower. I watched some of the characters from across the spectrum of Star Trek shows to really try to get a sense of how I wanted to deliver the dialogue. The Scottish dialect can be a hard one to convey onto screen, particularly my mixed northern Scottish accent, but watching actors like James McAvoy and Ewan MacGregor gave me an idea of how to pace my speech. I’m not a natural extrovert, so I was quite nervous at the thought of putting myself out there like that. I’ll let the viewer decide how they think I fared though!
JONATHAN – Where did you film, and how long did it take to get all of the raw footage?
STEVE – Well, the live footage was shot in my living room, where I’m fortunate to have enough space to be able to hang a large green screen backdrop and light it. I borrowed some photography lights from my brother, propped them up on a footrest, sat on a dining room chair, and filmed using my smartphone. Not very high-tech at all, but for me, this project was a starter into the world of filmmaking, and I wanted to keep everything as simple as possible without spending too much. You can throw all the money in the world at something, but if you don’t know what you’re doing in the first place, what’s the point? This was a learning experience for me, so what better way to start with than what you have (or can borrow)?
JONATHAN – How long did it take to do the VFX and editing? What applications did you use for the project?
STEVE – My friend Chris and I had been playing with animation for the past couple of years, and I have a background in sound production, so luckily I only really had to learn how to shoot, composite, and edit. I built the VFX shots in Blender3D, and that part probably took the longest outside of the editing. The composited set you see behind Ensign Rowe is actually the interior of the 3D model that’s used for the exterior shots. It took longer to build but saved time in the long run as I only had to build one “set,” per-se, and I could shoot it two different ways.
The remaining VFX and the editing were done in HitFilm, and the audio was done with a combination of Audacity and Cakewalk. I’ve been using Cakewalk as my main Digital Audio Workstation for a few years, but Audacity was good for capturing the additional voices because, as strange as it may sound, the lessened quality gave it more of a distant, grainy charm I could alter in the DAW. HitFilm was the most time-consuming to learn, but I favour it over other applications I tried, and I’m quite pleased at how quickly I was able to achieve things using it.
Jonathan – Are you happy with the way it all turned out, or is there something you wish you could change or do differently?
STEVE – Overall, I’m happy with how Sole Survivor came out. My goal from the outset was to create something from nothing, to learn the various aspects of filmmaking, to put it all together, and to keep it to a “zero budget” as much as possible. With more time, experience, and upgraded equipment, there are definitely things I would do differently. I would have liked the pod itself to have been more polished, and I would have liked to introduce different camera angles of the interior with an actual physical set. But overall, I think the story stays true to what I imagined. I wanted a simple survival story with an open-ended climax where you’re really not sure if the character makes it to safety or not. Star Trek is all about hope, but it’s also about passion, fear, exploring the unknown, and taking chances. So I’m definitely happy that I’ve been through this experience.
JONATHAN – Excellent. Do you think you’ll make any more Star Trek fan films (or even just films) in the future, or have you “scratched the itch,” as they say?
STEVE – I’ve definitely scratched it, but you know what happens when you scratch an itch; it just spreads! I’m very fortunate to have had an offer or two to join with other productions, and I’d love to explore those opportunities. Even as just an “actor,” it would be very valuable to work on that aspect going forward, and it’s always great to work with other creative minds.
At the same time, I’m already looking to the next idea, as I’d like to go further into the wonderful world of filmmaking. I use Tom Dune to write stories through a different mind-set from “day-to-day me,” so the ideas and how they play out can often take me in wildly varying directions. I have an idea in mind for another Star Trek fan film, again something quite different, but to be able to delve into other genres would be equally satisfying. So who knows where the journey will take me next!
To anyone who has or will take the time to watch Sole Survivor, I’m very grateful and appreciative, as well as open to feedback, comments, or just to chat. You can find us on Facebook @redalertfilms, and hopefully more content won’t be too far down the road.
JONATHAN – Well, whether it’s the high road or the low road, it’s nice to have more Star Trek fan filmmakers in Scotland, lad!