The LIEF Erikson

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Trek Fan Movies, July 05

Star Trek: New Voyages
Last month I was lucky enough to be granted an interview with Jack Marshall executive producer of "Star Trek: New Voyages" for "Communique" the Newsletter of StarFleet International (mailed free to members). These are some highlights ...

Kirok: You are executive producer as well as director which gives you an enormous control over what you are doing - you don't have to answer to anyone else . Your production has three co-creators though - what part have Max Rem and James Cawley played in the creation of ST:NV?

Jack: James' gift is creation - he's built all the sets and costumes. Max has a flare for action and pacing and creates the beautiful effects for the show I'm the visionary. I organize the schedule and oversee all pre and post production as well as the physical directing of the show. I don't think any of us could pull this off without the other. We each have our areas and we each have a vote. It's worked well thus far.

Kirok: No one contends the fact that Viacom/Paramount own Star Trek. Not only do they have copyrights on key words such as Klingon and Tricorder, but it also covers anything that is a significant likeness. It is a complex legal and ethical question that probably has no definitive answer, merely a balance between copyright protection and respect for the fanbase and New Voyages is right there on the knife's edge! Could they be a sleeping giant who might pull the plug on you?

Jack: I suppose they could, but why would they? Believe it or not, Paramount is very aware of it's Trek fanbase and the last thing they want to do is have another web crusade like they did in the 90's where they shut peoples websites down and alienated the fans. We've had some preliminary talks with them regarding licensing and before that had been in constant contact with Viacom's legal department and know that if we follow the groundwork they've laid for us, we'll be ok. There are other fan films out there who have not yet come to the attention of Paramount who are actively collecting money on their websites. Our agreement says we cannot do that. I asked them why others can and their reply was simply - we never heard of them. So our success has been a double edged sword. But a danger of getting shut down? I think it's nil as long as we follow the guidelines they've set out for us.

Kirok: One of the factors that makes it possible for you to film New Voyages is the fact that you don't make a profit. This is reasonable - Viacom can't be expected to allow anyone to make money with their "property". However does this mean that you have to work at a loss? Could you be sponsored? What if Pizza Hut offered to do your on-site catering?

Jack: That's right, we can't make money by selling DVD's, T-Shirts, or anything with the Star Trek name on it. However, we can take donations to pay for the production of the show itself. In theory, someone could have a fund and we could have [them] pay the bills from that fund, like hotels, food, lumber, props, etc.

Kirok: The last I heard, the cost per episode for UPN to make Enterprise was $750,000, just running off to fantasy land for a moment, what could you do with the budget from just one episode?

Jack: I'd think the possibility of seeing a dozen or so New Voyages episodes done professionally would be a distinct possibility.

Expectations are high that we will be seeing great things from "Star Trek: New Voyages"! They will be filming episodes 3 and 4 simultaneously in September, with episode 3 being released early in 2006 and episode 4 in the fall. Jack Trevino & Ethan Calk, both veteran Deep Space Nine writers, are writing episode 3 which will "re-introduce" the characters of Chekov and Sulu.

Episode 4 is being penned by none other than D.C. (Dorothy) Fontana, who, as story editor, could be said to be one of the foremost creative influences on the original series! To cap it off, Walter Koenig, the original Pavel Chekov, will guest star as an older version of the character he created in the original series. I don't know how they're going to do it but if D.C. Fontana is writing it we can look forward to a rare treat!

Episodes 1 and 2 can still be downloaded for free from the internet at

Further to Jack's comments on copyright and licensing, I found the comments by James Cawley, the flamboyant co-producer and star of New Voyages in an article by CBC about Walter Koenig's appearance in episode four to be most enlightening ...

It's Cawley's belief that Paramount may eventually be convinced to license selected fan films, as it has done with fan fiction in the past. If the studio let him charge users a dollar per download in the future, he says he'd be willing to give Paramount 75 per cent of the money raised

Starship Exeter
Twice in one week a Fan film rated a mention on Trek Today. The first was the release by ExeterStudios has of the first instalment of their second episode. Labeled as the "Teaser/Titles" for their new hour long production - "The Tressaurian Intersection" - it can be downloaded for free from their 'movies' page.

The next portion was scheduled for release on Friday, July 8th, however as the deadline drew closer, ExeterStudio, announced that they were "still working on several effects shots" and they still haven't released it (July 17). The concensus amongst their fans is that they are prepared to wait for the quality work that they have come to expect from this well respected group. It has been a long time between episodes for Starship Exeter. The oldest Trek Fan Film production company, their "Savage Empire" was started way back in 1995 and released in 2002.

Hidden Frontiers
The other Fan Flick news in Trek Today recently was the media attention that the Fan Movie series "Star Trek: Hidden Frontier" has recently garnered because it has a gay male couple as a major plot element.
The two gay characters on Hidden Frontier are Lt. Corey Aster and his Trill boyfriend, ensign Jorian Zen. One of the future storylines will involve Zen being joined with a symbiont who is not gay, leaving Aster to wonder what the new sexual orientation of his lover will be, and whether Zen will even still be interested in him.
You have to be impressed with the sheer volume of material that has come out of this group - they are in their sixth season, having completed five seasons of five episodes per year. Their production values have improved immeasuiably over the years, and now ..., the producer, admits that they "hit there stride with season three".

They are markedly different from both New Voyages and Starship Exeter. Not only is their storyline set in the 24th century, ..., but their production technique is different. Saving time and money, they work their magic with live actors in front of a green screen. They are always ready to grasp new innovations, for example they have even created podcasts of two of their eps.

They will have a delegation at Toronto Trek, July 15-17, so with any luck I might be able to get a mate to ask them some questions.

As regards the gay element in their shows ...

the show's producers cautioned that this storyline only plays a role in six or seven episodes of the 40 that have been produced to date. Other stories deal with a galactic battle involving mysterious energy sources known as "tetrahedrons," while the series also tells classic Trek stories of exploration.
Me, I'll be glad to see gays accepted into the mainstream of Trek canon as long as it is done in a non-confrontational fashion. Frankly it would be an acceptance of modern reality rather than the blind-eye that is turned towards them at the moment ... and that's being realistic, not P.C.

ST:HF continue to keep on track with their gruelling schedule. Following the release of their last episode, "Homeport", they have successfully wrapped up production of episode 4 of their current season: "Beachhead".

At the moment they have a trailer and production shots available of Beachhead for download plus a preview trailer of it and the other two episodes remaining in season 6: "Vigil" and "Her Battle Lanterns Lit". The two-and-a-half minute, high-resolution trailer was released to a cheering audience at Gaylaxicon.


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