Starbase Studios – Richard Wells Interview

Starbase Studios est. 2013 based in Oklahoma is the only TOS themed studio opened up to the public for them to shoot their own non-commercial Star Trek Fan Productions.

The story of Starbase Studios starts back in 2010 when a man called John Hughes from Oklahoma City decided to produce his own fan film Starship Ajax.

Producing and making your own sets is an expensive and time-consuming task, John had an idea to try to cut down on the time and expense it would take by starting from scratch his plan: to seek out and find the now unused sets that were a part the production Exeter.

After tracking them down in Austin, Tx USA, John found that the set dismantled and stored in various locations and some of it was in a shape.

John was lucky not only in finding the sets but the producer of Exeter Jimm Johnson decided to donate the entire thing to John free to help him in his quest to make the dream of Ajax a reality.

John’s next task was to get the sets back to Oklahoma so several moving trailers later the sets were brought over 400 miles from Austin to Oklahoma.

However, restoring it would be a full-time job alone so with the help of some other fan producers they set to work to restore the sets to their former beauty and bring back its former glory.

With a mammoth task ahead of them, John placed an advert on Craig’s list for some help; enter the current co-owners Richard Wells and Scott Johnson as volunteers to help.

Originally stored in a hangar at the El Reno Regional Airport this was to be the home of the sets and the project of their restoration.

Unfortunately, some time later issues arose this meant they again had the task of moving the sets and finding a new home.

After moving into their new premises at 2821 SW 27th St, the restoration continued.

Therefore, as they say, they the rest they say is history…

So wanting to know more about Starbase Studios I reached out to Starbase Studios on Facebook and asked if they wanted to do a quick Q&A for our new site.

Yesterday I managed to catch up with Richard Wells the co-owner of Starbase Studios in a Quick Q&A.


James) Richard, Tell me a bit about your history with Star Trek what does it mean to you.

Richard) I have always been a Star Trek fan starting with the reruns of the original series. I used to watch them after school back in the 70s. I have also enjoyed every franchise since. I never considered myself a Trekkie before and although I’m referred to as being one quite a bit these days I still don’t consider myself one. I have met so many other fans whose lives are so much more intertwined with Trek than mine is.

James) How did the idea for Starbase Studios come about.

Richard) The studio was started with the sets left over from the fan film Starship Exeter shot in Austin, Texas. John Hughes brought them to Oklahoma to make his own fan film.

Scott (the other studio owner) and I started as volunteers on that show.

Eventually, it was decided that we would focus on completing the studio so others could be making their films while Hughes focused on his.

James) In addition, can you tell me more about what it is you do here?

Richard) Starbase Studios is now the only open to the public fan film studio we know of.

Anyone is invited to use the facilities for any non-commercial projects. In addition, it is free. We do ask productions to donate at least enough to cover their expenses but we do not charge a fee.

We currently have a full, 360-degree bridge set.  All the console displays are as screen accurate as they can be thanks to the work of www.tosgraphics.com. They have spent years recreating the graphics by watching and matching them to the original show.

We also have a full transporter room and a sick bay and are currently building a briefing room that can double as the rec room, crew quarters and more.

James) How are Starbase Studios funded.

Richard) By donations everyone at the studio is a volunteer and everything is funded by donations.

To date, all the films that have shot here have donated generously as well as getting donations from many fans.

James) At Starbase Studios you run an educational program at the studio can you tell what kind of educational programs you offer and how that came about.

Richard) Our first educational venture is with a series called Starship Grissom. A fan film was written by teachers and is has been designed to be downloaded to be used in classrooms.

The teachers chose a cadet for the lead character so the students we are trying to reach could relate to her.

In the first series, Planet L-197, Cadet Strong earns a spot on the crew for a mission to explore a new planet for colonisation. On the way, they encounter a supernova, space viruses, and Klingons among other things.

The teachers try to fill each episode with all the drama and excitement of the original series while still packing in lessons in a way that student might not realise they just learned something new.

Planet L-197 is based on Kepler 186f, the first planet found by NASA to be in the habitable zone of another star.  All the information gives on the planet during the episode is real information on 186f so there are current lessons contained within the episode.

The writers have also made lesson plans in 7 subjects that go along with each episode along with “Mission Briefing” videos. All the videos and lessons are available to download and use at no charge.

James) So do any schools or educational bodies make use of your educational facilities.

Richard) We have had High Schools, Vo-Teachers, and Colleges take advantage of the facilities by bringing in their film and multimedia classes.  Students gain firsthand experience at filming on real sets.

These classes have proven popular with the student and we hope to host much more in the future.

James) That is amazing, so who’s Idea was it to offer educational programs.

Richard) Since we have such a unique facility I always thought we should be more community involved. I talked to my cousin, who is a teacher, about this and her and fellow teacher friends came up with the idea of Starship Grissom.

The “off-site classroom” simply came from schools that heard about the studio and contacted me about using it.

James) Describe a typical week at Starbase Studios.

Richard) It all depends on which week you choose.

We are most busy during the spring and fall. The building we are currently in has no climate control. It is excessively hot to be inside in the summer and miserable trying to film in the winter although we have filmed in both seasons.

Otherwise, it would depend on if there were projects going on or not. If we have a project coming in that needs a certain set, we generally will have all the volunteers we can get, every night the week before getting it built. Other than that, it is usually just me or a couple of other guys going in to mow and doing maintenance.

Filming weekends tend to get crazy. We will not be at the set much while planning the shoot but starting the night before we will all ascend for prep work. That is usually just cleaning and repairs but sometimes we will decide something that needs to be repainted before filming or computers will be acting up.

Once filming starts, it is all hands on deck, morning, noon, and night.

Filming always starts early in the morning and goes until what was planned for that day is done. Much of the time we are into the next day before wrapping, then it’s up early the next morning and does it all again.

James) Moving on to a subject of some contention among many fan films at the moment, with the release of the “Fan Film Guidelines” has this influenced the studio much or is it business as usual just with some minor tweaks here and there.

Richard) We had several shows scheduled to film that cancelled once the guidelines came out.

Starship Grissom has been on hiatus, hoping to get some questions answered, but we recently decided to continue as planned.

The guidelines are for films so they do not affect the studio’s operations at all, other than trying to make sure anyone who films here stays in compliance. Ultimately, we have no control over what a production does with their film but we do what we can.

James) Other than, the productions based at Starbase Studios what other fan productions do you watch/listen to.

Richard) I never knew about any of these fan productions before starting the studio but now I am amazed at how many are out there. I will, of course, watch the regulars, Phase 2 and Continues. I also would watch The Red Shirt Diaries when it was still filming. Occasionally I will find something I never heard of one Star Trek Reviewed and try it.

http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/

I will also listen to podcast from time to time such as Tribbles in Ecstasy or Trek geeks.

James) What is the best piece of advice you can give anyone who is thinking of building his or her own sets?

Think of the long-term, not just, what you are doing right now.

Have a plan for how the sets are to be arranged where to store set pieces and props when they are not being used. Are you working on something you will be able to do yourself if no volunteers show up?

James) I have heard you are looking for new premises due to being asked to move out of your current one can you tell me how this came about.

Richard) We have been in our current location for almost 5 years. The original agreement was for 1 year so it was a time that the owner got his space back.

We are now trying to crowdfund for a new place to move into, hopefully with climate control.

A lease in Oklahoma is quite a bit cheaper than in many other parts of the country so I think we have a pretty good shot of finding a location, if not, the studio will close. There have been some offers to take over the sets but that will mean an end to most of the fan films and all of the educational activities we provide.

James) That would be extremely sad if that were to happen, Is there anything you need from us the fans?

Richard) I will be launching this fundraiser shortly after completing this interview. Several thousand Star Trek fans follow us and/or the shows that we produce here. If we can get enough of them to pledge, we can continue to make more Star Trek for everyone to enjoy.

James) Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to the fans of Starbase Studios.

Richard) The fans have been great and are obviously, what keeps the studio running?

We are all volunteers because we are fans. We create shows because of the feedback we get from other fans. The fans in the Star Trek universe are phenomenal and there are more of them out there than anyone could ever realise.

My hope is to be able to work alongside and produce films for the fans for many years to come.

James) Well thank you to Richard for taking the time out of his day to answer some questions for me, I wish you all the luck in the world and hope you can sort something out in regards to finding a new home for Starbase Studios.

Some of the other great productions made out of Starbase Studios include


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