Trekzone.org is Australia’s first Star Trek fan website launching in 2003 Trekzone, was a year 10 High School IT project for its host Matthew Miller, although it sat idle for a few years in 2012 Matthew finally decided to turn it up a notch and really get into producing content for his site.
However, Matthew and Trekzone have not stopped there, and in 2016 Matthew took to the road and produced a mini-series of blogs called Sci-Fi Weekly where he got the chance to meet some of the top scientists in Australia for example Dr Andy Thomas – Australia’s first astronaut, Dr. Anton Wallner, Dr. Geoff Campbell and Dr. Brad Tucker, although a short-lived mini blog series it was one that drew a lot of interest to his site and more recently Matthew was one of the main followers of the Axanar lawsuit producing content that covered, the particulars of the lawsuit and how it has changed the fan film world forever.
James) Hey Matt, tell us a bit more about you.
Matt) I’m a thirty-year-old broadcast engineer in the real world, which sees me working in television making sure people can keep watching our TV signal. I like a good bottle of scotch, a decent TV show (Designated Survivor is a good one right now… I’ve only seen the pilot so far though.) I dislike frauds and people who make huge claims but fail to deliver.
James) Other than Trek, what other TV shows do you like to watch?
Matt) Babylon 5, Stargate are a couple of other Sci-Fi shows I like, also enjoying Dick Wolf’s Chicago series of shows and a few others on TV right now.
James) Well, you should like Stargate lol you have interviewed a few of the main cast :p how awkward would that be if you interviewed someone you had no idea who they were,
As a keen Star Trek fan, do you play any Trek Games, and If not Trek Games then what ones?
Matt) I recently discovered Steam has the entire back catalogue of Age of Empires, man that was a cracking series for its time (and they released a remastered version of number 2!) In the Trek universe, Armada II, Bridge Commander, Birth of the Federation were amongst my ‘lay by’ purchases when I was a junior… I remember waiting for hours for the install and crossing fingers hoping the graphics card was up to spec!
James) So know we know the basics of who you are and some of your likes, because I am nosey lol, what is your day job?
Matt) I work in TV here in Brisbane, they’re good to me and it’s fun to be behind the camera at work – which allows me to not be too burnt out while producing The Trekzone Spotlight (I do feel that they are different sides of the TV business so it’s good fun.)
James) Tell me a bit about your history with Star Trek what does Trek mean to you. What Trek Actors have you met in real life if any?
Matt) Thanks to The Trekzone Spotlight, I’ve met Nana Visitor, Connor Trinneer, Rene Auberjonois, Anthony Montgomery and a few others… also met a few of the guys and girls from Stargate (Richard Dean Anderson was a highlight, so awesome!)
James) I so need! To start doing Cons I think I need to get out more lol. With Trekzone do you go to many Star Trek Conventions?
Matt) One dedicated Trek con when I was 10… we had lunch with Tim Russ! Australia doesn’t get too many dedicated cons, the audience would be there for it though…
James) That is kind of like the UK We have Cons but I think the only Trek-centric one is Destination Europe, everything Trek-centric seems to be states side mostly.
So moving on out of 5 live action series, 1 animated one do you have a favourite Trek Episode and if so why this one?
Matt) That’d be a tossup between DS9 season 4’s The Visitor, TNG Season 6’s The Inner Light and VOY season 3/4’s Scorpion parts 1 & 2. I love some good character focused eps (and Scorpion because the Borg get their ass kicked!) – OK, you only said episode… but can YOU just pick one from 728!? ;).
James) Erm, I guess not for me though I have my go to episodes which I guess they can be considered “favourites”. Out of all the features do you have a favourite Star Trek Film?
Matt) First Contact.
James) Hmmm That is a good choice but, I think a lot of people pick that one, it is one of my faves but my fave film I think and it is controversial lol is Nemesis, not for the story as such as let’s face it, it does lack in a lot of areas but it is just different enough yet similar to be a good trek film. Do you have a favourite Trek Actor/Actress?
Matt) Nana Visitor… she went on such a ride with her character that was so rigid in the beginning, striving for independence for herself and her people after the Occupation, but over seven years developed deep friendships with these aliens that came straight after the Cardassian’ and started running the space station… she even fell in love with the shapeshifter.
James) Worst Trek Episode Why?
Matt) VOY’s Threshold. Need I say more?
James) The Jane Paris BABIES! Lol. Favourite Series & Why?
Matt) Tossup between DS9, for its gritty take on Trek and Enterprise for its optimistic vision of our near future (despite an out of character third season.)
James) Worst Series & Why?
Matt) TOS, purely because I grew up on TNG and those 60’s elements are so 60’s. (It’s not bad, it’s just very different… or original.)
James) You know I am the same, everything seems to be TOS saturated, yes I get it, TOS is what launched 51 years of greatness but like you TNG was my baby but it’s not my fave : -O.
You recently covered a few fan films and you have interviews people like Vic from STC, Do you watch any Fan Films do you watch?
Matt) I’ve caught Hidden Frontier (that series got me excited for my fan series, and then I met Carlos who worked on it!) Continues, New Voyages. Most recently Chance Encounter – good flick.
James) I remember seeing Hidden Frontier YEARS! Ago then I drifted away from fan films it was not until Renegades did I come back and play catch up. Can you rank your top five (if you have them)?
Matt) Chance Encounter, Hidden Frontier, Continues, Intrepid, New Voyages (I haven’t seen much of James’ series.)
James) I have seen all of them you have listed and like you, I have not watched many NV episodes yet, TBH I think once I watched a lot of STC and a few stand alone ones I was TOS’ed out, BUT! I plan to go and watch some of them over the next few weeks as I want to see the ones with some of the TOS cast in.
What other Star Trek fan productions do you watch/listen to etc (Podcasts, YouTube shows etc)
Matt) I’m so short on spare time that I don’t catch very much else.
James) TBH, I am the same with having to “try” to cover as many fan productions as possible, I tend to skim through podcasts to bits that I am keen on hearing, I try to catch Sunday G&T as often as I can, I do watch yours when you interview someone I want to see and Trek Geeks I skim but Dan and Bill do it weekly so I always know I can go to their site and catch up.
As someone who has been involved in the fan community for a lengthy period now, what would you say is favourite parts of the Trek Fandom?
Matt) Meeting strangers with a shared passion the world over.
James) Worst Parts of the Trek Fandom (any bad experiences)?
Matt) Stubborn individuals that believe their way is the only way (to tell a story, to report on facts or even about other people.)
James) Man your diplomatic LOL, do you have any funny stories to tell
Matt) Not necessarily funny, but the spread of Trek fans always surprises me… there are Trekkies in the same suburb as me!
James) What makes you thankful to be a part of this amazing universe
Matt) Finding it tough to be thankful as this universe as thrown a few curve balls at me in the last six months, but I’m in a good place now and cracking on with the podcasts and staying busy for a while.
James) Moving on, we have covered your likes and dislikes in regards to the last 5 live action series, but now I want to tackle DISCOVERY.
I guess the first basic question is, are you looking forward to it?
Matt) Very much so, I’m hoping that The Trekzone Spotlight can help me delve deeper into it.
James) When you first saw the trailer for Discovery were you worried at all?
Matt) I was concerned that they’d be repeating the same ‘mistakes’ as Enterprise (doing a prequel because there is nothing left to explore post VOY)
James) See, I liked Ent a LOT so I get what you mean but I am keen on seeing another new prequel tbh lol. What do you think about the casting choices thus far?
Matt) Very good, it’s another group of relatively unknown / niche actors which are what TNG-era Trek has been about.
James) What are your hopes for Discovery?
Matt) That it survives the first season.
James) Well we know now, that they have ordered another 2 episodes and things do look real good for Season 2.
The departure of Brian Fuller has caused a lot of miss information being floated and a lot of “vocal” fans crying that it now means this series’ days are numbered, are you concerned at all?
Matt) I think Brian should’ve focused on one project at a time. Does anyone know what J. Michael Straczynski is doing?
James) LOL I would prefer some of the old crew to replace him over J. Michael Straczynski tbh but each to their own 😛
What look do you hope they go for, we know its prime time line but do you hope it’s more prime than Kelvin or vice versa?
Matt) Has to prime timeline and character driven – we don’t need a million dollars of special effects to make good Trek.
James) I think with the latest trailer, it is going to upset a lot of people but! I am still excited. What do you hope they do not do with Discovery, as in PLEASE DO NOT GO THERE LOL?
Matt) Avoid the Arcanis sector at all costs.
James) LMFAO! You mean do not Axa it LOL!, another controversial point, that seems to have upset a few people is CBS’ decision to place it on CBS all Access in the states and Netflix worldwide Do you think this move is a good or bad idea?
Matt) It is… interesting. In one way it frees the series from the pressure of rating success, but on the other, there are more accurate viewership figures than broadcast TV’s Nielson boxes.
James) When I first heard of this choice I was not overly happy as tbh Netflix UK, not so good LOL but I think it is the way things are moving now, people in the UK at least tend to watch TV less and less and want to be able to watch things NOW!, I think this is the way things are heading tbh.
Do you think online streaming is the future of televised series and films, just as you use YouTube etc now, is TV on its way out?
Matt) That’s an interesting question, given I work in TV… I think free to air will stick around as long as it has things you can’t get elsewhere (in Australia before broadband internet our prime time was all the American shows, usually on a 6-9 month delay because our TV season is Feb-Nov, but now there is mostly reality TV or sport and news during the day because that’s not available anywhere else.)
That said, in the US it’s different because it is the world premiere of episodes each week… free to air and cable has its niche that way. It is still the most popular medium to reach the masses.
That wraps up part one, in part two I talk to Matt about what his best and worst interviews were, his history in fan productions and what made him stand up and take a stand against that fan production that just doesn’t seem to go away.
Trekzone can be found online at the following links
What would you do if you were bestowed with the honour of the title of “The Ultimate Trekker?” we ask Gary O’Brien who recently won The UK’s Ultimate Trekker Boldly Goes as he is Awarded The Best Job In The Universe
Recently Manpower, UK in association with PARAMOUNT HOME MEDIA DISTRIBUTION held a recruitment event in LONDON, the UK asking Trekkers nationwide to apply for what they touted as the “Best Job in the Universe” that best job was to become the Vice Admiral of Yorktown (The amazing Starbase in Star Trek Beyond).
Watch the original job advert >HERE< or read about it >HERE<
A temporary Starfleet Outpost popped up at Manpower’s Liverpool Street, offices in London, and over 300 applicants applied for the position with the hope of beating out the competition and winning the prize of being named the “The Ultimate Trekker.”
Not only is the winner granted the title of “the Ultimate Trekker” but they take command of Starbase Yorktown, will receive an official uniform recently used in the production of Star Trek Beyond and a VIP visit to Paramount Studio Lot in Los Angeles.
Well, we are so pleased to announce that the winner of this amazing prize is none other than Gary O’Brien, Gary answered toughies like listing the full registration numbers, classes and captains of all seven ships to have bared the name Enterprise; as well as recalling the lengthy Borg name of Voyager’s Seven of Nine.
As you know, we recently interviewed Gary about his upcoming fan production “Chance Encounter.”
So we would like to say Gary congratulations this is truly amazing.
We reached out to Gary yesterday to wish him our best and ask what winning this prize meant to him.
“Yeah, it is a pretty cool prize. I feel very lucky!
There were a lot of very smart people at the interview – I’m very fortunate to have got “the job”. I am sure there were many others there that it could have gone to – I just got lucky on the day I think! A friend of mine, David Combe who kindly helped with some 3D modelling advice on Chance Encounter is also a powerhouse of Star Trek knowledge and makes great work himself.
Like me, he also got his work featured in the 2016 Ships Of The Line Calendar. He is a really nice guy, and how he didn’t win over me I’ll never know! Check out some of his great work over at Deviant Art:
Anyway – I suppose now that I have been awarded the symbolic “Ultimate Trekker” title, no-one can question whether Chance Encounter has been made by a true fan or not!
The early part of 2017 should be an exciting time for me, as we will be aiming to release Chance Encounter, and I will get a trip to Paramount studio and a tour! Stay tuned to startrekshortfilm.com as our release date is getting ever closer!”
One thing I wanted to do when I started this blog did not only bring you information about all the current fan film productions that we all know and love but also seek out the ones that are either unknown or ones that have not even been made yet.
“Chance Encounter” was one I stumbled across thanks to the “TrekBBS” website; I saw this thread and thought to myself that I want to know more.
After reading the thread, watching the videos, and going to the website I was intrigued as with the exception of Nick Cooks Intrepid I am currently unaware of any Star Trek Fan Productions based within the UK. This alone made me very curious not only because I found this aspect appealing (I am a Brit and I wanted to see how or IF! We differ in the way we make a fan production) I decided to reach out to the production and ask if they would like to participate in an interview.
After exchanging emails with a person called Gary O’Brien, who is the director and co-writer of “Chance Encounter,” I have to say I am so excited about this fan production. Why am I excited well it is not only because as I mentioned it’s a British take on Star Trek :-P, but the fact the person behind it is a genuinely nice guy who is humble and talented to boot.
James) Good Afternoon Gary, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me about “Chance Encounter,” I have to say after reading the information and watching the trailer on your site, I am extremely excited about Chance Encounter.
Gary) Thanks for your kind words about Chance Encounter – there is still lots of work for us to do on it, but all of us involved share your excitement and are looking forward to getting it out there when it is finished!
James) Obviously I want to hear anything and everything about your production but because “Chance Encounter” is new and only one of less than a handful of UK-based productions can you, introduce yourselves to anyone who has not heard about you.
Gary) My name Is Gary O’Brien and I am the director and co-writer of Chance Encounter, a Star Trek Short Film. I have been a Star Trek fan since I was about 10 years old I think, and in addition to watching the show, I have always enjoyed making stuff related to it as well.
As a kid, I would painstakingly draw out Okudagrams with felt tip pens and adorn my room with them. I would also make props and various gadgets, and draw cross sections of my favourite ships and stuff. My room really was wall to wall in Star Trek related artwork! Into my late teens when I drifted away from it all a bit.
It was hard to see new Trek on TV in the UK back then, and when you’re more interested in going down the pub, keeping up with one episode a week of an increasingly serialised DS9 became harder and harder, so really it wasn’t until about 2007 – 2008 that I started to reignite my interest in the franchise. I dug out a lot of my old models, toys, and books from my Dad’s loft. I re-read the books (they were all non-fiction ones), and cleaned up the models and put them on display in my house. I introduced my girlfriend, Gemma to Star Trek and we watched every episode and film together and started getting back into the cosplaying and going to Cons etc. We have not looked back since!
James) That sounds a lot like me HAHA, I did exactly the same drawing consoles, making models and putting up a lot of Trek related material all over my room, well I had to share a room with my brother when I was younger so I only had one way but it was the “Trek Wall” as I called it.
Keeping to the subject of Trek, What does Star Trek mean to you, do you have a favourite Star Trek Episode?
Gary) This sort of question is tough, as it tends to vary a lot depending on your mood.
All time favourite, though, if forced at gunpoint? The Visitor. I guess because it is universal – you really do not need to know about the Federation or Terek Nor or anything, you can show that episode to someone completely cold and It’ll still have a huge emotional impact. I also like that it uses sci-fi ideas just to ramp up the emotional stakes, the McGuffin subspace stuff is secondary to what is going on with the characters.
And whereas I think comparisons to “City” and “Inner Light” are valid, the former whilst amazing is still “just” a conventional love story between a man and a woman, and the latter doesn’t resonate as much without knowing Picard’s character and his lack of family life etc. I mean, they are all amazing episodes, but the universality of the “The Visitor” coupled with the fact that it is a “less obvious” kind of love, that between father and son makes it that much more special I think.
James) “The Visitor” is one of my all-time faves, Tony Todd’ acting is on point, the story is compelling, and it takes a different angle from most DS9 episodes around that season it is defiantly a stand-alone episode. The ending although is sad in the fact the older Jake dies which after you have seen the whole episode pulls on the heart-strings, the fact it “resets” the timeline. Therefore, the young Jake has his dad back is a happy moment even if brief.
You have told me your favourite episode, is there on the other end of the scale, your “Worst Trek Episode”
Gary) It may be that I watched this one not too long ago when I was at a loose end and was not really in the mood – but False Profits really felt lame. It just seemed phoned in, lazy and tedious – and worst of all for a comedy episode – not funny.
James) LOL! I have to say it was nice to catch up with those characters from TNG, but this episode was I agree not an example of Prime Voyager.
James) What is your take on the Star Trek series as a whole, what would you say is the best and worst series in your opinion?
Gary) Well I love them all, and as we fans know, they all have their problems.
Again, though, if forced to name a least favourite, I guess it would have to be Voyager. I just feel that the writers did not really work to make the whole show seem like a consistent body of work. It seemed like they were not maintaining the same quality level that the others show had.
I should point out that I also own and quite recently watched, The Animated Series. It was okay for what it was, but in my mind, I do not bundle it in with the live action shows.
James) Honestly, The Animated Series was good for its time, but now I find it hard to watch but yeah like you, I do not put it in the same package of work as the live series. Do you own or play and Star Trek Games, like STO or Timelines etc?
Gary) Other than the very rare occasion that we play our Star Trek “Scene It” DVD game or the old VHS one with Robert O’Reilly, none at all I am afraid! In addition, ever since they introduced that third button on game console controllers I had to bow out of playing video games – too hard. (I did complete Sonic the Hedgehog on my friends Master System, though – only two buttons and the D-Pad to keep track of you see!)
Having said that, I have a friend who has invested in an HTC Live and I must say that was pretty fun to play around on – until it crashed and gave me motion sickness that took hours to fade that is….
James) Have you ever met any Star Trek Actors have you met in real life?
Quick question, then we will move on, other than Star Trek, do you watch any other well-known series?
Gary) I am not too much of a TV watcher these days really. I know people really like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Walking Dead etc. I have seen trailers and the production values are clearly very high but for whatever reason, I have not really gotten into the modern era of TV shows.
My girlfriend and I tend to watch older stuff together. We really enjoyed watching through the box sets of The Time Tunnel, The Man from UNCLE, Quantum Leap, The Dukes of Hazard, A-Team etc. Now we are slowly watching through Getting Smart and The Greatest American Hero, the last of which I only discovered recently, so that was cool! I also look forward each Thursday to seeing which OTT shirt Michael Portillo is gonna wear on This Week….
James) The A-Team
😀 Man that brings back some memories.
James) OK moving on, tell me about your history in filmmaking, I noticed from your site that this is not your first dabble in this world, was this something you have always wanted to do or like some is this a recent occurrence?
Gary) I have always been interested in making films – probably from an even younger age than I discovered Star Trek at, and I used to have to work really hard to be allowed to borrow my dad’s VHS-C camcorder to play around with. None of my friends was particularly interested in Star Trek, however, so all my early films tended to revolve around guns and fighting instead – classic boys territory basically!
I have a near unbroken record of my life in short films and stuff buried away in the archive, from things I have made from age 11 or so, right up until present! I suppose it is all I have ever done, as it is now the industry I work in.
I work as a freelancer and get to wear various hats on different jobs. Sometimes as a camera operator and director, other times vision mixing live events – but more often than not, I will be doing motion graphics or editing for various corporate clients. It is varied and quite fun, so I enjoy my work.
James) I am in awe not many people I know have stuck with something like this and made it a career, if I may be so bold to say I am really impressed and this shows to me not only your love for it but also your levels of commitment.
With having this amazing back cat of work, do you have any notable projects that you have done?
Gary) Film-wise, the most notable projects are probably all the ones my partner Paul Light and I have collaborated on under the banner of Fix Films. I think Chance Encounter is our eighth or ninth project together, going back to about 2005. Fix Films is what results when two like-minded guys get together and try their best to make entertaining and high-quality films, despite having barely any budget other than whatever they are able to put forward themselves.
I am really proud of all the films we’ve made together and I think they still hold up really well today. Anyone interested should go and visit www.fixfilms.com where they’re all available to watch along with a bunch of other fun stuff.
James) I notice you said “FilmWise” is there other aspects of your life you are creative in such as music or art?
Gary) I am also in a 3-piece band called the Response Collective, in which I am the scratch DJ / turntablist – The FireProof Skratch Duck. We have put out a few albums and videos over the years. It is mostly electronic music, largely instrumentals with samples and a few vocals in the mix too. Our grandest achievement was probably getting one of our tracks played as the montage music during the Carbug sequence in the Red Dwarf: Back to Earth specials a few years ago. Our entire back catalogue is up on Sound Cloud free:
James) WOW! This is a surprise, to be honest, and something I am going to have to check out! OK Gary, Tell me about “Chance Encounter,” What gave you the light bulb moment?
Gary) Well Paul and I were both in the head space to produce another short film, and I had an idea floating around that he agreed could have some promise. At this stage, it was not Star Trek or even sci-fi, just a contemporary piece featuring an older man and a younger woman.
I think there was a desire to depict men more positively than they seem to be in the media generally. It feels to me that a lot of shows, movies, and TV ads often show male characters to be both nasty and sleazy, or as being incompetent, Homer Simpson types. We wanted to show men and women both in the same good light, as being equals – and that eventually led us in the Star Trek direction.
James) I know that “Chance Encounter” is based in the TNG era, but how do you feel “Chance Encounter” is different to other productions out there?
Gary) Having learned a bit more about fan films since starting on Chance Encounter – getting a feel what other types of work are out there, I’d say that ours seems to be different in a few ways.
Firstly, our story is a personal one, about just a few characters. It seems there are many films about the whole Federation or alliances between various species allying in wars etc. It struck me as odd because of the often cited fan favourite Star Trek episodes like “City” “Inner Light” “Visitor” “Far Beyond the Stars” “Drumhead” “Measure Of A Man” etc is all the opposite of that. Furthermore, those types of stories require a lot less budget to produce than depicting a massive intergalactic war would do, so that alone made us think this was the right direction for us.
Another thing that I think may set our production apart is that we are filmmakers first, and Star Trek fans second. I am sure that may be a bit unique amongst many fan films. I am definitely a hard-core Trek fan, but I think I have maintained a kind of “professional detachment” to make sure we do not just churn out some sort of gratuitous fan fiction, but rather that primarily we are making a film, one that just happens to be Star Trek.
Thirdly, I think our production values are higher within the budget bracket that we’re operating in. I have the utmost respect for anyone who can actually get a bunch of people together and make a film; any type of film – it’s hard to do man! So I certainly mean no disrespect to any other production out there, none at all – but I am incredibly proud of how high our production values are considering the whole film was done with so little money. Sure, we are not up there with “Continues” or “Renegades,” but then we do not have hundreds or even tens of… or – even ten thousand pounds to spend!
James) Budget is always an important thing to consider. What about setting and time era?
Gary) We are set to bang in the middle of the TNG era, which seems to be the least favourite for some reason. Maybe I have just not seen other TNG fan films as much, but it seems to me that TOS is still king, and then perhaps is a post Nemesis era? Whatever the true situation, TNG does not seem to get as much love!
James) I think you are right there, there seems to be a lot of love for TOS but with the exception of a handful of productions almost none of them seem to be set In the mid to late 2300’s You mentioned that the story for “Chance Encounter” is one that originally did not start as Trek, what is the story about?
Gary) Our story deals with love and loss, and how we as people must choose our paths in life for our own reasons. I think there are many subtle layers to our film and to our characters, many different levels of things happening in there all the time considering it is a short form piece. I am hopeful that the more an audience chooses to ponder on our film after they have watched it, the more they will find in their to think about. If that does happen then I will be thrilled!
James) One thing that appealed to me when I saw your videos on YouTube and your site is that it was not a normal story and seemed unique that was one thing that appealed to me and one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about it.
What would you say is a typical week at working on “Chance Encounter” Is it a full-time endeavour of one for the love and fits in around real life?
Gary) Always the latter – often the former! We did not want this project to be the type of thing that hung around half-finished indefinitely. That is not fun for us, and nor is it fair to the people who generously backed us financially. Our mindset throughout has been (and continues to be) one of pushing forward rather than delaying. As such we had to work really hard to ensure we could get everyone cast, costumes, rehearsed, booked, and that sets were built and props were ready.
The busiest time for me was building the sets as well as prepping for the shoot simultaneously. I think there were a few weeks where I was flat-out and so the advantages of working freelance in the “real world” came into play, as I could literally work on it full-time for several weeks. At the same time, Paul was busy tweaking and re-writing the script and helping with the casting. Once everything is in the can, though, as it is now – we can afford to relax a little bit, as there are not as many variables and schedules in the mix that need to be co-ordinated.
James) One thing I find that many people do not understand unless they are in the fan film world is the production angle, so I want to move on to more focused production questions if that is OK, Tell me who wrote the script?
Gary) That would be Paul. He is the writer in Fix Films. We both work collaboratively on the story ideas, plots and characters, but Paul writes the scripts.
I think we work very well and closely together. We also take the time to work out back stories for every character in order for the actors to have a bit more to go on other than just what’s in the script. On a film with such a short runtime, we think that’s a real help for the actors.
James) Back-stories are key I find when laying out any dialogue, otherwise you tend to forget what the character is all about, how long did the script take to complete?
Gary) I think we probably took about 4 months of batting ideas around, and generating outlines before we got close to the final script. Of course, at that stage it is all very leisurely, you can afford to take as long as you need, as it is the first step.
We did not launch the Kickstarter until we had a viable first draft, though. Of course, once you get going you continue to tweak and improve it, but no major changes occurred once we launched the fundraising effort.
James) Mentioning Kickstarter, which was to be one of my questions, how was it funded and did it cost a lot to set up “Chance Encounter?”
Gary) It was funded by the generosity of everyone who had faith in us, and by two grown men who probably have more responsible things to spend their hard-earned money on!
Well, it did and it did not. In the grand scheme of film budgets, it cost nothing really. However, for all involved, real money has been spent and we continue to be grateful to every one of our Kickstarter backers.
Inevitably, once production underway costs rise, but by that point, you are somewhat committed! Paul and I both put quite a lot of our own money in too; in order to make sure we finished the film to a standard we are happy.
James) Moving on to the cast themselves, can you tell me about them how you cast them were their auditions or did you blind cast them as in from show reels and bios.
Gary) They were all great. We used professional casting services to find them. We just put out a description of the roles, and then cast them based on the best responses. The roles of Dr Goode and Marc we had several video auditions for from various actors, whereas the roles of Rose and Ensign Carver, we actually headhunted the actress based on their headshots and show-reels, as they jumped out as being exactly what we had in mind for those characters.
James) How would you describe them as a collective, with them being professional actors was there a cloud of “oh this is just a fan film”?
Gary) They were all very nice people and professional. There was no sense that as it was both low-budget and a “Star Trek Fan Film” that it should be taken any less seriously. My only regret is that I did not get a chance to get to know them all a bit better.
I was so busy all the time during the shoot days that by the time all the work had been done everyone was knackered and needed to head back home! Even during lunch breaks, I normally had the stuff to do, but overall it was a great experience working with all of them.
James) With your cast being cast through a casting service, did the cast live close by or did it take a lot of forwarding planning to get everyone in one place when needed?
Gary) I think on one all the cast lived in various parts of London, so about an hour away from where I am and where we would be shooting.
Paul is London-based too, so he was able to drive most of our actors in. Others made their own ways there. Trying to pin down dates is an important and very unsexy part of making a film. coordinating all the diaries together is a tough thing to do, as it involves crew and location availability as well as the actors.
James) Did the cast ever have a conflict of schedules?
Gary) We found ourselves in situations where an actor might say, “I’m available for the next two weeks, but then won’t be free for the next five!” As we wanted to keep our momentum up, we would always think that sooner was better than later, and so we put a lot of extra pressure on ourselves to get things ready in time, just to fit around everyone’s schedule.
Even though it was exhausting at times, I think it is better to have short, sharp periods of focus, rather than drag it out indefinitely and lose all the energy.
James) One thing I have noticed is that when I have interviewed others they share this focus as well, it is a recurring theme in many filmmakers. With your actors being professionals, did you find that you also had to set the bar high for the makeup and wardrobe department as well?
Gary) On our very first shoot day, the make-up artist who had applied for the paid job messaged us just thirty minutes before the call time saying that she could not make it! She had left us high and dry. She was the only flaky or unreliable person on the whole production.
We never did meet her in the end, as that day was to have been our first meeting. As such, it rather forced us to set the precedent that the cast (who are all experienced actors and quite capable) could / had to do their own make-up, although Melissa, Paul’s wife (and wearer of numerous other hats on the film) was also able to help on most days.
The wardrobe was a combination of costumes that I already owned, and things bought especially for the film. Hayward’s costume was probably the most involved, as it was, in fact, a relatively cheap Indian Kurta I found online, cleverly altered by my girlfriend’s mother, Felicity to appear as it fastened asymmetrically, which added an air of Star Trek style to it.
James) You mentioned your skills behind the camera and that you directed this as well, did you operate the camera?
Gary) Yep, That would be me, early on, I had hoped to be able to have a larger crew and a dedicated camera operator – but we realised quite soon that we did not have the budget available for that.
In some ways, it helps on a fast-paced shoot that the director is also the camera op, but ideally, I would like to work more slowly if budget allowed, and let someone else take on that role, that way everyone can be more focused on one thing.
James) Sooo, I had a nosey the other day at some of your YouTube Videos, I noticed you build a scaled model of a runabout, SO! Impressed and jealous BTW lol, who designed and made the sets for “Chance Encounter”? I especially love the shuttle interior.
Gary) Thanks! We are pleased with how our sets turned out. I designed and built them. Originally, the shuttle was to be our only set, but later in postproduction, we decided we needed an additional scene and so I ended up building a turbo lift set, too.
The shuttle was a lot more complex than the turbo lift because it needed to be transportable to space we were going to shoot it in, and it would have more screen time that had always been budgeted for, unlike the lift. So when designing it, I had to keep in mind that it needed to be quick and simple to take down and to re- assemble, and to not have any individual pieces that were too large to fit into my car. The lift was a lot simpler as it was just two flats needed for a short scene. They never had to leave my lounge, which is where I built it and where we shot that scene.
James) Speaking of places you shot your scenes, I noticed in the trailer there was a few “location” shoots, was this easy to do with logistics and expenses.
Gary) I think an important part of making the best of your budget is being realistic about your locations. Losing even a few minutes of each shoot day to the logistics of travel, even if looks great when you get there is something I’ve learned to be mindful of.
Fortunately, for this film, we were able to shoot all the exteriors just outside my house, thanks to the kind permission of the landowners of the park I am lucky enough to live next to. The shuttle scenes we shot in a village hall about 10 minutes drive from my house. The two shuttle days were long ones for me, as I had to load the set into the car and do multiple trips back and forth, build it, transport the film gear and then light and mic it up – all before the cast arrived. Of course, after the shoot, I had to do it all again in reverse, although thankfully Paul, Melissa and Gemma were able to help when taking it all down!
James) How would you describe the future of “Chance Encounter” is this a pilot of sorts or was this always planned as a “one off”?
Gary) “Chance Encounter” was conceived as a stand-alone story, and so we don’t imagine we will see these characters again, unfortunately.
James) So no more episodes or stories based in this setting then?
Gary) Our only hope is that it is able to find an audience and entertain them for 15 minutes or so!
James) I think it would be great to see more but obviously, that is me being a nerdy fan lol, Where is “Chance Encounter “when do we get to see the finished film?
Gary) We are well into post-production now and have fairly healthy rough cuts. We are at the point where we can basically sit and watch the film through from beginning to end and get and assess it as a whole. There is still a lot of work for us to do, though, as even in our little film, there are quite a few VFX shots to do, and then we have to balance and mix all the audio, as well as colour correct and grade the images.
We have to decide where our music cues will be as well. Therefore, although the days of running around in the rain and on our sets are over, there is still a long way to go. We are hoping not too far into 2017 we can release it out into the world.
James) I honestly cannot wait, just hearing about it makes me really want to see it. If you could choose one Star Trek Fan Productions you would like to do a crossover with who would it be?
Gary) Star Trek Continues – I would love to have a wander around their sets! In addition, they seem like they have a really nice vibe surrounding their production.
I saw Vic Mignogna premiere an episode and give a talk at FedCon and he seemed like a really nice guy.
James) From first-hand experience with many involved with STC they honestly are nice guys, I have not been in the mix of fan productions long I tended to keep myself to myself but I have grown to really respect these guys mainly because they treat you like people and not just “Fans”
Do you have any regrets in doing “Chance Encounter”?
Gary) There are certain things I know we could have done better. I am a very harsh critic of my own work. Almost every shot I could find some fault with if I tried! Nevertheless, at the same time, I know we are trying to do something very difficult and ambitious.
I am very pleased with how it is shaping up, though, and I think that in the final equation it is going to be a really great film when it’s finished. So no, no regrets at all.
James) How do you feel “Chance Encounter has fitted in with the new “Fan Film Guidelines”
Gary) Fortunately we were already in line with many of the guidelines anyway. However, we already had our script written and were midway through our Kickstarter campaign based on that script when the guidelines were first published. So that, coupled with us being fairly well aligned anyway means we don’t worry about them too much.
James) The engage podcast was a godsend to most I think, it was said that anything already in production would be OK so I think your right you will have nothing to worry about now.
What are your feelings on them, how did you react to them when you saw them for the first time?
Gary) I think our initial reaction was that we should have just made our film a year earlier and it would not have been a problem, ha ha! It is an interesting topic, though, because on the one hand I suppose CBS is entirely able to rigorously pursue every fan film if it wants to, but on the other hand, the counter arguments seem valid, too. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Axanar case.
Reading the guidelines and listening to the John Van Citters podcast interview, it seems fairly clear to me that they have come out with these guidelines largely as a response to “the big boys” like Axanar and Renegades who have pretty huge budgets, large-scale productions and even former cast members reprising their roles. I think they were trying to contain productions like that to some degree; hopefully, they will be frankly uninterested in smaller productions like ours. That is certainly the impression I got, and we very much feel that Chance Encounter is following the spirit of their new guidelines anyway, even if not the exact letter.
James) I do think that it is more aimed at the ones who could cause “brand confusion” I agree, one thing I never got is how established canon characters could be portrayed but their respective actors without CBS saying OK.
We are coming to the home stretch of the interview and I just want to finish up now with some more questions on you, fan productions, and the fandom as a whole. Do you watch any other fan productions like STC, Renegades, Intrepid and so on?
Gary) Perhaps ironically for someone producing and directing a fan film, I have never been particularly interested in fan fiction.
Hell, I cannot get into the official Star Trek novels either, as they are not canon! So generally, I do not sit and properly watch through fan films. The exception being Star Trek Continues which I watch each new episode of within days of them being released. I feel those guys do such a good job and are damn near canon. I also enjoyed Prelude to Axanar when it first came out. That is about it though really.
James) Continues is as close to the fourth season of TOS I think we would ever get bar New Voyages that is, are there any fan productions you just would not watch for various reasons.
Gary) Things that definitely do not interest me are when the story or premise seems very far removed from the official material. Also, if the production values are terrible I am just not going to even try to watch – sorry!
James) That is fair enough, I am like that in a way but mine I think is not that I won’t watch them I as I do but I find them so hard to get into.
Is there any other Star Trek fan productions you have to listen to or watch?
Gary) I like the work that the Trekspertise guy has done, generally very thoughtful and well produced.I have also watched a few episodes here and there from the Trek Yards guys, though only really the ones with guests who worked on the show if I’m honest.
Fair play to them though for building up such a wide following and getting the types of guests that they do. Very commendable, I am sure they are very proud of what they have achieved.
James) If you had to say what are the best and worst parts of the Trek fandom?
Gary) I guess the best part is that inspires people to do more than just sit and watch TV. I know that for me personally, finding a way to include Star Trek into various endeavours has meant I have done things I might not have done otherwise. I’m no master carpenter for example, but in the past, because I’ve wanted say, a full-size LCARS console, I’ve had to make it myself, and so have had to teach myself how to do something I couldn’t do before.
That knowledge and experience have then helped me build the sets for this film. Likewise, because I wanted a large Runabout model that lit up and had an interior etc, I became a model maker and made my own. It is the same with drawing, graphic design, prop making and all sorts of other stuff.
Star Trek is the inspiration to go and do stuff and learn new things. In addition, I know that happens for so many other people, too. That has to be the best thing.
James) And the not so desirable parts of the fandom, have you ever had any bad experiences?
Gary) Sometimes people seem to attack new films and shows before they have even been released! That seems somewhat dumb to me. If you have seen it and did not like it, that is absolutely fine. At least watch it before you write it off! Or if you never do watch it, that’s fine too, but you can’t really comment either way until you’ve seen it.
James) I agree, when Beyond was released the sheer amount of negativity over it was mind-blowing, I am no mega Kelvin fan but to me beyond was good and I honestly enjoyed it.
With you experiences in the industry, what advice would you give to someone wanting to make their own series, what should the aim for?
Gary) Two things – firstly, make sure you finish your film. There is nothing sadder than a project that has been started and then slowly withers away and dies.
Secondly, be sure to make something that you are proud of. Filmmaking is a strange pursuit. It is incredibly personal and a huge commitment, but at the same time, a very public thing when it is released. Although it would be great if everyone loved your film when it is finished, and that is surely the ultimate goal for a filmmaker, you can only really judge its success by how happy you are with it. As long as you think, you did a good job then that is probably all that really matters.
James) Well that is it, Gary, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much for your time in answering some questions and giving me insight into “Chance Encounter,” and sharing your experiences in the filmmaking world.
Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?
Gary) “Please check out Chance Encounter – I think we’ve come pretty close to re-creating the spirit of the show that we all love so much!”
Thanks again for helping spread the word about “Chance Encounter” and I will look forward to seeing your article soon 🙂
James) You are very welcome it has been a pleasure.
So there we have it, guys I really hope you take the time to check out “Chance Encounter” I will post a link to the final film as soon as it drops.
In the mean time go to startrekshortfilm.com to check out the latest news on this very interesting and original fan film or! check out their YouTube for Video updates.