In part one we got to know more about who Matthew Miller is, what he loves about Trek and his hopes for the new Trek series.
In this part, we probe a little deeper into what started Trekzone.org, what is Matthews history with Trek Fan Productions and why he decided to take a stand against Alec Peters and Axanar.
James) Hey Matthew, thank you for taking the time to continue our interview Since Trekzone is not entirely a “podcast” as such, as it features a more video content than audio, I would class it as a Vlog but what would call Trekzone.
Matt) TREKZONE.org is Australia’s first Star Trek fan site, going boldly since 2003. With that said a lot more effort is going into The TrekZone Spotlight which focuses on science fiction in general to avoid some franchise owners taking offence to me raising advertising revenue (not that it ever has been a concern.)
James) You currently work with Network 10, what would you say is your history with this type of medium?
Matt) I started the video podcast back in 2013 as I geared up for the tenth anniversary of the site, it was very rough in those early days… with a lack of budget and a lack of space in my rental home for a set, but working on TV means I have to create that medium!
Eventually, I bought my own house and decided that I didn’t want a physical set again so I’m renting studio space which has helped make the 2017 season the best yet.
James) Did this start as a hobby or did you have any formal education in video and audio formats?
Matt) I studied film and television for my tertiary education in Perth, I have a diploma of the screen (sound) but a lot of what I know came from volunteering at our local community TV station (aka, public access station)…
I worked with a small team on a breakfast show, we were live an hour a day featuring guest interviews and breaking news from overnight feeds, it may not sound like much but for a community TV show, it was revolutionary haha.
James) Trekzone has now spanned over 10 years in total, what else have you done using the knowledge base you have?
Matt) I produced a short-lived fan series called Eternal Night which has a couple of playlists on my YouTube channel. As I mentioned above, I have a need to produce TV-quality products and I just couldn’t pull it off without a budget so I mothballed the idea… until now. (As River Song would say though, shh! Spoilers.)
James) Dam! I hate it when people tell me they are working on things, but won’t tell me what it is HAHA! I am nosey like that.
Quickly going back to your work experiences in community TV do you think this helped you create Trekzone?
Matt) Yes, My three years with community TV in Perth were key, I think, in my current position to create The Trekzone Spotlight with no crew (I shoot, present, produce and edit all by myself in my studio.) I’m also a segment producer for a show called The Couch where I make travel segments and other content outside of a Sci-Fi setting.
James) Ok, so about Trekzone, why choose the medium of Video and not a podcast or Blog?
Matt) As I work in TV it has brainwashed me into only being interested in making video.
James) LOL! So What inspired you to create your podcast other than being brainwashed lol
Matt) Trekzone started as a year 10 IT project and sat idle making many grand claims for about 9 years. It wasn’t until 2012 when I was finding my feet in Brisbane full time and settling down for my life that I made a crack at it and am still plugging away with the same basic ideas – the episode reviews are carrying on for just over 4 years now!
James) Why Trek and not random Sci-Fi?
Matt) I started on Trek exclusively, but broadened to general/random SciFi when I realised I was being very niche in my episodes.
James) Funny you say that lol, I have something lined up that if all goes well should be launched in Q4 2017 or Q1 2018 but shhh shhh “spoilers” LOL!
How many episodes of Trekzone have been produced to date?
Matt) There are 13 Trekzone Interviews, 12 SciFi Weekly and 27 Trekzone Spotlights
James) How hard is it to come up with each topic? Since your podcasts vary a lot, does it require a lot of planning in advance?
Matt) In 2017 I’m trying to be a lot more regular than previous years, in November 2013 I was going to be doing monthly but that didn’t work out. Sci-fi WEEKLY didn’t quite work either, so there may be spurts like this week (3 eps in four days, and I’ve got Carlos coming up next week.) Not sure yet, see what happens.
James) How is Trekzone funded?
Matt) All me. Google sent me my first AdWords cheque the other month, it took me about four or five months of YouTube ads to reach the payment threshold!
James) Like me then, 100% self-funded, and even IF! I was trying to garnish funds from elsewhere, it would be through Affiliate links like I am doing with CBS All Access.
James) Would you ever try a crowd fund for Trekzone?
Matt) No. I tried a campaign a few years back for Eternal Night and only managed to bring in a couple hundred dollars, then I realised that this is MY hobby and I do it because I want to.
People enjoy watching the episodes, but maybe that’s because it’s free – all they have to do is sit through an ad or two (please.)
Trekzone is only run and funded by me. There is no one else. That’s why I speak in the first person on the social media channels, I think it makes it more personal, and I certainly feel that with several regulars now keeping up with me as I release new content.
James) With you being self-funded and unlike me, as I am in a written format which is cheap as chips lol, how much does an episode cost to produce?
Matt) I’m not going to give away exact figures, but there is studio space for me and the guest at an hourly rate, time on the transcontinental fibre per minute, my subscription to Adobe, my PC (which needs an upgrade now that I’m churning green screen keys out!), my time could also be factored in if we were working ‘in the real world.’
James) So not cheap then :-s I know I couldn’t afford to run my site if it cost me a lot and I am lucky with the package I got from 1 and 1, £5 PCM.
Over the last 5 years since things have moved up a gear in the work you are doing with Trekzone, who have you interviewed?
Matt) That list is really extensive. From Anthony Montgomery, Doug Drexler, Larry Nemecek, Rod Roddenberry, Dominic Keating, Richard Dean Anderson, Grant Imahara, Vic Mignogna, Tim Russ and so much more.
James) Would you say that your interview technique has changed much since your early days?
Matt) You can tell, especially in the early days, who were good talent because of their! Really carried the podcasts…
However, my chat with Alice Krige was one of the very early ones I would not encourage people to watch, sadly, as it was very stiff and very early (in terms of graphics, sets and my abilities.)
James) I have to admit I am still finding my way in how I interview people, I have to work in such a way to get around time zone differences as atm most if not all of the people I interview are based overseas with a big difference in time zones.
Even though you say you were wooden, there had to be some things about it that you look back and think yeah that was really good.
Matt) Learning about Alice Krige’s past and her film project from the Perth film festival was a highlight, it’s just a shame it was my second interview and was delivered with such wooden gusto by me hurts my brain.
James) Do you have a favourite Podcast you have done?
Matt) Dominic Keating was a great talent, Richard Dean Anderson was generous with his time (I was one of two video interviews while he was here) and meeting Australia’s only (so far) astronaut was awesome.
James) If you had to say what podcast you found the most cringe-worthy what would it be?
Matt) Alec Peters springs to mind. The way he turned on a dime when I asked him to explain his finances was incredible and led to the best bit of my series (73,000 other viewers agree.)
James) Ahhh the “Phone a Friend” one LOL! That one I did find a little funny more than cringe worthy but that’s me.
You have done some “location” based podcasts, can you tell me some of the places you have been.
Matt) I’ve followed Oz Comic Con to Perth, Melbourne and Sydney to record interviews with guests. I’ve been working on a US trip for over a year now (can I get in with Trump closing the borders!?)
James) Ah well the USA sucks LOL! Come to the UK, as a member of the Commonwealth lol I am sure you will have no problem lol.
Out of those places you just mentioned, can you tell me the best and worst places you have been?
Matt) I had to interview Dr Andy Thomas in the middle of the World Science Fair, it was so noisy and crowded, which hurt the interview (especially since they set me up right next to the speakers from a radio station’s OB!)
James) Oh, how nice of them.
No doubt over the last 5 years you have not only altered your interviewing technique, but I am sure your equipment has changed. In all the interviews you have done are there any you wish you could go back and redo because you are watching them now and think a man that looks BAD!
Matt) My worst quality production would be my chat with Tori Higginson (Stargate Atlantis’ Dr Weir) and Grant Imahara (Mythbusters)… I had attempted to use a two camera setup using my Lumia 1020 but it did not work out very well.
James) What made these in your eyes so bad?
Matt) Ellie Goulding claimed to have used the Lumia 1020 exclusively on one of her music videos and it looked very good… when I used it, it was shocking. Lesson learnt!
James) I am glad I do not have to worry about such things “yet” lol!
We are coming to the last bit of this segment, so a few more questions then I’d like to move on.
Is there anything about Trekzone you are thankful for, such as perks you have gained from connecting with a lot of people around the globe?
Matt) I have made friends with quite a few studios in the US, which allows me to be the only SciFi video podcast that employs satellite links (although they’re deep water transcontinental cables now, that’s not as catchy as a ‘satellite link’!) to chat with my guests and not rely on Skype too often (from this year, I’ll be employing production houses in any state I don’t have studio access… so every podcast will be full high-def goodness.)
James) Looking back on your podcasts, you have new digs as of 2017, what prompted the change?
Matt) I moved house after my Dad passed away and the only space in the new house for the studio was in the garage. It’s summer in Queensland and I just melt walking from the car into the house, there was no way I was going to be able to build a set in there without modifications like air con and a light grid etc etc etc, and then I would have to look at the packed away set every day and I just thought there had to be a better way.
Thankfully, I worked out a deal with some studio space locally where they have all those things I need and it looks so much better than anything I could’ve whipped up at home. (It’s taken me a few eps of this new season to get the angles, lighting and key right… so have a look at the latest ep with Gary O’Brien which gives you a good sense of how things will be for a while to come.)
James) Moving on, you have produced an Audio Drama but a little birdie told me you were thinking of moving into live action productions, so I would like to touch base on your history within filmmaking.
Have you ever written a screenplay before and if so how many have you completed?
Matt) I wrote a bunch of fanfictions back around 2006/07 under the working title Star Trek: Poseidon… it was basic and never for public consumption again! (Not sure if it’s still out there on the web archive…) When I got stuck into Eternal Night in 2012/13 I had many concepts, but eventually gutted out several log entries for a ‘first’ season ending with a 40-minute news bulletin to build up some B-plots for season ‘two’ which took a different turn (utilising audio and set in 2406/2386.)
Those B-plots were going to come into play for the third season (live action) but it never eventuated.
James) So this is going to be a semi-continuation of your Audio Drama, cool.
When writing a screenplay, how long does it normally take for you to complete one?
Matt) I got on a roll there at one stage and turned out to 300 pages of script for the ten-episode second season in about two months… it was relatively easy because it was a season-long story arc that wrote itself towards the end, then the hardest part was breaking it up for flow and cliffhangers etc.
James) What aspect of writing a screenplay gives you the most pleasure
Matt) I enjoy building characters from scratch, having some of my dreams imprinted on them and exploring a fictional world in my mind through their eyes. The challenge for me is believable dialogue; the actors chuckled with some of the more intimate moments I’d scripted.
James) Out of all the screenplays you have written, are there any you wish you do over?
Matt) I wish I could tell that second season better. Heck, I wish it was produced beyond its fourth episode – but I didn’t want to crowd fund so I never had the ability.
James) Crowdfunding does have its perks, but also its drawbacks. Which one of your scripts and films are you most proud of and why?
Matt) From a production standpoint, that honour has to go to the season one finale. All by myself I wrote, shot and edited the news bulletin – I even starred in it at one point. I managed to get a guy in a chopper to give me two traffic reports, I had WA Police Media offering feedback on one of the plots, we went to hospitals and filmed pieces to camera – just like a real news hour.
James) When writing a screenplay, have you ever drawn upon other Trek episodes as a guide on how you’d like things to feel or look?
James) those are two! My all time favourite episodes 🙂
From an outsider’s point of view looking at, what would you think is the biggest surprise anyone would see when producing a fan production?
Matt) Just… how… long… it… takes. I mean, seriously! We sat for eight hours reading the dialogue for the ten ep second season. (My lead actors were troopers that day!)
James) I think a lot of people seem to forget it’s not as simple as shooting in order etc, also sometimes you have to do a few takes to get the look you want, I just do not like it when things take 23 takes or more lol.
What is the toughest thing about getting a project completed?
Matt) The budget!
James) Lastly then we must move on so I do not take up much of your time :-p
With you thinking about moving into the live production side of things, How do you feel about the fan film guidelines?
Matt) The guidelines are awesome, and no – I’m not paid to say that – I truly believe that the guidelines will help smaller productions like mine cut through the noise from the ‘big guys’ and we are all on a level playing field now… I still won’t crowdfund, but I can now tell a 15-minute story and it won’t be beaten or looked down on for not being a 50-minute epic shot on built sets.
James) Ok, recently you took a controversial stand towards this subject so I would like to probe into why and your experiences with the yet to be made a project called Axanar.
So I guess the first question is, even though we ALL knew what was going on what made you choose to interview Alec Peters
Matt) With the lawsuit hanging over him and a LOT of loyalists hanging around, it seemed right to interview him to place myself ‘on the radar’ of many more fans… I learnt that from work, where we do things that we know will bring in the ratings – people may not like that, but it’s a fact of the business.
James) That was understandable and at the time it was such a hot topic for so many people. Being totally honest, what was it like to interview Alec Peters, as when the interview came out there were a lot of opinions on it, ranging from you ganged up on him to you hate him.
Matt) I don’t hate the man, despite what he may say.
As I said in my recent chat with Christian Gossett, I wish him every success with Axanar now that he can make the two fifteen-minute films – but history says he won’t / can’t.
James) How much fallout has there been from your interview with him?
Matt) I still see viewer figures for part two (with Bawden & Pedraza) increase, there’ll be the occasional loyalist who’ll post their view on the subject but that’s about it. Perhaps I’m not as biased as certain other individuals…?
James) I have to admit I tip my hat to you, you do deal with them better than I lol, but with all the mixed feedback on the interview and its follow-ups, one has to ask why! Did you cover the Axanar Lawsuit knowing how certain “followers” would cause issues for you?
Matt) I was chatting with the editor at a larger Trek news site and asked why they weren’t covering it… they said because it’s such a divisive issue and they don’t want to deal with the fallout. I agree that it has divided Trek fan film fans, but I disagree with the whole backing away from the fallout… it is worthy of coverage because it affects so many people and that fallout is par for the course when it comes to coverage hot button issues.
James) To say they do not want to “deal” with the fallout is shady at best tbh but then again each to their own, I personally have not bothered doing a big coverage of it because this issue has caused a LOT of hassle for so many and I felt if I am honest, I wish this certain person and the production had never hit the fan film scene.
One thing that came out of the interview you did was Alec branded you a hater, how do you feel about that?
Matt) I disagree that I’m a hater, that label was placed on me by Peters (along with ‘immature child’ while asking for a follow-up interview) because I questioned financial records.
James) Ah, OK…
I have to ask as like myself a lot of people were “Pro” Axanar at the start, did you ever class yourself in this way or have you always been a down the line kind of guy?
Matt) I don’t go one way or the other with any fan film, to be honest, I’m just not that invested in them. That said, I enjoyed Prelude just like I enjoyed Continues, Hidden Frontier, Intrepid, Chance Encounter etc. It’s good to film sometime.
James) Even though this was settled and in essence should be fading away there is still a very strong vocal minority who still are calling for boycotts, etc., How do you feel the fallout from the Axanar lawsuit is going to affect everyone from this point forward both fans and fan Trek?
Matt) While the loyalists shout from the rooftops of a deserted town saying that it’s all over and things will never be the same, I still believe this has levelled the playing field for everyone… now you don’t need to raise a million dollars to be seen and heard (the reason I believe my crowdfunding for Eternal Night failed.) I’m even considering reviving my series.
James) Do you think the Settlement is the end?
Matt) No. I’m not going to say more than that because of some conversations I’ve had off-the-record
James) How do you feel about the settlement?
Matt) Alec Peters is a very lucky man.
James) Do you wish this went the whole hog and he went to trial?
Matt) Well, I was preparing to go live every day with Carlos to cover the trial… it would’ve been fascinating to watch.
James) IF! This had gone to trial, Do you think he honestly could have won
James) Ok, so about this podcast, “The Stand” as I call it, WHY! Now, after so long, after the settlement?
Matt) It’s always been there but as an impartial observer. Since Alec and his minions can’t see that, I asked myself why bother tiptoeing the line? So I speak up for what I believe in.
James) What has been the response to it?
Matt) There has been some murmuring, but mostly quiet… they seem focused on Shawn and Carlos.
James) LOL, WOW! I would have thought people would have been pitchforks at dawn over it lol, Can you tell me what made you take more of a stand on this subject matter and not play the line like you did before?
Matt) I received a long winded email from Mike Bawden when I asked him about the fan production aiding Axanar in the move. In one sentence we went from amicable professionals to adversaries.
James) Erm, how Public Relations of him, can I ask what was in the email or at least see what he said that changed your mind so drastically…..
James) Erm, ok, not touching that one lol, so moving on, Do you think the coverage that TrekZone and Axamonitor have done is the right thing to do, even after all the grief you guys have gotten and still get from it?
Matt) Absolutely, People deserve the truth, whether they believe it or not is up to them… but Alec can’t just get away with taking people’s money and then not delivering – that’s exactly why St fan films have been turned on their head the way they have. Metaphorically, Alec ran into the common room of fandom with a bomb and blew himself up.
Then again, I have to thank Alec for forcing CBS & Paramount to build guidelines because it will allow my production to be on a level playing field with others out there (speaking of, what big names are still in production?)
I’ll probably be releasing my first post-guidelines fan film before he even gets one frame in the gate…
James) I guess there are some good things that came out of this lol, Hey I have met some really cool people so in a way I am thankful to Alec just like you lol :-p
One last thing on this subject, Do you regret getting involved in this massive cluster f**k?
Matt) No. I believe I’ve provided unbiased coverage where possible, I’ve allowed Alec Peters to speak for 30 minutes before questioning his finances, I gave 70 minutes to PR man Mike Bawden, I gave 44 minutes to Jonathan Lane (a “pro-Axanar, self-proclaimed independent blogger”.)
One thing we know Alec likes to say is how we amount to nothing because of reasons! But how do you define success and how do you measure it?
I define success by what you’ve done. My 52 podcasts in three and a half years speak for my success. How do I measure success? Stop talking about what you’re going to do AND DO IT.
James) I agree, success is different for everyone, I do not measure success in the way he does to me it is just being happy with people I love around me as in this world there are some people with nothing.
James) Ok We are hitting the home stretch now and I would like to wrap things up so only a few more questions promise lol.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to: make their own series, what should the aim for?
Matt) Do what TOS did best, focus on the characters, applies the KISS method – keep it simple stupid.
James) What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own production like Trek Zone?
Matt) Don’t. You’ll hurt my rating :P. Seriously though, work out what you want to do and how you want to do it, I spent nine years trying to figure that out… and I’m up to year 5 trying to work out Eternal Night.
James) Do you have any regrets in doing Trek Zone?
Matt) Not getting started on it sooner. Maybe I could be even bigger today then? But I am happy with how things have played out.
James) Lastly, What would you like to say to the fans of Trek Zone?
Matt) Thanks. Your kind words – especially in this week on the new stuff – makes me happy to know that there are a few out there that hang out for the next release, and you’re the reason I’m pushing myself to make more content more often.
James) So Matt, that is it I want to thank you deeply for your time as I know the big time difference between us made this a bit tricky, but before we sign off, is there anything else you would like to say?
Matt) I think we’ve covered everything. This was fun!