STARSHIP REPUBLIC – Interview – Ray Tesi

Starship Republic is one of the many fan productions to come from the renowned Starbase Studios, a home where anyone can make a fan film using their sets.

Ray Tesi a fan of Star Trek heads STARSHIP REPUBLIC that in their own words “is a Star Trek fan-film project aimed at recapturing the excitement and morality of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. Our series follows the intrepid crew of the USS Republic (NCC-1371) in the same timeline as The Original Series. We hope to bring you quality thought-provoking stories with a new set of heroes in the Trek universe.”

Recently I had the privilege to sit and talk to Ray about Republic, what Star Trek means to him and his experiences in the filmmaking world.

James) Hi Ray, Thank you for taking the time to sit with me and answer some questions about not only Republic but allowing me to get to know the man behind this production.

Ray) Thanks again for the opportunity

James) Ray, Tell me a bit about yourself.

Ray) I grew up in the Bronx in the early 1960’s and did not always fit in with the kids in school or the neighbourhood. My parents used TV in place of a babysitter, so I have been in love with television for as long as I can remember. I have wanted to be involved in movie making since I picked up my grandfather’s 8mm Kodak camera and made short films in my backyard way back then. I developed a love of science fiction (not sci-fi), horror, model making and dressing up as my favourite characters (before it was called cosplay).

I have been a fan of Star Trek for all fifty years that it has been on the air. I can tell you where I was 12 on Sept 8, 1966, when “Man Trap” premiered — and I was immediately hooked. No longer were spacemen the “shoot ’em up” Buck Rogers characters, but they were evolving into role models. They were still human, but suddenly they were dealing with human emotions, human frailties, and everyday human problems. In addition, inside of an hour’s time, they taught us how to deal with those problems — and sometimes taught us that problems have no solution except that of acceptance. Big lessons to a small person.

There were not too many fans to be found in those early days, but I eventually found a life-long friend in Don Horan when I heard him talking about Trek in high school with other classmates. They were as knowledgeable as I was, they were as insightful as I was, and we shared the same enthusiasm and engaged in marathon debates. These guys goofed off in school, played baseball, loved the Yankees, lusted over high school girls, knew all the TV action shows I did and had crushes on movie starlets. I had arrived.

In 1972, a group of us went to what would become the first annual Star Trek convention at the Statler Hilton Hotel in Manhattan. It was a different time. Guests were accessible, Memorabilia was not mass-produced, and it was hand-made. Don and I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Gene and Majel and shared an elevator with Isaac Asimov. How many people can say that?

In the 1980’s, Don and I had a brief brush with success, having several TV movies under consideration with William Morris, but never got the brass ring. I guess when an agent suggests a different ending to a story, you say, “Yes, sir, may I have another” instead of writing, a dissertation on your ending is the best ending. Live and learn. I almost pushed myself into the writing staff during the first season of Next Generation with a story entitled “The Human Factor,” but that too never panned out.

I held my own anime and sci-fi conventions in South Florida in 2008 and 2009. They were actually successful, but quickly learned you cannot do it as a hobby. You have to be in it to win it.

However, through it all, I never lost my love for Star Trek and television.

This all makes me a bit older than most folks venturing in the fan film world, but there is no time like the present.

James) I remember what my mum once said to me, “with age comes wisdom and experience” so yeah you may! Be a bit older than some but that brings a viewpoint that many will not see, and one of those will be the entire 50 years of fandom experience you have.

Tell me a bit about your history with Star Trek what does Trek mean to you

Ray) That is about as loaded a question as you could possibly ask me. As I said previously, I was 12 when Trek premiered in living colour on NBC, and I was immediately hooked.

I have lived it and breathed it for 50 years. I have evolved along the way to understand some of the undertones on the episodes and the social mores they reflected. I understood that characters and was able to apply their emotions to my life…and suddenly I did not feel alone. There is too much Star Trek in my history to adequately answer that question here.

So what does Trek mean to me?

It is about a hopeful future. It is about people from a multitude of races, creeds, and colours working together for the betterment of not just humanity, but life itself. It is about duty and responsibility. It about unrequited love.

It is about living with who you are.

All of the things that seem to be missing in today’s society.

Many people have tried to express the philosophy of Trek. Some have written books. I am sure someone somewhere has given this explanation before, but I have never seen it. I believe the philosophy has been right in front of us the whole time in words written by Roddenberry himself.

In “City on the Edge of Forever,” Edith addresses the derelicts of the 21st Street Mission. She tells them: “Now I don’t pretend to tell you how to find happiness and love when every day is just a struggle to survive, but I do insist that you do survive because the days and the years ahead are worth living for. One day soon, man is going to be able to harness incredible energies, maybe even the atom. Energies that could ultimately hurl us to other worlds in some sort of spaceship.

The men that reach out into space will be able to find ways to feed the hungry millions of the world and to cure their diseases. They will be able to find a way to give each man hope…and a common future, and those are the days worth living for…”

THAT is the philosophy of Trek and what it means to me.

James) Do you have a Favourite Trek Episode & Why?

Ray) I would be hard pressed to list only one episode overall without acknowledging all five series, so I think it’s only fair to list one from each:

TOS: Let us take “City on the Edge of Forever” out of the mix and go with “The Naked Time” – great character development story, great insight on Kirk and Spock, the terrific interaction of the crew, great drama, and music.

TNG: “The Inner Light” – Touching story of two men’s lives affected by a doomed man’s planet and the affection he has towards his family and friends, and at losing those people closest to him. Patrick Stewart’s final scene is as touching and moving. (Honourable mention: “Yesterday’s Enterprise”)

VOYAGER: “Year of Hell” – Great sci-fi premise about a man who is seemingly hell-bent of wiping out his enemy, but his real goal is to bring back his wife from the dead. Let us add in a wonderful performance by Kate Mulgrew.

DS9: “Trails and Tribble-actions” – a very nice tribute episode with the same sparks and humour as the original.

ST: ENTERPRISE: Just about all of season three, culminating with “Zero Hour.” I loved having a mission that the actors could sink their teeth into, and the portrayal of the Xindi was well played.

Honourable Mention: “World Enough and Time” by James Cawley and ST: Phase 2. If you have never seen it, watch it! It gives all other Trek episodes a run for their money.

James) What about your worst Trek Episode Why?

Ray) TOS “Way to Eden” – it just sucked.

James) Out of all five! So to be six! Series what is your Favourite & Why?

Ray) TOS, not just, because I grew up with it, but simply put, if it was not for TOS, we would not have everything else.

James) Worst Series?

Ray)  DS9: I know I will get some dissension on this, but my problem was that I would watch three or four great episodes in a row followed by a Quark episode. I just did not buy into that character. Then the whole Sisko / spiritual thing was a bit over the top.

James) What Trek Actors have you met in real life if any?

Ray) Lots and Lots, I met Shatner with my son at an Orlando con at an 80th birthday celebration. Shatner went to every table and spoke with everyone. He was just charming. I told him that growing up, he was my hero. His answer got me too flustered to tell him why. He said to me, “Really…? Why…?” And I just lost it.

Met Nimoy on the street in NYC in the late 1970’s. Nobody else recognised him so I thought maybe I was wrong. However, as he approached me, it was obvious that he knew I knew who he was. He stopped in front of me (probably because of my dumb-founded look) and smiled. All I managed to say was “Weren’t you…?” To which he replied, “I still am” and kept walking.

I first met Nichelle at a con in NYC in the mid-1970’s. I was walking down a crowded aisle in the Huckster’s Room (that what they called the vendor area in those days) when the crowd parted revealing Nichelle at a table just in front of me. I recall that there was bright sunlight streaming in from the windows like heaven. There might as well have been a choir in the background. I stopped dead in my tracks when she looked over a saw me gawking, and smiled at me. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I crapped my pants and ran away!

Also met many people from all of the different series. However, meeting and speaking with Gene and Majel at the first con was priceless. Much much more on that later… 

James) I am jealous, Lenard Nimoy was someone I ALWAYS wanted to meet. 

Do you play any Star Trek Games?

Ray) Ha! I’m a gamer from way back and have played lots of Trek games in my life.

My favourite was Elite Force, so that’ll give you some idea of my ancient past. I think at this point in my life, I need to concentrate on that pesky thing we call reality. Ew! LOL

James) Other than Trek, what other TV shows you watch like B5, Walking Dead, The Flash?

Ray) I am a fan of episodic drama. I was a huge fan of shows like the Galactica reboot, Fringe, LOST and back in the day shows like Millennium and The Night Stalker. Television is different today. I love streaming, but it leads to binge-watching shows like Daredevil and Stranger Things. Network TV has really changed. Used to be you would get 26 episodes a year and reruns in the summer.

Now, you get into a show and it goes on hiatus for 12 or 18 months. Who remembers what it was about when it comes back on? Currently, I watch shows like Pitch, Supergirl and Chicago Fire. I am a huge fan of The Last Ship, but alas, it is on hiatus. I loved The Strain, but it was off the air too long to get back into it, and I AM looking forward to ST Discovery. In addition, new shows like Frequency and Timeless — well, they just do not make sense. And BTW, I’m a huge fan of Whose Line. I could talk about shows all day. LOL

James) What do you feel about entertainment today, I mean gone are the days of 20+ episodic seasons is there anything you feel is missing?

Ray) I have been watching television since the late 1950’s. It was much different then. Just three major channels and a few local stations.

With the advent of cable plus sites streaming content, the choices are too proliferous. There is no way to know what is good and what is bad and what else you could be watching in this new sea of content.

Another issue is originality. There are some very fine original series and movies playing today, but there is a lot of rehashing going on. I am not sure I have ever seen a remake that was better than the original. Just be original.

Lastly, it used to be that you got 26 episodes a year and then reruns in the summer. Now you get 8 or 10 episodes of a series and then it is off the air for a year or more. It is sometimes impossible to get back into it. Just bring it on, dammit!

James) With Discovery showing on CBS all Access in the USA and Netflix elsewhere, do you think this future of televised series and films, just as you use YouTube etc. now? Is TV on the way out?

Ray) I have seen many changes in broadcast television in the last 50+ years that I have been watching. I think network television is in flux because of streaming and on-demand technology. New organisations are finding newer, better and cheaper ways to create and send us content, so it’s impossible to predict what the landscape will be even 2 or 3 years from now.

However, it still needs to be a profitable medium. Yes, TV will change and evolve, but I do not think it will ever die.

James) Ray, what is your history in filmmaking, apart from Republic is there anything you have made or are proud of.

Ray) Two children and a 36-year marriage.

Actually, Starship Republic is my first attempt at filmmaking. I have studied the craft for decades, and always believed if an opportunity came along — take it! Starbase Studios presented that opportunity by allowing Don and me to take a decades-old story of ours and translate it to the screen. In a big way, I have Vance Major and Scott Johnson to thank for guiding two novices through the process.

One thing I have learned from all the years that I have been in business that I was able to carry through to the production of Republic was to surround myself with good people — and I believe that effort is going to make Republic a success! To be successful, I believe you have to become an orchestra leader: you need to assemble the best musicians you can find and then do your damnedest to have them play in sync and make the most moving music that they can. I have not surrounded myself with good people — I have surrounded myself with great people! Every cast member, every crewmember, and every person that cheered us on.

As we begin to release info on Republic, look for names like Gabriel Morgan, Kent Edwards (“Words”) and Jim Von Dolteren amongst a multitude of others. We — they — are making Republic a fantastic Star Trek production! Kudos to them!

James) So Republic… Tell me about it, 

When and why did you decide to create a fan film series based upon Star Trek?

Ray) I always have had a need to be a part of the Trek universe in some way, shape or form, and when the opportunity to film at Starbase Studios presented itself, I had to take advantage of it. That is the “why.” By date, that would have been September 2015 when I would learn about Promenade-action.

James) Before you could move forward, did you have to win over anyone to get the series off the ground?

Ray) No, not really. My writing partner Don Horan and I have been doing this for a long time, so we were in total agreement with the entire written production. We pitched our concept to Vance Major and Scott Johnson at Starbase Studios, and I think it was my enthusiasm that won them over.

James) Where does an idea for an episode usually begin for you?

Ray) Everywhere and nowhere, Most times, it is predicated on current events. We hope to use Republic going forward in the same capacity as Gene did 50 years ago: to reflect social and moral issues going on in our world today. That is not the case with every idea, but many times that is where it starts.

James) So, you are the Writer and Director of Republic was this an easy task or did you find the roles lead to many challenges in making things fit from script to film? 

Ray) Being the writer, I was intimate with the story and dialogue. If I needed to make changes to either, I was able to do that knowing what the eventual outcome would be and make those changes within the confines of the characters’ back-stories. That was the easy part.

Directing was a bit trickier. As I have said previously, I was a novice coming in. I had never directed any production of any kind previously. Having said that, after the first two takes, the butterflies were gone and I seemed to slip right into the role. Good support people (Gabriel Morgan and Kent Edwards) allowed me to do that. There were several scenes along the way that were not going as planned, but I seemed to have the presence of mind to stop and collect not only my thoughts but everyone else’s as well. At one point, I came to the realisation that I could do this and I could do this well.

James) Being the head of Republic, what is the best thing about your role?

Ray) I like being in control to a certain extent. With my experience with Republic, after I settled in and understood my role and the responsibilities of our production staff, I felt right at home and at ease. I was a novice but learned by osmosis from two great people that stood side-by-side with me: Gabriel Morgan and Kent Edwards (aka “Words”).

Gabe came on board as our Director of Photography, but almost immediately became my co-director. He had a great eye for the camera and shared the same vision I had for Republic. When released, you will see that his work is outstanding. Many good things will be coming from Gabe.

Words were our production coordinator. I had no idea what the production process was all about until he stepped in. He immediately gave the set a professional atmosphere and put us on the road to a great production. I get chills when I think about the first time he yelled, “Quiet on the set!” I could not have done it without these two guys!

James) Ray, Can we break down your role in Republic into stages so the guys who read this can get the info on all aspects of your production.

Let us talk about your screenplay experience. When did you first realise that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

Ray) I was a junior in high school in 1970. I took a Creative Writing course and sat next to my friend Don Horan.

Don and I were both Star Trek fans we would remain life-long friends. I went into the class green, but he had written some spec scripts that were really good. I suggested a few changes, he asked me to edit them, and the rest is history!

James) When you started out can you remember what were the main obstacles you faced where? 

Ray) Attitude and sophistication, I had a multitude of ideas but had trouble getting started and my style was rather childish.

I asked the copywriter at the job I was working at to read some material I had written. He gave me the best advice I ever received about dialogue. He said, “Keep it simple and short. Why are you answering a question with 3 sentences when the answer is ‘yes’?” Words to live by!

James) How many scripts have you written? 

Ray) Way! Too many to count, but most have yellowed with time in a dusty file cabinet. No regrets, though. 

James) Where do you write is there any places you find easier to write than others? 

Ray) It depends, I have a small office area that is somewhat cosy, but I write when I feel it. Sometimes it is longhand on a legal pad if that is where I am.

James) Tell me out of all the scripts you have written have you ever been in a position where it could lead to something further? 

Ray) In the 1980’s, Don and I had a brief brush with “potential” success. We had three spec scripts under consideration with The William Morris Agency. They seemed to really like one of our stories in particular called “Tram.” We had three criminals high up the Roosevelt Island Tramway in NYC holding its passengers for ransom.

Trouble was the Tram was dangling over the East River with no apparent way to get our thieves off, so we had seen an exhibition on real jet packs and had our characters escape in an air chase through NYC. The agent hated the ending and suggested alternate ideas. When you are young and arrogant, you need to learn to say “yes” sometimes. We did not.

Don and I also submitted scripts to Barney Miller and to Next Generation, but it never happened.

James) What gives you the most pleasure when writing, and what elements of the craft do you find most difficult? 

Ray) Author Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” It is kind of like that. When it is going well, it is great. However, when it is not (and most often it is not), the struggle is unbearable. However, when you finally type, “THE END,” it’s all worth it!

James) Which script of yours do you most wish you had a do-over on? 

Ray) None really. I was always happy with the work that I, or Don and I, put forward. It was all good stuff, usually well thought out, good dialogue, plausible situations, and brisk pace.

In the end, we were really writing for ourselves and were happy with the work.

James) If you had to pick one which other writers have inspired you? 

Ray) That is a tough question. I like different genres, so different authors. Asimov, John DF Black, Harlan Ellison come to mind right away. Throw in Stephan King, George Orwell and John Grisham and you have a well-rounded and eclectic group! On the Star Trek front, I am a big fan of Judith and Garfield-Reeves Stevens.

James) So, which one of your scripts and films are you most proud of and why? 

Ray) Starship Republic — our current effort.

It has IMHO all of the elements of a good drama — conflict, tension, character development, action, pathos — and it’s the only one to ever get in front of the camera! I love it!

James) What in your opinion, is the most important aspect of building a great character?

Ray) Depth. A character needs a great back-story, even if it is not apparent on screen. It defines who that character is, how they interact with other characters, and how they react to given situations. If you do not have strong characters, you cannot make good stories. Look at Kirk and Spock.

In season one, we learned all kinds of things about their back-stories and personal lives that lead to great drama. It is you are character’s defining moments that either draw in the viewer or have them change the channel.

James) What is the most enjoyable thing about screenwriting? 

Ray) When dialogue just seems to flow.

Republic is a great example. Don and I had written a terrific treatment. Once we starting putting dialogue to paper, the story took some very different twists that made for a better storyline. It does not always happen, but when it does, it’s gold!

James) What sort of stories excite you (other than Star Trek)? 

Ray) I am a big fan of all types of stories so long as their well-paced and logical. By logical, I mean that there are not elements in the story just to get the characters to do something for no apparent reason. Make the situations real and the solutions believable. It just has to all make sense.

However, I will take science fiction, drama, classics, comedy — I love them all! Two of my favourite movies are classics: Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca” and John Wayne in “The Horse Soldiers.” Nevertheless, you can give me “Animal House,” “Unstoppable”, “Galaxy Quest” — you name it!

James) When do you write? 

Ray) No good answer to that. It is best when the mood is right and the dialogue and narrative are flowing. Sometimes I write because I have to. Sometimes because I need to. I like it best when I am just writing for myself. Everyone else is a bonus.

James) With your experience in screenplays, did you have any issues in writing the script of Republic? 

Ray) Actually, none. My friend and writing partner Don Horan conceived the story and almost immediately wrote a treatment for it. After that, the story and dialogue took on a life of its own. There have been several changes along the way, but for the most part, we were very happy with the outcome and stayed with it.

Funny story, back in the late 1970’s, Don, and I had an idea for a TV series we called “The Sea Hawks” loosely based on the classic Errol Flynn movie. We decided we wanted to take Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and put them on a 16th-century frigate as outcasts fighting for Queen and country. We wrote a pilot with 13 subsequent episodes — that of course never sold. When we learned of the opportunity of making fan films at Starbase Studios, we took our characters from “The Sea Hawks” and put them on a starship and the rest is history.

James) What if any research did you carry out in the preparation of writing the Republic script, what challenges and responsibilities did this present in making it something unique?

Ray) Don and I had been writing partners for over forty years, so we just decided to be true to ourselves. While never having a professional credit, we were skilled at the craft and confident in our ability. We knew these characters, we knew the story we wanted to present, and we knew the kind of production we were looking for. The research we did do was finding the right starship for the crew. Two ships that had been mentioned in canon, but never seen.

The USS Constitution and the USS Republic.

We felt the Republic offered a better opportunity and it had a significant back-story in TOS. In the TOS episode “Court Martial,” the USS Republic was a 23rd century Federation starship operated by Starfleet. In 2254, James Kirk served as an ensign aboard the Republic, along with his friend Ben Finney. During a duty shift, Finney accidentally left a circuit open to the atomic matter piles, which could have resulted in the destruction of the ship; Kirk logged the incident, and Finney was denied a promotion — and it became the basis for the episode. The choice was easy.

James) With the release of the “Fan Film Guidelines,” has this influenced how much were you able to write the script you wanted to.

Ray) We actually got pretty lucky. We had a 1-hour script written before the guidelines came out. As our story goes, we take a “right turn” at the end of act 2 and our crew is sent off in a very different direction. Under the new format of no more than two 15-minute parts, it was actually easy to break the story into two 30-minute episodes.

James) Did you have to alter it a lot when they came out or is it pretty much the same?

Ray) Nothing needed to me altered. It is exactly the same as originally written.

James) What are your feelings on them, as I know to start with everyone the reaction was different but many people were angry how did it make you feel when they came out?

Ray) When the guidelines were introduced, I have to admit I threw a hissy fit. However, cooler heads prevailed. I read them at least a half-dozen times to make sure I understood them, and the listened to the Star Trek Engage Podcast with John Van Citters of CBS. I look at it this way: if the 30-minute format worked for “The Twilight Zone,” it’ll work for Republic!

James) Do you think they are fair?

Ray) Absolutely, they allow for crowd funding, perks, original content – all the things that fan films before the guidelines either did or should have been doing. IN ADDITION, THEY STILL ALLOW IS TO PLAY STAR TREK!

James) What another aspect of Filmmaking do you have experience in and can you tell me more about your experiences in these areas? 

Ray) Actually, very little. I have studied the craft for decades, but Republic is my first foray behind the camera.

James) OK so moving on to Directing, What did you love about the Directing of Republic?

Ray) The responsibility and control, and the ability to have to think on my feet.

Sometimes it has to change a scene, sometimes it has to elicit different emotions from the characters, and sometimes it has to move actors around on the set to make the scene more plausible. As an example, our climax scene from the trailer has our captain, played by Jim Von Dolteren, to give a devastating command order (that is all I will say about that!) Gabe and I were not satisfied with the captain’s reaction, so I stopped the scene and said to Jim, “Let’s change your motivation.

Let’s try this.” and boom, we got the shot! What a feeling it was to yell, “That’s a wrap!” Good good stuff!

James) What was the best thing that happened to you while shooting Republic?

Ray) The overall experience, no kidding not just one thing. The ability and privilege of being on a set and filming — filming a quality story with quality actors by quality people and knowing that you had a hand in bringing them all together. It was just great! Exhausting but great!

I could not sleep for days afterwards.

James) In your time as the Director, how did you encourage people and processes to achieve the best?

Ray) Comradery, you need to establish that at the outset and if you do, the rest comes easy.

James) With so many factors shaping a film’s success or failure, and so much required going into a film just to make it, and even more to make it well, what do you do so it does not ever feel not worth the effort?

Ray) The rapport with your cast and crew is the key. Much of the answer to this is “trust your gut.” All of us behind the camera knew we were doing something special. When it was not going quite right, we knew that too and instinctively were able to change it. I think instinct is 90% of the battle.

James) How did you handle being challenged about something that you decide but someone else really disagrees with. Was this something you had to deal with on the Republic shoot?

Ray) No, That did not happen. I welcome input on the process from anyone and everyone, and if it is sound, I take it. If I do not agree, I let people honestly know why not.

However, we have assembled a great group of professions who are passionate about making good cinema, and we hope that it shows.

James) Tell me, from your perspective about the story, and how it is different from other Fan Productions?

Ray) Of all the questions, you have asked so far, this is the most difficult and perhaps the most unfair. Let us put the big guys aside: Phase 2, Continues and Renegades.

There are a plethora of fan films out there and an equal amount of talented people. People like Vance Major, Michael King, David Whitney, John Broughton, Glen Wolfe, Tommy Kraft — just to name a few. I have respect for ANYONE who has a dream and pursues it. Ours happens to be in the world of Star Trek, but kudos to everyone. Some of these fan films are terrific, some are painful. However, they are all made with no less enthusiasm than Republic.

I would have to say that what makes our production is 2-fold: our characters and our vision.

Our characters are deep, complex people. Every one of them. They are heroes with flaws, conflicted, just like all of us. They can fail just as easily as they rise to the occasion, but they persevere. And that makes for great storytelling.

As for vision, we look at this as playing in Roddenberry’s universe. There was not only a definite look and feel to the original series; it was used to reflect the moral issues of the day. You may not see that in the first episode or two as we get off the ground, but trust me — you will.

James) How much influence did you have on the casting of Republic?

Ray) I share the responsibility of casting with my good friend and co-producer Vance Major. I was very green when I first met him and the crew at the studio. Vance pointed me to both several resources for actors and pointed some my way. He is responsible for getting be demo reels of Jim Von Dolteren who was eventually cast as our captain. I also held open auditions online and we ended up with several people cast in various roles such as Greg Teft, Gerald Griffin, and Da’Neille Bishop Roy.

A good team effort.

James) Moving on to other aspects of the production, who did the makeup and wardrobe did they manage to capture the image you had for the film?

Ray) The brilliant Nate Bright did the make-up. I had conceived a look for a new alien. Vance Major who is friends with Nate and used his work of Starship Melbourne and Valiant recommended Nate. I sent Nate some simple sketches and some makeup I had bought for effects and damn if he did not create the most different and realistic, alien I have ever seen! Brilliant! However, Republic would put him to the test. Unfortunately, the actress who was slated to play our alien had a family emergency and had to bow out just hours before the production started. I recast the role as we were powering up the set. Nate took a completely different actor and recreated the look and feel on here to the point where you would never know he had to do it. Frankly, he saved the day.

I looked for a long time for a costume that would bring the same look and feel to the uniforms as you saw in the original series. I honestly was not completely happy with some of the fit I saw in some other productions. I found Stephanie Mann who is on the west coast. I explained what I was looking for and what was needed, and she worked with me to get it done just-just in time (like everything else, it seems) and they looked great on camera!

Even some of the production staff admired her work and were going to order costumes from her. It made it all worthwhile. You can find Stephanie on eBay as the username murraymousie. She is really good!

James) Who has the best costume?

Ray) Our characters are all dressed in the TOS uniforms, but I looked high and low for a costume to give us a more authentic look and feel to Roddenberry’s version. I think we found that, so everyone looks great in costume!

James) Who in the show is most like their character?

Ray) Probably Jim Von Dolteren as our captain. He is more Picard than Kirk, but he is in command none-the-less and everyone knows it.

James) Who’s the least?

Ray) Probably Da’Neille, Bishop Roy as our resident alien science officer. Da’Neille was thrown into the mix only hours before filming, and we were trying to go over her character’s back-story, but we were on tight deadlines. While she may not have known all of the motivations that went into her character, she delivered.

James) How does Republic bring something new to the genre of Fan Films?

Ray) From what I have seen, much of what has come out of fan film is Trek first and film second. Sometimes this results in a film that is difficult to watch because of many factors including sound, script acting, visuals, etc. Sometimes it can also result in a hodgepodge of elements put together to create a video for posting. Yes, the film was made with passion and a love of Trek.

In addition, yes, there are many throwaway moments in the production because the production was done without the film experience being a main driver of the process. We are a drama first and Star Trek second. We do take advantage of being in the Trek universe, and our characters, story lines and outcomes hinge on people knowing what we’re talking about, but we are bringing a cinematic edge to our production.

James) How about the score, was this something you handled or did you bring someone else into over sea this. Did you find it easy to score the film?

Ray) Sound is being done by Gabriel. He is a professional and has done a great job of recording and enhancing the spoken word.

The Score: It is and is not easy. With Star Trek, you can sort of look at the scene and hear what music is playing in the background in your head. Comes easy after hearing it over and over for 50 years. However, Gabriel Morgan, my cinematographer and editor, has a real good ear as well. He has previewed some rough cuts for the group with an outstanding score. It is part of what drives the action.

The hardest part for me was finding an appropriate theme that was dramatic, orchestral, dignified, and represented Star Trek. It took several months or searching, but I think we have it.

James) What was the toughest thing about getting Republic done?

Ray) We were on a time constraint, but we had a situation where several of our cast members were unable to join us. One of those people was a principle character, but unfortunately had a family situation that needed her attention. I was firmly convinced — even as close to an hour before we were supposed to start filming — that it was not going to happen.

Nevertheless, there were other cast members and production people that were travelling long ways to do this and there was no way I was going to turn them away. You know: the show must go on. However, frankly, I thought it would go on very badly. VERY badly! I had a young woman, Da’Neille Roy, who fell out of a tree and into my arms out of nowhere.

She was not part of the original cast, I asked her to step in as one of our main characters with no reading time whatsoever, and she rose to the occasion. In addition, she was able to get some other folks to fill in for our other missing actors and they could act! The result was far better than I would have imagined just hours before! And the show DID go on!

James) How do you not waste time? With the time restraint, you were on how you make sure you kept things going?

Ray) You have to keep moving. There is a lot of downtime moving from set to set and redressing sets for a specific scene. It is all is scheduling and taking appropriate breaks. Luckily, perhaps, we were able to use our time efficiently.

James) What do you think the biggest surprise about the process would be to an outsider like myself who has ZERO experience in making films.

Ray) Having been an outsider when I stepped on set, I can tell you that the biggest surprise was the amount of time you need to get quality shots. Yes, I knew there would be several takes before getting the right scene, but Gabe would reset the shot 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 times from different angles with different lenses in order to get a cinematic look to the scene. Lots more work, lots more time, lots more down time for the cast, but in the end, this will be spectacular.

James) How important is social media for promoting your project, do you think you would have had the interest you have had without it?

Ray) In my opinion, it is imperative. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube, Crowd Funding.

They are immediate. If you can get your word out and have some skilled people get it to go viral, you can have it made! I am good, but I am not skilled enough to manage and distribute content properly. Michelle Guerra is our Marketing Coordinator. She brings to social media what Gabe and Words bring to filmmaking. She is making it happen!

James) What sort of person is going to love Republic?

Ray) Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and children of all ages! However, seriously, we are trying to create good drama with characters the viewer will care about that just happens to be set in the Star Trek universe. Therefore, we hope this will appeal to both Star Trek fans and non-star Trek fans alike.

James) What’s going to surprise people about this show?

Ray) The professionalism and passion that our cast and crew have for this production. Many of us are NOT professionals and some of us (me included) are novices. However, we are professionals in our own right. We are using film and sound to tell a great story that just happens to reside in the Trek universe.

Fan films are usually divided into 2 groups: the big guys (Phase 2, Continues and Renegades) and everybody else. Big budgets and big talents do not necessarily equate to cinematic greatness. Even with small budgets (or no budgets), fans can still make great cinema. That is our goal with Republic.

James) Last few questions about Republic and then I would like to move on to your experiences in the fandom and other fan production you listen to.

What will the audience be thinking about after they see Republic?

Ray) When can we see the next episode, damn it!

James) Do you ever take a step back and appreciate what you have made thus far?

Ray) Oh yeah, We are still in post-production, but I have watched the rough cuts umpteen times I find it hard to believe that I had a hand in this.

It is an outstanding feeling!

James) What do you know now that you wish you had known in the beginning?

Ray) I am a person who loves immediacy. I was not ready for the time needed from inception to completion. There were many variables to consider: the script, characters, motivation, sets, props, costumes, makeup – to name only a few. Now that I know that, I can live with it.

James) What would you change if you could? 

Ray) After my experience with filming the Republic, trailer: nothing.

James) OK so moving on to the last segment of the interview, What Fan Films do you watch? 

Ray) I watch the big 3 when they have new content: Phase 2, Continues and Renegades. The other fan films either do not have multiple episodes, or have run their course, or were halted because of the fear of not conforming to the guidelines.

But there’s some good content out there. Starship Valiant is well done, I am looking forward to Melbourne, and multiple others by folks like Glen Wolfe, David Whitney and Tommy Kraft.

James) What other Star Trek fan productions do you watch/listen to etc (Podcasts, YouTube shows etc)

Ray) Quite a lot. Engage, ComicPop Library quite often. 

James) Ray, you have a rather wide experience pool to draw from

What are your: 

Favourite parts of the Trek Fandom?

Ray) The history and comradery. As I’ve said, I’ve been there since day one and I’ve seen Trek’s evolution. And now I’m part of it. It’s been a lot of fun!

James) Worst Parts of the Trek Fandom (any bad experiences)?

Ray) A few things: the commercialism of the franchise from the fan-based conventions of the 1970’s, but that was bound to happen.

The lost opportunity for CBS and Paramount to do something special for the 50th Anniversary.

That never happened. In addition, some fan films trying to use the medium for personal gain.

James) Ahh Yes that person hmmm.. OK, last few questions Ray, What advice would you give to someone who wants to? Act, Direct, write a script or make their own film?


Act: Do not recite your lines from a piece of paper. Believe them! If the ship is going to be hit by a photon torpedo, stop, take a dump, say your line, and look worried!

Make their own (fan) film: It’s harder than you think, but find good actors and support crew. And above all: have fun with it!

Direct: As a first time director, be encouraging but firm. Have a vision and help the actors and crew achieve it. And bring comradery to the set.

Write their own screenplay/script: Belief in it. Tell your story swiftly and succinctly. Read it out loud and see if it flows and make sense, and have some else you trust read it also. And accept criticism.

James) Is there anything else you would like to tell me from your perspective of someone involved in the fan film world? (The good, the bad, how you see the current world of fan productions)

Ray) Fan films are changing and evolving. Places like Starbase Studios are making sets accessible to many folks who would otherwise have no ability to do this. Video and editing are becoming increasingly easier. Above all, have good content.

Whether it is drama or comedy you want to offer, do it well. Do not have 5 minutes of dialogue and 25 minutes of special effects. Develop a crew. Tell a story. In addition, do it the best you can.

James) Lastly, take yourself back to when you first started out… If there were a piece of advice you could tell your younger self when starting out, what would it be? 

Ray) Concerning writing: do not change anything!

About life: you are going to screw up — a lot! Just roll with it!

James) Ray Thank you so much for your time and I can NOT! Wait to view Republic when it comes out. 

Ray’s enthusiasm for Star Trek is infectious and it has been an honour to interview him for Trekfanproductions.

Follow Republic at Facebook or their Website to keep up to date on their latest news and gossip regarding the production.


  • Jim Von Dolteren as Captain Terrance St. James
  • Greg Teft as First Officer Nuno da Silva
  • Da’Neille Roy as Science Officer Debrya Vr’Nai
  • Martin Bennett as Doctor Jonathan Todd
  • Gerald Griffin as Chief Engineer Baines
  • Pamela Ivy Bell as Communications Officer Kaheel Norah
  • Josh Stientz as Ensign Richard Hawkins
  • April Chamberlain as Yeoman Stania Mitchell
  • Mark Galbraith as Commander Henry Drummond
  • Helen Costas Tesi as Science Officer T’Shar
  • Vance Major as “Minard”


  • Created by Ray Tesi and Don Horan
  • Written by Ray Tesi and Don Horan
  • Supervising Producer: Kent Edwards
  • Associate Producer: Don Horan
  • Executive Producer: Ray Tesi
  • Directed by Ray Tesi and Gabriel Morgan
  • Assistant Director: Kent Edwards
  • Director of Photography: Gabriel Morgan
  • Sound and Editing: Gabriel Morgan
  • Visual Effects: Samuel Cockings
  • Make-Up Artist: Nate Bright
  • Costumes: Stephanie Mann
  • Best Boy: Scott Johnson
  • Gaffer: Kent Edwards
  • Prop Master and Sets: Glen Wolfe
  • Set Design and Construction: Scott Johnson
  • Set Construction: Owen Mills, Kat Spaulding, Robert Serrano, John Hughes
  • Key Grip: Scott Johnson
  • Grips: Kat Spaulding, Robert Serrano, John Hughes
  • Electricians: Kat Spaulding, Robert Serrano, John Hughes
  • Slate: Charley England
  • Boom Operators: Robert Serrano, John Hughes
  • Promotional Art: Michael Schuh
  • Brand and Digital Manager: Michelle Guerra
  • Filmed at Starbase Studios


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CHANCE ENCOUNTER – “The Ultimate Trekker.”

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.

You can read all about his win >HERE<

And read the “Chance Encounter” interview >HERE<

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 as our release date is getting ever closer!”



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CHANCE ENCOUNTER – Interview with Gary O’Brien

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?

Gary) Well I have seen a lot give talks at various conventions, but to meet in person, not too many. Dominic Keating, Connor Trinneer, Anthony Montgomery, Walter Koenig, Andrew Robinson. At the cons, I tend to gravitate more towards the production people than the cast.

I was really bummed that a convention in the UK last year that Doug Drexler was booked to appear at got cancelled. I would love to meet him!

James) Doug is very active on Facebook, You should reach out to him and ask him some questions, 😉

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 were 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 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 are 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 hardcore 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 there 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 coordinated.

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 head-hunted 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 makeup, 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 your 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.

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