This week as part of the Melbourne files, we speak to Forrest Nelson about his time role in Melbourne.
Not only does Forrest share his experiences about his double roles in Melbourne in both playing the role of QELLAR but his role as the productions CGI artist.
Along with finding out about Melbourne, We also find dig deeper into his background in the filmmaking world as he tells us about some of his experiences in being a CGI artist and what it is like being an actor.
I remember meeting Forrest at the first Promenade-acon I hosted. We took pictures of some of the cast and crew of the Melbourne on the bridge there and gave everyone a first look at the ship that day. Everyone thought, from his “Heath Ledger Joker” cosplay, that we were going to have the joker in our film. Lol, I loved that it got people talking, but more than that, I loved that this was a cat that really got into being a geek as much as I am. In addition, this was just as my CGI guy lol months later when I needed to recast my main villain, I could think of no one better than him, because I knew he could act, and I knew he threw himself into the roles of cosplay, he would be great. In addition, boy was he. He was perfect for the main villain in the film. This person is honestly a good catch for whatever you need him for and a really good friend.
Vance Major, Executive Producer, Melbourne
James) Hey Forrest, Firstly I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your role in the Star Trek fan film Melbourne.
Forrest) Hi James thanks for taking the time to interview us all.
James) It is my pleasure to do so. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Forrest) My name is Forrest and I am not a Star Trek fan. Well, not in the traditional sense. I have seen all the films at least once, from the original motion picture through the latest JJ films, but that is the extent of my Trekkiness. Vance and Jeremy are being very patient as they explain their universe to me.
James) Hey no one is perfect hahaha, but one thing I have learnt about Vance and Jeremy is that you could not want for better teachers in all things Trek, they are pretty knowledgeable guys on the subject.
So what else would you like to tell us about yourself? Where did you grow up and if you do not watch much Trek what else do you find time to watch?
Forrest) I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and grew up on other classics like Back to the Future, Terminator, Blade Runner, and of course Star Wars. Recently, I have loved the superhero streak with the Marvel films and several of the shows, both Marvel and DC. Gotham is one of my favourites right now, but I am also working through Agents of Shield, Flash, Arrow, and a few others.
In addition, I kind of an anime fan. Still new to that scene, but I have found a few that I really enjoy like Sword Art Online, Full Metal Alchemist, and Ergo Proxy.
James) Agents of shield, I watched the first few episode of that but never went back to it but I find the Marvel TV universe lacking in comparison to DC I have no idea why as I prefer Marvel films to DC go figure.
Do you play any Star Trek related games?
Forrest) As far as games go, I have never once played a Star Trek game. I have heard of Star Trek Online, but that is it. I have the Starfarers of Cataan if that counts. Most of the games I play are single player, story rich, often sci-fi and open world.
James) So taking into account that you are not someone who lives and breathes Trek, what does it mean to you, is there any other Sci-Fi shows and movies that you prefer?
Forrest) Honestly, it really does not have any meaning to me, as I have never considered myself a fan. Not that it was bad, necessarily, just did not catch my attention as much as Star Wars or Battlestar: Galactica.
I do however really respect those it does have meaning for and I believe that Jeremy and Vance can really touch those people with this story. They know this universe and they know how to make it work and the team they have selected can make it powerful for people who have that deeper connection with Trek.
James) Star Trek does have vast meaning to people myself included, but I see the same in other fandom’s I am a part of like Star Wars, Transformers, and so on.
Forrest, you not only act in Melbourne but you did the VFX for it, when did you first realise that you wanted to become a CGI artist or at least work within that field?
Forrest) I guess you could say my interest in CGI goes back to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Now, before you judge me, the story itself had nothing to do with the inspiration. I know I am dating myself here a bit, but I was about seven years old when that movie came out and I had developed an understanding that movies were not, in fact, real.
That got me wondering how they put the actors in places that did not exist. How did they blow things up without hurting people? Namely, how did Darth Maul stab Qui-Gon Gin and not actually kill Liam Neeson? After all, we see the red lightsaber pierce his sternum quite clearly.
It was then that I decided I would discover the secrets, which eventually lead me to Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) and Visual Effects (VFX).
James) One thing the “prequels” are known for, other than the dire story lol (sorry personal opinion) is the VFX, I remember reading ages ago that Ewan McGregor hated the whole green screen aspect of it, however, I can see why it inspired you one thing I love about the Star Wars franchise is its VFX it is outstanding.
What is it you like most about being a CGI artist?
Forrest) What I like most really is the ability to make the impossible merely absurd or even, if very briefly, believable. Being able to create imaginary locations or objects that would otherwise be grossly expensive or unrealistic to create in real life is really what completes it for me.
Do not get me wrong, I really do appreciate practical effects (objects and locations in the physical world), but when budget and skill are an issue, CGI really comes in handy, for low-budget films especially.
James) You said that you got bitten by the bug at a young age, what steps did you take to enter this field?
Forrest) My training and experience come from a great community of users called the internet. I actually have no formal training to date, just the creative application of tutorials from knowledgeable users and professionals like BlenderGuru and VideoCopilot. I have spent countless hours watching, learning, and recreating their projects and applying it to the necessary projects.
James) I am like that, I have taught myself a lot of applications, as I honestly do not find the need to go and get a bit of paper to say you can use it. I am not knocking those who do but personal opinion is you learn best doing it yourself.
So when you started out in what were the main obstacles you faced?
Forrest) When I first began my journey into the CGI/VFX world, it was difficult because I had no idea what I was doing. I was just a teenager with an interest in film, a cheap laptop, and no one to teach me. I had done several free trials of every program I could find, but I could never afford the full versions. Then, one day, a family friend introduced me to Linux and open source software. It is one of those programs I still use to this day Blender 3D.
James) What is Blender 3D for those who have no idea what it is (people like me LOL, I have no idea what it is)
Forrest) The software I use is called Blender 3D it is free and open sourced bit of software which is always being updated and improved on.
There are plenty of add-ons and downloads that make some of the work much easier and more practical. In addition, it has a great community of people sharing their work and knowledge to help and teach each other. My favourite part, other than it being completely free, is that it really can stand with programs like 3DS Max3DS Max or Maya and hold its own.
Blender was not always the program that it is now but it was a good thing to use when I started. Growing up and getting familiar with the features and changes, following the best instructors on YouTube, I would blow people away with my creations while I was still in high school. I used it on one of my earliest (now completely lost) Star Wars fan films. I created an A-Wing fighter, made it fly to a planet, and land on the ground. My TV Productions teacher was very impressed. My best application to date, though, is probably a virtual set I built for a BioShock short that I made called BioShock: Origins. The entire scene takes place in a virtual office room, overlooking the city of Rapture.
James) Tell me about your experiences as a CGI artist what gives you the most pleasure when rendering ships, environments, and such.
Forrest) The most rewarding part would have to be when it all works properly. Ships themselves are not super difficult, as long as you have good reference images or concept art, but there are so many factors in general that go into the final render, anyone gone wrong can ruin the image.
However, if you place a texture wrong, the animation is jarred and awkward, the mesh is not deforming properly, the subdivision count is too high, the program crashes…elements and atmospherics are the worst. However, when it all comes together and you get a sharp, photorealistic image or animation, it can really make your day.
James) What elements of VFX/CGI do you find the most difficult?
Forrest) The most difficult part of the job is the waiting. When you are modelling, designing, or working out kinks, you are actively involved with the project and you are making things happen, and you can feel proud of that. However, when you are baking a simulation, or you are rendering a final image or animation, there is nothing you can do except make sure the program does not crash halfway through. Depending on the scene, it could take anywhere from a few minutes to several days.
James) What other VFX/CGI Artists out there have inspired your work?
Forrest) I cannot really name a specific CGI artist that I admire, but I know what I like in movies. I like to see how directors approach the subject and what their final results look like. As much as I protest to paying to watch any Michael Bay film, he really pushes his CGI teams to the limit and his films look absolutely breathtaking and I always strive to get my work to that level. Alternatively, close to it, anyway.
James) Michael Bay is responsible for a custom built the BAYHEM which is ”the lightest, most advanced hand-held motion picture camera in the world”, according to
So I can see why many see him as a leader in the field and an example to follow.
If you had to choose one which one of your CGI Renders which one are you most proud of and why?
Forrest) Currently, other than Melbourne (as I am still working on it and am always improving it), I would have to say my virtual set from BioShock: Origins. It was simple, but it was the first time I really grasped and applied the concept of photorealism, and it was the first time I had used CGI in a film like that since high school. It was also the first time anyone had utilised the green screen in my college film course because they did not have a CGI/VFX program.
James) Apart from CGI what other aspects of Filmmaking do you have experience in and can you tell me more about your experiences in these areas.
Forrest) I have a fair share of experience in all fields of filmmaking, really. Except maybe in producing things. In high school, I took TV Productions, where I learned how a green screen works and how to edit (more or less), and then in college, I studied everything I could get my hands on.
Such as Screenwriting, acting, directing, digital filmmaking, all while teaching myself CGI and VFX at home.
Mostly, though, my focus was acting. I starred in several scene studies and had roles indie short films shot here in the Seattle area. I’ve done competitions, I’ve had voice acting training, I’ve done a few stage productions…it’s really been my life goal to do this for a living, so I try to take every opportunity I could find.
James) Talking of Acting, you have a role in Melbourne, When did you first realise that you wanted to Act?
Forrest) Acting is a similar story, but maybe not quite as exciting. From my first church Easter play in grade school, I thought how much fun it is to pretend and to be someone else. Growing up, my sister and I were notorious for role playing and creating our own characters and stories in the backyard, on our own or with friends; it did not matter to us.
When our family got our first video camera, we created all sorts of scenes and funny shorts that are now lost to the ages. I also joined the drama club in high school, where I found a natural talent for acting. Many of my classmates and even the instructor mentioned at least once, how natural I looked on stage and how believable my characters were.
James) What is it you like most about being an Actor?
Forrest) I enjoy acting for many reasons, but mostly because I get to be someone else for a while. I get to live in another world in another life; I often find it very cathartic. As a person, as Forrest Nelson, I do not often emote anything other than happiness, except around my closest friends, because I know it spreads and people enjoy being around happy people. Nevertheless, when I act, I can let out anger or sadness or arrogance any other array of emotions and it feels good to let it out.
James) Are there any parts of Acting do you not enjoy?
Forrest) There are only downs to acting if you’re working on a crap project. You have a poor director, other actors are putting in their two cents on your scene or your performance, or you just cannot seem to get into the moment for whatever reasons. Sometimes, too, you can let your mind get into a set idea about a scene and it is hard to change it up.
For Melbourne, shooting my scene, it took me a moment to get past the fact that I did not know Trek. It prevented me from making the character my own as if it were in any other universe, but that is why it is important to have a good director. I talked to him, he helped me look past it, and we were able to get something that he really enjoyed.
James) Like CGI was there any formal training you partook in to enter the field?
Forrest) The best way to get into any field is to pursue it every chance you get on every level. For acting, it was stage plays in church, then drama club and stage production in high school, a community play, or two, and finally acting for the camera in college. It saddens me to know that many of these programs are being taken away from schools, too. If I had not had a drama club or stage production team in school, I doubt I would have had the courage to pursue it as I have.
James) Is Melbourne your first time in front of the camera, if not can you tell me what other productions have you acted in?
Forrest) My biggest film productions include “Ugly Life,” written and directed by Eduardo Gonzalez, I played a bully named Fergus, and in “Family Tied”, written by Christina Bonney and directed by Aaron Williams, I played a mobster named Tony. I also have several scene studies, both original and “reimagined.” I was even cast in a few short films that were either never completed or my character was cut entirely. Each time it happened, it was by the same director.
I have done so many stage performances; I do not even remember all of them. The one that sticks out in my mind most was George Gibbs in “Our Town.”
James) Tell me, when you audition for a role how does it make you feel when you land the part you want?
Forrest) I have always gotten a great response as an actor. It is not always easy, having to compete with other people for a role, but it is real. And! When you do land a role that you want, it is probably the most satisfying feeling ever. In addition, when you get to perform with other very talented actors, you really get to feel in the moment, and the rest of the world melts away for a while. It is a beautiful thing.
James) I have heard many things from people about being an actor/actress what makes the whole experience worth it from your point of view?
Forrest) I often get pleasure from playing roles I do not get very often, like the antagonist or nerdy support character. For a long while, I was usually cast as a hero type or the lead protagonist.
I auditioned for the antagonist/villain role in Family Tied (and very nearly got it), which is something I have always wanted to try. I was glad to hear that I had been chosen to play the villain in Melbourne because it was different. Nevertheless, I think the most pleasure I get is after the director calls cut and, if it was a good take or everyone was just so engrossed in the moment, that people actually start applauding. That is a real morale booster.
James) What elements of acting do you personally find most difficult or things that make you think is it worth it?
Forrest) Sometimes getting into character is rather challenging. The director may want a specific emotion or mannerism that you are not used to, and that can make things difficult because the director is not getting what he needs and now you have to work harder.
James) Lastly then I would like to move on to more Melbourne-centric questions, Are you inspired by any famous actors?
Forrest) I am inspired by many actors and actresses at any given time. I will always be a fan of Ewan McGregor, Will Smith, Emma Stone, Johnny Depp, Ron Perlman, and a myriad of others.
James) That is a wide variety do you fancy narrowing it down for me :p
Forrest) If I had to narrow it down, though, I would have to say, Ewan McGregor and Johnny Depp. Both are excellent actors, if for different reasons. Ewan does really well with gritty realism and performs with a quiet strength in his characters. Johnny Depp’s strength, however, lies in the mystical and far-fetched.
I love the whimsy in his characters. However dark they may appear, there’s always a sense of other-worldliness to them.
James) OK moving on I mentioned before that you are the CGI artist and have a role in Melbourne was this an easy task or did you find the roles lead to many challenges in making things fit taking on two roles in the production?
Forrest) The nice thing about my two roles in Melbourne is that they exist in separate stages of production. There are three stages in the production process, Pre-production, Production, and Post- Production.
Acting exists only in Production, and CGI/VFX exists only in Post-Production, so it is actually very easy to separate and balance the two. That said, being on set during Production does help me consult with the director on Post-Production issues, and it does mean my job never really stops. It just changes.
James) Having that “joint” role in the production of Melbourne and how a typical shoot played out from your perspective?
Forrest) Shooting is not unlike a lot of other jobs. You show up on time, you are where you need to be when you need to be there and in the right uniform, and you do what you are told by your superiors. Sometimes there is a good deal of waiting around if the director is discussing things with the producer or the director of photography, or if you are an actor and you’re not in the scene it’s a good time to take a quick nap. Alternatively, a long one.
James) Ahh sound like my dream job lol sleep I love it HAHA!, sorry go on. . .
Forrest) However if you are the director, boom operator, director of photography/camera operator, or a production assistant (PA), your job never really stops. Since we were a small production, and my character was absent for most of the episode, I was often running sound or running errands. They were long days, but they were fun.
James) Can you tell me more from your perspective about the story. How is it in your opinion different from other Fan Productions?
Forrest) I like the story so far, and I think it has a lot of promise. I have not watched many Trek fan films, but Vance was sharing a few with me some of his favourites and least favourites. Ones he used for inspiration and ones he used as a warning label, and I think this is definitely going to change the game. The crew that Jeremy brought on board has skill beyond anything that Vance shared with me, and the cast that Vance put together has a passion for making it hit home for Trekkies everywhere.
James) You were a part of the team who designed the Melbourne Did you have any issues in designing the Melbourne?
Forrest) Absolutely! I had one reference photo to work with, and could not tell the difference between a Romulan and a Klingon (let alone the different ship classes), so Vance was actually very much against bringing me onto the production.
Especially after, I sent him some concept images. We have hence referred to the original designs as the “Doomsday Machine.” It was awful. However, Jeremy vouched for me, and Vance gave me another shot. They broke down the terminology for me and sent more reference photos, and we slowly built the Melbourne you know and love today.
James) Every Star Trek ship has its own look (well 90% of the time) How did you design the look and can you tell me more about the inspiration behind it?
Forrest) The look and the design, honestly that is really more a question for Vance and Jeremy.
They knew, more or less, what they wanted coming into the project. I would send them progress images from time-to-time, and they would suggest a change or two rinses and repeat for two or three months. Once I got the feel for what they wanted, it was a lot easier to understand what they wanted, but I had very little actual contributions to the design of the ship itself.
James) I ask everyone this as I think it is very! Important to gauge as much feedback on this as possible from the variety of people who work in fan films what are your feelings on the new “Fan Film Guidelines”?
Forrest) The fan film guidelines caused a lot of hate and discontent throughout the Trek community.
My initial thoughts were that it sucked, but that is what happens when you abuse someone else’s intellectual property. When I started reading the rules and I was worried that Melbourne might not get made. Luckily, it hasn’t changed much. Vance and Jeremy have done their research and I think even got legal advice regarding their story, so I think we’re set.
James) Do you think they are fair?
Forrest) I do believe that some of the rules are fair and should not need listing, but there you have it. A couple of the rules, however (such as limiting character use to two 15 minute episodes maximum, and putting a time limit on episodes), are a bit absurd and unfair.
James) Being involved in Melbourne I am sure you have seen some of the other stuff to come out of Starbase Studios, What other Star Trek fan productions do you watch/listen to etc (Podcasts, YouTube shows etc)
Alternatively, as you mentioned above your not all that into Trek, are there any other Fan films out there you have seen.
Forrest) I do not watch many fan films, but there are a few I have really enjoyed. The Brother’s Rapture was a BioShock short that somewhat inspired my short script and is absolutely fantastic. Another of my favourites is Portal: No Escape. Probably my introduction to fan films, it is a silent film with excellent visuals and cinematography.
More recently, too, a really good Star Wars fan film called Hoshino was released. The brilliant story very focused and flowed like the Force through a Master Jedi. The worst fan film I have ever seen (other than my own Star Wars short that was mysteriously destroyed) was a certain Super Girl fan film. I have since blocked the name from my memory. Ask Jeremy about it, he will know what I am talking about.
However, Star Trek-wise, I do not watch, listen to, or otherwise follow anything Star Trek, save for Melbourne. Not out or spite or some fully founded belief of being “better” than they are, I have just never had the interest.
James) Just a couple of more questions then, unfortunately, we are done L but, you have a wide range of experience what advice would you give to others who are looking to enter the filmmaking world, be it acting, CGI etc.
Forrest) If you want to make movies, do it. Research how to do what you want to do. If it is your passion, you will know it when you do your first Google search. How because you will keep coming back.
Find ways to meet people with similar interests and collaborate. If you want to act, make it known. Practice do not be afraid of critiques, they can help you if you let them. If you want to be a CGI/VFX artist, research it. There are plenty of free resources just waiting to help you make the creatures and environments you always dreamed of.
If fan films are your thing great! However, do not be afraid to create something entirely new. If you have trouble creating, maybe a fan film is a good place to start. How you go about it is largely up to you, just so long as you go.
James) Lastly is there anything else you would like to tell me from your perspective with someone of your experiences.
Forrest) Fan films are fun. I am enjoying being a part of Melbourne, and I have a Star Wars fan film or two planned and I am very excited for it. They give people a chance to be a part of something they love in a unique way and they can help inspire creativity, and they’re excellent practice for budding filmmakers.
Nevertheless, I think people put too much weight into them sometimes and forget that they are not allowed to make money that way. Some people hope they are noticed with their fan films, and sometimes they do, but I feel like I watch so much more original short films on YouTube and Vimeo than fan films of any genre.
James) Well Forrest, I want to thank you again for your time and hope that your plans for your Star Wars Fan films go according to plan and you have to let me know if and when you release them.
Forrest) Thanks again, James!