This week we wrap our current featured blog series about the fan film Melbourne by interviewing Michael Sylvester AKA Captain Nathan Cooper.
Michael, born on September 11th and has lived in Huntsville, AL since 1993. Is a keen photographer who owns his own company http://www.sylvesterphotography.com/ Michaels love for photography started when he was a child and has always dreamt of making a career out of his passion and it was in 2006 when he made that dream a reality.
Since 2006 Michael has enjoyed having his own business as a freelance photographer and has photographed over 100 weddings, over 200 Portraits, 3 military special events, 1 prom dance, 2 local parades, and around 50 non-profit events. In 2013 Michael found out that Star Trek: Renegades needed a photographer for its 3 weeks of filming in LA, he applied and landed a dream job as along with photography Star Trek is another huge passion of his.
Along with his job on the production of Renegades and his acting role on Melbourne Michael has also helped out other productions and was even an extra on the fan series “Starship Tristan”.
“I first met Michael online a few months before the first promenade-acon. He was so excited. I thought he was just another person. Had no idea that he was such an uber fan. But man, had a few phone calls with him and then meet him and I just clicked with him. He had such a warm personality to him, I invited him to the Melbourne dinner we all had that night after the event. As an honorary guest. I think it was a month later I gave him a guest role. He was just so excited, it was infectious. About a month before filming the captain we had planned, stepped away. And Michael had already memorised his lines. To Jeremy and me, it was a no-brainer. And our new captain was born. And honestly, as we were filming, I couldn’t see anyone else in that role. He had played it with such honesty. Hit every note we needed him to. The guy is such a great actor. He’s such a great friend. And he’s just an all out great person”
Vance Owen, Executive Producer, Melbourne.
James) Hi Michael, thank you for taking some time to answer some questions with me about you and your role in Melbourne.
So let’s start with the obvious one tell me a bit about yourself.
Michael) Hi there, my name is Michael Scott Sylvester; I am 46 years old and live in Huntsville Ala. I have been married for more than 10 years and been with her more than 20 years.
James) What do you do when you are not acting or helping out on fan films?
Michael) I am a photographer full time and deliver pizza for Domino’s part-time.
James) What are your likes and dislikes?
Michael) I love cheesecake, esp plain. I dislike people who have no respect for others or stuck up or judgmental.
James) Other than your obvious love for Star Trek, what TV shows do you watch?
Michael) I love pretty much any kind of sci-fi shows, but I also love NCIS series, Bull, Scorpion, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and Flash. Arrow, hmmm, not sure about them. But what they say is true and what they are going to do, then they will win me back.
James) I love the Dc Universe TV series although like you have yet to really follow Arrow, just seems a bit meh to me.
Are there any Star Trek Games you play?
Michael) I pretty much do not play Trek games, I know. Many of my friends are shock by that. But I do play Cards against Humanity card game.
James) Tell me a bit about your history with Star Trek what does Trek mean to you, did you grow up watching it or was it something you came across later in life?
Michael) I remember when I was about 6 or 7 CBS was doing a marathon run on Star Trek and it was a Saturday night I think. The very first episode I saw was Spock’s Brain. I was hooked. I forced myself to stay up all the way up to 7 am to watch them.
James) “Spocks Brain” lol sorry have to laugh if I saw that one as a starter episode I might have been put off, it is honestly one of the worst ones have seen.
Talking about best and worst Trek Episodes are there any you would run as your “favourite and your worst”?
Michael) I know a lot of people call this one of the worst episodes ever made, but Spock Brain will always be my favourite because that was the very first one I had watched.
James) I get that I guess as the first Star Trek I ever saw was Search for Spock and that is one of my favourite films even though many tend not to like it, so do you have a worst Trek Episode?
Michael) As for what I think is the worst, wow that is pretty hard to choose. I would have to say Enterprise season 4 Storm Front parts 1 and 2. The travel back in time with the Xindi and World War 2, just did not like the story line and I was sitting there thinking, oh god, please do not let the rest of the season go like this. Thankful they did not drag that storyline out. Was happy the rest of the season got better. I really did hate that they only had 4 seasons. Wish they could have gone at least 2 or 3 more showing the building of the Federation, leading up to many of the things we see in TOS series.
James) That covers your favourite episodes, let’s swap that to series what would you class as your best and worst, starting obviously with your favourite series then your worst 😛
Favourite Series & Why?
My favourite series will have to be Voyager. I love the fact that they were lost and trying to make their way home. And the challenged of holding onto their standers of being Starfleet, humanity and spirit. There were a lot of episodes where Janeway had to make some hard choices. And I wonder, would I have done the same thing.
Worst Series & Why?
Worst series, okay this will not make sense at first, but Voyager. LOL I know, I just said this was my favourite series, but there were some things in the show made me think what the frack were they thinking when they wrote this. Chakotay and Seven Relationships was the big one. Was not believable like Torres and Paris, they took their time building up their relationship. Then there were a few episodes right after each other, where the main crew member let Janeway down and she was disappointed in them and hurt, would not be that bad if they spread that out some. And seem a lot of the episodes mostly focused on Seven, which is really not a bad thing, but just seem like there was more of her story than the rest.
James) The whole Seven and Chakotay thing made me cringe like BIG time, I get the holodeck thing as she was experimenting but if you hold her up to his past flings its almost hey I know let’s just shove them together because “reasons” and I agree with the Tom and Torres thing it just was not believable I mean the untold love story of Neelix and Tuvok was more believable lol!!
So, Michael have you ever met any Trek actors in real life?
Michael) Well, that is funny that you asked that.
I had met Chase Masterson, Walter Koenig, Tim Russ, Robert Picador, Robert Beltram, Terry Farrell, Manu Intiraymi, Gary Graham, I also got to meet Clint Carmichael who play the lead Nausicaan and the one who stabbed Picard from behind. There a picture of him choking me on my facebook album.
And I have also met Mikki Val who been an extra in a few STNG, she is a wonderful dancer.
James) What Fan Films do you watch?
Michael) Too many to list,
James) Do you have a top 5?
Michael) No top five, as long the story good and acting is decent I will watch.
James) Some people dislike Fan Films, are there any specific ones or type of fan films that just do not interest you?
Michael) Cannot get into the computer graphic fan films. They just lose me. I tried a few but… yeah had to click on something else.
James) The Last question in this section then moving on, to your experiences and history in filmmaking, What are yours?
Best and worst parts of the Star Trek Fandom, any bad experiences?
Best – Watching something that fans that love the show and come together and do it.
Worst – Yeah, there was one, but not going into details about that. Just I felt I got burned pretty badly and if they do another one, I am going to have a hard time supporting them.
James) WOW! That sounds bad and I won’t pry into it, So we will be moving on now…
What is your experience in Fan Films? – name the productions you have been in if possible.
Michael) I had always love Fan films, esp. the Star Trek ones. And as I had watched them, I kept telling myself, one day I will be in one myself. I have been an extra for Starship Tristan with Randy Landers. There was a lot of sitting around and waiting, but it was fun watching at the same time. I hope to be able to go back and help out again.
James) What are you working on now?
Michael) Right now I am part of Shadowstorm Studio, involved with Melbourne.
James) Have you had any other experiences you’d like to share?
Michael) I have done a few acting gigs here and there, not much; I have also done short videos including 2 music videos. Had worked on a Zombie Music video, a horror short video which I got to play a victim and got eaten alive by three witches and I was the primary photographer for the first episode of Star Trek Renegades which is now Renegades the series. But my main love is photography, but I am also hoping to get more involved with films also.
James) When you think about everything you have done and have planned how does it make you feel, do you ever just think oooh hold up it’s too much I need to slow down?
Michael) Sometimes it can get overwhelming with so much going on if you are not careful you can burn out and not know which way is up.
Right now I am working on interview videos myself I have done, working on Melbourne cards, working on a theme shoot script coming up next year. Have a convention coming up in March I am preparing for and have 2 weddings and a few photo shoots photos I need to go through. An Alice in Wonderland music Video, which we just got done filming last week for this young lady 15th birthday. So I am the one who video, edit, produce and direct it. Which, those are getting done first. They paid money.
James) Erm, ok that sounds like a LOT of work planned and I have enough stress just planning everything I need to in real life and maintaining TFP lol,
How would you say your viewpoint on filmmaking has changed in the last 18months if it has, is there anything you have become to love more than you thought you would.
Michael) I am really starting to enjoy the filming aspect and loved been behind the camera, but something happens I got to be in front of the camera with a part and now starting to think, hey I like this
Now I want to do more. Acting, I can see myself laying down the camera and getting the front of it now. And I really do hope it does not end with Melbourne because we are only doing so many episodes.
James) What has made you want to act more?
Michael) That first moment when I said my first lines, I knew this is what I really want to do and love just as much as photography.
James) What would you say grabs your attention when reading a script?
Michael) The story has to be great and grabs my attention. If the story is not that good, then I really cannot get into it. Also when you have a director listen to your ideas even if they might not agree, but they listen.
James) What are you currently working on?
Michael) Right now I have a lot on my plate with my photography business. This year I am doing at least 6 different conventions.
James ) Do you work in multiple areas: film, television, web, or are you focused in one area?
Michael) I was the primary photographer for the first Star Trek Renegades and I love being on set. I hope to be able to do something like this again, rather been the photographer or in front of the camera.
James) How easy has it been for you to move between areas like acting, directing etc?
Michael) Not hard at all, Esp. when you love something.
James) Was there a particular event or time that you recognised that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?
Michael) Had really never thought about it that much. About 10 years ago I had a chance to perform with Richard Hatch in one of his classes and after the end of the class he came up to me and said I really surprised him that I should look into acting.
I never really gave it that much thought before till Vance and Jeremy asked me to be the Captain of the Melbourne.
James) I am going to fire some questions at you and I want you to just say the first thing that comes to about it…
Michael) OK 😕
James) When did you first realise that you wanted to Act
Michael) The first day in Melbourne
James) What do you like most about being an Actor?
Michael) Helping telling a story
James) What parts of Acting do you not enjoy?
Michael) Have not had one yet.
James) What gives you the most pleasure as an Actor?
Michael) I can be anyone and not be myself.
James) What elements of the craft do you find most difficult?
Michael) Sometimes finding that moment that the producer or director is looking for.
James) Do any famous actors inspire you?
Michael) Too many to list but on top, Robin Williams.
James) The hardest role you have ever played, and why?
Michael) So far Nathan T Cooper, but hoping there will be more in the future.
James) The most fun role you have ever played, and why.
Michael) LOL Nathan T Cooper is the only one so far. Because it is not me, I am someone different.
James) What sort of person is going to love this character?
Michael) Be more like hating him in the first film.
James) How is this role like you is it similar or different?
Michael) He cares for his crew and his friends just as I care for my friends and family
James) Is it easier to play this character or to be you?
Michael) Wow, either one is easy
James) What do you love about this character?
Michael) I will get to see him grow and become a great Captain. Well, I hope he does.
James) What do you hate about this character?
Michael) Oh watch the first film, you will see. lol
James) What is the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
Michael) Becoming a jerk.
James) Besides yourself, what celebrity would you like to see tackle this character?
Michael) John Barrowman.
James) Without giving anything away, what is your favourite line of dialogue?
Michael) That piece of junk… all I am going to say.
James) Besides you, which actor in this production is going to blow people away?
Michael) Wow, there are a few and some we really have not seen yet.
James) If you could play any other character on this show, who would it be?
Michael) The Doctor.
James) What makes a good scene partner?
Michael) How we play off each other.
James) When inspiration is waning when you feel creatively tapped, what do you do? How do you stay fresh?
Michael) Have not gotten to that step yet.
James) What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Michael) The flow of the story and needs to make sense.
James) What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
Michael) Nothing really comes to mind right now, most have watched for just the entertainment part. But now, when I watch a movie, tv show or fan film, I look at it in a whole new perspective.
James) How do you earn a living and sustain a career doing what you love?
Michael) I do photography and work for Domino’s delivering pizza.
James) Do you think social media is the future of televised series and films, just as you use YouTube etc now is TV on its way out?
Michael) Oh yes, in fact, we do not have cable, everything is online we watch.
James) Have you ever had a time when you had to deal diplomatically with different personalities?
Michael) A wedding photographer, many many times.
James) When you get angry at a movie, what sets you off? Are there common qualities in cinema today that you dislike? Is there something you try to subvert, avoid, or rebel against in your work?
Michael) When the writers have the actor or actress say or do something that is so stupid and make no sense at all.
James) What is harder: getting started or being able to keep going?
Michael) Hmmm, I really do not know. So far no problems getting started and no prob of keep going.
James) Thanks, I like that kind of questions it tends to reveal more than having time to think.
James) So I know you are keen on photography and that you took a role on Renegades tell me more. What exactly is the role of a Principal Photographer?
Michael) A principal or primary photographer is the one who does all the behind scene shot, promo shots of the stars.
James) What is your experience in Principal Photographer?
Michael) Work on Star Trek Renegades.
James) Describe what it is you look for when doing a photography shoot – Using Renegades as an example?
Michael) The right moment when they are not paying attention and you capture that expression or look.
James) Apart from Renegades what other films have you been the Principal/Secondary Photographer?
Michael) I have work on a few music video’s one with Santiago Carlos from Walking Dead.
James) Where did you study Photography or is this a hobby of yours?
Michael) Started off as a hobby than a business.
James) What is the key of lighting techniques and how to achieve them
Michael) When you are on set doing photos, sometimes flash can be a bad thing.
James) Moving on I would like to ask some more Melbourne-centric questions
Being an actor in Melbourne was this an easy task or did you find the role lead to many challenges in making things fit from script to film?
Michael) There were a few challenges but overall, I seem to fit right in for Cooper.
James) How would you describe your character in Melbourne?
Michael) I really do not know, but my character Nathan T Cooper, there is a whole back story that led him to where he is now and I hope to be able to do some flashback with this character before I get too old.
James) What research did you carry out in the preparation for this role, what challenges and responsibilities did this present in making it something unique?
Michael) Watch a lot of Star Trek and BSG original and Stargate with O’Neil.
James) What other things did you find yourself doing on the set or after shooting Melbourne?
Michael) Mostly spent time on set and preparing for my scene. But I do a lot of the Photoshop for the pictures that were taken.
James) With everything you have done in both Melbourne and your photography do you ever take a step back and appreciate what you have made thus far?
Michael) Well I have not seen any footage yet so I do not know yet, but I have with many of my photos I had taken.
James) As a standard question I ask everyone involved within the Fan Film community with the release of the “Fan Film Guidelines,” how did it make you feel when they came out?
Michael) Upset because I really wanted to do a full 30 min to 45-minute episodes, shoot I would have loved the last one we do be an hour long episode.
James) Do you think they are fair?
Michael) Some yes, some no. Many of the rules have hurt so many fan films. But at the same time, it is sad to see so many fan films stop and say no more.
James) Thanks, Michael, for your frank answers, ok well its time to wrap things up I guess, as we move into the last section, what advice would you give to someone who wants to?
Michael) Do not over do it unless it calls for that, just be normal, if that is possible.
James) Make/Star in their own (fan) film
Michael) Do it do it, then sends me a link or shoot me a message. If possible would love to see or be involved.
Michael) Be careful what you ask for, LOL
James) Become a Principal Photographer
Michael) Be sure to listen to the director and be on hand and ready to at that moment.
James) Ok well I guess that’s it but 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)
Michael) The good part, something you can sit back with your friends and family and enjoy have a good laugh doing it and be proud of it. No matter how the sets look, just make sure the story flows and not jumping everywhere.
The bad part, if this is your project, listen to people but you have the final say and some will not agree with you.
I think we have lost a lot of good stories out there because of the new rules. I am hoping before we finish our 6 film episode the rules will change.
James) Thanks Michael for your time.
Well there we go folks, we have come to the end of the run of the Melbourne files, we did miss out some crew members that could not free up time to sit and chat with me so we will! Revisit this series when I can pin them down for an hour and get them to answer some questions about Melbourne for me.
Until then I wish to Thank! The cast and crew of Melbourne for being some of the nicest people I have had the opportunity to talk with.
Our next featured blog series starts in April and it is a ten-part series based on the Fan Film Guidelines, trust me it is not going to be boring and it is going to open a lot! of eyes.