Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday Preview: No Studio, No Network, No Problem

(click on thumbnail for full-size image)

So far, all of our previews from Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 2 have been for fiction. But TWS2 also has over forty pages of non-fiction features.
The main article this time around is an in-depth look at the making of "World Enough and Time," an episode of the Internet series Star Trek New Voyages (since renamed Star Trek: Phase II).

And these aren't three-minute "webisodes," mind you. "World Enough and Time" (known to the cognoscenti as WEAT—pronounced "wheat") runs over an hour, and features three actors from the original series reprising their roles: George Takei (Sulu), Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand), and Majel Barrett Roddenberry (the computer voice in all of the Star Trek series and, so Wikipedia tells me, the upcoming movie).

But what really amazes me about New Voyages/Phase II is that although it's a series run by fans on a relative shoestring, it looks as good as many modern television shows made by professionals. Or maybe I should say "entirely by professionals," because although it's primarily a fan—ahem—enterprise, many professionals have taken part. Not just the ones on screen that I've mentioned, but writers, special effects artists, graphic artists, and others who have worked on official Star Trek productions, taking part out of love for the franchise, and for the original series in particular.

With modern home computers, affordable broadcast-quality digital video, and the Internet, it doesn't take a studio or a network to make some truly stunning productions. Mostly, it takes skill and dedication. And if you're making Star Trek, it certainly helps when CBS-Paramount understands (as Lucasfilm does with Star Wars fan films), that emulation is not only the truly most sincere kind of flattery, it's also free publicity.

I have to admit, I'm not a disinterested observer. I became involved with WEAT through my friends, director/co-writer Marc Scott Zicree and co-writer Michael Reaves. I shot DV footage of the auditions and other elements of the pre-production. I drove my Macintosh G5 from Los Angeles to upstate New York in my self-titled capacity of Digital Media Wrangler, downloading the high-def footage from P2 flash memory cards, cataloging it, backing it up, and making daily DVDs of the rushes. Near the end of filming, I became associate producer, and during post-production, co-producer.

The author of the article, Crystal Ann Taylor, also came to the project through association with Marc Zicree. As script co-ordinator, documentarian, and (as many of us on the production had to be) person-of-many-trades, she had a front row seat at the eye of the storm (to mix a metaphor). I, by contrast, spent most of my time in New York at my computer, tucked into a niche between sick bay and the bridge.

Through interviews with many of the people involved both behind the scenes and on the screen (including George Takei), Crystal tells the whole story of this production fueled by can-do spirit, including the few instances when it couldn't-didn't. You'll think you're with us on meticulously-recreated sets, swatting flies and getting increasingly giddy from lack of sleep, and yet having one of the major experiences of your life.

(As usual, feel free to download and share the preview, or post it on your blog or website, as long as you leave the file as it is, including all credits and copyrights. A link back here would be nice, too.)

No comments: