One of those “hidden gems” of Star Trek fan films is the series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. Not as fancy or polished as the “big guns” like Star Trek Continues or New Voyages, Dominion is one of those mid-tier productions that has benefited from using TOS sets from other productions (or faked it when they weren’t able to) and put a lot of heart and dedication into producing labors of love.
I also fancy this particular fan series because it’s the only one to feature the Federation-class dreadnought starship design from the Franz Joseph Starfleet Technical Manual from the 1970s. I always loved that 3-nacelled design with the hangar bay on the front!
Dreadnought Dominion release two episodes in 2015, each filmed on the sets used at the time by Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues (the only other fan production to ever use those sets). Their third episode wouldn’t come out until the end of 2016 and was actually a crossover with Starship Valiant. You can read more about all of that in this blog. Ten months later, Dominion crossed over again withStarship Valiant but in the Mirror Universe as part of the MINARD saga from Vance Major. That’s covered in this blog.
Then last month, Dominon returned yet again…this time all on its own, once again using the STC sets in Georgia( now owned by Ray Tesi). They promptly released an amusing 10-minute vignette titled “Reality Check” that broke the “fourth wall”…
Then last week they released another new vignette, “Silent Acknowledgement” that focuses on a hearing-impaired communications officer (the first Trek fan series that I’m aware of to feature a deaf character)…
They also just launched a new GoFundMe campaign trying to raise $1,500 for their next production:
By the way, “they” are show-runners GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN, who also play the new captain and first officer of the USS Dominion. And of course, I interviewed them (’cause that’s what I do)…
JONATHAN – Welcome, guys. Let’s start with your new GoFundMe campaign. I usually ask show-runners to list the top three reasons they should donate to their specific crowd-funder. So…?
GARY – Top three reasons…wow! We love doing this. We want to make more. And probably most importantly, we feel that, with a little bit of funding, we can DO better and make it even MORE fun for everyone to watch!
RANDY – Why? Because it’s more Trek for everybody! But they should support our fan films (and others that they enjoy) because 1) They believe in the idea of fan-created fiction…that it’s worthwhile, that it’s legitimate. 2) They believe in our particular brand of fan fiction, that it’s original and fun while being respectful of the original material. 3) They see and understand the sacrifices made by fan film makers and want to participate and lend a hand in making these films.
JONATHAN – You’re trying to raise $1,5000 (which doesn’t seem like a lot, although Lexington Adventures is struggling to get to $1,350 at the moment). What will you be using your crowd-funding dollars for specifically, and what happens if you don’t make your goal?
RANDY -Our goals and our needs are modest. We have no plans to fly people in from around the country. We have no plans to hire celebrities to be special guest stars in our films. While some productions need $20,000 or more to produce a film, all we want is some help with the basic expenses we incur: food, lodging, travel, props, costumes, etc. We figure we could just about break even with $1,500 per film. But if we don’t get that much, we’ll still trudge on. It just may be a little more slowly, and a little more battle weary.
GARY – If we don’t reach our goal, then we plan on doing what we have done in the past: pass the hat and make it up out of our pockets. We just ENJOY “makin’ Star Trek” THAT much, and we just dig deep and come up with the funds to make it happen.
JONATHAN – Guideline #1 says that there can be no ongoing Trek fan series, and that only two 15-minute episodes will be permitted before a production risks CBS/Paramount taking legal action. Including the crossovers, you’re well over two episodes. But even discounting them, you’ve pretty much just released your two allotted episodes and are now crowd-funding a third. Are you “pushing the envelope” to see what you can get away with (like Star Trek Continues and some other fan series have done), or do you feel you might have found some way around it (like Potemkin Pictures has done)? Or do you just think the studios don’t give a darn about small-budget fan films like yours and won’t care?
GARY – A guideline is a statement by which to determine a course of action. A guideline aims to streamline particular processes according to a set routine or sound practice. By definition, following a guideline is never mandatory. That is what I keep focusing on.
CBS/Paramount issued a BUNCH of guidelines. Not laws, not rules…guidelines. I listened to the CBS/Paramount IP Lawyer go over them, and what I took away was, “Follow as many of these, and you won’t have to worry about hearing from us.”
We are doing our very best to follow the guidelines to the letter and the spirit in which they were presented. In my opinion, there is much to be left to interpretation. As I’ve stated: they are guidelines. Episodes, by definition, are each of the separate installments into which a serialized story or radio or television program is divided. Our productions have been standalone and, while featuring the same characters (not a guideline, by the way), don’t directly relate or refer to other productions. They are standalone offerings that feature the same setting…not (by definition to me) an episode.
I don’t feel that CBS/Paramount don’t give a “hoot” if you “break” a guideline, but if you are trying to follow the spirit of it—and observe as many, if not all, the other guidelines—then your production gets the unseen nod. I don’t feel that CBS/Paramount is taking score, or grading our fan productions on adherence of the guidelines, merely ensuring that no one is thumbing their noses at them.
RANDY – This is where the guidelines seem a little vague to me. I’d love for them to clarify. Actually, what I’d love for them to say is, “We’re sorry. We don’t know what we were thinking. We didn’t really mean that there can no longer be any fan series.” But I’m not holding my breath for that.
What they said is, “No episodes. Well, there could be a two-parter.”
Some people believe that means there can be no more fan series. Others believe it just means you can’t have an epic movie and disguise it as “Exciting Title: parts 1 through 12.”
So which is it? Can we no longer do a series? If so, all we have to do is quit calling it a series. Quit having seasons and episodes and just start having individual films set in the same universe. After all, they didn’t say we couldn’t make more than one film. They only said it couldn’t be episodes.
So that’s what most fan series have done. They just present each film as a separate production, as individual films…like Indiana Jones or James Bond movies. You wouldn’t call them a series. They are individual movies set in the same universe with mostly the same characters. While Harry Potter and Star Wars definitely ARE series.
So what’s the difference between a series and several films with the same cast and similar situations? The difference is that a series has a continuing story that treads its way through each film. Ours doesn’t. Plus we have stopped putting them into IMDb as episodes of a series, and stopped referring to them as episodes. So I’m hoping we’ll be fine.
Having said that, our next fan film, “Redemption,” IS a continuation of the first two films. But we feel like that will be okay as they have stated that they will allow anything started before the guidelines to be completed. And our first two episodes were begun long, long, LONG before the guidelines. This next film will wrap up that storyline and, from that point forward, there will not be multi-film stories in Dreadnought Dominion.
GARY – We filmed both vignettes on the same weekend. “Reality Check” was ONE scene Friday night that took us an hour and a 9am to 5pm shoot on Saturday. And then we did “Silent Acknowledgement” in a single hour and WRAPPED at 6pm!
RANDY – Every time we shoot anything, anywhere, there is always that looming specter of the clock. What if we run out of time? It’s every producer’s nightmare…especially when a lot of the cast and crew are not local to the sets. It’s a really big deal just getting there!
But, almost as scary is the possibility of having time left over at the end. Studio time is a precious thing that we do not take lightly, and we would hate to waste one single minute of it.
We also had a third idea that we would have shot if we had the time. Maybe next time…
JONATHAN – Both of these vignettes are very unique in the world of Trek fan films…and somewhat gutsy. What made you decide to “break the fourth wall” in “Reality Check”?
RANDY -We had a pretty straight forward story written where the new captain (Gary) comes aboard for the first time (as captain). Denson (my character) has set up a surprise party for him. After luring him to the rec room under false pretenses, he springs the party on the captain.
GARY – I really liked that script that Randy prepared, but I felt we could up the ante. I wanted to do something “outside of the box” and pitched to Randy the idea of bouncing back and forth from Star Trek to another reality. Randy thought it was a great idea, and we both dove into altering the existing script to fit the storyline.
RANDY – Gary came up with the idea of having them both be slipping back and forth between two alternate universes, but instead of the standard Mirror Universe, why not make it the universe in which we actually live…the universe in which we are Star Trek fan film makers, and we are making the same film that we are seeing! After we picked our brains up off the floor, we wrote the script you now see as “Reality Check.”
GARY – After I read it, I said to Randy, “I really like this reality check we just did.” Without realizing it, I had come up with the name of the episode!
Initially, I hadn’t explained WHAT was bouncing me back and forth between realities. Then I dunno…I just thought, “Wow, a ‘Q’ is responsible!”
I contacted my friend John Sims of Exeter Trek. John is a VERY talented actor. I pitched him the idea of being our resident “Q” and playing multiple parts…as an omnipotent being could hide under noses without issue. John only had two lines in “Reality Check,” but WOW…what an impression he MADE!
My original idea for the last line was for me to look at the camera and utter a “Sam Becket” type “Oh, boy…” from Quantum Leap. But then I thought, “Hmmm, what if our ‘Q’ broke the forth wall and just looked over his shoulder—that shoulder BEING in the shot at first—and uttered the line, “Oh, my, this has gone too far, hasn’t it?”
Our cameraman and director of photography, Michael Klug, took the idea from my mind’s eye, and with just a few adjustments on his camera, MADE that shot come to life. Micheal and John are true masters of their art for making what I had envisioned come true even better than I had thought of!
JONATHAN – So what about “Silent Acknowledgement”? What inspired the idea of having a deaf communications officer on the bridge?
GARY – Again, I was thinking outside of the box on this one. My wife Tracey has always been a part of my fan films. She is deaf, but speaks very well. However, there are just some things she has trouble pronouncing, having only gotten her cochlear implant and partial hearing in 2009.
We used to have her speak one line or so in past productions and had to keep it SHORT and with words she could pronounce. With that, I decided to go the OTHER way on this production and just make her character deaf so she could sign her lines…and we had Randy’s daughter, Jess, voice the Universal Translator.
Randy pointed out that we think this is the first time that the Universal Translator was used to translate non-verbal communication. Sign language is a very expressive and beautiful language, and I really wanted to bring that to our fan films. Do we know how to do outside-of-the box or what?
I kept thinking if TNG could have a blind navigator…why not a deaf communications officer? I even made a reference to that in the show, and Tracey’s reaction to that line is priceless. We found that there is a big following with the deaf on fan films. Dominion Media has done Closed Captions on our films so deaf viewers could enjoy them..
Its this kind of outside-of-the-box storytelling that is our wheelhouse. There are some GREAT traditional fan films out there, and we have those elements as well, but we’re not afraid or intimidated by breaking new ground.
In the end, we’re just having FUN here, and that is the true cornerstone of what we are doing.
JONATHAN – So how was it that you guys became the first fan film to use the former Star Trek Continues sets…even as Ray Tesi was only just announcing that they were open for business?
Next week (’cause I’ll be away till then), we’ll get the answer to that intriguing question plus take a trip down Memory Lane to look at how Dreadnought Dominion got from there to here and what’s in store for the future.
In the meantime, you can also enjoy this short blooper reel from the two recent vignettes..