“ONCE MORE WITH FEELING” is a HYBRID fan film/table reading…

What do you do if you want to make a Star Trek fan film and you can’t afford costumes, sets, make-up, lighting, and all of the other bells and whistles?  This was the challenge facing Australia’s MATT MILLER, who had previously tried on multiple attempts to create Trek fan films with limited resources.  Matt explains his frustrations and the shortcomings of those productions in this heartfelt video.

So “Once More with Feeling” works as a title on various levels.  Matt’s latest attempt at a Trek fan film is, of course, his own attempt to do it better, once more, with feeling.  The “feeling” comes from what is a hybrid, of sorts, of a traditional Star Trek fan film and what would be a dramatic table reading for an audio production.  The actors provide very passionate performances, even though they are reading directly from scripts in the visuals.

Table readings are, of course, fairly standard in the theater, which is where Once More with Feeling! was originally performed as a stage play (written by Harry Kurnitz) in 1958, starring Joseph Cotten, Arlene Francis, and Walter Matthau (who won a best actor Tony award for it).  Two years later, it would be made into a film starring Kay Kendall and Yul Brynner.  (And yes, in 2001, “Once More with Feeling” was also the title of an all-musical episode of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.)

For this Star Trek fan film, the title also appears to harken to the structure of the story, as a disgraced Starfleet captain describes his tragic, final battle for a young woman who has come to his home, she tells him, as part of a college research project.  However, if you watch until the very end of the film, you will discover yet another reason for the title.

This is undoubtedly a different kind of fan film, and somewhat jarring in places due to its basic structure.  The outer space starship CGI visual effects, created by Trekyards’ SAMUEL COCKINGS, are outstanding and take the viewer deep into the fan film narrative.  But cuts to the actors, standing in a virtual “lounge” of some kind, wearing normal clothes, reading from scripts, jolts the viewer out of the imaginary Star Trek universe back into reality.

Reaction online has been generally very positive (with the expected outliers, of course).  I believe that all fan films should be given respect and viewed with an open mind—this one being no exception.  So take a look at what can be produced on a low budget, with few resources, when the writer/director thinks outside the box…

11 thoughts on ““ONCE MORE WITH FEELING” is a HYBRID fan film/table reading…”

  1. This sounds a bit like it should be listened to and not watched. That hearkens back to my childhood where I listened to SF on the radio to such series as X-1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_Minus_One

    My mind created wonderful images from the spoken words. I remember that a storm wiped out the broadcast of “A Pail of Air” before the end. And that bothered me so much that I finally, many years later when the Internet supported searching, at last found the plot summary and the conclusion.

    I’m not sure if enough people would support such efforts today, but I salute anyone who gives it a shot.

    1. There are actually many, many Star Trek fan audio series out there, Jerry. They are, of course, much easier and less expensive (on average) to produce than fan films. Personally, I’m not as into the audio series that are out there–and I don’t have the time to cover both fan films and also fan audio productions. But there’s many fans out there who love them.

    2. I never saw that at all. I was to young, i was 9 years old and i never had those comec books from that year of 1958.

  2. A noble and interesting effort. Mr. Miller wrote a great script, and it reminds me of his really good all-audio fan stories from years past. Solid collaboration with Sam Cockings on the space scenes! Would be great to see a “Twice More With Feeling”: What are the consequences of the missing man being found? Will the Captain go back to space?

  3. As I commented on YouTube, I was a bit hesitant in approaching this but found it totally engrossing. I adapted to the jumps between actors in a neutral visual context reading from scripts (not all – some remembered their lines, others using their script only some of the time) and the realistic CGI space scenes without any trouble – mainly because the acting (working from a well-written script) was so natural and convincing. The story concept was good, with the unexpected ending giving it a special strength.

    To anyone who feels this may not appeal because of its presentation, I say – give it a go! You may be in for a rewarding surprise.

    [PS. And the Buffy episode with the same name is my favourite episode from that series.]

    1. Buffy’s musical episode was a TV masterpiece. Man, I miss that show! Granted, I also miss Deep Space Nine. Remember how Armin Shimerman was doing both series at the same time…how cool was that???

      1. I am completely sidetracking from the initial topic of this blog, but yes, Shimerman was a talent that appeared in a range of series. The Buffy episode wasn’t just a great episode, it was one of television’s great achievements. As a musician who dabbles in composing, I particularly responded to the musical writing which was innovative, sophisticated and brilliant. I believe none of the cast had prior singing or dancing experience, but that is hard to believe when watching it. There was genius behind every aspect of that episode. (Reflecting on this – I no longer have Buffy, but even on my tight budget, have just ordered a replacement set!)

        This has made me pause and reflect. I’m sure this will be challenged, but I think the genres of science-fiction and fantasy have provided more frequent originality and brilliance in writing, acting, directing etc than any other genre (OK – I’ve mentioned two genres! Give me a break – they’re related.) Here on FFF, the main focus is arguably the first series that triggered TV above the mundane, Star Trek TOS, and it’s family of movies and TV series and of course, Fan Films, that with variable quality have followed. But consider other SF and also fantasy series.

        Perhaps my favourite is Babylon 5. The story arc is amazing, and it was carried by characters that were conceived and developed in very great detail, and acted by some performers with the highest skills (well, perhaps not Boxleitner who for most of the time was average). The story links, right from the pilot to series 5 revealed aspects of genius in plotting (even if some of it succeeded more by good luck!). Considering the time it was made, and continually fighting for its very existence, the series was truly remarkable. Allowing it was made for the small screen, achievements in sets were good and it was ground-breaking in CGI effects. Like virtually any series, not all episodes were good (a couple were embarrassing), but in total – well, I watch it about every 3 years!

        And for acting, Fringe cannot be surpassed, also great stories, general story arc, plus scripts etc etc. I could go on – but won’t, just mentioning Sanctuary (nearly all settings being CGI) and having the great (I went to write Samantha Carter) Amanda Tapping; which leads to the years of fun (also variable) of the various incarnations of Stargate; the fantasy fun of Sanctuary which also has some excellent characters and acting. Also for fun and imagination – Eureka! (Of course I have not forgotten X-Files). (As an aside, I also note the high proportion made in Canada).

        Add your own suggestions to the list!!!

        The point is that Star Trek TOS opened the gateway for television executives (OK, originally, reluctantly) to successively bring to the – no longer so small – screen a range of quality fare that while matched in quality by examples in other genres (L A Law for example, or West Wing – a thought; that would make for an interesting new series!!!), has possibly not been matched in quantity by any other genre.

        Or am I blinded by my love of not just Trek, but SF and fantasy in general?

        1. While most of the Buffy cast did not have formal music or voice training, Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy’s “sister” Dawn) was a classically trained ballerina. She also had a very poor singing voice and was aware of that fact, so she requested that Joss Whedon come up with another way for her to take part in the episode. He obliged by creating a mostly dance-based segment for her, with minimal singing that was ultimately overdubbed in post production.

          As for your conjecture that “….the genres of science-fiction and fantasy have provided more frequent originality and brilliance in writing, acting, directing etc than any other genre…” I have to disagree. So many TV series that redefined, re-redefined, and re-re-redefined the medium were NOT sci-fi and fantasy. Here’s a few that come to mind in just the last 40 years…

          Hill Street Blues
          St. Elsewhere
          L.A. Law
          NYPD Blue
          The Sopranos
          The West Wing
          The Simpsons
          Six Feet Under
          Breaking Bad
          Boardwalk Empire
          Orange Is the New Black
          Hell On Wheels
          The Newsroom
          The Crown
          This Is Us

          The list could go on and on, but you get the point. Amazing acting, writing, and directing has come from multiple genres…and sci-fi/fantasy are just two of them. True, shows like Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and The Expanse are on that list, as well. But the rich tapestry of this golden age of television is so much more vast and expansive than just one or two genres…at least in my opinion.

          1. Thanks Jonathan. Michelle Trachtenberg certainly moved like a trained dancer, but in one interview about the program (not with her) it was claimed she had no prior dancing experience. I know you use solid resources, so I will regard your info as the believable source.

            As for your response, I probably was carried away by enthusiasm to a degree. I haven’t seen all the series you mention, but I did quote two of your choices, and agree on the merits of most of your choices that are familiar to me (which is a majority) and certainly agree about the vastness which extends beyond sf and fantasy.

            Thinking further, perhaps what I should have suggested is that fantasy, in the broadest definition of the term (so including sf) provides writers with wider opportunities for the imagination to take flight than other genres. This dates back to the writings of Homer and Dante and Verne (to cover the ages rather widely) before we consider modern television. I think what I am trying to say is, with the best examples of the sf/fantasy genres, writers have a potential to extend the mind in a way that non-fantastic fiction finds it difficult to match. Just as with books, so television has given some series in these genres where, in skilled hands, our minds have been stimulated in ways “real-world” fiction cannot quite achieve. And I would suggest that TOS, helped by others like “The Prisoner” (UK) and “Twilight Zone” (not sure when that first appeared) led the way for television executives to explore more than “I love Lucy” (despite its connection with TOS) in the past, and game and “Reality” shows in more recent times, even though there have been many truly outstanding achievements in the non-fantasy genres of TV.

            Or am I just having a mental w.nk?

            [Looking back on this, I’m tempted to delete it all, but will let it ride as I do believe sf/fantasy have a special and unique place in fiction.]

          2. I need to correct myself: that was, indeed, Michelle Trachtenberg’s actual voice as Dawn signing in “Once More, With Feeling.” She simply asked for minimal lines to sing…as, apparently, did Alyson Hannigan.

            As for sci-fi/fantasy giving creative minds a greater range to expand…of course they do. However, I challenge you to find any show that broke more rules and went to more unexpected places than Breaking Bad (one of my personal favorites)…and that show started out about a middle-aged high school science teacher in Albuquerque, NM. Comparing modern TV to I Love Lucy–or, really, any show before M*A*S*H and All in the Family–really isn’t fair. Television was still, if not in its infancy, at least in its tween years in the 1950s and 1960s…Star Trek excepted, of course. 😉

            Once the 70s hit, TV began looking at what it COULD do and reaching a little, and then a little more. In the 1980s, it began really exploring the limits of its wider potential. In the 1990s, it pushed those limits even farther. And then, in the last 20 years, TV just decided that there are no limits but for those were create for ourselves…and it never looked back.

  4. Not much I can say after that (I am considered odd as I have never been able to take to Breaking Bad or Battlestar G. – I know they have both earned extremely high regard, but I can’t take to them. Like Bach & Mozart, my knowledge of music allows me to recognise their genius, but neither appeal – I usually can anticipate what’s coming next, especially with Mozart; and we won’t mention Vivaldi!).

    In recent times, television has become bipolar – absolute rubbish at one end, and brilliant programs (much better than the average cinema output) at the other pole with not a great amount in the middle.

    By the way, I also checked. From several sources, Michelle Trachtenberg wasn’t a trained classical dancer. She went to dancing classes as a kid (as so many little girls once did – don’t know about now) and was able to put that to use in some early commercials she made, but not a formally trained ballet dancer.

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