It’s kinda strange when two months feels like a “long time” between fan film releases. But when it comes to POTEMKIN PICTURES, two months is almost “red alert!” That’s because for the past several years, these folks have been releasing an average of a dozen or more Star Trek fan films per year. Currently, they have six different creative teams working on six parallel fan series—each on their own schedule with their own personnel—creating short fan films on ultra-low budgets.
These folks aren’t trying to bowl anyone over with super-slick sets or elaborate costumes and props. Instead, they simply try to tell interesting stories and hopefully have some fun while doing it. You can view all of their many fan film releases on their website.
I’ve decided to do something a little different than I usually do (which is announce the latest episode, say a few words about Potemkin Pictures, maybe include a short quote from show-runner RANDY LANDERS, and then show the episode). But when I watched “Children of Eberus,” the twelfth episode from the STARSHIP DEIMOS creative team that was released a week ago, I marveled at the amount of outdoor footage. While such scenes might look cheap and easy to shoot, there’s actually a lot more moving parts and careful considerations than you might think.
So this time, I asked Randy to tell us all about the challenges of filming this episode and some of the funny behind-the-scenes stories. But first, let’s check out the episode itself, shall we…?
And now, here’s Randy…
When we first moved to Birmingham in 2015, Linda and I scouted locations on the weekends whenever we could while we assembled the casts and crews for both Tristan and Deimos. We quickly stumbled across Moss Rock Preserve, and decided THIS was an alien planet worthy of one of our Star Trek fan films.
When the group from Huntsville came down to shoot their own production (Starship Alexander “Crystal Eyes”) they wanted me to recommend a location, and I told them about this one. They went and shot here in our studios for two days, then went to Moss Rock Preserve to shoot the alien planet scenes. (You may recall we posted a couple of pictures of our Gorn actors there.) But the director/producer of Alexander broke his back, and his production was delayed. He’s back at work on it again, but only as his back will allow. (Imagine sitting at a computer with a broken back–not conducive to a lot getting done quickly.)
So last year, I decided that I needed a cool alien location for “Children of Eberus,” and again, Moss Rock Preserve immediately popped to mind. It was a limited cast (only four regulars), one guest star (the governor of the planet), and a bunch of goth kids. (More on that later.) The peoples of Eberus are ‘shroom heads, and when they were seeing monsters, everyone was like “Yeah, right” (a line that we used in the script, in fact). Then when their non-mushroom heads reported the same sort of encounters, they called for Starfleet’s intervention.
We had contacted a local casting agent who was trying to get more of her cast involved, and we asked for half a dozen goth kids, and she said no problem. The night before the shoot, she told me she could only line up three. No problem, I said, just get them to the park at 9am. At 9am, the cast and I arrived. Keith Harris, who played Captain Walker in Tristan for a couple of years and runs the second cam while I run the first, was there ahead of us. And makeup artist Quinn Callaghan arrived to do the makeup on the goth kids. Then this charming woman arrived, and she’s older than me. I have Quinn do her goth makeup. About 15 mins later, another sweet woman arrives, and she’s a bit older than the first. I had Quinn do her goth makeup. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted that these ladies joined us, but we were expecting six goth kids and we got two goth grannies!
So we went into the park, stopped at the first large boulder with a suitable path behind it, and started shooting.
Keith has back problems, so I told him to keep to the ground level with the actors. I went up the hill and worked my way from boulder to boulder. I had Cheryl Sahawneh with us doing continuity. So the regular cast members explored the alien planet looking for this monster. And all along the way, I kept putting the goth grannies into interesting spots that I had scouted out three years earlier and filmed simultaneously from the top of the boulders and from ground level as they made their way through the boulder field.
The path we see them take in the film is pretty much the exact one they made in real life. I flipped the order for one scene after the cave sequence just to add a little more depth to the boulder field. We were going to shoot the finale at the waterfall, but by then, there were too many park visitors, so we moved it to another boulder, and shot there with our 79c crappy little flower (yes, it was intentionally shot using the crappiest “flower” we could find).
For the most part, the cast and crew were well-received by park visitors (“Oooh, they’re shooting Star Wars” — “Daddy, that’s Star Trek” — “Whatever, it’s all space stuff”). The goth grannies did very well—it was a challenge for them so after we passed through the cave, I wrapped them. A third lady had shown up by that time, but I just had her help with crowd control.
While we were there, Sherri Bradford from our Endeavour team showed up and taunted us from atop another boulder. It was a great day. I’m grateful Tuck Stevens, Robin Rushing, Kyle Paul and Sarah Tompkins all were wonderful, and they were gracious enough to come back to the studio in the following weeks to re-record their lines so we could ADR them. Keith did an excellent job with camera 2, and it was really neat to line up the “atop” and “ground level” scenes.
The visitors to the park were, like I said, quite courteous, and we never asked them for “quiet on the set” or anything similarly absurd. The waterfall alone necessitated the need for ADR, so I didn’t sweat the kids screaming and laughing. There’s a couple of instances where I did an optical zoom in post to hide hikers who had walked into our shots. There’s a couple of instances where I masked them out. There’s a very few instances where you can see the hikers.
My intention is to use the waterfall itself for a future location, so we’ve saved it for that. We previously used another area of the park for a forthcoming Marie Curie production.