A little more than a decade before his untimely death in 1997, John Denver trained with NASA and became a finalist for the first citizen’s trip to space in 1986. When asked why a singer/songwriter should be chosen to go to space, John Denver replied by asking who better to communicate the inspirational experience of spaceflight to the masses than someone used to putting sights, sounds, and feelings into words and music?
These “INTERLUDE Confidential” blogs I write are intended to do something similar. I realize that many of my readers will never produce or even work on a fan film. And most fan filmmakers are too busymaking fan films to blog about the experience in depth and try to communicate the nuances of all that they do.
So I want to give you folks a window into the process of creating a fan film from the point of view of someone who has never done this sort of thing before and is still blown away by the entire process. And today, I’d to talk about where Interlude stands right now.
There are three main phases to creating a film. Pre-production is planning everything: determining budgets, raising money, hiring (or in my case, begging for) actors and crew, setting up filming dates, getting costumes ready, and about a thousand other things from renting equipment to scheduling a caterer. The script is worked on and re-worked, the director(s) plan out a shot list…it’s like everything NASA does before a rocket is cleared for lift off.
Then production happens. This is when the various elements that will go into the film are actually produced. This can mean filming scenes or getting voice-overs or having your CGI friend create your visual effects. Every item that gets produced (filmed, recorded, rendered, etc.) becomes a piece of the overall puzzle that will become your final fan film.
Right now, Interlude is still in production. At the same time, we’re also in post-production. How is that possible?
At the moment, we’ve got about two and a half hours of raw footage “in the can.” This includes our two-day shoot at Ares Studios in November, a half-day green screen shoot of STEVEN JEPSON as Admiral Slater that was done in Arkansas in December, and a half-day shoot for a sickbay scene that happened at WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas in early January.
Every scene you shoot becomes an asset, a potential piece of the puzzle you assemble (well, JOSHUA IRWIN assembles with VICTORIA FOX directing him) to create the finished product. And as of right now, we have all of our bridge scenes, our sickbay scene, and our Admiral Slater scenes done. Those pieces are ready.
We’ll be finishing our live-action shooting in February when Victoria and Josh return to Ares Studios to film ALEC PETERS as “older” Garth (wearing the “Cage”-era turtleneck tunic). We couldn’t film him back in November because Alec had dyed his hair to look younger for the Four Years War era footage for both Interlude and the two AXANAR shoots in October and December. Now it’s time for both fan films to get footage of the Garth from ten years later for the green screen documentary footage. While there, Victoria and Josh will also be filming a quick one-line scene of the USS Artemis chief engineer.
So technically, we are still “in production.”
This also includes our visual effects shots, some of which are completed while others are still being worked on. If you’re curious, including the three-shot CGI sequence that I featured at the beginning of my GoFundMe “ask” video last June), we have final renderings of nine of our seventeen VFX shots . Of the eight remaining shots, we’ve got approved previs animatics for five of them. The other three shots still need the previs done. (For more on animatics, check out this blog.)
Our CGI guy, my friend LEWIS ANDERSON (a pseudonym) has been working feverishly, but he’s got other jobs and clients. However, he’s promised the rest of the shots in final rendered format by early April at the latest. Some might come sooner. So far, he’s been as good as his word, and the completed shots look amazing. Just wait until you see the full sequence of this one…!
We also need a voice-over recording for our narrator, which will be done soon. Once we have that, plus the footage from our February shoot at Ares Studios, plus the final renders of the remaining VFX shots, we’ll be done with the production phase.
So why not wait until we have everything (all of our puzzle pieces) before shifting into our post-production phase? Why have we started post-production already. The answer comes down to scheduling.
In this case, it’s the schedule of our composer, KEVIN CROXTON. Right now, he’s making another of his annual fan films starring his 4th and 5th grade music club students (this year’s theme is James Bond; last year’s Batman fan film just took first place in the fan film category at the IndieBOOM! film festival). In March, he starts on a huge scoring project that takes him out of play until mid-April. So we either get him started now and use as much of February as we can get out of him, or we wait for at least a couple of months.
For this reason, Josh and Victoria are working to get what is known as a “rough cut” done by the end of this week. This is their initial attempt to assemble as much of the puzzle as they can from the pieces we have at the moment, and it’s the first step of post-production.
Personally, I’m excited to find out which pieces they decide to use, which they throw out, which reaction scenes happen where, and a host of other things.
I’ve already seen most of the raw footage. As you can see from the left side of the still image at the top of this blog, that raw footage starts off pretty washed out. Josh will be adjusting the light and color balance during editing in post-production. I’ve used Photoshop in the top image to demonstrate what the difference MIGHT look like, but Josh will use a different application to do a much more professional job than I just did.
Way back during the pre-production phase, Josh and Victoria laid out their shot list in advance of the November shoot, deciding where they wanted the camera and the actors/extras for each shot. In many cases, there was “coverage” from multiple angles. So the same line(s) might be delivered as a straight on close-up, a wider shot from the side, angled from below, or with the captain walking across the bridge. It’s even possible that, in the final edit, the same line might start with one angle and then cut to a different angle. The pieces of the puzzle don’t necessarily need to be assembled in only one way!
And of course, not every puzzle piece has to be used. After all, not every take is perfect. We had the best of takes; we had the worst of takes. Sometimes an actor forgot his lines. Sometimes a delivery was flat or unconvincing. Once we even had a “set malfunction” where the lower cushion of the command chair had snagged during the previous take and had fallen off the chair back…exposing the velcro underneath. No one noticed during the next take—which is too bad, because it was a decent one. But hey, these things happen. The problem was quickly caught and corrected, and subsequent takes came out even better.
Fortunately, we’ve got as least one really strong take for each line of dialog. Sometimes we have multiple good takes, and sometimes there’s just one because, when they finally got it and Victoria and Josh checked the playback, they both agreed the take was a keeper and quickly moved to the next shot to keep everything on schedule. And they were VERY efficient. Victoria and Josh made each of their 10-hour days at Ares Studios with time to spare!
I’ll see the rough cut by the end of the week and then give Victoria and Josh my notes, which we’ll discuss. Changes to the puzzle pieces may or may not be made. It depends what works best for the finished film. Then Josh will do some tightening of the cuts, color and level adjustments, and we’ll have a preliminary “picture lock” by February 15 (fingers crossed). As the few remaining scenes and shots are completed (“old” Garth, the Artemis engineer, the final VFX shots, and the voice-over), they will be added to the picture lock.
Kevin will start scoring the picture lock in late February, and by the time the remaining footage is added and locked in, he’ll be back and able to devote his full attention to finishing the score in late April. Then in May, the picture lock and score will be sent off to MARK EDWARD LEWIS for sound mixing—adding in the sounds of weapons and explosions and engines and shields and bleeps and dozens of other things. He’ll mix all of the audio, including the music.
And then we’ll be done…or at least, that’s the plan.
Now, before anyone asks when we’ll release it, that depends on Axanar. If Axanar ends up premiering at San Diego Comic Con or later at Dragon*Con, we’ll hold it until then. If it’s looking like Axanar will be delayed as a result of slow fundraising, then we’ll likely release during the summer without the big red carpet premiere.
And speaking of Axanar…!
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