PACIFIC 201 was initially crowd-funded with a $26K Kickstarter way back in September of 2015. The following year, an Indiegogo campaign raised about $32K more. So armed with more than $58K, Harrisburg, PA-based show-runner ERIC HENRY set off to make a fan film…and not just any fan film.
Eric was building actual sets (and paying monthly rent for a warehouse), creating costumes, refining new starship designs, doing his own VFX, and treating this project very professionally. The images looked amazing, and the story very intriguing.
Pacific 201 is set in the year 2200, four decades after the Romulan War, and Earth is still hesitant to trust the galaxy. The desire to explore space faded after the first few years of the NX program—helped along by the Xindi and Romulans—and was replaced with a fear that seeking out new life and new civilizations would result in them shooting at us.
But now Earth is just beginning to shake off its post-traumatic stress, and the starship Pacific NCC-201 is the first vessel in decades to head out with UESPA scientists aboard alongside Starfleet military. Can humanity conquer its fears and truly embrace its destiny among the stars?
This push/pull of paranoia vs. positivity is put on display in one of my all-time favorite fan vignettes, which Eric released back in late 2016. (You can watch it here.) In this short film, the first officer of the USS Pacific is grilled by a talk show host who is anything but fair and balanced when it comes to restarting the exploration of space. The following summer, another Pacific 201 short vignette was released, featuring the new captain. (You can watch that here.)
All this time, the “coming soon” dates were coming and going with no Pacific 201. Most recently, in 2018, a series of images were released along with a promised release date of spring 2019. We’re now a year beyond that, and still no fan film. BUT!!! For the first time since 2018, new content from Pacific 201 has been released in the form of this intriguing new trailer…
So…August 2020 it is, then! Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I thought it might be a good time to check in with Eric Henry on what’s been taking so long, what still needs to be done, and whether there will be any sequels to Pacific 201 (once the first film comes out, that is!). Let’s hear what Eric has to say…
JONATHAN – Well, Eric, I must say that trailer looks amazing. I’m as excited as ever to see it!
ERIC – Thanks, Jonathan. I think you’ll really like the final film.
JONATHAN – So before we get into Pacific 201 itself, let’s first talk about you. Do you have actual filmmaking experience? And what made you decide to create a Star Trek fan film?
ERIC – There are two things I’ve been for virtually my entire life: a filmmaker and a Star Trek fan. So it’s actually kind of surprising that I never attempted a Star Trek fan film until now. Granted, I did provide designs for both STAR TREK: HORIZON and STAR TREK: AXANAR, which was what really pulled me into the fan film community and opened my mind to the possibility of making my own Star Trek story.
JONATHAN – What kind of training/experience did you have as a filmmaker prior to starting Pacific 201?
ERIC – I had been making short films for nearly my entire life. When I was younger, my father was in a videography-heavy field, and consequently my brother and I often got his old video cameras whenever he bought a new one. We made all sorts of productions, and were actually pretty serious about it.
Even as a 10-year-old, I was doing VFX and sound design for these films. Of course, they’d be pretty embarrassing to watch now, but they laid down some important groundwork for my more serious attempts at filmmaking, which really kicked off in college. It was in college when I produced my first film with a real budget, which we successfully raised on Kickstarter. And from there, I pretty much seamlessly moved into Pacific 201.
JONATHAN – When did you first come up with the idea behind Pacific 201, and how did you think of it?
ERIC – Pacific 201 was a story that I had been developing in college. My original thought was to create a story set on the very first Starfleet deep space ship—something more primitive than the NX-01 that could only realistically reach the closest neighboring star systems. I actually designed the uniforms and the ship, but eventually, I would bump up the time period to the year 2200, which places the story roughly halfway between Star Trek: Enterprise and the Original Series.
I felt like that time period gave me a lot of potential for a dramatic story that didn’t require too much extra context for a primarily hardcore Trekkie audience. We already know what the Romulan War is, and we know how things end up with Kirk’s era. So I’m hoping that fans can connect a lot of the dots that we’re laying out (but not necessarily explaining) in our story.
JONATHAN – When you initially started to work on Pacific 201, what were the first things you did to prepare to turn your fan film dream into a reality?
ERIC – From the very beginning, the starship Pacific itself was a central element of the story. So a large portion of my initial work on the film was simply finding a design that worked. I actually went through dozens of ship designs before I settled on something that I liked. And of course, once I had a ship, I could start sharing my idea more effectively. From there, I would slowly build out the world, generating more and more interest, to the point where I felt like I could successfully crowd-fund the budget necessary to tell the story I had in mind.
JONATHAN – What has been done since then in terms of working toward the completion of Pacific 201?
ERIC – Making a movie is a tremendously large undertaking and requires a massive amount of planning. We need to finalize designs, manufacture props, secure locations, build sets, design and tailor costumes, make travel arrangements, and a whole lot of other things. And that’s all before a single second of footage has been shot for the film! It’s a miracle that we could pull it off with our tiny team and limited resources.
But the fans have been instrumental in bringing this story to life; crowdfunding on Kickstarter and Indiegogo funded almost everything we needed. Without that amazing fan support… a project of this scale would be simply impossible.
JONATHAN – It’s been nearly five years since you raised your first $26K, and four years since you raised $32K more. Since then, you’ve announced several different release dates. What has caused all of the delays in getting Pacific 201 completed?
ERIC – The biggest delay was probably the Axanar lawsuit. And I don’t mean that to blame Axanar or CBS, or anybody involved; I consider the lawsuit more a force of nature that we simply had to respond to. At any rate, when the lawsuit happened, we more or less halted our entire operation. At that time, there was a lot of uncertainty over the fate of fan films, and since our project was so large in scope, we didn’t want to invest the countless man hours that the film required unless we knew for certain that we would be allowed to complete and release it.
When the lawsuit was finally settled, we had been on lockdown for almost an entire year, and had lost windows of opportunity on a few things. For instance, our shooting location was no longer available to us, and we had to hunt around the area for a new space large enough for our set. When all was said and done, we weren’t actually shooting our film until early 2017. So while we were successfully funded in the Fall of 2015, production really “only” started three years ago.
Granted, that still sounds like a lot of time. But we’ve also had a few more setbacks since the lawsuit. For instance, the CBS fan film guidelines imposed a time limit on the runtime that basically required an overhaul of our script. Rewrites take time.
JONATHAN – SAMUEL COCKINGS asked (and received) permission from CBS for his fan film TEMPORAL ANOMALY (funded and shot before the guidelines) to exceed the 30-minute time limit. Would you consider doing the same in order to squeeze a few more minutes for Pacific 201?
ERIC- We considered trying to get some special exceptions to the guidelines (particularly because we had already successfully funded our film before the guidelines were established). But in reality… the shorter time limit was a blessing in disguise. It made us look long and hard at our script and figure out what was really essential to the story we were trying to tell. The rewritten script was much faster and more focused, and I think it’s ultimately a lot better than the longer version.
JONATHAN – Aside from having to rewrite the script, what were some of the other setbacks you encountered that caused delays?
ERIC – We also had originally budgeted for a completely different (and considerably cheaper) location, so our new studio was rapidly draining our budget, and we had to make new funding pushes to keep the production above water. Crowd-funding is a lot of work and is also time we’re not spending on the film itself. Of course, it’s all a necessary part of the production ecosystem, but it does make it hard to really buckle down and work on the film uninterrupted. Add onto that the fact that literally everybody in our team has full-time jobs. After all that… three years starts to sound a lot more reasonable.
But in some ways, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m a lot more skilled at this point than I was last year, much less two or three years ago. So if Pacific had never been delayed as much as it was, I’m confident it wouldn’t be nearly as awesome as it is right now. A few years of developing new skills makes a huge difference.
JONATHAN – You’ve now set this August as your release date, but you’ve missed your targets more than once over the years. How confident are you that fans and donors will finally see the completed film in five more months? What’s different this time than the other times?
ERIC – Simply put, we’re in a better position to accurately estimate the remaining time. The film is essentially edited at this point (at least in a rough, but watchable form), and I have a strong sense of exactly how long it will take to finish the remaining VFX, which is currently the bulk of the remaining work.
We had a pretty unorthodox and fairly difficult production with a lot of setbacks and contingency plans, but through it all, MOST of the work for the film has been done already. With the exception of a small handful of pickup shots, the filming is complete. A good portion of the visual effects are complete.
So, barring any completely unpredictable factors, we’re definitely on track for August 2020. But of course, there is always uncertainty with a small team of volunteers.
JONATHAN – The world of Pacific 201 is fascinating to a lot of fans (well, at least it is to me!), as it shows a “lost” era of Star Trek history. Are you planning to make any more fan films set in that time period after you finish and release this one?
ERIC – The world we built for this project s ripe for storytelling, but as much as it pains me to say it, Pacific 201 will (probably) be our only venture into Star Trek. We’re actually already developing another story, and it’s a completely original project set in our own world. We’re super excited to go forward with that project after Pacific 201 is complete, so it’s unlikely we’ll ever look back.
JONATHAN – Well, based on this amazing teaser, I’m a little bummed to hear that this will be our only glimpse into the dawn of the 23rd century for Earth and Starfleet. But perhaps another fan filmmaker will pick up the torch. If not, at least we’ll always have Pacific 201…once we finally get it, that is. Set a course for August 2020!