Last time, we met GREG OGLES of Birmingham, Alabama, who wrote, directed, starred in, and produced the two-part 17th and 18th episodes of STARSHIP TRISTAN from POTEMKIN PICTURES. You can watch the other 16 episodes of Tristan, plus nearly 70 other episodes from a total of eight different creative teams on the Potemkin Pictures website.
Greg’s two-parter is titled “Reclamation” and includes a storyline based on his own personal family history, a family that includes Native American blood and ancestors who managed to escape from the infamous “Trail of Tears” and had to claim their race as “black dutch” to keep from being rounded up and sent to Oklahoma.
Written in 2017, the script to “Reclamation” was submitted to Potemkin show-runner RANDY LANDERS in 2018 and filmed primarily in 2019. Chapter 1 was released last December and chapter 2 this past April. You can view both films below:
And now the conclusion of our interview with Greg…
JONATHAN – What was it like being a first-time director setting up the shots and dealing with the actors?
GREG – Again…growing pains. Filming myself was not easy. My wife, who is a nurse, was outstanding in her ability to learn what I wanted, even though she had never been behind a camera. I was able to be creative with the zoom and pan of the camera to some degree, but it does not take the place of a cinematographer.
On set, everything went very smooth. We had a few retakes, but that is to be expected. I can’t say enough about how well those actors came together for this shoot. One challenge that I did find is that you really never know what person was playing what role. So that made it difficult to write for an individual person’s character. Also, while on set, each crew did not know the other crew’s lines or even the rest of the script. So absent all of that information and lines being written for “generic” characters I thought they all did a stellar job!
JONATHAN – The last stage of filmmaking is post-production. How did that go?
GREG – Post-production was a different story for me. I had never edited or even seen editing software until after the second set scene of “Reclamation” was filmed. Needless to say, I had a huge learning curve in front of me. I spent plenty of hours online learning how to create transitions, blending, scaling, adding external audio, music, etc. It was a bit overwhelming, but I was determined not to quit. But now I can at least talk to an editor or VFX artist and speak the same language as they do. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m light-years from where I began.
Without the help and construction from the other producers such as RICK FOXX, the films would have been less appealing. That is why having a team is so important in developing a film.
In post, I have learned that a little money could go a long way in making a film better. I think our budget was pizza and that’s about it. I certainly see why a lot of these films do crowd funding to make a quality film.
JONATHAN – Yeah, it’s hard to do it on just a shoestring. Sometimes you need at least one shoe!
GREG – Very true.
JONATHAN – So I don’t know if you want to talk about the other challenge you went through during post-production…
GREG – No, it’s fine to talk about. As I was editing, I ran into a few unexpected personal events that slowed things down. Last August, I found out that I had skin cancer and was scheduled for surgery the following month. Even though it was “only” skin cancer, the surgery was a bit more difficult to recover from than expected. Once I found the strength to start editing again, I was able to finish Chapter One of “Reclamation” around the end of 2019.
My son, who is a fabulous young composer, was able to give me some totally unique music for Chapter One. I was very proud of his work. I was so proud of his work that I wanted to see if he would write for Chapter Two, as well. But soon, after getting back into the edit of “Chapter Two,” I found out that I was going to have to go through chemotherapy. I thought, “It’s just skin cancer, how tough can it be?” once again. And once again, I had a much worse reaction than I or even my doctor anticipated. It was weeks before I could get the strength up even to get out of bed some days.
So needless to say, that set back Chapter Two by about a month. And on top of that, my son could not write any unique music anymore as his life had gotten very busy. My son, Chandler, has won the Alabama Young Composer’s Award for 5 years in a row, and he writes for and conducts music for the Alabama Youth Symphony. He was in the middle of all of that along with his studies as a fast-track student and a new commission for an Alabama Public Television documentary, and he just didn’t have time. So I had to rely on other sources for music.
JONATHAN – Wow…that is definitely a unique set of challenges! Are you healthy now, Greg?
GREG – Yes, my chemo treatment was a success. I still have at least one more round to go through, but I’m hopeful that I’ll make a full recovery and will be back in action.
JONATHAN – I’m really glad to hear that. I wish you all the best for a return to full health.
I know that, for a number of fan filmmakers, there end up being scenes you wish you’d been able to get but, for whatever reason, you just weren’t able to. Did you have any scenes like that?
GREG – There were lots of different scenes I wanted to get. In my original ending, I wanted to suggest that my going back in time was the start of the mirror universe by inserting a knife into a globe as I set off to rescue my daughter. I wanted to film me in a shuttle disobeying a Starfleet control tower operator and warping around a star. But I was prevented from filming that because of chemotherapy. It was going to be a simple shot, and I had already had the VFX complete.
In my first edit I sent to Randy, I left off the scene where I inserted the dagger into the globe and left it at where I entered the cabin, suggesting I stayed back in time. However, Randy……and others….. wanted a happier ending and suggested that I make it where I came back in time with the aide of the USS Tristan. I didn’t argue the fact too much and shot the after-credit scene with my wife and a friend’s daughter in my back yard.
I had also tinkered with the idea of showing a Bigfoot cross from an overhead shot as the after-credit scene. The shot of the Wasani being drug from behind was lost in the cracks of the cavern, and I was unable to duplicate it well enough to where I wanted to use it. There were other scenes that included typical Bigfoot behavior that were lost and, due to time, I was unable get back out in the woods and film it again.
So the big secret in the film is that we were stranded on an alien planet that was inhabited by Bigfoot-like creatures that used the portal to travel back and forth to Earth. The portal was supposed to be something more like the portal in the TOS episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” In the script, the portal was supposed to speak with a very garbled voice and power off, only to be energized by the lightening bolt. So with that footage lost, I had to be creative in a hurry to finish the film.
JONATHAN – Randy’s sets used to be only about a half hour’s drive from you when you filmed “Reclamation,” Greg. But now that Randy has moved from Pelham, AL to Lexington, KY, the sets are a hefty six-hour drive each way! Will you still be continuing with the Tristan team? Will you try to do more fan films in Alabama? Or maybe both?
GREG – Now that the sets are in Lexington, I do not think that I will make every Tristan film. I am not leaving out the possibility of being in some of the later films, but I do have other projects on the horizon that I’d like to get to. We will be doing a re-edit of The Legend of the Downey Booger in a few months—and a release on a for-profit platform. So that will take a lot of my time. However, I still may be able to do some light VFX work for Potemkin as I am working on another project now. I would like to do another short fan film where I spend all my time behind the camera. And one day, I’ll reach out to the other fan film makers to see if they’d like to do a giant crossover film. I have…..another idea.
JONATHAN – Ooooo…ending on a cliffhanger! I like it.