INTERLUDE is nearly complete, and this is likely my final “Interlude Confidential” before the release. Last week, I began reminiscing about the big two-day shoot last November at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA. For me, it was truly the culmination of the filmmaking experience…even though there would still be another eight months of intense work. But the shoot itself—that was pure magic.
Nearly 50 people came together that weekend with a single goal in mind: to produce a top-quality Star Trek fan film. They weren’t making gobs of money; they simply wanted to be a part of something fun, creative, exciting and dynamic.
A lot of things had the potential to go wrong. The most effective teams work and train together for weeks, months, or even years to maximize their effectiveness. Our team, with a few exceptions, was mostly strangers who had only met for the first time that weekend. Would they mesh together like a well-oiled machine, or would there be friction? Would one or more people with egos grate against the others, show an attitude, or be uncooperative? I’ve been told it can (and often does) happen, and even one bad apple can cripple a production.
And last but not least—in addition to the thousand other things that could could go wrong—there was me. I’d never been a producer before! It was my job to take care of a seemingly endless list of items to ensure the set would be ready for VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN to film on: everything from making sure all the actors, extras, and production team knew where and when to show up to getting measurements for uniforms to the seamstress to ordering the rental camera equipment to finding the caterer and making sure there were tables and chairs for the food plus a hundred other little details. I needed to make sure everything was prepared so my directors and production crew could focus on making an awesome fan film.
Was I up to the task?
Victoria and Josh had their preparation, too—having thoroughly broken down the script and planned out most of their shots in advance—plus they spent more than half a day (well, most of it was night) driving from Arkansas to Georgia. First Assistant Director JOSH WILCOX had also done homework preparing call sheets. DANA WAGNER, SCOTT LYTTLE, and SCOTT GOODMAN had to prepare the USS Ares Bridge set. Dana needed to make a whole parade of special 2D graphics animations for the displays, and Scott Lyttle had tinkered all over the bridge perfecting every little thing and even applying a fresh coat of black paint to every console.
The number of moving pieces that weekend were mind-blowing to me. But when all was said and done, things went off almost without a single major hitch (lots of minor ones, but only one major one—ahem, green screen). And don’t just take my word for it. WARREN HAWK, an experienced actor who plays Captain Imari Jakande in Interlude, recently did a livestream interview with ALEC PETERS (along with Victoria Fox) and had this to say about the shoot…
You can watch the entire interview here, by the way (it’s really worth it—just skip ahead to 17 minutes because there were sound issues at the beginning). But to know that Warren, who’s worked on a number of productions, was so impressed with our set just validates for me that we had a truly awesome team.
And now, let me share what were, for me, the rest of the weekend’s highlights…
JAMMIN’ ABOUT JAKANDE
Warren was cast in the role of Jakande less than a week before the shoot, and the first time I even met him was when he arrived at the studio Saturday morning. Early on, Warren came over to me to ask me for some insight on the character he’d be playing.
As a writer, this was an awesome moment for me. Imari Jakande was a character completely created out of my mind. Garth, the other main character in Interlude, had existed since 1969 when STEVE IHNAT played the role and was reinterpreted nearly five decades later by Alec Peters. Alec didn’t need to ask me who Garth was or how I imagined him as the writer.
Warren said he was eager for input from me. As an actor, the more he knew about who his character was, the better a performance he could provide. So I told him how Alec had strongly recommended I make the character not only a black man but someone from Africa. Then I explained how I found the name Jakande, a Nigerian leader, and the African first name Imari, meaning “loyal” or “faithful.” I had even determined that the USS Artemis was constructed in orbit over Africa from components fabricated at the Nairobi Shipyards in Kenya (for the reason I chose Kenya, read the book Artemis by Andy Weir). You can see the Nairobi Shipyards immortalized forever on the bridge dedication plaque for the Artemis…
We talked about Jakande as a man, his sense of humor, sense of duty, and fierce loyalty to the dream of the Federation. I showed him PRELUDE TO AXANAR and let him watch Admiral Ramirez’s speech. It was a really great interaction and made me so grateful that Josh and Victoria had found this wonderful actor who was so committed to doing the best possible job he could for the fans.
In his interview with Alec, Warren remembered that talk fondly, too…
SEEING THE BRIDGE LIT UP FOR THE FIRST TIME
The USS Ares bridge set is awesome no matter what the lighting. The design and craftsmanship, the colors, and the 360-degree construction immerses you in a feeling of actually being on a starship and not simply a set.
But, man, when you add lights…
It’s not simply that DANA WAGNER had turned on all of the various 2D animations on the 40-or-so big-screen TVs and small computer monitors. Those alone are awesome. But when the lights in the studio were all turned off so that Josh could see the bridge in low-light…well, it turned into something else entirely. Josh calls the craft of his cinematography “painting with light.” I didn’t fully grasp the significance of that until I saw the bridge in low light with the colors and textures and shadows and glows.
THE NAME GAME
When you’ve got fifty people on set over the course of two days, there’s bound to be some confusion with names. But, man, we had a few doozies! First of all, we had two directors named Josh. Joshua Irwin was our director of photography while Josh Wilcox was our 1st Assistant Director. The two Joshes worked closely together, requiring the rest of us to frequently specify which Josh we were talking to. Likewise for our two grips, the aforementioned Scott Goodman and Scott Lyttle, both of whom did carpentry and other manual labor constantly around the set—moving things, hammering things, drilling things, adjusting things. If something needed moving or fixing, we’d just call Scott.
Then there were the names that sounded alike. On Saturday, our star Warren Hawk was on the set with one of our extras, Lauren Osborne. And a few times, Warren heard “Lauren” and thought they were talking to him and Lauren heard “Warren” and vice-versa.
But Sunday took the name game one step further, as we had RAY MYERS, TREY McELVAIN (both of whom were also there Saturday) plus JAY PLYBURN and JOSE CEPEDA. So we had Ray, Trey, Jay, and Jose…what a day!
Oh, and for a short while, we also had PAUL OSBORNE and PAUL JENKINS, which reminds me…
On Sunday, we had a special guest visit us: AXANAR director Paul Jenkins. He just stopped by to say “hi” and take a peek at our set-up, not to interfere with anything…and Josh (Irwin) and Victoria were happy for him to hang out. In fact, we even put him to work!
Paul had learned a thing or two during the October Axanar shoot about how the actors should move in their seats when the “ship” gets hit by a torpedo. With Victoria’s blessing, Paul spent five minutes giving our USS Ares bridge crew a special training session on what to do with their bodies when they heard the director shout “BOOM!” And let me tell you, the jolts look totally convincing.
A few minutes later, during the filming of the torpedo hits, we needed the display lights to flash on and off. This is doable by literally standing behind the set and flicking the power on and off. But it was a wide shot, and we needed five different people to flick five different switches in five different places. We had four people. Guess who volunteered to by number five? Paul Jenkins, the guy credited with saving Marvel Comics from bankruptcy in the 1990’s, was now standing behind the turbolift flicking the lights on and off for my fan film! Mind blown, folks, mind blown.
During a break, Paul chatted with me for about 45 minutes in my “office” (a room at the front of the studio that I was sharing with Dana Wagner), and we just got to know each other better. I’d interviewed Paul previously for the blog, but here was a chance to just hang out and shoot the breeze. And I don’t know whether it’s the laid back British accent or what, but Paul is one of the most awesome people I’ve ever spoken with. He’s a great, down-to-earth bloke, and I’m glad we’re now friends.
This might sound silly, but thank goodness the food didn’t suck! A month earlier, Alec had an elaborate caterer on the Axanar shoot, which was eighty people a day, so the caterer could offer a more extensive menu and amortize the cost over such a large group. I had to find a less expensive caterer with fewer options because I was feeding only thirty people a day.
On a recommendation from one of the Axanar producers, I contacted Chef Rob Catering in Atlanta and negotiated a very fair rate that fit our budget for breakfast and lunch. (You need to cater in food, since you don’t want any actors or production crew wandering off the set and coming back late.) But would going “cheap” mean crappy food? Just the opposite! Rob’s salad and pasta with chicken were excellent…as were his desserts. No complaints from anyone on the food—except for Alec, who wanted bigger paper cups for the coffee and kvetched that there wasn’t any Splenda (frickin’ actors!).
And finally, the hugs. I’m a hugger. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue being a hugger in the age of COVID-19, but back in November, we could still safely come in contact with each other. And so I did.
I truly appreciated everyone who put their time and effort into Interlude. Without being able to pay big industry salaries, my main currency was saying “thank you” and giving hugs. On their way out on Saturday and Sunday night, everyone was given a big thank you and offered a hug…and no one said no to the latter.
My two most memorable hugs came one on Saturday and one on Sunday. On Saturday, I hadn’t decided whether or not to be a hugger yet. But when Warren Hawk came off the set, I couldn’t help but give him a hug. I’m not sure if the producer is even supposed to hug the star, but Warren gave such an incredible performance as Captain Jakande that I’d put my arms up and asked him if I could give him a hug before I even realized what I was doing! Warren had worked with intensity and professionalism for ten laborious hours, the camera on him in nearly every shot, and had given us a Jakande that fans will remember and treasure for years to come. How could I not hug him?
By Sunday evening, I had gotten into the hugging “groove,” offering hugs to folks as they headed out. I hugged the hair and make-up people, I hugged the Shueys (Karen and Stephen), I hugged the Scotts, I hugged Dana, and I hugged each of the extras as they departed.
My second most memorable hug came as three of my Ares bridge background actors were leaving. They were all three of them friends, brought to the set by PAIGE NIX, who was an Axanar fan who worked at the local shop that manufactured the chest emblem patches for Axanar and Interlude. She’d jumped at the chance to be in our fan film, and she recruited CRYSTAL RAMOS and JEZZA HEHN to join her. They’d all had a blast and had spent the entire day patiently waiting around in costume and make-up for their turn to be called to the set. Now back in normal clothes, they were all headed out…and I was saying good-bye and thanking them.
Since Paige had been my main contact, I offered her a hug first, and she happily accepted. Standing next to Paige was Crystal, so she was next. Then I turned to Jezza, who is bigender, and asked “Want a hug?”
“Oh, absolutely!” she said, and we gave each other a huge hug. In a world where not everyone is comfortable with trans-people (especially in the South), I realized only later that Jezza might have been wondering if I’d offer to give her a hug at all. I never even gave it a second thought. And having a bigendered person on the bridge of the USS Ares in my fan film was, for me, just more icing on the cake. Star Trek has always been about a future where infinite diversity is celebrated. And I am proud to have had Jezza in my cast!
And that, my friends, is how I will remember our Interlude shoot. It was all about the love and the fun and the hard work and the memories that were created for all of us.