YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL (starring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu) – the 35-year trek… (Part 5)

In Part Part 2Part 3, and Part 4, we got to know STAN WOO and JOHN ATKIN. Back in 1985, Los Angeles-based Stan convinced GEORGE TAKEI and JAMES SHIGETA to play Hikaru Sulu and Admiral Nogura, respectively, in a low-budget fan film titled YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL. Although much of the film was shot between 1985 and 1987, it remained unfinished even in 2010 when Canadian Trek fan John offered to help Stan finally complete the film.

Along with help from Hollywood writer PAUL McCUDDEN, Stan and John expanded the short 15-minute script to bring in new characters in new locations. The first original footage for Yorktown since the 1980s was shot in 2011 and 2012, as two different scenes featuring Klingons were filmed with lines spoken entirely in the Klingon language.

In the meantime, VFX artist ROLAND BARON created CGI models of the U.S.S. Yorktown, a Klingon K-fighter, and the terrorist vessel Nagaer based on sketches from ANDREW PROBERT, who designed the refit Enterprise NCC-1701 from Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as and the Enterprise-D. A short trailer spotlighted Roland’s amazing work…

MORE SHOOTS…LOTS OF ‘EM!

The year 2012 ended with two major shoots that took place at Capilano College, based in North Vancouver, British Columbia. The first shoot was filmed in November in front of a green screen and featured CHARLES EDWARD BAE (who had provided the Klingon translations) as the Klingon Colonel Qumeq, publicly lambasting the evils of the Federation to an audience over a newsfeed.

Charles Edward Bae in full Klingon make-up and garb

The second shoot happened at the same location in December but was not simply another green screen. John elaborates, “IAN GUSTAFSON had access to an amazing set at Capilano College. The set was one that had been used on a small independent sci-fi movie, but Ian and Charles modified it so much that it is just about unrecognizable to its original form. The set was transformed into ‘Deck 19, Section 6’ of the U.S.S. Yorktown.”

This was for a new sequence set before the refit, showing the terrorist attack and the death of Jeffrey Pond’s fiancée Lt. Katherine Baetz, played by ZLATINA PACHEVA. This opening sequence will be the only footage in Yorktown to feature the classic TOS-style Starfleet tunics, which were purchased from Anovos and then adorned with Yorktown patches (custom-designed and manufactured by STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE fan film costumer JOE KEREZMAN).

George Kayaian (right) on his set for Starship Antyllus, doubling as the Yorktown Hangar Bay control room.

A final piece of the opening segment was supplied the following April in 2013 by none other than GEORGE KAYAIAN, who had begun shooting his own new fan series in New York called STAR TREK: ANTYLLUS. “I had seen some of George Kayaian’s earlier fan film work on YouTube,” John explains, “and I had seen pictures of his small bridge set that he was building on Facebook. I thought that it would be perfect for our Hangar Bay scene and asked if we could use it in the film, and if he would be interested in playing an officer in that scene.” The rest, as they say, is history.

EXPANDING THE VFX TEAM

Toward the end of 2013, a new member was added to the VFX team: NEO f/x, based in the Pacific Northwest. That company had previously worked on visual effects for STARSHIP EXETER, STARSHIP FARRAGUT, STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN, and was currently working on the 90-minute pilot for STAR TREK: RENEGADES. NEO f/x would be animating the transporter effect and digital phaser beams.

A BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE

Nearly all of the live action footage had now been shot, but one major challenge remained. Back in the 1980s, shooting scenes on the Yorktown bridge was a pipe dream. But nearly three decades later, that pipe dream had turned into a very doable reality—assuming the team could afford to do it.

A lot of pieces fell into place for this shoot. First of all, the old TOS bridge set that had been used for Starship Exeter back in 2004 had been rescued from deteriorating in a Texas barn, moved to Oklahoma City, and completely restored by a team planning a new Star Trek fan series called STARSHIP AJAX. Although that fan project never reached fruition, the bridge set became STARBASE STUDIOS and was offered for free to any fan production that wished to use it. Fan series like STARSHIP VALIANT, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, STARSHIP GRISSOM, MINARD, RED SHIRT DIARIES, and many others would use the Oklahoma City set…and now it was time for Yorktown.

The next piece of the puzzle was finding actors and a director. Although there was a production crew in Oklahoma willing to help out any fan group with lighting, sound, and the such, actors and a director were another matter entirely. However, midway through 2013, John recorded a YouTube interview for “Danver’s Demented Features” with JOHN FAUST. “I was a fan of John’s film work,” recalls John Atkin, “and a few weeks after the interview, I asked him if he would be interested in directing the Oklahoma bridge scenes. It was our good fortune that he said yes. John had a troupe of actors that he often worked with in neighboring Texas (where he lived), and we cast the roles of Captain Von Ryan (JEFFREY MILLER) and Lt. Shepard (DAVID McCULLAR) from that talented group.”

John continued, “GLEN WOLFE stepped in as an Executive Producer before the shoot and really got the ball rolling for us. He worked with John Faust to put together an excellent team of volunteers. And although the Starship Exeter team were not involved with filming, producer JOSHUA JOHNSON and writer MAURICE MOLYNEAUX are good friends of mine and both offered advice on the project.”

Set, crew, actors…now they needed costumes. The team already had the Anovos TOS-era tunics left over from the Vancouver shoot from the previous year. So those pre-refit scenes were covered. But the 1980s hybrid tunics from the “lost years” era were long gone, having been gifted to the volunteer actors two and a half decades earlier. Fortunately, the original costume maker, noted Star Trek fan costumer KATHY PILLSBURY, was still available to make new tunics for the actors heading to Oklahoma.

THE FIRST YORKTOWN CROWD-FUNDER

The real challenge, of course, was paying for all of this. Even though the bridge set was free, and the cast and crew were volunteers, people from out of state still needed to travel there (some by car, some by plane), stay in local motels, and eat. And even though Stan had paid to create the hybrid “lost years” tunics himself, that still left the TOS uniforms from Anovos and the props. John was able to pay for his own airfare and flights for two production team members from Toronto, but the rest was going to need some crowd-funding help from fans. Fortunately, an October 2013 Indiegogo campaign raised a much-needed $2,768 from 40 donors.

“I’m a firm believer that you should only crowdfund when it is absolutely necessary,” says John. “I believe that putting in a significant amount of your own money and resources is a way of demonstrating to fans how seriously you take the work, and consequently, how much it will mean to them.” According to a recent estimate from last year, John says he has spent upwards of $13,000 of his own money on this project since 2010!

IT IS VERY COLD IN SPACE…AND IN OKLAHOMA!!!

The bridge shoot itself happened over three days from December 7-9, 2013. Have you ever been to Oklahoma in December? It sure ain’t Hawaii! And Starbase Studios—back in its day—was (in)famous for being housed in a steel storage building with no air conditioning in summer and no heat in the winter. This ended up having quite an impact on the Yorktown production team!

Trying to stay warm between takes at Starbase Studios!

“It was the middle of December, and it was freezing,” remembers John with a shiver. “Our flights were 10 hours late getting in because of a huge snowstorm that hit the area. When I reviewed all the footage, there were a few shots where you could actually see the actor’s breath, which I actually had to digitally remove later on! The Vulcan’s make-up kept cracking from the cold, so make-up was constantly touching him up. And the longer we shot, the redder our noses got! Every time John Faust said ‘cut,’ we would all run over to a large commercial patio heater that was on the bridge to stay warm. But even though it was cold and freezing, every member of the cast and crew brought their A-game to the table. I’m very proud of the work they all did that weekend.”

John Atkin in uniforms

John himself got to sit in the center seat for some of the time. John played Evan Foster in the film, a lieutenant commander in the opening scene. But twelve months later, after the refit, he is now the second officer and chief operations officer of the U.S.S. Yorktown with the rank of full commander. When the captain and first officer (Sulu) beam down to the planet, John’s character Foster takes command of the ship.

Toward the end of 2013, John released a new trailer for Yorktown. It was the first time that quality footage of the scenes shot with George Takei and James Shigeta back in the 1980s was ever posted to YouTube…

EXPANDING THE VFX TEAM…AGAIN

The year 2014 began with work progressing toward a hopeful 2015 release of Yorktown. But one snag delaying post-production was that the Yorktown VFX team was also feverishly working to complete the staggering number of effects shots required for the planned mega-fan film Star Trek: Renegades…also due out in 2015. And while Yorktown had George Takei in it, Renegades featured TIM RUSS, WALTER KOENIG, ROBERT PICARDO, GARY GRAHAM, and a host of other big names. So Renegades took priority. Also, another Yorktown scene still needed to be shot: an admiral providing a security briefing that gets viewed by Admiral Nogura on Starbase 7.

Speaking of Nogura and Starbase 7, the original plan from the 1980s was to have Starbase 7 be set on a planet, and an exterior of Admiral Digby’s office headquarters was filmed in front of an office building in Los Angeles. But John thought it would be more exciting to have that scene take place on a space station. “The starbase interiors that they had shot in the 80s looked like they could be the interior of a space station, so it worked out well. In the Star Trek: Vanguard novels by DAVID MACK, Nogura was stationed on the Vanguard space station. Although Starbase 7 in our film is not Vanguard Station from the TOS novels, I thought it would be cool to have Nogura visiting a similar station for Yorktown, during the refit of the starship.”

Starbase 7/Vanguard CGI model by Tobias Richter

It was at this point that a new member was added to the VFX team: the legendary TOBIAS RICHTER of The Light Works in Cologne, Germany (who worked on Renegades, AXANAR, STAR TREK: NEW VOYGES, and a host of other professional and fan films including the remastered Next Generation). Tobias had created a CGI model and animation of the Vanguard Station and posted it to his YouTube channel. John saw it: “Hands down, the best CGI model of the Vanguard Station ever created was the work done by Tobias Richter. It just pops off the screen. I reached out to Tobias in 2014 to see if we could use the model, and he said yes. He made a few touch-ups to the model, and sent us five different shots for the film. I believe that Tobias got a kick out of the fact that his Vanguard model was being featured in a film that had Admiral Nogura in it.”


Next time in Part 6 – The long saga of Yorktown concludes…hopefully! We look at the work that’s been done most recently (as in, over the past six years) and what still remains to do before—fingers crossed!—they finally release the long-awaited fan film on Christmas Day 2020!


If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the latest trailer for Yorktown: A Time to Heal


3 thoughts on “YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL (starring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu) – the 35-year trek… (Part 5)”

  1. When I read the following, my immediate thought was “he’s right”. Maybe someone has a wonderful idea and people lined up but no money. That’s ok as well – “sweat equity” is also valuable and counts in my book.

    “I’m a firm believer that you should only crowdfund when it is absolutely necessary,” says John. “I believe that putting in a significant amount of your own money and resources is a way of demonstrating to fans how seriously you take the work, and consequently, how much it will mean to them.”

    1. In my mind, part of the equation for crowd-funding is how much the person has to put in. A fellow like Vance Major is limited to spending in the hundreds (if that). For Interlude, I’ve put in about $4-$5K of my own money, but when I started crowd-funding, I had only put in about $1.5K. My feeling is that the show-runner should definitely be willing to have some skin in the game. But if he or she is not a fan of means, they shouldn’t be expected to take out a second mortgage just to fund a fan project.

  2. Just watched the trailer and was quite impressed with it. Can’t wait until the full fan film comes out at Christmas.

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