I bet you didn’t see this coming! Well, at least I certainly didn’t. But most fans were taken completely by surprise last week to see a 90-second sneak peek at a fan film that seemingly no one knew about: A LONG WAY FROM HOME. Well, that’s not entirely true. Show-runner SAMUEL COCKINGS, the CGI wind beneath many fan filmmakers’ wings, knew about the project (because it’s his project!) as did the actors from the fan film community who will appear in it. This includes NICK COOK from the long-running fan series INTREPID, as well as NIMRAN SAUND from Samuel’s previous fan film masterpiece TEMPORAL ANOMALY.
Nick and Nimran are also both slated to appear in Samuel’s next “mega” fan production, the five-way fan film crossover event CONVERGENCE. But delays due to various issues (including COVID) have caused the release date to be pushed back quite a bit. So we weren’t really expecting to see anything from Samuel for a while…well, if you don’t count all of the other fan films he’s been working on lately like: STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION: “We Are Many,”THE ROMULAN WAR: Part 1, the AVALON UNIVERSE, YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE: “Endosymbiosis,” and lord knows what else at this point! Oh, TREKYARDS…don’t forget those podcasts!
So, yeah, we weren’t really expecting a brand new, unannounced project from Samuel, let alone one with an actual completed trailer that looked and sounded amazing! See for yourself…
With nearly 2,000 views in the first week, there with 165 likes and only one dislike on YouTube! When have you ever known only a single Trekkie out of thousands to have any complaint with something Star Trek related? (And who the heck is this person???)
Anyway, I had a lot of questions for the British Boy Wonder of CGI. So let’s hear what Samuel had to say…
JONATHAN – Ah, Mr. Cockings, you have a nasty habit of surviving… Oh, wait, that’s James Bond. Well, anyway, what’s the “secret origin” of this project? How, when, and why did you decide to make this new fan film?
SAMUEL – Well, Jonathan, as everyone knows, I crowd-funded an “epic” Avengers-style crossover with some of the largest fan film teams out there. We successfully funded Convergence in 2018 but were unable to film in 2019 due to one of our actors having to leave the project for real life reasons. That set us back a year but lead to us bringing MICHELE SPECHT of STAR TREK CONTINUES into our team! In January, we had actually gotten everyone booked in to fly to the UK on August 21-23rd for a 3-day epic shoot. We put off buying the tickets because of this new world health situation that was starting to become big at that time…and then the world stopped.
Clearly this means we’re not able to film Convergence until the world re-opens—as the fan film is multi-national by its very nature. So how does this link to A Long Way From Home? Well, I am heavily involved in the fan film community; you may see my name appear in the odd project or 2…or 3.
JONATHAN – Or fifty!
SAMUEL – Well, maybe not quite that many…yet. But I started thinking and then planning, and before you know it, I had written a script for a “shot during lockdown” project. This film would feel larger in scope with the clever use of VFX and actors. It isn’t just a single actor talking at camera “Zoom style.” I wanted to be as creative and get the coolest project made as possible…with my incredibly limited resources.
So in short, I self-funded this fan film short as a sorry/thank you/present to the fans that helped me with Convergence and to everyone else to enjoy—since I think we all want a bit more post-TNG Trek in our lives!
JONATHAN – I certainly wouldn’t complain! So who is in this new fan film? Just Nick and Nimran, or will other familiar (and/or unfamiliar) fan film faces be featured?
SAMUEL – Well, as was revealed, Nimran Saund is back. She worked with me in 2013 on Temporal Anomaly and then came back to play that character’s great-great-great grand daughter in Convergence. She’s back as the lead for this (and I think she does terrific). Joining her is the ever-amazing Nick Cook of Intrepid fame. I’ve worked with Nick for a while now, and we have really formed a great rapport and enjoy working together. There are other actors in it that you will recognize from the fan film community, but you will have to wait and see, not that you will have to wait long.
JONATHAN – Oh, really? How soon are you planning on this coming out?
SAMUEL – My aim is to release on January 31st, 2021, the anniversary of Temporal Anomaly‘s release! And then we’ll also have some special news to go along with its release….what a tease!
JONATHAN – Indeed! So what will be the expected runtime of this new production? Are we talking short vignette, a full 15-minute fan film, or a 2-part extravaganza?
SAMUEL – I’ve planned for 15 minutes. Our Skype screen-read edit with all the previs VFX was about 16, but once we actually filmed it all, its going to be about 17…since, you know, proper acting takes longer!
JONATHAN – True dat! So why the big surprise reveal with the new trailer? Why not let people know sooner that you were working on this exciting project?
SAMUEL – A surprise reveal was meant to be just that…a fun surprise! Often with fan films, there is a build up and either a crowd-funder or simple teaser, and then months or years later something comes out. I had aimed to create this in such a way that I could announce it and finish it within the same months. And with that confidence, I wanted to just come out with the trailer on the anniversary of the Indiegogo. I think we all need positive surprises! And no, I didn’t even tell my friends in the fan film community. Only the cast knew that we were doing this…and it’s not a big cast! Hopefully, it was a good surprise, though! We’ve had some tremendous comments so far!
JONATHAN – Well, I was certainly surprised and impressed. I’m curious how you went about setting all of this up…especially during the pandemic. Was everyone working remotely, or were you physically with one or more of the actors?
SAMUEL – Nick’s scenes are all filmed on his end. It was going to be done by his camera guy, but Scotland went back into lockdown a few days before he had been scheduled to shoot…so he self-shot it all. Luckily, all of us who are super passionate about making fan films have our own green screens and lights, so his footage came out pretty well!
I filmed with Nim when England was more free to move around, and so I had her come up to my home and film. Everything with her is shot using my high end kit, and I am really pleased with how it all turned out. It was my first time filming something this big not at the old university studio, but with the right kit and attention paid to lighting, you can still get great results. It was just me and Nim for our shoot.
JONATHAN – What are the rules or guidelines in the U.K. when it comes to social distancing and film production? Did you follow them, and if so, how?
SAMUEL – The rules are ever changing, so we were lucky to film when you could meet indoors with people at a distance. But Nim and I don’t get out as much as we could and both judged, given our family well health for the whole year, that we would go ahead and film this. It actually helped both our sanities, I think, being able to do something different and “real.” We would not have been able to film it now, however, as the U.K. imposed new rules as of November.
JONATHAN – How long did you spend making just that short teaser (which looks amazing)?
SAMUEL – I spent six days on it…several of them full-time days. Trekyards got less time in my schedule that week as I knew that I needed to release the teaser on the anniversary of the Convergence Indiegogo.
It took me a day or so to play around with what I would do, but once I settled on the single shot, then I spent another day designing it. That sort of insanely long shot takes a LONG time to even render a pre-vis to watch, so I had to use my gut with a few things. Then, because it’s a rather close-up—and a very complex shot—I had to render it in a lot of separate layers. For example, Nim in the cockpit is a separate layer, as is the actual window glass so the camera can go though it, along with the classic warp glows and blinkies, etc. It’s a lot to do, and given the length of the shot, it took a solid week of rendering to get it out! I was finished with my VFX before the cast were able to record their custom voice over, though, so I’m happy about that…haha.
JONATHAN – How much more filming and post production work has to be done on before you’re finished?
SAMUEL – One cast member has yet to film…and this is a rather “cheeky” or “clever” sort of shoot that, if I can get it right, you will not notice what I did. But there is some fancy VFX that I’ve not really done before involved. Wish me luck!
JONATHAN – Good luck!
SAMUEL – Apart from that, everyone is filmed, and every shot except the closing shot or two of VFX are at late-stage pre-vis or rendering as final. There are actually a LOT of space effects in this—more than most of the projects I work on—because I wanted to give that extra scope given the lack of a large cast. So it’s a lot to render and a lot of hand animated key-framed stuff, but its coming along nicely.
JONATHAN – And finally, just to keep you from getting a completely swelled head (like I have!), one of the only critical comments I’ve seen posted on Facebook says that the stars are almost invisible, making space look essentially black. Are you going to make your stars a little brighter in the final release?
SAMUEL – The stars are actually fine—it’s the YouTube compression that seems to have been more aggressive this time (I don’t know if they changed the algorithm), but it’s actually more soft then I was expecting on YouTube. Stars are always tricky to get perfect, as too bright doesn’t “feel” right. And I did get that correct balance on my 4K work monitor, but once it goes onto YouTube, then it’s out of my hands.
I personally think the stars are fine for the most part. Besides, everyone is meant to look at the cool ship in front of the stars!! Look at all those wonderful polygons!
JONATHAN – You do have very attractive polygons, Sam. I look forward to seeing more of them on January 31st!