STARSHIP FARRAGUT is coming BACK…or is it FORWARD??? (interview with JOHNNY K.)

When last we left STARSHIP FARRAGUT, showrunner JOHN BROUGHTON and his gallant crew had crowd-funded about $15K at the end of 2015 for what was to be their series finale, “Homecoming.” Footage for that fan film was shot in 2015 and 2016, and there were sporadic updates to donors (like me) but nothing major until about 14 months ago, when it was announced that musical composer STEVE SEMMEL had taken over as Post-Production Supervisor (you can check out the interview I did with Steve here).

According to the most recent update, “Homecoming” will, at long last, be released on October 1 of this year. It features an eye-catching cameo by the deeply missed, legendary Marvel Comics creator STAN LEE…

While “Homecoming” was to mark the end of the U.S.S. Farragut‘s five-year mission under Captain Jack Carter (played by John Broughton), the end was just the beginning. Also back in 2015, John announced that the team would soon be launching a new sequel series to be titled FARRAGUT FORWARD. At the time, Farragut Films had officially ended their relationship with “sister” series STAR TREK CONTINUES, leaving their TOS sets in Kingsland, GA—nearly all of which Farragut folks had either built or helped to build. Many members of the Farragut team lived in the Washington, D.C. area anyway, not particularly close to southeastern Georgia.

The new Farragut series would jump forward (hence, the name) in time about 20 years, just as Star Trek itself had done with the feature films, into the Wrath of Khan/”monster-maroon” uniform era. However, with the guidelines emerging within just a few months of John’s announcement, many wondered if the group would still launch a brand new Star Trek fan series when the very first guideline said that you can’t have an ongoing Star Trek fan series. And indeed, any news about Farragut Forward pretty much stopped after the guidelines were announced.

Until two weeks ago.

Fans were ecstatic to find a Facebook post from John Broughton linking to this website announcement that Farragut Forward had finally entered pre-production! John has joined forces with independent film studio KAOTICA STUDIOS in Washington, DC, and the studio’s founder, JOHNNY KARZAI, will be directing the initial episode.

The announcement said that fans “…can expect a more ‘sophisticated’ version of Farragut…  a darker, more serious side.” And indeed, after doing a lighting test with John Broughton in a meticulously-crafted captain’s uniform, Johnny K. commented, “This isn’t your Daddy’s Farragut!”

As you can see from the above photo, John B.’s character of Captain Jack Carter has aged VERY gracefully and looks as awesome as his uniform. “I think shelving this project for 5 years has helped us greatly in many ways, including the older self!” John said in a Facebook post.

Fans already know a good deal about John Broughton (if not, then read this 3-part History of Starship Farragut). But what about director Johnny Karzai? I reached out to Johnny K. for the inside scoop on all things Farragut Forward

JONATHAN – Welcome to Fan Film Factor, Johnny.

JOHNNY – Thanks for having me!

Johnny Karzai

JONATHAN -What should the fan community know about Johnny Karzai?

JOHNNY – I’m originally from Tennessee but have lived in the Washington, DC area for nearly 20 years, where I work as a government consultant. I’ve always been a fan of cinema, and as a kid, I loved seeing how all my favorite movies were made. I’d dabbled part-time as an actor and worked some stunts in small independent/fan productions for a few years.

And then in 2019, I had the opportunity to work on-screen on some major productions, including AMC’s The Walking Dead: World Beyond, The Good Lord Bird with ETHAN HAWKE for Showtime, and a few others. During the long days and downtime on those sets, I went into learning-mode and absorbed everything I could by watching top-notch crews and directors like KEVIN HOOKS and JORDAN VOGT-ROBERTS in action. I also got to meet lots of independent filmmakers and hear about their projects, and all those experiences really inspired me to try and make my own short film in late 2019.

JONATHAN – Can you us a little about that project?

JOHNNY – I’d always griped that my equipment wasn’t good enough to make a film, so I issued myself a challenge: to finish a short film in 60 days using only the equipment I had on hand, which was an entry-level DSLR camera and very minimal gear. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need fancy equipment to master the basics of composition, storytelling, pacing, etc.

The result of that personal challenge was The Killer of Grassy Ridge, my debut short, which premiered in 2020 and has gone on to be selected for more than 50 festivals worldwide, with some major wins for Best U.S. Short Film, Best Cinematography, Best Debut, and more. It exceeded all my expectations, and that little 9-minute movie is one of the things in my life I’m the proudest of. It will always be a reminder to me of what people can achieve if we just stop making excuses.

JONATHAN – Wow, I just watched it. That really was awesome…amazing that you completed everything—pre-production, production, editing, music—in just 60 days! So what made you decide to go from shooting an ultra-low budget 9-minute short film to starting up a full production studio?

JOHNNY – It was really a distribution decision. I liked the idea of having a centralized studio, website, and social media umbrella for all our upcoming projects, instead of recreating all that for each new project. I’m way too lazy for that, and as many people know, building a social media audience is hard. I’d rather do that once, instead of starting over with each project, so we launched Kaotica Studios, and that was that. It’s also helpful for the business side of things, like production insurance, liability, etc. In the future, I’d love to include other filmmakers and their projects under that umbrella, but for now, it’s the distribution outlet for all my projects.

JONATHAN – What is involved in having/running a production studio?  Is this a full-time commitment for you or more of a side business?

JOHNNY – It’s so much work, especially now that we have concurrent projects in pre-production. It’s lots of logistics, paperwork and permits, and basic project management to get everything scheduled and make sure nothing is overlooked. And for me, it’s completely a night and weekend side-gig.

JONATHAN – What effect has the pandemic had on your efforts and activities?

JOHNNY – The pandemic was a double-edged sword for us. For starters, it postponed my next scheduled project, The Eighth Son (a martial arts flick)—and given all the fights, physical contact, and crew requirements, it was not a movie that we could realistically and safely shoot in 2020, so it got benched for a year or two. During the summer of 2020, we did shoot Red Eagle-1, a Mars-themed short I wrote specifically to be filmed with a skeleton cast and crew under lockdown/quarantine conditions. It’s in the editing room now and will be released later this year.

JONATHAN – Exciting! I’m looking forward to seeing it. And speaking of “forward,” let’s shift gears to your new association with Farragut. How long have you known John Broughton, and how did you two first meet?

JOHNNY – The best I recall, John and I met seven or eight years ago at Shore Leave, which is a long-running sci-fi convention near Baltimore that’s been going since the late 1970s and is still going strong. We had a conversation about some screen-used Trek props, and just kept in touch after that. I helped him here and there on some of his Farragut Films projects, and we just stayed in touch. His son, Xavier, actually made his acting debut in Red Eagle-1 last year and was absolutely awesome to work with. It was my first time directing kids, so I learned a few new tricks as well.

Left-to-right: Johnny K., Xavier Broughton, and John Broughton

JONATHAN – What led to your decision to come on board as director of Farragut Forward, and when did that decision happen?

JOHNNY – Back in May 2021, John shared the first draft of a script with me and asked if I’d be interested in shooting and directing it. He was at the premiere party for The Killer of Grassy Ridge and was around on set with his son during Red Eagle-1, so he had a good idea of how I worked and thought I’d be a good fit.

The secret is now out that the next chapter of Farragut will be set in the “movie era” of Star Trek, which was always one of my favorite eras (much more so than the Original Series 1960s show). My running joke with John is that I wanted to be the NICHOLAS MEYER to his GENE RODDENBERRY, and the deeper we get into this project, the more apt that comparison becomes!

I loved the tone of Trek’s movie era in the 80s and early 90s, especially The Wrath of Khan through The Undiscovered Country. I loved the submarine warfare, the music, the bold cinematic style, and the production design. It all just clicked, and when I read John’s original script for the next Farragut project, it was very easy for me to picture our story in that world. If this project was set in the era of 1960s Trek, I don’t think it would have been a good match for me. But the moody, brooding movie era is right up my alley, so I jumped on board.

John Broughton (left) and Johnny K. during a pre-production meeting in August 2021

JONATHAN – How familiar are you with Starship Farragut and Star Trek fan films in general?

JOHNNY – Honestly, I’m a lifelong fan of Star Trek, but I’m not very familiar with the fan productions. I’ve seen some Farragut episodes and have a few more to watch as part of my homework for this project, but Trek fan films were never really something I’ve had much exposure to. I also don’t think that’s a bad thing. Given the jump in eras and visual style we’re getting ready to make, I think a fresh perspective from an “outsider” is appropriate, and I think it’s probably similar to the position Nicholas Meyer found himself in as pre-production kicked off for The Wrath of Khan. He’d never even seen Star Trek!

JONATHAN – What sorts of things are you and John doing in pre-production? 

JOHNNY – Our first project in this new era is what we’re referring to as the “prologue,” which is a short piece to set the stage for what comes next. It was originally intended to gauge the interest for future projects, but given the overwhelming response in just the last couple of weeks, it’s very clear that the interest is there. John and I talk or message daily, and the script is now polished and locked. We’ve had our first camera and lighting test, the cast for our prologue is locked in, and we’ve had several pre-pro meetings to iron out logistics, costumes, etc.

I want to give a huge shoutout to MICHAEL BEDNAR, who is using his master model-maker talents to give us the ability to shoot with practical ship models, just like the old days (no CGI renders)! This was very important to me because it’s such a great callback to the era we’re trying to recreate, and I also think it’s a great homage to the early days of Industrial Light & Magic. I’ve always dreamed of shooting practical models that have actual mass and weight. CGI is great for so many things, but in my opinion, digital ships will never beat the look of practical models, all lit up with all the bells and whistles. I’m so happy to see new shows like The Mandalorian going back to their roots and using practical models.

Michael Bednar sitting at the science station that he himself and his team built

I love those types of callbacks to specific eras of filmmaking. I even joked with John and threatened to shoot this project on actual film to be era-accurate, but I was quickly overruled!

JONATHAN – Ha! Well, speaking of practical models, will you be constructing practical movie-era Trek sets, as well?

JOHNNY – Fortunately, our prologue doesn’t require lots of elaborate sets, simply because the story doesn’t call for that. For now, our focus is on the characters and the relationships. The sets from the previous Farragut productions were absolutely world-class and looked amazing, but I always want to make sure that our characters are always the focus of each scene. To me, Star Trek has always been more about the characters than the flashing consoles. Given our leap into the new era, I know John has some very ambitious plans for new set construction for future projects, so I’ll defer to him to elaborate on those.

JONATHAN -Moving onto casting, how many of the “old gang” are coming back into the fold?

JOHNNY – I’ll only speak about our prologue and leave the casting on future projects for John to disclose, but it’s an even mix of familiar and new faces.

JONATHAN – So when are you planning to start principal photography, and how many shoots are planned?

JOHNNY – Cameras are scheduled to roll on our prologue piece in October, and we should be able to get everything shot in just a few days.

Johnny K. filming on THE KLLER OF GRASSY RIDGE

JONATHAN – What are the plans for Farragut Forward going…er…forward? How many scripts are in the pipeline, and how long do you estimate the episodes will be?

JOHNNY – I’ll defer to John on this one. He has the huge vision and master plan of the road ahead.

JONATHAN – Ya hear that, Broughton? You and me gotta do an interview ASAP! (So many Johns/Jons!)

Are you folks planning to do any crowd-funding, and if so, when?

JOHNNY – We’ve talked a little bit about crowd-funding but ultimately decided to self-finance our prologue that we’re filming in October. I think crowd-funding is definitely an option for the future projects given the scope and magnitude of what’s involved, especially when it comes to pricey items like set construction (lumber ain’t exactly cheap these days!).

JONATHAN – And finally, what other projects are in the works for Kaotica?

JOHNNY – We’re very, very busy, and that’s not a complaint. The Killer of Grassy Ridge is winding down its unbelievable 18-month festival run; Red Eagle-1 is in the editing room now; we shoot our Farragut Forward prologue in October, and then I’m rolling right into production in November on a Batman short film set in the world of Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). Our story actually takes place the week before the events of the 1989 movie, and again, I’m doing what I can to include lots of callbacks to that era and that film, even down to camera movements, music, color palettes, ANTON FURST’s production design, etc. I’m loving every minute of it.

I never thought I’d be this involved in fan productions of someone else’s I.P., but as a kid, if you told me I’d be shooting and directing my versions of Star Trek and Batman back-to-back, I would have choked on my Cheerios.

In addition to collaborating with John on more Farragut Forward, next year I have two more original projects on the books for 2022 and 2023. People ask when I’m going to direct my first feature, but I’m really just enjoying the rhythm of shooting one or two shorts each year. It keeps things fresh for me, and I don’t get bogged down in a single project.

JONATHAN – Well, it sure sounds like you’ve got a full plate, Johnny, and a very interesting one at that! Welcome to the world of Star Trek fan films, my friend.

JOHNNY – Thanks for the chat!

5 thoughts on “STARSHIP FARRAGUT is coming BACK…or is it FORWARD??? (interview with JOHNNY K.)”

  1. John and his team (friends) had a sustaining passion for Star Trek and Starship Farragut. They built a beautiful set from scratch and created a series of fan films that caught my eye. I was late joining on, but the quality of their work pulled me in. I contributed first my financial support, but then I wanted to have fun them in set. I have nothing but great memories of my time with them. John Broughton was always professional on set and a joy to work with. There were many others involved from the beginning, but without John, it wouldn’t have been the same crew.

  2. While I wish the staff at Kaotic Studios the best of luck with this project, I doubt they are going to have any success with this endeavor. Given the new Star Trek fan film guidelines that the executive staff at CBS-Paramount justifiably initiated after the Alec Peters/Axanar fiasco – as well as Farragut Films troubled history concerning their association with the convicted Vic Mignogna and the Ajax Studios set property from a decade past(something that was well documented on the Trek BBS and sites) – the chances of them re-capturing what made the Star Trek movie era so special within the guidelines timeframe are virtually slim to none.

    Unless the production crew plans on filming Farragut Forward in fifteen minute increments(something like the old movie serials on the 1930’s and 1940’s), they won’t be able to re-capture the epic qualities of TWOK through TUC.

      1. Sometimes the nay-sayers are proven right. Those are some valid points that were brought up.

        If anybody should be wished God-Speed, it should be Kaotic Studios and their staff. They are the ones working with a studio production that had their reputations smeared a decade past. That is an issue to seriously consider.

        1. How about you just let those nice Farragut folks do what they’re planning to do, Rama, without meaningless commentary? After all, you are not working on the production in any way, and no one ever asked for your predictions. I know I didn’t, and John B. and Johnny K. are infinitely more qualified than you in producing their (fan) film. In the cosmic scheme of things, your words are like falling leaves rustling in the gentle wind, soon to disappear and pretty much having no effect on the those who tend to the growing trees.

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