You’ve probably heard it on the news—or maybe you’re experiencing it yourself. There is a massive “dome of heat” sitting across much of America right now with temperature records being broken left and right. Even in the higher elevation Ozark Mountain area, the mercury on the thermometer outside read 95 degrees last Saturday. And it wasn’t just any kind of hot. It was the southeastern U.S. in June…meaning sticky, humid heat that melts you into a puddle of sweat even if you’re standing in the shade!
But inside WARP 66 STUDIOS in the town of Flippin, Arkansas, well, it was even HOTTER!!! Actually, I should specify that inside one of the WARP 66 Studios, it was even hotter. That’s because their TOS sets occupy two different locations. The bridge and shuttlecraft sets live in a nice, air-conditioned building owned by DAN REYNOLDS in Harrison, AR, and even though the lights and warm bodies can heat things up a bit, those two sets remain pretty comfortable.
However, things are much different in Flippin! GLEN L. WOLFE constructed a metal building on his property that currently houses the transporter room, briefing room, sickbay, corridors, and a swing set area. The building has no insulation, and only one small room inside for the actors to prep has a small A/C unit. The rest of the building is “cooled” by running small fans to move the air around. But when it’s 95 and humid outside, those poor fans are fighting a losing battle, and with the hot lights and bodies inside, you may as well be filming inside of an oven!
“It was dead air inside and hotter,” said Dan Reynolds, who served as director of photography for this oppressively sweltering Saturday shoot. “Thank goodness Glen built it with extremely high ceilings.”
Interestingly, not one but TWO different fan films shot simultaneously on those super-hot sets. The first and more significant of the two (in terms of total footage filmed) was for the next episode from Glen and Dan’s “fanthology” series THE FEDERATION FILES. Titled “MUDD’S MISSION,” this new production brings back two colorful characters from the series’ very first release back n 2016, “HIS NAME IS MUDD“: Captain Charles McCann of the U.S.S. Constitution, played by JIM VON DOLTEREN, and the irredeemable Harcourt Fenton Mudd played with flair by DAVID WHITNEY.
David, who lives in Iowa, actually filmed his scenes a couple of weeks ago during a much more pleasant weekend. “Up until June,” said JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner for the AVALON UNIVERSE, who was also there this past weekend filming pick-up shots for that team’s upcoming release THE NEEDS OF THE ONE, “the weather in Flippin can be pretty mild. In fact, late spring this year has been cloudy and rainy, even into May. But June is about the farthest you can do it. July and August are out for shooting there, and we don’t typically schedule anything until September again.”
So why not simply cancel the hot shoot and come back some cooler day?
Glen Wolfe explained: “We’d actually done probably seven or eight smaller shoots and one major shoot for “Mudd’s Mission” prior to this. We did not reschedule this final shoot mostly due to actors’ availability and people having to take vacation time to come down. I did not want to have them waste that time by canceling at the last minute. Every single person there was a volunteer and could have made their own choice not to come. However, they all came and put in hard work, and I appreciate that. We got through all the shots we wanted, and it’s a thanks to every single participant who came down and stuck it out and made it happen.”
Indeed, actor availability was one of the reasons that the Saturday shoot began at the cooler Harrison location (at 8:30am) and then moved to the hotter Flippin location a few hours later during the hottest part of the day. Some actors who were necessary for the few scenes on the bridge for “Mudd’s Mission” wouldn’t be available later in the afternoon. So the majority of the 14-hour shooting day was in the hotter studio…instead of vice-versa.
“Hey, you do what you have to do,” Josh Irwin commented. “Sometimes the weather or some other aspect of production just doesn’t cooperate, and it just depends on how much you want to be a filmmaker. You take precautions, of course, but you do need to leave your comfort zone.”
Glen discussed those precautions: “We took many breaks, supplied cold drinks and water, and anyone at any time could call a time-out if they felt like they needed a break. So the shoot did actually run longer than normal due to safety concerns with the crew and cast.”
“A lot of times when we were setting up for a certain shot,” added Josh, “the actors would wait in their cars with their air conditioners running, or else they’d sit in the one cool room in the studio with the A/C. Fortunately, the make-up area is right next to that room and also right next to the big garage door that opens to the outside, so people getting into make-up were usually more comfortable until they stepped back onto the actual sets.”
The make-up people got rave reviews. “We had a team of three who just rocked it,” Josh commented. “MICHELE REYNOLDS, CHRIS HINKEY, and ANA ISABELLA PEREZ…they had to create three Vulcans for our Avalon pick-up shots plus an Ithanite for ‘Mudd.'” For those who don’t recognize that second race, they were the short, golden-skinned aliens who appeared in the delegates’ reception scene in the TOS episode “Journey to Babel.” (I just love it when fan filmmakers add these little canonical touches!)
Of course, the even bigger challenge when filming inside of a metal oven comes from making sure the actors aren’t all sweating like rotisserie chickens!
But Dan said the production crew was all over it. “The makeup people, director, or anybody available would pad down areas of the actors’ faces that were glistening to the camera with paper towels, then brush makeup base over the areas. The makeup people knew what they were doing and kept ahead of it pretty well.”
Many people running (and sweating!) around behind the scenes wore multiple hats. For example, Chris Hinkey not only helped with make-up but also served as Dan’s assistant director of photography and the production’s pizza delivery boy. Jim Von Dolteren was not only the co-star of the “Mudd” episode but also did double-duty as director, along with appearing in one of Josh’s reaction shots for Avalon. “Hey, if Jim Vol Dolteren was going to be there,” said Josh, “I was going to make sure I had a shot of him in the Avalon Universe! He’ll appear as a crewman in a corridor on the U.S.S. Excalibur while Commander Allenby is making a shipboard announcement. Fortunately, Glen always makes sure to have a whole bunch of extras available, so the corridor will look ‘full’ in that reaction shot.
Josh himself helped out Dan as lighting gaffer while simultaneously shooting his own fan film for Avalon. “It’s kinda funny,” Josh noted, “in that usually while we’re shooting Avalon, Glen will come over to me and ask if he can sneak in a quick shot or two for Federation Files while everything is set up and lit. This was the first time we flipped that, and I was sneaking in shots while they weren’t filming!”
And how did they all work that? “Actually, it was pretty easy,” continued Josh. “I brought along my own lighting gear, so after I’d help Dan and Chris set up things in, say, the briefing room, I’d sneak into the corridor set and set up my equipment while they were filming. I was like a ninja, not making any noise. Then, when they took a break, I’d get my actors into the corridor and grab some quick footage. Because all of my shots were just short pick-ups and reactions, they didn’t take long to shoot, and I was able to get back to Dan and Chris quickly if they needed me.”
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to do simultaneous shooting on the bridge set on Saturday morning, so Josh had to come back on Sunday to shoot some Avalon pick-ups there. “Yeah,” Josh added, “I ended up leaving at 8pm on Saturday night to drive back home, while Glen and Dan and their team kept shooting for another couple of hours. I got home around 11pm and then left to head back to Harrison at 5am to shoot on the bridge.”
Again, those were quick pick-up shots, plus recording audio for some narrative log entries. Josh also grabbed footage of Dan in front of the green screen there, playing the role of Admiral Michael Allenby, the father of Commander Mikaela Allenby, the first officer of the Excalibur. So the cross-pollination of actors and production crew continues between the two sister-series with a father/daughter interaction…appropriate when you consider that this scene was filmed on Father’s Day!
This past weekend completed nearly all of the principal photography for both fan films. Josh has every actor scene he needs now in the can and anticipates a July 28 release of Needs of the One. As for “Mudd’s Mission,” Glen explained, “The episode is shot out other than waiting for a couple insert shots from some other fan filmmakers who wanted to be a part of it. They are shooting their parts and sending them to me.”
“Mudd” will be exciting for a few reasons. In addition to being a sequel to the Federation Files‘ first release and featuring the return of Harry Mudd, the episode also contains scenes shot in the bar on Space Station K-7, lovingly recreated by Glen, just as he recreated the interiors of the S.S. Botany Bay for their previous release, “NO GOOD DEED.” Sadly, this new set, constructed in the swing-set area of Glen’s metal building, won’t last long. “It will inevitably be torn down for another upcoming set,” say Dan. “Heartbreaking.”
But that’s show business! In the end, we fans do this for love and dedication to Star Trek and to have fun…even when it’s hard and uncomfortable work.
“It was a great shoot,” Glen recapped, “as we got many participants from the first Mudd episode to come back and either reprise their roles or play a different part in the episode. So it was a lot like a high school reunion where all of your old friends that you haven’t seen for six years have all gotten back together. This one was even more fun than the first one.”
“This was a very enjoyable film to work on,” added Dan.
Glen concluded, “There is a huge dedication to the Federation Files family, a camaraderie and pride in the work everyone is doing to transcend the heat and adverse conditions of this weekend. And after the shot, we got personal thank you’s from several of the cast and crew.”