TREK SHORTS releases THE BATTLE OF VELSAK 2 and launches new INDIEGOGO! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

CGI MasterChef SAMUEL COCKINGS has so much on his plate that he kinda needs an entire buffet table! If you watch Star Trek fan films, you probably see his awesome VFX work all over the place, most recently in the AVALON UNIVERSE, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION and PROJECT: RUNABOUT, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, the two most recent releases from AARON VANDERKLEY of Australia BEYOND THE SUN and OUTBREAK, SQUADRON from the Czech Republic, INTREPID from Scotland, and the amazing THE ROMULAN WAR, PART 1.

Even now, Sam is busy in the U.K. working on or preparing to work on VFX for the upcoming FARRAGUT FORWARD plus new releases from the Avalon Universe, Tales from the Neural Zone, Dreadnought Dominion and Project: Runabout, Aaron Vanderkley’s next Voyager-era fan film RESISTANCE, plus The Romulan War Part 2 and an under-the-radar TNG-era fandemic film from the U.S.

Tell me that isn’t a LOT of work!

Oh, I completely forgot to mention: Sam ALSO has a fan series of his own called TREK SHORTS!

Talk about WORK! Sam has released SEVEN films in the Trek Shorts series so far:

The final one has just premiered, starring NICK COOK (of Intrepid), who does an amazing acting job! It’s Trek Shorts first exploration of the mock documentary format—along with being a VFX feast for the eyes, as you can see below…

Just FYI, The Tholian Gambit, The Icarus Incident, and Duty Calls will be featured in a three-part blog series over the coming weeks as I interview the stars of those fan films one at a time.

Another Trek Shorts film (possibly two) will be released soon in support of Sam’s new Indiegogo crowd-funder, trying to reach an VERY ambitious goal of $35K. You can donate something yourself by clicking the following link…

Interestingly, Sam did another campaign for Trek Shorts a year and a half ago, raising $11K to fund five fan films—and yet, none of those were among the seven that were already released! I’ll be asking Sam about that shortly. Note that a sixth Trek Shorts film debuted during the campaign, the aforementioned A Long Way from Home, but it was billed as a “bonus” release, as were the other films listed above.

Also interestingly, Sam is still working on his five-way crossover fan film CONVERGENCE, which raised more than $7K in an Indiegogo waaaaay back in late 2018…before COVID interrupted the production. I’ll also be asking Sam about that shortly.

Actually, why wait? Let’s bring in Señor Cockings and fire a bunch of questions directly at him…!

Sam Cockings in his spiffy new Picard-era uniforms

JONATHAN – Last year, I and many other supporters gave you $11K to make five Star Trek fan films, and you made even MORE Star Trek fan films than that…seven in total so far! But you still haven’t released any of five that you actually funded. The others were still all excellent, but dude, what the heck happened???

SAM – Actually, there was an additional fan film I released back in January using those same funds, a Stargate SG-1 universe production called NEW MISSION starring MARCUS CHURCHILL. And it will also tie in with the whole Trek Shorts continuity.

JONATHAN – Okay, so that brings the total to EIGHT fan films plus one or two more coming up…but still none of them were on the list provided in the Indiegogo. So why make these ten fan films and NOT those five fan films?

SAM – There are a number of reasons those films in the Indiegogo haven’t been released yet, although I will say that about 90% of those five shorts has been filmed. We have a few small lines or guest appearances here and there still to shoot, and there has been a need to do some re-shoots as actors have become unavailable, but basically all of them are essentially shot.

A big problem we ran into was COVID/cast illness. When a cast member cancels…rather than losing non-refundable hotel bookings/plane tickets, we always turn that misfortune into an opportunity. We shoot what we can of what we had planned and then shoot something new to make the most of money spent for travel and lodging…even if, yes, it means more budget has to be spent later to get the rest shot. But at least nothing is wasted!

JONATHAN – And so that’s the reason we’ve seen so many “bonus” Trek Shorts in the meantime?

SAM – That’s one of the reasons. The second reason is Convergence. We lost ROBIN HIERT of STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA and CHRIS BURDETT from TEMPORAL ANOMALY from the project at the start of the year. But luckily, ALEXA BROWN came in to replace Robin in that role for the film (whew!).

But because Convergence is so interconnected with the captains who appear in it, I then had to write stories to be able to bring characters like Alexa’s Captain Joan Keller from the TNG era into the post-Nemesis era and have it all connect perfectly to Convergence…just as other characters had been built up to do.

Emma Thorne also has an important role in Convergence and, to a lesser degree, we wanted to also make sure she could be in Convergence organically, and so additional stories had to be created. Each bonus short has a particular reason that it was made and released. That’s why both Alexa and Emma’s films jumped the cue so the audience could get to know them!

JONATHAN – Okay, that explains the reason for all of the other releases. But why have none of the promised five fan films from the first Trek Shorts Indiegogo been completed yet?

SAM – Those five are the biggest films, with many actors, many sets, and MANY visual effects shots. They are some of the most complicated stories and so will take longer to complete than almost any of the other smaller stories. I think the DOOMSDAY film has something like 45 space shots just by itself! And some of the virtual background interiors are still being worked on.

JONATHAN – After almost TWO YEARS???

SAM – Some of them are very intricate, as you can see in the films we’ve already released. No one else in fan films has virtual backgrounds this detailed and accurate. I have a team of modelers working on them, and some of the modelers are taking longer than others for various reasons. But nearly everything is either finished or nearly complete.

JONATHAN – Which of the original five Trek Shorts will be released first?

SAM – The Doomsday Machine film. I’ve got almost all the space effects done, and I’m just waiting for my team to make the entire and rather elaborate set of LCARS displays needed for the Enterprise-E bridge…lots of displays! My LCARS guy was busy for 6 months this year, so I had to plan around that in terms of what I worked on.

JONATHAN – You’ve now produced fan films featuring three very strong female characters in leading roles (each of whom will be interviewed over the coming weeks). While having female leads is certainly a very positive thing, it’s also a bit of a rarity in Star Trek fan films. What made you decide to focus on so many female characters in such a significant way?

SAM – A combination of opportunity and luck, I would say. As I said, we wanted to build up Alexa and Emma’s characters so they can fully pay off in Convergence, just as our legacy actors (NIMRAD SAUND, NICK COOK, and MARCUS CHURCHILL) do. Alexa was a superb addition to the cast, and Emma has been a wonderful surprise. It’s more a happy accident that we’ve had 4-out-of-5 of our Trek Shorts fan films this year led by one of our female heroes. Suffice it to say, both the male and female leads are all getting fully developed stories, characters, and adventures.

JONATHAN – I’ve saved the most challenging (at least, I think it’s challenging) question for last. You’re trying to raise $35K in the current Indiegogo. That’s more than TWICE as much as you’e already generated in donations to your first two crowd-funders. If you’ve already taken in so much, why do you need so much more?

SAM – The simple answer is that with more intentional and unintentional (due to cast illness) alternate shoot days, we’ve shot a LOT more than we originally budgeted for…four times as many days so far with many more days planned to finish this project.

With 4x as many shoot days, that’s 4x as much budget…PLUS each larger film with more actors there requires more food per shoot day. Another expense is hotels. The UK has small homes, and I don’t have any space to put anyone up. For a recent shoot, we had two actors come in Friday night (to save their travel early Saturday morning and allow them to be rested). The hotel for those two actors for the Friday and Saturday nights cost the equivalent of about $500 by itself, then you have food and travel expenses…a single train ticket to get an actor costs $75. When you add up all the shoot days, the costs exponentially increased. Oh, and getting Nick down via plane and in a hotel costs something like $600 per weekend! We LOVE including Nick, but…real world costs mount up.

We also had actor changes, which as I said, means new films had to be created to fill the gaps in story that the old actor left behind. We also had to 100% re-shoot Convergence, which meant two extra shoot days with 3-4 cast members and their travel. It all adds up, BUT it is well worth it! You’ve seen in the campaign and the variety and quality of films were producing and…for a relatively low cost.

Another big part of the answer is all the new props and costumes we now have. Once de-ageing became a reality, we started designing flashbacks and then entire shorts in the past and future. New eras need new costumes and new props to give them depth. We pride ourselves on great quality props and costumes, and while we try to be very economical, quality costs. Ask Farragut Forward what top level costumes/props cost. And while we don’t go that far, the quality is instantly visible on screen, and we want to use and re-use those items through many shorts.

The first Indiegogo campaign was instrumental in giving us a budget to get these new props/costumes and get the creative process rolling on multiple films, but as the shooting has continued, we have had to re-assess our budget and now finally we are in a place we can start our much-needed 2022 Indiegogo campaign.

I think it’s fair to say the we’re delivering far, far more with this additional $35,000 than we had planned to deliver with the previous two campaigns.

JONATHAN – And once again, here’s the link to your campaign. Good luck, mate…!