CHAOS AT THE NEUTRAL ZONE…the most ADORABLE technobabble EVER! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

First off, you’ve still got about 24 hours left to donate to the TREK SHORTS Indiegogo! While the amount raised is still well short of its original $37K goal (or the equivalent in pounds, as Lord SAMUEL of COCKINGS lives in the U.K.), the campaign has seen a surge in the last week, doubling the level it was at when I published my previous blog about the new release DUTY CALLS.

So if you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, give the link below a click and toss a few shillin’s inta the ol’ collection hat, guv’nor (’tis Christmastime, after all, Mr. Scrooge)…

And speaking of my last Trek Shorts blog, it spotlighted the adorable newcomer to Trek fan films EMMA THORNE, who plays the even more adorable Ensign Laura Reed. And if you thought they both couldn’t get any more adorable, then you need to watch the latest Trek Shorts release, CHAOS AT THE NEUTRAL ZONE

This is the second Trek Shorts “Memory Alpha Documentary” style release, the first one being THE BATTLE OF VELSAK 2, released back in October at the beginning of the current crowd-funding campaign. That one featured a monologue by NICK COOK recounting the battle from the perspective of Daniel Hunter of the U.S.S. Intrepid. Nick’s a strong actor and a fantastic guy…but he’s not nearly as adorable as Emma!

Now, one of the LEAST adorable things in Star Trek is what is affectionately known as “technobabble” by both fans and the writers. Star Trek: Voyager was full of it, but so, too, were TNG, DS9, and most of the rest of the Trek series. Actors dreaded having to deliver those tongue-twisting lines where the ship had to generate an inverse polyphasic neutrino burst through the starboard emitter array without blowing the EPS conduits and imploding the duonetic phase inducers on the aft side of the secondary hull.

But Emma somehow manages to to take those long lines of sciency-whiency gibberish and make them oh-so endearingly cute and lovable. I asked Sam Cockings about that and other aspects of this campaign-closing fan film release in the following mini-interview…

Sam Cockings

JONATHAN – How much of Emma’s perky performance came from her acting choices, and how much was you drawing more out of her as director?

SAM – Great question. I was able to write a lot more for Laura to do, and develop that style even more in this earlier and “happier” time in her life. We did one more “serious” run-though and another where I had her deliver certain lines with between 30-60% more emotion/flare/charm…and I swapped between the two versions as the lines needed. I certainly pushed her in a few places, and some she just amazed me with such a chracterful moment.

JONATHAN – I’m not sure if “characterful” is a word…although it probably should be if it isn’t.

SAM – Ha.

JONATHAN – So you only did TWO run-throughs with the camera rolling? How in heaven’s name did she memorize all those lines???

SAMUEL – We use an iPad with Autocue software on it…essentially a teleprompter. It came out about a year ago; really saves the actors’ bacon for many scenes! I just won’t accept a take where it looks like they’re reading.

JONATHAN – But Emma did read through the script at least once before you started recording, yes?

SAM – She had read it maybe three or four times before we shot. Luckily, she’s a Trek fan and picked up on the foreshadowing elements for her character, so she got most of the subtleties! It was another “we made it work” kind of bonus short.

JONATHAN – Speaking of bonus shorts, you keep releasing those, dontcha?

SAM – As it turns out, this film was specifically designed to be an Indiegogo release. We actually had Nick’s film, The Battle of Velsak 2, 80% completed back in February, which was originally going to be when we launched the Indiegogo. But other crowd-funding campaigns came out at the same time, and rather than compete, we waited…and waited…and waited. Eight months later, with Velsak finished, we launched the campaign with our first Memory Alpha Documentary fan film.

Then I thought we could bookend the end of the campaign with another film! And given the massively positive reaction to Emma’s introduction in Duty Calls, she seemed like the perfect character to feature in this second documentary release.

JONATHAN – Wait a second, you got this whole fan film written, produced, and edited in just the few weeks since you launched in campaign in late October???

SAM – Yep! It took about 5 hours to write, 2 hours to shoot, and 2 weeks to create. Literally, during weeks 1 and 2 of the Indiegogo, that was all I was doing. I haven’t doe much “day job” work, though…oops! Will catch up after the Indiegogo!

JONATHAN – What was the most challenging aspect of producing this fan film in just two weeks—other than the “in just two weeks” part?

SAM – The scope and vision…creating something with that “galactic vibes” that the story would bring but also having it work with a single point of view character in the interview format.

I honestly was less sure that this one would work until almost all of the pieces were put together. But my gut reaction paid off, and I think it all ties together very nicely. Well done, Emma, for being the amazing actor she is to make it all come to life on the screen!

JONATHAN – Well, it is pretty unheard of to release TWO full films during an Indiegogo.

SAM – We really hoped it would make a difference!

JONATHAN – It seems to have, at least a bit. You’re nearly 40% of the way to your £31,000 GBP goal (about $37K at today’s foreign exchange rate), which is quite impressive. But with only a day and a half left, it’s looking unlikely that you’ll make it fully to your goal.

SAM – It’s certainly been a roller coaster! We get hundreds of amazing comments on our films, and we had hoped that with six releases this year, we might grab, say, 200-400 backers at £15 each right when we launched. At least, that was the hope. Sadly, the cost of living crisis hit extra hard right before we launched, and I think that’s why people haven’t felt as able to give.

That said, we have had around 130 backers at this point and raised almost £12,000 which is £3000 more than we did last year in 2021!! That I’m thrilled about, and a huge thank you to everyone donated…big and small. Every single donation makes a difference in this campaign.

JONATHAN – So what happens if/when you fall short? Will you need to cut back on releases, trim budgets and deliverables, or maybe do yet another crowd-funding campaign?

SAM – The simple fact is that the £31,000 was a real number, not a pie-in-the-sky-wouldn’t-it-be-nice number. And that means a 2023 Indiegogo will have to be created. BUT…with hopefully between £12,000-£15,000 by the end of this one, that gives us plenty of budget to get right back into production, keep filming, and keep releasing until we need to swing by Indiegogo for the rest.

My hope is to release another 4-5 films before the next Indiegogo, including one of the larger films from the 2021 Indegogo, which are significantly more complex then the ones released in 2022.

JONATHAN – So what do you think went wrong with the campaign?  Was the goal simply too high?  Was it a bad time of year to crowd-fund?  Was it a combination of Brexit, Liz Truss, and Vladamir Putin tanking the British economy? 

SAM – My gut says that it’s a bad time to ask for money, BUT…my finances are also being hit by cost of living AND with a huge hole of funds which I pre-spent before the Indiegogo. So I was getting kind of desperate to launch this thing!

But I am thrilled with these final-week donations; it makes my life a lot easier, and we can go straight back into filming in 2023.

I’m certainly hopeful that the world economy will stabilise a bit so a 2023 campaign can go well. At this point it looks to be around a £16,000 goal for the next one, and ideally we can get that in one, but we will see. Hopefully, we will get lots more fans in the meantime from all the new projects!

There certainly wont be as many surprises in a 2023 Indiegogo campaign, but a lot more work will have been completed, and we’ll have more examples of things people have enjoyed from 2021 and 2022 to show!

JONATHAN – What’s the next Trek Short(s) that will be released, and when?

SAM – The next film will be another documentary, this one starring MARCUS CHURCHILL as Harriman. He hasn’t had a Trek film released since 2021! He’ll also be in another upcoming fan film that I just posted a trailer for a couple of weeks ago. It’s called RISE OF THE PAKLEDS

Then it will be the second film in ALEXA BROWN’s standalone trilogy. After that, the next Emma standalone film, and then hopefully one of the large Indiegogo films!

JONATHAN – Speaking of trailers, I noticed that you’ve just released yet ANOTHER trailer for a previously-unannounced fan film featuring the alien “whale probe” from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home titled THE VOYAGE BEYOND

This in addition to a trailer for a V’Ger fan film with Nick Cook titled TIME HEIST that you posted about a month ago…

So to quote Dr. McCoy in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country… “What is it with you!” More specifically, what is your sudden obsession with super-powered probes that return to Earth and nearly destroy it??? Why not stop just with V’Ger and call it a day?

SAM – Well, in fairness, the whale probe film came first and is, in fact, 95% filmed. It’s on the same scale as the large five films from the 2021 Indiegogo, and the whole cast are SUPER proud of this one. In fact, it’s one of my favourite films. It’s also a rare U.S.S. Horizon story, actually set in the “present” with the crew we started establishing in A LONG WAY FROM HOME…no prequel or future sequel (although it does have post-CONVERGENCE tie ins—ha!)

I’m really really proud to see our own original custom probe 3D model get some love, and as you can see in the trailer, after multiple attempts, I think we got a darn good looking whale probe!

JONATHAN – That you did, Sam!

3 thoughts on “CHAOS AT THE NEUTRAL ZONE…the most ADORABLE technobabble EVER! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)”

  1. I’m really a big fan of these docu-style formats. I think they produce a better story overall. A richer more detailed story. After watching them, I feel like it was much more than 12-15 mins. About half way through, I checked the time remaining, because, I thought it might be nearly done, but, it wasn’t. Always love the space shots though.

    1. Documentary style is also much easier to produce, as it’s usually a stable camera, one actor at a time, and typically no sets needed if you do it like Sam did (and Prelude to Axanar and The Romulan War, as well). The challenge is getting a solid performance out of someone who essentially has no other actor or set element to play off of. There’s almost not body or head movement, and eyelines are best if the person is gazing just off camera. For an actor, such limitations can be daunting to try to pull a compelling performance out of.

  2. As someone who has studied acting, I found Emma Thorne to be really REALLY good with “technobabble” (and beyond). If you listen to a doctor talking doctor”babble” or a Linux expert or any other technical person discussing their world using their language it does not come across as “babble”. If an actor dreads delivering lines, it shows at some level and is perceived as technobabble. If an actor delivers lines like a builder talks about “cripple wall bracing” it reads as it should – an expert talking about their specialty.

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