YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL (starring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu) – the 35-year trek… (Part 5)

In Part Part 2Part 3, and Part 4, we got to know STAN WOO and JOHN ATKIN. Back in 1985, Los Angeles-based Stan convinced GEORGE TAKEI and JAMES SHIGETA to play Hikaru Sulu and Admiral Nogura, respectively, in a low-budget fan film titled YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL. Although much of the film was shot between 1985 and 1987, it remained unfinished even in 2010 when Canadian Trek fan John offered to help Stan finally complete the film.

Along with help from Hollywood writer PAUL McCUDDEN, Stan and John expanded the short 15-minute script to bring in new characters in new locations. The first original footage for Yorktown since the 1980s was shot in 2011 and 2012, as two different scenes featuring Klingons were filmed with lines spoken entirely in the Klingon language.

In the meantime, VFX artist ROLAND BARON created CGI models of the U.S.S. Yorktown, a Klingon K-fighter, and the terrorist vessel Nagaer based on sketches from ANDREW PROBERT, who designed the refit Enterprise NCC-1701 from Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as and the Enterprise-D. A short trailer spotlighted Roland’s amazing work…

MORE SHOOTS…LOTS OF ‘EM!

The year 2012 ended with two major shoots that took place at Capilano College, based in North Vancouver, British Columbia. The first shoot was filmed in November in front of a green screen and featured CHARLES EDWARD BAE (who had provided the Klingon translations) as the Klingon Colonel Qumeq, publicly lambasting the evils of the Federation to an audience over a newsfeed.

Charles Edward Bae in full Klingon make-up and garb

The second shoot happened at the same location in December but was not simply another green screen. John elaborates, “IAN GUSTAFSON had access to an amazing set at Capilano College. The set was one that had been used on a small independent sci-fi movie, but Ian and Charles modified it so much that it is just about unrecognizable to its original form. The set was transformed into ‘Deck 19, Section 6’ of the U.S.S. Yorktown.”

This was for a new sequence set before the refit, showing the terrorist attack and the death of Jeffrey Pond’s fiancée Lt. Katherine Baetz, played by ZLATINA PACHEVA. This opening sequence will be the only footage in Yorktown to feature the classic TOS-style Starfleet tunics, which were purchased from Anovos and then adorned with Yorktown patches (custom-designed and manufactured by STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE fan film costumer JOE KEREZMAN).

George Kayaian (right) on his set for Starship Antyllus, doubling as the Yorktown Hangar Bay control room.

A final piece of the opening segment was supplied the following April in 2013 by none other than GEORGE KAYAIAN, who had begun shooting his own new fan series in New York called STAR TREK: ANTYLLUS. “I had seen some of George Kayaian’s earlier fan film work on YouTube,” John explains, “and I had seen pictures of his small bridge set that he was building on Facebook. I thought that it would be perfect for our Hangar Bay scene and asked if we could use it in the film, and if he would be interested in playing an officer in that scene.” The rest, as they say, is history.

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AXANAR test vignette “THE DECOMMISSIONING” premieres!

Last Tuesday, fans of AXANAR got a pleasant little surprise when a new short fan film, set in the “Axaverse,” was released by GEOFF FAGIEN, who is the Director of Photography on the two upcoming Axanar sequels.

Geoff’s two-minute vignette, titled “The Decommissioning,” is not part of the official Axanar trilogy (PRELUDE TO AXANAR plus the two sequels). Instead, created by a a separate production company, REACH FILMS, it stands alone as an adjunct to the overall Axanar storyline . Axanar, of course, is a project from AXANAR PRODUCTIONS.

So why a sudden, unexpected Axanar vignette?

It turns out that this little exercise is a “test film” trying out a brand new camera, called the RED Komodo, that hasn’t even been released to the general public yet. Geoff is one of a small number of beta-testers of the new product. They each still have to buy the camera (about $6K-$7K…a fraction of the cost of higher-end cameras), but the company, RED, is looking to actual users to provide them with feedback to help improve and perfect this newest offering. And filmmakers like Geoff are happy to help, since the results they relay back to RED will only serve to make the firmware of the camera that they just bought even better.

One of the things that Geoff wanted to test was the camera’s ability to record video in low light. Lower-end cameras often cannot differentiate among the color values of very dark colors—many times interpreting them as solid blacks. Higher end cameras do a better job. Geoff was interested in seeing what the RED Komodo could do in a low-light production environment…and what better place to test it than on the bridge of the U.S.S. Ares in Lawrenceville, GA (just a short 9-10 drive from Boca Raton, FL where Geoff lives). Geoff has made multiple trips to Ares Studios for the previous shoots for Axanar, most recently back in March just before the pandemic lockdowns started.

In August, Geoff made the trip yet again, wanting to put the RED Komodo through its paces for potential future, non-Axanar projects at Ares Studios. And even though Geoff did a few straight-on tests comparing the Komodo to a Blackmagic pocket 6K camera with the same shots in the same lighting (you can see the surprising differences in this video), he really wanted to see how the Komodo would work in an actual production environment. So in addition to a couple of simple comparison tests, Geoff decided to also shoot a short film.

The idea for the film was simple enough: it’s 10 years after the end of the Four Years War, Memory Alpha is shooting their documentary (including Prelude to Axanar), and the U.S.S. Ares is being decommissioned to be turned into a starship museum. With the lights turned down low, Fleet Captain Garth is taking one final stroll around the bridge, lost in thought…

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YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL (starring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu) – the 35-year trek… (Part 4)

In Part , Part 2, and Part 3, we got to know STAN WOO, the fan behind YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, a Star Trek fan film featuring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu and JAMES SHIGETA as Admiral Nogura. Star Trek production designer ANDREW PROBERT, who designed both the refit U.S.S. Enterprise and the Enterprise-D, worked on this fan film, as well, providing custom sketches for the refit U.S.S. Yorktown along with other completely new space vessels.

Between 1985 and 1987, Stan and his team shot 160 minutes of footage over a dozen different film shoots both indoors and outdoors. By the summer of 1987, the project was even featured in a two-page article in issue #119 of Starlog Magazine…an article read by a twelve-year-old boy from Ontario, Canada who will be the focus on most of today’s blog: JOHN ATKIN.

Stan and his Yorktown project appeared to be all but unstoppable…until failing college grades in 1987 caused Stan’s father to pull the plug on the entire endeavor. Stan’s education had to come first. And although some minor work (in secret) was done by Stan here and there over the next few years, the project was essentially in suspended animation for more than two decades. Stan had gotten married in 1995, had four children, and didn’t really have the time or resources to complete a full-on fan film…until 2009, that is.

As we learned last time, Stan began thinking about completing Yorktown beginning in 2009 after seeing how prolific Star Trek fan films had become during the past six years. He asked his friend PAUL McCUDDEN, a writer in Hollywood, for help expanding and finishing the script. And a bit of progress was being made.

THE SEARCH FOR STAN

Meanwhile, north of the border in the land of moose and maple, John Atkin was now in his mid-thirties and also a devotee of Star Trek fan films. And in early 2010, he began to wonder: “Whatever happened to that Yorktown project with George Takei from the 1980s?”

He was determined to find out…

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YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL (starring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu) – the 35-year trek… (Part 3)

In Part 1 and Part 2, we met STAN WOO, who back in 1985 convinced GEORGE TAKEI to star as Sulu and JAMES SHIGETA to appear as Admiral Nogura in Stan’s Star Trek fan film YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL. Also working on the project was legendary Star Trek production artist ANDREW PROBERT, who designed both the refit U.S.S. Enterprise from ST:TMP and also the Enterprise-D from ST:TNG. Andrew custom-designed a “hybrid” TOS/TMP U.S.S. Yorktown that could appear in the film to help establish the time-frame as during the Enterprise‘s refit. Also appearing in the movie was Leonard Nimoy’s assistant, TERESA VICTOR, along with a few other notable names from fandom and even from professional Star Trek.

Andrew Probert (left) meets with Stan Woo at a Taco Bell near Warner Bros. studios in 1986.

Between April of 1985 and March of 1987, more than a dozen separate film shoots at both outdoor and indoor locations produced about 160 minutes of footage which was now ready to be edited. By that point, Stan estimates that probably north of $10,000 was spent—mainly by his father, JEM ONG WOO, who will be credited as Executive Producer when Yorktown is finally released this Christmas of 2020 (fingers crossed!). “When you include the post production equipment purchased, like the Video Toaster Flyer (NLE), yeah, it was probably around that much,” Stan explains. “I also purchased Super Beta and Super VHS editing systems that didn’t quite pan out, but that was still money spent, as I didn’t need the equipment if not for the film.”

In fact, the editing equipment was purchased after Stan visited Stephen J. Cannell Productions (which produced The Greatest American Hero and The A-Team) and spoke with Post Production Supervisor KEN SWEET. “I was inspired to change our post production workflow after Ken told me that 21 Jump Street was going to be shot on film and cut on video. So we had to scan all of the Super 8 Reversal Film on a Rank Cintel Flying Scanner to ¾-inch Umatic SP.” (I have absolutely no idea what that means, but the short version is they took two large canisters of 400-ft-long film reels and transferred them to a fairly high quality—at the time—Sony video tape format in order to be able to edit the fan film.)

Meanwhile, word had spread about this exciting project through an article in the June 1987 issue of Starlog Magazine (#119)…

Click to enlarge

But shortly before the article came out, trouble was brewing for young Stan, who was at that time a student at California State University – Los Angeles while trying to complete his dream fan project in his spare time. And the trouble very nearly spelled the end for Yorktown—at least for another 22 years…

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After 5 years, FIRST FRONTIER premieres on the 54th ANNIVERSARY of Star Trek! (audio interview with KENNY SMITH and ZEKE FLATTEN)

September 8, 2020 is the 54th anniversary of the first airing of STAR TREK back in 1966. It is also the five-year anniversary of the beginning of production on STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, the long-awaited fan film from show-runner KENNY SMITH.

Kenny had a dream to create a fan film focussing on the very first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, Robert April, and his first mission commanding that legendary starship. Kenny’s dream was BIG! He wanted real sets and real professional actors and even visual effects with a real, custom-built 11-foot model of the U.S.S. Enterprise…none of this CGI nonsense. Go real or go home!

With a goal of $130K, Kenny launched a Kickstarter in early 2015…and it failed. He closed it down after six weeks with only $30K pledged (which meant he got nothing). But rather than giving up, Kenny simply financed the entire project himself!

The result has literally been a five-year mission in and of itself. Although all of the footage was shot—with Kenny directing—before the fan film guidelines were ever announced in June of 2016, the film has still taken years more to finish. In fact, I first interviewed Kenny back in early 2017 (it’s a FANtastic 3-part interview that you can start reading here), and he planned to have the project completed before the end of the year. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Then in January of 2019, a new trailer promised a release later that year. Kenny actually showed me the nearly-completed fan film, and I suggested that he aim for an April 1st release (because Robert APRIL was the 1st captain of the Enterprise…clever, right?) Kenny loved the idea, and the premiere date was unofficially set.

In preparation for that debut of this major fan production, I did a special audio interview with SCOTT LYTTLE and MATT GREEN, who built both the 11-foot Enterprise, a giant hangar bay, and all of the sets. The interview includes a photo montage with more than 200 pictures of the sets and starship model being constructed, and is itself a must-see. Check it out here.

But unfortunately, the film did not premiere on April 1, 2019. The visual effects were not yet complete. But that’s when “the miracle worker” of CGI, British animator SAMUEL COCKINGS, beamed in like Mary Poppins with a phaser and managed to produce an insane amount of VFX shots at warp speed (still took him months!) and help bring the project to completion. Yes, there are still physical model effects shots in the film, but Sam’s CGI completes the package in a most delightful way!

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YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL (starring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu) – the 35-year trek… (Part 2)

Last week in Part 1, we began looking back (waaaaaaay back!) to the 1980s and the birth of the long-awaited Star Trek fan film YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL…with GEORGE TAKEI appearing as Sulu. We learned how, in 1985, 21-year-old showrunner STAN WOO was able to convince George to appear in a Trekkie fan film thanks to a decade or so of friendly stalking and a well-timed offer of a glass of bungundy.

Filming began in April of 1985 and continued in earnest through that November. During that time, ten different shoots in various outdoor and indoor locations were completed, including on July 14 at the Chilao Flats campground in the Angeles National Forest…just four miles away from Charlton Flats, where portions of Star Trek: First Contact would be filmed a decade later.

For those who weren’t around in the 1980s, there was no such thing yet as digital video. Movies were shot on film reels and/or recorded to video cassette tapes. Oh, and there was also New Coke. Yes, folks, the debut of one of the biggest beverage blunders in modern history was just four days before Yorktown‘s July 14 shoot, and Stan’s dad picked up a case of the new soft drink at a local supermarket. According to Stan, “George Takei may have had his first sip of New Coke on our set…” and supplied me with the photo at the top of this blog entry to prove it!

By the time November 1985 came along, filming had now been completed on nearly every major scene but one. The segment involved three different admirals in an office on Starbase 7—nothing too complicated, right? But it turned out that this one “simple” scene would delay the production more than half a year…

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More FANdemic films: CONSTAR’s “MUCH AFRAID” and “SINKING” (audio interview with VANCE MAJOR)!

At least temporarily, most fan film production has entered a new phase following social distancing. New releases have not been quite so prolific, and most that have been produced since the beginning of the global pandemic have reflected the need to keep actors mainly isolated from each and from camera crews. For fan films, the show must go on…even if the show must be produced in careful and creative ways.

I’ve coined the phrase “FANdemic” film to categorize these releases. Some recent examples include:

  • HORREUR POST ATOMIQUE from France, told the story of three survivors of World War III living in bunkers, just before first contact with the Vulcans.
  • LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY showed a socially distancing Kirk, Spock, and McCoy having a futuristic Zoom call.
  • I AM SPOCK featured JENS DOMBEK, “The German Spock,” doing a somber and introspective one-man (well, one-Vulcan) short fan film.
  • “THE GREEN MANIFESTO” from THE FEDERATION FILES showed the nefarious Colonel Green from the TOS episode “The Savage Curtain” (still with the rank of major) engineering a global super-virus that threatened to wipe out millions worldwide.

And then there’s CONSTAR CONTINUES…from that fan filmmaking machine VANCE MAJOR! Vance’s many, many, many fan films—which cover the Minard Saga, Constar Chronicles, and the latest Constar Continues series—are actually tailor-made for the pandemic…at least some of them. Although the scores of episodes that he’s done have included scenes with multiple characters on the screen at the same time, Vance has also made a good number of episodes featuring two-person “calls” via subspace. These are easy enough to shoot and edit together during a global quarantine, and so, as one might expect, a fandemic Constar production was bound to show up sooner or later.

Continue reading “More FANdemic films: CONSTAR’s “MUCH AFRAID” and “SINKING” (audio interview with VANCE MAJOR)!”

YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL (starring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu) – the 35-year trek… (Part 1)

If any footage can be considered “the holy grail” of Star Trek fan films, it’s the Super-8 scenes from YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, shot in 1985 to 1987 and featuring actor GEORGE TAKEI reprising his role as Lt. Cmdr. Sulu during the time between TOS and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Thirty-five years (and counting!) in the making, Yorktown is probably the most eagerly awaited, exciting, and mysterious Star Trek fan film of all time! And so many fans have so many questions…

  • How did a young Trekkie barely out of high school convince George Takei to play Sulu way back when the actor was concurrently making Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home?
  • How did this same kid get JAMES SHIGETA (who’s been in about a million things you’ve seen, most notably Die Hard, Midway, and Mulan…but also TV shows ranging from The Outer Limits to Mission: Impossible to T.J. Hooker to Babylon 5 to Avatar: The Last Airbender) to agree to play Admiral Nogura?
  • Did ANDREW PROBERT, the artist who designed the refit USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as the Enterprise-D for Next Generation really design custom starships for this guy’s fan film, too?
  • Why is this film still not finished yet?

Well, it’s ALMOST finished! In fact, a new trailer was recently released (the first new trailer since 2013), promising a release date of this Christmas. The footage looks amazing—see for yourself…

There’s no shortage of stories about this project scattered all over the Internet…some less accurate than others. But now it’s time to set the record straight and collect all of these mind-blowing details together in a series of fascinating blogs that will feature direct quotes from original show-runner STAN WOO and current show-runner JOHN ATKIN.

It’s hard to pick one thing about Yorktown: A Time to Heal that’s the most interesting. Obviously, it’s one of the first (if not THE first) Star Trek fan film to feature a member of one of the television casts in their same iconic role…plus other professional actors in major roles. But after a veritable sprint of filming over the first two years, things virtually stopped completely for more than two decades!

Then, once things started up again, fan filmmakers from all over our community got involved to help out. Scenes were filmed BOTH at Starbase Studios in Oklahoma AND on James Cawley’s TOS sets in Ticonderoga, NY (one of the only fan projects other than STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES to ever do that). People who worked on AXANAR, STAR TREK CONTINUES, NEW VOYAGES, RENEGADES, STARSHIP EXETER, STARSHIP FARRAGUT, STARSHIP ANTYLLUS, STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE, STAR TREK: EXCALIBUR, TEMPORAL ANOMALY, STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN, STAR TREK: DECEPTION II, THE FEDERATION FILES, and so many other fan productions all pitched in at one point or another to help Yorktown: A Time to Heal move ever closer to completion.

Are you ready to jump down the rabbit hole? I promise, it’ll be worth it…

Continue reading “YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL (starring GEORGE TAKEI as Sulu) – the 35-year trek… (Part 1)”

Despite fan confusion with the NICHELLE NICHOLS elder abuse GoFund Me, the Kickstarter for RENEGADES: OMINARA passes $43K…

In a cosmic case of bad timing, a brand new Kickstarter debuted two weeks ago for the new RENEGADES: OMINARA fan-produced film starring NICHELLE NICHOLS…at the same time a GoFundMe campaign launched to cover the cost of a lawsuit involving elder-abuse of the beloved Star Trek TOS actress.

First things first: the two campaigns are COMPLETELY unrelated. RENEGADES is a fan-run project from SKY CONWAY, who got involved with Star Trek licensing shortly before GENE RODDENBERRY passed away in 1991. Sky became close friends with Gene and his wife Majel and eventually went on to become a manager for various Star Trek alumni actors, including Nichelle Nichols.

In 2006, Sky wrote and produced—along with TIM “Tuvok” RUSS, who directed —the first “mega” Star Trek fan film to feature multiple big-name veteran actors from the franchise…including Nichelle, WALTER KOENIG, GARRETT WANG, J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, CHASE MASTERSON, ALAN RUCK, and others. He would later go on to produce STAR TREK: RENEGADES and the sequel “THE REQUIEM.”

Walter Koenig, Alan Ruck, and Nichelle Nichols in STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN, filmed in 2006

Meantime, there is a tragic and highly disturbing story (read more about it in this Newsweek article) about a man named GILBERT BELL who entered Nichelle’s life in 2010 (years and years after Sky Conway did) and presented her with a feature film idea. Nichelle would be the co-star, and profits would be split evenly between her and Bell. But the project never happened…if such a thing ever existed at all.

But Bell nevertheless took over as Nichelle’s new “talent manager,” collecting fees from her many convention appearances (usually about $10K per appearance and paid in cash). Meanwhile, Bell convinced Nichelle to allow him to move into the second house on her property (where he still lives), locking in a ridiculously low rent in perpetuity while Nichelle paid all of his utilities. Had it stopped there, things would have been bad enough. But the story gets MUCH worse.

In 2013, Nichelle was in a very weakened state following a hospitalization for pancreatitis. She was later transferred to a Los Angeles area rehabilitation center and nursing home. Diagnosed later with dementia, Nichelle was (according to the Newsweek article) surreptitiously removed from the facility against medical advice by Bell. That same day, Bell convinced Nichelle to sign both a directive naming Bell as her primary agent for health care decisions as well as documents handing General Power of Attorney to him. The next day, Bell also allegedly arranged for new bank accounts to be opened at Wells Fargo, granting him direct access to Nichelle’s assets.

But wait, it gets even worse…

Continue reading “Despite fan confusion with the NICHELLE NICHOLS elder abuse GoFund Me, the Kickstarter for RENEGADES: OMINARA passes $43K…”

COMING THIS WEEK – The complete 35-year history of YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL!

You guys are in for a real treat. Assuming you enjoy reading about the rich histories of Star Trek fan film projects (why else would you be here??), then you are going to LOVE what I have coming later on this week!

If you think AXANAR, PACIFIC 201, FIRST FRONTIER or STARSHIP FARRAGUT “Homecoming” are taking forever to come out, those are just wee bairnes compared to YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL! Those other projects have been in development for maybe five years at most. But Yorktown began production way back in 1985!!! That’s 35 years, folks. And while there was a lull in production and post-production which lasted nearly two decades, work started up again in earnest in 2010. But it’s now 2020…and still no Yorktown in sight.

However, that all changed when the first new trailer for Yorktown since 2013 was released on July 5th, 2020…

No, you’re not seeing things. That is indeed GEROGE TAKEI, and he is playing Hikaru Sulu. That’s also actor JAMES SHIGETA from Die Hard, Midway, and Mulan (and a hundred other things you’ve seen) playing Admiral Nogura.

If you’re a hard-core follower of Star Trek fan films, you probably know at least something about Yorktown. But do you know EVERYTHING??? There are so many stories and interviews out there, scattered across the Internet. Finding them all is like a scavenger hunt, and even when you do, many of the stories sound almost unbelievable. A few even seem to contradict each other. What’s true, what’s myth, and what’s legend?

I decided to find out!

I’d actually been wanting to cover Yorktown for many years…the “lost” fan film. But was it really lost? From the time I first began covering Star Trek fan films back in 2015, I’d heard rumors that work was still being done on this fabled project. Eventually, I discovered a Facebook group and joined it, but I’ll admit I didn’t check it all that often. And truth to tell, there were so many other fan films and news and interviews and articles to write that Yorktown kinda fell off my radar more than a few times over the years.

But then that trailer come out, and I had the perfect excuse to do a deep-dive. Little did I realize how deep I was about to go…!

Continue reading “COMING THIS WEEK – The complete 35-year history of YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL!”