What’s in “BOTTLES OF ALE” from STARSHIP WEBSTER?

STARSHIP WEBSTER launched back in October of 2020 shortly after showrunner RANDY LANDERS and his wife moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Lexington, Kentucky the previous year and assembled the eighth creative group from POTEMKIN PICTURES. Since then, the Webster crew has been on a tear, completing EIGHT fan films in less than two years!

Their latest release, “BOTTLES OF ALE,” made its debut in mid-July and featured a lot more than meets the eye. Randy gave me some interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits about this production. But before I tell you about all of the things you might not notice, take a look at the finished fan film…

Potemkin Pictures has always presented a wide variety of story genres: action and suspense, quiet and contemplative, sad and tragic, mysterious, etc. This episode was obviously intended primarily to be a comedy. The writer, LIZ KNAUEL, has penned a number of Potemkin scripts over the years, but what few people know is that Liz used to write for Randy Landers’ fanzine group, Orion Press, a full decade ago. So their collaboration goes back a long way!

A Bottle of Ale” features three actors who might look familiar to viewers of Potemkin’s most recent releases: BILLY SWANSON (who plays the lead Romulan “Crocutus”), MAT ACRA (who plays “Rifkin” in the red jumpsuit), and CLINTON RIDDLE (who plays the “Adjutant” in blue). All three are local to the Lexington, KY area and have collectively appeared in more Potemkin fan films as more different characters than all of the other local actors combined! Part of the reason for their being able to do this is because three different Lexington creative groups are currently producing films. In addition to Webster, there is also STARSHIP CALIBORN (where Billy Swanson plays Captain Hawkins) and the recently-premiered KLINGON SCOUTSHIP QAB’ELTH (where Billy played the first officer Commander Kodai).

Mat and Clinton also appeared in the Qab’elth debut. In fact, that was Clinton’s first experience with Potemkin and led to him getting two additional roles, including being cast as the new captain of the U.S.S. Webster. Randy explained what happened…

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STARSHIP CALIBORN launches with WAR TARG! (interview with BILLY SWANSON)

POTEMKIN PICTURES has been a fan film “nursery” ever since 2015 when it launched a second fan series STARSHIP TRISTAN, to join its flagship series PROJECT: POTEMKIN, which began back in 2010. Tristan was followed by STARSHIP DEIMOS, then BATTLECRUISER KUPOK, STARSHIP TRITON, STARSHIP ENDEAVOUR, HOSPITAL SHIP MARIE CURIE, and STARSHIP ALEXANDER. Some lasted longer than others. While Tristan and Deimos have released about 20 fan films each, Kupok has released only six, Triton and Marie Curie both had four, Endeavour three, and Alexander only one.

Part of the reason some of these groups folded was due to the move of Potemkin Pictures showrunner RANDY LANDERS (and his homemade sets) from Pelham, Alabama to Lexington, Kentucky in 2019. While some actors and filmmakers are still willing to make the longer drive, others have moved on.

But just because you move the chicken, that doesn’t mean she stops laying eggs. (If that isn’t an idiom, it should be!) Not that I’m suggesting Potemkin Pictures is laying any eggs, mind you!!! But Randy is birthing a whole new crop of creative groups, each with their own starship…or warship. The first out of the Lexington launch bay was the crew of the STARSHIP WEBSTER, and they’ve already completed and released EIGHT fan films less than two years! And in May of 2022, Potemkin Pictures teamed up with NATURE’S HUNGER and RELIC FILMS to release FIREHAWK. And gearing up for its debut in the near future is the new Klingon-based IMPERIAL SCOUT QAB’ELTH team.

Wow, just listing all that is nearly an entire blog just by itself! (You can access all 100-plus Potemkin Pictures films from their website.)

But there’s one group I’ve left out: STARSHIP CALIBORN—and they’ve just premiered their first fan film, WAR TARG. Caliborn spun off from Webster thanks to one the latter’s lead actor, BILLY SWANSON, wanting to become a showrunner himself…along with a captain! Webster‘s second release, A VOICE IN THE DARK, filmed at the height of the pandemic as a one-man show, highlighted Billy’s strong acting abilities. He’s gone on to appear in four of the five subsequent Webster releases, playing executive officer Commander Robert Hawkins.

But now it’s time to Hawkins to get a command of his own, and you can watch his first mission here…

As you can see, Captain Hawkins isn’t your typical starship captain (as if any captain is “typical”)! And Billy Swanson isn’t your typical showrunner. Or maybe he is. There’s only one way to find out…

Let’s interview him!

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STARSHIP WEBSTER production crew discusses their latest “OPPORTUNITY”… (interview with a bunch of folks)


And then there were six…six fan films from the STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group that’s a part of POTEMKIN PICTURES, that is. And considering that this relatively new production team only launched 16 months ago, that’s going at a pretty decent clip…especially when one considers there was a pandemic lockdown for a decent potion of that time.

Webster got its start when show-runner RANDY LANDERS and his wife moved from Pelham, Alabama two states north to Lexington, Kentucky and reached out to local Trekkers and fans in the area to be a part of what turned into Potemkin‘s NINTH creative group (you can access all of the fans films from the various teams here). While other states in the vicinity like Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas have supported fan films and series for many years, as far as I’ve been able to research, Webster was the first ongoing Star Trek fan production to be based in the state of Kentucky.

And the group has done some impressive work so far. Most recently, their latest release, “OPPORTUNITY,” has a run-time of 19 minutes and a cast of 18 actors with scenes on multiple homemade sets (in addition to a couple of composited green screen backgrounds). There are more than a dozen VFX shots.

While some fans criticized the “unpolished” nature of many of the Potemkin Pictures releases over the years, if you’re watching these fan films solely to be dazzled by top-tier production quality rivaling the major Hollywood studios, then you may have gotten off at the wrong exit. But if you go into viewing these productions with a mind open to seeing what fans with little money but lots of heart can manage to do, then you’re sure to come away satisfied.

And if you know what to look for, a fan film like “Opportunity” accomplishes quite a lot. Take a look…

This time out, I decided to have a free-form chat with four of the folks behind this film:

BILLY SWANSON – a producer and actor who portrays Commander Robert “Hawk” Hawkins, Executive Officer and Security Chief of the U.S.S. Webster.

LAURA JOHNSON – one of the three writers of “Opportunity,” also a producer and actress who portrays Lieutenant Commander T’Varik, the Vulcan Science Officer of the U.S.S. Webster.

ROSS TROWBRIDGE – visual FX producer and artist.

And of course, it’s not a proper Potemkin Pictures interview without show-runner and executive producer Randy Landers, who also directed this film.

Let’s dive in…

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STARSHIP WEBSTER’s 3rd episode “THE TOMBSTONE” (interview with JERRY WILLIAMS)

Even though POTEMKIN PICTURES has been around for over a decade now, the folks in their STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group are definitely the new kids on the fan film block. Their predecessors include PROJECT: POTEMKIN, STARSHIP DEIMOSSTARSHIP ALEXANDERSTARSHIP TRISTANHOSPITAL SHIP MARIE CURIEBATTLECRUISER KUPOKSTARSHIP TRITON, and STARSHIP ENDEAVOUR.

When show-runner RANDY LANDERS and his wife moved from Alabama to Lexington, Kentucky in 2019, it provided an opportunity to find and invite a whole new collective of local Trekkers in the fan film family. And even though the pandemic made things a little more challenging, the new Webster group still managed to release their debut fan film, “LAUNCH,” on October 9, followed quickly by their second offering, “A VOICE IN THE DARK,” just two weeks later. The latter allowed one of their actors, BILLY SWANSON, to take the lead and both write and direct—as well as star in—what was essentially a “one-man show.”

Two months later, released on Christmas day, another member of the team, JERRY WILLIAMS, got to write and appear in an episode…although this time, Randy Landers was the one directing, and the cast consisted of more than one actor (seven, in fact—three in major roles).

I’ve been making it a point to give these fine fan film folks a spotlight here on the blog as both a welcome to the community and also in acknowledgment of their quick embrace of this sub-sub-genre and dedication to getting their first few fan films produced and released.

As such, I asked Randy whom he thought would be the best person to interview for this third release, and he quickly said it should be Jerry Williams himself. “Jerry is quite a local legend,” Randy told me.

So let’s take a look at Jerry’s first Star Trek fan film, “THE TOMBSTONE,” and then we can chat…

And now, heeeeeeerrrrrrrreeeeeee’s Jerry (do my younger readers even get that reference?)…

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Writer/Director/Actor/Wrestler BILLY SWANSON discusses “A Voice in the Dark” from STARSHIP WEBSTER…

One of my favorite aspects of Star Trek fan films (and fan films in general) is the sheer variety you get from all of the different fan productions. Even from the same group—such as the uber-prolific folks at POTEMKIN PICTURES who have released upwards of seven dozen individual fan films (you can view them all here)—there are still surprises to be had. As DeForest Gump once said, “Fan films are like a box of Spican flame gems…you never know what you’re gonna get.” (Okay, I just made that up.)

Anyway, I had one of those very pleasant surprises when I watched the recently-released second fan film from Potemkin Pictures‘ newest film Creative Group, STARSHIP WEBSTER, under the watchful eye of show-runner RANDY LANDERS, now living in Lexington, Kentucky. The 7-minute vignette is titled “A Voice in the Dark” and features a character alone in his quarters recording a series of log journal entries. That might not seem overly impressive but for one notable thing: the entire fan film, all of the monologue, is delivered in a single take! And the performance is surprisingly solid for a fan film, suggesting a fair amount of acting experience.

Take a look…

Randy explained to me that the script was written by BILLY SWANSON, one of the members of the new Starship Webster Creative Group, and the actor playing the main role of Commander Robert Hawkins. Initially, the producers in the group came up with the idea of doing a series of shorts to introduce the crew, ultimately intended for no-contact filming during the pandemic. Billy created a one-person character-study, wrote an outline of what he wanted to do, practiced it, and recorded it into his phone.

Randy took a watch and loved the vignette; it was a great look at his character’s backstory. The only problem was that it seemed like it was filmed on a cell phone in someone’s bedroom. So Randy asked Billy to come to the studio to film it using Randy’s lighting, green screens, camera, and sound equipment. Randy set up the green screen and a table for the bed, a chair from the bridge set, and a uniform. He set up the camera and the mics, lined Billy up, and turned the equipment on. Then Randy walked 10 feet across the room, sat in their remaining captain’s chair, and watched Billy do his thing.

So Billy was literally the actor, writer, and director. It was one single continuous shot, so there really wasn’t much for Randy to do except adjust the lighting, add the VFX for the officer’s quarters, and make sure it looked good in post. Randy provided the following comment…

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