OUTRAGED raises the bar on green screen fandemic films… (interview with DAVID CHENG)

DAVID CHENG and his gang of cosplayers at Star Trek Fan Productions International are upping their game with each new fan film that they produce…and there’s been quite a few in the past two years—six, in fact! Their first, THE HUMAN ADVENTURE, was a very rare Star Trek: The Motion Picture era fan film, shot and released in late 2019. That was half a year BEFORE the world shut down due to a once-in-a-century pandemic. The global quarantine didn’t stop David and his team, but it did force them to start being creative. And thus was born one of the many examples of what I went on to dub the “fandemic” film, where each of the actors is filmed separately and individually, and these self-contained pieces of footage are then edited together to create scenes with conversations and story…a new kind of Star Trek fan film.

(Actually, there was nothing really “new” about it. VANCE MAJOR had been doing similar editing together of footage shot in various people’s homes for years in his many, many MINARD and CONSTAR fan films.)

Beginning in June 2020 with LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY, David and co-showrunner MIKE LONGO (who played Jim Kirk) began releasing fandemic films where one character appeared in the screen at a time, first simply seated in front of backgrounds in their houses, sometimes with props visible…

A few weeks later, JENS DOMBEK, known internationally as “The German Spock,” released a very stylized vignette titled I AM SPOCK, shot against a stark black canvas background with only himself (dressed as Spock) and a series Vulcan props , accompanied by a monotonal voice-over and haunting minialist music track.

By October 2020, the bar was lifted slightly when, for the first time, their newest release worked in chroma-keyed virtual backgrounds against cosplayers who had shot their footage in front of green screen. UNREST also featured a few VFX shots of the U.S.S. Excelsior (under Captain Sulu) and the U.S.S. Enterprise-A (under Kirk, of course), with David Cheng returning to the front of the camera as Admiral Nogura for the first time since The Human Adventure.

For Christmas of 2020, PEACE AND GOODWILL continued building on their previous steps, incorporating green screen footage composited over digital backgrounds, but now some of those backgrounds included CGI animated VFX shots. Also, a few of the green screen shots were wider angles, showing more of the characters than just their head, shoulders, and torsos. And finally, the size of the cast had grown to six actors, their largest complement yet.

And finally, the month of June 2021 brought their most ambitious project yet, OUTRAGED, with a cast of 15 characters! But even more impressive were scenes that include TWO characters on screen at the same time…even though everyone’s footage was still being filmed separately. Thanks to digital compositing, fans could now see “over-the-shoulder” scenes plus Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock together on the Enterprise bridge, even though Mike Longo and Jens Dombek live on separate continents!

Take a look…

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Happy Holidays from KIRK, SPOCK, SULU, NOGURA, et. al. in PEACE AND GOODWILL (interview with DAVID CHENG)

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all? This is an interesting question when it comes to Star Trek. The earliest mention of the annual winter holiday was waaaay back in November of 1966 when the ninth episode of TOS, “Dagger of the Mind,” mentioned that Captain Kirk had met Dr. Helen Noel at a Christmas party in the science lab. (Noel / Christmas…get it?) Later on, Picard enters the Nexus in Generations and emerges inside of a Christmas holiday with his “family.”

Throughout the 54-year history of the franchise, Christmas has been sporadically referred to here and there (Memory Alpha has a full list), but as often as not, those were just short, offhand references. Never did we see any starship crew deck the decks with buffers of holos …fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…or put presents under trees in the mess hall or sing Christmas Carols (or Marcuses) over the intercoms. And so fans might indeed wonder if, in the Star Trek universe, do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Now, in a brand new release from STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTIONS INTERNATIONAL, we get to see what happens at Starfleet HQ and on a couple of familiar starships on Christmas eve. PEACE AND GOODWILL is the fifth fan film that this group has released, and the fourth this year alone! (You can watch all of their releases here.) The latter four were all produced remotely with the actors recording their lines in separate locations and editing the footage together later—what I have taken to calling “fandemic” films.

This latest production has their largest cast yet, six in total, all of them noted cosplayers with impeccable uniforms/costumes. Led by show-runner and director/editor/co-writer DAVID CHENG as Nogura, the cast also includes MIKE LONGO reprising his role of Jim Kirk, the “German Spock” JENS DOMBEK, KEN HAYASHIDA back for a second appearance as Captain Sulu, BILL VICTOR ARUCAN as Admiral Phil Curry, and LAURA SIRKIL as Ensign Mitsuko Nogura.

It’s a fun little slice of holiday happiness and camaraderie among Starfleet’s top brass, a feel-good “Christmas special” for fan film fans to enjoy during this festive season as 2020 comes to a merciful and (with luck) hopeful end. So please enjoy a little Peace and Goodwill

I reached out to David Cheng with a few short questions…

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UNREST is the newest FANdemic film! (interview with DAVID CHENG, MIKE LONGO, and KEN HAYASHIDA)

It’s now the age of the pandemic fan films—or fandemic films, as I like to call them—at least for the time being. And like the coronavirus itself, Star Trek fan films are proving to be quite tenacious and hard to get of…which is a GOOD thing if you like Star Trek fan films (and I certainly do)!

Over the past five months, these fandemic films have been filmed and released totally virtually with the actors who appear in them never actually being together in the same scene at the same time:

The last of these was made by DAVID CHENG and MIKE LONGO (along with FRANK JENKS and JENS DOMBEK) as a “Zoom call” between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy during a difficult period when they could not be with each other…a reflection of the world of 2020 seen through the lens of the 23rd century.

Now, David and Mike have teamed up once again, this time with KEN HAYASHIDA, to present a brand new “Zoom call” adventure…this time featuring Captain Kirk, Captain Sulu, and Admiral Nogura (along with a forth “Away Team Officer”). The 7-minute vignette is from STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTIONS INTERNATIONAL and is very nicely done (especially since all of the actors are cosplayers and have impeccable monster maroon uniforms). Check it out…

I had originally planned to ask show-runner David Cheng for a few words to include with the blog announcement of this new fandemic film. But within a few hours, I’d collected a rather robust 3-way interview with David, Ken Hayashida, and Mike Longo. So let’s jump right in, shall we…?

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THE HUMAN ADVENTURE has just begun! (interview with DAVID CHENG)

At the heart of every Star Trek fan film is…well…heart. The drive to create fan-produced stories emanates from a deep love of Star Trek. And few Trekkers love the series more than cosplayers. So what happens when a bunch of cosplayers get together to make a Star Trek fan film?

And not just any Star Trek fan film!

While there are a plethora of productions that take place in the TOS era, in the “monster maroon” movie era, the TNG and Voyager and late DS9 era, and even the NX-era…there are almost none that hit that brief window in time that was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And there’s a few reasons for that…among them the obvious challenge of creating those intricate movie-era sets.

But the biggest challenge would always be those crazy 1970s “pajama” uniforms. Unlike TOS or TNG tunics, TMP-era uniforms aren’t commercially available and require not only expert tailoring but also don’t let you get away with store-bought black pants and boots. Done wrong, TMP uniforms could look like a mess and be quite awkward for a fan to wear. But in the hands of an experienced cosplayer…well, that’s a whole different story.

And so it was when writer/producer DAVID CHENG and his team debuted THE HUMAN ADVENTURE, a TMP-era vignette focusing on the “meeting” Admiral Kirk had with Admiral Nogura convincing the Starfleet commander to give Kirk back the Enterprise to investigate the giant cloud approaching earth.

On the surface, The Human Adventure is a fairly simple and straightforward fan production—minimal VFX, no custom-built sets, basic sound, etc. But below the surface, there’s a lot to be said for this effort. And that’s why I’m interviewing David Cheng today, to fill us all in on the things that might not be so obvious from a simple viewing. But first, let’s take a look at this unique fan production…

And now, here’s David Cheng…

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