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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JENS DOMBEK shows why “I AM SPOCK” in a new fan film vignette! (interview, part 2)

Last week, we began chatting with the ├╝ber Star Trek fan JENS (pronounced “Yens”) DOMBEK, known around the world as The German Spock. He’s been booked for appearances in both the eastern and western hemispheres, and most recently, he’s appeared in two different Trek fan films as the logical Vulcan, both released within two weeks of each other.

The first, LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY, is a short film featuring Kirk, Spock, and McCoy sharing a long-distance video call during a time of frustrating separation. The vignette was written, filmed, and edited as people around the planet found themselves having to social distance and isolate at home.

The second vignette was even shorter and features Jens providing a monologue as Spock in a dark, empty room over haunting music. It’s a simple yet brilliant masterpiece of minimalism, and if you haven’t watched it yet, take a look…

In Part 1, Jens and I discussed his history as a fan and how he became such a well-known cosplayer. One of his greatest regrets, though, was missing a chance to meet LEONARD NIMOY in person when the actor’s failing health led to the cancelation of an appearance at a convention in Germany. However, Jens did have a chance to meet William Shatner at that convention—dressed as Spock! Naturally, I asked the obvious question…

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JENS DOMBEK tells us why “I AM SPOCK” in a new fan film vignette! (interview, part 1)

There are some amazing cosplayers and impersonators out there…folks you walk past at conventions and you do a double-take. “Was that…? Nah, couldn’t be! Could it?”

We certainly have our fair share in the world of Star Trek fandom—people who look like William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Deforest Kelley, Brent Spiner, Whoopi Goldberg, the list goes on and on.

But by far, one of the most convincing cosplay impersonators out there has to be JENS (pronounced “YENS”) DOMBEK…also known as “The German Spock.” Born in Berlin and currently a resident of Brieselang, Germany, Jens is completely committed to our favorite Vulcan/Human hybrid, portraying him in all manner of uniforms and clothing…

Recently, Jens appeared alongside MIKE LONGO and FRANK JENKS in a short vignette called LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY—a subspace “Skype” call among Kirk (played by Mike), McCoy (played by Frank Jenks), and Spock. In the short film, the three friends support each other through a difficult separation, inspired by our current pandemic quarantine. For that fan film, I interviewed writer/producer/director Mike Longo.

Mike had very complimentary things to say about Jens and suggested that I friend him on Facebook and check out the many, many awesome photos he’s posted there…some serious, some hysterically funny, and a few are really clever homages to classic photos that Leonard Nimoy took while playing Spock in the 1960s.

So I reached out to Jens with a friend request, he accepted, and we exchanged a few introductory IMs, all very warm and pleasant. A week later, the following greeting was waiting for me on Saturday morning…

What a wonderful surprise! Jens has continued to provide little sparkles like this in my IMs and has proven to be an officer and a gentleman and an all-around really sweet and awesome guy.

Then, last Friday, Jens sent me a link to his new fan film…

Like many others—including, I am told, people at SYFY (the science fiction channel) who have since reached out to Jens—I was blown away by the simple-yet-complex intensity of a monologue that lasts a total of less than 80 seconds and takes place against a stark and empty black background. One of the best things about fan films is that there are no rules—guidelines, yes, but I’m not talking about those. Fans can add in or leave out whatever they want. And in this short film, so much was left out in order to distill a haunting but loving tribute to the “emotionless,” logical first officer of the starship Enterprise.

Even though Mike Longo wrote and edited this fan film, just as he did the previous one from two weeks ago, Jens produced, directed, and stars in “I Am Spock”—and I felt he deserved a turn to be interviewed.

And when you’re the German Spock, there’s a LOT to talk about…!

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