LET OLD WRINKLES COME – a childhood dream come true! (interview with BENNY HALL, part 1)

As Willy Wonka’s great glass Wonkavator soared over the countryside, the candy-maker looked into the face of the boy who would be inheriting his amazing factory. “But Charlie,” he said with great seriousness, “don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted…”

“What happened?” Charlie asked.

Willy smiled, “He lived happily ever after.”

That scene played out in my mind as I read over the answers that brand new Star Trek fan filmmaker BENNY HALL sent back to me. When everything else is stripped away, fan films are the chance we adults get to live out the fantasies we had as children. We are the music makers. We are the dreamers of dreams. And Benny Hall is the very epitome of what fan films are all about. You’ll discover that as you read the heartfelt and uplifting interview below.

But first, a little about LET OLD WRINKLES COME, a 16-minute fan film shot both at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA as well as at the iconic Vasquez Rocks Park north of Los Angeles where Kirk fought the Gorn and Vulcan was destroyed by Nero. But this time, Kirk isn’t fighting a Gorn—he’s fighting a Mugato! Take a look…

The fan film has a real flavor of the 1960s TOS Star Trek, right down to Kirk putting the moves on a female crew member. I mention this because, what seemed totally normal five decades ago as Kirk regularly hit on crew women like Yeoman Rand, Dr. Helen Noel, and Lt. Marlena Moreau has been supplanted by the #MeToo movement. And while Let Old Wrinkles Comes has generally been getting very positive feedback, Kirk’s romantic overtures toward a female crew member in this fan film are stirring up a bit of controversy.

Another notable item is that Let Old Wrinkles Come marks the return of VIC MIGNOGNA to the credits of a Trek fan film for the first time since STAR TREK CONTINUES ended its 11-episode run in late 2017. And it wasn’t only Vic who returned. STC alumni LISA HANSELL and TIM VITTETOE (make-up) and Ralph Miller (sound-mixing) signed aboard, as well. So did ADRIENNE WILKINSON, who played Lexxa Singh in STAR TREK: RENEGADES as well as Edith Keeler in the fourth episode of STC, “The White Iris.”

Just before being posted to YouTube, Benny hosted a red carpet premiere of the film at a Los Angeles theater for the cast and crew and selected guests. And yes, there’s nothing in the fan film guidelines preventing that (as long as it’s a free screening). However, that’s still rare treatment for a Star Trek fan film, so I made certain to ask Benny about that later in the interview.

One last thing, Benny is currently crowd-funding his second fan film, TEARS OF J’KAH. His goal is an ambitious $50,000, but he’s already near $6,000. If you’d like to donate, please click below…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/funding-for-tears-of-j-kah-a-star-trek-fan-film#/

And now, let’s chat with Benny Hall…

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LET OLD WRINKLES COME – a childhood dream come true! (interview with BENNY HALL, part 2)

Last time, we began chatting with BENNY HALL, who seemed to have come out of nowhere to release a $50,000 Star Trek fan film shot at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA, as well as at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Southern California. That money was NOT crowd-funded, by the way. Benny paid it out of pocket…and thereby was he able to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. And isn’t that what fan films are all about: living our dreams?

Benny was accompanied on his journey—his trek, if you will—by some veterans of the much-loved fan series STAR TREK CONTINUES, including VIC MIGNOGNA, LISA HANSELL, TIM VITTETOE, and ADRIENNE WILKINSON…as well as some friends, volunteers, and a few industry professionals (and one very convincing Mugato!).

The result was an impressive production made even more so by the fact that Benny had not previously been involved with the creation of any Star Trek fan film before…

When the film was completed, and before it was released onto YouTube, Benny held a private screening at a theater in Los Angeles, inviting cast and crew and special guests to view the film on a big screen. (And yes, the fan film guidelines don’t forbid that…as long as no admission fee is charged.) He is already working hard to crowd-fund his second $50,000 Star Trek project (this time he is asking for donations), but more on that later.

When last we left off, Benny was discussing filming the Mugato scenes at Vasquez Rocks. And that led to the following question from me…

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Why I am NOT “neutral” about NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS…

I need to clear the air regarding myself and NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS, the TOS sets in Kingsland, GA that were originally used for STARSHIP FARRAGUT, later used for STAR TREK CONTINUES, and were recently purchased by RAY TESI and opened up to any fan filmmaker who wanted to use them, was able to pay $300/day, and was willing to follow the fan film guidelines.

I want to state for the record that I wholeheartedly SUPPORT Neutral Zone Studios and encourage anyone who is a fan of Star Trek fan films to support them, as well, through their Patreon campaign:

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

As many of you know, I was originally scheduled to film two of my scenes for my fan film INTERLUDE there. Ray Tesi was 100% on board. In fact, when I was considering bringing my son Jayden to Georgia watch the shoots, Ray told me that he’d make sure the entire studio was lit up (all the lights and buttons) before we arrived so that when Jayden walked in, the first thing he’d see would be the USS Enterprise in all of its glory. Ray was even going to see if he could manage to drive up for the day from Florida to finally meet me in person and watch the shoot.

But over Memorial Day weekend at Neutral Zone Studios‘ Fan Appreciation Weekend 2, Ray informed my directors, JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX (who were there shooting interviews with VIC MIGNOGNA, MICHELLE SPECHT, and CHRIS DOOHAN to help promote the studio’s Patreon campaign) that Interlude was no longer welcome to use the sets.

Although ALEC PETERS, who was similarly banned, accused Vic of being the reason for Ray’s sudden change of heart, Star Trek Continues make-up artist, LISA HANSELL, posted this comment on Facebook the Monday after the event…

Now, all things considered, I should probably feel angry, hurt, insulted, frustrated…and to be honest, I did feel those emotions quite deeply for a short time. But I moved past it.

However, something happened this past weekend that has left me wondering if others haven’t let this go as I have. And I now feel that it’s important to state publicly that I have forgiven Ray and Lisa and (if he was involved in the decision) Vic…and anyone else who pressured Ray Tesi into changing his mind about letting my production film at NZS.

So what happened this past weekend?

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Fan-filmed before a live studio audience at STAGE 9 STUDIOS…but not without a little controversy!

An estimated 1,300 fans came to STAGE 9 STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA on October 19-21 to visit the amazing TOS sets and meet STAR TREK CONTINUES cast and crew members, including VIC MIGNOGNA, CHRIS DOOHAN, LISA HANSELL, and many others.  (Here’s a complete list.)  Dubbed “Fan Appreciation Weekend,” the event was free of charge and admitted anyone who showed up on Friday from 2-10pm, Saturday from 9am-7pm, and Sunday from 9am-6pm.  That’s 27 hours of open set visit time over a three-day period!

Not just a simple “tour” (like what is offered in Ticonderoga, NY by James Cawley), this event included the opportunity for fans to watch and even participate in the FILMING of episodes for two different fan productions.  Both DREADNOUGHT DOMINION and the upcoming  CONSTAR CHRONICLES shot scenes on the bridge on Friday night and in engineering on Saturday as fans looked on.

Visitors would be escorted in groups through the sets by none other than STC star and show-runner Vic Mignogna, who would discuss the fan filmmaking process, point out certain details of the sets, share a few “secrets” (like how they filmed a scene from a camera angle when a permanent wall was in the way—answer: they put a hidden hole in the wall to film from behind!), and answered questions.  Other groups were escorted by Stage 9 owner RAY TESI, who purchased the sets from Vic last year and decided to make them available to any fan film that wanted to shoot there.  (Listen to Ray’s interview here.)

Vance Major live in front of a studio audience

The groups traveled in cycles through all of the sets—sickbay, auxiliary control, transporter room, captain’s quarters, briefing room, etc.—finally emerging on the bridge and/or engineering to watch rehearsal, set-up, or actual filming during certain scheduled times.  Each group spent about 5-10 minutes with the film crews before moving on and letting in the next bunch.  The fan filmmakers would talk to the audience, answer questions, and in some cases, even offer a few lucky fans the chance to throw on a tunic and be filmed as extras on the bridge or in engineering!  How cool is that???

The event was not without some controversy, though.

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Life after STAR TREK CONTINUES – cast members REUNITE for WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS!

When STAR TREK CONTINUES completed its 11-episode run of superb Trek fan films, fans of the series wondered, “What’s next?”  It seemed a shame that such a talented group of actors, writers, directors, and production crew would simply go their separate ways.  Alas, that is all too often the case in show business.  But not this time…at least, not for everyone.

Although many members of the STC team did, in fact, move on to other endeavors, a small number reunited for a special independent short film project titled WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS.  The cast included STC alumni VIC MIGNOGNA (Captain Kirk) along with veteran Trek actors JOHN “Q” DeLANCIE, REKHA SHARMA (from Star Trek: Discovery and the new Battlestar Galactica), and MICHAEL FOREST (who played Apollo both in the original series episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and also in the first full-length STC episode “Pilgrim of Eternity“).  STC cast member (and writer) KIPLEIGH BROWN was initially slated to appear in Train… but had to pull out at the last moment due to a family emergency.  She was replaced by Rekha Sharma.

Also boarding the Train… cast were STC alumna ÉMIE MORISETTE, who appeared in the final two-part episode of STC, along with voice-over actor DARREN JACOBS, whose vocals were part of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Dunkirk, and Papillon.  Directing Train… was STC director/writer/producer extraordinaire JAMES KERWIN, and STC‘s make-up supervisor and producer, LISA HANSELL, served as producer for Train…

An Indiegogo last November reached its $43,000 goal with just eight hours to spare, allowing the campaign to extend indefinitely as “In Demand” status.  Since then, their donation total has grown to more than $51,000…allowing them to not only film all the scenes but also to wrap up post production and release a completed film, which happened in mid-September in a special early release perk for certain donors.  The rest of the donors (like me) got to view it as a private download early this past week.  And let me tell you, it was EXCELLENT!  The 20-minute film was expertly crafted with an engaging story that provides a wonderful Twilight Zone twist at the end.  It’s definitely worthy of viewing.

So when can YOU see it?

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