Last time, in an attempt to catch up with fan films’ answer to The Flash, SAMUEL COCKINGS—who has premiered EIGHT different (and very impressive!) releases of his TREK SHORTS fanthology series already this year—I published the first of three consecutive blogs to cover four of his recent fan film offerings. Here are links to the blogs for Sam’s 2023 releases that I’ve already spotlighted…
The most recent blog covered Broken Reality, the first part of a trilogy of Star Trek/Stargate crossover fan films from Sam. That release (from May) starred EMMA THORNE as Ensign Laura Reed, MATT MILLER as Ensign Stuart, and RHEA KHEEHN as the Starfleet Computer.
Today Sam and I will be discussing First Meeting, which was released in late August and stars, once again, Emma Thorne as Ensign Reed encountering for the first time NIMRAN SAUND as Lieutenant Anna Keeley. Also appearing in the film is Sam’s father, STEVEN COCKINGS, as the TOS-era Lieutenant Lee Galloway (along with some random Romans). Before we continue our interview with Sam, let’s take a look at First Meeting…
Even though the awesome fan film THE THOLIAN GAMBIT from the British Minister of Visual Effects, SAMUEL COCKINGS, came out nearly six months ago, I’ve been saving it in my back pocket in order to combine today’s interview into a series of three interviews, each with one of what I was originally going to collectively call “Sam’s Women.” Instead, I’ve decided to use the monicker “The Women of TREK SHORTS.” Either way, the three actresses have all proven themselves to be very impressive performers, certainly some of the highest caliber among Star Trek fan films.
(And yeah, I might be missing a few female fan film leads, but trust me, that list is waaaaay shorter than the list of male captains and lead actors…kinda like Star Trek itself, to be honest.)
So let’s give Sam Cockings credit for casting three very talented female actors as leads and captains in his various fan films, including his recent parade of Trek Shorts releases. Speaking of which(!), just a friendly reminder that Sam is trying to raise $35,000 for a series of even MORE awesome Trek Shorts (plus the final release of CONVERGENCE), and he’s 11% of the way there as I type this. I encourage everyone reading this to click on the link below and donate at least a little something. There’s some very nice perks, but mainly, Sam and this team just make incredible fan films, and we’d really like to see more…!
Today’s Part 1 blog turns the spotlight on NIMRAN SAUND, or “Nim” for short. Her first Trek fan film dates back to 2013 when she filmed scenes for Sam’s excellent TEMPORAL ANOMALY, which was eventually released in 2019. Since then, she’s reprised her character of Keeley (or rather, Keeley’s 24th century descendent) in A LONG WAY FROM HOME, ONE SMALL STEP, and a cameo in the INTREPID episode “PURSUIT OF A DREAM.” And most recently, Lt. Anna Keeley got a promotion to Captain in one of the first Picard season two fan films, The Tholian Gambit…
We don’t see much Deep Space Nine in Star Trek fan films. Sure, we get the occasional reference to the Dominion War, as in the Czech fan film SQUADRON, but we typically don’t get to see the U.S.S. Defiant or Deep Space Nine itself. Part of the reason is that it would be nearly impossible for fans on a tight budget to recreate those massive Promenade and Ops sets on the station, or even the smaller bridge of the Defiant. And up until now, there hasn’t really been a decent virtual option to show a CGI background behind an actor filmed against a green screen.
You did notice that I said, “up until now,” right?
CGI Master of the Universe SAMUEL COCKINGS has already become legendary in our community for supplying industry quality visual effects at ridiculously affordable prices for countless Star Trek fan productions (way too many to list, so don’t ask…just look on his IMDb page). Now Sam is becoming just as well known for compositing green screen footage of actors against elaborately realistic 3D backgrounds of familiar starship and shuttlecraft interiors…and his latest interior is the bridge of the Defiant.
Sam pioneered and refined this skill in time collision Star Trek fan film TEMPORAL ANOMALY. He then crowd-funded a crossover film, CONVERGENCE, combining characters and story elements from five different Star Trek fan productions. Unfortunately, repeated COVID quarantines in the U.K. and Europe have prevented all of the actors from getting together in the same place at the same time for filming, and that project remains still in production.
However, that didn’t stop Sam from crowd-funding a second project…or rather, a set of projects. TREK SHORTS would be a series of vignette fan films, shot with smaller casts featuring only one or two actors on screen at once. The successful Indiegogo campaign took in $12.7K intended for the production of SIX separate short fan films. One of those films, the 19-minute A LONG WAY FROM HOME (did I say “short”?), premiered during the campaign and featured four actors, none of whom appeared on screen at the same time…making this technically a “fandemic” film.
But even isolating the actors from each other didn’t solve all of Sam’s COVID problems. On multiple occasions, an actor would test positive, and plans needed to change…often a the last second. This resulting in two “bonus” Trek Shorts releases, HOURS AT WARP and STARGATE SG-1: NEW MISSION (a prequel to a Trek Shorts universe crossover fan film).
Most recently, Sam released yet ANOTHER “bonus” Trek Shorts episode, not previously announced in the Ingiegogo campaign. It features scenes on the U.S.S. Defiant bridge plus a shot of Deep Space Nine at the end, a true rarity in fan films. Take a look…
Okay, this is a totally wild story (or rather, series of stories)! But first, if you haven’t donated yet to SAMUEL COCKINGS’ Indiegogo for his TREK SHORTS project, you have just a few short days left, and he’s only about $2K short of his goal! Two new small donation perks have just been added, so please try to help him cross the $10.5K finish line before March 31…
At the beginning of this month, Sam—fan film’s answer to Scotty, Geordi, Miles, B’Elanna, and Trip all rolled into one Brit—released the first of his Trek Shorts: A LONG WAY FROM HOME, starring NIMRAD SAUND, NICK and LUCITA COOK from the INTREPID fan series out of Scotland, with a cameo by MICHELE SPECHT form STAR TREK CONTINUES. The 19-minute film looked amazing, with jaw-dropping VFX, strong acting, and FANtastic virtual 3D backgrounds.
The Indiegogo, if successful, will fund an additional FIVE Trek Shorts fan films starring notables from such fan series as the AVALON UNIVERSE, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, DARK ARMADA, and Sam’s previous project TEMPORAL ANOMALY. It’s a really exciting and ambitious project, and the campaign got off to a strong start in its first week.
But by the second week, things were slowing down a bit. So Sam decided to quickly put together a teaser-trailer for Trek Short #3, “Hours to Doomsday,” which would star MARCUS CHURCHILL, reprising his role of Ensign Sam Harriman from Temporal Anomaly, along with Nimrad Saund as Lieutenant Keeley. Sam scheduled them both to shoot some footage for the fan film at his home studio on Thursday, May 13…and all was set. Sam had cleared his schedule for the next two and a half weeks to work on nothing else in order to release the teaser shortly before the campaign ended.
In Part 1, we began discussing the new TREK SHORTS fan film A LONG WAY FROM HOME. And whoever said that the CBS guidelines “killed off” all Star Trek fan films obviously forgot to inform SAMUEL COCKINGS!
With the talent and ingenuity of Willy Wonka and the uncanny productivity of a factory full of Oompa Loompas, Samuel has lent his considerable VFX skills to more than TWO DOZEN different Star Trek fan projects in five different countries on three different continents! In his “spare” time, Sam is also the co-host of the long-running and prolific TREKYARDS video podcast series. And in his “other” spare time, Sam also created the ambitious fan film TEMPORAL ANOMALY, six years in the making!
In late 2018, Sam successfully crowd-funded $7,385 from 114 backers for another ambitious fan project, this time a crossover bringing together characters and storylines from five different Star Trek fan series. Called CONVERGENCE, part 1 was filmed in 2019 prior to the pandemic. But part 2, requiring travel of cast members to England from the United States, Holland, and Scotland, was indefinitely delayed due the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent quarantine orders.
This didn’t stop Sam, though. Wanting to release something that could be produced during the pandemic, Sam came up with the concept of Short Treks, high-quality StarTrek fan films produced on shoestring budgets utilizing Sam’s prodigious CGI skills for exterior starship VFX combined with actors filmed remotely both on location and in front of green screens with super-realistic digital backgrounds composited behind them.
But Sam wasn’t content to just make one fan film; he got it in his head to create SIX separate stories, each set in different periods of Starfleet history with different characters and starships. And so Sam launched an Indiegogo with a $10,000 goal. And with 10 days left, Sam is about two-thirds of the way there with more than 100 backers. If you haven’t donated yet and have a few bucks to spare, the perks are pretty cool. Here’s the link (pass it around to your friends, too):
But Sam couldn’t wait for the campaign to fund before releasing the first of the six Trek Shorts fan films: A Long Way from Home. It stars NIMRAD SAUND (from Temporal Anomaly) and NICK and LUCITA COOK (from the fan series INTREPID), as well as featuring MICHELE SPECHT (from STAR TREK CONTINUES). It’s a really well done production, having already generated more than 27K views on YouTube in just three weeks. Check it out…
SAMUEL COCKINGS is the distilled essence of the truest of Star Trek fans—gifted with an amazing talent that he enthusiastically shares with other Trekkies in the form of stunning CGI animations which appear in an endless parade of fan films. Indeed, it’d probably take less time to list the major fan films that Sam DIDN’T work on than those he did! (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but if you want the complete list of every Trek fan film that Sam has turned into CGI gold with his digital Midas touch, just check out Sam’s IMDb page.)
In addition to providing VFX animations for innumerable Star Trek fan productions, Sam is also the co-host of the amazing and engaging TREKYARDS series of podcasts. And if you don’t know what that is and you’re a Trekker, you are totally missing out!
But beyond just helping out other productions, Sam has also been trying his hand at creating some fan films of his own. Back in 2013, he began work on what he was calling STAR TREK: TEMPORAL ANOMALY. It took him 6 years to complete it, and thanks to a call from CBS’s lawyers, he had to remove the words “Star Trek” and a few other things (click here to find out more and to view the finished fan film). But Temporal Anomaly was nevertheless a groundbreaking project, taking virtual backgrounds to an entirely new level for fan films.
In late 2018, Sam launched an Indiegogo for an ambitious new fan film to be titled CONVERGENCE and featuring a crossover of FIVE different Star Trek fan production. It ended up raising $7,385 from 114 backers and was supposed to be completed by now. Of course, it was funded before the world turned upside-down and had to shut down amidst a global pandemic.
With Convergence still paused in the middle of production, Sam surprised the fan film community at the beginning of May by launching yet another Indiegogo campaign, but this time, it wasn’t funding just one fan film but SIX!!! The series of unrelated anthology stories will be set in different time periods of Trek from TOS to the Wrath of Khan era to the Dominion War to the Enterprise-E encountering another “Doomsday Machine” planet-killer. Calling the anthology series TREK SHORTS, Sam announced participants from various other Trek fan series including: INTREPID, AVALON UNIVERSE, STAR TREK CONTINUES, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, DARK ARMADA, and of course Temporal Anomaly.
After just two weeks, the campaign is already about 40% of the way to its $10,000 goal with more than 60 backers. And if you’d like to be one of them (I am!), the perks are cool, and the project is really exciting. Here’s the link to donate…
In fact, the project is SO exciting that Sam couldn’t even wait for it to fund before releasing the competed first of the six Trek Shorts: A LONG WAY FROM HOME. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look:
Let this be a lesson to all of you crowd-funders and would-be crowd-funders out there: ALWAYS check your campaign pages…not just once but often!
When SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Sensei of CGI, launched his new Indiegogo for his ambitious SIX-episode TREK SHORTS project (six fan films for the price of one!), he included an absolutely amazing and snazzy pitch video. I mean, it’s a totally MUST-SEE pitch video, with the kind of jaw-dropping CGI that’ll leave you drooling plus clips of cast members spanning Trek fan films from four different countries on two different continents. There’s catchy music, exciting behind-the-scenes details, and even a hilarious ending.
Just one small problem: the Indiegogo campaign page lost the link to the video!
Had the video been linked, fans would have seen this…
Sam has no idea how it happened. The video was up there when he first launched it. But I visited the page and donated just a few hours later, and I didn’t see it. I just assumed there wasn’t a pitch video. After all, they’re not required.
Even without the pitch video, the campaign still managed to raise about a third of the $10,000 goal in just 10 days, which is certainly impressive. But I kinda wondered why it wasn’t doing better. However, there were still three weeks left, and I was prepping a two-part interview with Sam to help promote the campaign.
By the way (before I forget!), if you want to donate, here is the link:
Fast forward to Monday, and I was preparing the Sam interview for later on this week (you will definitely want to read this two-parter, trust me!). While questions and answers were going back and forth across the Atlantic, Sam typed the following…
SAMUEL – I’m particularly pleased with the Norway bridge as seen in the Indiegogo pitch video.
And then the following exchange happened…
JONATHAN – What video?
SAMUEL – The video on the Indiegogo page. It’s in the part where Jakub says we have made it in 3D.
Why am I so pumped about this new Indiegogo campaign from TREKYARDS‘ SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Brit who doesn’t quit when it comes to CGI animation? Well, first of all, it’s Sam Cockings! What he can’t do with a 3D starship just isn’t worth doing, people! But here’s the real reason you need to donate to this project:
IT’S NOT JUST ONE FAN FILM…IT’S SIX!!! AND ALL FOR JUST $10K!
How can Sam afford to produce SIX different fan films for just $10K (or whatever the heck that is in British pounds)? Well, actually, one of these films is already finished as a proof of concept. So you’re really just paying for five new fan films and reimbursing the costs for the sixth. But take a look at the incredible quality of the one that was just released:
You’ll probably recognize the four main actors in this fan film. There’s NICK COOK and his real-world wife LUCITA COOK on board the U.S.S. Intrepid from the long-running Scottish fan series of the same name. There’s NIMRAN SAUND, who did an amazing job back in 2013 filming scenes for TEMPORAL ANOMALY(which was released in 2019). And finally, making her triumphant return to fan films, the much beloved MICHELE SPECHT from STAR TREK CONTINUES plays a brand new character.
And that’s just ONE fan film!
Honestly, I don’t know why Sam is calling them “short.” The first one is pretty much pushing the 15-minute time limit imposed by the fan film guidelines. But I suppose if ViacomCBS can call their 15-minute mini-episodes Short Treks, Sam can make his just as long and call them Trek Shorts.
Anyway, to answer the question of how Sam can afford to make multiple releases for the price that some fan filmmakers raise for just ONE project, the answer is simple: virtual sets. But not just any virtual sets. Over the years, Sam has been collecting and developing some of the highest quality and most realistic virtual set models anywhere, which you can see from the above video. In fact, that’s where most of the funds raised will be going: 3D models of backgrounds and starships (which do cost money to create, as they are very time-consuming). Once Sam has them, he can animate and composite green screen footage of the actors. But paying 3D modelers is like paying for props or costumes…the time-consuming labor is not free.
The rest of the money raised will be used for the aforementioned props and costumes, studio equipment, cast expenses like travel, and catering…all done “on the cheap,” as it were.
So what will the other five fan films be about? Glad you asked…!
I bet you didn’t see this coming! Well, at least I certainly didn’t. But most fans were taken completely by surprise last week to see a 90-second sneak peek at a fan film that seemingly no one knew about: A LONG WAY FROM HOME. Well, that’s not entirely true. Show-runner SAMUEL COCKINGS, the CGI wind beneath many fan filmmakers’ wings, knew about the project (because it’s his project!) as did the actors from the fan film community who will appear in it. This includes NICK COOK from the long-running fan series INTREPID, as well as NIMRAN SAUND from Samuel’s previous fan film masterpiece TEMPORAL ANOMALY.
Nick and Nimran are also both slated to appear in Samuel’s next “mega” fan production, the five-way fan film crossover event CONVERGENCE. But delays due to various issues (including COVID) have caused the release date to be pushed back quite a bit. So we weren’t really expecting to see anything from Samuel for a while…well, if you don’t count all of the other fan films he’s been working on lately like: STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION: “We Are Many,”THE ROMULAN WAR: Part 1, the AVALON UNIVERSE, YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE: “Endosymbiosis,” and lord knows what else at this point! Oh, TREKYARDS…don’t forget those podcasts!
So, yeah, we weren’t really expecting a brand new, unannounced project from Samuel, let alone one with an actual completed trailer that looked and sounded amazing! See for yourself…
With nearly 2,000 views in the first week, there with 165 likes and only one dislike on YouTube! When have you ever known only a single Trekkie out of thousands to have any complaint with something Star Trek related? (And who the heck is this person???)
Anyway, I had a lot of questions for the British Boy Wonder of CGI. So let’s hear what Samuel had to say…
At midnight Pacific Time last Friday (while I was on East Coast time in Atlanta…don’t worry, folks, Axacon coverage is coming later this week!), the 5-way crossover fan film CONVERGENCE finished up its Indiegogo campaign with $7,385 from 114 backers! This was a third over their posted goal of $5,500, and allowed them to surpass two stretch goals. The first (at $6,000) would cover the Indiegogo fees and perk production costs, meaning that all $5,500 could go to the production itself. The second stretch goal ($7,000) will fund both a new late TNG/DS9 era uniform for actor Jim Von Dolteren (of a quality to match the others) as well as a special behind-the-scenes bonus video with interviews, bloopers, and “making of” features.
Even though Indiegogo offers the “In Demand” status for any campaign that exceeds its goal (meaning, you can continue raising money even after your campaign “ends”), sh0w-runner and Hobbit ring-bearer (to bring them all, get it?) SAMUEL COCKINGS has decided that he’s now got enough to make this happen. So the campaign is now officially closed.
As you might remember, Samuel was contacted by a concerned CBS when they saw the trailer to his other upcoming Trek fan film TEMPORAL ANOMALY. And even though discussions with CBS were cordial, and Samuel reached an agreement when Temporal Anomaly could be released with some changes and is now allowed to exceed the 30-minute runtime limit, Samuel prefers not to poke the bear when it comes to the Trek copyright holders. He set out to raise $5,500. He did so, got a little extra to improve the finished project, and now he doesn’t need to keep taking in more money.
On the final day of the campaign, Samuel released a sneak-peek “test scene teaser” showing what Convergence will look like when finished. Well…kinda. Y’see, it’s a TEST scene, and it still needs quite a bit of work. Samuel says it’s got the wrong LCARS, it’s missing a Master Systems Display, a dedication plaque, and possibly some extra crew members in the background. The sound and music aren’t finalized yet either. “It’s a work-in-progress (WIP),” Samuel told me with the enthusiasm of someone tackling a challenging project that he’s really excited about. And I’m also excited!
And I think, after you watch this sneak-peek video, even though it’s still rough around the edges, you’ll be excited, too…