I’m just kidding about you being nuts, Randy…well, kinda kidding!
If you look on the Internet (I’ve heard some people are doing that now), you’ll eventually run into a meme of DANNY DeVITO wearing a white wig pretending to be a pretentious art collector named Ongo Gablogian. It’s from an episode of the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the quote is:
Artists must suffer for the art. That’s why it’s called PAINting!
Well, if PAINting includes clicking multiple points with your mouse on literally tens of thousands of individual frames from a Star Trek fan film, then yes, RANDY LANDERS, showrunner of POTEMKIN PICTURES, has certainly suffered for his art. More precisely, he suffered for the most recent release from the STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group, “SNOWBOUND.” After filming, this fan film took an entire YEAR to finish!
Have a look…
Now, you might watch the above fan film and say, “So a bunch of Trekkies in Lexington, Kentucky went out on a day when it was snowing, shot some scenes, and turned it into a five-minute fan film (not counting opening and closing credits.) What’s the big deal?”
The big deal, my friends, is that it WASN’T snowing when Randy Landers shot it! Here’s what it looked like before Randy’s year-long odyssey of post-production began…
And here’s what it looked like after…
Of course, that’s just one still-frame. As I said, there’s nearly FIVE MINUTES of that!!!
So the obvious question this time out is: how on earth (or whatever planet that is) did Randy manage to accomplish this chilling feat? And since Fan Film Factor is mainly about fan filmmakers’ journeys getting from there to here, it’s time for another chat with Mr. Landers…
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.
If you strip away the opening and closing credits, the 18th fan film from the STARSHIP DEIMOSCreative Group has a runtime of barely more than three minutes. But really, if you think about it, how long does it take to say “Merry Christmas”?
Interestingly, Christmas is rarely seen in Star Trek fan films, despite having been established in Star Trek Generations as still a part of 24th century culture, at least on Earth. So why not do a Christmas-themed fan film? Oh, they’re not unheard of, to be sure. In fact, one year ago, the cosplayers over at STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTIONS INTERNATIONAL released their holiday-themed “fandemic” film (recorded by each actor remotely) titled PEACE AND GOODWILL.
This year, it was Starship Deimos‘ turn. Let’s take a look at their Christmas card…
I reached out to showrunner RANDY LANDERS with some questions. He, in turn, reached out to episode writer and lead actress VICTORIA AVALON as well as producer LEE DREW. So let’s dive into a good ol’ fashioned yuletide fan film fireside chat (on the Internet)…
JONATHAN – What inspired you folks to create a Christmas-themed episode for Deimos?
VICTORIA – Deimos’ viewership is fairly small, and most seem to be very traditional Trek fans. I write largely from TOS and TNG inspiration, and that appeals to them. I’ve had feedback very positive for spiritual references in other stories. Similar to my character of Siân Gabriel, I’m Episcopalian in upbringing, and I often draw on Anglican Christian mythology in writing. My husband and I co-wrote and self-published a high fantasy novel in 2009 that explicitly drew on those themes.
I originally intended an old fashioned Christmas message that would have included shots from all the crews in our various productions. During the holiday season, you see those sorts of things all over local television; I suppose it comes with having grown up in the southern U.S. It’s traditional in the Southern culture I grew up in.
RANDY – I saw it as a chance to send a Christmas card out to the POTEMKIN PICTURES fans. But not all the casts and crews wanted to do it. We respected that, so I made the decision that this would be Deimos‘ Christmas card. And I think it works, especially in the light of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations).
JONATHAN – It looks like “Together in the Night” was pretty quick to shoot. In a recent interview for DREADNOUGHT DOMINION (another fan series that Victoria appears in), she mentioned that she drives 15 hours from central Florida to Kentucky for Deimos shoots. I’m assuming Victoria didn’t drive all that way just to record 3 minutes of dialog. Did “Together in the Night” piggyback on any other shoots?
VICTORIA – The vignette was shot at the same time we shot “Leviathan,” and it also was motivated by our desire to do more with RENDA CARR’s character of Maura Drake, who didn’t have a significant part in “Leviathan.” It also brought in more character backstory both for Gabriel and Drake, and our viewership have suggested repeatedly in comments I’ve seen that they enjoy those personal references and building characters.
RANDY – I had just finished directing and running camera for “Leviathan.” It was a six-hour shoot, and my blood sugar was all out of whack. I excused myself, went upstairs, took my 4pm shot of Victoza, and sat down for an hour. I left the directing and camera in Victoria and Lee’s capable hands. I think they did a good job with it.
JONATHAN – That they did! Now, I know you were searching for somebody new to help out with your CGI. The last two episodes have VFX credited to DAN REYNOLDS of THE FEDERATION FILES. Is he your new ongoing VFX guy?
RANDY – We have three VFX folks. Dan stepped up to the plate with “Leviathan,” and we’re delighted with his work. He also did the VFX work for “Together in the Night,” and I intend to ask him to do the VFX work for our upcoming fan film “Prime Directive.”
JONATHAN – Well, that’s a perfect segue to my final question: what’s coming next from Deimos and from Potemkin Pictures?
LEE – As Randy just mentioned, Deimos has another new script from Victoria called “Prime Directive.” We have already shot principal scenes with the Deimos crew, and now we are waiting for additional scenes to be shot with our Klingon crew to finish the shoot. I think that this will be our best production ever thanks to a wonderful story from Victoria.
RANDY – As to what’s in the works for Potemkin Pictures, we’ve got “Opportunity” in late post-production (music from TONY LUNN and sound from RICK FOXX) from STARSHIP WEBSTER coming soon. We also worked a lot with pickup shots and edits for PROJECT: POTEMKIN‘s “Castaway.” I’m also continuing to work on Webster‘s “Snowbound” with special effects from RICHARD SVENNSSON.
Beyond that, we’re filming with a new creative group, STARSHIP CALIBORN, coming up in January. It will be unlike anything we’ve done before, and BILLY SWANSON is its showrunner.
We also will have a number of KLINGON SCOUT SHIP QAB’ELTH (created by Victoria Avalon) films coming in 2022. We have scheduled a Klingon shoot in February with LAWRENCE “Larry” FLEMING reprising his role from “The Solomon Gambit” as Klingon captain Le-Kat, in fact. It won’t take long to edit, and we should have it out sometime in the Spring of 2022.
JONATHAN – As always, lots of exciting things on the horizon from Potemkin Pictures! Thanks, everybody, and have a very Merry Christmas.
Chalk up another fan film release for POTEMKIN PICTURES, and the fifth in just over a year for the STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group. The Lexington, Kentucky-based team of actors is the eighth such group to assemble for Potemkin releases, and as you’ll discover in today’s interview with showrunner RANDY LANDERS, they won’t be the last!
Their latest release is a fun little jaunt that includes a bunch of Gorn, a landing party, and less than five minutes of actual footage shot on location in Belleau Woods Park in Lexington. Who says you can’t make a fan film that runs less than 15 minutes???
But what I found particularly intriguing was the use of “breather masks” for the Webster planetary reconnaissance team. During this time of COVID, masking up is an effective way to stay safe—but it doesn’t always make for good cinema. After all, unless you’re Darth Vader or Spider-Man, you kinda need your face in order to act and show emotions. However, when masks work in your story, they can serve multiple purposes in addition to keeping the cast COVID-safe.
First of all, they add a little bit of “real science” into your science fiction, since the odds are actually very slim that every alien planet you visit will contain a class-M breathable oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere. And second, if you’re filming outdoors and don’t have good mics or sound equipment, masks allow you to record dialog later on (a process known as ADR) and not have to tear your hair out trying to make certain that the dubbed dialog matches the lip movements from the original footage.
“Breather masks” were used for the first time during the pandemic about a year ago by the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION in their film “We Are Many.” Now they appear in the latest release from Starship Webster: “Landing Party. Take a look…
With 58.5% of the country’s population fully vaccinated, many fan filmmakers have gone back into production without masks—at least when the cameras are running. (I know of several that are still requiring crew on set to be masked and actors to be masked while not actively filming a scene.) So I was a little curious about what prompted the Webster team to mask up in front of the camera, as well. And for that, as usual, I reached out to Randy Landers…
The STARSHIP DEIMOS has been flying around the fan film sector for more than five and a half years now…ever since their first release on March 9, 2016. It came on the heels of the new fan series STARSHIP TRISTAN, which had debuted just four months earlier. Both productions sprang from the venerable POTEMKIN PICTURES, which had already, by that time, released thirty episodes of their debut fan series, PROJECT: POTEMKIN.
Since that time, Potemkin Pictures has spawned an additional SIX series of Star Trek fan production teams with nearly two dozen episodes of their own. (You can access all of the nearly-100 Potemkin fan films from their website.) But by far, the most prolific productions came come from the teams making Tristan and Deimos. Tristan released their most recent fan film (their 21st overall) this past March, but Deimos had been running silent for nearly a year…since last Halloween, in fact.
That changed on September 24, 2021 with the release of Deimos‘s 17th fan production, LEVIATHAN. It’s a good ol’ fashioned ship-in-peril-from-a-spatial-anomaly story, and it’s very well-acted. It was filmed on the new Potemkin Pictures sets in Lexington, KY. Check it out…
Time to ask showrunner RANDY LANDERS some questions…!
All told, the latest episode of STARSHIP TRISTAN, “36 Hours,” is the 90th(!!!) fan film from the fine folks at POTEMKIN PICTURES (and you can watch all of their releases here on their website). Their very first fan series, PROJECT: POTEMKIN, ran for 36 episodes…beginning all the way back in late 2010 and wrapping up six years later.
Tristan was their second fan series (now referred to as a “Creative Group”), beginning in late 2015 and still going today. Of all of their remaining eight groups, Tristan has the most releases, with “36 Hours” being the 21st production overall to be posted to YouTube.
But “36 Hours” almost didn’t happen!
I mean, it got filmed, but it almost didn’t get completed and might have had to be scrapped…and this would have been a true pity, as several of the actors in it won’t be able to continue to be involved now that show-runner RANDY LANDERS—along with all of the sets—have relocated 6 hours north from their former location near Birmingham, Alabama to Lexington, KY.
This blog tells the story of how this one fan film was saved from digital oblivion during post production. Some fans are aware that that are three phases of development for a film project: pre-production (planning and getting everything ready), production (actual filming), and post-production (putting the pieces of the puzzle together and making sure everything looks and sounds good). You might think that, once you’ve shot all of your footage, that editing and post-production are fairly simple and straightforward. Well, it turns out that sometimes things are quite a bit more challenging.
To help tell this “story behind the story,” I have two fellows who helped make “36 Hours” happen. Randy Landers was the director, executive producer, and co-writer; and RICK FOXX was co-executive producer and also co-writer. However, in addition to sharing writing credits, Randy and Rick also shared editing duty—although you’ll only find Rick’s name as editor in the credits. Why is that? You’ll need to read the interview below.
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 DEIMOS, STARSHIP ALEXANDER, STARSHIP TRISTAN, HOSPITAL SHIP MARIE CURIE, BATTLECRUISER KUPOK, STARSHIP 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?)…
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…
Look out, pardner, ’cause there’s a new Trek fan series in town! But don’t you dare call it a “series”—’cause those pesky guidelines don’t like us doing series. So instead, let’s call it what POTEMKIN PICTURES calls it: the STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group.
This newest gang of fan filmmakers takes its place beside the other seven current Potemkin creative groups—including DEIMOS, ALEXANDER, TRISTAN, MARIE CURIE, BATTLECRUISER KUPOK, TRITON, and ENDEAVOUR…releasing (prior to the pandemic) an average of a dozen combined fan films each year going back more than half a decade! (You can access all of the previous Potemkin Pictures releases by clicking here.)
The various Potemkin Pictures productions have seen three bases of operations over the past ten-plus years. Things began in Albany, GA with their first fan series (back when you were allowed to call it that), PROJECT: POTEMKIN. When show-runner RANDY LANDERS moved to Alabama, some of the production team stayed in Georgia while others migrated to Alabama and various new creative groups formed.
Then, last year, Randy and his wife moved again, this time to Lexington, KY. This has allowed a whole new assemblage of fan filmmakers—writers, directors, producers, actors, make-up and costuming people, set builders, etc.—to join in on the fun in a brand new location. But there were certain unanswered questions.
Would Randy be able to find enough local fans and actors to support a full creative croup?
Would all the sets survive the 425-mile “trek” from Alabama to Kentucky and then be able to be properly rebuilt/reassembled?
How long would it take to get their first fan film completed, and what would the new starship be called?
What effect would the pandemic have on production?
With the sets all located in a new state—6 and a half hours’ drive away from the previous location—would the other creative groups be willing or able to continue making their fan films?
Obviously, it’s time to talk to Randy Landers again! First, though, take a look at the premiere episode from the Starship Webster Creative Group, “Launch”…
I try to cover each new fan film from POTEMKIN PICTURES soon after it’s released. But with seven different creative groups all working simultaneously, occasionally I’ll miss one or two.
I had this somewhat embarrassing realization a couple of weeks ago when I went to watch the latest offering from the STARSHIP DEIMOS creative team, “Butterfly Effect.” It was quite good (as are nearly all of the releases from the Deimos team). And I noticed that this particular episode was written by VICTORIA AVALON, who plays Captain Gabriel of the USS Deimos. Victoria had written all but two of the first eight episodes of Deimos, but I hadn’t seen her name as writer for a while (I checked, and it’d been about two years). Victoria—who also helped write the STARSHIP FARRAGUT episode “Conspiracy of Innocence” back in 2014—writes some very strong scripts, and “Butterfly Effect” was no exception.
But when the episode ended, YouTube (as it usually does) automatically loaded up another video, and it was another episode of Starship Deimos: “Blood Crystals.” I let it play, and remembered that I’d started watching it back in February, but I’d never finished it…and I totally forgot to blog about it! Oy vey. It was also a very good episode.
Then YouTube loaded another Deimos episode for me, “The Solomon Gamble” from last October. I’d never watched that one at all! Then I went to check my blogs and discovered, much to my horror, that my last Deimos blog was last June(!!!) about their episode “Children of Eberus.” I’d missed covering THREE new episode releases. Oh, the shame!
So here they all are, in the order they were released over the past seven months…
I noted that, in the past seven months, while Deimos had just released their THIRD completed fan film, the other Potemkin creative teams were trailing:
MARIE CURIE – 2 episodes (November and March)
TRISTAN – 2 episodes (December and April)
BATTLECRUISERKUPOK – 1 episode (November)
ALEXANDER – 1 episode (February, but that was the series premiere)
TRITON – 0 episodes (most recent was May 2019)
ENDEAVOUR – 0 episodes (most recent was December 2018)
I remembered asking Potemkin show-runner RANDY LANDERS at one point about this inconsistency, but many of my current readers might not have read his original answer. So I decided to ask Randy again, this time wondering if his and his wife’s recent move from Alabama to Kentucky might have affected the schedule and perhaps have spelled the end for one or more of the above-listed fan teams (and remember, we DON’T call them fan series!).