Two new TREK SHORTS: “FALLEN HEROES” and “LEGACY OF THE ENTERPRISE B” (video interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS and MARCUS CHURCHILL)

SAMUEL COCKINGS is certainly the Speedy Gonzales of Star Trek fan films…assuming Speedy Gonzales is from Great Britain. Sam produces fan films so quickly that I barley cover one release when another two take its place!

Actually, this time it’s three, but this blog deals with only two of them, which I’ll explain shortly. But first, a little background on Sam and his TREK SHORTS fanthology series…

Unlike some fan filmmakers, Sam doesn’t have access to practical (physical) Star Trek sets—which is actually a GOOD thing! Without being locked into a specific era of Star Trek like TOS or TNG/DS9 or Voyager or PRODIGY or PICARD, Sam ends up having access to ALL of them!

How?

Well, Sam is an accomplished CGI master, specializing in animation but also knowing a bit about 3D modeling and having access to a number of skilled 3D modelers. Together, they have managed to create countless digital backgrounds of bridges, transporter rooms, mess halls, shuttles and runabouts, you name it(!) from two centuries of Starfleet history. And all of this along with starships and enemy vessels for spectacular outer space VFX. Watching Sam’s CGI animations is truly like watching fine art!

So all that’s really left for Sam to do is write scripts and film actors against green screens, right? Actually, there’s SO much more that he does, including properly lighting the green screen shots (not easy!), making digital adjustments during post production to levels for both the actors and the digital backgrounds to look seamless and realistic, equalize sound, add music, edit, and a ton of other little things…and still get these fan films out faster than I can cover ’em! Oh, and there’s one other thing that Sam does, and that’s direct. Sam has aligned himself with a number of very skilled actors, adding a wonderful depth and quality to already-high-quality productions.

If you’d like to watch any or all of Sam’s Trek Shorts fan films, you can access them from this YouTube playlist. One of Sam’s most recent projects was the quickly-written-then-filmed-then-edited-then-released FLIGHT OF THE PROTOSTAR, the first-ever Prodigy-era fan film That one I managed to cover, as it was just after Prodigy had been canceled. But three other of Sam’s films haven’t gotten their own blogs yet. I am now going to remedy that for two of them.

The two Trek Shorts in the spotlight today both star MARCUS CHURCHILL, also of Great Britain, who has been appearing in Sam’s Star Trek fan films ever since the 2013 shooting of the green screen footage for TEMPORAL ANOMALY, which was finally completed and released in 2019. Since then, Marcus has reprised his role of Sam Harriman (at different ranks during the character’s career) in a number of other projects for Sam. One of the most recent was FALLEN HEROES, a retelling of the film Star Trek Generations from a “lower decks” perspective. Take a look…

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With PRODIGY abruptly canceled, a fan rushes to release the first LIVE-ACTION Prodigy fan film: FLIGHT OF THE PROTOSTAR! (interview with SAM COCKINGS)

Star Trek fans were shocked this past week when Paramount unexpectedly announced the immediate cancelation of the animated STAR TREK: PRODIGY series prior to the release of any episodes of season 2…and then quickly removed the show entirely from its Paramount+ streaming service.

The announcement included additional details that production of the second season of Prodigy was nearly complete, and that the property would be shopped around by CBS Studios as a 2-season package to other streaming services and networks. And so the reason for taking down the 20 completed episodes from Paramount+ was to make Prodigy a more attractive and valuable commodity for purchase.

And if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon…

Anyway, Prodigy was always the “great experiment” at Paramount. One of the first and only series to simultaneously debut on a regular broadcast network (Paramount-owned Nickelodeon) as well as streaming on Paramount+, the idea behind Prodigy was to attract a new generation of young Star Trek fans, introducing them to the five-decade-old franchise a little at a time through the eyes of a crew of kids who, themselves, slowly discover what Starfleet is and the fascinating history of the United Federation of Planets.

The plan (hope?) was that these young viewers would get so curious about Star Trek that they would beg their parents to subscribe to Paramount+ so the kids could watch more of the shows. (Someone might have wanted to explain that strategy to everyone who inserted F-bombs into DISCOVERY and PICARD…just sayin’.)

Perhaps ironically, in trying to present a window into Star Trek‘s long history for new viewers, the creators of Prodigy inadvertently created a fan-favorite series that, more than any of the other CBS-produced new series, hewed much more closely to established canon. Older fans (lime me!) loved the new show.

Apparently, however, the numbers weren’t quite as strong when it came to the kids (or else the show wouldn’t have been canceled). And can you blame the younglings for not jumping on board after an airing schedule of five weekly episodes, followed by 2 months of nothing, then another five weekly episodes, then 9 months of nothing, followed by ten weekly episodes? Kids tend to have short attention spans to begin with!

Many fans were frustrated and angry—furious actually!—and moved quickly to set up #SaveStarTrekProdigy. Petitions are circulating, memes are meming, and one fan filmmaker rushed to produce the first-ever Star Trek: Prodigy live-action fan film!

SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Brit with Grit and co-host of the TREKYARDS podcast, has been passionately producing a parade of phenomenal fan films with eye-raisingly accurate CGI-generated digital backgrounds and jaw-dropping VFX animations under the banner TREK SHORTS. (You can view those fan films here on this playlist.) This past Friday, after a week of sleepless nights, Sam released FLIGHT OF THE PROTOSTAR, a love-letter to the show and (hopefully) a salient message to the suits at Paramount that there is more support for this series then they might suspect…

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TREK SHORTS’ newest release “THIS SIDE OF MORALITY” is a father/son project! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

Perhaps you can call SAMUEL COCKINGS “the hardest working person in Star Trek fan films.” I mean, sure, there’s a lot of fan filmmakers who work REALLY hard on these time-consuming projects, but even if there’s someone else out there who’s putting in more hours than Sam, the race is at least gonna be close!

And that’s because not only is Sam doing the CGI visual FX for such fan films and series as AVALON UNIVERSEDREADNOUGHT DOMINION and PROJECT: RUNABOUTTALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, the two most recent releases from AARON VANDERKLEY of Australia BEYOND THE SUN and OUTBREAKSQUADRON from the Czech Republic, INTREPID from Scotland, the amazing THE ROMULAN WAR, PART 1 (and the soon-t0-be released Part 2), and the upcoming FARRAGUT FORWARD, Sam is ALSO putting significant amounts of time into his own Star Trek fanthology series, TREK SHORTS. The fan films he’s released so far under this banner are:

The final two fan films in the above list were written and produced in a mock documentary (“mockumentary”) format much like PRELUDE TO AXANAR and The Romulan War, where a major event is described through an interview with someone who witnessed it.

And now there is a third mockumentary in the mix, this one titled THIS SIDE OF MORALITY, and it’s full of firsts for Mr. Cockings…and indeed, for TWO Mr. Cockings! I say “two” because Sam’s father, STEVEN COCKINGS, stars in the film.

This is not the first time Steven has appeared in one of Sam’s productions. In fact, he’s been in several of his son’s films, including the aforelisted A Long Way from Home, Sam’s epic TEMPORAL ANOMALY, and Sam’s recent Stargate Universe film NEW MISSION. Steven has also appeared in cameos in a surprising number of other Star Trek fan films that includes The Romulan War, Part I as well as STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER and YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL.

With so many previous appearances, this latest release marked the first time that Sam gave his dad a leading role! And Steven did a FANtastic job. It was also the first time that Sam used digital CGI recreations of major Star Trek characters and the first time a Trek Short has ventured into the 23rd century, as Sam’s previous short offerings were all 24th and 25th century Star Trek. Sam also included a few other digital “tricks” which we’ll discuss shortly.

But first, let’s take a look at This Side of Morality

And now, appearing for the umpteenth time in an interview on Fan Film Factor, the one-and-only Samuel Cockings…

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CHAOS AT THE NEUTRAL ZONE…the most ADORABLE technobabble EVER! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

First off, you’ve still got about 24 hours left to donate to the TREK SHORTS Indiegogo! While the amount raised is still well short of its original $37K goal (or the equivalent in pounds, as Lord SAMUEL of COCKINGS lives in the U.K.), the campaign has seen a surge in the last week, doubling the level it was at when I published my previous blog about the new release DUTY CALLS.

So if you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, give the link below a click and toss a few shillin’s inta the ol’ collection hat, guv’nor (’tis Christmastime, after all, Mr. Scrooge)…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

And speaking of my last Trek Shorts blog, it spotlighted the adorable newcomer to Trek fan films EMMA THORNE, who plays the even more adorable Ensign Laura Reed. And if you thought they both couldn’t get any more adorable, then you need to watch the latest Trek Shorts release, CHAOS AT THE NEUTRAL ZONE

This is the second Trek Shorts “Memory Alpha Documentary” style release, the first one being THE BATTLE OF VELSAK 2, released back in October at the beginning of the current crowd-funding campaign. That one featured a monologue by NICK COOK recounting the battle from the perspective of Daniel Hunter of the U.S.S. Intrepid. Nick’s a strong actor and a fantastic guy…but he’s not nearly as adorable as Emma!

Now, one of the LEAST adorable things in Star Trek is what is affectionately known as “technobabble” by both fans and the writers. Star Trek: Voyager was full of it, but so, too, were TNG, DS9, and most of the rest of the Trek series. Actors dreaded having to deliver those tongue-twisting lines where the ship had to generate an inverse polyphasic neutrino burst through the starboard emitter array without blowing the EPS conduits and imploding the duonetic phase inducers on the aft side of the secondary hull.

But Emma somehow manages to to take those long lines of sciency-whiency gibberish and make them oh-so endearingly cute and lovable. I asked Sam Cockings about that and other aspects of this campaign-closing fan film release in the following mini-interview…

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The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 3: DUTY CALLS (interview with EMMA THORNE)

In the last of my triptych of interviews with the female actors who have been playing leading roles in recent releases of TREK SHORTS from VFX Minister SAMUEL COCKINGS, I turn the spotlight on newcomer-to-fan-films EMMA THORNE. (The previous two interviews were with NIMRAN SAUND and ALEXA BROWN.)

Now, Emma might be a newcomer to Star Trek fan films, but she is certainly NOT a newcomer to YouTube! In fact, Emma has spent the last six years building a following of more than 112K subscribers to her YouTube Channel, having posted in excess of 200 separate videos (most of them of quite decent duration)!

Sam noticed Emma on one of his many long stretches of editing his films when YouTube videos playing on the second monitor can keep him company. He liked her vibe and noticed her geeky props in the background, and he’d been wanting to expand the cast of regular actors/character in Trek Shorts. So he took a chance and messaged her on Instagram.

“She saw my rather detailed first message,” says Sam, “and because she has experience working in the VFX field, realised the quality of the shots I was sending. This wasn’t as amateur as the ‘Star Trek Fan Film’ name suggests. We had a wonderful Skype chat, and she was clearly curious but still a bit, ‘What is all of this?’ Now I’m thrilled to say we have shot on multiple days with multiple cast, and we’ve become good friends.”

The first Trek Short to feature Emma, DUTY CALLS, made its debut on YouTube at the end of September, and has already logged upwards of 42K views. Take a look…

According to Sam, “The reaction to her prologue short has been TREMENDIOUS! The You Tube algorithm rarely favours fan films, but when it does…amazing! We’ve had a ton of comments asking for her to do more, and I know Emma is pleased with this reaction because we have done more, and she didn’t know what the reaction would be—ha!”

By the way, before I forget! Sam’s crowd-funding campaign for Trek Shorts is struggling with about a week and a half left. It’s only about 15% of the way to its ambitious $35K goal, but with Indiegogo, you get to keep whatever donations you raise regardless, which is currently very close to $6K, which is still decent money!

But every little bit WILL help. So if you can afford to give even a little bit, it’ll go directly toward making some impressive Star Trek fan films…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

Continue reading “The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 3: DUTY CALLS (interview with EMMA THORNE)”

The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 2: THE ICARUS ENCOUNTER (interview with ALEXA BROWN)

Last week, I presented the first of what will be three consecutive interviews with the very impressive female actors who have played (and will continue to play) leading roles in the TREK SHORTS fan series. British Czar of CGI SAMUEL COCKINGS has created an ever-expanding buffet of eye-popping Star Trek fan films compositing performers acting in front of green screens with ultra-detailed and realistic-looking digital backgrounds recreating starship interiors from the 23rd through the 25th centuries of Starfleet history. Then he combines these live-action scenes with uncanny VFX shots to bring to life character-based stories in ways that few fan filmmakers can.

Before I go any further, this is a good time to remind readers that Sam is currently trying to raise $35,000 to make even more Trek Shorts. There’s less than a month left, so don’t wait to make a donation…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

Since the kick-off of Sam’s previous Indiegogo campaign a year and a half ago, he’s already released an impressive EIGHT Trek Shorts fan films:

And more will be completed and released soon, with several others waiting to be crowd-funded.

I covered The Tholian Gambit last week along with an interview with lead actress NIMRAN SAUND, who has appeared in no less than five of Sam’s films (see last week’s interview for links). This week, I turn our attention to another skilled thespian, the talented ALEXA BROWN, who reprises her role of Captain Joan Keller of the U.S.S. Vigilance for the first time in a Trek Short entitled The Icarus Incident.

Wait a second! Did I just says “reprises her role for the first time”? Yes, for the first time in a Trek Short. You might recognize Alexa’s character of Captain Keller from another excellent fan film from filmmaker GARY O’BRIEN (also of Great Britain), THE HOLY CORE, originally released in mid-2019. Sam brought in Alexa to play the same role in a Trek Short that was released back in August of this year, which you can watch below…

Pretty good, huh?

Alexa’s character is actually replacing the role of Captain Alexander Richardson, played by Dutch actor and showrunner of STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, ROBIN HIERT. Robin was supposed to appear in the mega-fan film crossover project, CONVERGENCE, which Sam had crowd-funded back in late 2018 and was delayed due to the multiple COVID lockdowns in Europe. “Robin was set to join us for our June shoot as late as January 2022,” explains Sam. “However, in February, Robin’s real life took over, and we didn’t hear from him for a long while. At that point, he left the project, but we had still set a June Convergence shoot, as we were long overdue.” And that’s when Sam reached out to Alexa Brown.

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The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 1: THE THOLIAN GAMBIT (interview with NIMRAN SAUND)

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.

But perhaps even more notable than their obvious talent is the fact that Star Trek fan films don’t typically present women as the leads. There have certainly been plenty of female actors who appear in a wide range of Trek fan films, but seldom do they sit in the center seat and/or become the main/sole focus of the story. There are, of course, some notable exceptions, dating all the way back to Captain Elizabeth Shelby in STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER, Lexxa Singh in STAR TREK: RENEGADES, Captain Sian Gabriel of STARSHIP DEIMOS, Captain Castille of STAR TREK: DECEPTION II, Captain Kara Carpenter of STAR TREK: AURORA, three of the four captains of the Czech fan film SQUADRON and Captain Shelby of the Czech fan film MYSTERIOUS ODYSSEY, Ensign Williams of THE RED SHIRT DIARIES, the two PROJECT: RUNABOUT fan films, Commander Alisa Vandre of PACIFIC 201, Captain Keller in THE HOLY CORE, and Aaron Vanderkley’s main character in LINE OF DUTY plus his captain in BEYOND THE SUN and OUTBREAK.

(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…!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

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

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TREK SHORTS releases THE BATTLE OF VELSAK 2 and launches new INDIEGOGO! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

CGI MasterChef SAMUEL COCKINGS has so much on his plate that he kinda needs an entire buffet table! If you watch Star Trek fan films, you probably see his awesome VFX work all over the place, most recently in the AVALON UNIVERSE, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION and PROJECT: RUNABOUT, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, the two most recent releases from AARON VANDERKLEY of Australia BEYOND THE SUN and OUTBREAK, SQUADRON from the Czech Republic, INTREPID from Scotland, and the amazing THE ROMULAN WAR, PART 1.

Even now, Sam is busy in the U.K. working on or preparing to work on VFX for the upcoming FARRAGUT FORWARD plus new releases from the Avalon Universe, Tales from the Neural Zone, Dreadnought Dominion and Project: Runabout, Aaron Vanderkley’s next Voyager-era fan film RESISTANCE, plus The Romulan War Part 2 and an under-the-radar TNG-era fandemic film from the U.S.

Tell me that isn’t a LOT of work!

Oh, I completely forgot to mention: Sam ALSO has a fan series of his own called TREK SHORTS!

Talk about WORK! Sam has released SEVEN films in the Trek Shorts series so far:

The final one has just premiered, starring NICK COOK (of Intrepid), who does an amazing acting job! It’s Trek Shorts first exploration of the mock documentary format—along with being a VFX feast for the eyes, as you can see below…

Just FYI, The Tholian Gambit, The Icarus Incident, and Duty Calls will be featured in a three-part blog series over the coming weeks as I interview the stars of those fan films one at a time.

Another Trek Shorts film (possibly two) will be released soon in support of Sam’s new Indiegogo crowd-funder, trying to reach an VERY ambitious goal of $35K. You can donate something yourself by clicking the following link…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

Interestingly, Sam did another campaign for Trek Shorts a year and a half ago, raising $11K to fund five fan films—and yet, none of those were among the seven that were already released! I’ll be asking Sam about that shortly. Note that a sixth Trek Shorts film debuted during the campaign, the aforementioned A Long Way from Home, but it was billed as a “bonus” release, as were the other films listed above.

Also interestingly, Sam is still working on his five-way crossover fan film CONVERGENCE, which raised more than $7K in an Indiegogo waaaaay back in late 2018…before COVID interrupted the production. I’ll also be asking Sam about that shortly.

Actually, why wait? Let’s bring in Señor Cockings and fire a bunch of questions directly at him…!

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What should I do when another blogger CRIBS off my homework? (editorial)

Okay, I am totally stymied about what to do about this—MATT MILLER is now cribbing off my blog!

It all happened yesterday (Tuesday for me) shortly after I published this blog about this past weekend’s shoot in Arkansas for the upcoming AVALON UNIVERSE fan film THE NEEDS OF THE ONE and also the long-delayed CONVERGENCE marathon of filming in Bedfordshire, U.K. JOSHUA IRWIN and his team had shared so many amazing photos and clips on the Avalon chat group of their martial arts fight choreography, and SAMUEL COCKINGS was posting lots exciting updates about his 4-day shoot with all of the Convergence cast. And I thought it would be fun to do a two-in-one blog update on both major fan projects.

So I reached out to both Josh and Sam for short quotes. Sam, exhausted and about to pass out at what was about 2:15 a.m. for him, managed to write me up something surprisingly coherent and send me a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos that no one in the community had seen yet. Josh, also exhausted after the first day at his new job (congratulations, Josh!) dictated some quotes to me over the phone as I typed his comments as quickly as I could. Then he sent me a short video clip of the the awesome fight scene that, like Sam’s BTS photos, hadn’t been shared publicly yet.

In other words, folks, I did the prep work required and then wrote and published the blog, just as I usually do. End of story, right?

Well, not quite…

I got a call Tuesday afternoon from Josh asking me if I’d seen Matt Miller’s post. “Nope,” I said, “I don’t follow Matt’s Facebook posts anymore.” Well, apparently Matt had taken my blog from the morning, split it into two blogs, re-worded it slightly, and posted what was essentially the same content to his TrekZone website. According to the time-stamp, Matt published his pair of blogs roughly five hours after mine went live.

You can access the blogs here and here to compare the content. Or just in case Matt pulls them down for some reason, here’s the screen caps…

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Two MAJOR fan film shoots on TWO CONTINENTS in one weekend!

I’m not sure what MOST of you did this past weekend, but I do know what a FEW of you were doing…and believe me, it was exciting!

In the mythical land of northwestern Arkansas, JOSHUA IRWIN was making movie magic with the cast and crew from the AVALON UNIVERSE. But this time, he was not shooting on the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS. No, instead, Josh and the team were inside of a martial arts gym filming what looks to be an amazing fight scene. Despite many such fights in TOS (Kirk punched almost as often as he kissed!), fan films usually shy away from dangerous stunt fighting because, well…it’s dangerous! But this fight scene is using real black belts and trained martial arts fighters.

Meanwhile, in the equally mythical land of England, across the pond known as the Atlantic Ocean, the Great CGI Wizard of Star Trek SAMUEL COCKINGS finally had all of the actors necessary—after nearly 4-years!—to shoot the raw green screen footage for the mega-crossover fan film extravaganza CONVERGENCE. Crowd-funded in late 2018, Convergence seemed to be cursed by delays in getting actors to England all at the same time and then by COVID. Indeed, in the meantime, Sam has shot the footage for and released many of the TREK SHORTS fan films that he crowd-funded in 2021! But Sam finally assembled the Convergence “Avengers” for a grueling and ambitious—but still fun!—four-day shoot near his home in Bedfordshire, U.K.

The two fan film shoots that took place over this past weekend couldn’t have been more different…and I don’t just mean the actors’ accents! One was shot in a practical location with physical stunts. The other was limited to the front of a green screen, constraining most exaggerated movement by the characters. One was set in the 23rd century the other in the 24th. And one was filled mainly with actors who have previous experience in fan films. The other featured mostly cast members for whom this will be their first fan film!

As a change of pace, I’m going to do a two-for-one blog, spotlighting both of these shoots on different continents by letting each of their showrunners say a few words…

Continue reading “Two MAJOR fan film shoots on TWO CONTINENTS in one weekend!”