Wednesday 5 March 2014

Welcome to the Future

A great deal of the fan-made productions right now are relying on the (cheaper to film) Original Series as the basis for their stories.

One exception to this rule is a project that has only recently come to light (in the last couple of months) in the form of Star Trek Futures.

Ok - brief overview time; it's certainly different, making a nod to alternative realities rather than the staple of the Prime Universe we've been familiar with since 1966. Now we could easily just waffle on and copy some stuff direct from the Futures website but we're not like that as regular followers will appreciate. So let's get to the core, let's get into the background and really understand the concept. Now I'm not the best person to tell you about what makes it all tick however I do know a man who can. Put your hands together and welcome Dan Thale to SKoST Towers....

How long has Futures been a dream before it started to take form? What was your inspiration?

Armin Es'al (Cae Ambassador)
To start off some of my biggest on screen influences excluding Star Trek are 2001, Blade Runner, and the anime, Cowboy Bebop. The initial idea of doing a film dated back to 2012 and originally the project was entitled The Red Planet and didn’t involve Star Trek at all. The spark of influence for that project came from an article in regards to brutalist architecture construction during the reign of the Soviet Union. (Google that and tell me those buildings don’t scream SciFi at you.) Anyway, the elements from this original story are structuring the main plot in Star Trek Futures. So this includes the Cesera system, the three different groups involved, and “retro” look and feel of the Cae.

In that story the protagonist experiences a loss and thus has a different view of the world around them. Sound familiar? Being a huge Star Trek: The Next Generation fan it dawned on me that I was telling the story of Wesley Crusher. However in The Next Generation Wesley never really knew his father. So mid to late last year (2013) I decided to scrap most of The Red Planet idea and rewrite it as being a Star Trek first, story.

Why the JJ timeline?  Is it the JJ timeline?!

To accomplish the story of bringing Wesley and his father together I needed a clean slate. So yes in a nutshell, it is the JJ Timeline. Or you can think of it as just one of the emerged alternate universes from the TNG episode, “Parallels” if that gets you in a tizzy. Anyway, you can say what you will about the new timeline and those movies, our story stands alone and only has a few things in common with those stories; namely the destruction of Vulcan and some costume influences. I think I always connected with Wesley and wanted to explore the possible relationship between him, Jack and Beverly. In whatever form it takes, a supportive family really molds an individual and I wanted to give Jack a chance to be a father.

Are we expecting some serious stellar action here?

The short answer is yes, there will be action, but the majority of the cinematography will be focused on telling the story through dialogue and appropriate framing etc. As my influences have shown you don’t necessarily need big flashy action sequences to get a story across. Additionally action is expensive and thus has to be treated with the utmost restraint. The story that we are attempting to tell is based on mystery, intrigue and seriously deep running emotions.

Is it significant that we are on the Enterprise-C and why that ship?

There are a few explanations for using the Enterprise-C. Firstly, we only saw her on-screen once in Yesterdays Enterprise. This was surprising to me as the craft carries the name Enterprise (the flagship of the fleet), yet it's seen less than other ships of that period. So I knew I wanted to shine the light on her. I also thought that the Captain Garrett character deserved the same treatment. Secondly, I had found out that the ship that we do see in Yesterdays Enterprise was not the original design for the Ambassador class. 

The original design was done by Andrew Probert during the first season of The Next Generation. Since he had left the production by season three and various other reasons the design was changed to the model most associated with the Ambassador class. I really wanted to use this original design as I feel it is superior to what we see on-screen. Just a personal opinion. Also, setting our story in the alternate timeline gives a simple explanation as to why "our" Enterprise-C is different than what we've seen before.

Jack Crusher
How will the Crushers differ and can we expect some familiars to turn up? Picard, Pulaski? Riker?

The Crushers will obviously have a different dynamic since Jack is now in the picture. Through the limited lens of The Next Generation we know that the relationship between Jack and Beverly was incredibly deep and strong. So we'll get to see that. We'll also get to see Wesley as a younger child who is just coming into the age of real deep human emotions and awareness of serious consequences from his actions.  Other than the four characters, Jack, Wesley, Beverly, and Rachel Garrett, there won't be any other characters from previous Trek. Personally I feel to incorporate characters that were incredibly popular, yet are too far outside of the integral story ends up hurting the feeling of the film. At some point it just turns into fan service, which is not what this project is about. My train of thought in this regard - If it's not important to the story then it's not going to be on screen.

What makes this different to all the other fan fiction series? It's quite a cluttered market at the moment -  surely there's a lot out there to contend with?

Wesley Crusher
I agree that the fan film space is a little cluttered at the moment.... but that's a GREAT thing for Star Trek

In my opinion the more Star Trek that is out there the better. That being said Futures will be vastly different from other fan films. We aren’t trying to compete whatsoever with other productions. It will have a look and feel all it's own and to my knowledge, we are the only production taking place in this time period or even with these characters. We aren't trying to recreate anything, get CBS to notice us, or impress the audience with high-end techno-babble. We are going to tell our story in the way that we feel fit and not be beholden to any previous dogma of what Star Trek should and shouldn't be. It'll be modern, artistic and passionate.

What's the concept and idea behind these more Star Wars Empire coloured uniforms? Is that a hint of movie uniform style? 

1. Budget - to use the original Wool Elastique and color of the Monster Maroon it would have just cost too much money. It was also difficult to find the correct color.

Beverly Crusher
2. Reusability - I knew we would only be able to afford a set number of these uniforms as they have a reputation for being quite labor intensive to assemble. So we couldn't make two or three for each main cast member. So I knew we would have to come up with a design that could easily be reused. The lower armband showing rank is removable, the second set of rank insignia are on the collar of the uniform and not the jacket itself. There are some edging details that are being minimized and simplified to make it a little easier for our tailor.

3. The Collar - It seems as though in every Star Trek series some designer creates a costume that lacks a collar. Eventually they end up adding one and it improves the look of the character ten fold in my opinion. Take Odo from Deep Space Nine for example. Weird long necked shapeshifter in the first couple seasons, they add the collar and he looks instantly more professional like a proper law enforcement official should. Also an issue I had with the original Monster Maroon uniform was when an officer took off his or her jacket there wasn't anything on them to denote rank. Now that the The Next Generation style pips are on the collar this solves this problem. This also goes for any of the flash back stuff we see in The Next Generation.

4. Mix and Match - I know I'm gonna get it for this one, I like the grey dress uniforms in Star Trek Into Darkness, but I also like the uniforms from Star Trek First Contact.  So I split the difference between the two and came up with the grey.

5. Something Different - Why not?!

This looks like it's going to be DARK...?

Dark - Yup 

What's your next major goalpost?  How will this be funded? Any perks for donations ala Kickstarter or Indegogo?

Right now we are solely focused on building the look and feel of this new world, writing the screenplay, and gathering the best equipment we can for our budget. We've just begun creating costumes and physical props. In regards to the short film, and everything up to the completion of that, Star Trek Futures will solely be funded by myself. I'm going 110% on this project so literally every bit of cash I have is going into this. So in that vein, the goalpost would be to complete the short film. 

Post short film, we're going to do a Kickstarter with some cool rewards for backers. We're looking at having some "propaganda" style posters made up as well as some little 3D printed models of the Enterprise-C, Cae cruiser, and the Ra'Zae battleship. We're still working on the designs for the ladder.

Is this a set arc storyline?

Yes absolutely. The story is going to take place over five episodes and will have a clear overarching serialized format.

Are we looking at sets or CGI /blue screen and what resources in the Star Trek universe have you been tapping to get this off the ground? What makes this interesting for the techie Trekker?

When inspecting the landscape of current fan films I noticed that a lot of the films rely heavily on CGI backgrounds. Not to say that this is a good way of achieving a setting, but I firmly believe that if you really want to pull your audience into the world you need a physical set with physical things to interact with the actors. Proud to say that I was a handyman for about five years so I definitely know my way around lumber and power tools. 

So suffice it to say, the goal is to create as many physical sets as possible. Couple that with the style of filming we are going to use I believe that we'll be able to create a believable set using the limited resources we have. We've already begun working with some talented people to create some Star Trek VI style lighted LCARS panels as well as some fantastic matte paintings. 

Again, harking back to some of the other fan films; there is a clear reliance on techno-babble. Personally I love all of it, but we are really trying to appeal to a wider audience and will NOT rely on tech driven dialogue. That being said, we will definitely be throwing a bone to those hardcore techie Trekkers. So not to worry, there will be plenty of plasma manifold malfunctions and dilithium instabilities. :)

Isn't doing this in the more The Next Generation century going to be more expensive than Phase II or Continues? If so, why/why not?

Not necessarily, but everything costs $$$. We are heavily inspired by some of the classic SciFi movies of the late 70's which don't necessarily have big flashy lighted sets and such. The way that much of physical design of costumes and set pieces is being flushed out now. We enjoy brain storming different ways of creating amazing looking stuff on our hairline budget.

Cesera Prime
Are we right in thinking the show will be set in a fixed set of locations with an arc story something akin to Deep Space Nine?

Yup you are exactly correct. The entire story takes place inside the Cesera System which resides on the far side of the Beta Quadrant. It is about 10 light years from the Romulan Neutral Zone and is situated between Starbase 123 and 174.

So who's come up with the artwork so far and have you got any teaser images we can use?  How did you get them on board and  what more will be coming?

We have an amazing concept artist named Markus Lovadina. I found him after an exhausting search of His landscapes, as well as his character concepts really stood out to me. I immediately knew that he was the right man for the job. He has been simply incredible and  has been completely instrumental in flushing out the vision for Star Trek Futures. I've stuck solely with just him because I really wanted too have a singular vision and style for all the artwork. In my eyes it's important to have a high level of quality as well as consistency. 

Our work flow begins with me writing out a description of what I am looking for. He then extrapolates on that, asks any questions, and does a first draft. Then it gets tossed back and forth as many times as needed until I'm happy. I have to say that I can be incredibly picky in regards to artwork so I sincerely appreciate his constant show of patience. I can't draw to save my life so he is an invaluable asset to Star Trek Futures. We are on a weekly release schedule for publishing artwork so always expect something new mid-week. Artwork can always be found at our website as well as our other social media pages.

The Futures certainly looking good and our thanks to Dan for taking time out from his schedule to talk to us about this unique project. From what we've learnt here and through their media outlets this will certainly be a challenging project especially, if not only because of the choice of time period in which the arc will be set. With such prospects we'll be sure to keep track and update our followers as the Crushers return to the stars...

For more information on Star Trek Futures take a stroll over to their sites and pages which we've listed below.

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