Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Trekzone's "Feeling" Good?


A couple of years back now I just couldn't move for the number of fan films that were piling onto YouTube and spent a LOT of time watching and reviewing the variety of crews, actors, effects and stories that flowed through the Star Trek universe.

That all changed in light of the Axanar incident which led to restricting fan films to limited times, a maximum number of instalments, strict alignment on uniforms and many, many more points. It made it more than a little challenging for budding movie makers to step into the Star Trek sandbox...

In the works for 12 months, Trekzone, the Australian-based Star Trek site and YouTube channel, has premiered it's fan flick, Once More with Feeling.

Coming in at a shade over 12 minutes it's well within the guidelines nailed to the wall by CBS but this is one production that actually does something very different and you won't see it coming.. 

The basic story is that student Alicia (Chloe-Jean Vincent) finds and meets with a Starfleet captain to further her course research and what follows is Captain Donovan Lindsay (Jeremy Levi) recounting an encounter between the USS Sydney and a Cardassian starship at the very end of the Dominion War.

Written and directed by Trekzone's Matt Miller, Once More with Feeling is not a straight fans-on-a-sound-stage Enterprise bridge set but subverts expectations with the live action sequences of the film seeing the crew of the Excelsior Class USS Sydney facing towards the camera (with the set depicted on a screen behind them) and giving a dramatic reading of the events rather than physically acting it out. That and the point that they're all dressed in clothes of today rather than Starfleet uniforms which is a striking feature of this work.

I'll admit I had to watch it through twice just to get this real curve-ball way of telling a Star Trek story into my head and understand what was going on. In all honesty I'm still not 100% comfortable with it because it's such a big departure from what you think is coming but I have to applaud Matt's bravery for thinking - and getting people to act - outside of that expectation box and that's precisely what Star Trek is about - unique and different is good. You can't view this decision as anything but positive since it's not treading the path that every other fan film ever has before (no cliche intended).

Once More with Feeling will not be remembered as groundbreaking when it comes to the story but I firmly believe it will be for going outside the norm and trying something different. Maybe the cast could have done without using the script papers or maybe doing away with the green screen background and going truly behind the scenes as I felt it detracted from the abilities of the actors and also from the rather excellent CG supplied by Samuel Cockings from Trekyards with the mix of visual aids at times.

Once challenge I do have with Once More with Feeling is the opening section. It radiates a sense of multiple concepts - the storyboard-style images, the green screen and actual physical situational acting which almost conflicts against the rest of the story. Maybe the arrival of Alicia (Vincent) could have been played out as narratively exercised as the main bulk of the show to keep a theme running through rather than incorporating the unseen door and movement.

Not only that but this opening piece bears a striking similarity to The Visitor.

The influence of the pre-titles sequence of that Deep Space Nine classic is all over this segment which is also scored by the great Star Trek composer Dennis McCarthy. The student searching out the older character for answers followed by a flashback story is a strong echo whether intentional or not. Jake disappeared from public life just as the Sydney's captain has been off duty for six months. Did it need the opening piece? Yes, because it's relevant and while the actors are great it does come a little close to screened material homage or not.

The ending to the latest Trekzone offering leaves everything open for a sequel (which the fan guidelines do allow) and I am interested to see where it goes although there's a little bit of the dynamism and excitement lost because this is more of a behind-the-scenes reading than the expected dramatic and more physical expectation.

As a first attempt this is a great piece of work to show what a low budget can produce when you have a script, some green screen and a talented CG producer. For the next one I'd love to see Matt Miller streamline the behind-the-scenes dramatic reading format a bit more and create a bit more lineage for the series in a set style rather than bouncing between a couple of visual formats. For example there's no real need for the crew to simulate the ship being hit if this is being portrayed as a dramatic reading - it feels inconsistent in where it wants to sit likewise with the door opening and use of the "unseen" medical instrument.

Matt and his cast and crew cannot be faulted for effort or ingenuity on this one and I wish them every success on the second feature which will learn a great deal of information from this foray to make part two even more epic and story driven. Admittedly it's not sat easily with me because it has really played with my expectations. It is a very different and clever way of working to the guidelines and 100% is unique but if you're looking for actors on a Star Trek set then this might not be quite what you're looking for. 

Seen Once More with Feeling? What are your thoughts on "Australia's Biggest Fan Film"

Screencaps with kind permission of Matt Miller and Trekzone.org


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