Thursday, 25 April 2019

The Holy Core: The Return of the Fan Flick


Remember the days when SKoST used to wax lyrical about the next fan film? The next big adventure dreamed up by the people who love Star Trek the most?

I know, it's a long time ago and a certain set of guidelines that came into play following the whole Axanar debacle changed the face of fan-made productions and restricted the unending creativity of many a Trekkie wanting to wield a camera.

Recently coming to my attention has been the second venture into Star Trek adventures from the team that brought us Chance Encounter back in 2017. The Holy Core trailer has gone live this month and, as you would hope and expect, there's very little you can guess from the selection of snippets collected together.


My friend Paul (Laight) and l always made films together and we were looking to do another one as we tend to do one every few years just off our own backs, low budget and we fund them ourselves," explained writer/director Gary O'Brien. "We've done a lot of stuff over the years and we batted some ideas around about an older man meeting and talking to a younger woman. Now if you see that in films it tends to be something sinister and I wanted to turn that dynamic and make it a more positive thing. We didn't have a story or plot it was just that nugget of an idea as a central theme of what the film would be broadly."

Paul then took over at this point and one of the concepts that he introduced to it was a sci-fi angle which turned out to be Gary's favourite from the proposals and this then evolved into a Star Trek script.

Of course just to throw a spanner in the works, this was the time when the fan film guidelines came into play; "We ended up doing our first Kickstarter for Chance Encounter in May 2016 and we were halfway through that fundraiser when the guidelines came out." recalled Gary, "We allowed ourselves to be grandfathered in as we were already fundraising for the film and I'd have to look back but I don't believe we fell foul of any of the guidelines anyway."

Chance Encounter came out in 2017 but The Holy Core is a distinctly different beast to its predecessor.

"We were happy with how well received Chance Encounter was; it was our first Kickstarter, our first Star Trek film and it had a very small budget. We knew what we were doing as a film but didn't know what we were doing when it came to Star Trek fan films so we did it and put it out on YouTube. People seemed to like it even though Chance Encounter isn't the most atypical Star Trek story."

Gary felt that they were missing a lot of the common traits of the franchise in their first fan film foray; "There's a huge list of elements that you assume are going to be in there (Chance Encounter) but it's devoid of all of them and still feels like a Star Trek film."

It was decided to start a new fundraiser and with their new learnings plus a shuttlecraft set they stepped out once again with The Holy Core. "We were dipping our toe in the water with Chance Encounter so putting all the more Star Trek elements into The Holy Core isn't a conscious decision to put more elements in," said Gary, "It was because this was going to be Star Trek from it's very inception whereas the first one was an idea of a story about love and we could put a Star Trek skin on it. What we learned was that we didn't need to be so tentative and just do a full on Star Trek film and because of that all the extra elements follow from that decision."

With a new cast of six, this one's set to be more of an ensemble piece as with their previous work it felt that the bulk of the story was taken up with just two characters planetside.

"Everything was built on my front room," continued Gary in reference to the shuttle as well as the bridge station that we see in the trailer and has been featured on social media in the recent past; "It became a workshop for about a year!" 

The choice to set The Holy Core in The Next Generation era came about with Gary being a fan of that particular piece of the franchise and initially with Chance Encounter it could have been in any period at all; "I think that came down to the fact I had a The Next Generation tricorder and tunic so let's do that."

What they didn't realise at the time was that the choice to go with that meant that The Holy Core would also be set in the same frame due to the already built shuttle and assembled items.

"I'm not an expert when it comes to Star Trek fan films although I do think they did a fantastic job with Continues and the Prelude to Axanar was very well done. Aside from those I'm not too familiar with the rest but that said what will make The Holy Core different is that production wise it's going to sit just below Star Trek Continues I think. They have a lot of resources and put them to good use. We don't have the standing sets or stars that you will have heard of but what we will have is something that has the production values of that show along with a proper consistent story that flows and is hopefully well done."

In terms of CG, The Holy Core has also surpassed its predecessor with a damaged shuttle and even a Nebula Class starship making an appearance; "There's one beauty pass of a ship in Chance Encounter but that's about it. CG has moved on quite a bit since then and there's a lot more in this new production."

The film will centre on a race of beings whose existence is focused around their religious beliefs. Starfleet come along to fix their atmosphere following centuries of warfare on the planet. The two sides are finally coming to their senses and have reached out to the Federation to help them take the next steps. 

Said Gary; "Our Starfleet people will get different takes on what their beliefs mean and against that backdrop we have an adventure aboard the shuttle while the crew on the ship deal with a more moral dilemma. There's an A and B story; one is high spirited and one is more cerebral. It's a good balance and it moves along nicely. That's about as much as I can say without giving too much away!"

Reflecting on the time into which Star Trek Continues dropped the franchise was being handled at the time, Gary recalled that this was an era with very few but very divisive Star Trek material in the form of the Kelvin movies. "Continues, Axanar and Renegades capitalised on the fact that people wanted new Star Trek material and that was what drove those to their successes. If our Chance Encounter film had come out at the same time as those big boys I suspect we might have got a bit less attention because they were so dominant and had names attached. Our one might have fallen by the wayside. 

"With releasing The Holy Core now with Discovery and these other shows slated to be coming in quick succession I'm not sure [about how it will be received]. I think that people who will watch a Star Trek fan film are clearly the minority of people who watch Star Trek and some would never watch a fan film anyway. We're not really in competition with anyone right now and we're not vying for attention between real Star Trek and us."

And what about a third instalment?

"I've thought about that myself," concluded Gary, "I've not ruled it out. I think if I do another one we will have to find a way to up our game in terms of production level. There wasn't a big gap between finishing Chance Encounter and starting The Holy Core. I've had help from some great people but I've being doing a lot myself and it's been a full time job but I don't think its feasible to have two months off and start again. If we can up the game then I would love to but I need a break!"

The Holy Core is due for release within the next few weeks...you an find out more by taking a look at their website right HERE


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