Category Archives: Amateur Web Series

The Beautiful Farewell to Star Trek

You ever stumble across something really stupid that, nevertheless somehow manages to fill up a hole inside you that you never knew was there?
 
It’s no secret I don’t like Star Trek, and the reason is obviously that I loved it once, as a kid. I’ve considered all subsequent Treks to be disappointing or flat out awful, and I abandoned the franchise somewhere around 1993 or 4. I like amateur films and videos and things, so my only exposure to Trek in the 21st century was through Fan Films, which primarily had nostalgia value, and mostly suck. Eventually there were just too many of these, and they were all too awful, and I drifted away from them.
 
Fan Films have always been illegal (Copyright infringement) but generally not prosecuted. A year or so ago, Paramount decided to start enforcing their rights, and now they’re verbotten. Nobody’s making ’em anymore. Nor will they.
 
Now, the slickest bunch making ’em was a semi-pro outfit out of California called “Star Trek Continues.” Despite the actors not looking much like their TOS originals, and some occasionally dodgy production values, it *felt* like Trek. It was really good, but I lost interest. Over 5 years they made about 10 episodes. Their final episode was said to be the last one of the golden age of fan films, the last one anyone could get away with, which just squeaked by under the wire. I decided, ‘what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.’
 
Now, when I was 10, 11, 12, I adored Trek. Obviously I wanted more, but like everyone else of my generation I really wanted “Seasons 4 and 5” more than movies, or spinoffs or whatever, right? Even still, I long ago made peace with the fact that it wasn’t gonna happen. And love TOS like I did, even as a kid I was aware that it had a lot of problems. I wasn’t blind.
 
But you know what I wanted? The thing that was secretly buried in my heart all this time? A hole in me that I never even noticed was empty? To my surprise, it wasn’t *more* Trek, nor more TOS.
 
I wanted a conclusion.
 
I wanted a solid end to the original show. Not a reunion movie, or anything like that. I wanted the Final Voyage of the Starship Enterprise at the end of its Five Year Mission.
 
And I got it. Holy crap, did I get it!
 
“To Boldly Go…” is a two-part episode. Without spoiling it, the Enterprise’ mission is complete, and it’s heading back to earth when it gets called aside to investigate strange goings on. It bookends the entire series, revisiting some of the circumstances of the “Where No Man Has Gone Before…” and there’s an extended callback to “The Enterprise Incident” that works really well, but the story is all new. Those elements simply serve to bring things full circle, to give a very well-earned sense of completion.
 
The sets are flawless, as are the costumes, the script hits all the right ’60s beats (Though with some modern flourishes, and with some ’60s narrative flaws that I think have to be intentional), the soundtrack (Mostly culled from old episodes) is perfect. It is a bang-on production, and honestly I had no difficulty believing this was the final episode of TOS (Which presumably would have aired in the spring of 1971)
 
At some point, about a third of the way through, the continents shifted inside me and this stopped being a fan film, and *became* TOS. It wasn’t about nostalgia, it was about an end to the epic and the epoch that had been dangling and incomplete in my mind these last 40 years. I never noticed, presumably because shows didn’t have finales in those days. They just *stopped.*
 
This, though, more important than ‘more Trek,’ this was the conclusion I’d never known I was missing. At some point, perhaps halfway through, my ten-year-old self showed up, and we watched it together, me remembering what it was like to be that young, and the other me forgetting what it was like to have grown so crusty and cynical about something I’d once loved.
 
So we watched it, and neither of me can say whether it was really objectively all that good. Both of us thought it was, but both of us were far too close to it emotionally to really be sure. In a way it didn’t really matter if it was good or not (Though, again, I think it was very good), rather it was about fixing that leak inside me. It was about closing that door that had been banging in the wind all these decades, and doing it with a sense of contentment and finality.
 
The final scenes set up ST:TMP, but I don’t care about that kind of continuity. It’s well done, but I don’t need it. What I do need is Kirk, Spock, and McCoy standing alone, talking about what happens next.
 
What I needed was Kirk requesting a desk job because he can still see the faces, and remember the names of all 78 people who died while he was captain, and he just can’t throw people’s lives away like that.
 
What I needed was was Bones retiring because “I’ve seen too much death, and I haven’t seen my daughter in five years.”
 
What I needed was a heartbroken Spock retiring to Vulcan because he’s been tainted by human emotion to the point that he just can’t take it anymore.
 
What I needed was these three guys having been *changed* by their voyage, saying goodbye to the people they were when they started, and moving on to the next stages in their lives.
 
What I needed was them coming home. What I needed was me coming home.
 
Trek is done for me now. There is no more. It ended here, now, last night, on Youtube. None of the subsequent stuff exists. This is all I ever wanted without knowing it, all I never knew I needed. It’s done.
 
The episode ended, and rather than the usual music playing over the closing credits they just played the normal background bridge noises. Then that ended, too.
 
Then I sat there in the darkness, staring at the screen in bittersweet silence for a long time, feeling something I hadn’t felt in 30 years, and smiling all the way through, body, mind, and soul. 
 
And then the ten-year-old version of me got up, walked out of the house, and quietly closed and locked the door behind him.

AMATEUR FILM: “Panic Attack!” (2009)

Sometimes we start reviewing stuff, and suddenly we realize that it’s actually just easier to show it to you. Click on through for aliens and giant mighty-fighty robots attacking Uruguay. How can you lose?

This film was put together by Fede Alvarez for $300. Once word of mouth got around, he was hired by Sam Raimi to direct an as-yet-undecided-upon $30 million feature film.

It is rumored that this eventual movie will the the long-rumored “Evil Dead” remake, but really no one seems to know what’s going on there, so just don’t fret about it. Sit back, relax, and watch South American cities ‘splode all purty-like.

How I’d shoot a low-budget film, if I was shooting a low-budget film, which I’m not.

Even though I’ll never make a movie, I’m ever on the lookout for some interesting visual locations that are both practical and cheap and exotic and (preferably) obscure.

Ideas I’ve diddled around with in the past:

1) a detective movie with all the interiors filmed in various public buildings designed by I.M. Pei

2) A 80s-styled teen sex comedy filmed entirely indoors, inside completely-enclosed 80s-built structures (Shopping malls, enclosed schools like Countryside High, Airport terminals, bank lobbies), all of which (Through clever editing) would appear to be directly connected to each other, as though everyone lives inside some huge hotel/condo/airport/mall/campus complex. (The only external shot would also be the only FX shot in the movie, as we truck back through a window and see that the entire city is in a series of huge domes on the surface of a hell-like Venus.

3) A straight-script version of Othello filmed in various abandoned locations in wintertime, with a lot of snow on the ground. Places like Chernobyl (Obviously only a few on-location shots), downtown Gary, Indiana, the abandoned sections of Detroit, and some of the more senic abandoned locations in Japan.

4) Something filmed using these locations http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/worlds-most-beautiful-subway-st… in lieu of any kind of external street, crowd, or city shots. Again, like 2, it’d appear as though the whole world is one huge connected subway system, with food courts and apartments built into it via clever editing. No idea what the story would be. The idea just struck me.

In all of these cases, the location has nothing to do with the story. The Teen Sex Comedy is *just* a Teen Sex Comedy, the fact that it’s on Venus is entirely subliminal, except for the last shot, which itself is gratuitous. But the idea of filming it entirely indoors in a kind of 80s-opolis is interesting. Likewise, there’s absolutely no reason my version of Othello would take place in a burned out, abandoned, decrepit world, other than it’s interesting visually. The reason for shooting an entire dectective movie in I.M. Pei public buildings is simply because they have a similar, but varied architectural style, and hence set a unified and interesting visual theme for the movie.

I’ve had a long love of truely low-budget, really-indie films (As opposed to modern independents, which are more like the minor leagues for the major studios), with budgets around $3,000,000. I’m a product of my generation in that regard, and hence I’ve always kind of had an eye for maximizing the budget while still being visually distinctive.

So how ’bout you folks? How would you maximize your visual pop with VERY limited resources? Sound off below!

So what ever happened to “Polaris?”

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaars ago, on a Trek fan film page, I first heard mention of “Polaris,” an amateur SF film that was being made. It sounded *similar* to Trek, but was wholly independent and not set in the Trekiverse. I don’t remember where I first saw this, but every so often the producer/creator whould show off a new prop or whatever.

I looked forward to it, and then I forgot about it.

I got to wondering today whatever became of it, and hunted around a lot and found basically this  http://www.starshippolaris.com/wordpress/?p=982&cpage=7#comment-45709 and a few short SFX tests on Youtube. The last news on the project was that filming wrapped three years ago, and then not a peep out of anyone insofar as I’m aware.

Does anyone know if it’s still a going concern? Are they going to finish it? What’s the deal? Does anyone even know where to look for more information? ‘Cuz I’m curious.