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  • Writer's pictureDave Ellis

The Genesis of "359"

My first Star Trek fan film production was not the first Star Trek fan film I set out to make.

I was a film and television major in college, and I made my share of films and videos back in the day. Yeah, there was a distinction back in the mid- to late-80s. In my film classes, we shot on super-8mm sound film, and editing involved physically cutting and splicing actual film (of which you only had one copy, so you'd better not screw up). In my TV classes, we shot on video (VHS or 3/4 inch), and editing involved a couple of beefy videotape decks, three monitors, and a big controller with lots of knobs and buttons. Fun times.

Still, had Star Trek fan films been a thing back then, I guess I probably would have tried my hand at making one. Likely with pretty dismal results.

Anyway...I was a video game designer until 2015, and the games we worked on were often licensed titles based on big TV and film franchises like Adventure Time and Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. That meant I got to write scripts and direct VO sessions with a lot of voice actors. One of them, Vic Mignogna, was the creator and star of the amazing web series Star Trek Continues. I got to know him a bit, and he invited me to the set to watch them film a couple of episodes at their studio in Georgia, which is only six hours away from me.

Needless to say, I was blown away. I was experiencing two of my passions--Star Trek and filmmaking--at once. I started deep-diving into fan film culture after that, and just couldn't get enough. And, after Star Trek Continues wrapped and the studio (now known as Neutral Zone Studios) opened their doors to allow fans to shoot their own projects on Paramount-perfect sets, I knew I had to dust off my filmmaking skills and dive back in.

I wrote my script--a rather unique story set (sorta) in the Original Series era called Moonlight Serenade--and set the plans in motion to shoot it at the Neutral Zone. I was about ready to reserve studio times and hotel rooms... March, 2020. You see where this is going.

So, there I was wanting to make a my movie but locked down due to a global pandemic. In those early days, we thought the lockdown would last for weeks. When it started approaching a year, I knew I needed a plan B. And that meant finding a way to craft a Star Trek story that I could shoot without the cast having to gather in one place.

With all the Zoom calls we were (and still are) doing at the time, the thought struck me that video messaging was a pretty Star Trek technology. And that got me thinking about a story that was essentially "Star Trek on Zoom." What situation would warrant that? And that's when it hit me. People trapped in escape pods after the Battle of Wolf 359.

The initial script was done just a few days later, and (as I tend to do) I tweaked and re-tweaked it for months. My plan was to ship green screen equipment in turn to each of the cast members and have them record their parts on their phones with me directing remotely. But I dragged my feet--for over a year--until the lockdowns were pretty much over. I ended up shooting the entire film in my own green screen studio. (AKA: my garage.)

Next up (after the release of the film), I'll give you some insight on the production process itself.



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