This months Fan Film Follies spotlight was the Star Trek fan film. We continue as many of the talents behind these online offerings agreed to field questions on their individual creations. Gene Hendricks from Tales of the Seventh Fleet is today’s victim!
FAN FILM FOLLIES (through Christopher Moshier): Tales of the Seventh Fleet is one of the new kids on the block. Tell us a bit about your background and what got you involved with the online series Star Trek: Tales of the Seventh Fleet?
GENE HENDRICKS: I’m actually an engineer in real life and I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, which is where I met my wife, Michelle. We both got involved with the Justice through meeting Trish Tunis (aka Enigma) at a convention. We signed up and started going to club events. At several of these there was talk of a video project and we decided to help out. The rest, as they say, is history.
FFF: I must ask this first thing. There are no nessells on the USS Justice! Why are there no nessels?
GH: Ah, but there is. The Justice has one nacelle, on the ventral (bottom) side. If she didn’t have any, she wouldn’t be much use.
FFF: OH! Ok…I do see it now.
GH: The decision to go with a Destroyer rather than a larger ship was one made by Ed Tunis (aka The Captain) when he founded our club. Ed, like myself, is a huge fan of the Original Series and its accompanying Tech Manual. This manual, written by Franz Joseph, details Scouts and Destroyers as only having one nacelle. And, as we say on the Justice, we do more with one nacelle than most ships do with two.
FFF: Getting away from the show real quick and this is kind of off subject, but it just caught my eye. Shatner Ball? I had seen this advertised on PPV like a year or two ago. Is this like Trek Paint Ball?
GH: Sort of. The first Shatnerball had a Star Trek theme to it. The second one, which I played in, was based during the Wild West. The third, and last to date, was gangster themed. The overall term for this is Scenario Paintball, which is, essentially, Role Playing with paintball guns.
We (the Justice) actually play in a Star Trek Live Action Role Play (LARP) paintball game in both the spring and fall of each year. The gentleman that runs these games, Pete of PDQ Paintball, goes to great lengths to make the games feel like Trek, including give each item on the field a code that can be looked up on each team’s “tricorders” to find out what the item is. Those are some of the best games I’ve ever played in.
FFF: That does sound like great fun. For those who don’t have a clue what we are talking about go to Gene’s site at Tales of the Seventh Fleet scroll down to the bottom, and all will be made clear.
Ok. Back to your series! It looks as if it takes place more around the 2nd to 6th STAR TREK Movies. That is a lot different than most online series that either takes place during the original series or after DS9. Can You comment on that?
GH: Our series actually takes place about a year after Kirk is lost in the Nexus during Generations. We chose this time period, mainly, because nothing had really been done with it. We felt that we had a clean slate to work with and we’re trying to bridge the gap between the end of the movies and the Next Generation. That and the uniforms are the coolest ones out there.
That’s only the Justice, however. We’ve set up Tales of the Seventh Fleet (TotSF) to be a series about all different ships in different timelines. We’re hoping to expand our stories to include other ships in TOS, TNG, etc. Of course, that all depends on people. We’d like to be able to help those just starting out in fan films with what we’ve learned making ours. We’d help them write, shoot, edit, etc. their own stories, under the TotSF banner.
FFF: That’s awesome. Hopefully we can help you get the word out. Do you have a general story arc for Tales of the Seventh Fleet? Is there a clear beginning, middle, and ending in mind or is it simply a set concept and you’ll see where you can go with it?
GH: We know certain points we want to hit in our stories, but we don’t have a set timeline of things that must happen here or there. We’re mainly throwing situations at the characters and seeing what happens. Our stories are mainly character driven, which is the kind of thing I like to focus on. The most exciting story is useless without good characters.
FFF: If I had one critique on your fan offering and believe me I say this a lot to other fan productions is the acting ability. I think it really hinders being caught into the actual plot and characters. How do you plan on improving as you move forward?
GH: We’re trying to get more into the characters with each offering. I’m hoping that our acting will improve as we go, but that’s really secondary. I’d rather tell our stories with so-so acting than not tell them at all.
FFF: It reminds me a lot of when Hidden Frontier started. They have gotten much better over the years and I am confident that will hold true for The Seventh Fleet. Could you comment on the cast and the characters they play?
GH: Ed Tunis, who is the gentleman in charge of our little group, plays the Captain. The character is an Efrosian, the same race as the President in Star Trek 6, and it, to my knowledge, the only non-human ever commanding a ship that is the focus of a Trek series. The Captain is very cool and calculating, so he comes off as not feeling much of anything. This is completely the opposite of Ed, who throws himself into whatever he’s doing with full force.
Carl Stoeffles, our resident pain in the ass, is played by Dan Swift, who also does all the CGI for the series. Dan plays Stoeffles as the know-it-all jerk that everyone has met at one time or another. However, Stoeffles does care about his shipmates, in his own fashion. Dan is very much like that, the caring part, not the jerk part. Dan will go out of his way to do anything for you, but he also know when something just isn’t right, and he tells you. That’s probably why we made him Executive Producer.
Robert Lupia is basically me taken to the extreme. I have a temper that I try and keep under control, but Lupia doesn’t even bother some times. That’s probably why he gets in trouble so often. He’s good at what he does, but doesn’t take authority too well. We’re pretty much alike in that regard. In act, most of the scenes you see between Lupia and his wife are little snippets of things that have gone on between my wife and I.
Speaking of my wife, she also plays my wife on TV. Michelle plays Valerie Lupia, Chief Medical Officer on the Justice. Valerie is a very caring, but very stubborn, woman who will do anything in her power to protect those she loves. Michelle is much the same way, but more emotional than her character. She really compliments me as much as Valerie compliments Robert.
Finally, Trish Tunis plays Enigma. Enigma is a Mudd Android, from the episode I, Mudd. She’s been modified to serve Starfleet as an encryption/decryption device and is practically emotionless. Trish, on the other hand, is very passionate about what she does and about her son, Eddie. Eddie’s kind of the Justice mascot, but I’d argue that my dog, Thor fills that role as well.
An interesting side note, most of the major characters on the Justice are outgrowths of characters we used in the Star Trek RPG games we played prior to devoting all of our free time to the video project.
FFF: How much of your own money goes into the production? Is it collected among the group in dues or something to that effect?
GH: The short answer is that it costs too much. We don’t collect dues or anything like that. Basically we see what needs done and we go do it. Whatever is needed for the project, we just go and buy it. There’s not allot of cheapskates here, luckily. However, now that we’re up and running, we don’t spend that much any more. Most of what we spend now is in make-up and some costume stuff.
FFF: What future plans do you have for the online series? Any storylines or production updates?
GH: Right now we’re finishing up filming on our third episode, A Touch of Home, which focuses on the Captain and his background. We also will be kicking off a recurring villain in this episode, so that’ll be something to watch for. The gentleman playing him is one of our better acting finds, which I’m sure you’re happy to hear.
Beyond that, we’re trying to decide what to do for our fourth episode. We’re kicking around two or three different ideas at the moment, so there are a few ways we could go. Regardless of which one it is, though, it will be another step up in our production.
FFF: How has the response been to your films among the Trek and Fan Film community?
GH: I must say that the response we’ve been getting is amazing! I never knew that we would be seen by so many people. We’ve got people in the UK and Australia watching our episodes, and they actually like it! I, for one, am shocked by that response. Heck, we even made a poll on Trek Today for what fan series people watch. I was floored by that one!
FFF: What is the single best episode of Star Trek out of all five series (6 if you count the cartoon) and why?
GH: I’d have to say Journey to Babel, from the Original Series. Not only did we see character development with Spock, but we got to meet so many different races. The Tellarites, the Andorians, full blooded Vulcans. And they were all fully realized and fleshed out characters. On top of all that, that episode had some of he best acting I’ve seen from any Trek cast.
FFF: How far have you traveled for conventions? Can you give any incite into the differences of fans around the world?
GH: The furthest I’ve ever traveled to a convention is Philadelphia from North Jersey (not that far, really).
However, I do communicate regularly with fans from Australia, Germany and the UK. I have to tell you, there really isn’t that much difference in Trek fans over the globe. Most of them love the concept of the show (that there is a future for humanity, and it’s a bright one) as much, if not more, than the shows themselves.
FFF: Paramount has accepted a script for a new movie taking place after Enterprise, but before the original series involving a war with the Romulans. Is this a good idea and what should Paramount do for the next Trek movie or series?
GH: Personally, I’d like to see them do something along the lines of TotSF for a series. Showing how different ships, in different times, tackle similar problems. Maybe follow two or three ships from the Movie era, TNG and Post-Nemesis over several episodes. I think that the audiences would love that.
But, admittedly, I’m biased on this point.
FFF: Anything else we should know or would like to comment on?
GH: I think that the main reason that there are so many fanchises (my wife’s term for fan based Trek series) out there is that the fans are not tired of seeing Star Trek, in its many forms. If Paramount could see its way clear to, maybe, supporting our efforts, I think that we could tell some really great stories. Not just TotSF, but all of Trek’s fanchises would benefit from Paramount taking an official stance, much as George Lucas has done, regarding fan produced Trek.
FFF: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview for Fanboy Theatre. I love what you are doing and I will continue to watch your series grow.
GH: Thank you for the kind offer.