Starship Republic is one of the many fan productions to come from the renowned Starbase Studios, a home where anyone can make a fan film using their sets.
Ray Tesi a fan of Star Trek heads STARSHIP REPUBLIC that in their own words “is a Star Trek fan-film project aimed at recapturing the excitement and morality of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. Our series follows the intrepid crew of the USS Republic (NCC-1371) in the same timeline as The Original Series. We hope to bring you quality thought-provoking stories with a new set of heroes in the Trek universe.”
Recently I had the privilege to sit and talk to Ray about Republic, what Star Trek means to him and his experiences in the filmmaking world.
James) Hi Ray, Thank you for taking the time to sit with me and answer some questions about not only Republic but allowing me to get to know the man behind this production.
Ray) Thanks again for the opportunity
James) Ray, Tell me a bit about yourself.
Ray) I grew up in the Bronx in the early 1960s and did not always fit in with the kids in school or the neighbourhood. My parents used the TV in place of a babysitter, so I have been in love with television for as long as I can remember. I have wanted to be involved in movie making since I picked up my grandfather’s 8mm Kodak camera and made short films in my backyard way back then. I developed a love of science fiction (not sci-fi), horror, model making and dressing up as my favourite characters (before it was called cosplay).
I have been a fan of Star Trek for all fifty years that it has been on the air. I can tell you where I was 12 on Sept 8, 1966, when “Man Trap” premiered — and I was immediately hooked. No longer were spacemen the “shoot ’em up” Buck Rogers characters, but they were evolving into role models. They were still human, but suddenly they were dealing with human emotions, human frailties, and everyday human problems. In addition, inside of an hour’s time, they taught us how to deal with those problems — and sometimes taught us that problems have no solution except that of acceptance. Big lessons to a small person.
There were not too many fans to be found in those early days, but I eventually found a life-long friend in Don Horan when I heard him talking about Trek in high school with other classmates. They were as knowledgeable as I was, they were as insightful as I was, and we shared the same enthusiasm and engaged in marathon debates. These guys goofed off in school, played baseball, loved the Yankees, lusted over high school girls, knew all the TV action shows I did and had crushes on movie starlets. I had arrived.
In 1972, a group of us went to what would become the first annual Star Trek convention at the Statler Hilton Hotel in Manhattan. It was a different time. Guests were accessible, Memorabilia was not mass-produced, and it was hand-made. Don and I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Gene and Majel and shared an elevator with Isaac Asimov. How many people can say that?
In the 1980s, Don and I had a brief brush with success, having several TV movies under consideration with William Morris, but never got the brass ring. I guess when an agent suggests a different ending to a story, you say, “Yes, sir, may I have another” instead of writing, a dissertation on your ending is the best ending. Live and learn. I almost pushed myself into the writing staff during the first season of Next Generation with a story entitled “The Human Factor,” but that too never panned out.
I held my own anime and sci-fi conventions in South Florida in 2008 and 2009. They were actually successful, but quickly learned you cannot do it as a hobby. You have to be in it to win it.
However, through it all, I never lost my love for Star Trek and television.
This all makes me a bit older than most folks venturing into the fan film world, but there is no time like the present.
James) I remember what my mum once said to me, “with age comes wisdom and experience” so yeah you may! Be a bit older than some but that brings a viewpoint that many will not see, and one of those will be the entire 50 years of fandom experience you have.
Tell me a bit about your history with Star Trek what does Trek mean to you
Ray) That is about as loaded a question as you could possibly ask me. As I said previously, I was 12 when Trek premiered in living colour on NBC, and I was immediately hooked.
I have lived it and breathed it for 50 years. I have evolved along the way to understand some of the undertones on the episodes and the social mores they reflected. I understood that characters and was able to apply their emotions to my life…and suddenly I did not feel alone. There is too much Star Trek in my history to adequately answer that question here.
So what does Trek mean to me?
It is about a hopeful future. It is about people from a multitude of races, creeds, and colours working together for the betterment of not just humanity, but life itself. It is about duty and responsibility. It about unrequited love.
It is about living with who you are.
All of the things that seem to be missing in today’s society.
Many people have tried to express the philosophy of Trek. Some have written books. I am sure someone somewhere has given this explanation before, but I have never seen it. I believe the philosophy has been right in front of us the whole time in words written by Roddenberry himself.
In “City on the Edge of Forever,” Edith addresses the derelicts of the 21st Street Mission. She tells them: “Now I don’t pretend to tell you how to find happiness and love when every day is just a struggle to survive, but I do insist that you do survive because the days and the years ahead are worth living for. One day soon, man is going to be able to harness incredible energies, maybe even the atom. Energies that could ultimately hurl us to other worlds in some sort of spaceship.
The men that reach out into space will be able to find ways to feed the hungry millions of the world and to cure their diseases. They will be able to find a way to give each man hope…and a common future, and those are the days worth living for…”
THAT is the philosophy of Trek and what it means to me.
James) Do you have a Favourite Trek Episode & Why?
Ray) I would be hard-pressed to list only one episode overall without acknowledging all five series, so I think it’s only fair to list one from each:
TOS: Let us take “City on the Edge of Forever” out of the mix and go with “The Naked Time” – great character development story, great insight on Kirk and Spock, the terrific interaction of the crew, great drama, and music.
TNG: “The Inner Light” – Touching story of two men’s lives affected by a doomed man’s planet and the affection he has towards his family and friends, and at losing those people closest to him. Patrick Stewart’s final scene is as touching and moving. (Honourable mention: “Yesterday’s Enterprise”)
VOYAGER: “Year of Hell” – Great sci-fi premise about a man who is seemingly hell-bent on wiping out his enemy, but his real goal is to bring back his wife from the dead. Let us add in a wonderful performance by Kate Mulgrew.
DS9: “Trails and Tribble-actions” – a very nice tribute episode with the same sparks and humour as the original.
James) What about your worst Trek Episode Why?
Ray) TOS “Way to Eden” – it just sucked.
James) Out of all five! So to be six! Series what is your Favourite & Why?
Ray) TOS, not just, because I grew up with it, but simply put, if it was not for TOS, we would not have everything else.
James) Worst Series?
Ray) DS9: I know I will get some dissension on this, but my problem was that I would watch three or four great episodes in a row followed by a Quark episode. I just did not buy into that character. Then the whole Sisko / spiritual thing was a bit over the top.
James) What Trek Actors have you met in real life if any?
Ray) Lots and Lots, I met Shatner with my son at an Orlando con at an 80th birthday celebration. Shatner went to every table and spoke with everyone. He was just charming. I told him that growing up, he was my hero. His answer got me too flustered to tell him why. He said to me, “Really…? Why…?” And I just lost it.
Met Nimoy on the street in NYC in the late 1970s. Nobody else recognised him so I thought maybe I was wrong. However, as he approached me, it was obvious that he knew I knew who he was. He stopped in front of me (probably because of my dumb-founded look) and smiled. All I managed to say was “Weren’t you…?” To which he replied, “I still am” and kept walking.
I first met Nichelle at a con in NYC in the mid-1970s. I was walking down a crowded aisle in the Huckster’s Room (that what they called the vendor area in those days) when the crowd parted revealing Nichelle at a table just in front of me. I recall that there was bright sunlight streaming in through the windows like heaven. There might as well have been a choir in the background. I stopped dead in my tracks when she looked over a saw me gawking, and smiled at me. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I crapped my pants and ran away!
Also met many people from all of the different series. However, meeting and speaking with Gene and Majel at the first con was priceless. Much much more on that later…
James) I am jealous, Lenard Nimoy was someone I ALWAYS wanted to meet.
Do you play any Star Trek Games?
Ray) Ha! I’m a gamer from way back and have played lots of Trek games in my life.
My favourite was Elite Force, so that’ll give you some idea of my ancient past. I think at this point in my life, I need to concentrate on that pesky thing we call reality. Ew! LOL
James) Other than Trek, what other TV shows you watch like B5, Walking Dead, The Flash?
Ray) I am a fan of episodic drama. I was a huge fan of shows like the Galactica reboot, Fringe, LOST and back in the day shows like Millennium and The Night Stalker. Television is different today. I love streaming, but it leads to binge-watching shows like Daredevil and Stranger Things. Network TV has really changed. Used to be you would get 26 episodes a year and reruns in the summer.
Now, you get into a show and it goes on hiatus for 12 or 18 months. Who remembers what it was about when it comes back on? Currently, I watch shows like Pitch, Supergirl and Chicago Fire. I am a huge fan of The Last Ship, but alas, it is on hiatus. I loved The Strain, but it was off the air too long to get back into it, and I AM looking forward to ST Discovery. In addition, new shows like Frequency and Timeless — well, they just do not make sense. And BTW, I’m a huge fan of Whose Line. I could talk about shows all day. LOL
James) What do you feel about entertainment today, I mean gone are the days of 20+ episodic seasons is there anything you feel is missing?
Ray) I have been watching television since the late 1950’s. It was much different then. Just three major channels and a few local stations.
With the advent of cable plus sites streaming content, the choices are too proliferous. There is no way to know what is good and what is bad and what else you could be watching in this new sea of content.
Another issue is originality. There are some very fine original series and movies playing today, but there is a lot of rehashing going on. I am not sure I have ever seen a remake that was better than the original. Just be original.
Lastly, it used to be that you got 26 episodes a year and then reruns in the summer. Now you get 8 or 10 episodes of a series and then it is off the air for a year or more. It is sometimes impossible to get back into it. Just bring it on, dammit!
James) With Discovery showing on CBS all Access in the USA and Netflix elsewhere, do you think this future of televised series and films, just as you use YouTube etc. now? Is TV on the way out?
Ray) I have seen many changes in broadcast television in the last 50+ years that I have been watching. I think network television is in flux because of streaming and on-demand technology. New organisations are finding newer, better and cheaper ways to create and send us content, so it’s impossible to predict what the landscape will be even 2 or 3 years from now.
However, it still needs to be a profitable medium. Yes, the TV will change and evolve, but I do not think it will ever die.
James) Ray, what is your history in filmmaking, apart from Republic is there anything you have made or are proud of.
Ray) Two children and a 36-year marriage.
Actually, Starship Republic is my first attempt at filmmaking. I have studied the craft for decades, and always believed if an opportunity came along — take it! Starbase Studios presented that opportunity by allowing Don and me to take a decades-old story of ours and translate it to the screen. In a big way, I have Vance Major and Scott Johnson to thank for guiding two novices through the process.
One thing I have learned from all the years that I have been in business that I was able to carry through to the production of Republic was to surround myself with good people — and I believe that effort is going to make Republic a success! To be successful, I believe you have to become an orchestra leader: you need to assemble the best musicians you can find and then do your damnedest to have them play in sync and make the most moving music that they can. I have not surrounded myself with good people — I have surrounded myself with great people! Every cast member, every crewmember, and every person that cheered us on.
As we begin to release info on Republic, look for names like Gabriel Morgan, Kent Edwards (“Words”) and Jim Von Dolteren amongst a multitude of others. We — they — are making Republic a fantastic Star Trek production! Kudos to them!
James) So Republic… Tell me about it,
When and why did you decide to create a fan film series based on Star Trek?
Ray) I always have had a need to be a part of the Trek universe in some way, shape or form, and when the opportunity to film at Starbase Studios presented itself, I had to take advantage of it. That is the “why.” To date, that would have been September 2015 when I would learn about Promenade-action.
James) Before you could move forward, did you have to win over anyone to get the series off the ground?
Ray) No, not really. My writing partner Don Horan and I have been doing this for a long time, so we were in total agreement with the entire written production. We pitched our concept to Vance Major and Scott Johnson at Starbase Studios, and I think it was my enthusiasm that won them over.
James) Where does an idea for an episode usually begin for you?
Ray) Everywhere and nowhere, Most times, it is predicated on current events. We hope to use Republic going forward in the same capacity as Gene did 50 years ago: to reflect social and moral issues going on in our world today. That is not the case with every idea, but many times that is where it starts.
James) So, you are the Writer and Director of Republic was this an easy task or did you find the roles lead to many challenges in making things fit from script to film?
Ray) Being the writer, I was intimate with the story and dialogue. If I needed to make changes to either, I was able to do that knowing what the eventual outcome would be and make those changes within the confines of the characters’ back-stories. That was the easy part.
Directing was a bit trickier. As I have said previously, I was a novice coming in. I had never directed any production of any kind previously. Having said that, after the first two takes, the butterflies were gone and I seemed to slip right into the role. Good support people (Gabriel Morgan and Kent Edwards) allowed me to do that. There were several scenes along the way that were not going as planned, but I seemed to have the presence of mind to stop and collect not only my thoughts but everyone else’s as well. At one point, I came to the realisation that I could do this and I could do this well.
James) Being the head of Republic, what is the best thing about your role?
Ray) I like being in control to a certain extent. With my experience with Republic, after I settled in and understood my role and the responsibilities of our production staff, I felt right at home and at ease. I was a novice but learned by osmosis from two great people that stood side-by-side with me: Gabriel Morgan and Kent Edwards (aka “Words”).
Gabe came on board as our Director of Photography, but almost immediately became my co-director. He had a great eye for the camera and shared the same vision I had for Republic. When released, you will see that his work is outstanding. Many good things will be coming from Gabe.
Words were our production coordinator. I had no idea what the production process was all about until he stepped in. He immediately gave the set a professional atmosphere and put us on the road to a great production. I get chills when I think about the first time he yelled, “Quiet on the set!” I could not have done it without these two guys!
James) Ray, Can we break down your role in Republic into stages so the guys who read this can get the info on all aspects of your production.
Let us talk about your screenplay experience. When did you first realise that you wanted to become a screenwriter?
Ray) I was a junior in high school in 1970. I took a Creative Writing course and sat next to my friend Don Horan.
Don and I were both Star Trek fans we would remain life-long friends. I went into the class green, but he had written some spec scripts that were really good. I suggested a few changes, he asked me to edit them, and the rest is history!
James) When you started out can you remember what were the main obstacles you faced where?
Ray) Attitude and sophistication, I had a multitude of ideas but had trouble getting started and my style was rather childish.
I asked the copywriter at the job I was working at to read some material I had written. He gave me the best advice I ever received about dialogue. He said, “Keep it simple and short. Why are you answering a question with 3 sentences when the answer is ‘yes’?” Words to live by!
James) How many scripts have you written?
Ray) Way! Too many to count, but most have yellowed with time in a dusty file cabinet. No regrets, though.
James) Where do you write is there any places you find easier to write than others?
Ray) It depends, I have a small office area that is somewhat cosy, but I write when I feel it. Sometimes it is longhand on a legal pad if that is where I am.
James) Tell me out of all the scripts you have written have you ever been in a position where it could lead to something further?
Ray) In the 1980s, Don and I had a brief brush with “potential” success. We had three spec scripts under consideration with The William Morris Agency. They seemed to really like one of our stories in particular called “Tram.” We had three criminals high up the Roosevelt Island Tramway in NYC holding its passengers for ransom.
Trouble was the Tram was dangling over the East River with no apparent way to get our thieves off, so we had seen an exhibition on real jet packs and had our characters escape in an air chase through NYC. The agent hated the ending and suggested alternate ideas. When you are young and arrogant, you need to learn to say “yes” sometimes. We did not.
Don and I also submitted scripts to Barney Miller and to Next Generation, but it never happened.
James) What gives you the most pleasure when writing, and what elements of the craft do you find most difficult?
Ray) Author Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” It is kind of like that. When it is going well, it is great. However, when it is not (and most often it is not), the struggle is unbearable. However, when you finally type, “THE END,” it’s all worth it!
James) Which script of yours do you most wish you had a do-over on?
Ray) None really. I was always happy with the work that I, or Don and I, put forward. It was all good stuff, usually well thought out, good dialogue, plausible situations, and a brisk pace.
In the end, we were really writing for ourselves and were happy with the work.
James) If you had to pick one which other writers have inspired you?
Ray) That is a tough question. I like different genres, so different authors. Asimov, John DF Black, Harlan Ellison come to mind right away. Throw in Stephan King, George Orwell and John Grisham and you have a well-rounded and eclectic group! On the Star Trek front, I am a big fan of Judith and Garfield-Reeves Stevens.
James) So, which one of your scripts and films are you most proud of and why?
Ray) Starship Republic — our current effort.
It has IMHO all of the elements of a good drama — conflict, tension, character development, action, pathos — and it’s the only one to ever get in front of the camera! I love it!
James) What in your opinion, is the most important aspect of building a great character?
Ray) Depth. A character needs a great back-story, even if it is not apparent on screen. It defines who that character is, how they interact with other characters, and how they react to given situations. If you do not have strong characters, you cannot make good stories. Look at Kirk and Spock.
In season one, we learned all kinds of things about their back-stories and personal lives that lead to great drama. It is you are character’s defining moments that either draw in the viewer or have them change the channel.
James) What is the most enjoyable thing about screenwriting?
Ray) When dialogue just seems to flow.
Republic is a great example. Don and I had written a terrific treatment. Once we starting putting dialogue to paper, the story took some very different twists that made for a better storyline. It does not always happen, but when it does, it’s gold!
James) What sort of stories excite you (other than Star Trek)?
Ray) I am a big fan of all types of stories so long as their well-paced and logical. By logical, I mean that there are not elements in the story just to get the characters to do something for no apparent reason. Make the situations real and the solutions believable. It just has to all make sense.
However, I will take science fiction, drama, classics, comedy — I love them all! Two of my favourite movies are classics: Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca” and John Wayne in “The Horse Soldiers.” Nevertheless, you can give me “Animal House,” “Unstoppable”, “Galaxy Quest” — you name it!
James) When do you write?
Ray) No good answer to that. It is best when the mood is right and the dialogue and narrative are flowing. Sometimes I write because I have to. Sometimes because I need to. I like it best when I am just writing for myself. Everyone else is a bonus.
James) With your experience in screenplays, did you have any issues in writing the script of Republic?
Ray) Actually, none. My friend and writing partner Don Horan conceived the story and almost immediately wrote a treatment for it. After that, the story and dialogue took on a life of its own. There have been several changes along the way, but for the most part, we were very happy with the outcome and stayed with it.
Funny story, back in the late 1970s, Don, and I had an idea for a TV series we called “The Sea Hawks” loosely based on the classic Errol Flynn movie. We decided we wanted to take Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and put them on a 16th-century frigate as outcasts fighting for Queen and country. We wrote a pilot with 13 subsequent episodes — that of course never sold. When we learned of the opportunity of making fan films at Starbase Studios, we took our characters from “The Sea Hawks” and put them on a starship and the rest is history.
James) What if any research did you carry out in the preparation of writing the Republic script, what challenges and responsibilities did this present in making it something unique?
Ray) Don and I had been writing partners for over forty years, so we just decided to be true to ourselves. While never having a professional credit, we were skilled at the craft and confident in our ability. We knew these characters, we knew the story we wanted to present, and we knew the kind of production we were looking for. The research we did do was finding the right starship for the crew. Two ships that had been mentioned in canon, but never seen.
We felt the Republic offered a better opportunity and it had a significant back-story in TOS. In the TOS episode “Court Martial,” the USS Republic was a 23rd century Federation starship operated by Starfleet. In 2254, James Kirk served as an ensign aboard the Republic, along with his friend Ben Finney. During a duty shift, Finney accidentally left a circuit open to the atomic matter piles, which could have resulted in the destruction of the ship; Kirk logged the incident, and Finney was denied a promotion — and it became the basis for the episode. The choice was easy.
James) With the release of the “Fan Film Guidelines,” has this influenced how much were you able to write the script you wanted to.
Ray) We actually got pretty lucky. We had a 1-hour script written before the guidelines came out. As our story goes, we take a “right turn” at the end of act 2 and our crew is sent off in a very different direction. Under the new format of no more than two 15-minute parts, it was actually easy to break the story into two 30-minute episodes.
James) Did you have to alter it a lot when they came out or is it pretty much the same?
Ray) Nothing needed to be altered. It is exactly the same as originally written.
James) What are your feelings on them, as I know to start with everyone the reaction was different but many people were angry how did it make you feel when they came out?
Ray) When the guidelines were introduced, I have to admit I threw a hissy fit. However, cooler heads prevailed. I read them at least a half-dozen times to make sure I understood them and listened to the Star Trek Engage Podcast with John Van Citters of CBS. I look at it this way: if the 30-minute format worked for “The Twilight Zone,” it’ll work for Republic!
James) Do you think they are fair?
Ray) Absolutely, they allow for crowdfunding, perks, original content – all the things that fan films before the guidelines either did or should have been doing. IN ADDITION, THEY STILL ALLOW IS TO PLAY STAR TREK!
James) What another aspect of Filmmaking do you have experience in and can you tell me more about your experiences in these areas?
Ray) Actually, very little. I have studied the craft for decades, but Republic is my first foray behind the camera.
James) OK so moving on to Directing, What did you love about the Directing of Republic?
Ray) The responsibility and control, and the ability to have to think on my feet.
Sometimes it has to change a scene, sometimes it has to elicit different emotions from the characters, and sometimes it has to move actors around on the set to make the scene more plausible. As an example, our climax scene from the trailer has our captain, played by Jim Von Dolteren, to give a devastating command order (that is all I will say about that!) Gabe and I were not satisfied with the captain’s reaction, so I stopped the scene and said to Jim, “Let’s change your motivation.
Let’s try this.” and boom, we got the shot! What a feeling it was to yell, “That’s a wrap!” Good good stuff!
James) What was the best thing that happened to you while shooting Republic?
Ray) The overall experience, no kidding not just one thing. The ability and privilege of being on a set and filming — filming a quality story with quality actors by quality people and knowing that you had a hand in bringing them all together. It was just great! Exhausting but great!
I could not sleep for days afterwards.
James) In your time as the Director, how did you encourage people and processes to achieve the best?
Ray) Comradery, you need to establish that at the outset and if you do, the rest comes easy.
James) With so many factors shaping a film’s success or failure, and so much required going into a film just to make it, and even more to make it well, what do you do so it does not ever feel not worth the effort?
Ray) The rapport with your cast and crew is the key. Much of the answer to this is “trust your gut.” All of us behind the camera knew we were doing something special. When it was not going quite right, we knew that too and instinctively were able to change it. I think instinct is 90% of the battle.
James) How did you handle being challenged about something that you decide but someone else really disagrees with. Was this something you had to deal with on the Republic shoot?
Ray) No, That did not happen. I welcome input on the process from anyone and everyone, and if it is sound, I take it. If I do not agree, I let people honestly know why not.
However, we have assembled a great group of professions who are passionate about making good cinema, and we hope that it shows.
James) Tell me, from your perspective about the story, and how it is different from other Fan Productions?
Ray) Of all the questions, you have asked so far, this is the most difficult and perhaps the most unfair. Let us put the big guys aside: Phase 2, Continues and Renegades.
There are a plethora of fan films out there and an equal amount of talented people. People like Vance Major, Michael King, David Whitney, John Broughton, Glen Wolfe, Tommy Kraft — just to name a few. I have respect for ANYONE who has a dream and pursues it. Ours happens to be in the world of Star Trek, but kudos to everyone. Some of these fan films are terrific, some are painful. However, they are all made with no less enthusiasm than Republic.
I would have to say that what makes our production is 2-fold: our characters and our vision.
Our characters are deep, complex people. Every one of them. They are heroes with flaws, conflicted, just like all of us. They can fail just as easily as they rise to the occasion, but they persevere. And that makes for great storytelling.
As for vision, we look at this as playing in Roddenberry’s universe. There was not only a definite look and feel to the original series; it was used to reflect the moral issues of the day. You may not see that in the first episode or two as we get off the ground, but trust me — you will.
James) How much influence did you have on the casting of Republic?
Ray) I share the responsibility of casting with my good friend and co-producer Vance Major. I was very green when I first met him and the crew at the studio. Vance pointed me to both several resources for actors and pointed some my way. He is responsible for getting be demo reels of Jim Von Dolteren who was eventually cast as our captain. I also held open auditions online and we ended up with several people cast in various roles such as Greg Teft, Gerald Griffin, and Da’Neille Bishop Roy.
A good team effort.
James) Moving on to other aspects of the production, who did the makeup and wardrobe did they manage to capture the image you had for the film?
Ray) The brilliant Nate Bright did the make-up. I had conceived a look for a new alien. Vance Major who is friends with Nate and used his work of Starship Melbourne and Valiant recommended Nate. I sent Nate some simple sketches and some makeup I had bought for effects and damn if he did not create the most different and realistic, alien I have ever seen! Brilliant! However, Republic would put him to the test. Unfortunately, the actress who was slated to play our alien had a family emergency and had to bow out just hours before the production started. I recast the role as we were powering up the set. Nate took a completely different actor and recreated the look and feel on here to the point where you would never know he had to do it. Frankly, he saved the day.
I looked for a long time for a costume that would bring the same look and feel to the uniforms as you saw in the original series. I honestly was not completely happy with some of the fit I saw in some other productions. I found Stephanie Mann who is on the west coast. I explained what I was looking for and what was needed, and she worked with me to get it done just-just in time (like everything else, it seems) and they looked great on camera!
Even some of the production staff admired her work and we’re going to order costumes from her. It made it all worthwhile. You can find Stephanie on eBay as the username murraymousie. She is really good!
James) Who has the best costume?
Ray) Our characters are all dressed in the TOS uniforms, but I looked high and low for a costume to give us a more authentic look and feel to Roddenberry’s version. I think we found that, so everyone looks great in costume!
James) Who in the show is most like their character?
Ray) Probably Jim Von Dolteren as our captain. He is more Picard than Kirk, but he is in command none-the-less and everyone knows it.
James) Who’s the least?
Ray) Probably Da’Neille, Bishop Roy as our resident alien science officer. Da’Neille was thrown into the mix only hours before filming, and we were trying to go over her character’s back-story, but we were under tight deadlines. While she may not have known all of the motivations that went into her character, she delivered.
James) How does Republic bring something new to the genre of Fan Films?
Ray) From what I have seen, much of what has come out of fan film is Trek first and film second. Sometimes this results in a film that is difficult to watch because of many factors including sound, script acting, visuals, etc. Sometimes it can also result in a hodgepodge of elements put together to create a video posting. Yes, the film was made with passion and a love of Trek.
In addition, yes, there are many throwaway moments in the production because the production was done without the film experience being a main driver of the process. We are a drama first and Star Trek second. We do take advantage of being in the Trek universe, and our characters, storylines and outcomes hinge on people knowing what we’re talking about, but we are bringing a cinematic edge to our production.
James) How about the score, was this something you handled or did you bring someone else into overseeing this. Did you find it easy to score the film?
Ray) Sound is being done by Gabriel. He is a professional and has done a great job of recording and enhancing the spoken word.
The Score: It is and is not easy. With Star Trek, you can sort of look at the scene and hear what music is playing in the background in your head. Comes easy after hearing it over and over for 50 years. However, Gabriel Morgan, my cinematographer and editor, has a really good ear as well. He has previewed some rough cuts for the group with an outstanding score. It is part of what drives the action.
The hardest part for me was finding an appropriate theme that was dramatic, orchestral, dignified, and represented Star Trek. It took several months or searching, but I think we have it.
James) What was the toughest thing about getting Republic done?
Ray) We were on a time constraint, but we had a situation where several of our cast members were unable to join us. One of those people was a principal character, but unfortunately had a family situation that needed her attention. I was firmly convinced — even as close to an hour before we were supposed to start filming — that it was not going to happen.
Nevertheless, there were other cast members and production people that were travelling long ways to do this and there was no way I was going to turn them away. You know: the show must go on. However, frankly, I thought it would go on very badly. VERY badly! I had a young woman, Da’Neille Roy, who fell out of a tree and into my arms out of nowhere.
She was not part of the original cast, I asked her to step in as one of our main characters with no reading time whatsoever, and she rose to the occasion. In addition, she was able to get some other folks to fill in for our other missing actors and they could act! The result was far better than I would have imagined just hours before! And the show DID go on!
James) How do you not waste time? With the time restraint, you were on how you make sure you kept things going?
Ray) You have to keep moving. There is a lot of downtime moving from set to set and redressing sets for a specific scene. It is all is scheduling and taking appropriate breaks. Luckily, perhaps, we were able to use our time efficiently.
James) What do you think the biggest surprise about the process would be to an outsider like myself who has ZERO experience in making films.
Ray) Having been an outsider when I stepped on set, I can tell you that the biggest surprise was the amount of time you need to get quality shots. Yes, I knew there would be several takes before getting the right scene, but Gabe would reset the shot 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 times from different angles with different lenses in order to get a cinematic look to the scene. Lots more work, lots more time, lots more downtime for the cast, but in the end, this will be spectacular.
James) How important is social media for promoting your project, do you think you would have had the interest you have had without it?
Ray) In my opinion, it is imperative. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube, Crowd Funding.
They are immediate. If you can get your word out and have some skilled people get it to go viral, you can have it made! I am good, but I am not skilled enough to manage and distribute content properly. Michelle Guerra is our Marketing Coordinator. She brings to social media what Gabe and Words bring to filmmaking. She is making it happen!
James) What sort of person is going to love Republic?
Ray) Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and children of all ages! However, seriously, we are trying to create good drama with characters the viewer will care about that just happens to be set in the Star Trek universe. Therefore, we hope this will appeal to both Star Trek fans and non-star Trek fans alike.
James) What’s going to surprise people about this show?
Ray) The professionalism and passion that our cast and crew have for this production. Many of us are NOT professionals and some of us (me included) are novices. However, we are professionals in our own right. We are using film and sound to tell a great story that just happens to reside in the Trek universe.
Fan films are usually divided into 2 groups: the big guys (Phase 2, Continues and Renegades) and everybody else. Big budgets and big talents do not necessarily equate to cinematic greatness. Even with small budgets (or no budgets), fans can still make great cinema. That is our goal with Republic.
James) Last few questions about Republic and then I would like to move on to your experiences in the fandom and other fan production you listen to.
What will the audience be thinking about after they see Republic?
Ray) When can we see the next episode, damn it!
James) Do you ever take a step back and appreciate what you have made thus far?
Ray) Oh yeah, We are still in post-production, but I have watched the rough cuts umpteen times I find it hard to believe that I had a hand in this.
It is an outstanding feeling!
James) What do you know now that you wish you had known in the beginning?
Ray) I am a person who loves the immediacy. I was not ready for the time needed from inception to completion. There were many variables to consider: the script, characters, motivation, sets, props, costumes, makeup – to name only a few. Now that I know that, I can live with it.
James) What would you change if you could?
Ray) After my experience with filming the Republic, trailer: nothing.
James) OK so moving on to the last segment of the interview, What Fan Films do you watch?
Ray) I watch the big 3 when they have new content: Phase 2, Continues and Renegades. The other fan films either do not have multiple episodes, or have run their course, or were halted because of the fear of not conforming to the guidelines.
But there’s some good content out there. Starship Valiant is well done, I am looking forward to Melbourne, and multiple others by folks like Glen Wolfe, David Whitney and Tommy Kraft.
James) What other Star Trek fan productions do you watch/listen to etc (Podcasts, YouTube shows etc)
Ray) Quite a lot. Engage, ComicPop Library quite often.
James) Ray, you have a rather wide experience pool to draw from
What are your:
Favourite parts of the Trek Fandom?
Ray) The history and comradery. As I’ve said, I’ve been there since day one and I’ve seen Trek’s evolution. And now I’m part of it. It’s been a lot of fun!
James) Worst Parts of the Trek Fandom (any bad experiences)?
Ray) A few things: the commercialism of the franchise from the fan-based conventions of the 1970s, but that was bound to happen.
The lost opportunity for CBS and Paramount to do something special for the 50th Anniversary.
That never happened. In addition, some fan films trying to use the medium for personal gain.
James) Ahh Yes that person hmmm.. OK, last few questions Ray, What advice would you give to someone who wants to? Act, Direct, write a script or make their own film?
Act: Do not recite your lines from a piece of paper. Believe them! If the ship is going to be hit by a photon torpedo, stop, take a dump, say your line, and look worried!
Make their own (fan) film: It’s harder than you think, but find good actors and support crew. And above all: have fun with it!
Direct: As a first time director, be encouraging but firm. Have a vision and help the actors and crew achieve it. And bring comradery to the set.
Write their own screenplay/script: Belief in it. Tell your story swiftly and succinctly. Read it out loud and see if it flows and make sense, and have some else you trust read it also. And accept criticism.
James) Is there anything else you would like to tell me from your perspective of someone involved in the fan film world? (The good, the bad, how you see the current world of fan productions)
Ray) Fan films are changing and evolving. Places like Starbase Studios are making sets accessible to many folks who would otherwise have no ability to do this. Video and editing are becoming increasingly easier. Above all, have good content.
Whether it is drama or comedy you want to offer, do it well. Do not have 5 minutes of dialogue and 25 minutes of special effects. Develop a crew. Tell a story. In addition, do it the best you can.
James) Lastly, take yourself back to when you first started out… If there were a piece of advice you could tell your younger self when starting out, what would it be?
Ray) Concerning writing: do not change anything!
About life: you are going to screw up — a lot! Just roll with it!
James) Ray Thank you so much for your time and I can NOT! Wait to view Republic when it comes out.
Ray’s enthusiasm for Star Trek is infectious and it has been an honour to interview him.
Ray is now the proud owner of Neutral Zone Studios, you can find out more at the following links…