A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a great way to crowd-fund! Interview with writer/director/actor Samuel Cockings part 1 A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a great way to crowd-fund! Interview with writer/director/actor Samuel Cockings, part 1:
“A Long Way From Home” is a great way to crowd-fund! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, part 1) –” by paul_bunyan | in 4 days | 0 comments A Long Way From Home has currently raised an impressive $43,000 of it’s $35,000 target, with 22 days left to go. We’ve been speaking to the film’s director Samuel Cockings about his experiences with Kickstarter, film distribution and the future of crowd-funding.
SAMUEL COKINGS is the essence of a true Star Trek fan, with an amazing talent that he enthusiastically shares with other fans in the form of stunning CGI animations that appear in an endless parade of fan films. In fact, listing the great fan films that Sam didn’t participate in would take less time than the ones he did! (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but if you want a full list of all the Trek fan films that Sam has turned into CGI gold with his digital Midas touch, you should check out Sam’s page on IMDb).
In addition to creating VFX animations for numerous Star Trek fan projects, Sam co-hosts the amazing and fascinating TREKYARDS podcast series. And if you don’t know what it is and you’re a tracker, you miss a lot!
But in addition to working on other projects, Sam also tries to make his own fan films. In 2013, he began working on a project he called STAR TREK: A TEMPORARY ANOMALY. It took him 6 years to finish it, and thanks to an appeal from CBS lawyers, he had to remove the words Star Trek and a few other things (click here to read more and see the finished film). Temporal Anomaly was nevertheless a groundbreaking project that took virtual sets in fan films to a whole new level.
In late 2018, Sam launched an Indiegogo for an ambitious new fan film called CONVERGENCE, which will be a crossover of FIVE different Star Trek fan productions. The project eventually raised $7,385 from 114 funders and should now be complete. Of course it was funded before the world turned upside down and it had to close its doors in the middle of a global pandemic.
While work on Convergence is still waiting, Sam surprised the movie fan community in early May by launching a new campaign on Indiegogo, but this time he funded not one fan film, but SIX !!!!. A series of unrelated anthology stories set in different Trek eras, from TOS to the age of Khan’s Wrath, from the Dominion War to the Enterprise-E’s collision with another planet-destroying machine. Titled the TREK SHORTS anthology series, Sam announced the participants of several other series for Trek fans, including: INTREPID, AVALON UNIVERSE, STAR TREK CONTINUES, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, DARK ARMADA, and of course Temporal Anomaly.
After just two weeks, the campaign had already reached 40% of its $10,000 goal and was supported by more than 60 people. And if you want to be one of them (and I do!), the benefits are great and the project is really exciting. Here is a link to the Donate….. website
In fact, the project is so exciting that Sam couldn’t even wait to fund it before releasing the first of six Trek shorts: FAR FROM HOME. If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead:
Now, let’s go talk to Sam…
Before we talk about the Trek shorts, Sam, let’s talk about Convergence. I’m sure many fans are wondering why you didn’t finish this project before funding this brand new one.
SAMUEL – We actually booked the shoot for August 2020, but the world is standing still. The biggest serendipity of Convergence was bringing all of our amazing fan film partners together in one room ….. instead of recording their scenes remotely and then putting them together. There is a different dynamic and energy when actors physically come together for a shoot.
But these fans live in three different countries on two different continents. And international travel is not an option at the moment. So until there is a quarantine and all of our actors can get here safely, we can’t shoot the rest of the film.
JONATHAN – How did you come up with the idea of funding six different fan films with one campaign? ?????.
SAMUEL – From the beginning of the creation process of The Long Walk from Home, I was just overwhelmed by a tidal wave of ideas….. They may all have been shot during the pandemic and all with unique elements. I had about 10 ideas and picked out 5 that really stood out – these are also the 5 most ambitious!
JONATHAN – You know, $10,000 is a typical amount for ANY quality production….. even without a handy kit. How do you manage to get SIX fan films out of this crowd when they all have different actors and need different digital backgrounds and
SAMUEL – I do most of the work, which of course reduces the budget needed. Plus, not having to travel by plane is good for the budget. It takes place on a green screen (which is my specialty) and includes some costumes I already had.
The sound ofNimrad passes from the green screen to the shuttle’s camera and cockpit…. Thanks to Sam Cockings.
It’s one of those things. I try to do a lot, but I also knew what I had and what I could get. So I work on all that and try to be as efficient as possible. I’m sure I’ll go over budget; I’m well on my way to doing that, BUT $10,000 would be the biggest amount and would take the personal financial burden off of me (since I don’t make much) to get the high quality costumes/accessories and CGI that fans have come to expect!
JONATHAN – Let’s talk about the movie A Long Way From Home. When did you start working on this particular project?
SAMUEL – This project was conceived as one we would have liked to finish at Convergence. So here’s some of the cast in a fun, free movie. Everyone was very attentive and we were able to record segments in the UK before the second shutdown. We started the project in August 2020, filmed it in September 2020 and released it in April 2021! Seven months definitely beats my record of six year anomaly, haha!
JONATHAN – Who filmed his scenes and where, and how did you control things like image and sound quality?
From left to right: Samuel Cockings, Nimrad Sound and Stephen Cockings
So there were two teams: My recordings in England involved me, NIMRAD SOUND and my father STEVEN COKINGS. Nim came to film for three days. Then we had the Scottish team of Nick Cook and his wife Lucita. They had planned to hire a larger film crew and cast, but the Scottish blockade intervened about two weeks before filming was to begin. Nick had to handle the camera and sound himself, as well as acting and directing. I’m very grateful to them; I think they played great, even though there were some technical sound quality issues on his end. Nick is not the cameraman or sound guy for Intrepid, so he did his best.
Nick Cook (above) and his wife Lucita on the deck of the ship Intrepid.
Then we had a scene with Michelle SPEECHT that had to be filmed via Skype. We were hoping for a better recorded version, but after the pandemic she became a COVID employee on set and has no time for anything else. I tried to make the most of these photos – my goodness, their acting was excellent!
JONATHAN – Speaking of Michelle Specht, how was she involved in this fan film? We haven’t seen her in Star Trek since the end of CTC. Does she plan to return to fan films, or was this just a trial?
SAMUEL – Michel has agreed to be at Convergence in 2019. Even though the plot of this movie takes place AFTER Convergence, I wanted a connection to that movie. Michele agreed to film this hilarious scene at the end, and it was hard not to laugh at her performance once! We hope this was a nice surprise for fans of the film.
Right now she’s still scheduled for Convergence, but due to the pandemic, combined with her extraordinarily busy new job and my own intention to shoot in 2021 (no ifs, buts or buts), that may not be possible. But we’ll see.
Michelle Specht in STAR TREK CONTINUES (left) and then in A LONG WAY FROM HOME.
JONATHAN – Another interesting actor in this production was your father Stephen, who played an ancient Roman centurion….. that you don’t usually see in Star Trek fan films.
My dad is a Roman historian/reconstructionist, so he has a dozen or so historical costumes/variations ….. Most of them are handmade by him. Although he did not make the armor himself, he made this shield by hand with few power tools because he wanted to make it more authentic. Over the years he has made three completely different shields, one of which is made of solid bronze.
Like father, like son? Maybe not if one is an avid filmmaker and the other a Roman re-enactor!
My father is known in the European re-enactment community for his knowledge and attention to detail in his outfits. He has also been a historical consultant for many books/documentaries and even worked on a documentary about Rome with our current Prime Minister BORIS JOHNSON in the mid 2000s.
And while the holodeck malfunction should be a direct indication that something is going on – that Kobali’s creation of an FTL phase-shifting disk is causing problems on the Horizon – unfortunately, it doesn’t appear in the film at all. But you have to know that they are directly related and show that something is wrong.
JONATHAN – Late last year you released a 90 second teaser scene from The Long Way From Home, and it was really great what you did with the VFX and
compositing. For readers who haven’t seen it yet, go ahead:
Why didn’t you use existing footage for the latest fan film?
SAMUEL – This teaser was always intended to be a standalone clip and audio dialogue to best promote the project, rather than trying to put something together from existing clips and unfinished backgrounds. So I decided to go with a long, stylized VFX frame that showcased all the main elements. I’m very proud of it, and due to the length and resources of the heroes, it took ten days to make this teaser….. The rendering took day and night (and I have a fast PC!!). Just goes to show how much dedication it takes for a shoot like this.
JONATHAN – Speaking of which, the teaser is already impressive! Why did you decide to finish the whole fan film first and then launch POTUS on Indiegogo, instead of releasing a teaser as a proof of concept for Indiegogo and then finishing the film?
Thank you! Well, A Long Way From Home was meant to be a thank you to the Convergence fans, more of a bonus to showcase our skills than something we wanted to save for later. By the way, it’s better for Indiegogo to show a completed short film….. even though it hasn’t happened yet in terms of interest to Indiegogo. At least we get lots of views and comments. …. are really great!
JONATHAN – Really… 25,000 views in two weeks is very impressive! Green screen shoots aside, what goes into or out of the production and post-production of these Trek shorts?
SAMUEL – Developing a story that could be filmed during a pandemic was a challenge. And an even bigger challenge was to make a film that didn’t feel limited in that sense. A big part of this project was learning how to render in the latest version of Lightwave 3D instead of the classic Trek version. This allowed me to take all my 3D interiors from grey to fully textured, exposed and ready to film. I started learning it in November and I’m very happy with the results.
JONATHAN – What do you mean the classic version of Trek Lightwave 3D? You don’t mean TOS, do you?
Oh, I’m not talking about TOS, of course; they didn’t use CGI back then! When I say classic Trek, I mean Voyager, DS9, and Enterprise. All of these shows used a CGI program called Lightwave 3D, which I also use. Until 2015, the company that makes Lightwave continued to update the same version used in Paramount’s Star Trek TV movie. But in 2018, they’ve redesigned everything in Lightwave to better suit the new capabilities of today’s VFX industry.
The new 2018 version meant that every old component/ship/station did not work properly and had to be completely converted and retextured to work. It was excruciating, but if you took your time, you could get much more realistic results as they created the lighting for the ships from scratch. It was really a paradigm shift of realistic quality. And the quality has gotten even better in the 2020 version I’m using now.
This is a more direct path from the grey and custom textures of Substance Painted to the final result.
You had me on the edge of my seat until the last sentence, Sam.
I’ll show you visually. When they send me my 3D models, they’re usually gray, like this …..
So you don’t make your own CGI models?
SAMUEL: No, that’s not my specialty. My usual best modeler is always working on special projects for fan films. But this production required a much larger team, so I had to call on three modelers with whom I have worked for a long time and whom I have trained. It’s always good to work on real productions and reach a certain level to hone your skills.
JONATHAN – Do they all do internal and external models?
SAMUEL: It’s a mixture. A guy who in the past made mostly outdoor models for me now does indoor models as well. A guy who usually does my high-end fan film work has also done some interiors, but he’s also completely done the Type-9 and Type-6 shuttles, and we’re also going to do the Enterprise-E bridge together. And there’s a new guy who’s going to make Galaxy class kits for me.
JONATHAN – How long did it take your modeling team to create all the virtual backgrounds for A Long Way from Home?
Next week, we’ll wrap up our interview with Sam and see how he transforms a gray 3D model into an Intrepid-class deck so realistic you can almost walk in and sit in the captain’s chair. Then we discuss Sam’s plans if the current fundraising campaign reaches the $10,000 goal….. and what happens if the goal is not reached?
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