Aaron is one of the brains behind the first ever MUSCLE BEAT feature film and this time around hopes to create an even more epic musical experience. His film: BEYOND THE SUN, is about a group of unlikely heroes who must rely on each other to survive an unknown, hostile land. In order to achieve their goal, they journey into the heart of forbidden jungle, where they will have to overcome countless challenges in order to find the key to survival.
Aaron VanderKley, known to his fans as Beyond the Sun, is an Australian film-maker who, despite having grown up in Sydney, currently lives in London. Aaron’s films, which are mostly full-length features, are available online (on Vimeo, YouTube, and his own website) and some have been screened at various film festivals around the world. Aaron is also a prolific web designer, which might be why his website’s design is so superb.
Star Trek fan films are made all over the world, coast to coast, in America, Europe, Japan and even Australia. Underground Country has even named five of the best fan films of the NX era to our community (STAR TREK: HORIZON remains probably the best fan film of the NX era in my opinion)….. all by the same man, Aaron Vanderklee. Aaron is a professional independent director and began his fan film journey in January 2016 with a surprisingly solid 6-minute fan film called NEEDS OF THE MANY. The debut featured strong acting, impressive sets and precise uniforms. In mid-2017, Aaron released THERELICT, a very dark and haunting 12-minute horror/thriller (very unique for a Star Trek fan film). The acting is top notch again, the uniforms are great, and now there is action, suspense and some stunts. It really felt like an episode of Star Trek: Company. In early 2018, Aaron introduced fans to a third beautifully made film from the NX era, GOOD MEN, which is only 9 minutes long. Six months later, Aaron released his most ambitious film to date, the 14-minute THE FALL OF STARBASE ONE. In the summer of 2019, Aaron finally completed a story arc of 5 films, the 20-minute LINE OF DUTY, thrilling fans with a moving and emotional story that once again celebrated the highest level of acting, production quality, lighting, makeup, sets, costumes, props and sound….. WORK. And then he was done. Aaron told me in a two-part interview that he only wanted to make five fan films from the NX era and that he had no intention of doing anything else in that genre. One of the most impressive fan filmmakers in our community is leaving….. a bittersweet end to a short but truly impressive career. Then, in mid-May 2021, Aaron appeared without any fanfare with a new fan film called BEYOND THE SUN. Once again, the production quality is stunning, with practical sets, great costumes and props, and top-notch visual effects by British animation artist SAMUEL COCKINGS. But Aaron decided to go back a few centuries to the time of Voyager and put his new fan production aboard a Nova-class scientific ship. This powerful story could very well have been an episode of Voyager. Look here… It’s incredible, isn’t it? Well, the clock on the wall says it’s time for another interview with Mr. Vanderklee though, and this one is definitely worth reading,folks….. Welcome to the world of Star Trek fan films, Aaron! It’s been almost two years since the release of Line of Duty, your fifth and final Star Trek fan film. Why did you want to make another Trek fan film? Aaron Vanderklee lives in Perth, Australia. AARON – I think one of the main reasons for coming back is that COVID deprived me of the opportunity to be creative for a while. I was fortunate that in Australia, Western Australia to be exact, the reaction to what happened was immediate. I didn’t lose my job, no family members were affected, and other than going out less, life went on as usual. The only downside was the obsessive fear that if you do something, like a film project, we’ll all be shut out and the project will be postponed or cancelled. So, sitting at work without doing anything creative, I wanted to do something creative, which brought me to screenwriting, which brought me back to Star Trek. We were also fortunate in that time that there was more Star Trek being released than ever before – Picard, Lower Decks, Discovery – and that made me want to do something different. Why did you switch from the NX-era Enterprise to the 24-era Voyager? I believe I’ve said this before in interviews, but Voyager is the Star Trek I grew up with. So for me, it was always my first love. I knew that five movies would be a lucky number for the Enterprise series, so all those sets were torn down after shooting. And that meant starting from scratch, moving on to a new era. Kate Elder (Captain), Maximiliano Laffont (Machinist) and Karin Covey (Doctor) JONATHAN – Speaking of inspiration, it was a very powerful story with a strong social message and a deep moral dilemma….. in the best tradition of the various Star Trek series. What possessed you to write this script in this way? Aaron – If you look back at the Voyager (or TNG, I think) era, you know that there is a certain kind of story and narrative inherent in Star Trek from that era. Typically, the current social/economic/political problem is presented as a 24th century moral dilemma. Century presents – sometimes unconsciously and sometimes openly. This story was inspired by an employee who told me about his family situation, and I even changed his name from Braden to Ba’den. Religion and its place in our future, not to mention the future of Star Trek (and we know it has a place somewhere in DS9) interests me. Starfleet has rules against interfering with other cultures, but we know those pilgrims will die, so how can we sit back and let that happen? At the same time, we can’t say, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong and lock them up for their own protection until they think like us. So what can you do? To me, Star Trek is at its best when it puts a problem in front of us and says so: Why don’t you think about it? JONATHAN – Once you had the script, how did you start casting all the roles? Aaron – As with most of my projects, I only do it when I find the right cast, and I can honestly say – no offense to others – that this was the strongest casting of my Star Trek fan films to date. We held a casting call and got five lead actors who played their characters as I imagined them, which is very rare. Jason Burch (Ba’den) and Adam Poole (Pastor) ADAM PUL (Pastor) was one of the first to send in his self-assessment – which is always a concern when people send in their auditions within a few days – but he immediately found the tone of the character. Kate Elder (Captain) and I have been working on the material for the second part of the fan film THE ROMOLAN WAR for a few years now, which hasn’t been released yet, but I gave her the role and she pulled it off. Karin Covey (the Doctor) was an extra in Line of Duty, and I had her in mind when I wrote the role. Jason Burch (Ba’den) auditioned for the role of the engineer, but I could see he was a good actor, so I fleshed out the role of the son….. literally inserted an extra heart-to-heart between him and MAXIMILIANO LAFONT (the engineer) to make him stronger later on. Working with Maxim is like touching an electric fence – he’s still alive! He was enthusiastic, energetic and full of questions about the story that was unfolding around him. I was very pleased with the way these guys brought Behind the Sun to life. JONATHAN – An important aspect of pre-production is the design and construction of the set, and yours is always incredibly impressive….. especially when you look at the behind-the-scenes photos (scroll down) to see how you fit so much into such a small space. Can you tell us a bit about how you make these sets for the 24th edition? Did they design and make it in the 19th century? AARON – Production design was a big part of this project. Like I said, we had to start from scratch. The Voyager set has a distinct style that we tried to emulate, taking into account how the set was redesigned for the Equinox episode, which is also set on a Nova-class science ship. We were lucky that some smart person on the internet had drawn some plans, and from those plans we could get a good estimate of how to get the shapes we wanted. There was a week-long lockout in Western Australia (literally the day of the last rehearsal) while we were preparing to record, but we used that time to our advantage and built as many different sets as we could in preparation for the recordings. Another epic achievement was the EV costumes, which were a rarity in fan films. But I knew it would make our film unique, especially for the opening scene. The production designer and costume designers worked long and hard, but the actors looked fantastic in this film. These amazing EV combinations! I couldn’t agree more. As far as costumes go, this was a great looking fan film. In fact, everything here seemed incredible. How did the shoot go from pre-production to production? Did you have to overcome certain difficulties? How many days did you film? Aaron – Beyond the Sun was filmed over three days in late February 2021, starting in the Pilgrim ship, then the Starfleet corridor and finally the briefing room. I applied what worked last time, which was to shoot on one set a day and not have the stress of having to change sets, and that’s worked into the script, and that’s what I’m going to do with these shorts. The only real downside to shooting was that we had about five extras who didn’t show up the first day, so I had to call on my parents and partner to help me out. I also had three make-up artists scheduled for the entire session, but on the third day we didn’t have one, and my partner had to help out as well. It’s a shame that what we thought was well developed is suddenly brought to the forefront, and unfortunately that’s the part that stands out for me in the final product. Let’s move from production to the final stage, post-production. First, let’s talk about the amazing VFX shots from the hardest working man in Star Trek fan films, Samuel Cockings. The best thing about working with Sam is that he knows what he wants the VFX sequences to look like. And while he doesn’t try to match them frame by frame, he does give you something to believe it was on Voyager. I think I was very clear about what I needed, I sent an action plan and a sample screen, and Sam provided what I needed. There were a number of VFX sequences in Beyond the Sun, including, for the first time for our productions, a Transporter effect and an opening title sequence. So we’ve really evolved since our first fan film in 2015, and that was something that Sam was particularly interested in. How much time do you think you put into post-production? And how long did it take you to make this last film, from start to finish? Aaron – It was about five months from the casting announcement in mid-December to the premiere in mid-May. After shooting, at the end of February, I took some time off and when I came back, I spent a week working scene by scene until I mastered the film. Then we had to wait a while for Sam’s team to work on their full VFX program for the Star Trek fan film and tackle ours. At the same time I was working on the sound design and my director was working on the score, and then everything fell into place. JONATHAN – And finally, do you have any other Star Trek fan films up your sleeve that you want to release? If so, what is the next step? Aaron: Yes! Beyond the Sun is the first volume in a series of three stories set in Star Trek: Age of Voyager, all aiming for a 2021 release (or at least production). There was quite a plan for the other two, some of which I discussed with Sam, but they were (probably) jettisoned to focus on something more….. relevant to the world we live in today. That said, before I wrote Behind the Sun, I wrote another story as part of my What if Star Trek was a TV series script in the 1970s? I really enjoy working on the production design of these projects, so it’s very exciting for me to create something from scratch. I can’t wait for you to get behind the camera again and bring us great stories and movies again, Aaron. AARON – Thank you for supporting these projects! I really appreciate it and I’m glad you liked them. Aaron provided me with some very informative photos from behind the scenes. When you see how small the studio was, you’ll be amazed. Click on any of the photos below to enlarge them…. Day 1 cast and crew Day 2 Cast and Crew Day 3 Cast and Crew