Archive for August, 2009

Mickey and Hulk Team Up


Today, it was reported that Disney is in the process of buying Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in cash and stock.  Wow, talk about surprise acquisitions!  Just trying to picture Mickey Mouse standing next to the Incredible Hulk at Disney World with toddlers screaming. 


When you think about it, this acquisition makes financial sense as it will give Disney Marvel’s comic book, movie, and licensing business (including all of Marvel’s 5,000 characters and intellectual property).

A few years ago Marvel started making its own films, as it did with “Iron Man” a huge hit with Paramount Pictures (sequel coming out in 2010).  Sony Pictures licensed Spider-Man with successful movies and 20th Century Fox licensed X-Men, including the Wolverine movie that came out in May. 

Disney will certainly start plans to exploit Marvel’s well-known characters across all its platforms, as well as to materialize the not-so-well characters.  I will bet good money that they will soon start pre-production on other Marvel movies and new TV shows based on Marvel Super-Heroes.  So if you’re at Disney World next year and you don’t happen to see Donald Duck, just turn to your toddler and say, “I’m Sorry, Donald Duck got fried by The Human Torch.”


Farragut Spotlight: Mark Hildebrand


For the next “Farragut Spotlight” – I’d thought I’d put Mark Hildebrand on center stage!  Mark is a Producer on the Starship Farragut project; he has acted, directed, written, and provided other countless contributions for our Internet series.


Mark, as you know, there are no “new” episodes of CLASSIC Star Trek being made for TV distribution.  Starship Farragut prides itself on making “CLASSIC TREK NOW.”  Being an important member of the Production Team – how does it make you feel? 

It feels great!  It’s an amazing opportunity to take a show that we love, and that influenced us so much growing up, and bring it back to life!  I believe in the original vision of Star Trek – a bright future where we send the best of mankind into space to work with other cultures.  A future where we have grown past our own shortcomings, but are still very much human beings.  With Starship Farragut, we can tell new stories in the galaxy of the Federation and Captain Kirk, but can tell them with new and original characters.  It gives us a lot of creative freedom to work in a familiar environment, and hopefully improve on many aspects of production with the technology available today.  I’m very happy that we are firmly based in the Classic Trek time period, because I love the look of the original sets, props and ships.  Starship Farragut is as much a “period piece” as Mad Men or Master and Commander.

Agree!  You wrote FOR WANT OF A NAIL (1st Award Winning Episode), which was very much historically driven, and are currently writing the script for DAMN THE TORPEDOES, which I noticed is also very historically driven.  Are you a history buff and if so, do you prefer Star Trek episodes that have historical tie-ins?

In both cases, the story concept came from someone else.  You had the idea of a story that involved George Washington, which evolved into “For Want of a Nail”.  Coincidentally, I spent many years as a Revolutionary War re-enactor back in high school and college.  So I was able to use that background to write a story and screenplay that was accurate and believable.  It also helped with casting, as we were able to work with some old friends of mine that are still involved in living history.  As a matter of fact, Mike Steen and Jim Rockwell are two of my oldest friends, and they came up with the outline for “Damn the Torpedoes”.  The original Star Trek series referenced history all the time, both real and future history (like the Eugenics Wars).  I am probably not the only person that wanted to learn more about a particular subject they touched on, and did further research.  I hope that our audiences will want to do the same.

Mark in "For Want of a Nail"

Mark in "For Want of a Nail"

On developing a screenplay, can you describe your process from taking a story treatment, which may only be three pages and developing a script that is roughly 70 pages (an hour long episode).

First of all, it has to be a good story.  I really don’t see the point of doing an episode about a character or piece of technology that doesn’t have an intriguing story.  I have to care about what happens to the characters, and I want it to be entertaining.  Luckily, we have a great framework in emulating the original Star Trek series.  We know that there is a teaser and three or four acts, and a familiar structure to the pacing, action and tension.  The dialogue is easy, since I know the main characters and the actors that portray them.  I try to be visual when I write, describing what the camera and audience is seeing, instead of referencing camera angles.  I also try to share my work with the Farragut producers as I am working on it, to get their feedback and input.

Since the Starship Farragut project is very much a collaborative project, how does that help or impede the script development process?

Well, sometimes the input and feedback from the producers can be frustrating.  But only because they have pointed out something that needs to be changed, or because I haven’t explained it well enough in the script.  Ultimately, the episode won’t get made without them, so the collaboration is an important process.  These things need to be ironed out before going into production, or they can be a real mess when filming or editing!

Thanks for your time and your countless contributions Mark.  It goes without saying that you’ve  helped STARSHIP FARRAGUT continue its mission!

Good Science Fiction Movies on SyFy?


What’s happened to good science fiction entertainment?  You’d think that the newly redubbed SCI-FI channel, SyFy, would have taken the vanguard in true science fiction movies.  True, they bring original “sci-fi” TV series such as Warehouse 13, Eureka, Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, etc; however, when it comes to original movies, they usually entail some bizarre, mutated animal with us humans fighting them off – gigantic alligators, spiders, snakes, and the like – the latest one being advertised is the “Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus.”  The storylines of SyFy’s original movies lacks creative story telling and true science fiction with CGI effects that also lack believability and realism. 

I recall when the SCI-FI Channel was introduced, I believe it was 1993 and the classics of science fiction TV series, such as the ever-popular Irwin Allen’s works (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants, and The Time Tunnel — deliberately excluded Lost in Space), the Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, and of course – STAR TREK were shown.  Stories of exploring space, time travel dilemmas, parallel universes, new scientific discoveries/ideas that created unlimited possibilities, as well as storytelling that involved the human spirit and the future of the human race. 

I’m reminded that Rod Serling was gifted in creating stories that also had a thought-provoking ending – an unexpected “mind twist.”  When I watch a good SCI-FI show or movie – I want to escape from the monotony of life, be entertained and have my mind stimulated. 

It seems that there are a lot of literary works not yet adapted for filming – stories from the greats – Ray Bradbery, Harlan Ellison, Jerome Bixby, George Clayton Johnson, and many more.  In addition to the play on words of their name change, SyFy also incorporated the tagline – Imagine Greater.  I’d encourage the powers that be there to do so with their films – bring us creative stories that are outside of the box and away from the “mutated animal vs. human” formula with realistic CGI / special effects.