Archive for November, 2009

Utopia Film Festival Recap


One of the things about a film project such as Starship Farragut is the work and contributions of so many dedicated people. Our film series would never have seen the light of day without the sacrifices of our volunteers.  In the same venue of filmmaking, volunteers, and creative outlet – so is the Utopia Film Festival.

Started five years ago and spearheaded by Chris Haley, its objective is to identify, promote and engage both entertaining and enlightening cinematic works of all genres and styles.  Utopia is always seeking to provide its audience and filmmakers an enjoyable experience, as well as pursue works that tackle humanity’s never ending quest for the perfect ‘utopian’ existence.

Fellow Farraguteers, Mark Hildebrand and Eric Lund volunteered as film screeners for the festival and viewed many of the 80+ films submitted.  They went on to serve on the festival’s core committee.  One film Mark and Eric did not screen was Starship Farragut’s “For Want of a Nail” which was screened by other committee members due to conflict of interest.  For Utopia’s 2009 Film Festival, I am proud to relay that “For Want of a Nail” was selected and shown at the festival, which was held on October 19th – 25th

For this blog, I thought I would interview Chris Haley, the Festival Director for Utopia.  I first met Chris at Dignity Players’ production of BACK OF THE THROAT in March of this year.  A riveting production, which I remember well, which showcased Mark Hildebrand in an unforgettable and outstanding performance.

Just a bit of background on Chris, he is a DC native and serves as Director of the Study of Slavery at the Maryland State Archives.  He was featured in the PBS special, “Partners of the Heart”, as the central figure, Vivien Thomas. In addition, he also appeared in episodes of HBO’s, The Wire.  He co-founded and hosted the community access TV and radio series, UNDISCOVERED, which debuted in 2004.  His own short movies, “The Studio”, and, “B&B”, premiered at the Greenbelt Utopia Film and Video Festival and Annapolis Film Festival, respectively, in 2005. 

Farragut Films was honored to be accepted into the Utopia Film Festival.  With the title of “Utopia” it seemed very appropriate given the optimistic vision of Star Trek and Starship Farragut’s future.  Can you explain the idea catalyst for starting your own film festival?

Actually, I didn’t start the film festival, but I did have my first attempt at a feature, The Studio, accepted and screened in it. I believe the catalyst for the founders, and for those of us who jumped on board the second year and continue to this day, are foremost a love and respect  for film and filmmakers. From having experienced both the elation of being accepted and the deflation of being rejected, many of Utopia’s committee members wanted to give filmsters another shot at the pure joy of seeing your name on a big screen. Being thanked for that experience by some proud director has always been my biggest joy as Utopia’s Exec Director.

With this year’s festival behind you, what are your plans for next year’s?

Try to get Utopia involved in a few screenings prior to 2010’s October kickoff for one. We feel our name is at the point that we can add and receive some mutually beneficial oomph from partnering with others as a sponsor organization. Secondly; it is to promote, publicize and find financial and physical support to promote some more!

I’m pleased that we were involved with Utopia and hoping that we can increase our level of involvement for next year.  Can you relay to me and other folks how we can get involved with Utopia?

Did someone mention financial and physical support? Oh yeah, that was me! Truly, my ideal outcome for Utopia would be to have an opening Awards Night ceremony at the Kennedy Center or, at least, one of Prince George’s County’s four star hotels and a minimum of 60 people to attend each and every screening, whether it be a documentary, short or feature. How can that be done, by gaining the assistance of valuable inspired volunteers who, like Farragut folks, love film and are passionate about promoting and sharing that love with others. Folks can contact us via our website and via email – we’ll find something for you to do. We’re still young and we’ve got a lot of room for new people to join in our growth.

And thank you John for including Utopia in your blog.

For me, I’ve enjoyed meeting other filmmakers and talking about the ‘pleasures and pains’ of this incredible, ever-changing journey.  I’ve got some new contacts and feel that we exposed Starship Farragut to a new audience.  Thanks Chris for your time and congratulations on the success of Utopia.  I’d also like to thank both Mark Hildebrand and Eric Lund for their involvement and for introducing Farragut Films to Utopia.

V is Back – Don’t be afraid!


Well, it’s great to have a science-fiction show back on network television.  I know that we’ve had a few on lately, but I’m talking about aliens, spaceships, cool special effects and a super-hot alien leader disguised as Morena Baccarin.  Nice! 

"Take me to your leader!"

I know that only two episodes have aired on ABC and the show has gotten some interesting reviews – mostly good, but the show is starting to take shape. 

For those not familiar with V – it’s a remake of the 1983 NBC mini-series with the same name.  The premise of the show is rather simple and straightforward for science fiction:  the arrival to Earth of a technologically advanced alien species who ostensibly come in peace but actually have sinister motives.  Huh, who’d a thunk it!

The pilot begins with giant spaceships hovering over 29 major cities around the world.  Anna, the beautiful and charismatic leader of the alien “Visitors,” claims to come in peace.  Soon, a small number of humans begin to doubt the sincerity of the seemingly benevolent Visitors, and FBI Counter-Terrorism agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell of LOST fame) discovers that the aliens have spent decades infiltrating human governments, businesses, and religious institutions and are now in the final stages of their plan to take over the world. Erica joins the underground resistance movement, which includes Ryan (played by Morris Chestnut), a Visitor sleeper agent who wants to save humanity. However, the aliens have won favor among the people of Earth by curing a variety of diseases, and have recruited Earth’s youth — including Erica’s son Tyler — to serve them unknowingly as spies. 

The initial V mini-series was a modern retelling of how the Nazis rose to power in Germany, and although much of that remains true with this new series, it is much more “now” with numerous references to terrorism, hope, change and even universal health care. 

Cast of V

The show has a good cast, some of whom I already mentioned, as well as actors Joel Gretsch who plays Father Jack Landry – a priest whose unease with the Visitors is soon validated after discovery of the Visitors’ secret and Scott Wolfe who plays Chad Decker – a news anchor who is caught between his journalistic ethics and his ambition when his exclusive access to Vistor Leader Anna comes with a price.

Although a darker science fiction show compared to that of say “Star Trek” – I will continue to watch it and remain optimistic about it.  After all, its on ABC – not NBC who screwed up Star Trek!   The third episode comes on tonight – check it out!

Starship Construction Update (Nov 2009)


This weekend was another fun and productive weekend working on Starship Farragut Studio One’s sets.  Those that came out to play, I mean work were:

  • Mike Bednar
  • Royal Weaver
  • Ron Simkanich
  • Greg Greene
  • John Lassiter
  • Marie Cook

We accomplished the following: 

  • Captain’s Quarter seam repairs and walls repainted
  • Transporter Room Wall flats built for the elaborate doorway entry
  • Transporter Room ceiling façade completed
  • Floor mapped out and layout planned for bridge platforms to be installed and initial steps for the bridge pie sections to be mounted (three sets of pie sections already built)

Captain's Quarters


Transporter Room

For one day of work on Saturday, quite a bit was accomplished; however, for the next working party in December – we plan on two back-to-back days (both Saturday and Sunday). 

As usual, while sets were being worked, Marie was able to work on costumes.  She completed four sets of TREK pants and we did a test fitting of John Lassiter’s tunic.  John will be featured in the second part of the re-filming of “Just Passing Through,” which will be filmed in the beautiful St. Marys area (tentatively set for the last weekend in March 2010). 


John Lassiter in Custom-Made Tunic

For this blog, I thought it fair to interview the folks who’ve been instrumental working with Mike Bednar on our set construction efforts. 


Construction Crew - From Left to Right: Ron, Royal and Greg

Ron Simkanich:
What about that slacker Bednar – should I replace him?!?!

That would be illogical. Where else will you find a science officer that can build sets in a hot warehouse with the 3 stooges?  No, don’t replace him.  Let’s keep him for a little while longer.

I agree – we’ll keep Mike for little while!  All jokes aside, what does it feel like to have Star Trek made in your area?

I’m very excited.  Star Trek has been a favorite of mine as long as it has been around.  Over the years I saw every motion picture, at least once and I never missed a TV episode.  In between TV and movies, I would keep up on the world of Star Trek by reading various publications and attending conventions.  As a matter of fact, I asked my wife on our first date, if she wanted to go to a Star Trek Convention with me.  She is a Star Trek fan too. Things happen for a reason.

The previous few years left me with no new and fresh Star Trek.  It was then I stumbled onto fan films.  I watched and downloaded the shows that were available and always checked back often for new segments.  It filled the Star Trek void.  I was notified of your pending move and open house.  As far as I was concerned, I went to the open house and met real stars of Star Trek.

The thing that impresses me most about your group is the drive and desire you all demonstrate.  It is an incredible endeavor to create what you are creating – the physical work of building sets, filming, production, distribution, and networking.  Not for the money, but simply for the love of it.  I guess that fun side of this group is what makes it so much fun to be part of it.  I’d have to say that the friendships I have made have been priceless.  It has led me to spend time in beautiful St. Marys, Georgia and get to personally meet movie stars and other fans.

A venture like this studio brings together many people with common interests and I am glad it has come to our area.   It’s not just Star Trek, but film production in general.  My step-son just graduated from Full Sail University and looks forward to contributing his talent in post-production however needed.  It would be a great opportunity for him to get some “behind-the-scenes” exposure to this business.  It takes a team of people to make movies and I’m delighted to be part of yours.

You’ve mentioned that you have no desire to be on film, that you’re happy to be involved behind-the-scenes.  With this project, what are you looking forward to the most (e.g., actual filming, seeing the final product on film, seeing the sets completed)?

Your right, I’m not comfortable in front of the camera, but as you know, I’m great at following orders.  Someone has to be behind-the-scenes.  As a result, I really enjoy contributing to the construction efforts.  It is amazing to see what goes into building and then see them take shape into the familiar sets we all grew up watching on TV.  I’m impressed with Mike’s “math” on building the ceiling of the transporter room.  Things always fit together and when they don’t, he opens that can of Bondo and the whole warehouse smells like an auto body shop.  There is so much attention to detail, from the color of the walls right down to the orange dot on the floor indicating the center of the bridge.  It will be very rewarding to watch the movies filmed on the sets.

At our open house event in April of this year, we found out that your step-son attended school with my sister-in-law Stephanie.  Small world indeed!

This was an amazing coincidence.  My other step-son came to me one day and asked me if I had ever heard of Starship Farragut’s films.  I was wondering how in the world he found out.  One of his friends from high school posted the notice about the move to St. Marys on Facebook.  That person was your sister-in-law!  It was a great ice breaker and shows this is a small world indeed.

Greg Greene:
How did you learn that Starship Farragut had expanded to the St. Marys area? 

The first time that I learned about “Farragut” it was in the Florida Times Union newspaper. The fact that Star Trek was coming to St. Marys I thought was cool. Not long after, I saw John on the local news talking about the open house event at Farragut Studio One. I could not go due to work – so I found the website and joined the forum. 

You’ve been a big support volunteering your time to build sets.  You’ve often told me that you’re having the best time of your life.  Please elaborate.

As of volunteering, Holly Bednar invited me to come to a work party,  I didn’t know what was in store for me. The first person that I met was John; he gave me a tour and put me to work.  I had a blast!  I only wanted to stop by and look around.  I never though that I would get to be part of the team.  Now I am hooked, and look forward to going back each time.  Learning to build the sets has been a great experience for me.  I have made some new friends and everyone has been great.  Getting to be part of a legitimate Star Trek fan film is just awesome.  Yes, I am having the best time of my life.  Beam me up!

As you know, I’m working on your costume to be a background actor.  Describe what you think it will be to step onboard the Farragut in full costume as “LT Stahler” on our bridge sets?

As for the costume, I am looking forward to the day when I can put on the costume and become Lt Stahler.  My first day at Studio One, John pulled me aside and started fitting me for the costume.  How could I say “no”?  I never dreamed that it would go this far.  I am sure that when I really am in full costume that it will finally sink in – to stand on the Farragut’s bridge with Captain Carter and Commander Tacket.  That is going to be awesome!

Royal Weaver:
Like the other two dedicated volunteers, you’re a loyal Farraguteer – always showing up for a set construction party.   Describe your motivation and desire to help the Starship Farragut project.

When I heard that Farragut was coming to St Marys I became curious about the project.  I had seen the work you guys had already done and after meeting you all, I wanted to become a part of it.  I have been involved with several non-profit organizations over the years and I have seen that it takes a lot of different talent and the community to make it a success.  Farragut is part of our community now just like you, your production team and cast are.  I can’t say that I have been a Classic Trek fan in the past, but I’m becoming one now.  I used to work on submarines, now I get to help build a starship.  I can’t wait to see the finished project.

You mentioned that you’re involved in other similar non-profit projects – please describe further. 

I am involved with Crooked Rivers Cultural Heritage Productions.  Crooked Rivers is a local play production about Camden County Georgia.  They are stories about Camden County, for Camden County and by people of Camden County.  We are about community building.  I have been with them for four years and we are getting ready to start our fifth production.  I started as a parent who wanted to video his kids in “Sisters Three” (the first play), then I became the “Video Guy”.  Since then, I have been an Assistant Director, House Manager and even an actor in two of the plays.

Being a retired Master Chief from the Navy, you seemed to have bonded with my Dad, who served during the same time as you and is a fellow submariner.  It’s good to know that he’s made a friend with similar interests and background as you.  Taking him to the Submarine Museum at the Kings Base Naval Station meant a lot to him.  In fact, he commented that some of the instruments he used regularly on the U.S.S. James K. Polk were displayed there!

Yes, the submarine community is a very tight group.  Even though we may have not have served on the same ship, we all go through the same type of experiences and can relate.  I guess you could say the same for a Starship.

Thanks again guys for your help and contributions.   I plan to get a blog interview with our other St. Marys and Jacksonville volunteers, such as Marie Cook, Kim Watson, and others soon.