Archive for July, 2012

Spotlight Series: Jack Marshall

07/18/2012

It’s been awhile since we showcased someone – let’s shine the spotlight on Producer Jack Marshall!

Jack Marshall came aboard Farragut Films last fall.  Shortly after coming aboard, he was quick to bring value-add contributions as Assistant Director and Line Producer handling production management.  I recently chatted with Jack:

So, how does it feel to be working on a Star Trek webseries again?

That’s a tough question right out of the gate!  The last time I worked on a fan film was in the fall of 2005.  By February of 2006 I was working on Battlestar Galactica out in Los Angeles.  I mean, I was floored – I made it to Hollywood!  Cut to the fall of 2011, and once again I’m walking the decks of a Starship (and a Romulan Warbird as well)!  It’s nutty!!  The experience I had when I was asked to help out with Farragut during the filming of their newest episode was phenomenal.  At first, I was hesitant to get back into the fan film genre, but within a few hours of landing in Kingsland, Georgia, I knew I’d come home.

Star Trek is the main reason I work in television today.  When I was a kid, I read the famous “Making of Star Trek” and I knew, somehow, I would do that – I would be involved in this wonderful medium in some way.  So each time I’m on the sets, it’s like coming home to my childhood dream; the place where I received my inspiration.

I’ve often said that when it comes to any Star Trek webseries, there are two trains of thought: those that re-imagine the iconic characters and those that take a more original approach of a different ship and characters. Do you have a preference on these two approaches?

During the creation of the first web series I worked on, my party line was that the characters of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc were greater than the actors who played them.  I felt those characters had moved into folklore like Batman, James Bond, Superman, and more.  As a result, anyone could play them.

Now, many years later, I admit I was saying that as much to convince myself as I was to those who were following us.  We now have an official Paramount cast who are “replacing” the original cast onscreen.  It seemed to work for them.  But what they fail to realize, as others do, is that you can recreate the characters, but the spirit of those characters live within the actors who created those roles.  The characters we fell in love with are intrinsically tied to the actors that originally played them.  We just didn’t fall in love with Uhura, we fell in love with Nichelle (and Bill and De and Jimmy and all the rest).

In doing an Enterprise based series, you’re setting yourself up for the inevitable comparisons to the original actors and stories, to which you can never measure up.  So right out of the gate you’re at a disadvantage.  I think you get a lot more leeway if you’re creating new characters on a new ship and allow yourself to be led by the examples of TOS but not tied to any certain canon.  We know the history of the original characters as well as we know our own.  You know Kirk isn’t going to die in a fan episode, because you see him in the films for the next 30 years.  But take a character like “Tackett” and put him in a precarious situation and he COULD die – his history hasn’t been written yet, so the dramatic impact is greater.

I couldn’t agree more about the love we fans share for both the character and actor [being one].  While working with you, I’ve noted that you have excellent production management skills – an incredible skills set that is crucial to having a successful film shoot. Handling wardrobe, I often feel slighted in contrast to sets or operating the camera. Do you feel that your work is often overlooked?

As a preface to those who aren’t aware, what I do on set is run the daily schedule (and shepard each episode from pre through post production).  I stand in the eye of the hurricane and make sure each department is ready to go, knows what to do and is ready for what’s to come.  In the case of Farragut Films, I often feel like the conductor of a great orchestra surrounded by world class musicians who really know their stuff.

In the grand scheme of things, people aren’t all that interested in how the sausage is made, but rather how it tastes.  What matters to me is being respected by my peers; my film-making family.  Recognition off the set is the farthest thing from my mind.  In fact, I’d never do an interview like this for anyone but you Mr. Broughton – it’s goes against my nature of being happily anonymous!

I hope that each department feels “loved”.  I spend a lot of my time on set jumping from person to person just checking on how they’re doing, and letting them know they’re awesome.  That’s my other job – head cheerleader.  While the outside world may never know of each persons contribution to the show, I hope each person that works with us is aware at all times how valuable and loved they are for all they bring.

I will say this, I’ve never worked on a set, fan or professional, where so much love and joy in the work and in each other was so present.  The Farragut Films experience was utterly incredible.

“Let’s keep things moving folks, we’ve got a busy day.”

“…a conductor of an orchestra surrounded by world class musicians…”  NICE phrase!  When it comes to the magic of Star Trek, is there anything specific that you appreciate or gravitate more? For example, is it the chemistry of the characters, the stories, or that look and feel of 60’s TREK?

I think when I explore what turns me on about Trek, I usually find myself strongly drawn to its underlying philosophy.  I really wish we could become this “greater human” we grew to know in Star Trek.  This show shaped much of my own philosophy in life and I find it very satisfying to pay that forward and in a small way help to keep the original Star Trek alive.

Is there anything that you liked to see developed on Starship Farragut?

Keep growing!  The improvements you’ve made each year are amazing.  The new episode really knocks it out of the ballpark.  Take risks – use your characters in ways we could never use the TOS cast.  I’m not really suggesting you kill someone, but you can shake up the ship anytime and keep your audience on the edge of their seats.

Having worked in the industry doing film production management, how does what we do compare to Hollywood productions?

There is no doubt that what we do in the fan film genre is no different than the grind of a Hollywood production.  We employ just about every device used in the making of a Hollywood production from call sheets, travel coordination, catering and so on, except without a budget!  But being on set in Georgia is not very different from a wroking set in Hollywood.

The biggest difference is that in Hollywood, there can be competition between departments, with each blaming the other for a delay or problem.  In your shop, we all are there working together as a team, no one more important than another – each helping to make a dream come true.  If something needs done, no one hesitates to volunteer.  I’m constantly amazed at the quality of people you’ve assembled.  Each as eager to sweep a floor as don a costume.

The best thing you can do if you’re making a fan film is make it with people you love.  This is your free time and you certainly don’t want the experience to feel like a full time headache of a job!

Follow-up question – since you have worked on a SCI-FI production (Battlestar Galactica) and other Hollywood-backed productions, as well as Star Trek webseries – is there an original concept or idea that you’d like to see materialized?

In terms of Sci-Fi, I’d like Hollywood to move away from the dystopian future and back to a vision of the future that offers hope.  That’s something I’d like to work on.  Personally, if I could have my pick of projects, I’d LOVE to do a western in the form of the great western half hour dramas of the 50’s and 60’s.  I miss TV shows that had a simple message.  A lot of people seem to have forgotten the simple lessons (and joys) of life.

Thanks Jack – on behalf of everyone, thanks for your hard work and commitment. 

Jack hard at work with Kasey Shafsky on “The Price of Anything”