Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Find that Star Trek Track!

Recently I met up with a friend who I haven't seen in a few months. While we chatted about something, he interrrupted with: "Sorry for interrupting, I didn't tell you that my friend ____ is (a key crewmember) on the new Star Trek series". I raised an eyebrow: "Wow."

He told me about the problems with the production, ones which were told by the industry trades some months ago, but knowing the inside scoop allowed my buddy to editorialize: "It's a (beep) disaster!"

We ran with the theme for a few minutes. Neither one of us, two fans of the original and best Trek, one of the best television series' ever, no longer has any desire to sit down with the new. (The CTV network is running the first installment before the show proper ends up as a streaming-only deal. No deal. I do plan to watch the premiere, though.)

My Trek-mate had a good point, one which has blown up on the Internet: "It doesn't even look like Star looks like Star Wars."

Alexander Courage's brilliant Star Trek theme, the call, is being used in the Star Trek: Discovery promos, but if it's used for the series in even the simplest way, I know that alone is not enough -- all departments are rumoured to be closed for the time being.

From May 4, 2016:
Cue the Alexander Courage Siren

Don't be surprised if Toronto City Hall makes an appearance as Starfleet Headquarters. Imagine the jokes.

Star Trek is coming to Toronto.

It's exciting news if you're a city film tech and a Trekkie, certainly.

Production of that television franchise has gone on for way too long. Not only won't Star Trek: Whatever go away, but the latest one sets course for the great city of Toronto.

In all seriousness, "Star Trek With No Name As of Yet" is scheduled to premiere on January 22nd of next year on CBS's All-Access streaming service. It no doubt will be an even more tightly budgeted affair given that it's not on the main network, one of the "big three", but perhaps we'll witness good Trek storytelling on a reasonably regular basis for the first time in over four decades. Maybe the characters will be something more than the standard one-dimensional bores that have staffed the various programmes -- with the exception of the original, of course.

Which reminds me:

The news stories I've seen on the soon-to-be Trek utilize clips and stills from the original series; it's almost as though the other TV Treks don't exist. Psst: They don't. There's been subspace chatter about it for months. Rumour has it they all got crushed by a Class G Solar Star.

(CBS owns Star Trek, the original.)

When it first ran, I assimilated the first two years of Star Trek: The Next Generation off and on but few episodes after that. About five years ago I decided to give it another try; that was enough. No more.

As for the others, I scanned the first two episodes of each and an episode or two later. I felt no great need to deactivate any more hours of my time.

How do I know the stories are on average unimpressive given that I'm not terribly familiar with the many incarnations? Sensor readings and ship's records told me.

Will I give the new TV Trek a try? Darn right I will. It's being shot in Toronto!

"Commodore Tory!....I viewed tapes of your lectures while I was a cadet at Starfleet Academy, but I never imagined I'd ever meet you in person."


Francois Aubry said...

It's always great when we can double verify facts and have triple confirmations on rumours or facts. I'll give you a quick one. I once was having a bear with Brian Johnson, visual effects supervisor of Alien, Never Ending Story, etc. I actually offered him a whole pub meal with grits and drinks cause I really wanted enough time to pick his mind on some questions. I knew from working there a decade that the NFB had sent a few men down to create the effects facilities for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but all these men where retired or dead when I was working there. Brian was 24 when he got hired for the production, and so he confirmed to me all the details. First Brian was sent for a 3 month training at the NFB visual Effects department (where I was working at the time) and was trained by Sydney Goldsmith in airbrushing cosmic objects and events and use the rostrum stand to animate comets, star systems, planets and what not. Then Wally Gentleman went to England together with Goldsmith and one or two other person, and worked there for 6 months establishing animation stands, optical banches, model spaceships, matte paintings, and whatever was needed. Then after this time, Kubrick didn't find the arrangement ideal, and by that time, Douglas Trumbull had joined the group. Kubrick rightfully payed and compensated the NFB crew and bough the concept, trademark and all creative endeavour thus far. So he was fair in a way, by buying everything outright, but was a scrounge when it came to recognize who done what. Just check the credit list on IMdb and you'll see that more then half the personal is (uncredited).
I later met Douglas and he confirmed to me all the above. An edition of Cinefex actually properly credited the NFB crew for the first time when it was published. So there it is, a quadruple confirmation since I spend 100 hours with Goldsmith who trained me the same way he did Brian back in the days. I had requested this special training, being at the board, and finding that all the gold (and the Goldsmith) was leaving the door, with early pensions, and all the wealth was being lost. My request for 100 hours of training was denied twice by Macerola, then head of the board. But I invited and was granted the privilege. Goldsmith passed on to me all his personal technical notes that no one has seen ever since. Perhaps I will publish then sometime down the line.
So there you go...
Thanks for your time. Francois Aubry, visual effects supervisor

Simon St. Laurent said...

Your points about rumours and facts are more than fair.

Thanks for the excellent notes. As for Goldsmith's notes, I would love to see them.

I have fond memories of working with you at Film Opticals of Canada, Ltd. Was it "Young Ivanhoe" that we worked on where Brian Johnson was a visual effects consultant/supervisor?

I remember when you told me at work one day about your meetings with Johnson. I asked you: "What's he like?"

You held up your hand, pressed your thumb and forefinger together and said, "He's very British".

I laughed.

Thanks again for your insightful comment.

Unknown said...

It was on Highlander III: The Sorcerer. Johnson was a nice guy, very down to earth. He admired to me that they heavily drugged the horse for the scene of the quick sand swamps in Never Ending Story. Yes, I'd be glad to have a coffee and show you Sid's notes. I also asked Doug Trumble to autograph the pages of the cinefex on 2001, near the passage where they talk of the NFB. Doug said the guys at the board where pure gentleman. Cheers!

Simon St. Laurent said...

Yes, "Highlander III: The Sorcerer.

In an interview with Johnson I watched a couple of years ago he seemed to be very down to earth. Needless to say, he was full of interesting stories; including working for and with Stanley Kubrick on "2001". It was in that interview that Johnson admitted that the producers of "Space: 1999" pressured him to shoot his visual effects on 16mm. The budget was so tight on that television series that shooting on the smaller format was another way to save money. He told them that in-camera effects had to be shot on 35mm stock.

'Techs' tend to be more real, I think.

Thanks for your notes!

Unknown said...

Your may not remember this one but when we shot the effects for Goid Bye Me President, a political thriller shit in Morococ by Rachid Fershew, I think that was his name, we shot the effects in 16mm. We did the same for the bozo in BC for his alien movie, and we also shot the tests for Highlander's on 16 which got us the gig. 16 does great if you put it .01 off focus thus eliminating the grain, for flames, explosions and other brith illuminated effects.

Simon St. Laurent said...

I interviewed an FX guy years ago who told me he shot some pre-production tests on 16mm. He said that the tests ended up looking better than the 35mm version.

Johnson was referring to image stability between 'passes'. On 16mm the elements would start to play against each other, "jiggle and weave". I shot similar stuff on 16mm and got that quirk. Otherwise the picture looked great!

Thanks for the story!