Fan Film Review: Starship Exeter – The Tressaurian Intersection (2005)

Fan of: Star Trek

Written by: Dennis Bailey, Jimm Johnson, Joshua Caleb, & Maurice Molyneaux

Directed by: Scott Cummins

Starring: Jimm Johnson (aka James Culhane), Holly Guess, Michael Buford, Joshua Caleb, & Elizabeth Wheat

 

This week, we’re afforded the opportunity to step back in time with a work that continually makes my eyeballs jump up and down with excitement every time I watch it.  Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve been in love with Star Trek TOS (The Original Series) and the adventures of the Enterprise crew. Even to this day, TOS is still very entertaining with interesting stories. Scott Cummins and crew bring us a true to form, retro style, Star Trek adventure that leaves you wanting more! I first stumbled onto the website Starship Exeter when I was considering doing a Star Trek fan film myself. I wanted to see how much of a challenge it would be and what others were doing. At the time, the website had two episodes (or rather one-and-a-quarter); The Savage Empire (the “pilot”) and the start of The Tressaurian Intersection. Exeter Studios, the group behind this project, had already completed their pilot episode and were looking to work on and complete the second one. If memory serves, their budget consisted of mostly crowd funding. And also, according to IMDb, they had a budget of roughly $500K. Well, that’s quite a lot of money for a fan film. However, you can see that production design and execution was very high quality. I’m not sure if the budget amount is accurate or not but the asthetics are pleasing to the eye. So it seems to have taken quite some time, years even, for them to complete The Tressaurian Intersection.   At the start of the film, you already have the feeling that you’re going to watch something really cool. The story begins with an “over the bridge” shot of the Starship Exeter and then zooms in on the crew. I was already expecting great effects (at least the effects similar to what you would see in Star Trek TOS) but I was not expecting to see a great production design. The bridge on the Starship Exeter looks remarkably like the bridge on the Enterprise. I was very impressed with the sets that were created for this feature. You definitely have the feel of a Constitution Class Starship. From the computer consoles, to the helm, to the Captain’s chair, right down to the turbo lift. It’s all there. The production designers clearly did their homework here.

The film begins with the crew searching for the USS Kongo. When the trail leads them to a planet, they beam down only to find the remains of the saucer section of the Kongo. What made me glad is that the way the story is set up is exactly the same as it was set up for TOS. It has the introduction, the situation, the cliffhanger, and then on to the opening titles. So once we zoom out to a wide angle of the USS Kongo wreckage, you know that we’re in for a treat.

Jimm Johnson (aka James Culhane; I’m assuming this is his stage name to differentiate him from his producer role) stars as Captain Garrovick, the one who leads from the center chair.   I think it’s neat that he dons the “casual” Captain’s uniform that was similar to the one worn by William Shatner for most of season two of TOS.

Even though Garrovick commands the Exeter, I especially liked Holly Guess as the second in command, Commander Jo Harris. It reminds me of Majel Barrett’s “Number One” from the original pilot for Star Trek TOS. I also felt that her performance was very well done. Even though Jimm Johnson did a great job as the starship captain, I may have made the creative decision to make Jo Harris the captain instead of Garrovick. However, this is certainly no slight on Johnson. He certainly did his job well.

I also liked Elizabeth Wheat as Yeoman Vandi Richards. There was definitely a fascinating chemistry between her and Captain Garrovick that was great to watch. Almost similar to the chemistry we have seen with Captain Kirk and Yeoman Rand. However, I think Richards is a far stronger character than Rand and that was a great choice to make. Some of the other characters brought great performances as well such as; Michael Buford’s Cutty and Joshua Caleb’s B’fuselek.

The action sequences in the film are very well done and engaging. The stage is set very well with the Tressaurians and the Tholians (for those who don’t know, we first saw the Tholians in Star Trek TOS) and the tension never lets up. I found myself excited around every turn and it kept getting better.

When we think of fan films we always look to see how the writer and director pay homage to the original work before “going rogue”. They certainly do very well here. This is the way, I believe, fan films were intended. You even get the feeling that this could have easily been done in the sixties within the TOS universe. So congratulations to the cast and crew aboard the Starship Exeter to bring us this great film. Hopefully, they’ll secure enough funding and time to continue making these great episodes. This episode can be seen here.

 Welcome aboard Starship Exeter.

Next Review: Return of the Ghostbusters

Fan Film Review: Indiana Jones and the Staff of Ra

staffofra

Fan of: Indiana Jones

Written by: Tony Garmon

Directed by: Tony Garmon

Starring: Tony Garmon, David Garrison, Amy Garmon, Lee Barnett, and Rett Thompson

This time, we take a look at an Indiana Jones fan film. And, believe it or not, these are actually hard to come by. Usually, when you google “Indiana Jones fan film”, you end up finding some guy who puts a fedora and jacket on his 10-year-old son and it ends up getting a million hits on YouTube. So why are serious Indiana Jones fan films hard to come by? I found that out the hard way when I made my first one, Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Apalachee. You would think that a Star Wars fan film would be more difficult to pull off. Well, as long as you have a good effects person and some passionate cosplayers, you’re in business. You can’t really get away with that when it comes to pulling off an Indiana Jones fan film. Whether the story is canon or not, you’re definitely dealing with a period piece. And that’s what Tony Garmon, the cast, and crew are dealing with in Indiana Jones and the Staff of Ra.

Tony Garmon decides to, not only write and direct but, star as the titular archaeologist. Quite the undertaking! The story takes place ten years prior to the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark. A young Indiana Jones is solicited by his mentor, Abner Ravenwood, to join him in a quest to find the headpiece to the staff of Ra. During this quest, he meets Marion Ravenwood who is Abner’s daughter. Also in this quest for the headpiece is competitor, Lucious McNair who serves as the film’s antagonist.

I’ll be honest, here. When I started watching the first five minutes of the film, I didn’t have very high hopes. The movie begins like most Indy fan films begin; with Indiana Jones in some jungle. Okay, not the worst thing in the world so I kept watching. Indy goes after this golden helmet from a bunch of cannibals. Well…okay. Weird, but okay. I was even thrown off by the wig that Indy’s partner was wearing. Not sure why that was necessary but I continued on. The action unfolds when

IndyStaff
Indy dangles from a cliff in order to avoid being seen by the Nazis.

Indy is cornered by a familiar competitor, Forrestal (who we also see as an old corpse in Raiders of the Lost Ark). Forrestal, apparently, makes a deal with the cannibals in order to take the helmet. At which point, they then devour Indy’s companion as Indy rides off on the horse. I really didn’t want to continue, at that point. But I did because you have to remember that fan films are typically a labor of love.The likelihood of having professional actors and crew is normally low. So you have to watch this for what it is. A film by fans for fans. So once you get past the first five minutes, it’s really not all that bad.

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Indy greets Abner and Marion Ravenwood at the train station.

Tony Garmon and crew did a really great job in establishing the period of the film. Indy, Abner, and Marion set off for Abner’s brother’s home and we are treated to a very nice setting at the train station. I felt it was a nice way to begin to establish the relationship between Indy and Marion. The train station looks very period to the passengers walking the platform to the cars parked along the side. Very nice touch to the film.

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Indy, Abner, and Marion walk off into the sunset.

The characters in the film really don’t have any back story. So I felt it difficult to follow along with the action at times. I would have really liked to have known who McNair was and whether he had some history with Abner or Indy. If it was explained, I must have missed it.

The action sequences in the movie were not bad, although one of the fist fights that Indy has was a little choppy. But hey, when you don’t have a stunt coordinator, those types of scene can be hard to pull off. I did like the shootout between Indy and the Nazis which ultimately lands Indy dangling on the cliff’s edge.

What’s important to remember, when watching this film, is that you have to suspend belief a little bit and allow yourself to see this for what it is. What I can’t stand about some moviegoers is that we’ll see something in the theater for what it is but when someone creates a labor of love like this, it is highly criticized. So please watch this film with an open mind and judge it for yourself. You can click the link below to watch the movie:

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Ra from Fan Film Follies on Vimeo.

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Ra on Vimeo on Vimeo via Indiana Jones and the Staff of Ra on Vimeo.

Next Review: Starship Exeter: The Tressaurian Intersection

Fan Film Review: Star Wars: Revelations (2005)

Fan of: Star Wars

Written by: Dawn Cowings and Sarah Yaworsky

Directed by: Shane Felux

Starring: Gina Hernandez, Karen Hammang, Frank Hernandez, & Shane Felux

The first fan film that we want to review, for you, is a fan favorite. Back in 2005, a group of passionate individuals got together to make the film Star Wars: Revelations. Of all the Star Wars fan films that I’ve seen, this one is at the top of my favorites list. There are so many things to love about this film, whether you’re a filmmaker or merely a Star Wars fan. Or both!

One of the hardest things about putting together a fan film is being able to find others that are as passionate as you are about the genre. Even if they are not a fan of that particular genre, they are excited enough to be part of something special. Watching this movie, the feeling is palpable. Everyone is committed to, what I believe to be, a great story.

The film takes place in the canonical universe between episodes III and IV (although the final production does not follow the canon of the two pictures). It involves the destruction of the Jedi (or the director’s vision of it) and the deception of the Emperor’s hand. A Seer by the name of Taryn Anwar is deceived by the Emperor’s hand into hunting down the remaining Jedi in the Galaxy. When Taryn figures out that she has been deceived, she looks for redemption by seeking out an ancient Jedi artifact.

What’s great about this movie is that it follows the same roadmap of a standard Star Wars movie. From the opening crawl to the final scene before the end credits. And it does so without becoming too formulaic. We become invested in the movie right away. The effects absolutely blow you away. And keep in mind that, according to the filmmaker, the movie cost less than $20,000 to make. And the majority of that budget went to the camera that the movie was filmed on. So you truly feel that you are sitting through an episode in the saga. And then Darth Vader makes an appearance and there’s no going back. You’re going to enjoy it.

Taryn Anwar is played by Gina Hernandez. She takes on the role of a Jedi who is also called a Seer; one who is sensitive to the timelines of others with a single touch. It’s very refreshing to see a leading lady in such a strong role as Gina Hernandez gives us here with her rendition of Taryn. Her performance, for me, marks the best performance in the entire film and her struggle is palpable.

Not to be outdone, Shane Felux (who also serves as the film’s director and executive producer) brings a brash and cunning edge to the Jedi Cade. Shane Felux has the unenviable task of acting, directing, and producing the film. And I only say that because I know how hard it is to do all three. There is so much that has to be on his mind while he’s shooting the film. Although I enjoyed his character very much, I felt that there were moments that were lost between some of the other characters. However, I don’t blame him for that. It’s very difficult to direct a scene that you’re in and be able to still have an objective view.

The score for the film was completely original. Chris Bouchard provides a great score with themes that gives us a feeling of something John Williams-esque. He includes elements of the main theme while still weaving some of his own. I found it interesting that he’s actually a film director and that this film was his only known music credit. Even though there is not an orchestral feel to the score, his arrangement still provides an excellent narrative for the action in the film.

The editing and the special effects were well done and kept the film interesting. The techniques in scene transitions were similar to those used in the Star Wars saga. Some of the exciting moments come when Cade, Taryn, and Declyn are escaping the empire. They flee the stormtroopers after a shootout in the bar only to be then pursued by Imperial TIE fighters. The result is an excellent battle sequence worthy of any Star Wars fan’s taste. There is also the lightsaber battle at the end of the film that titillates any Star Wars fan. For the most part choreography is well done. The only section that gives me pause is when you see Taryn and Zhanna fight with two lightsabers each. For me, an additional lightsaber didn’t seem warranted for either one of them as neither had the skill to wield them both. And I’m referring to the characters, of course, and not the actresses.

If I were to highlight any week points in the film, it would be the acting from some of the characters. Now keep in mind, when one is working on a fan film you can’t always get professional actors. So when you just have participants that are passionate enough to be part of something special their time should be rewarded with praise. So I can say that I respect the effort that the individuals put forward and out of that respect, I will not call them out by name here. You can judge for yourself. The YouTube video has lots of negative comments about the acting in the film. I felt that they were unfair but not entirely untrue.

So I say congratulations to the cast and crew of Star Wars: Revelations for bringing a Star Wars film that they should be proud of. They’ve captured the true essence of the Force and it as guided them well. If you love Star Wars then you will thoroughly enjoy this film. You can visit the page on IMDb for more information about the movie or you can watch the movie now!

Star Wars: Revelations (Video 2005) – IMDb.

NEXT REVIEW: Indiana Jones and the Staff of Ra

Fan Film Reviews

Indiana Jones Fan Film | Indiana Jones and the Legend Of Bimini | Indiana Jones Fan Films.

By now, many have already seen our latest fan film Indiana Jones and the Legend of Bimini. The fan film genre is actually something that has been popularized over the years. It began years ago when ambitious filmmakers started making Star Wars fan films. Some were just a couple of kids with a camera. But, surprisingly, there were many films with high production value. Albeit a small budget. There were fans that truly wanted to tell their own story and inspired others to do the same. Including us!

Although these fan films look easy to pull off, we can tell you that they are not. It takes money, time, passionate and committed individuals, and many that know what they’re doing. But the result is rewarding and can sometimes challenge what the movie companies could not do.

What we’re going to begin to do is bring you fan films that we’ve come across and give you a review on what we liked about them and what they could have done differently. Keeping in mind that we know what it takes to do a fan film on a low budget and there would be many things that we could have done differently about our own films. So we, in no way, believe that we have done anything perfectly. It’s just about providing an objective view and getting some of these films some attention as we would hope our own films would get. So you’ll see the first review come through very soon!