Trey Stokes has been in the film industry since the early 90’s working in effects on such films as Robocop 2, Species, Starship Troopers and many more. Clearly no stranger to the film industry or sci-fi in 2002 he decided to deliver his own addition to the Star Wars universe with Pink Five. What started out as just a passion for filmmaking and science fiction became what is considered one of the best fan films ever made winning the 2003 “George Lucas Selects Award” at the Official Star Wars Fan film Awards. While the follow up Pink Five Strikes back came a couple years later, fans thought they may never get a peek at the final chapter. Well, the wait is almost over as Trey Stokes will be bringing the completed finale and is doing a screening of the complete series to Dallas for All-Con. I had a chance to sit down with the creator of this popular fan series to get a bit of insight on what went into making it and the plans for All-Con.
Bobby: Tell us a little bit about where Pink Five came from.
Trey: Many years ago I had just finished doing years of work in visual effects and I was looking to get in to making more of my own projects, so just started making my own short films. There was an actress I was working with named Amy Earhart and we had been doing things online and really how it started was I was doing a project with a friend of mine and he had this helmet. This fighter pilot helmet and I thought that’s cool. So I asked if I could borrow it for a video sometime and he said sure. So the whole concept of Pink five came from a helmet basically. I was thinking of some kind of fighter pilot I could do and being a big Star Wars fan I just turned it into a Star Wars project. That’s really how it started, my friend had a helmet and I thought what a great prop, I should use that for something.
Bobby: Before getting into Pink Five, you mentioned being in visual effects. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve done?
Trey: I have been in the movie business my whole career, some TV, but mostly movies. Mostly doing creatures, which eventually turned into visual effects and when the computer revolution came in, I switched over to doing mostly computer stuff. I still like doing practical whenever their available, there’s less of it now, but they are still fun to do. I did a bunch of movies like, but started out doing horror movies and monsters and things like that and then got into what is now called motion capture, it wasn’t even called that back when we started experimenting with it, it was just computer graphics. I was doing that early on, which lead to the computer graphics work on Robocop 2 and Starship Troopers and various other projects, but the problem for me was I liked being on set. In the old days you would be on set right there with your creature, but now a days working visual effects is like working an office job and that wasn’t really what I got into the movie business for. Now you don’t go to the set, you sit in a cubicle in front of a computer. That’s why I had the inspiration to start making my own projects.
Bobby: Can you give us a little information about what Pink Five is about for those that may not have seen any of them?
Trey: The basic idea is that there is a character in Star Wars that is very important to the story, but for some reason is not in the movies. It started out as a very small idea and has grown since we did the later chapters. If your familiar with the famous play called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which is a play about what happens off screen during the play Hamlet. It’s about these other characters that are part of the story of Hamlet, but aren’t actually in the actual Shakespeare play. So we are doing our own version of that. She was a character that was very vital to the story but for some reason is not in the real movies and this is telling her story.
Bobby: There are numerous parts to the Pink Five saga, but was it the original that was entered into the Lucasfilm contest?
Trey: Yeah it was the very first one. This was back when there was very early in the era of video on the internet at all; it was about 10 years ago when we made that first chapter. It was one of the few places you could put anything online; there wasn’t any YouTube or anything in those days. There was a company online called AdamFilm, which became Adam later and they were doing this official Star Wars contest. We didn’t make it for this contest; we made it and then found out about the contest. So I just sent it to them and said I had this and sure enough they accepted it. Much to our surprise we won the grand prize and it got us off to a bigger start than we were expecting from our little movie.
Bobby: As a whole, how many chapters are in the series?
Trey: It depends on how you want to count them. The first one takes place during a New Hope about the Battle of Yavin and it’s a very short piece. Then we decided to do one for each of the original trilogy so then we have Pink Five Strikes Back, which takes place during same events as The Empire Strikes Back and what we call the final chapter called The Return of Pink Five, which takes place during the events of Return of the Jedi, but we made it a much bigger story and it by far the longest of the three chapters. Most of what happens ends up happening in that chapter and it turned out to be so big that we broke it into three chapters. So there is actually The Return of Pink Five volume one, two, and three. Most of what our story is takes place during Return of the Jedi and less so in the other two movies. So depending on how you count it there is three if you take one from each of the trilogy, but five if you go by the actual chapters in the way it’s broken up.
Bobby: If I understand the story correctly, there was a time where you had done part of it and didn’t finish it, but then came back to finally finish it. Is that accurate and how did you come back to finish it?
Trey: We did most of it and shot it like a film as one project shot in segments. But when we originally started it as one project and like any movie you don’t necessarily shoot in order, you shoot whatever works for your schedule. For example, we shot the ending and it was one of the first things we shot. We shot the way the whole thing was supposed to end, but when we decided to break it up into multiple parts that’s when we started to finish it one section at a time. So we released Pink Five Volume one and two, and we only had three left to finish, but that’s when we had the global economic meltdown and I just didn’t have the time or the money to continue to self-finance. I just didn’t have the finances to be unemployed and I basically have to be unemployed to be able to sit down and work on these instead. I eventually just had to put this aside and go back to work for a living and it was really hard to find work because all the industries took such a hit. Then unfortunately around that time, thanks to a little home disaster the computer that had most of the master disks was damaged and a lot of the files were lost. So that’s the way things were for several years. Really what changed that was the concept of Kickstarter. It came up and I saw it as an opportunity to see if our fans still remembered us and we had always promised them that we had a final chapter we were going to make and intended to make it, but maybe if we can get the funds and remembered well enough to finally get this done. Sure enough we did and got the money to be able to do a disk recovery which cost quite a bit of money, but we were able to get back all the files that we lost and shoot the parts we never got to shoot and now we’re in the process of doing all the post production.
Bobby: I know there are some known actors in the project, but was that the original plan or did it just happen because of the popularity of the film?
Trey: It was actually parallel; I assume you are referring to Stephen Stanton. There were different reasons, Stephen was a someone I worked with and just a friend of mine and he was already doing voice over, not quite as established as he is now, but he was really just a friend of mine that I knew did voices. I asked him one day if he could do an Alec Guinness, and Obi-Wan Kenobi? He said yeah and so that’s how that started. But because of the popularity of the films once we released the first and second ones basically, that’s when we had more opportunities. Some people came to us. For example Tom Kane another famous voice actor, Yoda from the Clone Wars, he just wrote to me and said he really loved these pieces and said if you ever need any of the voices I can do and when someone makes an offer like that you find a reason to use them. What voices do you do, I will find a way to get them in there. That was cool and it was huge boost to win that first award and it really put us on the map and made people aware of what we are doing. Then we submitted the second to the same contest the next year and it won the audience choice award. So we had won two awards back to back so when that won too it brought a lot of people to us and not just famous people, but also the fan groups, the people that had these amazing costume reproductions and made R2-D2 units, just these amazing props that are available out there if they are willing to let you use them. We were just so blessed that these people were willing to bring these amazing props that they had to make the film really amazing.
Bobby: I know you guys are now heading here to Dallas for All-Con for a sneak preview of Pink five and is it the first time you are showing the film in its entirety?
Trey: It’s certainly the first time we are showing the final chapter and we have very rarely, just because we never really got the opportunity had a chance to show it in a theater setting. They’ve been online so you could watch them on the small computer screen, but we rarely get to show them in front of an audience and it’s always such a treat to see them in front of an audience because it’s such a different experience than just putting it online and hoping that people like it. As a filmmaker that’s what you want, to be able to sit there and listen to the audience and hopefully laugh and enjoy your project. So it’s one of the very few times we have had a screening in a theater and the first time we will be showing the last chapter in its entirety which is the one we are finishing now. I’m really looking forward to it and we are working like crazy to be ready for it. I’ve had this in me for so long and have had so many people ask me if I am going to do the ending and I’ve told them I’ve done the ending, I’m just not ready for you to see it all. So anyone that is a Pink Five fan will finally get the ending to the story they have waited so patiently for. I hope they enjoy it and I think we have a pretty good ending for it.
Bobby: As a veteran of All-Con myself I think it’s going to be a great time and cannot wait to see it. So after All-Con did I understand you will be kicking off a sort of world tour with it?
Trey: That would be fun, like I said I really enjoy the audience experience. I think it will be fun at All-Con and I really hope we can then take it to other places because that’s the most fun for me to show it to people in person.
Bobby: After the film screens at All-Con I believe you and Mr., Stanton are going to be doing a Q & A as well?
Trey: Yes, we will be doing that and I believe we have various things for our audience. We’re not the Oprah show, so we’re not giving away cars or anything, I wish, well maybe one car but yeah we want to reward them for being our test audience. Because that’s what this is, I’m the only one that knows what happens in this thing and I’m hoping it’s good but the audience has to tell me that. In exchange for them helping by letting us know if the film is any good and we’re hoping to give them some treats as well.
Bobby: Sticking with the con appearance, I believe you made an appearance in an episode of Star Trek as well correct?
Trey: Yes, Enterprise, actually the very last episode of Enterprise so one of the very last episodes of Star Trek.
Bobby: Well that means with you having a character on screen, everyone will probably be itching to get your autograph, so are you guys going to be setting up doing that as well?
Trey: I believe that is also part of the plan. I’m not sure when that is, but if people want to come and talk to us I would be happy to sign an autograph. I’m looking forward to that too. I warn you, I do not look like I did on the Star Trek episode. Like a lot of people I was an alien in the episode. For me I go back to where there was Star Trek then Star Wars so I never understood the rivalry. I think they’re both great.
Bobby: I’ve always enjoyed them both, but of course am more of the super fan of Star Wars.
Trey: Yeah, I’m talking about the people that believe if you like one you can’t like the other. I’ve never understood that at all. For me it was great and fun fact the Star Trek appearance came about because of Pink Five. A producer on Enterprise saw Pink Five online and found my email and sent me an email. Both Amy and I both appear on that episode. They said I could be an extra in this episode and I said sure. They said you can be an extra of this or this and one of those was an alien called a Tellarite. The reason I know that is Tellarites go all the way back to the original series. So when they gave me the options of these or the Tellarite I said I’m taking the Tellarite are you kidding me, of course I know what that is. I watched that thing on TV as a kid and now I get to be one, let’s do this.
Bobby: I know you are just now getting ready to launch Pink five and really focusing on it right now, but do you have any other projects you’re working on?
Trey: Oh, I’ve got several other projects going on. I’ve scripts and ideas, but most recently I did a web series online, the very beginning of it called Ark, which is running on Hulu. They are very short episodes because that’s what they wanted them to be, but it’s been very successful and popular, so we’re still trying to do more episodes of that. What we did on Hulu and what’s there so far is just the beginning of that story of Ark. Which is the sci-fi show I hoped someone would make and they almost never do, so I said let me make the sci-fi show I want to see and see how that goes. So if you go to Hulu.com/arc you should find it. They are really tiny episodes that add up to about 45 minutes which is essentially a pilot and I’m very happy of how that turned out and would love to do more of it. We’re still looking for someone to help us get that one done and I have a lot of other projects, but it’s just a matter of finding someone to write the check so we can get it done.
Bobby: I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and look forward to checking out the film.
Trey: Yeah same here.
You don’t want to miss out on one of the most entertaining and unique conventions in Dallas, especially with all these great guests and this first chance to check out the Pink Five saga in its entirety. If you’ve never been to an All-Con then you are truly missing out and this year is the perfect year to fix that mistake.
For more information on All-Con or to get tickets head over to http://www.all-con.org/
To check out Trey’s web series Ark head over to http://www.hulu.com/ark