The constant improvement in video and computer technology along with dissatisfaction with the offerings of the entertainment industry is leading increasing numbers of consumers to try their hands at producing audio and video shows for distribution on the Internet. Some would-be producers get discouraged early on and quit. Others find the going too tough and abandon projects in mid-stream. A relative few manage to complete the process and release a product.
Shows such as “Star Trek Continues”, “Star Trek Phase II” and the soon-to-be-released “Star Trek: Axanar” are satisfying the cravings of Star Trek fans with high-quality productions featuring established professionals on both sides of the camera. Those shows come close to the quality full-time professional production companies can turn out and have been bolstered by successful fund-raising campaigns.
Other companies are more modest in terms of financial and technical means. Consider Albany, Georgia-based “Project: Potemkin” which between short features and full-length shows has churned out 17 episodes over the last four and half years. Potemkin's physical sets are smaller and more cramped than some other productions and some shows have been marked by a shortage of technical know-how. But led by former fanzine editor Randy Landers, Potemkin is still managing to make shows that are entertaining and explore uncharted areas of the Trek universe. Examiner was interested in finding out what lessons have been learned by Landers and company along the way and what advice they would have fledgling producers. What follows is a transcript of an e-mail exchange between Examiner and Landers.
Examiner: I'm sure there were plenty of surprises along the way, can you share one or two really hard lessons that anyone trying to do a fan production should know?
Landers: “One of the hardest things to deal with is when someone, be it a VFX artist, an actor, a donor, does not come through as promised. You're left scrambling, and sometimes you just end up doing it yourself or seeking help from other sources.
As a result, none of our scripts are written for this character or that character; instead of writing a script for T'Noshi, we write a script for SCIENCE. Then if Christin is available, we use her. If Bill is available, we use him. If Ande is available, we use him. We have two or three actors per position (like SCIENCE, SECURITY, etc.).
It's harder when post-production folks don't come through and can really throw a monkey wrench into the machinery. I ended up doing a lot of visual effects work on “The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky” and I'd never done anything like it before.”
Examiner: You've acknowledged sound issues in some episodes. How are you addressing those issues: Again, any lessons for would-be producers there?
Landers: “During the third season, we began to realize that sound was our weakest area of production, and we purchased a TASCAM DR-40 to help address that weakness. We also have concentrated on getting a better understanding of Adobe Audition CC 2014. I hope that we can continue to improve in this area in the coming year; it's probably too late for our second season vignettes, but we are making progress.
My recommendation to other productions is to concentrate on the sound as much as the video. I now have two audio technicians who do nothing more than running the TASCAM during a production. We've also done a bit of ADR work, dubbing over the voices as needed. Sadly, it doesn't sound as natural yet, but we're working on it!”
Examiner: "The Night the Stars Fell From the Sky" was perhaps you're biggest effort so far, do you have any other major full-length episodes in the works?
Landers: “Not in the second season; we did 10 vignettes. Toward the end of the third season, we did a 30 mins vignette entitled, "The Last Child," written by David A. MacKenzie. It's now in post-production and is completely edited. We're looking forward to its release next summer.”
No doubt, a lot of Star Trek fans are looking forward to new offerings from the Potemkin crew.