Eagerly the filmmakers approached in 2010, they all had a web series for me to review but I refused; sorry, but that is not filmmaking. 2011 came and went, with several ‘cancelled’ web series repackaged into features and screened at festivals. Still I balked; just make a real film in the first place. 2012 arrived and the first film event I attended was a screening of Voyage Trekkers, a comedy web series directed by Nathan Blackwell. I was desperate for a film event, but a web series? Again with the web series! What is it with these filmmakers and their web series? They don’t make money off of them, but they just keep on making them!
Before the show started, series director Blackwell made it clear to everyone in attendance and logging in to watch via internet: the goal of the evening was to raise enough money to build a bridge like the one on Star Trek. I had a million questions: what about season two? What about budgeting and all of the expensive stuff that goes with filmmaking. You want money to build…a bridge? This is downright irresponsible! I remembered when I was a kid making super 8 films in Echo Park Los Angeles, when we built our own Star Trek bridge out of cardboard and hundreds of lite brite pegs. And that’s when it hit me. One of those revelations and epiphanies that comes not at the stroke of midnight on a new year, but from the ghosts that torment in the sweaty darkness of fever.
Every film cost 6.95. Every single film budget started with 3.00 for a roll of super 8 and 3.95 for the mailer. We didn’t have ‘likes’ or Kickstarter or any fundraising for our films, just the change we could scrounge from dads coat pockets. After our tightfisted producers finally ponied up the dough, it was time to assemble the cast and crew for a production meeting. But it wasn’t called a production meeting; it was called ‘recess.’ Filming got under way and we each took a turn shooting scenes. You can tell when I’m shooting; everything is in slow motion, the scene is tilted in a Dutch angle, and GI Joe suddenly has depth, emotion and kung-fu grip. Kind of like Ingmar Bergman meets the Banana Splits. Just like every film, we always went over budget. We needed more blood splatter and the ketchup bottle in the fridge was empty. Or worse, the director wanted an exploding head effect, so that meant purchasing a watermelon and an M-80.
My moment of clarity came when I realized that we always had a place to screen our films. We had our own outdoor theatre in the back yard of our neighbor’s house, with a bed sheet across the wall for a screen, and a record player for the soundtrack. Anyone could screen a film there on Friday night. The critics were always in attendance; if a film was bad, we trashed the place. If a film was good we still trashed the place but the melee was respectful and dignified. Regardless of how the show ended, we all went home to start working on our next film, because a filmmaker only needs two things to make a movie: 1) People to help them make their movie. 2) A bed sheet in the back yard to screen it on.
Voyage Trekkers: Season One is a goofy Star Trek spoof bordering on raunchy and diving head first into the absurd. The series follows the intergalactic exploits of Captain Sunstrike (Adam Rini), Commander Powell (Logan Blackwell) and the lovely Dr. Rena (Gabrielle Van Buren) as they travel through space insulting every life form they encounter. The crew deftly outwits several perilous predicaments that are complicated by dead phaser batteries, expired software and forgotten passwords, all at the most crucial moment. The locations are excellent, turning the Superstition Mountains into a treacherous extraterrestrial terrain. The skies are filled with as many planets as the green screen could fit and the color is purposely maxed out to the hideous fluorescent day-glo iridescence the original Star Trek series looked like on my neighbors color TV. Each of the 10 episodes runs around 5 minutes; all of them brimming with technique and attention. The laughs range from out loud, “were watching that again,” to “oh no you didn’t.” Excellent photography and sound, with superb costuming and first-rate production. The Squishy Studio website is absolutely bursting with goodies, making it a tad archaic to negotiate. The complete first season of ‘Trekkers’ is available there as well as all things Squishy. Voyage Trekkers is a very entertaining web series with top-notch Arizona filmmaking, and provides the best new reason for you to eat lunch in the cubicle.
Final Take – Building bridges.