Robots, space, and ray guns are just a few words that can inevitably lead most sci-fi fans to geek out in adoration and obsession.
The aforementioned are -- not coincidentally, we presume -- part of what make up the intergalactic comedy web series "Voyage Trekkers," which centers on the self-described "worst starship crew in the Galactic Union" and will screen its season two premiere this Wednesday.
Co-creator, writer and director Nathan Blackwell took time out of his chaotic schedule (which includes still filming two episodes and editing about seven more for season two) to talk to us about what's different this season, why they wanted to write an eBook and give it away for free, plus what some of his favorite shows and movies are, besides "Voyage Trekkers," of course.
When Blackwell first came up with the idea for the show, it came from his desire to do something in the sci-fi realm, and to do something fun. Blackwell says he wanted to just make something as funny as he possibly could.
"Originally it was just gonna be a couple of episodes, it wasn't going to be a big thing, or something that we banked on," says Blackwell. "It was just going to be fun, and we invited the people we wanted to work with, and we were all really happy with how it turned out, and we just wanted to make more."
The crew learned a lot during their first season of filming, and while their original goal was basically just to have fun, when they started talking about a second season they decided it was time to up the ante, creatively-speaking.
"Season two was let's really bring our A game," says Blackwell. "I mean, what the main goal was to have fun, but we really wanted to throw everything we could at it. So we improved the costumes, the props, and we wanted to just do something crazy ambitious like build a 25 x 25 foot bridge set."
The bridge set was the crew's desire to build an actual stage set where the misfit galactic crew lived. The bigger ambitions and creative goals inevitably proved to make shooting, mainly due to funding, more difficult than the first season. It's been over a year since the wrap of season one, which isn't exactly an ideal timeframe between seasons.
Despite some of the challenges, Blackwell says everyone is still having a blast, which is the whole point of why they started making the show to begin with.
"I have to give everyone credit," says Blackwell. "We had some really insane shoots toward the end, basically on our very last day of (shooting with) the bridge set-because literally the very next day it would have to be broken down and stored. So we were flying at a pace that was just nuts. And everyone kept their cool, and no one got angry or snapped or was yelling, everyone was just so awesome, and I'm just so appreciative of this sort of family that we've built."
Blackwell says that contrary to season one, where everything was very episodic and you could shuffle the episodes around and not know, this season is much more continuous-plot-driven.
"We really wanted to zoom out and get a larger perspective of how these characters exist in their worlds," says Blackwell. "So we're going to develop the characters and the world a little more, so that people can get involved with the show."
In an effort to get their fans even more involved, and create an opportunity outside of the two-to-six minute episodes (season two's episodes will be slightly longer) to delve deeper into the world and the characters of the show, the co-writer, Craig Michael Curtis, wrote a novella as an eBook, of which the team offers for free.
"We priced it free because it was mainly meant as a gift for our fans who wanted to dig deeper into the show," says Blackwell. "I find that with web series, it's really important to cultivate those fans, because those superfans will actually share your show with everyone that they meet. They will be your cheerleader, not only to you, but to their friends. And that's really vital when you're building a fan base."
Blackwell says the fans are why he and the team stay active on their Facebook page, posting pictures of about the ups and downs and the behind the scenes of the show. He says he wants people to know they're doing it for fun, and they're just normal people trying to make something cool.
While the cast and crew haven't discussed long-term goals for the show, Blackwell says he hopes to eventually make projects like "Voyage Trekkers" become his actual career, and not just for fun.
"Movies are all I know, so my goal is to have a career making feature films and web series and just doing the kinds of things I love, but to actually have a career out of it," says Blackwell. "So that's my big aspiration, I'm basically going all in with this passion project, and trying to make a career out of it."
The cast and crew are hosting a launch party Tuesday night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Tom's Tavern in downtown Phoenix to preview the premiere before it officially launches on their website the following morning.
Check out what Blackwell's watching after the jump ...
What are you watching these days when you're not busy filming?
Right now in terms of shows I'm really into "The Walking Dead" and "Archer," and then of course "Game of Thrones" is awesome. I seem to be going on a BBC binge, it seems like every Sunday I'm getting into a new show or a new series-as long as someone is murdered."
What are some of your favorite shows from the past?
One of my favorite shows is actually a British show called "Spaced." It's by (directed) Edgar Wright and (written) Simon Pegg and (starring) Nick Frost, who did Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It's actually the show that they all met and started bouncing off each other and really kind of starting that great comedic relationship with each other.
Are there any other web series you are into?
There's a lot of web series out there, but two I've been enjoying lately have been Leap Year, an Aaron Sorkin-eque comedy about a tech start up company, and the charming and fun Squaresville, about two misfit teenage girls.
Are there any shows you started out loving but eventually came to dislike?
I really got into "Heroes" with a passion for like one season, and they had so many flips and turnarounds that I just felt like I couldn't hang on to anything. I just completely tuned out. It went from being like a religious thing where you tune in every week to I don't even care.
How about films, are there any you're excited about? I would say that the film I'm not looking forward to is Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's "The World's End," which comes out at the end of the summer.
What kind of films are you normally in to?
I really enjoy movies both as a moviegoer and as a filmmaker, and they're not always the same kind of movie. I tend to be a child who was raised on things like "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," so I really like the summer movie season, but in terms of movies that really resonate or I respond to, I don't really lock myself into one genre.
If you were to recommend a must-see film, what would it be?
Any movie by Hayao Myazaki, who did "Spirited Away," which won the best animated Oscar a couple of years ago. He doesn't make stuff where robots blow stuff up-and don't get me wrong, I love robots that blow stuff up-but there's just so much imagination and compassion in the stuff he does, it's almost magical, and I don't use that term lightly. Also if you haven't seen "Big Trouble in Little China" you're living half a life.