If you haven't watched the series, its episodes (each less than 10 minutes) are easy to binge on in an afternoon and definitely are worth a watch, whether you're a Trekkie, general geekologist, or just in for a quick laugh. Blackwell talked with Jackalope Ranch about what goes into making one episode, where he got the idea, geeky inside jokes, and why the cast and crew do what they do -- for free.
How did you get the idea for Voyage Trekkers? I've been making movies for a while with my production company Squishy Studios, but for the longest time I've been really champing at the bit to do a fun sci-fi project. Voyage Trekkers is really the culmination of that desire to make a comedic love letter to the genre.
How long does it take to make one under-10-minute episode typically? A 10-episode web series season is really like making 10 short films. Usually a single episode will be shot in one or two days. Then post-production, depending on the amount of effects involved, can be one or two weeks or even longer. Our shortest episode in season one (Episode 9: "Fabulous Technology"), which is only two minutes long, ended up taking something like two hours of post-production per finished second just because of the amount of visual effects involved.
Did you know the cast before this project at all? Yes, all the parts were written for all the main cast members. When we started Voyage Trekkers, there were no big plans. It all snowballed from a very genuine place of wanting to make something fun.
Have you made any cameos? I do have a cameo! The burnt silhouette of a tragic crew member in the first episode of season two -- that was me.
Who are some of your comedic writing and directing inspirations? There's too many to name, really, but more recently I'm a huge fan of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, who did Shaun of the Dead, Spaced, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End. Their comedic timing, sense of humor, and really strong characters are just top-notch
Has the series gained a larger following now that it's in its second season? Absolutely. I really feel like all the extra time and effort we've put into the new season is paying off. The show is getting some great reaction to people discovering it for the first time. But it's a definitely gradual process, much more a marathon than a sprint. Building an audience and getting the show out there takes a lot of time.
What is your favorite episode of this season? My personal favorite might be the first episode of the new season, although I still don't have enough objectivity to really know yet. For me, as the director, I think I enjoy the showmanship of unveiling all the new stuff that the second season has to offer in that first episode. We get to meet new characters, we show off the bridge, there's great new visual effects and the music that was recorded with a live orchestra.
What do you think Voyage Trekkers offers to people who aren't fans of Star Trek? We wanted to make sure that show wasn't in-jokes that only Trek fans would get. We really wanted to create our own unique universe and characters. When the comedy is coming from the characters themselves, when it's about people who drive the humor and the situations, especially in comedy, you connect with a much broader audience. If you get the references then it'll definitely be a richer experience, but we wanted to make sure the show wasn't dependent on that.
Has Voyage Trekkers gained any Trekkie-like super-fans of its own? We definitely have some super-fans, which is awesome. Last year we had a fan fiction contest, which was great. As a filmmaker you always hope what you find an audience and we're still comparatively small and primarily local, but, because of the Internet, we're being discovered by people all over the world.
One of the funniest episodes from this season has to be Laser Swords at Dawn with some faulty lightsaber-esque weapons. What other sci-fi or fantasy references can new viewers expect to see in Voyage Trekkers? Voyage Trekkers, while we're closely tied to Star Trek, really is a love letter to all sci-fi. There's a bits of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Star Wars in there. There's also nod to the Flash Gordon with some of the outfits and the evil mastermind General Kang in Episode 7 of Season 1.
What's your favorite geeky Easter egg that you've put in the series thus far? The plaque on the bridge, which (if you follow Star Trek) you notice that all the starships have a plaque for when it was first dedicated. They all have some lofty quote by someone famous. Ours is by Douglas Adams, who wrote Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and it reads: "Flying is easy. Just throw yourself at the ground and miss."
In season two, we find out Captain Sunstrike has an older brother. Are we ever going to meet the infamous and more accomplished Sunstrike brother, Reggie? For sure! Not sure when yet, but if we didn't I'd really be dropping the ball. With season two we wanted to reward our audience by making the characters deeper and more complex. It's a lot of fun to discover that he has this epically famous older brother whose shadow he's living in. It's almost like we find out he's James Kirk's younger brother, Ralph Kirk, who we only see when he wants to borrow money or something.
There's a fair amount of costume, set, and CG design involved in Voyage Trekkers. How do you fund these elements, being a small, independent web series? Voyage Trekkers is an all-volunteer force and it's really a credit to everyone involved and their talent on what we've been able to pull off. The truth is that web series don't make any money. The amount of work that takes to make them can be staggering. We're actually, basically, insane for doing this because it doesn't make any practical sense at all... except for that fact that it's a hell of a lot of fun, and for many of us that's the most important thing.
Will there be a Season 3? If so, what's in store for the crew? Everyone I've talk to definitely wants to do another season, and we definitely have more places to take the show. I think the next step is to move away from the episodic nature of the first season and really do a bigger, longer story arc that takes the characters into their biggest adventure yet.
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Do you have any other projects on the horizon? This Halloween, we'll be releasing another web series that we created, which we actually shot before the second season of Voyage Trekkers, and are now finally releasing, called Normally This Weird. It's a comedy series about a pair of geeky newlyweds who are trying to be adults and are moving into their first home, but it turns out that their neighborhood is incredibly strange. One neighbor practices dark magic, another builds death rays in his garage, all while the FBI tries to keep tabs on things. The first two pilot episodes are actually already out at normallythisweird.com.
Which episodes will you be showing at FilmBar? Since there isn't time to show all of season two, we'll be screening the episodes that best tie into the finale. The first episode is a great introduction for new people, we'll also be showing episode six ,which reveal that Captain Sunstrike lives in the shadow of his famous brother, and then the big four-part ending.
The fun-filled conclusion to season two of Voyage Trekkers will premiere at FilmBar at 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 16, and again at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 per showing. Tickets and more information about the event can be found on FilmBar's website.