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Saturday, December 23, 2017

From the Captain's Chair



Captain’s Log:  this will be my final entry.

It’s incredibly difficult to write those words. It’s also incredibly difficult to express what each of you who have enjoyed and supported STAR TREK CONTINUES have meant to us. It has been perhaps the greatest privilege of my life to have created this series with so many amazing people. The words “thank you” will never suffice to express my gratitude to each and every member of our cast & crew. Only those who were actually there could ever know the amount of effort, sweat, time, passion and love that went into every episode. This series was created for one reason and one reason alone…. to pay tribute to the original series of Star Trek. There were no ulterior motives, no money made, no dreams of stardom or expectations of future opportunities. We made it for love. Our STC production family had a great deal of fun making this series and forged life long friendships. I hope some of that love and camaraderie came through on screen.

I look forward to meeting many of you at conventions in the months ahead. May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018. Live long and prosper… and thank you for taking this journey with us.


Vic Mignogna

Merry Christmas from STAR TREK CONTINUES



Merry Christmas, dear STC fans! Thousands of you have been asking for years if our series would ever be available on DVD & Blu-ray. Well, I have good news and bad news. Because there is significant cost in having discs and artwork pressed & packaged, it’s not feasible for us to make physical discs since we cannot sell them. That’s the bad news….

Now for the good news.  From the cast & crew of STC, our Christmas present to all of you is this: ISO image files (files in the .iso format) of all four volumes (and all 11 episodes) of our series are now available for free download on our website at www.startrekcontinues.com/downloads.html so you can burn your own DVDs & Blu-ray discs!

You can also download the artwork inserts & disc art for all four volumes for free as well!

But that’s not all! We have made available the full-sized 24”x36” posters of all 11 episodes for free, including a custom STC poster I created which is displayed in this newsletter. All of our final shooting scripts can be downloaded as well.

But that’s not all! Many of you have asked about the original music that has been composed & produced for STC. We are releasing all of that music for free download, as well as the artwork and disc art for “The Music Of Star Trek Continues.”

So let’s recap:

  • DVD & Blu-ray disc .iso files for all four volumes (all 11 episodes) of STAR TREK CONTINUES
  • Artwork inserts and disc art for all four volumes
  • The official posters from all 11 episodes, full-sized and ready to print
  • The Music Of Star Trek Continues” CD file download
  • Artwork for the music CD case insert and disc
  • All 11 STC shooting scripts in .pdf format

All for free!

Merry Christmas from STC!



Vic Mignogna
Executive Producer
STAR TREK CONTINUES

CAS ANVAR RELISHES HIS “VULCULAN” ROLE

Silver screen and small screen actor Cas Anvar couldn't believe he was stepping onto a soundstage in a STAR TREK episode when he first emerged in costume as Sentek in Episode 10 (“To Boldly Go:  Part I”). 



After playing opposite Ben Affleck in Argo, an Oscar winner for Best Picture, Anvar has stayed busy with Hollywood in film and TV roles in productions like the Princess Diana biopic Diana, the sci-fi adventure Source Code and suspense thriller The Factory.  He has also appeared in Steve Spielberg’s The Terminal and then there’s a long list of TV roles on Anvar’s resume, including appearances on NCIS:LA, In Plain Sight, Boston Legal, Castle, and 24.

But to emerge in full Romulan garb on a planet set in rural Georgia?  That was one of his personal career highlights – so far.

“On my very first scene, they brought me to the planet set.  And it was amazing.  I’d never really seen a real STAR TREK set before.  You don’t realize how those sets were constructed back then.  This thing was so authentic with its fake boulders and sparkly mineral dust and the elevator on the surface of the planet.  Then I had my first exposure to holding a disruptor and doing the big fight scene.  It was everything you’ve ever imagined when you watch STAR TREK!”



Anvar is a Canadian born and trained actor whose big break came with his role 2003’s Shattered Glass with Hayden Christiansen, and his professional career began following graduation from Canada’s prestigious National Theatre School.  Anvar is also a well-known voice actor, whose talents can be heard in some of the world’s most popular video games (including Call of Duty: BO2, Halo 4, and Assassins Creed: Revelations.)

As a voice actor, he was familiar with Star Trek Continues executive producer Vic Mignogna.  Anvar learned about the opportunity to join the cast as a guest star following a fortuitous meeting with STC director James Kerwin and through a connection with STC make-up artist Lisa Hansell.



“I’d been exposed to STAR TREK CONTINUES before I found out about the opportunity to participate.  Their reputation was very high, and the production really is amazingly impressive and very high quality.  I like the way STC uses technology to make it possible to produce ‘new’ episodes of The Original Series without losing authenticity,” Anvar said.

Anvar is a fan of all flavors of STAR TREK, noting that “there’s not one that I’ve missed.  I’m a Roddenberry fan – a fan of the universe that he created.  But each of the STAR TREK series is like a movement in a symphony.  Each one has a place and a purpose and its own unique flavor.”

The “Vulculan”

To prepare for the role of Sentek (“I call him a ‘Vulculan,” says Anvar), he thought about what would be required for a cool and collected Vulcan to appear as a hot-headed Romulan.

“This is a character who grew up on Vulcan with emotional suppression.  And he’s masquerading as a Romulan, who is much more emotional and volatile.  So how does this character allow himself to pass as a Romulan?  He has to behave in a way that is a little less Vulcan, trying to find the balance.  You have a lot of imagery and a wealth of knowledge of Vulcans by watching Leonard Nimoy as Spock.  Of course, Sentek was performing in a very non-Vulcan way.  That made for an interesting challenge to try to figure out how he could rationalize such impulsive and dangerous behavior.  It was fun to figure it out.”

In the Steps of Bill Shatner

“I studied psychology and sciences at McGill, and I think Bill Shatner did as well.  He started in theater and did some Shakespeare, and of course everyone knew that he was an alumnus of the school.  He went on to perform at Stratford in Toronto.”



That connection to Shakespeare proved very fortuitous.

“I actually got Bill Shatner to endorse a fundraising effort for a Shakespeare campaign, along with Christopher Plummer (an honorary McGill graduate.)  Both of these famous actors came from my hometown.  But after 9/11, our Shakespeare company had a financial problem.  These great actors were sympathetic and helped us raise the money we needed.  Later, of course, I also worked with Shatner on Boston Legal and saw him as the incredible Denny Crane.”

The always-busy Anvar just finished season three of The Expanse, which will reach viewers on the SyFy network in the coming months.

“Season three of The Expanse is looking amazing.  And I'm just about to go to Toronto to shoot another feature film called Beneath Earth and Sky.”

But thinking back, he loved the opportunity to play a STAR TREK alien.


“Honestly, it was a surreal experience.  Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be on STAR TREK and play some sort of an alien – ever since I was a kid.  To getting to realize that dream was exciting,” Anvar says.

Questions & Answers with STC Director James Kerwin

How did you get involved with STC and express your interest in directing an episode — something that led to directing several episodes?

I’d known Vic Mignogna for several years, and cast him in a short film I directed.  While we were on set, he mentioned that he was producing a STAR TREK fan series, and asked me to check out “Pilgrim of Eternity.”  To be honest, I was wary at first.  Although I wasn’t very familiar with fan films, those which I’d happened to catch ranged from great to amateur, from a production perspective.  That’s not a “knock” at all — God bless anyone with the gumption to make a fan film.  So Vic opened his laptop and said “Just watch.”  I did, and I was hooked!  The production value was top-notch.



While we were in post-production on the short, Vic mentioned that he was thinking about doing a “Mirror Universe” story for STC episode 3, and asked me if I’d like to come aboard.  I was drawn in by his overall goal and philosophy for the show: namely, to produce a Trek webseries made by fans who also happened to be film and TV industry professionals, both behind the camera and in front of it… professionals who agreed to set their busy schedules aside, without fame or financial incentives, to express their love of TOS and share it with the world.  So we tossed around a couple plot ideas, but ultimately felt that his initial instinct — to do a fast-paced story that picks up moments after “Mirror, Mirror” and explores Spock’s immediate actions — was the strongest.  The rest is history. 

That episode still holds a special place in my heart because it was my first — and the Mirror Universe is just so much fun!  Wired came to set for that one and shot “behind-the-scenes” footage of the project; I encourage everyone to check that out as well (www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO-oqbvj2PQ).

I assumed “Fairest of Them All” would be my sole trip on the TOS Enterprise… but a few months later, Vic asked if I’d be interested in coming back to direct episode 4.  At that point, I needed to make a decision as to whether I’d be willing to set aside my career for a couple years to focus on STC, because writing and directing episodes isn’t a part-time job.  It wasn’t a difficult decision, simply because this entire endeavor was so rewarding! 



After “The White Iris,” I settled in as the series’ “story editor” — that’s the person who works creatively with the showrunner (executive producer) to decide on overall storylines and which scripts to produce.  I eventually became a co-producer (and later producer) on the show.  In addition to directing and/or co-writing most of the episodes, it was necessary for me to work in post as well, helping Vic decide on music and sound cues, etc.  I performed what’s called the “online edit” — I took Vic’s cut of each episode and readied it for color grading by our cinematographer Matt Bucy — and then performed the “DI conform” after the graded footage was returned.  That involved adding film grain, comping in ungraded opticals (i.e., viewscreen shots), and even adding “judder” to the end titles to simulate the 1969 optical film printing process. I also scheduled shoots, helped Lisa Hansell and Linda Zaruches with some of the social media and publicity, cut together “blooper” reels, and authored the DVDs and Blu-ray discs.  But my focus remained primarily on directing.  I’m quite proud of what we accomplished, needless to say!

How do you describe the role and activity of a director to someone not familiar with filmmaking.  In other words, what does a director do?

The director makes the creative decisions about what’s seen on-screen.  He or she works with the actors to craft performances, and composes the shots (i.e., collaborates with the director of photography to determine camera angles, lighting, etc.).  The overall “feel” and “pace” of the piece is the responsibility of the director.

Now, there are significant differences between directing for film — which was my primary background before STC — and directing for series television.  On a film, the director is usually “top dog,” so to speak.  The buck stops with him or her.  He or she establishes the overall vision and style of the movie, from the broad strokes to the finest details.  That involves making decisions in every department — makeup, costumes, art / set design, sound, camera, lighting, acting, editing, music.  A film director is basically the general in charge of a large army.  It requires a lot of pre-planning; and that involves everything from casting roles to storyboarding (drawing) shots to making judgment calls on wardrobe.  Time is money when you’re on-set or on-location, and — while it’s important to be malleable and be able to think on one’s feet — films ultimately run much more smoothly if the director has pre-visualized everything (either on paper, digitally/virtually using pre-vis software, or even simply in his/her mind).  Films involve large crews and complex camera moves, lighting, and shot composition.  One typically shoots about 2 or 3 script pages a day on a feature or short — and even that is pushing the limits at times.  A theatrical film can have a shooting schedule anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Directing for TV is rather different.  By the time a director comes onto a series, many of the creative decisions have already been made: primary cast, sets, costumes, and — perhaps most importantly — the overall “style” and “feel” of both the camerawork and the actors’ performances.  With few exceptions, most series have multiple directors, and each one can’t bring his/her own personal vision to the table — you’d have a show that looks totally different from one episode to the next!  That’s why, in TV, the executive producer is ultimately in charge.  Individual directors must conform their styles to the overall vision of the showrunner.  In the case of STC, I also had to honor the rich legacy of TOS, and shoot the episodes in a style reminiscent of 1969 network television.  So a lot of my 21st-century directorial instincts had to “take a back seat” in order to serve the overall series.  On top of that, unlike films, a television episode has a much quicker production schedule.  On STC, we usually shot 5 or 6 pages a day — sometimes even 7 or more!  That’s definitely a challenge to pull off.



How does the all-volunteer aspect of a fan production like STC make things more difficult — or easier — for a director?

Fortunately, on STC, our so-called “above the line” positions (main cast and guest stars, producers, writers, directors) and our primary department heads had a lot of experience working in film and/or television, and that helped tremendously.  I didn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” or show people the ropes.

That cut both ways, though.  Since we were dealing with working industry pros, getting everyone together on a volunteer basis was often quite difficult.  For example, unlike a “normal” series, we didn’t have the luxury of putting our main cast under series-regular contracts.  So if certain actors were working on another film or TV series at any given time, we either couldn’t film during those weeks, or I’d have to shoot “around” their absence.  Same thing for our behind-the-scenes crew.

Plus, understandably, we just didn’t have the budget to put our people up in hotels in Georgia — and feed them — for weeks on end.  So our production schedule was often pretty tight.  The more script pages one must shoot per day, the more stress one is under.  There’s no way to avoid that.  I suppose that having a background in indie film — where one often must work with lower budgets and tighter schedules — helped me cope!

Ultimately, though, having people who came together out of love for the material was a huge plus.  Our team members were all motivated to do their best work, simply because that’s why they were there.  And every night after photography, we’d all go out for dinner and drinks together.  It really was a family… and one that I already miss.

What are some of the films and television series which influence you as a director?

I think Kubrick is probably my all-time hero.  I love the specificity and patience of his films, and how his composition and pacing both inform and reflect his actors’ performances.  2001 is wonderful.  I also love both Blade Runner movies, Solaris… but in addition, I have a soft spot for the late-60s aesthetic.  The early Bond films, Flint, Barbarella… there’s a fun, sexy style there that we don’t see often any longer.  As for television, I thought Ronald D. Moore’s version of Battlestar Galactica was wonderful.  And there’s so much great content on right now.  Black Mirror, for example.  And Mr. Robot just blows me away.

What’s your background, and what are you doing professionally now that STC has finished its final episode?

Growing up, I used to make Doctor Who fan films and amateur movies with our family’s old video camera.  If I was assigned to do a term paper, rather than writing a boring old report, I’d shoot it as a narrative film!  So it was probably around high school when I first started thinking seriously about a career in directing.  I also had — and still have — a passion for cosmology, so I was a bit indecisive.  I went to T.C.U. in Dallas / Fort Worth, and started a double-major… but when I realized I’d be in college for many, many years, I ultimately decided to focus on filmmaking (although I did earn a minor degree in astrophysics).  My student thesis film wound up winning a first-place Telly Award, so I stayed in Texas for a few years after that, directing shorts, music videos for local bands, etc.

When one of my films started to make a splash on the festival circuit, an assistant agent at talent agency APA offered to rep me, and I moved to Los Angeles.  When I first got here, I wound up falling into a lot of stage directing, both classical and modern — which was unusual for me because I had relatively little background in live theatre at the time.  But it’s an amazing process, and very different from filmmaking.  My work at the Blank Theatre Company in Hollywood — a wonderful venue run by Daniel Henning and Noah Wyle — gave me a lot of “in the field” experience with actors, including many accomplished television and film veterans who’ve retained their passion for live theatre despite their on-screen success. 

Ultimately, though, film is my first love, and I was fortunate to get the opportunity to direct a cerebral science fiction noir feature for Entertainment One studios called Yesterday Was a Lie (www.yesterdaywasalie.com), starring Kipleigh Brown as well as Chase Masterson from STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine.  After YWAL, we started working on a film based on the science fiction Czech play R.U.R. from 1919.  We originally shot a short (www.rurfilm.com) loosely based on the story — that’s where Vic and I first connected re: STC — and we’re developing it into a high-concept feature set in an alt-history, late-60s world.  And Kipleigh and I have a couple other things in the works as well.  But immediately next for both of us (as well as for Vic and Lisa) is a short psychological character drama called When the Train Stops — also starring Trek actors Michael Forest and John de Lancie.  Lisa’s producing, and she did an excellent job successfully crowdfunding the film.  We’ll be shooting in 2018, and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Website: www.jameskerwin.com
Twitter: @jameskerwin

Facebook: /jameskerwin