Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Tellarite lives!: Two tales from a long-lost New Voyages vignette

Have you seen "No Win Scenario" yet?

I know the New Voyages-turned-Phase II Trek fan films have a great following all their own, as well as recurring and regular characters and actors. I know many of you follow them, and may even go back as far as 2005, when the big news was to be a series of five "vignettes"—short films to fill the agonizingly long gaps between the release times of the all-volunteer projects—usually a year or more. That's because, as a lot of you are aware, the fan films get their slick look from many professionals who do them as "weekend work" to add to their demo reel—or simply out of love for Star Trek.

But in case you haven't heard the amazing news by now, the Klingon-centric and "long lost" No Win Scenario is out after six years, only the second of the three actually filmed to ever be released (you can see it below)—and all because  NV/P2's John "Kargh" Carrigan (above, on set lakeside, with "Grolst") was determined to make it so. He's pulled off a miracle here, with the help of many hands, to rescue the pieces and finally make them whole. (See more from John, below the fold).

What you may not know is that it's been my secret, too—unless you got me to talk about it at a con in recent years. Not on John or anyone else's level, of course, but on the scale of a true fanboy moment—and after years of the pro life, they are so hard to come by. See, I've always loved the Tellarites since "Journey to Babel," always thought they got short shrift next to the Andorians—even did a nose-puttied Tellarite for my make-up class "fantasy character" project in college. Finally, they even turn up on Enterprise for realz (thanks to closet Tellarite fans Mike Sussman and Manny Coto), but I missed getting in line to be an extra in "Demons"/"Terra Prime"—and then date conflicts ruined my other chance, among other UFP alien envoys for Walter Koenig's groundbreaking NV/P2 "fan" film by Dorothy Fontana, To Serve All My Days.

But thanks to head honcho James Cawley and the gang at NV/P2, they still let me come out on my dates, play a cameo in that ep, and THEN converted the Klingon spy role to a Tellarite in Erik Korngold's "No Win Scenario" script just so I could still be a "porcinoid." The professional prosthetics sized and built by Kevin Haney, who counts Mike Westmore's modern TV Star Trek team among his credits, were just a hoot—and my four late-night hours in the chair with talented makeup artist Jimmy Soltis (above, combing my clove-hair) were unforgettable (and thoroughly documented with video and stills, you better believe it.) To top it all off, we discovered that the nose piece was glued down in such a way that trapped air from a normal "huff" breath resulted in a beautiful nose flare that Gav himself would be proud of—all completely unplanned. And all happily utilized on camera by vignette director Erik "Gooch" Goodrich; the 1 a.m. shoot was topped only by my 5 a.m. release from makeup removal!

So see the video below...but I have to share the overall "phoenix" survival story that John Carrigan was good enough to tell TREKLAND—and yes, knowing how much it meant to me for Grolst the Tellarite to see the light of day, I'd been among those he kept in the loop re: the saga's survival:

The main original shoot did not yet have a Klingon bridge set for the "trainer" scenes, John tells me, and was shot before green screen—a first run which later proved too dimly lit to key the background accurately. The actor playing the Klingon trainer also had to be recast. A few months later, the project stalled, John and wife Annie dined with FX donor/producer Doug "Max Rem" Drexler and NV director Jack Marshall among others during a visit to LA, and even saw a rough cut of NWS that showed up those problems.
"In their opinion even the outdoor campfire footage was not good enough," John continues. "Annie and I were really upset hearing this, because I had seen some rushes on set when we shot the campfire scenes and I at least thought we had all done some good work. On the same trip we also hooked up with Jim Van Over (aka Erik Korngold) who wrote NWS, and ...we sat with Jim and watched the [rough cut] video. When it was finished, I still believed what I saw was some very good acting and well worth saving, but I had to agree that because of many technical problems we had filming outdoors and at night, if anything could be saved, it would take a whole load of work."

Back in the States to shoot "Of Gods and Men" in summer 2006,  John told NWS director Erik "Gooch" Goodrich he still hoped to find a way to finish the vignette.  When both John and Annie reprised their Klingon roles for NV's "Blood and Fire" a year later, they were thrilled that a real Klingon bridge set would be built at last—and perhaps provide a second chance for NWS, if the "green screen" scenes could be reshot with a new co-star. Even having the set delayed for use did not deter him: "I went about the set, quietly telling some people of my intentions and putting together my own little production crew (inside the Phase II production crew) and they pulled out all stops and built the Klingon bridge in 24 hours, as Gooch was only going to be on set that first weekend," he says. With him behind camera and Paul Sieber cast as the Trainer, the "secret" shoots went on at night—including a new insert of a fireside Klingon map John mocked up, complete with an orange-gelled light to simulate the original camnpfire. "It worked so well that you would never know it was shot years apart," he says.
When Cawley decided that all New Voyages' efforts had to go into the main annual episodes, seemingly ending the chance for the vignettes of 2005, John asked "Gooch" to help secure all the footage so that it might be tackled at home in the UK. "He was as good as his word, and I contacted my amazing editor friend Graham O'Hare, and after agreeing that I could only pay him a fraction of what he was worth, we began," John says. The joint choices and all the matching problems were eventually worked out—including the infamous original campfire. "The fire was blazing one moment and gone the next, and was dramatically dead at some points," John laughs. "Graham cured these problems in one amazing go: He created false fire and a glow in the shots which had an amazing effect." Once happy with a rough cut, O'Hare tweaked the audio, and then pulled stock FX shots since even CGI industry friends seemed unable to do the big amounts of original work needed to illustrate Kargh's tale. And then the next Phase II episode "Kitumba" brought John and CGI artist Pony Horton together.
"It wasn't until Annie and I discussed at some length back home about so wanting to get NWS finished that she said, why don't you ask Pony?" he recalls. "What had I to lose? I contacted Pony ... and he said he would be honoured. So after swearing Pony to secrecy we continued: Graham sent him our cut with the temporary SFX in, and Pony went to work. He did an incredible job, but one amazing CGI shot really set the scene for everything to come."
Their rough cut had used the campfire pull-back from Star Trek V but in reverse, going from space to ground: "We had shot the original campfire scene in James Lowe's back garden right next to a river (which nearly claimed our amazing sound man Ralph Miller). What Pony sent to us just blew us away: he had inserted our campfire into an amazing landscape."
"Graham was an amazing co-producer as well as an editor, and he and Pony just went above and beyond for me," John says. "And with a little financial assistance from my amazing wife Annie to pay for some of the long years of work this project took, 'No Win Scenaro' was finally finished.  As Kirk said in Trek III, "The answer is no—I am therefore going to do it anyway." And all of this is why 'No Win Scenario' means such a lot to us."
And now that you know The Rest of the Story... please enjoy!  And relish in the notion that little miracles still do come true—with enough patience and sweat. And Tellarites.


Pony R. Horton said...

Larry, Nice article on NWS. I was thrilled to have a chance to head-up effects on this film, and I must also give thanks to the great Tobias Richter, owner of The Light Works, for giving me some critical help on some of the VFX elements in this film.

Just FYI, that pretty forest matte painting I created for the campfire shot is actually on a small plot of property I own (hopefully won't get foreclosed) in the Tehachapi Mountains, at 6,200 feet elevation. Someday I hope to build my dream cabin up there. That shot angle is about what my kitchen window view would be!

Larry Nemecek said...

Thanks, Pony! And yes kudos to Tobias for his hands-on CGI, as well.

There's two beautiful backyards in that shot, yessir. Thanks for popping in and adding to the story. We have to meet up.

Unknown said...

Larry that was off the hook, I truly enjoyed the episode and will be keeping watch as further adventures face the intrepid crew of the Enterprise. Yes the Tellarite lives, great job.

Thalek said...

I'd heard recently that this vignette had been released. From one Tellarite to another, greetings, you ugly pig! [grin]

I had a brief cameo as one of the Tellarite ambassadors in the corridor in To Serve All My Days, and I've been playing the Tellarite Dr. Henglaar on various Hidden Frontier productions for about ten years now.

As an amateur makeup artist, it was an honor to have Kevin Haney and one of his apprentices apply my makeup, and I also got to chat with Mr. Haney during some of the lulls in shooting.

Congratulations on your role in the vignette. It sounds like you had a lot of fun.

John Whiting

Larry Nemecek said...


I thought I had thanked you for that note, but perhaps not! From one Tellarite/fan to another, I do appreciate it. It was a rare occasion when I could still have a "fanboy moment" ! And just glad it got resurrected. I did meet Kevin when they fitted the prosthetics here in LA, and then Jimmy did such a great job in the chair. In fact, I would have been in that scene with you for TSAMD had my schedule allowed it in time, but I missed it by a few days. But with the extra Tellarite pieces still around, James indulged me! They wrote the spy in the Klingon vignette shoot as a Tellarite...and then I got to name him Grolst (ha!). :-)