Brenda Handam is a guest writer for the Axanar blog.
I recently had the honor of interviewing Reece Watkins, this is our conversation.
BH: Can you tell us a little about yourself: including things such as your occupation, your location, what got you interested in Axanar?
RW: Certainly! I’m a computer programmer by trade, but lately I’ve been doing mostly database applications. I live in central Georgia, about 100 miles south of Atlanta, and I came across Axanar purely by accident.
BH: Which iteration of Star Trek became “your first” Star Trek? What drew you to that iteration? Can you briefly take us through how you became a Star Trek enthusiast and what has kept you a fan ever since?
RW: The Original Series was my first, and it is still my favorite. I was a little too young to see it in its original run, but when I was in the second or third grade; it was re-running on my local NBC affiliate after school. I became instantly hooked. There was an intelligence to the stories that the standard network fare sorely lacked. There was just no comparison to such silly shows as “Lost In Space”.
BH: How did you find out about Axanar?
RW: I had stumbled across Star Trek: New Voyages a couple of years back and ‘Liked’ their Facebook page. One day they posted favorably about a new project that was trying to raise funds, and I clicked through to the Prelude to Axanar Kickstarter.
BH: What was it that made you feel that you wanted to support Axanar, and assist in making sure the production was a success?
RW: I’ve always had a soft spot for fan-based productions, since I had sort of stumbled into one of my own about eleven years back, when I was an early supporter of the ‘Red vs. Blue’ series based on Microsoft’s Halo game for the original Xbox. A bunch of the show’s fans on their discussion boards wanted to make a series of their own to pay homage to the creators. These guys wanted to get started, but they didn’t have a script. I offered to write them one. Then, we suddenly had to figure out how to navigate what seemed like a hundred different obstacles just to make a few short minutes of video. The kids that had the time to spend didn’t have the equipment, or the money, and the older folks who had the equipment didn’t have the time to put into it. So I wound up having to learn half a dozen different production jobs until we could find new people with the skills already in hand. For the first episode, I had to learn how to edit video, process audio files emailed in from cast members across four countries on three continents, hack the PC version of the Halo game to remove the heads-up display graphics, and make a theme song that didn’t use any of the music from the game. As you might expect, when it was finally released, it looked like a total amateur job because it was a total amateur job. But, oddly enough, people liked it, and they wanted more. Then people started to volunteer, and I didn’t have to wear five hats any more. Within a year, that stupid little show was selected to be shown at the 2005 Machinima Awards in Manhattan. Although we weren’t nominated for any of the awards, we did get to meet some of the pioneers in the field, and made some good friends in the process.
Which brings me to back to Axanar (finally!). Well, Prelude to Axanar, to be more precise. As I had watched the fan-made shows, I found myself feeling nostalgic, both for the Star Trek of my youth, and for the days when I was learning from my own lack of experience. So when I saw that initial trailer for Prelude, I figured that they had put all of their best material into that, and that the rest of the production would, well… suffer from tons of ‘amateur suck’. I fully expected the script to be full of clichés, the acting to be wooden or maudlin, the sound to be uneven, and the special effects to be a joke.
How wrong I was…
I remember the day (has it been a year already?) that Prelude was finally supposed to be released to the Donors. It was late… and there were delays… people getting impatient and angry on the Internet… all things I had experienced myself when trying to put the finishing touches on an episode people had been waiting on for weeks. Hours after it was supposed to have gone live, it still wasn’t up, and many people were giving up and going to bed. But I stuck with it until it launched.
The opening graphics were good, but as soon as Soval started talking, there was an obvious framing mistake (his head is facing right, but the center of the shot is on his ear – the camera is pointing too far to the left), yet for an amateur production, that was certainly a forgivable quibble. But as I watched more and more, the ‘amateur’ feel was refreshingly absent, and by the end, I was blown away by what I saw. This was the first Trek since the TOS cast that actually ‘fit’ with how I had always seen my beloved show. I had tried, but I never became as fond of TNG as I was for the original. But there it was on my television screen, just as good as it used to be. My jaw literally dropped as the closing credits rolled. I knew then and there that I would do whatever I could to help. This was a project I could get behind, because these people finally saw Star Trek the way I had.
BH: What are your expectations for the Axanar full-length feature? Do you hope to have some role you can play to help the production?
RW: My expectations? At this point, I don’t have any more information on what will be in the feature than the other fans do, so I’m just waiting in line with the rest of the crowd! 🙂 But I do trust Alec and Rob Burnett, and their love and respect for ALL of Star Trek in all its myriad manifestations will ensure that whatever the finished product will be, it WILL BE Star Trek. Of that, I have no doubts whatsoever.
As for my role, well, I don’t really have one. Not in any official capacity, other than the odd blog post or two anyway, but I have told Alec that I will be happy to serve in whatever capacity I’m able to. It’s a bit difficult to be hands-on, of course, since I’m on the other side of the country, but this is the Information Age, after all! In all fairness, though, Axanar doesn’t really NEED me – and that’s actually a good thing. See, another of the big reasons why I’m so passionate about this project even though I’m NOT a major player on the team is that Alec really does put the production above all else. He doesn’t see himself as the “Center of the Axanar Universe, Around Whom All Must Orbit Worshipfully”, and, frankly, that’s rare for the leader of an independent production. He doesn’t insist on hogging the spotlight, or taking on a role he’s not qualified to handle just out of vanity or ego. What he does do, however, is find the absolute best person he can to fill those roles – professionals. That may not seem like a big deal, but, trust me, it is absolutely the prime reason why Axanar has the greatest potential to succeed. In the highly unlikely event that Axanar fails, it won’t be because Alec Peters settled for less than perfect just to avoid hurting a friend’s feelings. And that goes for himself as well – I guarantee you that if all of a sudden, an actor became available who was a better fit for Captain Garth than himself, Alec would hand him the script and the costume and say, “go make the movie I’d pay to see!” In a way, I suppose, that’s my “vision” for Axanar: to see a professionally-polished independent Star Trek movie, where no effort was spared, no corners cut, and no ego stroked. So far, I really like my chances of getting that.
BH: What would you like to see in the full-length feature?
Oh, there are LOTS of things I’d like to see in the feature – if I could just convince Alec to let me write the scenes! Like, I would make Diana Kingsbury the First Officer of the USS Ajax under Captain Alexander. My ex-wife was former Army, and she helped me see that women are every bit as capable as men are at fighting a war – but they see things differently. That makes for some great storytelling opportunities, because all too often, women are just treated as set dressing, damsels in distress, or token casting experiments. Having those two women in the top billets of one of Starfleet’s most powerful ships would be something I’d pay to see, even if I couldn’t write it!
BH: What would you like the to see in the future of Ares Studios? What direction do you want the studio to take in its future?
RW: In a perfect and just world, Ares Studios would become the new Desilu, the new home for Star Trek in the New Media. Who knows? Maybe there’d be a series spun off, and I could write the stories that I want to see in the Axanar time period. After all, it worked for Alec…
BH: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RW: I want those Axanar donors who are creatively inclined to take away a very important lesson from this whole incredible journey:
If you think you can do better, be my guest.
No, seriously. If you actually CAN do better Star Trek than Axanar, don’t tell me. Show me.
If you don’t know how, find someone who does.
If you can’t find someone who does, learn how to do it yourself until you can.
When you finally do, I’ll be happy to buy a ticket! I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that the whole Axanar staff would line up, too.