At about 10:00 PM, on Friday, December 7th, 1979, I was driving home in my father’s car from the John Danz cinema in Bellevue, Washington. He’d just picked me up from the first showing of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. I was 12 years old, sitting in stunned silence. I was already in love with cinema. At five, I’d declared to my grandmother I could absolutely watch George Pal’s production of the original WAR OF THE WORLDS every day for the rest of my life. At six, I’d caught the original PLANET OF THE APES on television, which sufficiently blew my mind. At 9, my mother took me to see LOGAN’S RUN, which supplanted everything I’d seen previously to become my favorite movie ever. A year later, STAR WARS opened and quite literally captured the imagination of the entire planet Earth, solidifying the idea I had to grow up and work in Hollywood.
But as I sat in my father’s car…I thought about seeing old friends…friends I’d never thought I’d see again. As with so many of us, I’d seen every episode of TOS countless times. I’d long since memorized every episode title while pouring over Bjo Trimble’s Concordance. I’d built countless models of Constitution Class starships, even creating the obligatory Constellation, using Ohio Blue Tip matches to create the perfect burned destruction across the hull. TREK’s secular humanism supplanted any religious teachings I’d received in Sunday School, the lessons of the episodes becoming the dominant ethical and moral principals in my life.
STAR TREK was pretty goddamned important to me…and I’d just literally witnessed the Second Coming, an event rumored for much of the time I’d been alive on Earth, but one which I’d never thought I’d see.
And yet…I just had, loving every deliberately paced moment of it. STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE depicted the STAR TREK universe as the serious, thoughtful, adult and infinite place I’d always imagined in my mind’s eye. A universe no longer just in television syndication, in collected anthologies, in books or fotonovels, but in real widescreen imagery, 40 feet high with a thunderous music score and unbelievable special effects.
As my father drove home, I’m sure he sensed I’d been profoundly moved by the experience of THE MOTION PICTURE. After all, my parents enabled my TREK obsession since as long as I can remember. After a long silence, I remember my dad finally daring to ask me, “So what did you think of the movie?” As with Spock in the Director’s Edition of TMP, I probably had a tear streaming down my cheek.
I answered, “Dad, I want to grow up and direct a STAR TREK movie.”
Almost 20 years later, in February of 1998, in a club off Hollywood Blvd. called The Garden of Eden, I found myself on a film set of a movie I’d written. There were lights, a camera and extras everywhere, and I was directing my father and William Shatner himself in a scene. Dad played a bartender named Dick, who poured only mysterious green drinks. Moments before I’d called “action,” I’d watched my father give Bill one of his cigars, lighting it up for him. I figured this was the moment childhood dreams came true.
I’d known Christian Gossett for many years before PRELUDE TO AXANAR came along. We’d shared the stage during STARSHIP SMACKDOWN at the San Diego Comicon. I’d once ran into him inside the Weta Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand while working on THE LION, THE WITCH and THE WARDROBE and he’d been there designing something…secret.
I’d heard about Alec Peters from a number of people who’d explained to me Alec was my brother from another mother, a man who loved TREK as much as I did. After we finally met, it seemed as if we’d already been lifelong friends.
Editing PRELUDE for them was another dream come true. It was like working on a cinematic adaptation of a story from the first published anthology from the 70’s, STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES. PRELUDE, with all the talent and technology on display, was the logical extension of all the TREK fanzines, blueprints and merchandise I’d order from Doug Drexler’s NYC store as a kid in the ’70’s. It expanded and deepened my own understanding of the TREK Universe, absolutely becoming part of my Head Canon. Ramirez, Alexander and Travis became as real for me as any other new TREK character, and I felt as if they’d always been a part of the Universe.
Which brings me to my final Director’s Update on the first scene I’ve directed for the AXANAR feature film.
Composer Alexander Bornstein delivered his final mixed cue for the scene, with real musicians playing ethnic instruments on the track, bringing a haunting authenticity to the music. Jesse Akins, continuing his work from PRELUDE, edits the dialogue and sweetens my own temp sound mix. That sorcerer Tobias Richter continues to refine his sweepingly expansive and immersive VFX shots, far surpassing anything he did on PRELUDE. And as I receive all the final elements, I’m editing them together and can absolutely see what the AXANAR feature film will feel like, and I know I’m even closer to realizing my childhood dream of directing a STAR TREK feature film than ever before. If my father were still here…I’d think he’d be proud of everything Team AXANAR had accomplished not only with this scene, but with the entire ongoing project as a whole.
I’m excited to see the reactions of AXANAR fans the world over.
Last week, I attended the 41st Annual Saturn Awards. We were nominated for Best Television Release of the Year for the work we’d done on the seventh season of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. It was our third consecutive nomination after winning the two previous years. My dear friend and AXANAR consulting producer Charles de Lauzirika won the award this time, for the incredible TWIN PEAKS box set he produced.
At the after-party, I was chatting with my old friend and FREE ENTERPRISE collaborator Mark A. Altman. While talking about the AXANAR project, he dismissively said, “Why are you wasting your time? Why don’t you work on something REAL?” I understand where he’s coming from. Ultimately, we don’t own the IP to TREK and we certainly can’t make any profit from the thousands of hours of work we tirelessly put into AXANAR. But PRELUDE now has over a MILLION views on YouTube and I receive emails, texts and tweets each and every day asking about the progress on AXANAR. For our audience, the AXANAR project is just as real as any other kind of STAR TREK. It’s become “head canon” for over a million people all across the world.
The time I’ve put in on just the first Vulcan Scene has required me to use everything I’ve learned about movie-making over the last quarter century. For myself, AXANAR is absolutely the most real and most important project I’ve ever worked on. And the realization of a childhood dream.
But ultimately, it’s for the audience to decide if AXANAR is real or not.
Robert Meyer Burnett