THE RETURN OF STARSHIP VALIANT

THE RETURN OF STARSHIP VALIANT
AN INTERVIEW WITH SERIES CREATOR Michael L. King
By Henry Howell

In 2 months, Starship Valiant will begin filming its second episode, “The Ties That Bind,” and while little to nothing is known about the story of the film, I sat down with series creator, as well as star and Executive Producer, Michael L. King to discuss the project. After the first short story, “Legacy,” was filmed and released, it was met with a warm and welcoming response from fans and King felt that most of that was due to the fact that it differentiated itself from most fan films by focusing first and foremost on the characters by presenting a particular realism that people could relate to in their own lives. In his own words, King felt that the most important aspect of the film was to create and present characters that weren’t caricatures but three-dimensional, flesh and blood people. He feels that he succeeded and by the sheer amount of emotional letters and comments that he has received concerning the film, it’s a sure bet that most agree as well.

At his home, and in his so-called office, which consisted of a desk, computer, some star trek models and books, we discussed his feelings on star trek, “Legacy,” the future of Valiant and his aspirations for episode two, as well as the folks involved in “The Ties That Bind.” I spent about two hours with him and within that span of time, I could feel his passion for the project and just how important star trek’s hopeful future was his inspiration in making a fan film. We discussed the rudimentary subjects that seem to permeate the internet now and while we won’t focus on them too much here, I will however enlighten you on his thoughts.

So, I asked Michael about the current state of star trek in its motion picture incarnations and he had this to say: “Star Trek has lost its way. I mean it’s definitely not what Gene Roddenberry envisioned and that bothers me, especially TODAY. There’s a world full of problems going on and while we had the original series tackling those issues using the cover of science fiction for camouflage, the current trend is to gloss over those issues or not touch on them at all and I just feel like trek is more important as an institution than that. Course we can be hopeful that the new CBS series will touch on all those things in their series.”

Then of course with his mention of CBS, I had to ask about his thoughts on the whole Paramount/CBS lawsuit against Axanar. His response was unexpected really. He just shook his head from side-to-side and responded, “There’s been so much talk about this already that the only thing I can add to it is that I feel badly that it has all come to this. As fan filmmakers it affects us all and I tend to think of us all as family. We all have a connection and star trek is responsible for that.” He also spoke of his inspirations in the fan film community and that entailed a deep respect for the early pioneers, the Johnson Brothers of Starship Exeter, and James Cawley of New Voyages, both responsible for stirring his desire to make his own film. Now with all that out of the way, we’ll get to the real questions.

HENRY HOWELL:
It’s been a full 2 years since you released “Legacy,” to the public and now in retrospect, what are your thoughts on your very first star trek fan film?

MICHAEL L. KING:
(SMILES)
You know, I just watched the film last night…

HENRY HOWELL:
(INTERRUPTING)
Last night, really?

MICHAEL L. KING:
Yeah, you know, I catch the film from time-to-time to keep a fresh perspective on what we were doing with the characters and who they are. Legacy serves as a guideline to those characters and observing them keeps a fresh perspective on where we need to go with these people and remain true to who they are. One of the things that is of the utmost importance to me is to remain true to who they are because as we know, people are slow to change and realistically, I think that it would be a mistake for us to lose sight of who they are especially given that we tried our hardest to create people who felt real. Much of star trek is about the human condition and Legacy was a play on those conditions that make us all human. I can remember one review of the picture where the reviewer said, “This is one of the most star trek fan films that I have ever seen.” That speak volumes of what we were trying to do. As for the film itself, I feel quite a bit of pride when I see it now. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges but in my humble opinion, it has a lot of heart and I think that it presents a side of star trek that we do not often see in trek fan films and that’s people dealing with the results of a battle or decision, and the consequences that follow. Valiant says that it’s not all over at the end of the fight. It says that the end is just the beginning. I am very proud of what we did with Legacy.

HENRY HOWELL:
It seems like you knew exactly what you wanted to do with Starship Valiant when you set out to make the film. Would that be a true statement?

MICHAEL L. KING:
Well, in terms of budget and scale, I knew that we could not do what some of the really big fan films out there have done and this really limited what we could do in terms of story. I mean you know some of them have thousands of dollars to play with while the budget for Legacy was only about $400.00. We didn’t have the funds or sets to do the type of story that I wanted to do. Legacy was the second story that was written while at the time, the first would have been totally impossible to film. It had a much larger scope and would have featured sets that the studio didn’t have but in hindsight, Legacy was the better of the two films to be made because it introduced the characters in a way that complemented who they are and would become. So yes, I would say that once I settled on a way to film around what we did not have, our goal was on course.

HENRY HOWELL:
When people watch the film, (Legacy) what are your hopes in what they take with them afterwards?

MICHAEL L. KING:
Legacy has always been about the consequences of ones actions. The story is a cautionary tale that tells us for every action we make there is a reaction, either good or bad. It tells us that sure, we are going to make mistakes and feel badly about them but to stick to our guns and fix them. It tells us that it’s OK to cry for the ones that we love and that those people’s actions are a result of how we have decided to live our lives. Bottom line: we are responsible for those who look up to us for guidance and love and if we fail them, it’s never too late to make amends or to make it as right as we can. (PAUSE)

You know, I received a comment from a father who was very distraught over the fact that he and his daughter were estranged. His words were so distressing that I could feel the sadness in his heart. He told me that he had tried everything to work out the problems that he had with his daughter but despite those things, she would not have a relationship with him and it was tearing him apart. He had seen the film and the relationship that Commander Bishop had with his own daughter and it hit home for him. I never really expected that kind of reaction from the picture but I felt terrible. All I could do was respond by saying that I was sorry and that it is my hope that he and his daughter would come together in the future. Then another time, I received an email from a military guy who told me a story where he and his co-officer were at sea for a couple years during the birth of his friend’s very first child and how not being able to see that child or hold her in his arms was tearing him apart mentally. He spoke of the military life and how he had witnessed so many military families falling apart due to the separation. Once again, he had seen the film and felt compelled to share these stories because of Bishop and his daughter. I feel honored that our little picture can stir such emotions.

HENRY HOWELL:
Wow…that’s pretty amazing.

MICHAEL L. KING:
Yes, it is.

HENRY HOWELL:
I think it’s safe to say that the production time has been quite lengthy on your next episode. Is there a reason for that?

MICHAEL L. KING:
That’s a fair statement and question but an easy one to answer. Being a labor of love, most people volunteer their time to the production and with that there comes more important priorities. All our people have families, fulltime jobs and things that they have to do. In order to keep this all a fun diversion, I try my best to work around what they need and have to do. So the production takes a backseat to the lives of our staff. Plus, this film will be much larger in scope than the first one and you’ll see more of the Valiant, more aliens and a bit more action than before.

HENRY HOWELL:
The overriding question that I think people would like to know is what can you tell us about the story of The Ties That Bind?

MICHAEL L. KING:
Not much actually other than to say that the film will continue to spotlight the growth and development of the characters, especially Bishop, Kennedy and Minard, all in that order. The name itself refers to family and I think it’s fair to say that Bishop’s relationship with his daughter will be explored a bit more as well as his relationship with an old enemy. Again, we return to relevant themes mirroring our society today by featuring a dilemma that the Federation gets itself in that will have you asking the question whether or not they are in the wrong or right? Furthermore, to narrow it down, I would say that The Ties That Bind is essentially an expansion on the events in the first film.

HENRY HOWELL:
…And that’s all that you can tell us?

MICHAEL L. KING
(LAUGHS)
Essentially.

HENRY HOWELL:
Can we expect the same production team that made Legacy to return for its sequel?

MICHAEL L. KING:
Yes, I would say so. Legacy had a very limited production staff to begin with. As you know, this was the first star trek fan film to ever come out of Oklahoma and as such it was a learning experience for all of us at Starbase Studios. I was extremely lucky in that I had some very talented people working on the film. Brady Foster, who is a professional photographer and had spent several years in the industry making films and commercials, joined our team and he brought an air of professionalism that resonated in the picture. It was his skill as a photographer and filmmaker that lifted our modest production up more than it could have ever been. I will always be in his debt because he was able to realize my dream and make it a reality. It’s hard to be modest about MY film but he added such a cinematic feel to it that just thrills me to this day. I’ve said it before but Brady is one of the most beautiful people that I know. So much goodwill and compassion in him. He’s an inspiration.

Actor Ben Richardson, our acting coach and editor brought out performances in us as first time actors that we didn’t even think that we could do. He did a marvelous job and elevated the believability of the films characters to a higher level. He was very committed to our success and his work was outstanding. I predict that Ben will go on to become one of Hollywood’s brightest new actors. Then of course there was Scott Johnson, Richard Wells and Randy Betterton of Starbase Studios, who were always supportive and helpful, ready to lend a hand in whatever we needed to make the film a reality. You couldn’t ask for better people to be behind you. When it came time for visual effects, I turned to Craig Frey Jr. and I was truly blessed by what he brought to the film. I remember the first time I saw the USS Valiant in motion and it brought a tear to my eye. His effects were magical and I was so glad that he took on the film.

There’s so many people to appreciate and they know who they are but of course there was John Hughes and Charlie England of Starship Ajax and their support and help made the project possible. Both these gentlemen were not only eager and willing to help but they loaned us several Ajax uniforms for the shoot because we simply did not have the budget to buy or have our own made. I also must mention Glen Wolfe, who I call the “Superfan,” because he’s been so involved in so many trek fan films. The man is pure magic and he has such a love for star trek that it just rubs off on everyone around him. He’s a class act, always willing to help out. It’s just a joy to be around him. Timothy Zurishaddai, Maczsemus Lahar, Nate Bright, Rachel Sevier and the list goes on and on.

HENRY HOWELL:
Do you have a release date nailed down for episode two?

MICHAEL L. KING:
No, I don’t but we are hoping for a late 2016 release-possibly Christmas but it all depends on the availability of our cast and crew. I will say that fans can be assured that we are hard at work and that the film will be a reality. I think it’ll be worth the wait.

HENRY HOWELL
Thank you for your time and next time around everyone, we’ll take a look at Valiant’s chief costumer, Chrissie Harvey.