The universe of Polaris
- The Transhuman Authority a warring empire spawned in the pitiless wastes of interstellar space, determined to rule the human race - or destroy it.
- Polaris a starship of the United Worlds Navy, pursued by the Authority and lost in the uncharted reaches beyond the Milky Way.
- Phaidros a planet that cannot exist…yet does. To find their way home again, Captain Sam Fredericks, scientist Valerie Young and the crew of Polaris must decipher its mysteries.
- Their discovery will forever change humanity - if they live to tell about it!
- It’s a wrap!
- Polaris on location: Day One
- “Trenches” is online
- Polaris at Farpoint (February 12-14)
- February Update: Starship Polaris Design, and Convention News
- Aboard The Starship Polaris
- To the best cast and crew in the world…
- Gina Hernandez is “Valerie Young”
- Susan Cirrincione joins Polaris cast
“Well, at least it’ll look like a hostile desert planet!”
At approximately 4:30 PM on July 24th, 2011 - 594 days after we began - we wrapped principal photography on Polaris.
The final stage of production was in many ways our most challenging. Our first choice for an outdoor location to represent the mysterious alien world at the heart of our story turned out to be impractical for our production. The process of finding an alternative site pushed planned 2010 production dates so late into the year that we decided to regroup and shoot in the spring of 2011. We were rained out after arriving at the site in mid-May with full gear, equipment, actors in costume, etc. and a rescheduled date in mid-June was also suspended under threat of bad weather…
…which brings us to late July, 2011. You can find out all you need to know about weather conditions this last weekend, almost anywhere in North America, by Googling the phrase “record heat.”
The esprit de corps and commitment of the Polaris cast and crew continues to astonish and humble me. We started shooting early in the morning on Saturday and even earlier on Sunday, but by midday were fighting heat indexes in the 110-115 degree Fahrenheit range. Everyone gave their all, but the hero of the weekend had to be our craft services manager, Rick Pike. He was everywhere, setting up tents and umbrellas for shade, keeping us hydrated and fed and generally mother henning the whole troupe while keeping an eye out for anyone who seemed to be especially suffering from the brutal conditions. In between set-ups those who could were encouraged to retreat to air-conditioned vehicles for a little respite, but such opportunities were rare ones for much of the crew.
These guys came through like champions to the end. We’re wrapped!
On Saturday evening, courtesy of our film editor Maurice Molyneaux, everyone got to see about ten minutes of the show edited together for the first time. I think we were all proud of what we saw.
Now we continue with post-production, reaching out to still more artists to create the musical score and visual effects that will bring the movie to completion. I’ll post more about that in the coming months. For now I can only say “Thank You” one more time to everyone who’s worked on this project - you guys are the best! Along with your skill and long hours, days and months of hard work you’ve given me respect, support and most importantly your friendship - far more than I could possibly have earned. I’ll do all that I can to live up to the standard of dedication and excellence you’ve set.
“That tree is in frame. Can we trim it back?”
“No, that’s against park regs.”
“Romel, just use your heat vision. No one’s going to see.”
We did our first day of location shooting for Polaris on Saturday, March 5 at Great Falls, Virginia. The executive producer fretted for weeks about weather, logistics etc. Two weeks before our scheduled shoot Dennis, Director of Photography Alex Ibrahim and Associate Producer Douglas Caprette selected and scouted a site for this pivotal scene and recorded video to determine the best camera angles. Alex and his crew arrived on schedule late Saturday morning. The weather was perfect - mid 60s and overcast, giving us a nice diffuse light and minimizing the need for silks and reflectors.
We would get in fast, shoot what we needed fast and get out fast. What could go wrong?
“Boss, our location is underwater.”
“Guys, is the location underwater?”
Early spring flooding had turned the intended surface of our desolate alien planet into Waterworld. Within half an hour Alex and his crew - Cynthia Lin, Romel Punsel, Paula Bailey and Carl Leonard - checked out a back-up location, worked out new camera angles and were ready to set up equipment. Best crew ever.
Because of the high, rocky terrain we were working in and in order to comply with park regulations we had to limit the number of cast and crew actively involved in a shot at any given time to five people. We managed that…well, more or less. Coordinated by walkie-talke, actors and crew trekked - uh, hiked - back and forth between a parking lot and the location. We were recording sound on our “desert world” right next to the flood-fed rapids of the Potomac river (“we’ll fix it in post”), a challenge that Chris Hart handled with his customary aplomb. Despite all complexities and complications we were able to set up, shoot and wrap in three hours - testimony to the focus and professionalism of our crew and of actors Susan Cirrincione (”Howard”) and Garrett L. Melich (”Gaitanis”).
On Monday, March 7th we were joined by cast members Paul R. Sieber, Gina Hernandez, Frank Hernandez and John Broughton as well as additional crew Tonya Dobbs, Nick Gilbert and Morgan Bailey for another green screen shoot at R&R Lighting in Silver Spring, Maryland. Working from full storyboards prepared by our First Assistant Director Maurice Molyneaux, we shot four pages in an eight-hour day. Garrett wrapped his final work on Polaris about 3:30 PM. Garrett is a joy to work with - relaxed, funny, patient and immensely talented. We’ll miss him a lot on the remaining and hopefully final production dates in May, and I’m especially honored that he agreed to participate in Polaris. Thanks, Garrett, and I hope we can work together again.
Flooding notwithstanding, our first experience on location couldn’t have been more successful or much more fun…and we’d have gotten away with it scott free, too, if it weren’t for those pesky kids and their dog!
Okay…long time, no update.
We continue steadily to our goal of wrapping principal photography - Real Soon! For three days in May, we turned the Black Box Theatre in Indian Head, Maryland into a green-screen stage to shoot some effects-laden sequences central to the story. Just about all of our crew and most of the cast returned from the December 2009 Fort Washington shoot with some new folks coming on board as well. Special thanks to Rick Pike for catering and taking on other crucial tasks to get us through the long weekend!
We had some long days - again - but everyone was focused, dedicated and displayed endless patience with the various technical requirements (as well as continuing to humor their first-time director). It was after 11:00 PM on a Sunday night when Garrett and Paul staged the show’s big fight scene. Garrett, a martial arts expert and experienced fight choreographer, had laid out the sequence and he and Paul had practiced it so well that - directed by First A.D. Maurice Molyneaux - they got the entire thing down in an hour. It looks great on video.
We’re currently scouting locations in Maryland and Virginia for our final two days of shooting. Almost there…
Just a short note this morning: the first three segments of Trenches, a short science fiction action/suspense movie by Shane Felux (Star Wars: Revelations; Pitching Lucas) are now online at Crackle:
I first saw Trenches at the Farpoint science fiction media convention in February of 2009. It’s great. I wrote a short review of it at that time which you can find here:
Jason “Vektor” Lee has proceeded to building the CG mesh for Polaris, based upon his earlier design sketches (which can be found in our Concepts and Design Art gallery and at his own site, www.vektorvisual.com).
These are, of course, preliminary, with lots of parts and pieces yet to be added and lots of detailing to be done. Much of it is still subject to change but I felt it was time to move beyond the concept sketches, especially since Dennis and his team are starting to look at 3D assets for the effects work.
Other news: We’ve been invited to make a presentation about Polaris at the upcoming Farpoint science fiction media convention, the weekend of February 12 to 14. More about that in a couple of days.
Too much has been going on for the last month. All of it good. Most of it wonderful. I was too exhausted to write, and too exhilarated to place it in perspective and to find the words.
I’m still exhilarated. Something may be broken; I may just have to stay this way for life.
Just the basic facts, for now:
Last week, from December 7th to December 12th (actually until 2:00 AM on the 13th), we shot the sequences of our movie which take place aboard the spaceship. Our studio was a warehouse in Fort Washington, MD. The weekend before we rolled was one of sleepless, frenetic activity devoted to finishing the sets and costuming, collecting and setting up lighting equipment and so forth. Cast and crew call was 10 AM each day; for the first two days the camera didn’t roll until around 3:00 PM in the afternoon.
By the end of the week, under extreme time pressure and very limited conditions, we’d shot 33 pages of script. Everyone involved performed their jobs magnificiently, with patience and skill and without temper or off-screen drama.
The possible exception to all that may have been the director, who tended to check out and start walking into walls late in the day. Once we got him out of the way, work could be done.
To the magicians, mind-readers and muses of Polaris:
Maurice - I could never do your job. You saved this ship.
Paul - the leader of the cast. Entered as Chaney and wrapped as Bogey. And I so touched your ass.
Gina - you gave voice and a human heart to a silly tale of rayguns and rocket ships. Save for you, my words are sand.
Nick Cook - I think it was a half apple. What’re you all looking at?
Susan C - She walks in beauty…
Case - it’s been a privilege, sir.
Garrett - it is very cold, in space…
Lucie - you sure Nick’s console isn’t booby-trapped?
Susan H - that was one of the bravest things I’ve seen with my own eyes.
John B - Dying is fun, ain’t it?
Alex - Okay, now I know the difference between God and a Director of Photography. I’m still not clear on the 85 and 50 mm, though. Dolly moves.
Chris - A-Team, all the way.
Cynthia - Lord of Chaos. Bring the rage.
Paula - the clapboard art goes on the DVD, for sure.
Doug - you, me and Brad Naylor. This is fun!
Romel - Krypton wants their rocket back. Dude, can you jump back in time five minutes and take care of that?
Carol - You gave Beauty her face. Hanging with you was lovely. And I swear I thought it was a toy.
Mike B - master of 26th century bling.
Nick G - looking forward to three-hour coffee breaks on Ellsworth, again.
Thank you. As I said to several of you over the week:
You never gave me what I wanted.
You gave me what I never imagined, what I wouldn’t dare to ask for, and all I could ever need.
I love you all.
Heartfelt thanks to Richard, Rick, Carl, Nick, Fred and all the other folks who came, saw, worked with us and contributed so much.
Alex has to keep correcting my quote, as he does so many other things, so I’ll reset and go again: We done the impossible, and that makes us mighty!
Cut. Moving on.
Gina Hernandez will play Doctor Valerie Young in Polaris.
Although Gina has been an actor since playing Molly Pitcher for a school project in the fourth grade, it was her starring role as Taryn Anwar in the independent film “Star Wars: Revelations” that challenged her to pursue acting as a profession. Her recent work has included stints on “Ugly Betty,” “Law & Order” and feature films “Precious,” “It’s Complicated,” “Wall Street 2″ and “American Gangster.”
Gina currently appears as a nurse on the Showtime hit “Nurse Jackie” and an FBI agent on USA Network’s “White Collar.”
About the character
In Polaris’s era, the deck of a starship is the last place you’d expect to find a citizen of Earth. As Earth’s interstellar empire has disintegrated and many of her settlement worlds have formed the nascent United Worlds, most of “Old Blue’s” dwindling population has turned its back to the universe beyond the Solar System.
This makes Valerie Young an eccentric from a world of eccentrics, and a puzzle to most of her crew mates. Having abandoned hereditary political power and social privilege for the life of an explorer and scientist, she now oversees Polaris’s civilian science staff. She’s served aboard the ship longer than anyone save Fredericks himself and, allowing for required military courtesy, they regard one another as equals and as friends.
Susan Cirrincione will play Lieutenant Commander January Howard in Polaris.
Susan has combined a career as a model with acting assignments that include television dramas “The Kill Point” and the pilot for “Three Rivers” as well as upcoming features “She’s Out of My League” (Dreamworks) and “Love and Other Drugs” (20th Century Fox). Other recent appearances include national commercials for brands like Mercedes-Benz and participation in the “Visit Pittsburgh” tourism campaign for her home town.
About the character
The outbreak of galactic war a decade ago transformed the loose trade confederacy of the United Worlds into a military alliance with what remains of Earth’s once vast empire. Most officers serving aboard Polaris are either recruits from local planetary fleets or graduates of officer training programs established in the first years of the war.
“Howie” Howard is the exception. A top graduate of the Royal Naval Academy on Meridian and scion of a noted military family, she serves as Polaris’s intelligence officer.
We had quite a productive day at the stage yesterday (Sunday). The parts of the production are beginning to gel.
We’ve constructed just enough of the Command Deck set to begin walking through possible blocking and camera angles for the opening scenes. Alex, our DP, showed me some ways to frame the actors given the various levels and configurations of the set. He discussed where to put the dolly tracks. We talked about lighting with reference to movies like “Crimson Tide” and “The Hunt For Red October.”
Doug, our construction supervisor, set up tools and equipment to do considerably more precise work than I’ve been able to manage with my jigsaw and drill. He also explained to me the difference between bow and crook in lumber (which shows you how unqualified I am to build anything).
Paul (who has to fly this spaceship when it’s completed) and I leveled out the platforming and made a run to the hardware store for carpeting and more construction materials. I guess we’ve now got about 70 percent of the materials that we’re going to need to finish main construction. Then Paul worked his ass off carpeting part of the Command Deck while I walked around waving my arms and talking about the Big Picture - a division of labor which sadly suits my napoleonic proclivities.
And Alex re-introduced me to an electronic props fellow named Carl who in turn introduced us to a whole new dimension to bringing some of the instrumentation on the ship to life.
Saturday I hung out with the Farragut folks (I was gonna say “helped out” but I’m really really working on the “lying” thing) at their “Just Passing Through re-shoot and recruited a few pretty exciting folks to round out our cast as well as another expert prop maker who’s willing to lend us a hand on design and fabrication of a key prop.
My biggest challenge at times like this is to turn my ego down a notch below “11″ and let myself be led by people who know more than I do about everything. I’m surrounded by them right now, and for that I’m grateful.