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!

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And where in suburban Maryland would you rent one if you needed one?

Just after the premiere of the 2008 remake of “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, the New York Times published a brief op-ed by Brent Staples about the movie and about trends in Hollywood filmmaking in general. I think some of his observations are germane to the potential of filmmaking for the Internet and for our approach to this project:

“Digital effects have revolutionized the monster, science-fiction and superhero genres, making the films larger than ever visually. But the same effects have whittled away at the acting space, making the movies smaller in the dramatic sense…

“The minimalist — and altogether cool — effects in the 1951 film leave lots of room for the performers…Michael Rennie is aces as Klaatu…There is no shred of sentimentality in Rennie’s performance. He is a congenial exterminating angel, dropping round for tea to tell of horrors to come…Keanu Reeves’s Klaatu is numbingly monotonic. He is emotionally underdeveloped, and suffers from a robotic flatness of affect. Instead, the scriptwriters gave him powers that are predictably demonstrated through pricey special effects that do not sustain dramatic momentum. With all this digital sleight of hand, the performers are reduced to the equivalent of bystanders at a fireworks show.”

Taking poke #5,323,852 at Reeves’s range as a performer isn’t really what Mr. Staples is on about - he does recommend the remake, if tepidly - and the entire piece is worth a read. Find it here. What I find useful are his observations about the “shrinking of the dramatic space” in modern sf/fantasy films.

Micro-budget filmmakers like the producers of Starship Exeter or Star Trek: Phase II and folks working on substantially greater but still limited budgets like the people behind “Trenches” do have an amazing amount of digital effects technology at their command, compared to just ten years ago. They cannot compete, however, with the “fireworks shows” that a Lucas or an Abrams have at their commands and wisely don’t try.

Despite some impressive effects, “Trenches” succeeds primarily by staying tightly focused on characters who are quickly established via the shorthand of audience familiarity with decades of war movies and then given life and immediacy by the actors. The Trek fan films take as their main model productions from an era when television budgets were slender and (partly as a result) storytelling style was only a little removed from the proscenium stage - an era when brilliant writer/producers like Rod Serling spun riveting fantasy/drama for half an hour with four actors and a featureless, empty set. Early on in the very best-ever episode of Star Trek, William Shatner is called upon to plant his feet on a sandy stage surrounded by a few broken plaster pillars, look past the camera as if into the dark distance and baldly state: “These ruins extend to the horizon” - and they do, without a digital matte to be seen anywhere.

The science fiction shows and films of the 1950s and 1960s asked a great deal from the collective imagination of their audience, and delivered their memorable moments through story and performance rather than visual spectacle. That’s what we must do as well.

So, *ahem*, what’s happening with “Polaris”, anyway? Well, we’re filling out our cast and hopefully will make more announcements in that area in April and May. We’ve reason to hope that we’ll soon finalize stage space for our main shoot, which we’ve scheduled to take place in early December of this year. That will be a big hurdle cleared, as a significant portion of the movie takes place on sets representing an interstellar ship that we’re currently designing. Script revisions are ongoing. We’re building costumes and props - the producers of the original Star Trek lamented that they couldn’t dig into stock costuming and props for their phasers and uniforms; by the same token we can’t just say to any of the many talented propmakers out there in cyberspace “do you have any “Forbidden Planet” blasters/Starfleet phasers/“Serenity” pistols to sell?” But shortly we’ll have some photos of a twenty-nth century “United Worlds Navy” ray-gun to share.

Additionally there’s a lot of adminstrivia to slog through that doesn’t make for interesting blogging, IMAO (”we need how much production insurance?”). As the project picks up speed over the next few months there will be more fun stuff to post, more frequently. To whoever is reading (other than the “online casino” idiots who bot by to spam up the blog twelve times a day) thanks for hanging in.


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1 Comment »

  1. Comment by Tony — 6 April 2009 @ 3:41 pm

    Can’t wait.

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