Stephen Manley

Star Trek: Progeny Interview

We were able to talk with the creative mind behind upcoming Star Trek fan film, Star Trek: Progeny: This film looks a currently untold time during the Federation, following up on a story from The Original Series. Check out the synopsis from the official website and then our interview below.

James T. Kirk never realized how true those words would become when a casual romantic eveningchanged the history of Magna Roma the Roman Planet forever.

50 years later, his granddaughter, Livia Avitus, embarks on her own destiny among the stars, A Federation Special Agent protecting the galaxy.

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The Grid:

All of us over here at the Grid love indie sci-fi and we look forward to Star Trek fan films in particular. Star Trek: Progeny is completely unique in its approach, a spin-off of The Original Series episode “Bread and Circuses” and having a strong female protagonist.

What are the effects of the character origin on the personality of Livia Avitus, the lead character?

Star Trek Progeny:

First, thank you allowing me to share some details of what Star Trek: Progeny is about on your great website. It really is a passion project for me, and the fanbase has been steadily growing since I announced the Fan Series.

Star Trek: Progeny came about one evening while I was watching the episode in question. It was one of those episodes that, for me, left me wondering, “Well what happened next?”

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy left a few devices behind. Phasers, a Tri-corder, and Communicators. Kirk also left behind something of a more personal nature with his tryst with Drusilla. To Kirk’s credit (and also the great writing of Gene L. Coon and Roddenberry) he never took advantage of Drusilla. Could his will had been stronger? Sure. But maybe Kirk was thinking to himself, “Well I’m in Rome. And when in Rome…”.

I’ve been developing the pilot script and series bible for over a year now to answer those questions that I had. Also tying them into the 50 year anniversary of Star Trek. 50 years later, what does this world of Magna Roma look like and what involvement does the Federation have?

From this comes our female protagonist, Livia Avitus, the granddaughter of Kirk and Drusilla. First, she’s a Roman, trained extensively in hand-to-hand combat and weaponry. She also has a keen mind. She’s able to see the bigger picture. A trait inherited by Captain Kirk. I think this makes her a great detective and then later, a special agent.

One choice I did make with her character is that she’s not an anti-hero, which is popular in Film and TV today. Protagonists who are battling inner demons like drugs or alcohol…etc. Carrie, from Homeland or Tony Stark from Ironman as examples.

Emotional pain from failure or losing a loved one, most definitely. As Kirk would say, that pain makes us who we are.

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The Grid:
The casting Progeny is impressive. Cassandra Scerbo looks incredible in the trailer and I loved Rick Worthy in Battlestar Galactica: The Plan.  What’s it like getting veteran actors onboard for your project?

Star Trek Progeny:
I feel very lucky to have these actors attached. My casting director, Neely Gurman, did a fantastic job in seeking these actors out. It’s also very validating to know they were interested after reading the pilot script we sent them. Having a cast of this caliber is a great piece to have in the larger production puzzle.

Cassie Scerbo in the lead role is a major plus. An incredibly talented actor, blessed with athletic prowess and fashion model looks. What more could you ask for?

The Grid:
Three of your actors have previous Star Trek experience; Stephen Manley, Carlos Carrasco and Rick Worthy.Will these characters be reprising their roles or will they be doing something different, what can you tell us?

Cast Star Trek Progeny

Star Trek Progeny:
All of the roles are new characters except the role of Drusilla, the slave girl from The Original Series. Sadly, Lois Jewell who played her in “Bread and Circuses”, passed away in 2014, so we very are fortunate to have Francine York play the role. Stephen Manley will play a Vulcan again, but a very different character. Rick Worthy will play a Roman Police Detective. And Carlos Carrasco will play a Starship Captain. Anne Marie Howard, a newcomer to Star Trek will play Commodore Yvonne Ellison. That’s all we have attached at this point, but there are many other roles to fill also. Hopefully we can get some more Star Trek alums to fill them.    

The Grid:
I’m an avid fan of classical history.

Can you tell us about the Roman look and feel of the story? It was an interesting idea of a planet where Rome never died.
Star Trek Progeny:
In the original episode, the look was similar to Earth in 1968. It’s now 48 years later, and Magna Roma resembles Earth in 2016. There’s been some sweeping changes that have come about to be included in the Federation of Planets. No more slavery; the “Children of the Son” movement has been accepted into society. But, the planet is still Roman by nature. The government has the same structure as Ancient Rome. The Military, although now more advanced, has the same tactics, and the society is very liberal about things like drug use and prostitution. Also, televised gladiator games to the death are still a big ratings draw . Granted, not the utopian society that Gene Roddenberry created for earth, but let’s give the Magna Romans time.

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The Grid:
Interesting, what else can you tell us about what things you are considering about the plot in general? Will we be seeing the Federation on the planet or will this be a lone agent?

Star Trek Progeny:
Starfleet and the Federation are very much a part of the story. But at the heart of the series is Liv’s journey in finding her true calling as she becomes a member of Starfleet. The series is also procedural in nature with a new mission each episode.

The Grid:
You have events taking place after Star Trek Original Series, yet just before The Next Generation in the year 2316. From my understanding this was a time of long lasting peace for the Federation. When some other fan films opt for times of war for the action, Progeny as gone a different direction.

How will the time period effect the story in Star Trek: Progeny?

Star Trek Progeny:
In researching other Trek series I discovered that this time frame has never really been depicted, mainly only in novels.  Also, if you look up 2316 at the Memory Alpha site, there’s nothing there.  I was drawn to that.

I actually see these times similar to a Cold War scenario. Very political. Tensions between the Klingons and the Federation are better, but still raw. It will be many years before the first Klingon is allowed into Starfleet.

In the middle of all this is a planet poised to become a great galactic power and the Federation is first in to influence them, to the dismay of the Klingons.

Personally, in screenwriting, I find the threat of war creates more tension than being in an actual war. Star Trek has a few instances of this. As an example: Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country and in The Original Series episode  “A Taste of Armageddon.”

Star Trek Progeny Scene

The Grid:
When you describe it like that, this time period sounds like some real fertile ground for story telling.

It looks like Progeny has some experience behind the camera as well; having a writer, composer, and casting director already.

How are things going in getting others to work behind the camera on Progeny? Any ideas on who will be directing it?

Star Trek Progeny:
I am sort of a one man band when it comes to producing it. I will write, direct and edit the first episode. I work for NBCUniversal and for the last 19 years have  been in different post-production capacities, as Editor, Graphics Designer, Sound Design and Mixing. In the last few years, I’ve also been working in After Effects. Before I came to NBCUniversal, I also directed quite a bit.

But, I can’t do it alone and I’m very fortunate to be in the Los Angeles area. There’s so many Film and TV pros here. What’s amazing is the fact that simply saying “Star Trek” to anyone in production returns an immediate “Yes”. I’ve also received numerous emails from film/tv students at USC, UCLA, and many others, willing to volunteer their time.   

The Grid:
I love that Star Trek still has such a strong pull from people in the L.A. and people are so willing to work on the project. As far the technical side of things, what do you have planned for special effects? Will we be seeing ground side action or any space scenes?

Star Trek Progeny:
A mixture of both. I’m trying to keep the VFX to a minimum so I can keep the costs down. There won’t be epic space battles, but there will be a number of scenes with a Starship.

Having the first episode take place on Magna Roma also helps keep the costs low. Los Angeles in its present day look will serve as the backdrop.

The Grid:
How about costume and props? Will you be making your own or reproducing what has already been seen on Star Trek?

Star Trek Progeny:
Again a mixture of both. The Starfleet uniform designs will be from the first scene in the movie Generations. I believe those uniforms were still used in 2316. The Romans will look present day. Government officials will be an updated look of Merik’s and Marcus’ costume in “Bread and Circuses”.

There’s so many Starfleet props already on the market that I see no need to manufacture new ones. But, (and I’ve received flak for this already) the gun used in the first teaser is a new prop designed to be a Roman gun. A hybrid of a modern day glock 9mm and a phaser.

And then there’s SFX makeup to think about too.     

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The Grid:
CBS has recently given Axanar a cease and desist while allowing many other fan productions to go on.

The Star Trek fan community loves the idea of fan films and as a fellow fan film maker, what are your thoughts on this?

Star Trek Progeny:
First of all, when the lawsuit came out, my first thought was that Progeny was dead in the water.

After a few days, I decided to stick it out and I contacted our cast about it. I told them to check with their agents/managers to see if they should withdraw from the project. So far, my cast is intact with the exception of Gates McFadden, who would have played the new role of Commodore Ellison.  She decided not to continue with the production and I clearly understand her decision.

Secondly, I’m not surprised that something like this has happened. I’m not picking a side. What I mean is that the behind-the-scenes history of Star Trek has always been plagued with controversy and legal actions. It’s such a contradiction in itself. Such a beautiful universe created by Gene Roddenberry yet so much ugliness that has taken place just to make that universe. 

The Grid:
We’re glad you guys decided to stick to your guns and continue with Progeny. Do you plan on making use of various crowd funding to help the fans support Star Trek: Progeny and when do you think we’ll see the first episode?

Star Trek Progeny:
We’re hoping to do an Indiegogo campaign in February. If we get all necessary funds, a 9-10 day shooting schedule is tentatively set for April, with a premier of the first episode by May.

Along with crowdfunding I’m really trying to get a number of things donated to the project.

Camera gear, locations, drivers with trucks, all of this helps keep the costs down while not hurting the production values.

I’ve also seen people willing to donate Sky Miles.

The Grid:
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring film makers out there just trying to get things started and off the ground? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned?

Star Trek Progeny
Fan films bring a large fan base but also a ton of scrutiny. Be ready for that. Tell the story you want to tell and keep focused on your vision.

The Grid:
Excellent advice, thank you very much for the interview. We’ll be looking forward to seeing it.

Star Trek: Progeny:
Thank you and thanks for your work in keeping Star Trek alive through your website.

There you have it, our interview with the upcoming fan film, Star Trek: Progeny. What do you think about the project? Is this a topic\theme you are looking forward to? Comment with your thoughts.

For more information on Star Trek: Progeny, check out their official website here.

Star Trek: Progeny Interview