Recently, I’ve discovered that I have a fascination for short films. Previously, I’d rarely ever given them a shot – in fact, in some cases, I’d almost actively avoid them. As I’ve dug deeper and deeper into the indie science-fiction and fantasy film world, I’ve started to develop more of a curiosity towards the innumerable independent short films and platforms (i.e. DUST) that exist within these genres.
Much of my initial interest in the low-budget, independent scifi/fantasy film world stemmed from my fascination with the formerly robust Star Trek fan film community. As these fan productions grew more and more expansive, expensive and popular, the powers that be ultimately laid out guidelines for the public use of their intellectual property. Despite this, as I’ve come to see through several independent and short films, creativity tends to find a way to flourish.
One particular guideline set forth by CBS/Paramount states that, “the fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.” On the surface, this appeared to be quite restrictive to the fan film producers who had been creating and planning for large-scale movies, attempting to expand the Star Trek universe through their stories, and crowdfunding enough money to create professional quality CGI effects. However, after some time passed, this guideline opened the door for a new kind of Star Trek fan film – one that emphasized more intimate settings and short-form storytelling.
I wanted to highlight a few recent short films that have exemplified the ideas above:
1. Chasing the Infinite Sky
Clocking in at a little over five minutes, Chasing the Infinite Sky utilizes fantastic visuals and a meaningful score to capture Star Trek‘s spirit of exploration. With a story told mostly through voiceover communications, we are given the story of Captain Benjamin Storm of the USS Albatross. As Captain Storm takes command of the Albatross, he and his crew test out Starfleet’s new experimental quantum leap warp drive by traveling further into uncharted space than any Federation ship has before.
Created by VFX artists, Albert Martinez and Ricardo Elliot, Chasing the Infinite Sky perfectly strikes that balance between ambition and simplicity, giving us a uniquely elegant short film set in the Star Trek universe. I hope to see more from these two in the future. You can watch the film for free on YouTube here.
2. Chance Encounter
Chance Encounter is described as “a gentle and heart warming science fiction love story, with all original characters, set within the Star Trek universe.” I really enjoyed this little film set within the TNG era. It utilizes the medium to tell a very human story with a science fiction twist. This short perfectly illustrates what Star Trek fan films can accomplish when telling a shorter and more intimate character-driven stories on a smaller scale.
Created by the directing/writing team of Gary O’Brien and Paul Laight, Chance Encounter can be watched in its entirety on YouTube here.
3. Needs of the Many
Needs of the Many runs a little over 6 minutes and tells the story of two crew members puzzling out how to survive as their badly damaged ship drifts towards certain doom. Set during the Enterprise era, the two crew members are stranded in different parts of the ship, only able to communicate through a hardwired channel. As the title suggests, the [in]famous phrase comes into play.
Written by Aaron Vanderkley, Needs of the Many is heartfelt and powerful, and as one commenter pointed out, does so much with so little. While this film was made before the official guidelines were announced, it nicely fits within the constraints. Needs of the Many can be watched here.
Star Trek has often boasted impressive visuals and inspired ship designs, but where it truly shines is through character driven storytelling, social commentary, and an overall spirt of optimism and progress. While these 3 films may not add much to established cannon or the greater universe, they tell unique, small-scale stories within the Star Trek framework. In this age of increased connectivity, the ability to tell and film unique and interesting stories has become easier and more accessible. I look forward to seeing what creations are to come in the future.