Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky"

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Potemkin_Prod, Jan 14, 2014.

  1. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    I solved a minor issue I was having with YouTube and my AppleTV this weekend and was finally able to watch "The Night The Stars Fell From The Sky."

    For a production in the lower-tier budget realm as Project: Potemkin (compared to, say Star Trek: Phase II or Star Trek Continues), it'd be easy to fixate a review on the shortcomings of the film that are out of the producer's control. I'm not planning on doing that here but will rather focus on things that can be addressed that are more important than set dressing or shirts bunching up over holstered phasers, etc.

    In truth, when I finally sat down to watch "The Night The Stars Fell From The Sky," I managed to scrawl out about five pages of notes on my legal pad of things to say but really, a lot of them are easy simple fixes that don't need to be mentioned -- I've seen enough of Project: Potemkin and know enough about how its run (due in large part to Randy's ever vigilant updates here) that if they didn't catch these snafus before, they likely know about them now. This is an epic production for Potemkin, featuring a sprawling cast (of both adults and what appear to be late-teens/early 20-somethings) and many locations... (it's always nice when Star Trek gets to go outside) and so I'll try to stay away from commenting on the more nitpicky items.


    Sounds Like You Could Use Some Help, Captain
    The biggest problem with this episode is the sound. There’s just no way around it. Scenes indoors on the bridge, transporter room set, et al are passable, but for a piece set mostly outdoors on location it was just a bear to get through, trying to listen and hear the actors speaking.

    Compounding this are the actors’ slow delivery of their lines and quieter, almost hushed voices. It’d be one thing if it were the one character most notable -- Grigory -- (in my mind anyway) for it, but it’s everybody. Delaney’s log entry sounds like it was made over the phone. Garbled and difficult to understand. Later, at the end of the episode when T’Noshi visits Grigory in his ready room, there’s a music cue that just comes out of nowhere – I can’t decide if the soundmix is off or if it’s just that it sounded overly “Full House”-y for a meaningful moment between the two characters. Either way, it’s an abrupt start and took me out of the scene when the whole point of the music in a film is to contribute to heightening the emotion of the scene.

    Two things will always kill you on a production and those two things are always going to be sound and lighting. Investing in a separate audio recording device to get things like room tone and clear audio of your actors reading their lines will be well worth it, even if it makes post-production a little hairier to get through.


    Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
    The editing on the film is mostly passable. I’m not an expert on editing so I can’t comment on it the way a professional editor like Maurice might, but there were a few glaring jump cuts and such throughout. Not many, but enough that I noticed.

    Blocking of the actors in scenes was erratic and seemingly non-sensical. In one scene at least three or four actors all have their backs to the camera. Framing and blocking of scenes may not seem like it’s worth the time to plan out, but they save you a lot of grief from people like me because it’s such basic stuff. Too much headroom can take you right out of a scene. Watch some of Hitchcock’s films – North By Northwest, Vertigo, Rear Window … these are superb examples of exquisite and perfectly framed and blocked scenes. Clearly a lot of time was spent setting up these shots and on location it makes even more sense to plan things out but also take advantage of the visuals at your disposal.

    Lighting and focus were also problematic. Many shots were just plainly out of focus. Not by much, but enough. I’ll go out on a limb also and assume that there wasn’t much in the way of additional lighting done out on that location beyond the natural sunlight. It’s painfully obvious at about 40:31 (or just before) when T’Noshi is walking by and the ambient light shifts as she moves relative to the camera. This kind of of trick can be incredibly effective if used properly and for a purpose in a story, but here it’s wasted on the actress’ just walking acoss the screen.

    Finally, it’s 2013. We live in the age of HDTV and visuals to go with it. I hate to sound elitist, but even an iPhone4 would have been able to shoot higher quality resolution footage than this 480p stuff. What’s more, now with iOS7 you can even zoom with the iPhone cameras now, even though I would humbly suggest that you don’t need as many flashy zooms in your work as were included in this episode.

    Just Look At The Green Screen and Give Me More: Visual Effects & Titles
    The visual effect of the film are fine. It’s lovely to see a movie-era starship again, and the Potemkin is a good looking ship. I hope there might be a little more variety of shots of it in the future though – that same shot of it cruising by the planet is repeated at least three times in the opening minutes of the episode.

    As for the titles, I love that Project: Potemkin continues to use the “Final Frontier” font from the movies… but the beveling of the font makes it difficult to read. Perhaps this might be better served by something higher than 480p resolution, but on my TV it just looked amateurish.

    Pro tip:
    Forgive me, but I’m going to nitpick this one bit. It’s a pet peeve of mine that just about ALL fan films get wrong but this particular example is the most egregious I’ve seen. I don’t mean this to be hostile or an attack, it’s just advice being offered from someone who works in the biz and knows better.

    At the end of the opening title sequence, the final title we see reads as follows:

    Created by
    RANDALL LANDERS
    . ​

    That’s the wrong credit to use. Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek. And you’ve credited him thusly. Randall may have created the characters and situations on Project: Potemkin but a more appropriate title to use here (if we are assuming Project: Potemkin is analogous to a weekly television series) would be

    Developed by
    RANDALL LANDERS

    --– i.e. you’ve taken the raw parts from the previously created property to fashion your own spinoff from it.

    Yes, Berman, Braga and Taylor all got “Created By” credits for their work on Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, but that was then. I suppose the logic between those shows and shows like Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica or Cynthia Cidre’s Dallas are that the former shows had their own specific identities and titles, whereas the latter were aping the actual titles themselves. In any case, as a fan production my own humble opinion is simply that it’s probably smarter to stay away from “Created by” altogether.

    Your mileage may vary, of course, but it is nonetheless my two cents on the matter.

    Acting
    I’m not going to spend too much time on this one. Jeffrey Greene is easily the best performer of the group here. I’ve always gotten a sort of ’70s French New Wave vibe from him when I’ve seen his performances here, so I liked that he was such a big part of the story. I did have a hard time with Delaney though. He looked like he was half-asleep every time he appeared on screen – there’s no urgency, no energy! The ship is in crisis – the away team can’t be reached and they spend most of the episode trying to restore contact with them, and the best the guy can do is utter a bare whisper?

    The Writing’s On The Wall
    What ultimately kills “The Night The Stars Fell From The Sky” for me though is just poor story logic, on a number of issues. During the opening moments of the episode, the captain at one point tells his officer, “Don’t overthink it, just shut it down!” which to me seems entirely foolhardy when you have the lives of 430 people depending on the decisions you make.

    The wisecracking security officer doesn’t seem to know that Vulcan is hot. I’ve never been to England but I know it rains there. Something tells me that Vulcan, as one of the founding members of the Federation is likely a big enough presence in everyday life in the 23rd century that it’s pretty shocking this kid doesn’t know it’s a desert planet.

    There are plenty of examples of bad dialogue too. Sarat’s flirtation – “I’ve long dreamed of communicating with a heavenly body” is just groanworthy. Perhaps if it had been Nimoy, delivering the line fully made up and with his usual earnestness as Spock, it’d be humorous the way I think the writer intended, but here it just looks like some horny frat brother trying to make a move and get laid.

    T’Noshi’s line – “I do not dream, sir” seems awkward. I’m pretty sure we’ve seen both T’Pol and Tuvok dreaming before, so it stands to reason all Vulcans are capable of it. I suppose I could buy that here it’s T’Noshi’s way of trying to prove she’s not a kid and can control herself emotionally the way other Vulcans do, but there’s such little groundwork for that that it seems like it would be just an afterthought.

    When T’Noshi goes missing and then bangs her head, the away team doesn’t really do much to try to find her – they just go have a picnic with the other camp! Hardly an urgent crisis to be concerned about the way Grigory later makes it out to be. I think though more concerning is that just about everything bad that happens in this episode can be traced back to T’Noshi, who, for reasons which I still don’t quite understand, apparently decides to have sex with Sarat right then and there despite her head injury and despite the fact that she’s trying to get back to her crew. Taking advantage of her post-coital nap, Sarat takes T’Noshi’s phaser and guns down a bunch of kids and a woman. (more on this later)…

    Being that this is Atlanta, it's really hard not to draw superficial comparisons to the Andrea/Governor storyline during season 3 of The Walking Dead. While the senseless murdering of the children and woman definitely had me sit up in my seat – we don’t see this everyday in the fan films—the almost comical reaction of the kids as they were getting vaporized completely undercut the magnitude of what was happening. They scream, then they’re quiet. Scream, then quiet. One at a time. Not a single one tries to run, not a single one calls for help. Even Colonel Landa let Shoshanna get away!

    The explanation about the Preserves was nice. A little too expository, but Greene delivered it well and it was a nice nod to TOS.

    Given many of these considerations, and especially how often characters just wander (seemingly aimlessly) from point A to point B (Phase II suffered from this in “Kitumba” as well), it’s hard for me not to suggest that the episode could easily have been whittled down to be about 20 minutes shorter than this particular cut which has been released.

    Likewise, the story of T’Noshi struggling with her youth among the much older captain and crew concerned me. How does a Vulcan (who could, theoretically, be older than all of them yet still young) handle such a situation? How do you process such a strong feeling as carnal attraction when your entire life has been dedicated to suppressing emotions? Does Sarat’s eventual reveal of his true intentions make is villainy all the more heinous because he also managed to bed T’Noshi, or is he just a douchebag who managed to take advantage of her interest in him? There’s a throughline here of T’Noshi being victimized and then unable to do anything about it which really bothers me. The same way it should have been Kira who killed Dukat in the DS9 finale, T’Noshi should have been the one (if anyone) to take Sarat down.


    Essentially though, by the end of the episode we learn three things:

    1) Everything bad that has happened can be traced back to T’Noshi’s fascination with Sarat and her eventual (though again, I’m still not sure I buy it, given her head injury) attraction to him.

    2) A bunch of teenagers pretending to be Vulcans start fighting each other.

    3) Grigory comes back for T’Noshi’s IDIC pin, which I guess the transporter couldn’t beam up on its own and he murders Sarat.

    Now, I’m not sure what the point of this story was. Was it to make Grigory a killer? Will we see him grapple with the consequences of his actions? In the “Season One Trailer” much is made of Grigory’s line – “I’ve never broken my oath. Never.” so I have to wonder if that was in anticipation of seeing a Starfleet captain kill someone in cold blood/out of vengeance, or if this will be something we see Grigory suffer/learn/grow from. I guess my question here would be, what’s the deeper meaning of the story?

    The Good Stuff
    The title is superb. It’s very poetic, obviously, but also very in line with the more romantic and cultured tradition of Star Trek titles.

    Ok, I’ve rambled on and on about my quibbles, let me get to the complimenting. The scene where Sarat kills the kids is arguably the best part of the film. Not in terms of how it was executed (no pun intended) but rather that a fan film would choose to “go there” as part of their story. This isn’t Exeter or Phase II trying to recreate the nostalgic feel of ‘60s TOS… Potemkin here has stepped out of the light and into the shadow, and the implications from this (and Grigory’s reprisal at the end) could be incredibly fascinating and entertaining, if handled properly.

    I’ve not read this entire thread but in skimming it I see some noise has been made about whether or not Sarat was actually killed. While I don’t know if I’d have cut to black after Grigory shoots, I think, honestly, it’s best for all involved if Grigory did kill Sarat. It’s messy, yes. But it’s also interesting. And that’s probably the highest compliment I can give a fan film, because there are those that just plain aren’t interesting at all. The implications for Grigory alone will be great. Do Sarat’s people seek revenge? What will T’Noshi think if and when she finds out? What will it mean for Grigory’s command? These are all things I’d like to find out in any possible follow-up Potemkin chooses to pursue.

    Grigory has so far always and consistently struck me as being more in the mold of a Picard or Sisko rather than a Kirk or Riker. And I like that about him and would hope we would get to see more moments where that finely-honed, cultured persona can shine more. If Delaney can wake up, it’d be great to see a few scenes of the two of them together as well.

    As was made so plain in the “Kitumba” thread last week, much is forgivable when you understand the conditions under which a film has been made, and this one is no different. One thing that Potemkin is getting right time and again is their enthusiasm for their work on these films, and there’s no way anyone can criticize that. It’s a tough thing to make something like this and even tougher to be brave enough to put it out there to the world for all to see. I commend the fine people at Project: Potemkin for that and I respect them for all the hard work they’ve done but more importantly, their continued interest and dedication toward learning as they go. With a little more attention paid to some of the technical elements (sound, lighting) these guys could really bang out a great show.



     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  2. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2010
    Location:
    Metro-Birmingham, Alabama
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    We really appreciate the feedback, Double-Oh. Very insightful, and yes, we have many of the same criticisms you did as well, especially in regard to the sound and lighting.

    Filming took place long before we had an independent audio-capturing device (presently, we're using a TASCAM DR-40), and we were horrified to be informed that almost all the sound was unusable (because of creatures known as cicadas) -- and we had to dub it. (In fact, I believe nearly every single line on location was dubbed.) Those that were in the Albany area (which is 200 miles SSW of Atlanta) took turns coming in to Stellar Video Services' small studio and re-recorded their lines using the TASCAM. Others, such as Doug "Delaney" Harper and Christin "T'Noshi" Woods ended up re-recording their lines on whatever microphone system they could. Personally, it's one of my greatest regrets about this production.

    I'll let David Eversole address any remarks about the story itself.

    Lighting, I agree, is another challenge, one that we were ill-equipped to handle on location. We were literally running hundreds of feet of electrical from either the nearest outlet to the locations we shot at. Sometimes, we simply didn't have enough cords (and we have eight 100' cables and used several 50' cables as well), and I think that caused part of the problem there. Often, we were filming in steamy/cloudy/even rainy conditions and the sunlight filtering through was problematic.

    But we learned a great deal from our experiences on location, and hopefully won't repeat the same mistakes in future productions!

    Thanks again for your insights!
     
  3. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2001
    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    doubleohfive,

    From the bottom of my heart I thank you for taking the time to share your insight and reactions to our film. I must admit that over the past couple years I have longed to have posters of your caliber (and Maurice's, and Harvey's, and plenty whose handles I'm forgetting) weigh in on our efforts like some of the "upper-tier" fanfilms. That you have chosen to take the time (it must have taken a good little chunk of your time to write your critique) to do so gratifies me no end.

    To address your story points.

    T'Noshi was written as naïve to the nth degree. Too literal, "too Vulcan." It was perhaps not a wise choice. I'm still out on that issue.

    Sarat's pick up line was meant to be groan-worthy, but I agree that it comes off as too earnest, it's bad without being able to stand on its own as an intentional bad line. In that I failed big time. I agree with your analysis. Likewise Frazier and T'Noshi and the Spitting Bug exchange. I cringe myself and I wrote the damn thing.

    The teenagers fighting at the end takes the place of what was a general montage of fighting, charging the capitol building (yeah, we had buildings, etc., to start with, but budget concerns quickly convince you to change everything to a public park :)), etc., in the script. Quick images to show the battle without showing that we didn't really have hundreds of extras. As far as teenagers, I imagine that the production could not attract more adults (I'm in Ohio; I sit back and Randy gets to do the "heavy lifting" of trying to put the production together). In fact, if I'm not mistaken, most of the teenagers are children/friends of the cast and crew. There's one fellow with shaggy hair who is, I believe, Jeff Green's son.

    My intent was to have Grigory beam down for the IDIC, using that as an excuse, to confront Sarat. I saw him as torn -- wanting to off the guy, wanting to uphold his oath (we did have an alternate, unfilmed ending where he did do so), and snapped at Sarat's nonchalance. Jeff, who directed, decided to do the beam in with phaser in hand. It is one of the two or three points that Randy and I truly debated over, but as it was the only take of the scene, it is what it is.

    And indeed, if I have my druthers (Randy and I have discussed this in very broad terms), Grigory is going to basically do all the things you mentioned. He will pay very dearly for his actions. This is not a guy who is going to be anyone's "childhood hero" one hundred years hence.

    If I've missed anything, please chime back in.

    Again, thank you (and all others contributors) for weighing in. I do appreciate it.

    Best,

    Dave
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
  4. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2010
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    Metro-Birmingham, Alabama
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    A couple of points:

    1) Most of the "teenagers" are 20 somethings. Most of our cast is from Georgia Southwestern University and Darton College. Theatre Albany is another source for cast members. The fight scenes originally were to include four others, one of which was recalled to active duty, another joined the service, and two others could not get off from work.

    2) We gave Director/Lead Actor Jeff Green complete freedom to play the scene as he wanted, and to be honest,
    I think it creates a lot more interesting possibilities for the character of Captain Alec Grigory rather than turning his back and leaving Sarat "unpunished," as it were. Interestingly enough, T'Noshi doesn't mention the IDIC. Grigory uses it as an excuse to beam back down to the planet. I think he planned to kill Sarat from the get-go, but maybe I'm wrong. I do know that he was beaming down with the phaser into a hostile situation, so having the phaser at the ready isn't really an issue.
     
  5. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2010
    Location:
    Metro-Birmingham, Alabama
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    J Alec West has updated the download page for Project: Potemkin:

    http://potemkin.novelhost.net/home.html

    You'll find S01-2 "The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky" available in the following formats:

    NTSC DVD ISO file (2.2 GB)
    PAL DVD ISO file (2.2 GB)
    DivX AVI file (495 MB)
    H.264 MP4 file (hi - 1.5 GB)
    H.264 MP4 file (med - 363 MB)
    Windows Media file (hi - 495 MB)
    Windows Media file (med - 359 MB)
    Real Media file (hi - 425 MB)
    Real Media file (med - 319 MB)
    Real Media file (lo - 14 MB)
    NTSC VCD MPEG1 file (572 MB)
    PAL VCD MPEG1 file (572 MB)

    as well as Streaming Links

    Real Media (med), 768k Broadband Stream
    Real Media (lo), 34k Dialup Modem Stream

    And even a parts page.

    The artwork for the production is here:

    DVD Cover Art for S01-2 "The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky"
    [​IMG]

    Poster Art for S01-2 "The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky"
    [​IMG]

    Let us know if you encounter any trouble with the downloads!
     
  6. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2009
    Location:
    New York, New York
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    Cool! I'm downloading it right now!
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    Although DoubleOhFive beat me to the punch and his review ably covers much of the territory I’ve covered, I’ve still decided to post this review in the spirit of helpful feedback to the Potemkin crew in their ongoing attempts to improve subsequent segments. Also, episode writer David Eversole wanted me to critique the script without the kid gloves, so I’m here doing that.

    Click the spoiler code if you dare. ;)


    “The Night The Stars Fell From the Sky”

    This episode marks a big stretch for the producers of Project Potemkin, both in terms of scope and subject matter. Largely leaving the comfortable confines of their ship sets they venture to multiple outdoor locations, with all the complications that entails, filming a script that actually attempts to be about something—which is a rarity in fanfilm circles. That it doesn’t entirely work is actually something of a compliment, because while your reach may exceed your grasp, the act of striving for a higher goal is worthy of notice. Kudos for the effort.


    Acting

    I rarely discuss acting in fanfilms. Few of the performers in them have much acting experience, and if they do, usually not much film acting experience. Furthermore, in film an actor is highly dependent on the direction and the editing, which can make or break their performance (discussed when I talk about editing, below). As such, I think it’s unfair to ridicule fanfilm performances even when they are apparently dreadful.

    However, I will comment when I see promise. And Jeffrey Green’s performance in these always stands out. Without even looking at his C.V. I can tell he’s had acting experience. In fact, he’s one of that those rare actors in fanfilms who actually has some vocal presence, which becomes even more apparent when he’s surrounded soft spoken performers who can’t seem to project or find a voice. I really want to like this character, but there is a problem: his Captain Grigory seems stuck in one gear. His delivery is so metered that sometimes it’s at odds with the rhythm of the scene or even the inflection of his voice. Directing yourself in a film is difficult to do, and I daresay it might be partly at fault here. Stronger direction, tighter editing and a script that pushes him more would capitalize on his strengths, which are clearly being underused to date. Heck, I’d like to direct this guy and see how far he can stretch.


    The Story

    I won’t recount the story and its particulars, but a TV Log Line for this could be “Captain Grigory’s resolve not to interfere with alien cultures is tested when he discovers a society divided by a war which could spell annihilation for one of the parties.”

    On the surface of it, this is an interesting theme. The waters here are muddy because, as the Potemkin crew discovers, these people have previously been interfered with by the “Preserver” aliens who transported them to this planet in ages past.

    In execution, however, the story doesn’t quite gel. Why?

    A common bit of advice in TV series writer’s guides is something like, “Stories must always deeply involve our main characters. We do not want them ‘looking in’ on the problems of someone else. Neither should they be cast as ‘do-gooders.’ In other words, the problem should never become our problem merely by having our main characters push their way into it. Even when the story features guest stars, the problem is still to be a our people’s problem and the solution a our people’s solution.”

    Unfortunately, this story fails to yield to such admonitions: the Potemkin crew are largely voyeurs—of a frustrated sort to be sure—of the problems of other people. There’s no personal stake other than for one incredibly naïve secondary character. Sure, lots of Trek episodes have this problem, but it’s still a problem.

    Here Captain Grigory is a mere observer, focused only on solving the problem of his people being stranded on the planet and saying “we can’t interfere we can’t interfere we can’t interfere” until the end when suddenly he will. He doesn’t propel the story. He just reacts and reacts and reacts. Even his final, controversial decision, is mere reaction to the bad guy.

    Yes, Grigory is making choices throughout, and the choice he’s making mostly is “save my ship, but don’t get involved.” The trouble is that this is drama, and as presented these aren’t very interesting choices.

    At root the issue is that the story is what David Gerrold called a “puzzle box” problem in that the characters are arbitrarily trapped in the situation because of some doubletalk generator or someone bonking them on the head and stealing their squawk boxes; merely an exercise they have to resolve to move on. It’s more dramatically honest and serves the characters better for them to choose to put themselves in harm’s way rather than being put there by a meaningless plot contrivance: in this case, one which is neatly disposed of by literally pulling a plug.

    It’s played as a “funny” moment, but that plug pulling is emblematic of the overall problem with this story because of what it says about our heroes. When they reach the doubletalk generator (a centuries-old piece of alien technology) that is trapping them on the planet, the frustrated Captain’s reaction is to just shut it off. No one even hesitates to consider whether this thing is vital to the planet and the survival of the people inhabiting it (is it an asteroid deflector, a weather control gizmo, a 50,000 watt Mexican AM radio station?). The resulting message is “Oh, we can’t interfere, even by taking out one sociopath. But damn the torpedoes we can shut off this thing we don’t understand because it’s messing with our ship.”

    Let’s recap Grigory's choices:
    • Without knowing the current state of the culture, reintroducing supposedly forgotten (Surak’s) philosophies from centuries ago is apparently not interference.
    • Without knowing what it’s for, shutting off this powerful alien artifact is apparently not interference.
    • Taking sides in or stopping a turf war, that’s interference.
    Excuse me. What?

    Ensign T’Noshi’s character arc doesn’t work here because it requires her to become fascinated with, attracted to, and blinded by bad guy Sarat. In fact, her first reaction to him is “I am not qualified” to teach him what he asks her, but her Captain nudges her to do just that, so she’s not even acting of her own agency as a naïve ingénue. It sets the relationship off on the wrong foot and it never recovers. In fact, most of what follows screams that she’s not buying what Sarat’s selling, so it’s difficult to feel any sense of betrayal or even sympathy for her plight. She doesn’t believe it, so we don’t either.


    Fix It In Post

    Accepting that Potemkin is a low-budget affair with short shoots, limited equipment, and largely amateur crews, there are still two places where post-production could vastly improve the show: sound and editing.

    The audio is problem numero uno. As I’ve said many times in the Fan Filmmakers Primer thread, “Sound Trumps Picture” and it’s the one thing you can’t skimp on. Regardless of whatever issues were had on the set or on location (cicadas) and with the looping, the clumsy handling of the sound here kills the show. The ambient quality changes throughout. The levels are all over the place. The “room tone” is frequently missing on overdubs. It’s a mess. Fortunately, in many cases, sound is the easiest thing to fix, so the Potemkin team should seriously focus on this in future because improvement just here would vastly improve the perception of their films.

    The editing is nearly as serious as issue. It’s functional at best. At worst it actually hurts the performances of the actors.

    There’s a possibly apocryphal story about Marcia Lucas cutting Star Wars, where she insisted that part of the problem with early cuts of the film was that the editors were cutting to the actors’ rhythms instead of cutting for pace. On stage that works because the performances play off each other in real time and the actors respond to each other and the audience. In film, where everything is constructed from tiny fragments, typically shot out of sequence and repeated over and over, that doesn’t work. The editor has to determine the tempo of the scene and cut to it. The editor eliminates or creates hesitations and overlaps or separates actions as needed to create that rhythm.

    One need look no farther than the fanfim Of Gods and Men to see the truth in this, where professional actors are made to look like amateurs due to bad editorial choices and flaccid pacing.

    The opening scene of this episode illustrates the same problem. There are many moments where the cuts could be tightened to create some tension and would actually make the actors performances stronger. I guarantee that a tighter edit here would have made everyone look better.

    Beyond impacting the performances, the editing is leaden. Everything moves at a measured, mechanical pace no matter what is happening. Be it a quiet introspective moment or an action beat, there’s never any sense of urgency, no change in tempo, the effect of which is that there’s no emotional weight to anything that happens because it’s all the same: uniform, textureless. Again, this can easily be fixed in the edit bay if someone is willing to put a critical eye to the material and “let the air out.”


    Production Value

    Cinematography is at root the most important tool in film and I encourage everyone with an interest in more than dabbling to take the time to learn the basics. Consciously or not, we know the language of film and when you fail to follow its basic grammar you get the difference between pidgin and poetry.

    Potemkin has consistently suffered from jump cuts, “crossing the line”, mismatched looks, failure to maintain consistent screen direction, and problems with basic continuity. Actors turn left in one shot, but are turning right after the cut. An actor is behind two others, and is suddenly alongside them. People switch places between cuts. Hands swap places on props. An actor turns left to leave the helm and on the cut is rising to the chair right.

    Shots made outdoors frequently suffer from backgrounds that are overexposed while the characters in the shaded foreground are murky. A bunch of white and gray bounce cards would have done wonders to make these shots looks better. Heck, turning on the camera’s “zebra stripes” mode would make obvious when there’s overexposure.


    Visual Effects

    The effect employed for the Preserver ghost is surprisingly effective; it looks like sunlight refracting through something. It works precisely because it’s so simple, conveying a presence without distracting us from what’s being said or from the actor’s performance.

    The same can’t be said of the other visual effects in the show.

    There’s a lot of effort made here to use VFX to extend the scenery, but it’s another example of reach exceeding grasp. This is not just a problem of the effects being unconvincing (I accept that from amateur productions) but that the flaws in these shots frequently draw attention to themselves at the expense of the drama in the scene. For example, the upper left corner of the background bleeding over Kalv’s shoulder (at 51:50), or the background being in focus when the foreground isn’t, pulling your eye away from the actors, or, most distracting, when the camera moves and the background doesn’t match the move correctly so the background bobs or slides and sometimes even changes aspect ratio mid-shot (53:25), drawing attention away from a key dramatic moment. When the actors are doing their thing, do nothing to detract from it.


    Conclusion

    While it’s easy to pillory fanfilms for obvious failings we should always bear in mind that it requires a lot of effort and a helluva lot of sticktoitiveness to complete a film of any complexity. At the top of this review I pointed out that this was a stretch for the Potemkin crew, and I have to admire them for making that stretch, even if I think they have a ways to go. But, they’re trying, which is what’s important.

    Admiral Kirk’s observation, “We learn by doing,” is as true about filmmaking as it is about humor.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2014
  8. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2001
    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    Thank you for the very honest critique, Maurice. It is appreciated. One of my little life's mottos is from Michaelangelo -- "Ancora imparo."

    I'm still learning.

    Best,

    Sir Rhosis
     
  9. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2001
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    Certainly, the critique is hard-hitting, but I think Maurice did a wonderful job of balancing his criticisms with empathy for the problems the producers were up against and there was nothing that I saw that got anywhere close to crossing the line into personal attacks or simple meanness. In my articles for Examiner, that kind of criticism is usually missing for any number of reasons. For one, I do have severe space limitations and I"m not an expert on any particular aspect of producing a TV episode. I applaud Maurice for taking the time to do a thorough, respectful job of critiquing the production and offering thoughtful suggestions on how to improve the show.
     
  10. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2010
    Location:
    Metro-Birmingham, Alabama
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    I appreciate the time and energy Maurice has taken into writing this review. Hopefully we will continue to improve our productions!
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Location:
    Walking distance from Starfleet HQ
    Re: Star Trek -- Project: Potemkin "The Night the Stars Fell from the

    My pleasure, guys. Keep at it and keep aiming higher. :)