FAN FILM FRIDAY: Interview with Peter 'Stoney' Emshwiller of "Jr. Star Trek"

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Last week we featured the earliest Star Trek fan film we've found to date (just a week after featuring the earliest fan film we found to that date.) If you missed it, check it out below and then join us after the jump for an interview with its creator and star, Peter 'Stoney' Emshwiller.

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Church H. Tucker: Do you prefer Peter or Stoney?

Peter Emshwiller: I act under the name Stoney and write under Peter, so I'll answer to either one, thanks. Or even 'hey you!'

CHT: Where did Stoney come from? Was there already a Peter Emshwiller acting?

PE: There was a character named Stoney Stevenson in Between Time and Timbuktu, a 1973 TV movie based on the works of Kurt Vonnegut. I saw the film as a kid, loved the name (and the nerdy/heroic character played by a young William Hickey), and thought Stoney would make a terrific stage name. I was so young (and naïve) I had no idea that little teenage choice was going to lead to a lifetime of people thinking I was a pothead (which I definitely am not). D'oh!

CHT: What prompted your ten-year old self to decide, "I've got to make my own Trek film?"

PE: I grew up in Levittown, Long Island, and my elderly next door neighbor was a hardcore Trekkie. She would secretly let me stay up late to watch Star Trek (first run!) whenever she babysat me. I was quickly a huge fan of the show. I became obsessed with it. While other kids in my grade school might sketch race cars or football players in their notebooks, my margins were always filled with doodles of the Enterprise soaring, phasers blasting, or Mister Spock raising a quizzical eyebrow.

Since my father was a filmmaker, my two sisters and I grew up making our own little movies using dad's castoff equipment. And because the mini-ham that I was had wanted desperately to be an actor since the age of seven (believe it or not,) it seemed only natural that I create my very own version of my favorite show -- starring ME as Captain Kirk. (A few years earlier my sister and I made a super-8 version of Superman starring me as, you guessed it: a teensy Man of Steel.)

There was never a feeling that this film was going to be a 'spoof' or 'cute.' I tacked the project with the utmost seriousness only a kid can have. In my 10-year-old mind, I was creating a real Star Trek episode that just happened to star myself and my buddies.

CHT: That really comes across. Is your dad Ed Emshwiller?

PE: Yup, that's him! And I see there is also a Wikipedia page about my mom, a noted award-winning Science Fiction author, up there too. Very cool. Plus there's even a page up there about ME as well. And it mentions my epic masterpiece: Junior Star Trek! Ha!

But, yikes, my Wikipedia page is kinda creepy, to be honest. Either a very close friend or family member put it up there, or a very, very scary stalker. Frankly, whoever posted it knows more about me than I do myself! Wow.

CHT: Did your dad help with the editing et al.? And was that him we saw towards the end?

PE: No. I was actually so intent on doing every-darned-thing on the movie myself that I didn't let him touch the film. But he DID give lots of great over-the-shoulder advice as I painstakingly cut and glued the strips of celluloid together.

Yes, the evil bearded giant was indeed my dad. (And he did operate the camera if I was in the shot and couldn't do it myself.)

CHT: How did you do the soundtrack? (I came up a few years after you and envied those lucky souls who had access to 16mm film.)

PE: Unfortunately I didn't have any way to record sound live as I shot the movie, so many months after I filmed and edited the thing I borrowed my dad's reel-to-reel tape recorded and acted out all the various voices myself. Obviously, I wasn't brilliant at syncing it all up to the images. Ah well.

As for the music 'soundtrack,' I just recorded a bunch of my favorite Star Trek episodes as they aired, and later, with my dad's help, edited that down to various music cues we could use in my film.

Sadly the soundtrack on the YouTube version is way harder to hear than the original was. One of these days I'll try to upload a better version directly from the original.

CHT: One of the things I liked about your film was the interstitial breaks between acts. Were you riffing on a routine you had seen?

PE: Nah, I was just trying to do something that might get a laugh for my 'commercial break.' I DO remember being seriously bummed out that when we started filming I couldn't think of a new, different funny bit for the second 'ad,' and ended up just reversing the same gag I did the first time. I was so neurotically critical of myself in those days I was seriously pissed at my lack of imagination in the second interstitial for years to come.

I did continue dabbling in filmmaking after making Junior Star Trek, but how could I possibly top that brilliant film? (ha-ha) Over the years I've mostly focussed on writing and acting (though lately much of my acting is VoiceOver, which they tell me I have the PERFECT face for).

Only recently have I gotten back into filmmaking by producing and writing TV pilots, short films and such. I guess once you catch the moviemaking bug...

But, let's face it: it's all been downhill since Junior Star Trek!

CHT: I can see now that your acting, improv, artwork, poetry, and Nebula nominated science fiction is just a coping mechanism for dealing with your past glory.

Thanks for chatting with us, Peter!

PE: It was a pleasure!

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You can keep up with Peter 'Stoney' Emshwiller at his website.

Have a fan film or web series you'd like to recommend? Hit up Church at church@republibot.com

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