Hidden Frontier
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Rob Caves, the creator and executive producer of Star Trek: Hidden Frontier recently took a moment to chat with me about the show, his start in fandom, and the future after Hidden Frontier.

What got you started in making movies?

Star Trek, of course! I started watching TNG when Best Of Both Worlds aired and was hooked from then on. I liked it so much I started making videos with action figures and starship models and little sparkler pyrotechnics. It was great fun and I had our family friend at the time, Dave Dial (Knapp) do the voices for the videos. If you ever get to see our Gumby and Pokey in Spanish, Dave does a really wonderful spanish accent.

When it came time to think about a career and college, filmmaking seemed like an obvious choice. So for better or worse, I credit Trek with getting me into my current line of work. And my current hobby that we know as the bottomless money pit!


Where did you go to get your training, and how long did it take?

I went to film school, but to be honest, filmmaking is really self taught for the most part. They teach you a lot about theory, and a few schools let you make films; but what I tell people interested in filmmaking, is not to go to film school like I did. Just get out there and make movies. You can read a book and start making films right away.






Any non-Areakt Productions projects you're particularly proud to have worked on?
My only real claim to fame was a 2000 film called "Behind Enemy Lines" with Gene Hackman. I also worked on some game shows including a pretty wild one called "Bobcat's Bigass Show" with comedian, Bobcat Goldthwait. Aside from that I've worked mostly on short films, and my own projects. I find those more rewarding overall as I had more direct involvement in them.


Speaking of Areakt - what exactly does that stand for?
There are a couple answers to that. Areakt was created by my high school buddy, John Knapp that the brother of the Admiral is named after. He created the logo, which errily became the Aetina Heath Care Logo a few years later. It looked like a giant AE that early seasons of HF carry. All of the letters in the word Areakt are represented in the logo. Though the real reason he picked the exact word is a mystery. He was bored in Biology class and the name stuck for all of the dozens of films I made in high school and thereafter.


What was your favorite moment from the past 7 years that you can recall?
I can't single out any one moment. Making the show has been a blast and I'm saddened to see it come to an end.






What was your most difficult challenge, and what did you do to overcome it?
There have been a lot of challenges. No single challenge stands out more than another, but it's always hard to make something like HF with virtually no money. That's the most obvious. But also when you're working with no money, it's important to keep everybody happy and rewarded in other ways. And that is difficult too.

Early on it was hard just to keep the same actor in some cases so we had a new character or in later seasons, a new actor playing a character pretty regularly. It's been a problem that's plagued the show and luckily the audience has accepted the talent changes pretty well. And it's a testament to some of the folks that have stuck with it from season 1. Also the characters we did have to kill off or transfer created interesting situations for our returning characters. That allowed us to explore relationships that we didn't see as often on Trek shows.


You have a fantastic team working with you on HF. Surely you're planning on working with them in the future. Anything you can tell us about potential new projects?
Keep your eyes peeled on the main page, and register for our forums if you haven't done so already. Some tantalizing hints will be revealed about upcoming stuff real soon!


Wow! That sounds good, but is there any chance we can bribe you into telling us more?
With future projects, we're hoping to diversify a little. That means that we're looking a several projects running concurrently. And in some cases the projects will be quite different from each other. We'll be working on one for part of the year, another for another part of the year, and keeping the door open for new projects that come in, or the occasional revisiting of the HF universe. It all comes down to money. I'd make 2 or 3 fanfilms concurrently if I had the funds to do so. I already treat HF like a full time job. Unfortunately I can't keep doing that so our model for future projects is going to be a bit different with significant parts of the production I would traditionally do being delegated to others. That's why we've been actively looking for new team members in the CGI department. We've got a good team of folks already, but we can always use the help.

So hopefully that diversification will allow me to keep making productions on a sporadic basis, and pursue money-making opportunities the rest of the time that will allow my partner and I to eat, and fund the film projects.






After a 7 year run, you've been the Executive Producer of a show that's run longer than most network programs on the air today. How's that make you feel?
I've enjoyed making the show, and I only wish it could go on indefinitely. But like all good things...





What's it like to be the executive producer of the first-ever "fanchise" series of Star Trek?
It's a bit like being a ping pong ball. You're constantly going back and forth between the talent to schedule shoots, setup scenes, troubleshoot technical problems, and prep scripts for next week. Most EP's don't do as much of the grunt work that I have traditionally done. But with HF, I have taken pride in all of the things that I do, and all of the hats that I wear.

When HF had it's first shoot, it was literally myself and my friend, Matt Kruer. It was July 27th, 2000 and he came over to my parents house where we filmed the first season in my little bedroom. I setup the camera, shot his Witczak lines, then he filmed my Abney lines in the pilot. That's all we had. I started out doing everything, and as the show progressed and grew, I was still doing just about everything. Slowly new people started doing things at shoots. Directing, reading lines, and eventually other people started writing.

But even now, I still do way more, and wear more hats as EP than any EP in the real world. It's been hard for me to give up control of certain areas of the show, especially areas I love doing, like CGI. But the show really has gotten just too big for me to do it all in a 24 hour day. I literally get up each morning and start making lists of what I need to do, and the bulk of it is always HF related. And by allowing others to contribute, we've gained some amazing things and catapulted the shows popularity.


Hidden Frontier has garnered a LOT of media attention in the past few months, and you appeared on camera a few times for major networks like NBC and ABC. How did you feel when you got those calls?
It's really an adrenaline rush, especially for someone as inexperienced and as humble as I am. I'm not terribly fond of being on camera, or tooting my own horn so it can be a bit intimidating.


If you had the chance to do anything different with the series, what would you do over, if anything?
I think there are always little things you would change in hindsight, but nothing major. If Hidden Frontier had been done as an original story aside from Trek, would it be as popular and as viewed as it is today? Would it be financially sustainable? I don't think so, but we'll never know.






7 Seasons. Does it have to be only 7 seasons? Any chance of a Hidden Frontier movie?
The final episode of HF might as well be a movie. When you see the opening titles for the final episode, you'll see what I mean. That of course does not preclude a revisiting of any of the HF characters via another short film, mini-series or spinoff. At least the ones that don't die! ;-)


Have any recommendations for aspiring filmmakers?
Don't waste your time with film school. It's a money pit. Take a few hands-on classes through a community college or vocational school. Get out there, read books, the internet and talk to people. Then pick up a camera and start filming. Just do it. :)


Any final words to say to the fans?
I am forever grateful to everyone for being the positive force that keeps us making episodes. Without your support and community, I am sure we would have wrapped up the story years ago and moved on. Making these episodes is like crack. Once you start and get people wanting more and more, you can't stop. You want to push it further and get even more response. You want to make each episode better. The show has caused me to put a lot of aspects of my life on hold, and in some cases angered family. I've even lost a few friends over it. I've spent more money than I'd care to admit, and put my financial future at risk. But its also been the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life and I wouldn't trade that for a fat wallet. I've made friends, and found love, all thanks to HF. So I guess it's a mixed blessing, but one I'm happy to have been a part of.


We'd like to thank Rob for taking the time to answer some questions for us, and for being so candid with us.

Look for more interviews with the cast and crew featuring your questions in future editions of the newsletter, and in future updates on the site!

--Jonathan Connor-Foertsch, Website Content Administrator
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