Thoughts on the Excelsior Ball by Tommy Roddy (Kemmer)
I was introduced to Hidden Frontier by my friend Adam back in August of 2004. He recommended the fifth episode of the second season, "Encke." I could hardly contain my excitement as I settled in for the show. A new crew and new enemies, a wild region of space, tetrahedrons, a gay crew member... after the Trek smorgasbord I was left with a feeling akin to anger! Why hadn't I heard about this show before?! Luckily the anger was supplanted by awe as I began a marathon session of Hidden Frontier episodes. Even as a totally D.I.Y. non-profit endeavor, the storyline quickly established itself in my heart right along with network Trek.
Fast-forward six months and I was on a plane to Los Angeles. I left cold, foggy San Francisco and thought I would be welcomed by warmer, drier scenery. So much for that idea! I arrived in a cold, foggy Los Angeles on Friday at 10:15pm, where I was soon picked up by my Angeleno friend, Dale. The epitome of Southern hospitality, this was the second time my fellow Hidden Frontier fan opened his home to me on short notice. After a night of little sleep due to excitement, Dale and I arrived at the Excelsior Ball a little bit early. Right at the door was a fellow in full Klingon makeup, which was just an awesome touch. I was soon greeted by Gabe, "The Rob" (as was jotted on his nametag), Jaytee Tepnapa, Jenn (Commodore Cole), and Thomas (the fan organizer of the event). Soon after I met Karl (Korg), Barbara (Elennar), Chris
(Crystalwearer), John (Auntie Matter), Will (Xanxan), David (TheDoctor), and Matt (MattinSGV). More people started to arrive, including Carlos, Adam Browne (Jorian Zen) and Risha Denney (Captain Shelby), and it became clear that we would need to remove some tables and bring in a lot more chairs.
The first panel discussion was "Hidden Frontier Beginnings." It was fascinating to hear about how Rob's student filmmaking days at Loyola Marymount University evolved into the Hidden Frontier experience of today. His fellow panelists Jenn (Commodore Cole), David Dial (Admiral Knapp), John (Dr. Henglaar), and Barbara Clifford (Counselor Elbry) shared their stories, and joked about how it all began in "Rob's bedroom."
The second panel was "Villains: The Characters We Love to Hate", with Dave Mason (DiFalco/Brok), Rebecca Wood (Betras/Vindenpawl), Julie Anne Gardner (Vorina), and Dan Crout (Sha'Kev). Ah evil, the pause that refreshes! The villainous quintet talked about the methods they use to prepare for such roles, the complexities of being "misunderstood", and the absolute fun they have portraying the bad guys. The video recording of this particular panel was... a bit jumpy at best. Jenn was operating the camera at the start of this panel, but she had to help someone. Thomas wasn't nearby, so I was drafted to man the camera. I was pretty immersed in the conversation at hand, so at times I forgot to aim the camera at the right person for a moment, and would pan a bit too quickly to them.
The third panel was "Director's Point of View" with Risha Denney (Captain Shelby), JT (Lt. Corey Aster), Dave Mason, Jenn, and Adam Browne (Jorian Zen). They discussed the challenges of directing, particularly in regard to various styles stemming from an acting background vs. technical. James DeRuvo (Semaj) was able to make it, and shared his history with Star Wars "Rogue" before he came to HF. But my big question for the panel (which I left unspoken) was "where were James' stylin' seventies shades from his avatar ?!" After the panel, I had a bit of time to talk to James, where I learned that his wife is a staunch democrat. Opposites do attract!
The fourth panel, and my personal favorite, was "Alternative Lifestyles Frontier" with JT, Adam, Jonathan (Capell), John Whiting, and Susan Fox (Commander Sou). The panelists talked about continuing the spirit of Star Trek with the inclusion of gay characters. The ripple effect of HF's brave decision was discussed, as was the overwhelmingly positive response from Trek fans the world over (including this one!). There were tons of questions and remarks, with plenty of laughter and a bit of somber reflection. The topic of diversity in general was brought up, prompting me to mention Renee Huberstock (Admiral Necheyev) and her kick-ass accent. I had a moment of embarrassment, since I had no idea she was in the room while I was speaking until she popped her head into view.
The fifth panel was "Starfleet Brass" with Commodore Cole, Admiral Knapp, Admiral Necheyev, and KORG! So much firepower in one room at the same time! The power these characters wield and the responsibility they are burdened with adds so much to the series. I love space battles and explosions (understatement), but I also enjoy the political intrigue, which is so much more than just filler in this series.
The sixth panel was "Cardassians and Romulans, and Klingons, Oh My!" It was a panel discussing the make-up of Hidden Frontier... and I wish I could add more, but I was busy at the hotel bar getting drunk with Gabe, PK, and several others.
The next day, many of the E-Ballers headed to Rob's house to witness that day's shoot. It was also Rebecca's birthday, and Rob surprised her with the cake! I spent the day watching the crew at work, chatting up my fellow sci-fi geeks, napping on the couch, and eating my weight in snacks. A highlight of the day was meeting and talking to Rebecca's mother, who is a huge Star Trek fan. This was the second time I saw the HF cast and crew in action. Like the first time I was so impressed with everyone, from the directors and assistant director, to the actors and make-up artists.
HF also had a special guest that day, Stephen, a huge fan of HF who came with his family and helped out the crew more than most (including my napping self). Near the end of the day I had a chance to talk one-on-one with Rob. It was only a brief chat, but it was enough to convey his love of film in general and Hidden Frontier in particular. That love transformed Hidden Frontier from a childhood game with a video camera and action figures, to an astounding work of ingenuity, vision, and hope. So thank you Rob. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to us, the fans of Hidden Frontier. And to the cast, crew, and fellow fans of Hidden Frontier (especially Thomas, who got the whole Excelsior Ball idea rolling), thank you for giving me quite a weekend to remember.
One on One with Commander Lefler.
Are you involved in any other acting projects now besides HF?
I had a recurring role a few times this season and last season on TLC's Untold Stories of the ER. It was a reenactment show of real amazing ER stories as told by the doctors who experienced them. They used real nurses to make it look authentic, and the stories always ended happy. I have also done various short films and student films. I was also in the play The Bad Seed last year and I was nominated as COLSAC's Best Female Newcomer. It went on to win Best Play.
How did you become involved in Hidden Frontier?
In the very first season I attended a shoot with Risha Denney. She told me to come along and read for a part. The former "Lefler" had left the production so I came in to take her place.
What were your initial thoughts when you arrived for the first day of your first shoot?
It was a very cool and relaxed environment for me: like going to a friend's house and playing in his room. Rob lived at home at the time so it was friendly and comfortable. I couldn’t believe how professional and realistic the end result was.
What previous exposure did you have to Star Trek fan productions before working with the crew on HF?
I had no prior experience with fan fiction. I didn’t even realize how big it was.
What was your exposure to Star Trek itself prior to Hidden Frontier?
I used to watch the old Star Treks because my dad liked them. I used to think my dad was like TJ Kirk (or was it James T? Oops). “My dad is TJ Busch.” Haha, I used to get scared watching the episodes though especially the one when he was on that planet and that Godzilla-type creature was chasing him. Or the one when the people had no faces, that freaked me out. Oh, the things you remember as a child.
Who are your role models in acting?
I used to liken myself to Meg Ryan, earlier Meg, pre-plastic. I like Jennifer Anniston, Annette Benning, Megan Malloley, Kate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Elisabeth Shu, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman's alright :) I could go on...
What do you think of the positive reception you've received from the HF community?
I love it. Ham I am. Who knew? I'm still not even aware how much reception there is. I really need to get on the forums more...
What is the hardest part of working in front of a green screen? How have you overcome the limitations of green screen over the years as an actor?
Oh green screen-smeam. I just go with the flow. It hasn’t really been that hard for me, maybe because I've worked with it more than anything else.
Should Lefler finally settle down or should she remain single?
No, I don’t think she wants to settle down, but she definitely needs to get MORE ACTION. She's knows what she wants, now get her some!
If Lefler could date any character on the Excelsior, who would it be and why?
You know that young buck McCabe isn't too shabby and they seem to work together a lot. And he's human and all...
Do you have a favorite episode or moment from HF?
I rather liked "Voyage of the Defiant" because it showed a more playful side to Lefler. She flirted more with Luko. I like Lefler most when she's silly and sarcastic much like my own self. We can’t be all engineering business all the time now can we??
Season 7 is smooth sailing.
Well, Hidden Frontier is back in action with the conclusion to last year’s cliffhanger, “Her Battle Lanterns Lit” nearing completion! “Heavy Losses” began production on January 14th in LA and is being helmed by veteran director, and series star, Risha Denney. One of her credits is that she really knows how to manage her actors well. She’s personable, enthusiastic and very insightful. She never stops thinking and I have always been struck by her constant supply of ideas and the spin she wants to put on various scenes.
Risha Denney’s character Captain Shelby and her crew will be forced to overcome insurmountable odds, while Admiral Knapp (David W. Dial) confronts the loss of his daughter, Traya. As usual, you can expect the unexpected both this episode and in the rest of the season. Siroc, for instance, is going to be trying some new even more underhanded approaches to winning the war with the Federation and Allies. Speaking of allies, “Heavy Losses” also features Karl Puder (solak on the forums) who returns to play General Korg. The character was originally created for Eric Busby’s ongoing Section 31 audio drama.
In addition to General Korg, the unfailing Gul Malek returns with sinister intentions in “Heavy Losses”. This time around, John Nelson, who originally portrayed Malek back in “Piracy of the Noble,” takes on the part. John and his wife, Cherry visited Los Angeles for the Excelsior Ball and I asked him to stick around for the day of filming that followed. Many thanks go out to them for agreeing to pitch in! That’s about it for now. “Heavy Losses” is just around the corner.
All my best,