My Thoughts On All Things Star Trek

My friend Isaac Hulke and I recently decided to do a limited series of podcasts about Star Trek. They will start posting soon here. In it we devote an hour to each series and then we will go movie by movie discussing each in detail.

We have recorded episodes about the original series and the animated series already. I have always been a very big fan of all things Trek but this has forced me to go back and rewatch many of the episodes of the various shows that made it great.

Before recording last week I went back and watch the TOS episodes “Mirror, Mirror”, “Space Seed” and “The City On The Edge Of Forever”. They made me fall in love with the series all over again. There was so much being done in the series that was not only ground breaking but just great storytelling. In that podcast we also discussed what impact the show had on our present. Many of the children who grew up watching Trek wanted to move into finding ways to create the fictional tech that was used on the show. Many things we take for granted today came from people inspired by that show.

This weekend I have been spending some time watching some of the great episodes of The Next Generation. Being a reflection of our times in the 80’s and 90’s Gene Roddenberry used many things that really took a foothold in our culture and used them in the series. One of the major things was showing a Klingon being part of the Federation. Another was designating Troi as the ship’s counsellor as therapy was such a popular thing during that time.

The Next Generation has not yet proven to be as influential on our society as TOS but some things that were created for the show have since come to pass. The tablet computer being used as a reading device rather than carrying books around became one of the staples of Star Trek and has since begun to take a hold in our society today.

Not only have these shows influenced us in technological way but they have also given us some wonderfully entertaining hours of television. In TNG we had the introduction of some of the greatest creations in all of Trek – The Borg, Ferengi, Cardassians, and many other alien races that proved to have a lasting impact on Science Fiction by holding a mirror up to our society and showing us what we are. There were also some amazing introspective stories. One of the many great episodes was “The Inner Light”. I have had conversations with the writer of that classic episode and he said he was amazed by how beloved the episode has become. He now travels around to conventions and talks about his experiences. His name is Morgan Gendel. If you ever have the opportunity to meet this man you will not be disappointed. He is a very warm and engaging person.

I have spent a lot of time this weekend watching Deep Space Nine. It is sort of the forgotten child of Star Trek. People really should put it up there as one of the greatest creations ever to come from the Trek Universe. Instead it us constantly overshadowed by its predecessors. Voyager gets talked about more because of it sucked. And that’s a shame. DS9 was an amazing series that took a decidedly different journey. It was set aboard a space station and dealt with Federation officers being placed in a war torn part of deep space. It played in an entirely different sandbox. On a regular basis they dealt with loss, religion and racial conflict much more that than any of the other series dared to do. Sure, it moved into soap opera territory from time to time. They all did. But the show was much more daring and bold than anything that came before it.

And then there was Voyager. Wanting to get back to the fun of space exploration was the idea behind the show. They came up with a Lost In Space idea where they were cut off in an uncharted quadrant so far removed from Federation space it would take over 70 years at maximum warp to return. Instead of capturing the fun of TOS they opted to make Captain Janeway a nearly spineless person who would constantly ask “what did we do to offend you?” rather than take action. The secondary cast was horribly underused. The stories were weak and Neelix was possibly the worst SciFi character outside of Jar Jar. Enough said on that until the podcast recording.

Enterprise was an uneven show but really started to come into its own in its final season. It’s a shame the show could not have run at least a little longer. I would have liked to see Captain Archer and his crew dealing more with the beginnings of the Federation. And Scott Backula is just cool.

It’s nearly unanimous how people feel about the Trek movies. The odd ones are bad, the even ones are good. But does that hold true for the reboot of the movie franchise. You will have to time into the podcast to find out my feelings on the subject. We also offer trivia. We talk about the series that never was – Star Trek: Phase II, and many other things. I will be sure to let you know when they are available.


Writing Ded Moroz

Brian and I were fairly ambitious with our first short film, Lepus. We had 13 speaking parts, 9 deaths, multiple scenes and set ups. Before we shot it I pitched to him the idea of making it a trilogy.

In Lepus we had a man dressed as the Easter bunny killing people on Halloween. In Ded Moroz we will have a man dressed as Santa killing people at Easter. We are still trying to decide what the third killer will be but it is going to be set during Christmas.

Brian and I sat down for a while tonight to write about 10 pages. This will be longer than Lepus and the final installment will be the longest. The hope is that when it is all finished we have something that is roughly feature length.

All the surviving characters are returning. Some will live. Some will die. All we know for sure is that we are only half way there. We made each other laugh several times tonight while writing Ded Moroz. It was probably the most fun we’ve had writing together since writing Lepus. We love the characters. We love the nonsense. We love that we are making each one bloody and weird.

In Ded Moroz we are upping the body count. With nine kills in Lepus we wanted to go for at least twelve this time. We have plenty of fun ideas for how we kill people in this. We have already written six. We have plotted death #7 and know where we are ending the story. We just don’t know who else dies along the way.

We also know that Sheriff Cristos will be dressed as Jesus again. A slightly different looking Jesus from the first one. You’ll just have to wait and see what I mean. We also have people in drag, people dressed like reindeer, people speaking French, and God knows what else before we finish.

There are going to be more locations, more scope. We don’t want to rest on our laurels. We really want to deliver with this thing. Editing on Lepus begins in a couple days. During that time Brian and I will be sequestered in the editing bay with our friend and partner in crime, David Sabal. We may try and work some writing into our schedule during the week. Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime you can click here to see photos taken during the Lepus shoot. Enjoy.

Lepus Is Part Of Scream Machine!

Alrighty folks, from the start it has been talked about that we would be a part of something once Lepus was finished shooting. Well, as it turns out that something is a feature called Scream Machine. The other shorts were all done by former horror host Scarlet Fry. He and our DP David Sabal had worked together on all the other shorts. They were looking to add another one to the line-up before they put this baby to bed. Because Brian Smith and I are friends with David and happened to show him a script right around the same time he jumped at it and off we went. 

I don’t know how we got so lucky to be able to get distribution on our first short film but it happened. We also got incredibly lucky with our cast. It’s been amazing how things went for us. Just a few months ago Brian and I were feeling dejected because nobody even wanted to read our feature script, “Welcome To Deadsville”. Now, Tyler Gallant wants to star as the lead in it. He wants to make the proposed sequels to “Lepus” and he wants Brian and me to collaborate on a feature he and Kat Garcia came up with. And, about a month ago, I was talking to Bill Oberst Jr. about “Welcome To Deadsville” and he wants us to keep him in mind when we are ready to shoot. I would love for him to play the Phil character. Things are looking good. 

We still have a couple pick up shots to do. The biggest thing is just making sure my sister’s death scene is sufficiently gory. Unfortunately we have to wait about a week or so for David to get back from Boston to shoot it. There are a bunch of photos from the last night of shooting up at our Facebook page. There are a lot of great shots of Victoria Paege dressed like a sexy nurse before, during and after she gets all bloodied up and bruised. Also, you can check out the iMDb page. It’s still not complete yet. There are a few fixes to be made. First, I am listed as an actor in it but when you click on my name it goes to some kid in Texas. Not me. Second, Brian’s credit somehow got attached to a different Brian E. Smith. Third, my director credit isn’t up yet. Otherwise everything else is there. Go check it out, “like” it, and come to Phoenix Comicon for the premiere!

Shooting Lepus: Day Four

Well, we did it. We wrapped our ambitious little short film at about 2:30 this morning. It was our biggest day on set. We had multiple cast members and several extras, each with their own timetables we had to consider.

We were going to try and start with my nephew first and get the shot out of the way so we didn’t have to have an eight year old on set all night watching people die. The problem was his scenes were with a woman playing a sexy nurse. We had trouble finding a person for the role. At the last minute we had Victoria Paege come in. We had to wait for her to finish with hair and make up so we tried to shoot as much around her as we could.

Our first shot of the night was Kat Garcia and Kelsee Benson arriving at the Halloween party with a moment of dialogue. We had a Vulcan and a husband and wife pair of Mandalorian Mercs playing Twister. We had Kat in a chicken costume walking and talking with Kelsee who was dressed as sort of schoolgirl.

After that Victoria was ready. She had no dialogue. Her entire part was all about body language and she nailed it. My nephew Brennen was great as the eight year old throwing the party.

Then we were finally ready to knock out the dialogue scenes with RJ Markham, Kat, Kelsee, Tyler Gallant, and Jai Yunae. I can’t express how lucky I feel that we got the cast we did. Every single person did such an amazing job.

I have already talked about Tyler and Kelsee quite a bit in previous posts so I want to take a moment and talk about some of the supporting cast. Jai Yunae was fantastic as the lovelorn woman who desperately seeks the approval of Sheriff Cristos. She took just a few weird pieces of dialogue and turned them into something Brian and I didn’t even see when we wrote it. It took a long time before we got around to shooting her scenes last night so she took decided to become our unofficial still photographer. The pictures she took we incredible. She stuck around late even though she had an 8am call time for another short she was starting immediately after this one, also co-starring Tyler.

RJ Markham was another great find for us. He came in for the day to play Farmer. He not only shot all of his scenes but then stuck around to help is clean up all the blood and guts afterwards. He was a real trooper. And his performance was great. We had a lot of fun having him on set.

I know I have talked a bit about Kat Garcia already but I have to say how amazed I was with her last night. She didn’t want me to know, and I didn’t find out until a half hour after we wrapped, but she had a really bad ear infection during her scenes and was in terrible pain. She soldiered through and you would never be able to tell when watching her performance.

She wasn’t the only sick one on the set last night. David Sabal, our DP and producer, was also sick all night but never once complained. He just did his job and stayed to help clean after. I can’t thank him enough for the work he put into our little baby.

Last, I want to talk about the most awkward part of the night. There is a scene in Lepus where a woman gets killed by having a vibrator jammed into her mouth and out the back of her head. Before we knew we going to have a shot at professional actors we planned on Lepus being nothing but friends and family. Well, the first person we asked to play this role accepted, much to my surprise. My sister said yes to doing it. The reality really sunk in when Cherith was sitting there last night with vibrator in hand and Brian was about to shove it into her mouth. No matter what direction was given it just sounded dirty and wrong. Example – “We’re gonna a couple takes, Cherith. I’m gonna have Brian put it in and pull it out a few times. When he puts it in I want you to look terrified. How’s your gag reflex? Can it go any deeper?” Oh, the joys of being a director shooting a scene where your sister has to put a vibrator in her mouth. What was I thinking when writing the scene? What was I thinking asking my sister to do play this part?

I also wrote a scene for my nephew Brennen where he’s supposed to walk out of a bedroom with a sexy nurse two to three times his age and smack her on the butt and say “thanks babe”. That was awkward. The entire cast and family was sitting there watching as we shot the scene too. Brennen did a great job but he was so nervous about smacking Victoria on the butt. We told him he didn’t have to if he was uncomfortable. We found out after a few takes he was grabbing it. We never knew.

I can’t believe we got away with it. I want to thank everyone involved. Kelsee did great for this being her first time. So did her brothers and sister. All the extras that came out last night were so good. A special thanks to Justin Blair for taking direction so well, dressing like a Vulcan and knocking his one line out of the park.

We are going to have some pictures up on our page soon. Go here and you will see them soon.

Shooting Lepus: Day Three

Day three of Lepus was a very short day. We had just a few shots to get. There was a scene with the two sisters, Kelsee and Sierra Benson we couldn’t get to on day two. Then we headed over to Cherith Pruitt’s house to do a quick shot of her sleeping restlessly as she has a psychic vision.

We kept day three light because we thought we would not have Tyler Gallant or Kat Garcia available. They thought they may have been on a shoot for a major motion picture for Warner Brothers. It turns out the scene got cut and they would have been available to us all day. It did afford us time to record the latest episode of The Gorram Nerd Hour with Tyler as a special guest. So it all worked out.

Day four, our final official shoot date, is going to be a big one. We have nearly the entire cast, several extras and multiple kills to get through. It’s gonna be a long bloody night. I can’t wait to get started.

Shooting Lepus Day 2

Today was amazing. It was the first day of having Tyler Gallant on set to shoot his half his scenes as Sheriff Cristos. He knocked it out of the park. The character is gonna be so much to see on screen when it’s all edited together.

Today was day with with my little sister Cherith Pruitt as Zelda. She plays a psychic who comes to warn the sheriff about the killer Easter Bunny. She used to want to be an actress before she decided that being a wife and mother was a more important pursuit. She did a great job in scenes with Tyler.

Kelsee Benson, my other sister’s oldest child, is playing Jamie in Lepus and shot her first scenes today. She was great. I cannot wait to see what she does on Thursday when we shoot her frightened run.

Kat Garcia came in today to shoot her scenes as a lovely teen who is dressed like a chicken. We were lucky to get her and we have Tyler to thank for that. She plays Jamie’s bitchy friend Mary and did a wonderful job.

Rob Edwards, another one we got thanks to Tyler, stopped in to shoot his two scenes today. He is playing Deputy Beckett, one of the only people who realizes something funky is going on in town. His performance was subtle and very good. We are so grateful to have had in our short film.

Our friend Randy Robinson popped by today too. He is playing the town coroner who is more interested in his own life than in doing his job. His performance was hilarious.

And then there’s Brian Smith. He has never acted, nor did he ever have any interest in doing so. He just wanted to go-write and produce this with me. But I asked him to play the Lepus and he has been amazing. He is so creepy and funny in the pink bunny costume and his 70’s porn star moustache. I am so with his performance.

That just leaves David Sabal. This man is a one man film crew. We got so much accomplished in such a short time in the last two day we are taking tomorrow just to do pick up shots. I can’t say enough good about this man. Without him Lepus wouldn’t have been possible.

We got so much done today it was astounding. We worked our butts off…but it was so worth it. I can’t wait to have something to show you all.

My Angry Walking Dead Rant!

I have been a longtime fan of The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman did an amazing job crafting a world for Shane and company to live in. The comic book has been one hell of a ride. The television series, on the other hand, has had its ups and downs. When it first premiered a couple years ago I was more excited than I could even say. Zombies, comic books, Frank Darabont, and wonderful pilot immediately put this at the top of my “must see” list. The first six episode under Darabont’s guidance were amazing. I have watched them numerous times and love them as much as Darabont’s films. Then season two came along. Longer season, Darabont free, and a lot of “Where’s Carl? Oh, he’s been shot? He can heal quickly and run off again. Good…Dammit, where’s Carl?”

The season started good and went downhill after just a few episodes. Sure, they introduced one of my favorite characters when they got to the farm. Herschel was a favorite from the comic books and the series. But that wasn’t enough. There were too few zombies. The show turned into Days Of Our Lives with the occasional zombie thrown in. Hell, at least when Days Of Our Lives went dark and Marlena got possessed we saw the possessed Marlena every episode! The season was boring. Then they did something that really pissed me off.

Before I say what made me so made at the end of season two let me first say this – I have no problem with the changes they’ve made from the comic to the series. I love the characters of Merle and Daryl. I love the CDC episode. I’m fine with that stuff. I think it’s been a great addition to the lore of the show. But when they do things inspired by jaw-dropping moments from the comic and dilute it then I get pissed. The moment I’m talking about is when Shane gets shot. In the comic Carl kills a living, breathing, human Shane. In the show he had to be a zombie first. That almost made me stop watching. 

This season they get to one of the best story arcs of the comic – the story of the Governor and the prison. Before I get into this part I must warn you that I’m getting into spoiler territory here. Please stop reading if you don’t want to know. 

You’ve been warned.



Last chance…



Okay, here we go. In the comic the Governor is keeping his undead daughter locked in his house. He has Roman style Gladiator games happening with zombies to entertain his people. He locks up Michonne and rapes and beats her repeatedly. Rick gets his hand cut off by the Governor. The Governor storms the gates of the prison and Lori and her unborn baby are shot and killed as they flee. This was a big epic game changer for the comic book. 

So far this season on the show (specifically last night’s episode) we had T Dogg, a character not in the comics, die. Carol died. Lori went into labor, had to be cut open to save the baby and then she died! The baby lived. The baby isn’t supposed to live. Everything is happening wrong. It makes me think that the other controversial moments of the comic are gonna get watered down too. 

Don’t take this wrong when I say this but I want these characters to suffer. Glen Mezzarra is taking the work of Robert Kirkman and pissing on it. He started off strong. I thought there was hope for the season but after last night I am at my breaking point again. I will keep watching through the season but I am seriously about to scream at how they are treating the story after last night. I want Frank Darabont back. If I can’t have that then I’ll just switch to his new show L.A. Noir when it premieres.

Shooting Lepus: Day One

We finally got started. Somehow I thought it took forever and yet happened so fast. Today was our first day of principal photography on our short film Lepus. Today was a relatively light day, something to help us get our feet wet, so to speak. It was just me (director Jacob O’Neal), David Sabal (the director of photography), Brian Smith (Lepus), and Tracie Knittel (our first victim).

We went to a recently harvested cornfield and shot for a couple hours. Everyone brought their A games which was fantastic. Brian, having never acted before, was creepy and funny as the Lepus. Tracie had done one indie project as a teenager that never got released. She was totally game to run, fall, get gutted…pretty much anything I asked her to do.

David was wonderful in so many ways. Not only did he operate the camera but he also did the make up effects for us today. It was beautifully gory.

As we are planning on using the opening sequence we shot today as the teaser for the short I will not he spoiling anything by telling you what we shot. A woman dressed as a pilgrim is being chased through the cornfield by a man in a pink bunny costume. Eventually she falls, pleads for her life and is killed. It’s your typical horror movie set up…but with a twist. This entire short film is meant to be weird and funny and gory all at the same time.

David is editing together the sequence tonight and we may have something to show by tomorrow. If we do you can be sure that I will post it here and here.  Please go “like” those pages for updates.

Lepus Shoots In Three Days

I have to admit that I am dreaming out a little about shooting my first short film. Around the beginning of September I went through a brief bout of anxiety but it passed quickly. Then I was completely zen about the whole thing. Well that fear has reared its ugly head once again now that there’s only a couple days to go before we start.

I’ve been doing my prep work. I have been making shot lists and storyboards. We had the table read a few days ago that was a lot of fun. Overall, I am very excited. This is what I wanted after all. I suppose even the big directors get nervous before a shoot on a major motion picture. I can’t imagine that anyone feels comfortable with the prospect of shooting a $200 million feature and having it lose money. I guess if I put it like that and remember this isn’t costing us one red cent then I should just be calm and enjoy the ride.

The problem is that I am putting pressure on myself. I don’t want this to look like crap. I want a short that I can he proud of, something that is funny and weird and that people will enjoy…even if they don’t get it. If this looks like some of the shorts I have seen then what is the point in doing this at all? That’s what I’m freaking out about. It’s not the performances, it isn’t the costumes, it isn’t the gore factor. No, it’s me. I am freaking out about me. Do I really have what it takes to do this?

I know deep down that I have the knowledge. I know that my whole life has been leading to this moment. I know somewhere inside of me that I won’t fail. Bit I still have that fear. Oh well. I’ll get over it. Lepus is gonna be fun and weird and bloody, all the things it is meant to be. If it isn’t then I will blame Brian (just kidding, Brian).

Part Jules Verne, Part Indiana Jones, All Crap – Nazis At The Center Of The Earth

Nazis At The Center Of The Earth is another Asylum movie. The same folks behind Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, Paranormal Entity, Snakes On A Train, and many more made this cinematic stinkbomb. It stars Dominique Swain and Jake Busey.

Deep in the arctic there lies a secret entrance to a world underground, a world where Nazis still live. A group of scientists from a research substation are taken underground and forced to solve Dr. Mengele’s transplant and skin graft problems.

The story is ridiculous and silly. The acting is over the top and cheesy. The movie is overall stupid and yet it is more fun than most of the crap I have seen from Asylum. The movie plays like one of the 80’s movies I talked about recently where the filmmakers really tried to make what they thought was a good movie. Instead it turned out terribly. But I still enjoyed it.

There are moments in it when you think the movie couldn’t get any worse. Then they take people to the “showers” and then they top it off with a robot Hitler with a Futurama style head on top. It was like the Robo-Nixon on Futurama. But that still doesn’t top it. Shortly after the Nazis leave by way of UFO with Nazi symbols all over the outside.

This movie is amazingly bad. But it is bad in the way that The Room or Night Of The Comet is bad. They don’t seem to be in on the joke. There is never a subtle wink to the audience to let them know they know what a turd they brought into the world. I really kind of enjoyed the hour and a half I spent watching this movie.

I know there are probably a lot of you out there who may disagree with me on this but it’s just one man’s opinion. Watch it for yourself and decide. 3 out of 5 stars. Hear more about it when we review it on The Gorram Nerd Hour in a couple weeks.