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The incredible work behind the Star Trek Fan Film sensation "Borg Hunters" told by its creators.

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

David Cheng writer and actor, Mark Lum director, and Dr Garrett Wada Location Manager, whom borrowed his Star Trek-themed optometry office to the film crew, spoke with us and opened the curtain to the behind-the-scenes of their fan film "Borg Hunters".


We have here the incredibly skilled creators behind this stunning fan film "Borg Hunters" a Star Trek fan film. Thank you for being here with us, tell us a bit about yourself.

David Cheng: I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. I hold

M.B.A. and J.D. degrees.


Mark Lum: I was raised up in Long Beach, CA. I graduated from USC

Pharmacy School. Practiced pharmacy at Metropolitan State Hospital

(psychiatry), and then at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (neonatal

ICU, OB/GYN, psych, pediatrics, surgery and liver transplant). Retired in

2014.


Impressive background, so far from the film industry. When did you discover that you had a gift for filmmaking? Your work is incredible.

Mark: Thanks for the compliment. A fellow Star Trek friend asked me,

David Cheng tried filming a script that he had written. He mentioned that he

had asked because he appreciated the photographs that I shot. I had

previously done some family videos of my boys growing up, as well as family

events (I come from a family of 6 kids).


David: I began filmmaking when I was a teenager, working with 8mm and

Super 8mm film projects. I did a little bit of video after that and stopped for a

long period of time. It was only a few years ago that I got back into

filmmaking.

Left to Right: Mark Lum, David Cheng, Jerry Powell, Dr. Garrett Wada, Mike Longo

Why did you choose Star Trek? What drove you to this world and

when did you start to feel like a real fan?

David: I have been a fan of Star Trek since I was a young kid and used to

enjoy watching the original series on TV. At that time I was really into

astronomy and the U.S. space program, and Star Trek fit into these interests.

I started going to some of my local Star Trek Conventions and then began to

attend the one in Las Vegas.


Mark: The fan film was written for the Star Trek genre. I have always been a

Star Trek fan since it first aired back in the late 60s. I avidly followed The

Next Generation series and attended the conventions held in Pasadena, CA

in the 90s. I have enjoyed science fiction ever since I was in grade school

where I read the stories of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. My serious

involvement with Star Trek came in 2014 when David invited me to the

annual Las Vegas event.

Jerry Powell

What got you into fan films? Were you already into filmmaking?

Mark: As mentioned above, I was asked by David Cheng to help with his 1st

project, "The Human Adventure" I had not done anything like that previously

except for the family films.


David: As a Star Trek fan, I learned that other fans were making their own

fan films. My friends and I were into cosplaying in Star Trek uniforms, so it

seemed like a natural transition to try my hand at making a Star Trek fan film.


You have a great sense of suspense, but also a great sense of

soundtrack, how do you find the right atmosphere for your projects?

David: I try to assess what emotion is evoked in a particular scene and seek

to find soundtracks that would help bring out that emotion. Mark Lum, our

director, is also an accomplished musician, and, in some instances, he

composed music tracks for certain scenes.


Mark: I have always enjoyed the"twists"; in the stories that I have read. Ray

Bradbury's tales were a big influence. David's script writing was the reason

for the suspense. I have an interest in music composition (I have written plays

and musicals for church); so I enjoy the creativity and joy of complementing

the emotions in the film with music and sound effects (created or modified off-

line). A few of the soundtrack music excerpts were my original works. David

and Mike Longo were able to find other works online to incorporate into the

film. Mike Longo provided the camera, lighting, and recording equipment.


Everything about Borg Hunters was so well thought out, what was

the process of finding everything you needed to let us feel like this

was it an actual Star Trek episode?

Mark: David was the major producer and organizer behind the film. He was

able to find the set at Dr. Wada's office, gather up like-minded actors

with their cosplay outfits and props (some made completely by hand [e.g.,

Jerry Powell]), and coordinate the shoot date.

Dr Wada's Office

David: I had met Dr. Garrett Wada, an optometrist, who converted his office to look like the interior of a Star Trek: The Next Generation starship. I thought it would be great if we could shoot a fan film in his office. From there, I came up with the idea of having a Starfleet crew look for Borg drones that were disconnected from the Collective. I also wanted to write a story about Ensign Harry Kim from the Star Trek Voyager series finally becoming a Captain of his own ship. I recruited Mike Longo to play Captain Chakotay and Mark Lum to play Dr. Leland Tam. I also asked Jerry Powell, who had a fantastic Borg armor suit, to play the Borg character. To round out the cast, I asked Jennifer Vande Krol to play Admiral Janeway and Mindy Madsen to portray Annika Hansen. Combining all these elements enabled us to develop this film into a Star Trek project.


Pro and Cons of filming a fan film? 

David: The pros include the opportunity to develop your own stories and

characters; shooting on a minuscule budget; and working with friends to put

together the best product you can. The cons include limits on the choices of

locations you can use; coordinating everyone's schedules; and the time

restrictions on shooting.


Mark: I love a good story (think of the "Darmo" episode from TNG). So

being able to create and share a good story is personally satisfying. But this

requires a lot sacrifice of time and effort. Post production work required many

months learning the editing and sound software, editing the film, creating the

sound design, composing, and finalizing the film for presentation.

Dr Garrett Wada

Dear Dr Wada, we virtually explored your Star Trek Optical

studio via Instagram, please tell us when you decide to let your

passion join your working environment. It's such a great idea. 

Dr. Wada: I have always been a fan, and I have always had models and Star

Trek memorabilia in my office since I started. It wasn’t until a patient who

makes props for the movies told me he can build me something really cool for

the office that it all started. That was probably around 1998.

Dr Wada's Office

How did you star your collaboration?

Dr. Wada: In my office, I just had Star Trek memorabilia and models hanging

from the ceiling in the beginning, and later on after this patient built the prop

for my office is when I started to continue to build more and more structures.


What was the response from the Star Trek community?

Mark: The response has been good. David posted the film to YouTube and it

has received over 22 thousand views. We are "recognized" at the Star Trek

conventions as the characters of the film LOL. Garrett Wang, the actor who plays

Captain Kim is based and has expressed personally his appreciation of our work.

We presented him with a personal copy for his enjoyment.

Garrett Wang, David Cheng

David: We have all kinds of reactions from members of the Star Trek

community. There are many positive responses from viewers who enjoy the

story, the theme, the costumes, and the special effects. Then there are those who

are hyper-critical of the acting or who nick pick about certain aspects of it.

David Cheng, Mike Longo

What was the biggest challenge for you? 

David: The biggest challenge was the limited amount of time available for

filming due to the optometry office only being available for a few hours on

Sundays when the office was closed. We were not able to shoot as many

takes and as many angles as we otherwise would have liked and felt that the

the shooting was rushed.


Mark: What was the biggest challenge for you? Shooting with limited time.

So we had to deal with 1-2 takes at 1 camera angle. An editing challenge

indeed.


Are there filmmakers that inspire you? And why?

Mark: Christopher Nolan. His science fiction (Inception and Interstellar) and

suspense (Oppenheimer) films are stories that are presented brilliantly. They

were visually stunning films supported by the genius music and soundtrack

of Hans Zimmer.


David: I like the way that Clint Eastwood approaches filmmaking because he

tends not to shoot a lot of takes and works efficiently. I find that philosophy

fits in well with the limitations of what we can work within our films. At the

same time, I like the way that J.J. Abrams incorporates movement in his

shooting and tried to have more of that style in Borg Hunters.

Mike Longo, David Cheng

Your cinematography and special FX  approach are also very well

thought out. What's the process behind it?

David: Our director, Mark Lum, planned a lot of the shots based on the

script but was also flexible in how he shot it. We were privileged to work

with several individuals who helped out with the various FX needed for the

film and delivered based on what we needed.


Mark: Due to time constraints, we took on an "Ed Wood" approach. We had

to trust our gut for the one "right" shot. We had to also be acutely aware of

the influences of the surrounding environment (i.e., noisy cars passing by,

avoiding background items not belonging). We fortunately had another fan

friend, Vincent Glaeser III, who created the special FX effects.


A fun fact about any of your fan film?

Mark: We have a blooper reel, but haven't released it.


If I'm not mistaken, you shot after COVID-19, how was it to come back on set and do what you loved after so long?

Mark: We shot in early 2021. So we were still dealing somewhat with Covid.


David: We shot our first Star Trek fan film, The Human Adventure, in 2018,

before COVID-19 hit, but that was shot completely outdoors. During the

pandemic, we continued to shoot films by having the different actors shoot on

a green screen and then putting different clips together. It was wonderful to be

able to return to shooting in person when it was safe enough to do so.

Mindy Madsen

Is Star Trek your main theme when we talk about filmmaking?

Tell us more about it.

David: At the moment, our focus is on producing films that center on the Star

Trek Universe because we are fans of that genre. There are a lot of

interesting stories that can be told within that universe, so there really is no

limit to the types of films that we can make.


Mark: Yes. The scripts are being written by David who has a passion for the

Star Trek universe.

Jennifer Vande Krol

You  work and live in California, what's your opinion on the

filmmaking industry and what would you change about it?

Mark: I have no close contact with the industry, so cannot comment.


David: I like the fact that there are more avenues now than ever for creative

folks to make films and have them seen. People have an interest in seeing

more independent productions and technology has made it possible to

make higher quality work than ever before. I would like to see these types of

opportunities continue to expand.

What's your take on the strike happening now?

David: It’s unfortunate that the actors and the studios have not been able to

reach an agreement on terms that are beneficial to both sides. I hope that they

will continue to talk and eventually achieve a satisfactory resolution.


Mark: I would hope for fairness and protection for the actors vs. greed.


What's the best part of your job, what's your favorite step in the

process?

David: I think coming up with a good, interesting story and script is the most

enjoyable aspect. It is also a fun challenge to recruit the actors, find

locations, and figure out the logistics of how we will shoot the film.


Mark: The challenge of filming and editing are some of my favorite processes

because like a puzzle there's great satisfaction when they are put together and

are "solved".

David Cheng

What would you say to someone who wants to start this path as

you did?

Mark: Ask the successful people who have done this before. An education

from someone with experience is worth the money rather than trying to learn

It by yourself. It would definitely save a lot of time and heartache.


David: An aspiring filmmaker should study many films, both good and bad,

and learn what makes aspects of the films work and what aspects do not.

There are a lot of books and online resources for studying filmmaking. One

should begin with a small project to gain experience making films. There is

much to learn and opportunities to grow in knowledge.

Mark Lum

What do you regret and what would you have wanted to know

earlier?

David: For some of the films that we made during the pandemic, we had

different actors shoot their own scenes on green screens or against a

backdrop. I now wish that I had given more feedback on their acting or asked

for more takes so we could have gotten the acting to a higher level.


Mark: Not having enough time to cover the shoot.


Who would you suggest your shorts to, and why?

Mark: Star Trek and Science Fiction fans. The film's story encompasses this

genre.


David: Star Trek fans are the main audience for our shorts, but I would like to

see the wider sci-fi community embrace them as well.

David Cheng, Jerry Powell, Mike Longo

What do you expect from the future? 

David: There are story ideas and scripts that are currently on the back

burner. I hope that we can work things out so we can produce these. If not,

we will work on other scripts and stories.


Mark: More opportunities to improve my creative skills in film


What's your dream role/ project?

Mark: Working with Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Frakes, or Hans Zimmer.


David: Actually, I would love to make a non-Star Trek action film that

incorporates a lot of martial arts.


How is it going with festivals so far?

David: We have had some success having our film included in several

festivals. There is a lot of competition, however, and I think a lot of festivals

do not appreciate fan films as much.


Mark: This is our one and only win. David is the one who submits our film.

(note: we actually won the Admiral’s level for the Best Micro-Budget fan film

in the 2023 Star Trek Fan Film Showrunners Awards – David)

Mark Lum

Do you want to add something? Upcoming projects, a brief

mention of previous works...

David: I would invite viewers to go to our YouTube channel to see the other

Star Trek fan films that we have made. Each of them is different. We are

currently working on a new film with new characters called, “Spare The

Future, Save The Past,” which we hope to reléase in 2024.


Thank you for your time, we wish you the best for your career

and your future projects and we can't wait to see what's next for

you! It was an honor having you.


David: Thank you very much for giving us an opportunity to talk

about Borg Hunters and filmmaking.


TRAILER


SOCIAL MEDIA AND CONTACTS:

You can contact the at startrekfanproductions@gmail.com



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