Over the next three days, SciFiNow will take you on an unprecedented and completely exclusive tour of what went on behind the scenes of Star Trek, the JJ Abrams-directed reboot that has become one of this year’s most successful films, and certainly one of the most successful in the franchise.
Our reporter, Joe Nazzaro, interviewed the key figures involved in the make-up and prosthetic processes that lent the film such an incredibly distinct visual feel, and as a bonus, we’ll even show you a close-up of a particularly famous alien race that never made the final cut of the film in the gallery at the end. Now you can’t say that SciFiNow doesn’t treat you well.
Without further delay, we present to you the first part of The Secrets Of Star Trek, with the second and third parts going live on Wednesday and Thursday.
One of the biggest challenges for the small army of craftsmen, artists and technicians working on JJ Abrams’s recent big-screen reboot of Star Trek was creating a fresh look for the film while retaining key elements that helped make the franchise so successful over the past four decades. Striking that delicate balance wasn’t always easy, as the film’s make-up team soon discovered.
According to Barney Burman, whose company, Proteus Make-up FX created most of the new alien characters, “In our initial flood of designs, there were plenty of old Star Trek aliens, and a couple that we as fans of the original series wanted to recreate. There were a lot of those discussions: if anything was reminiscent of any of the older series, how much do we stick to that, or how do we improve on them as best we can? I think the latter was always the obvious answer. We wanted to honour the characters that we had seen before but certainly make them live a little more by today’s standards.”
Burman had previously worked with Abrams on Mission: Impossible III and after hearing that Star Trek might be a future project for the prolific writer/director/producer, he quickly let him know that he wanted to be involved. “Actually, he first called me to ask me if I could potentially make a monster for Cloverfield because he didn’t know if he was going to go CG or animatronic. Obviously he decided to go the CG route and they did a beautiful job with that, but I mentioned that I would like to be a part of Star Trek and then he brought me on to this medical drama he was doing for HBO called Anatomy Of Hope, and it was while working on that I met with the producers and we started to talk about getting involved in Star Trek.”
As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. “It all had to be done in a ridiculously short amount of time,” Burman recalls, “and with a laughably small budget. We had a thirteen-week prep, when the scope of the project called for at least six months, so my crew and I worked tirelessly for that thirteen weeks and then continued on for the five months of shooting.
“One or two aliens were to shoot before Christmas of ’07 but everything else was set to work in March of ’08 in a ‘marketplace’ scene on a desert planet, so most of our designs were geared toward that kind of atmosphere. Then came the big surprise. We were close to the beginning of principal photography when JJ informed me that the desert marketplace scene was now going to be a bunker with only one alien in the snow, and all the other alien designs would have to be revisited and peppered throughout the film. He still wanted the same number of aliens – tweleve ‘Hero’ make-ups, twelve foreground masks and twelve masks for deeper background – but now the first two make-ups and a handful of ‘B’ masks were needed for mid-November. My work load was the same but the timetable was cut in half and I had to start pretty much from scratch!”
Needless to say, things didn’t really slow down after that. The first day of filming, for example, required an elaborate alien make-up for Alnschloss K’Bentayr (played by New York actress Kasia Kowalczyk) who was originally discussed as a digital character before falling to Burman’s team to create. “That first day of shooting started the day before for me and ended the morning of the second day, so I was up for 42 hours.
“We finished casting and seaming three sets of prosthetics the day before that first day of shooting and I started painting them about 8:00 at night. Once they were finished, I loaded everything on my truck and drove to set, so that’s how the schedule started for me and it never let up. I didn’t have any more 42-hour days, but I had plenty of sleepless nights and plenty of all-nighters trying to get things ready, but I think we pulled it off.”
Come back tomorrow for more behind-the-scenes insider insight, where we find out about the Vulcans, the Romulans, and Nero himself. For now, here’s part one of our extensive photo gallery from the work during filming. For a bonus, see below for two exclusive images of the mighty Klingons, that never quite made it into anything but a trailer.
And finally, since you’ve all been so patient, Klingons: