Fans from around the universe descended on the beautiful Burbank Marriott Airport Hotel over the Feb. 15-17th, 2013 weekend for the 18th installment of Creation Entertainment's legendary Grand Slam: The Star Trek/Sci Fi Summit. This storied event, hosted as ever by Creation Entertainment CEOs Gary Berman and Adam Malin and Creation Talent Producer Stephanie Dizon, promised to put together an exceptional smorgasbord of luminaries from Star Trek and TV and film science fiction, as well as a historic 25th Anniversary Reunion of the entire ST:TNG cast.
Friday opened with entry into a sprawling vendors’ complex which wrapped around an entire Convention Center building at the hotel and into several ballrooms as well. On display and sale were noteworthy collectibles running the gamut from posters, lobby cards, original artwork, framed and matted signed photos, T shirts to collectors’ plates, jewelry, model kits and action figures. Some rare Mego Trek action figures from the sixties were spotted as were gorgeous art prints signed by Trek and sci fi celebrities. Attendees were presented with in-depth schedules and soon the programming day began inside the huge theater, beautifully adorned in banners, theatrical velour and theatrical lighting.
Show opener was none other than fan favorite Jeff Combs, looking energetic and dapper. Jeff made fun of being first guest out. In considering which of his roster of different characters is his favorite, he describes them all as his children: he loves them all. He recently visited the Paramount lot and was moved by recollections of his many shoots on Trek. On the camaraderie of the casts of DS9 and Enterprise, Jeff recounted a well-oiled machine with a high level of work ethic and production values. He felt comfortable working there, and especially with many friendly and professional people. His reluctance to return for Enterprise was allayed when he saw the commitment and quality of the work being done there. Jeff spoke about his one-man show on Edgar Allen Poe, and the challenge of bringing it to the Creation Vegas event in a room that holds 5000. He described Poe as America's Van Gogh, a tortured man but a poet.
Jeff also spoke about his work on The 4400, which was produced by Ira Steven Behr, DS9's amazing and prolific show runner. He lamented the death of his character on the show. He found out the week before he filmed the episode by reading the script, a rude discovery. Shot in Vancouver, the show offered Jeff an opportunity to experience location shooting in the Pacific Northwest. On working with Avery Brooks: it was Weyoun's first episode. As he got into makeup and costume, he was rapidly imagining the affectation of a new character. He walked onto set with a cup of coffee, which was considered a huge faux pas. Avery walks up to Jeff and says, "There's no coffee on the set!" But he impressed Jeff. He never saw Avery miss a line- the man was technically precise. As a director, he thought of Avery as more loose and relaxed. On Scott Bakula, Jeff describes him as the best leader he had ever seen on a set. Scott was always vigilant about all aspects of production, looking out for the entire team. Scott made it his business to thank every member of the production team at the conclusion of each shooting day. Jeff also mentioned his new film Would You Rather, a harrowing melodrama that is currently in limited release at Laemle Theater in Los Angeles. Oh, and the Shran Andorian antennae are radio-controlled mechanisms that are remotely operated by an off-camera technician.
Next up on stage was Michael DeMeritt, an Assistant Director on Voyager and Enterprise, who presented a very entertaining slideshow on the life cycle of an episode, from writing inception to filming, editing and final execution. He received training from DGA (Directors Guild of America) where he learned many of the producing/directing skill sets he would employ on Star Trek. Mike presented some gorgeous behind the scenes shots of the cast and crews of Voyager and Enterprise. One striking shot showed the Enterprise cast dressed for a funeral- quite different from seeing them in uniform.
Next up was the hysterical return of Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating, two of our favorite Enterprise actors. Looking handsome and fit, the dynamic duo talked about great (and dangerous) times on the set of the show. Dominic recounted hazardous stunts, one of which blew out his left knee. They had stunt doubles, but there were still ample opportunities to get hurt. Evidently Scott Bakula wore a "Save Ron Moore!" badge on his uniform, unseen to all but the most observant viewers. Of course fans in the audience had caught this little Easter Egg. Connor bemoaned the fact that Trip died frequently, only to be brought back to life.
On auditioning for the show: Dominic recounted being seen by Rick Berman on several Voyager episodes and Berman liked him and recommended him to the Casting Director on Enterprise. Dominic approached the character as a formal British stiff upper-lip officer; the casting director wanted more of a middle-class "Yorkshireman" style of speaking, but when Dominic spoke, the director inquired if he was speaking Welsh! Brannon Braga joked that it sounded Scottish! At a final audition before the network, he noticed that no one else was there. Suddenly John Billngsley showed up, and Dominic said to himself, if they pick him over me I'm going to be really upset! After, Brannon came out to say that they both aced the auditions. Connor, on the other hand, had 5(!) auditions, with 25 pages of dialogue. On the first day of auditions it was blazing hot in Los Angeles. Conner's car's air conditioning didn't work. He reported for the audition (already traumatized by the heat of his car), and was told to come back in an hour, which meant going back to sit in his car. After that disgusting experience, he came back to see several REALLY good-looking guys auditioning as well as him. He sat right next to Rick Berman's door so he could listen in on the auditions to get a sense of how he should carry himself off. After three repeat auditions, Connor decided to take a vacation to Mexico to unwind. His manager called him down there to tell him that the casting director (the legendary Junie Lowry) said he should get back because he got the job!
The camaraderie between these two guys was obvious as they constantly traded jokes off one another. Connor mentioned a new web series he is working on. Asked about highlights on the set of Enterprise: in the last episode, they had a scene in Engineering that had some great closure to it. They also have had a great time at conventions, despite some menacing seven-foot-tall Klingons serving as security guards! Judging by the standing ovation the boys got on their departure, it's obvious fandom's love for Enterprise hasn't diminished at all.
Next up, Creation offered a brief video mix, including a preview of Stephenie Meyer's new sci fi epic The Host (which looks great). They also showed a kick-ass music video salute to the “Mirror Mirror” episodes of Enterprise, and a funny Kirk/Spock "bromance" love video set to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Then it was time for the return of fan favorite Bruce Boxleitner, star of Babylon 5. Fifteen years have elapsed since B5 and Bruce still looks the leading man, trim and enthusiastic. He reminisced nostalgically about Scarecrow and Mrs. King, saying it was a creature of the period (Cold War). He enjoyed his work on the Tron films and mentioned a third film in development. Bruce also discussed a new series he has in development for HBO, Lantern City, with a steampunk vibe. He joked that DS9 was the demise of Babylon 5, as both series were about space stations. Bruce spoke about the acquisition of Star Wars by Disney, saying it was the only logical place for it to end up. Bruce had high praise for Joe Straczynski (writer/creator of B5) and the sweeping, long serial arc of storyline Joe created for the show's mythology. He also enjoyed his stint on Chuck, including the wedding episode with Scott Bakula (who played Chuck's dad).
Bruce was asked about Claudia Christian being replaced for the 5th season of B5, and expressed frustration with how it occurred. The show also moved over to TNT and was going through a management and network change. Fans generally agree seasons 2-3, the heart of the "Shadow War" arc, was the high point of the series. Bruce was treated to a vigorous round of applause as he departed.
Rene Auberjonois was next, and clearly the audience was delighted to spend some time with this great actor. Rene is currently appearing on 1600 Penn, the TV series, and also does voiceovers for several animated shows, including Ben 10. He is celebrating 50 years of marriage this year! Rene has enjoyed his work on Warehouse 13 and had words of appreciation for Saul Rubinek and Eddie McClintock. Suddenly Jeff Combs appeared, asking Rene if he has ever asked an actor to put his lines on a Post-it on the other actor's forehead! Rene explained that Jeff and Rene first worked together at the Mark Taper Forum. On DS9, Rene was directing an episode and they were trying to cast a character. Rene recommended Jeff, even though he had just played another character on the show a few weeks earlier, and so Weyoun was born.
Rene recounted reading for Robert Altman for the role of the Priest in the movie version of MASH. Altman liked his take on the character and he got the role. He was glad not reprising the role on TV, choosing to not want to typecast himself. The relationship of Odo and Quark was recalled fondly; but the dark quality to the characters was part of what Rene liked so much, the instability and neurosis of it. He did not, however, like the makeup, which he described as very uncomfortable. Taking the makeup off was painful on many occasions. He had a closet full of Odo face masks that looked like something from Silence of the Lambs! An enjoyable time with Rene for sure.
Creation capped the day with a visit from Rod Roddenberry, son of the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself Gene Roddenberry. Rod is the executive producer of the film Trek Nation, and was on hand to update the audience on Roddenberry.com projects. Rod discussed The Mission Logs, his podcast that has been running for about a half year now, with co-moderator John Champion (John has done media coverage at Creation events for several years). One of their current ongoing discussions is Gene Roddenberry's Humanist vision, which tackles moral and ethical dilemmas that humanity is grappling with. Rod had the unique perspective of watching his father's ethical and moral evolution from the vantage point of being his son. It's obvious Rod is carrying on his dad's legacy of examining, defining and trying to tackle the challenges we face as individuals and society. Rod comes off as a well-spoken and fascinating young man.
And with that, Day One of Creation's Grand Slam: The Star Trek/Sci Fi Summit concluded, with fans anxious for the next day that would be chock full of amazing celebrities and the 25th Anniversary ST:TNG Celebration.
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