Published Nov 7, 2016
Creating That Vulcan Picture Box for Beyond
Creating That Vulcan Picture Box for Beyond
By John Eaves
The Vulcan picture box in Star Trek Beyond certainly struck a chord with moviegoers, but, wow, even though it doesn't seem so long ago, it has been over two years since we were working hard on Beyond. And the story of the two years building to that touching moment is worth sharing, especially with Beyond out now on Blu-ray.
The art department started in the Spring of 2014 and the prop department started up in early September. Andy Siegel was to be the prop master again, beginning on his second Trek film. Scott Chambliss was the production designer in charge of the art department. And a great deal of the crew from the previous J.J. films were back on board, too. Somewhere in late October, however, we all got laid off with the change of directors, and we all went into a holding pattern until a new director was brought on.
This took a while, but when Justin Lin was brought on we were all ready to start up again. While waiting for the production launch date, everyone received an extremely sad email stating that Justin wanted to bring on his own design team and that everybody, including Scott Chambliss, was going to be replaced. We were heartbroken, to say the least, but life in Hollywood goes on -- and we went our separate ways. But then, Tom Sanders took on the role of the new production designer and, miracle of miracles, he kept Andy Siegel on board as prop master. Keeping Andy meant that (assistant property master) Melissa Harrison and the rest of the original prop team would stay together for yet another fun time on Trek.
Beyond was a pretty heavy prop show with a lot of new weapons and devices to be created. In addition to the usual list of props there were several new Vulcan items that had to be designed. Jewelry was one of the first things on the list. In a nod to Mr. Chambliss, the design team used the layered triangular frames that he set into motion on the first J.J. film, which dates back to 2007. The shapes were always very elegant and worked perfectly in all the Beyond jewelry concepts. Andy had to create a special necklace for Uhura to wear; it’s the one given to her by Spock. I drew five different variations and Tom and Justin both chose version #5. The final necklace generated quite a bit of dialogue in the film, but resulted in very little screen time.
The very last piece drawn for the film was a little Vulcan box that was basically a man's version of a picture locket. This piece was written into the script shortly after Leonard Nimoy passed away. We drew a couple of choices for it and included a picture of the cast from The Original Series. Andy presented the concepts to Tom and Justin, and we were about 98% there. The box was a bit more rectangular than they wanted, so it was squared off a bit and the picture was changed to a cast shot from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Ironically, this picture is the final image depicting the entire original crew. The subsequent films featured various TOS cast members, but never the whole team again.
After the requested few changes to the design were made, the prop was then built and filmed. It wasn't until seeing the film at the premiere did I realize what a magical piece that little box was meant to be. Such a wonderfully sentimental scene this was, with Zachary Quinto's Spock emotionally – yes, emotionally -- saying goodbye to Nimoy’s Spock. It was a beautifully filmed moment complemented by a small snippet of Alexander Courage's Trek score playing softly in the background.
Everyone in every art department draws countless images for a production, but once in a rare while one of the ideas really stands out in a special way -- and this little Vulcan picture box is definitely one of them. It also, for me, represents great times on a great movie with some great friends. Thanks, Andy.
And if you were thinking that this is the end of the article, that’d be a most-illogical thought. As always, it is now time for the latest addition to my TOS Red Dress photo series. Mrs. Maygen Brockway has been a model for a little over six years and is very diverse in her themes and styles. I saw her portfolio when I first moved to Southern Utah and could not wait to set up a shoot with her. Early in the year, our schedules matched and we met up in beautiful Snow Canyon to shoot the Red Dress theme. In addition to the usual props, I brought along a 1:350th scale model of the TOS Enterprise. I have to say that the shots of Maygen and the model are my very favorites. She held that monster in a variety of fantastic poses on steep rocky grades and did so with great elegance. The end results are fodder for every Trek-loving fan.
When Maygen is not modeling, she is an assistant manager at one of the high-end jewelry stores in town. If you’re ever in Utah and have questions about diamonds, she knows all. Thanks, Maygen, for the great shoot -- and you are always my favorite to work with. Be sure to follow her on her Model Mayhem page, www.modelmayhem.com.
John Eaves is veteran artist and illustrator who has lent his talents to too many films and television shows to count. Actually, he's at 60-plus and counting. Over the years, he's made a tremendous mark on Star Trek, as he's worked on The Final Frontier, all four TNG films, DS9 and Enterprise, Star Trek: The Exhibition, Star Trek Online, Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.
Check out John Eaves' website, Atomic Johnny's Pin-Ups.