Published Nov 22, 2016
John Eaves Celebrates First Contact's 20th Anniversary
John Eaves Celebrates First Contact's 20th Anniversary
By John Eaves
2016 has been a huge year for Star Trek with the 50th anniversary of The Original Series and also the 20th of First Contact. It’s hard to believe that both productions are this old. Well, now that we have realized that we are all aging rapidly, let’s go back in time to late 1995. It's around October in the Deep Space Nine art department and we all have been hearing rumors about a new TNG film getting ready to begin. Of course, we’re all anxious to see when and if this project will indeed happen.
I was new to the well-established art department and wasn't sure what to expect in terms of how the shows and movies worked. But I found out in one quick conversation with our production designer, the wonderful Herman Zimmerman. Herman was making his morning rounds to see all that was going on with DS9 designs. When he got to my desk he went over the sketches and -- as casual as reaching out to pet a friendly dog -- Herman says, “Oh, by the way, we are starting a new Trek film and we need a new Enterprise. So, if you want to start sketching up some ideas, that would be great.” He ended the conversation with the note that the team would be splitting our day, with half the time on DS9 and the other half on the film. That film, of course, would be First Contact.
Such simple times they were. The Star Trek world at this moment was such a well-oiled machine that all the departments gracefully and easily transitioned between the two projects. Extra set designers, costumers, carpenters, etc., were added to the family to help out with the extra workloads. Brannon Braga, Ron Moore and Rick Berman were still working on the script and we got a beat sheet, which is a mini-version of the script that basically tells you what a story is about. It wasn’t a lot of info, but enough for us to start drawing. Now, the art department stuff was still very new to me. I was still transitioning from working in the VFX model shops and this was my first fulltime gig. And was it ever exciting!
But back to that Enterprise chat I had with Herman. It took a bit of time for what he asked me to do to settle in, and I remember lying awake all that night thinking about the ship. It was a horrifyingly exciting time and the ideas were dancing through my head for days. The next day, the sketches began and the more we learned about the story, the more they changed. The process took a few months, and by early 1996 we had an approved ship design. Rick Sternbach was put in charge of creating the blueprints for the modelers at ILM, and I moved on to a rather long list of other things to work on.
Several interior Enterprise sets were first up, followed by the Phoenix, the Vulcan lander, the Borg cube and the Borg sphere. The creation of the sphere brought more fun and laughs than any other drawing in the show. A couple of anecdotes follow, but I’ve changed the names and places to protect the innocent. Once we got the note that there was to be a Borg Sphere, those of us in the art department got to talking about how that shape had been used so many times in sci-fi that that perhaps we could – and should -- suggest another shape instead.
So, with that, I had to meet with one of the film’s producers. I took with me a big book called The Star Wars Chronicles and a picture of the sphere ship from the movie Starman. I showed all of this to the producer and expressed our concerns. He looked at that picture of the Death Star from the Chronicles book for a long time, not saying a word. He pointed and asked, “What is this?” I replied that it was the Death Star from Star Wars. Another beat of silence followed. He said, “No one will remember this. I think we are fine to leave it a sphere.” With my jaw on the floor, I picked up my stuff, returned to the art department and shared this incredible tale. We all so wanted to make a shirt with the words NO ONE WILL REMEMBER THIS written over a drawing of the Death star.
The ILM guys enjoyed this story as well, and once they started the model, they, too, got a lot of grief. They were on the verge of starting the new Star Wars films and a lot of tours go through the model shop. John Goodson was working on the sphere and he said that EVERY SINGLE PERSON that walked in the shop would stop and point, asking with great excitement, “Is that the new Death Star?” After weeks of this. John put out a jar and everyone would throw a nickel in it every time someone asked that question.
The year went by so fast, and it seemed that almost as soon as it started we all found ourselves a little over a year later standing in front of the Grauman’s Chinese theater for the screening of First Contact. All of us from the art department were there and what a fantastic night to see this wonderful film with the whole gang. I have so many fond memories and so many stories from this great adventure with some great friends. It’s actually hard to put into words what a special treat it was to be a part of this show and that crew. I am forever grateful.
Ironically, a few years later, my daughter Alyna was born on 11-22, making this anniversary a double pleasure for me. Special thanks go to Mike and Denise Okuda, Jim Van Over Doug Drexler, Anthony Fredrickson, Herman and Fritz Zimmerman, and all the rest of the Trek crew for making me a part of this incredible family.
And, with that said, today's Red Dress series is a compilation of some of my favorite models who have worn the red dress in so many fun locations. The first model to do so was the wonderful Miss Amanda Lee. Amanda is a world-famous 1940's pinup model, and at one of our shoots she took on the Trek theme with an incredibly magical style. Her pics are some of my all-time faves.
Next is another world-famous model named Victoria Vertuga, Victoria is one of those rare individuals with a never-ending stream of diverse and elegantly beautiful modeling themes and styles. Both ladies are such a blast to work with and I so love all the fun pics we have taken. Be sure to follow their careers at www.modelmayhem.com for Amanda and www.modelmayhem.com/victoriavertuga for Victoria.