John Eblan is a master model maker. He’s so good, in fact, that he’s worked for ILM, creating vehicles seen in movies and television shows, and also for QMx – Quantum Mechanix – building high-quality collectible replicas and serving as the company’s chief model maker. His team’s latest piece for QMx is a stunning Enterprise Refit Artisan Replica that will be available starting today. Click HERE for more information about both the Enterprise Refit Artisan Replica of the TMP/Wrath of Khan/Search for Spock-era NCC-1701 and the NCC-1701-A variant from The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country, and read on for our exclusive interview with Eblan.
What was your mission when it came to building this Enterprise?
Eblan: I think, really, my job was to convey, in a three-foot replica, the spirit of the Enterprise, so that when a fan or collector sees the replica, when they have it, they feel that they have something that really embodies the Enterprise as a physical presence. I think that the filming miniatures in the shows and the movies have always played a strong role in the success of Star Trek. When the filming miniatures are seen on screen, people know that there’s something there taking up physical space, that it’s real, that it exists. So, when they see it, they’re seeing a character, and everyone has their own perception of what that character is and what it means to them. What we’re trying to do is, when they own they replica, we want them to have that same feeling. We want them to feel that the replica they’ve got is an accurate reproduction of what they see on screen.
The Enterprise is about as iconic as could be. Take us through the process of building a scale model as exacting as this one.
Eblan: It comes down to the colors and the details, which for us can be tricky because in some scenes of some of the movies, the colors are different from others. They reused the filming replica through the first couple of movies and then they had some subtle changes through the rest of the movies. So everyone has their own idea of what the Enterprise is supposed to look like. Two people in the same room can have different ideas of what certain colors are supposed to be. In this case, it was up to us to capture the essence on those colors, on the surfaces textures. One of the things that’s important in a scale-replica is to make it not look like a toy. Subtle things like dulling down some of the colors so that they’re not bright and glossy. Adding just a touch of weathering to certain areas of the ship. The ships are nice and pristine and kept in very good shape, obviously, but in order to convey the scale of a three-foot replica that’s supposed to represent a 1,000-foot ship, there are certain things that we’ve got to do that are very artistic, so to speak.
I mentioned dulling down the colors. We add to the paint what we call atmospheric haze, so that there’s no true black on the ship, no true blues, because if you look at black up close, it looks black, but if you look at a black car 100 feet away from you, it no longer looks black. It’s got more of a lighter tone to it. So it’s things like that that we have to do to give the model a sense of scale, so that what people see is, in every sense, a filming miniature. That’s what we’re trying to get to is that filming miniature.
How many people actually worked on this, and what were your responsibilities as chief model maker?
Eblan: My job as chief model maker here in the shop is to make sure that we’re producing an accurate replica. There’s a half-dozen of us here that work in the shop and we all play different roles in getting the replica from a pile of parts to a completed piece. We’ve got some very talented painters. We’ve got other folks who install the electronics on the ship, and they make sure all the electronics are properly installed for longevity purposes. As the chief here, I make sure everything is flowing smoothly, that we’re all on the same page, that whatever reference we have is the latest, most-up-to-date reference. And I am also a model maker. One of the things that I love about this is that I love building. I love constructing. I love taking a handful of parts, of pieces, and turning it into a completed piece. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also cathartic and rewarding.
You’re a hardcore Trek fan. What element of this did you most geek out about?
Eblan: Once we started putting the signage on, the 1701, that’s when she came to life. When we put the hull lettering on and it says U.S.S. Enterprise, it’s the completion of her. That’s when it goes from being a replica to being the Enterprise. Anything you’re working on, whatever it is, once you name something, it gives it life. People like to name their cars, their computers, all these inanimate objects, but once you name it, all of a sudden it’s something, it’s real. For me, once the numbers and the name went on, I thought, ‘There’s the Enterprise, right there.”
You have worked on models for movies and models for collectors. Which do you get the bigger rush from, knowing that millions of people see your work in a movie or on a TV show or that the person who bought a limited-edition model loves and cherishes his or her purchase?
Eblan: Honestly, it’s the collectible, and there are 1,000 reasons why. It’s fun to work on a film, to build a model, to see it on screen and to know that millions of people will see it. But that person’s vested interest is in the movie and all that it takes to make the movie: the actors, the dialogue, the models, the scenery, the direction, the cinematography, all of it. A movie is more than the sum of its parts. If you were to remove a model I made for that movie from the movie, it’d still be the same movie. It wouldn’t make that much difference unless you were talking about removing the Death Star from Star Wars. I didn’t work on the Death Star, but you get the idea. But when a person decides to purchase a replica, they’re taking a vested interest in that person’s art and making an investment in something they’re going to see, most likely, on a daily basis, and that they’re going to share with people.
I love hearing stories from clients about how they called their friends and said, “Come look at this Enterprise.” They’ll turn off the lights and turn on the Enterprise and it’ll be like, “Wow! That’s impressive.” And then they’ll show them the details. I’ve heard people tell these stories and I’ve heard the happiness in their voice as they spoke about moments they’ve had showing their ship to others. I love that. That’s why you do it. There’s pressure making something for someone, and when you get that phone call and you hear that giggle sound in their voice or you can tell how much they enjoy what you did for them, there’s not much that’s a lot more rewarding than that in this business, other than that person coming back and saying they want to buy another piece from you.
Last question. If you had your choice, what’s the next Star Trek vehicle you’d get to build for QMx?
Eblan: It’s probably less canon than most, but it’d be the NX-01 Refit that was recently posted out there by Doug Drexler. The NX-01 ship is beautiful. She’s all metal. She’s a joy to paint because she’s so metallic, with the brass and pewter and the bronze. To do the refit version of that, to add that next step, would be a lot of fun to work on, maybe for purchase, but even as a fan, as a model maker. That would be my ideal next Star Trek vehicle build, the NX-01 Refit.
This ship is available for pre-order starting today.