How many conventions do you think you’ve been at over the years?
Shatner: Oh, I don’t know. Many. I haven’t kept track. Probably hundreds. I do four or five a year now and have for several years.
When you and your filmmaking team first got to Vegas last year to shoot what became Get a Life!, what were you hoping to capture?
Shatner: Well, I’d written my Get a Life! book and I thought I’d come to the right conclusion, that the fans were there to see each other, that it was about the pleasure of seeing each other and renewing old acquaintances.
I did what I thought was my due diligence in writing the book and I thought, with the movie, that I’d just visually go back over what I’d written and tell new stories, because there were new people. And I thought I’d arrive at essentially the same conclusion. It absolutely flabbergasted me to understand the depth that was going on because not only did I not understand it, but I would say 99 percent of the people going to the conventions don’t understand it. They don’t realize what they were doing, what in fact they were doing, and why it brought them such deep satisfaction.
You spend a good chunk of time following David R. Sparks Jr, a/k/a “Captain Dave,” the Star Trek fan with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, who is in a wheelchair, yet refuses to let his physical challenge stop him from enjoying life and his love of all things Trek. What did it mean to you to get to know him?
Shatner: Dave’s eyes gave him away. He was bright and energized and non-despairing. He was full of the joy of life. His joy of life, even though he was imprisoned by his body, was something I’d never seen before. The fact that Star Trek allowed him that expression was about as meaningful a thing as I’d ever been a part of.
When you finished shooting the four days at the convention last year, did you know what you had in hand or did Get a Life! come together in the editing bay?
Shatner: It’s true that a documentary is made in the editing room, but that’s the telling. My memory works in remembering what people said and what the shot was, and I knew at the end what we had and was able to instruct the editors along the lines of what I wanted the movie to be, just from the film that I could play back in my mind. So I had edited it in my mind as we went along. By about the third or fourth day I understood what the film was going to be about.
This touches on what we talked about earlier, but at the end of the day, what did you take away from Get a Life! and what do you hope viewers will take away from it?
Shatner: I hope they take away what I took away, which is that the people who go to conventions are partaking in something far deeper than they even realize. And, upon the realization of it, it should enrich their experience even more. For me, with these particular documentaries, what I’m looking at, what I’m discovering and realizing, that’s on camera and, as realize it, you, the audience, realize it. That’s the kick about these documentaries.
It seems like you’re now in the documentary business. What else is in the works?
Shatner: I have a couple more, one that’s already shot and one that I’m working on now. I look at conventions again in one of them and the making of a television show in the other.
So, should fans get a life, or did you discover they actually have a life?
Shatner: Fans have a far richer life than ordinary people understand.
There is a dark side to discuss. It’s common knowledge that a few Star Trek actors have dealt with stalkers. Do you think that’s simply a matter of there being, with everything in life, some people who take things to the extreme?
Shatner: Yes, exactly. The maniac who shot up that theater in Colorado chose that theater and that costume because he’s a maniac. He’s mentally ill. But the people who were there in the theater, they were there for a joyful reason.
You’ll be joined on stage by Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks and Scott Bakula for a Four Captains event at this year’s Creation Convention in Vegas and then by Mulgrew, Brooks, Bakula and Patrick Stewart for a Five Captains gathering this fall as part of Destination Star Trek London. What does it mean to you spend time in the company of your fellow captains?
Shatner: These events are fun, great fun. We all are very bonded and have a deep affection for each other. It’s very rare; there are so few of us, and I’m delighted by it.
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