Boldly going

  • Article by: RANDY A. SALAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 30, 2008 - 9:24 AM

Minneapolis native Tasha Hardy went to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. Along the way, she found a bunch of "Star Trek" fans.

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The set on which new 'webisodes' of Star Trek: New Voyages is shot, produced by Tasha Hardy.

Tasha Hardy has watched only five or six episodes of "Star Trek," but the Minneapolis native says she knows the difference between a Trekker and a Trekkie.

"'Trekkie' is when you're completely immersed in it," she explained. "'Trekker' is when you're on the outskirts, like, 'This is a cool show, but I'm not a total nerd.'"

Of course, threatening to cause a major rift in the space-time continuum, wouldn't only a total nerd know to make that distinction?

"Exactly!" she said with a laugh. "Oh. I just got myself there, right?"

Hardy, 34, might not be sure of her "Star Trek" fan status, but she certainly knows what goes into the making of the cult sci-fi show. The producer and writer, who moved to Los Angeles from the Twin Cities eight years ago, co-produced the Internet series "Star Trek: New Voyages." The hourlong episode on which she worked, "World Enough and Time," helped the show win a recent TV Guide Award for best sci-fi Web series.

This comes at a time when the protracted writers' strike has made reruns and reality programming the primary fodder of prime-time television. Webisodes appeal to viewers looking for something fresh. "New Voyages" has received close to 1 million downloads for each of its three episodes -- five more are in the works -- from YouTube and its website (www.startreknew voyages.com).

The remarkable thing is that "New Voyages" is produced by fans, not a studio. When it won the TV Guide award, it beat out studio-produced webisodes such as "Battlestar Galactica" and "The 4400."

The show originated with super-Trekkie James Cawley, a professional Elvis impersonator from upstate New York who once spent a year playing the King at a Minnesota casino. He spent thousands of his own dollars building an authentic full-size replica of the Enterprise bridge, and the show grew from there.

"New Voyages" even has the blessing of Paramount, the studio behind "Star Trek" -- as long as the fan-produced show doesn't make money. That's where Hardy came in. "World Enough and Time" would have cost $1.5 million to make, including its good-looking special effects, but she helped get it done for about $50,000.

Her main contribution was bartering for equipment in exchange for banner ads on the "New Voyages" website, which gets a lot of hits from fans. For example, the makers wanted to film "World Enough and Time" in high-definition, but those cameras are expensive to rent.

"A week and a half before we were going to start shooting, we had no cameras," Hardy said. "Deals kept falling through. I and my production manager called 126 places trying to do trade deals, and the last place we called said, 'Sure, we'll do it.' I was dreaming about cameras every night, like I was traumatized."

The rest of the resources to produce "New Voyages" come mostly from Cawley's hunk o', hunk o' burning cash, but an undisclosed number of fans have made donations through the website and volunteers -- professionals such as Hardy and amateurs -- donate their time and energy.

"This is all a labor of love and insanity," said actor George Takei, who revived his classic "Star Trek" role as Sulu for "World Enough and Time."

That's right. The authenticity of the fan-produced "New Voyages" extends to the cast, which has included other "Star Trek" alumni such as Walter Koenig as Chekov and Majel Roddenberry, the widow of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, as the voice of the Enterprise computer.

Many of the writers and other crew members have a background in actual "Star Trek" enterprises, including Marc Scott Zicree, who directed "World Enough and Time." He has been a mentor to Hardy in Hollywood and enlisted her help when he agreed to do "New Voyages."

"At first, I was like, 'I don't know,'" Hardy said, her voice trailing off.

Her résumé contained nothing like "Star Trek" -- she's mostly worked an assistant director on independent films or a production assistant on studio projects -- and she was apprehensive about working on a franchise with such a rabid following. But she eventually decided to explore the "Star Trek" universe.

"It's funny," she said. "When you're in that world, you get picked on for not knowing things in the show -- where if you're not in the 'Trek' environment, people pick on you because you do know. The fans behind 'New Voyages' would start talking about 'Star Trek,' and I'm thinking, 'Yeah, I've seen that episode -- not!'"

Although Hardy says she did "New Voyages" because she had the time to contribute and thought it would be fun, the show has made an impression on potential employers and investors who have seen it on her video résumé. In fact, she's banking on that as she tries to find backers for her new film.

Called "When I Become King," it will be a mockumentary about people who work at Renaissance festivals. She's negotiating with organizers to shoot at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

"I need to raise a lot of money," she said. "But if I can get them to agree to let me film it, I'm there."

That would give her another excuse to return to the Twin Cities, where she attended the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley. She typically comes to town once or twice a year to see her father, a Minneapolis psychologist, and friends.

Hardy said going to regular screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at the Uptown Theater when she was in her midteens in the late '80s stoked her interest in getting involved with films.

"I never forgot the excitement and exhilaration I got from being there," she said.

She now lives in Studio City, Calif., with her husband of three years, Indy Feige, a clay-model creature creator.

Whether Hardy is a Trekkie, a Trekker or neither, the experience of working on "Star Trek: New Voyages" has made her realize that she identifies with Spock, the calm, collected Vulcan science officer whose every action and thought are oh-so-logical. As she continues her post-"Trek" trek, a line of his from "World Enough and Time" will be her mantra:

"I can tolerate being judged far more than being of no consequence."

Randy A. Salas • 612-673-4542.

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