Magazine article American Cinematographer

Outer Space Visited by Earth Star Voyager

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Outer Space Visited by Earth Star Voyager

Article excerpt

Television mini-series produced by Martin Starger for Disney

Directed by James Goldstone

Photographed by Robert Stevens

Special visual effects by Richard Edlund, ASC

A mere 86 years after 2001 - a century from today - Earth*Star Voyager is set to blast off on a mission to find the uncharted planet of Demetur. The expedition is of some urgency - in fact (in case you hadn't guessed) the very survival of mankind hangs in the balance.

The Disney Sunday Movie on ABC Television provides the showcase for the Earth*Star Voyager expedition. According to the studio, the four-hour, two-part mini series is the "most lavishly budgeted" film ever produced for Disney Television (quite probably) and also Disney's "first entry into the mini-series format" (though some might say that honor rightfully belongs to Davy Crockett).

Directed by James Goldstone, and photographed by Robert Stevens (fresh from outings with Amazing Stories and Max Headroom) Earth*Ster Voyager is an exploration of a near future in which the Earth is rapidly becoming uninhabitable due to overcrowding and the effects of pollution. Speculative fiction, yes, but it has the element of truth that is a part of all good sci-fi, and every effort was taken to make the filmic voyage as spectacular and believable as possible.

Ironically, James Goldstone, who also directed the original pilot for Star Trek, does not consider himself a science fiction devotee, so in approaching the script he sought to explore and develop the human aspects of the story. He also made few concessions to the small screen in bringing Earth*Star Voyager to life.

"I move back and forth between features and television, and I'm not interested in changing my style in doing TV as opposed to doing a feature. Film is film. When I see a picture in dailies, or in the various cuts, or in dubbing, I see it on the big screen."

Given his "film is film" approach, Goldstone was interested in using the photographic style to enhance atmosphere and mood. He selected Robert Stevens to shoot the mini-series in part because the cinematographer had worked as a camera operator on several of the director's previous efforts, and because he liked what he saw of Stevens's work on Amazing Stories and Max Headroom. 'The boldness with which he lights suited this project," says Goldstone.

One of the things that appealed to Stevens about the project was that it was not just another space opera.

"I was pleased that it was not going to be an "effects" type movie. We had the models and effects shots to supplement and give context, but there are only about forty effects shots in the entire four hours. Basically it is a fairly realistic and human scale story."

Adding to the challenge was the fact that Stevens would be shooting in Vancouver, Canada - not in a wellequipped studio, but in several of the vacated pavilions of the recent Vancouver Expo. The company did utilize some exteriors at the Expo, but generally the needed sets were built inside the pavilions, which proved to be serviceable but far from ideal stages.

"They were all temporary metal buildings," says Stevens, "and when the temperature would change you'd hear these big bangs as the metal expanded and contracted."

The large floor space afforded by these pavilions was a blessing for art director John De Cuir, Jr., however. They afforded the necessary area for construction of the massive interiors of the Earth*Star Voyager.

De Cuir, whose recent credits include Ghostbusters and Top Gun, was faced with a formidable challenge - he had all of four weeks of prep and about eight weeks of construction with which to create a brave new world.

"The set was magnificent," remembers Stevens, "but we were pretty locked in to how the set was lit. It would have been easy to put fluorescent lights overhead, and give the picture that full look, but we decided to use smaller units and to go for more texture. …

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