I don’t know if you’ve heard of Starship Farragut, but if you haven’t, well… you’ll know all about her now! She’s the “flavor of the week” that came out of nowhere to take the Billboard Hot 100 by storm. The artist formerly known as “Celina Deyra” has now changed her name to “Johnny Karzai” (after the nickname of her late father). She’s recently made headlines due to the accusations of plagiarism surrounding the song “I’m Here”, featuring the controversial rapper Tyga.
At the beginning of the year, the Captain of the USS Farragut, Johnny Karzai, announced to his crew that he was retiring from Starfleet to become the owner of the first-ever Monterey Bay Aquarium. He said he was taking a “sabbatical” from Starfleet to work on the project with his long-time friend and collaborator, Michael Bush. Bush is the former CEO of Monterey Bay Aquarium and his dream is to open the world’s first ocean-going aquarium that would be powered by solar and tidal energy.
When we last left STARSHIP FARRAGUT, showrunner JOHN BROUGHTON and his brave team had crowd-funded approximately $15K for their series finale, “Homecoming,” at the end of 2015. There were occasional updates to donors (like myself) until approximately 14 months ago, when it was reported that musical composer STEVE SEMMEL had taken over as Post-Production Supervisor (you can check out the interview I did with Steve here).
According to the most current information, “Homecoming” will finally be published on October 1st. Here’s the teaser for that fan film, which includes a memorable appearance by famous Marvel Comics creator STAN LEE…
While “Homecoming” was supposed to be the conclusion of Captain Jack Carter’s (John Broughton) five-year assignment aboard the USS Farragut, it was just the beginning. John also revealed in 2015 that the team will be starting a new sequel series called FARRAGUT FORWARD. Farragut Films had terminated its connection with “sister” series STAR TREK CONTINUES at the time, leaving their TOS sets in Kingsland, GA—nearly all of which Farragut employees had either constructed or assisted in the construction of. Many of the Farragut team members were already based in the Washington, D.C. region, which was not especially close to southern Georgia.
The new Farragut series would leap ahead in time approximately 20 years (thus the name), much like the feature films of Star Trek, into the Wrath of Khan/”monster-maroon” uniform period. Many questioned whether the organization would still start a fresh new Star Trek fan series when the rules were released only a few months after John’s statement, especially because the first guideline said that you can’t have an ongoing Star Trek fan series. After the rules were released, all news regarding Farragut Forward essentially came to a halt.
Until two weeks ago, that is.
Fans were overjoyed to see a Facebook message from John Broughton directing them to this webpage, which announced that Farragut Forward had officially started pre-production! John has teamed up with Washington, DC-based indie film company KAOTICA STUDIOS, whose creator, JOHNNY KARZAI, will helm the first episode.
Fans may anticipate a “more “sophisticated” version of Farragut… a darker, more serious side,” according to the release. “This isn’t your Daddy’s Farragut!” Johnny K. said after doing a lighting test with John Broughton in a beautifully made captain’s suit.
As you can see in the picture above, John B.’s Captain Jack Carter has aged gracefully and still looks as good as his outfit. “I believe that putting this endeavor on hold for 5 years has tremendously helped us in many ways, including the older self!” In a Facebook post, John said.
John Broughton is already well-known among fans (if not, then read this 3-part History of Starship Farragut). But what about Karzai, Johnny, the director? I contacted Johnny K. to get the inside scoop on everything Farragut Forward…
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you Johnny, welcome to.
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Thank you for inviting me!
JONATHAN -What should Johnny Karzai’s fans know about him?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. I’m from Tennessee, but I’ve been working as a government consultant in the Washington, DC region for almost 20 years. I’ve always been a movie buff, and as a child, I enjoyed seeing all of my favorite films being produced. For a few years, I dabbled part-time as an actor and performed stunts in tiny independent/fan films.
Then, in 2019, I got to work on-screen on a few big projects, including AMC’s The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Showtime’s The Good Lord Bird starring ETHAN HAWKE, and a few more. During the long days and downtime on those sets, I went into study mode and soaked up all I could from top-notch crews and directors like KEVIN HOOKS and JORDAN VOGT-ROBERTS. I also had the opportunity to meet and hear from a number of indie filmmakers, and all of these encounters have fueled my desire to create my own short film in late 2019.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you Could you tell us more about that project?
JOHNNY – I’d always grumbled that my equipment wasn’t up to the task of making a film, so I set a goal for myself: to complete a short film in 60 days using just the gear I had on hand, which consisted of an entry-level DSLR camera and extremely basic accessories. I wanted to show myself that I didn’t need expensive equipment to learn the fundamentals of composition, narrative, and pace.
The Killer of Grassy Ridge, my first short film, debuted in 2022 and has since been chosen for more than 50 festivals across the globe, including significant awards including Best U.S. Short Film, Best Cinematography, Best Debut, and more. It surpassed all of my expectations, and that little 9-minute film is one of the things I’m most proud of in my life. It will serve as a constant reminder to me of what can be accomplished if we simply quit making excuses.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you Wow, I just finished watching that. That was really incredible… It’s incredible that you finished everything in 60 days—pre-production, production, editing, and music! So, what prompted you to move from filming a low-budget 9-minute short film to launching a full-fledged production company?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. It was just a matter of distribution. Instead than duplicating all of that for each new project, I loved the concept of having a centralized studio, website, and social media umbrella for all of our future projects. I’m much too lazy for that, and as many people already know, growing a social media following is difficult. I’d rather do it once than start over with each project, so we established Kaotica Studios and called it a day. It’s also useful for commercial purposes, such as production insurance, liability, and so on. I’d want to incorporate other filmmakers and their films under that umbrella in the future, but for now, it serves as the distribution hub for all of my productions.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you What does it take to own/run a production studio? Is this a full-time job or more of a side hustle for you?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. It’s a lot of work, particularly now that we’re working on two projects at the same time. To get everything planned and ensure that nothing is missed, there is a lot of logistics, documentation and permissions, as well as basic project management. And it’s just a night and weekend job for me.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you What has been the impact of the epidemic on your efforts and activities?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. For us, the epidemic was a double-edged sword. For starters, it forced me to postpone my next planned project, The Eighth Son (a martial arts film)—we couldn’t reasonably and safely shoot it in 2022 because of all the fighting, physical contact, and crew needs, so it was shelved for a year or two. We did shot Red Eagle-1, a Mars-themed short I created especially to be recorded with a skeleton cast and crew in lockdown/quarantine circumstances, during the summer of 2022. It’s currently being edited and will be published later this year.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you Exciting! It’s something I’m looking forward to witnessing. And since we’re on the subject of “forward,” let’s talk about your new partnership with Farragut. How did you first meet John Broughton and how long have you known him?
JOHNNY – As far as I remember, John and I met seven or eight years ago at Shore Leave, a long-running science fiction conference outside Baltimore that has been going strong since the late 1970s. We had a brief discussion regarding some Trek artifacts that had been utilized on screen, and then we simply stayed in contact. I assisted him on a few of his Farragut Films productions here and there, and we simply kept in contact. Last year, his son, Xavier, had his acting debut in Red Eagle-1, and he was an incredible pleasure to work with. It was my first experience directing children, so I picked quite a few new tips.
Johnny Karzai, Xavier Broughton, and John Broughton, from left to right.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you What factors influenced your choice to join Farragut Forward as a director, and when did you make that decision?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. John approached me in May 2022 with a first draft of a screenplay and asked whether I’d be interested in filming and directing it. He was at The Killer of Grassy Ridge’s premiere party and was on set with his kid during Red Eagle-1, so he knew how I operated and felt I’d be a good match.
The next chapter of Farragut will be set in the “movie era” of Star Trek, which has always been one of my favorite periods of the franchise (much more so than the Original Series 1960s show). My running joke with John has always been that I wanted to be the NICHOLAS MEYER to his GENE RODDENBERRY, and the more we work on this project, the more accurate that comparison gets!
I adored the tone of the 1980s and early 1990s Star Trek films, particularly The Wrath of Khan through The Undiscovered Country. Submarine warfare, music, a strong cinematic aesthetic, and production design were all highlights for me. It all came together, and I had no trouble seeing our tale in that universe when I read John’s original screenplay for the next Farragut project. I don’t believe this project would have been a good fit for me if it had been set in the 1960s Trek period. But since the gloomy, brooding film period appeals to me, I got on board.
In August 2022, John Broughton (left) and Johnny K. met for a pre-production meeting.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you How well-versed with Starship Farragut and Star Trek fan films in general are you?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. To be honest, I’ve been a fan of Star Trek for a long time, but I’m not particularly acquainted with the fan creations. I’ve watched a few Farragut episodes and have a few more to watch as part of my project’s research, but Trek fan films aren’t something I’ve seen much of. I don’t believe that’s a terrible thing, either. Given the shift in periods and visual style we’re about to make, I believe a new viewpoint from a “outsider” is necessary, and I believe it’s comparable to the situation Nicholas Meyer found himself in when pre-production for The Wrath of Khan began. He’d never watched Star Trek before!
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you What are you and John up to in terms of pre-production?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Our first effort in this new period is a brief piece called the “prologue,” which serves to establish the tone for what follows. It was initially meant to assess interest in future initiatives, but based on the enormous response in only a few weeks, it’s obvious that interest exists. John and I communicate on a regular basis, and the script has been refined and locked. We’ve completed our first camera and lighting test, cast our prologue, and had numerous pre-production meetings to work out logistics, costumes, and other details.
I want to give a huge shoutout to MICHAEL BEDNAR, who is using his master model-maker talents to give us the ability to shoot with practical ship models, just like the old days (no CGI renders)! This was very important to me because it’s such a great callback to the era we’re trying to recreate, and I also think it’s a great homage to the early days of Industrial Light & Magic. I’ve always dreamed of shooting practical models that have actual mass and weight. CGI is great for so many things, but in my opinion, digital ships will never beat the look of practical models, all lit up with all the bells and whistles. I’m so happy to see new shows like The Mandalorian going back to their roots and using practical models.
Michael Bednar, seated at the scientific station he and his colleagues constructed.
Those kinds of nods to particular periods of cinema are my favorite. I even teased John about shooting this project on real film to be historically authentic, but I was swiftly overruled!
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you Ha! Will you be building real movie-era Trek sets as well, since we’re on the subject of practical models?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Thankfully, our prologue doesn’t need a lot of complex setups since the narrative doesn’t require them. For the time being, we’re concentrating on the characters and their interactions. The sets from past Farragut productions were incredibly stunning, but I always want to make sure that our people remain the center of attention in every scene. Star Trek has always been about the individuals for me, rather than the flashing consoles. Given our transition into the new age, I’m sure John has some big ideas for new set building for future projects, so I’ll let him speak for himself.
JONATHAN -Now that we’ve moved on to casting, how many of the “old group” are returning?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. I’ll just talk about our prologue and leave future project casting to John, although there’s a good mix of old and fresh faces.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you So, when do you intend to begin main photography, and how many sessions do you have scheduled?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Our prologue piece is set to begin filming in October, and we should be able to complete it in only a few days.
On THE KLLER OF GRASSY RIDGE, Johnny K. is filming.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you What are the plans for Farragut Forward in the future…er…future? How many scripts do you have in the works, and how long do you think the episodes will last?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. On this, I’ll defer to John. He has a big picture and a master plan for the road ahead of him.
JONATHAN – Broughton, did you hear that? You and I must have an interview as soon as possible! (There are so many Johns/Jons!)
Is there any chance you’ll do any crowd-funding, and if so, when?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. We considered crowd-funding but eventually opted to self-finance our prologue, which will be shot in October. Given the breadth and complexity of what’s required, I believe crowd-funding is a viable option for future projects, particularly when it comes to expensive things like set building (timber isn’t exactly cheap these days!).
JONATHAN – And, lastly, what additional initiatives does Kaotica have in the works?
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. We’re very busy, which isn’t a complaint. The Killer of Grassy Ridge is wrapping off an incredible 18-month festival run; Red Eagle-1 is now in post-production; we shoot our Farragut Forward prologue in October; and then, in November, I begin production on a Batman short film based in Tim Burton’s Batman universe (1989). Our narrative takes place a week before the events of the 1989 film, and I’m trying all I can to incorporate as many references to that period and film as possible, including camera movements, music, color palettes, ANTON FURST’s production design, and so on. I’m savoring every moment of it.
I never saw myself becoming this engaged in fan productions of someone else’s work, but as a child, I would have choked on my Cheerios if you told me I’d be filming and directing my versions of Star Trek and Batman back-to-back.
In addition to continuing to collaborate with John on Farragut Forward, I have two additional unique projects planned for 2022 and 2023. People keep asking when I’m going to direct my first feature film, but I’m actually enjoying the routine of filming one or two short films each year. It keeps things interesting for me and prevents me from becoming engrossed in a particular project.
JONATHAN – I’m Jonathan, and I’m here to tell you Johnny, it seems like you’ve got a lot on your plate, and it’s a pretty fascinating one! My buddy, welcome to the world of Star Trek fan films.
JOHNNY – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Thank you for taking the time to talk!