Jonathan FrakesRoswell

Frakes Takes a Break

This is an older article, but it has some interesting stuff about what Jonathan Frake’s is working on. Melinda sent this one in awhile back.

Frakes Takes a Break

IGN Sci-Fi interviews Jonathan Frakes about Insurrection, Total Recall 2000, Roswell, and other projects.

August 13, 1999

The ninth Star Trek feature film, Insurrection, presented a dichotomy for its costar and director, Jonathan Frakes. While his second go-round as a Trek director gave him the opportunity for a little more shut-eye, it was by no means any easier to film than the Borg-intensive Star Trek: First Contact.

“I was able to sleep a little bit at night,” Frakes tells IGN, “as opposed to the first time when I worked all day and stressed all night.” However, Insurrection “was a tougher shoot because we were outside for half of it, and exteriors are always problematic because of sun and weather, and we had hundreds of extras. So in a strange way, the production was more complicated on Insurrection. My personal preparation was the same, but I was able to relax a little bit more because I had done it once.

“It also helped that I had a lot of the same crew. [Director of photography] Matt Leonetti and his whole team came and did the movie again, so there was the familiarity that comes and the comfort that comes with that, and also the cast being comfortable with the same crew again. So there was a lot of the family element.”

Adding to the family element was the return of screenwriter Michael Piller, who with Insurrection was writing his first “Next Generation” adventure since the series ended more than five years ago. “Piller’s a very good collaborator and a very, very good storyteller,” says Frakes. “He’s got a wonderful sense of structure and arc. I was very impressed working closely with Michael. I didn’t do any of Piller’s episodes, so I didn’t have a chance to work as intimately with him as I did on Insurrection. He was running the show, but I don’t think it was his specific episodes that I was able to direct. So this was a good experience for me to work intimately in pre-production with him.”

Frakes has mixed feelings about the final result. “I liked the fact that we were outside. I liked the fact that we were able to open up and shoot wide, sweeping crane shots. I liked the fact that we had comedy present throughout the film. I didn’t like the fact that the relationship between Picard [Patrick Stewart] and Anij [Donna Murphy] wasn’t deeper or more consummated. The studio thought better of having the captain kiss this woman, which I didn’t necessarily agree with, but I work for them,” Frakes laughs.

Special Effects in Insurrection

What he really liked was the full use of state-of-the-art computer-generated digital effects for the space scenes and spaceships, a first for a “Star Trek” movie. Blue Sky/VIFX and Santa Barbara Films replaced Industrial Light and Magic this time, but contrary to popular opinion at the time of the film’s theatrical release, ILM’s lack of involvement had nothing to do with its total commitment to The Phantom Menace.

As Frakes explains, “ILM wanted more money than other companies for the same amount of work. They priced themselves out of this job.”

Frakes is very happy with the work Blue Sky/VIFX and Santa Barbara Films did. “That wonderful battle with the explosions at the end took a matter of weeks after we reworked the ending,” he says. “It was wonderful, I thought, the ball coming up through the collector and exploding. I was very impressed with their work. It’s all about storyboarding and preparation and trusting that these people’s talents, which they did, can enhance your vision of how you want to tell the story. We all worked pretty much on the same page, and Peter Lauritson always deserves more credit than he gets in the optical part of these films because he perseveres until things are right, which is to his credit.”

Total Recall 2000

We may not see another “Star Trek” movie for a few years now, and it’s uncertain whether we’ll even see “The Next Generation” crew return. However, Frakes is not content to rest on his laurels, waiting for the Enterprise to re-launch. He’s already busy developing several projects with his Paramount Pictures-based production company, Goepp Circle. The most notable one is a potential sequel to Total Recall, which Frakes is set to produce and direct.

“It’s still on Dimension’s list of movies,” Frakes explains, “so we’re waiting for Mr. Schwarzenegger’s hands to free up. We’ve got a script from the writer of the original, and we’re giving some notes on it. It’s a very big, wonderful, expensive script. I’m waiting for Miramax to get up on the dime and actually go ahead with ‘Total Recall 2.'”

Anticipating working with Arnold, Frakes says, “I’m told that he’s a delight. Leonetti, who is my DP, has done three movies with him and thinks the two of us will be a good fit. So I’m looking forward to that.”

Frakes is waiting to see if the Showtime series Total Recall 2070 will have any sort of impact on a Total Recall sequel, and he even hopes that maybe the show will speed up the production process for the film. Frakes would direct an episode or more of the show if asked, even though he hasn’t seen it. “I have very little interest in science fiction, except working on it,” he says.


In the meantime, he is excited about the impending fall premiere of his new UPN sci-fi drama, Roswell, which he describes as Dawson’s Creek meets The X-Files.

“We got a full order,” Frakes explains. “That’s really more of a character-driven, emotional show than a science-fiction show. There are sci-fi elements but the show is driven by the relationships of the kids.”

Originally called Roswell High, the title was changed to avoid any association with Aaron Spelling. Frakes probably had an easy time getting this project off the ground because of his ubiquitous hosting stints on several “reality-based” supernatural programs, such as the sensational ratings hit Alien Autopsy and the short-lived FOX series Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction.

“I think that didn’t hurt,” Frakes concedes. “That’s how it ended up in my office, because I have an association with all things alien.” In addition to executive producing the series, he plays himself in it as well, which leads one to wonder if he will be serving as a supernatural host.

Other Projects

Frakes also filled us in on his other projects.: “We just sold a film to Sony called ‘Steve Was Here, which is a black comedy,” he says. “It also happens to have an alien. It was written by Norman Steinberg, the man who wrote My Favorite Year. And we had a UPN movie called Dying to Live which did very well. We produced that for my company and we’re hoping to turn it into a series. So things are good.”

He also plans to collaborate professionally with wife Genie Francis of General Hospital fame.

“We are working on two projects,” Frakes says, “a movie of the week that I’m hoping she can act in if she could bring herself from General Hospital, and we actually talked about some other projects that we might develop together. So we will be working together.”

As for Frakes himself, currently you can catch him in a starring role in the new AMC series The Lot.

“I love television,” insists Frakes. “I’m glad to be back in it.”

Make it so, Number One.

–Raj Manoharan.


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