Beaming to The Enterprise… An interview with Pony Horton
Posted by Jaime "Fez" Sanchez | December 20, 2013
Hello, fellow Trek fans… I am very proud to say that this new interview with a dear friend is up… Pony Horton, VFX Artist and Extra for Star Trek: Phase 2 and Back to the Wild Wild West. This is from an interview I did with Pony in 2011, with some revisions for 2013
1.What is it that you do for your “day job”, if you can talk about it.
Pony Horton: Not as much as I used to. I am in the process of getting Disability, due to some old, bad neck injuries, as well as dealing with having advanced AIDS. However, I still do my video editing, and some VFX work, and the occasional acting job, and I’m slowly trying to build a resume as an actor.
But, recently, for example, I’ve had the great pleasure of editing and creating VFX for a number of adventure documentaries and smaller videos for adventure companies and groups that do kayak safaris in Tanzania, or the Day Of Adventure in Chiapas, Mexico. I also am re-doing some of my original VFX work on an award-winning documentary film titled RESCUE MEN: THE STORY OF THE PEA ISLAND LIFE-SAVERS. I am thrilled that this film has just been made required viewing in one of our local school districts! The U.S. Coast Guard even christened a new vessel the RICHARD ETHERIDGE, after the main subject of RESCUE MEN. I’m really honored to have done something that people can refer-to and learn from for, hopefully, generations to come!
2. What is your connection to Star Trek? and how has it affected your life?
PH: I started watching STAR TREK during its original run in the late 1960′s. I was eight years old when the show premiered. By 1970 I had all the model kits, by 1973 I had the books by David Gerrold and Stephen Whitfield, and was a full-blown fan. My mom was a science fiction fan, and in our home we also loved LOST IN SPACE, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, U.F.O., TWILIGHT ZONE, OUTER LIMITS, GENESIS II/QUESTOR, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, SPACE 1999, etc.
By 1979 I was an apprentice/janitor at Van der Veer Photo Effects, one of the great old optical houses that created many of STAR TREK’s VFX. So, for me STAR TREK has always been a major factor in my life. My grandma Katherine made me my first Command uniform when I was 16, out of real velour. And I still have the Lincoln Enterprises Command Delta patch I got for that uniform in 1974.
3. How did you first hear of Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase 2?
PH: I had just completed an Indiana Jones-styled short film, and after I posted it on the web, I saw reference links to other “fan films,” as they were called. I had never heard of this before. I started hunting around the web for more, and very quickly came across STAR TREK NEW VOYAGES. They had only just finished TO SERVE ALL MY DAYS, and a few months later it hit the web. Walter Koenig was my college acting teacher, and we had stayed friends, so I was really blown away by the quality of the work, and wanted to get involved. They brought me in to do VFX on BLOOD & FIRE, and I was invited to come out for the shooting of KITUMBA, to play the part of K’Sia, the Klingon professor.
4. “Kitumba” was your first go around at a shoot, what was it like, and what have you done for P2
PH: KITUMBA was a trial by fire. It was kinda fun, but I was very intimidated. It was not my first shoot by a longshot as I had done a LOT of directing over the years, but here I was the new kid in this already-established family, and I felt really out of my element. Everyone was very nice (with only one or two exceptions whom I won’t name, and they’re no longer part of the group anyway) but I have to thank Doc John, James Cawley, Charles Root, and Gil Gerard for noticing that I was in some distress and taking the time to help me work through the feelings of inadequacy I was experiencing.
I also noticed that there were none of the images or paintings I had seen on some of the walls of the original Enterprise, like the starscape image in the Transporter Room, so I offered to paint them, and that seemed to endear me to the group. So far I’ve created most of the non-spaceship VFX on the show since THE CHILD, like set extension matte paintings, graphics on computer screens, phaser beams, and of course my Transporter effects, which was originally my main job on PHASE II.
5. What is your favorite memory of being on set or just hanging around with the crew?
PH: There are a lot of great memories. Making fun BTS videos with my friend Chris LaRoche and his son, Matthew. Chris and I and Matt and Mike Stearn have a habit of wearing fedora hats to the shoots, so we have become The Hat Squad. Freaking people out with my bullwhip skills is always fun. Wandering around Port Henry is always delightful. One time I walked into the Green Room to find a bit of a hubbub going on. Turns out a Little Brown bat (which are very common in most of the U.S.) had managed to fly into the room, and could not find its way out. The rest of the group was rather stunned when I simply grabbed my T-shirt and used it as a glove to grab the bat, who was clinging to a wall. I showed him around a little (he WAS kinda cute with his turned-up little snout and his pointy-sharp teeth) and I let him go outside. Getting to become friends with these people is one of the best general memories. I remember once, I had taken a Coke out of the freezer in the Green Room, and without knowing it had been shaken-up before I grabbed it, I cracked it open and a second later it became a gusher! Well, without any rags or towels around, the first thing I did, as fast as possible, was to shove the bottle into my mouth! Well, the gusher kept gushing, and my cheeks began to fill up with ever-expanding Coca-Cola. James just happened to be walking toward me, and he sees what is, essentially, a live-action cartoon moment happening right in front of him, and starts laughing uncontrollably! By now I’m looking like Louis Armstrong with his cheeks all puffed-out while blowing the trumpet, and the stuff is almost erupting out of my ears! All I could do was keep gulping, while trying to give James my Patented Death Glare (TM). Needless to say, it was very funny.
One thing that I love to remember is how great and strange it felt to FINALLY be standing at the actual Transporter control console. The Transporter effect is one of the things that attracted me to TREK in the first place. The magic of being able to BEAM somewhere! And here I was, finally, LIVING it! I will admit, I would go into that set when nobody else was around, and pretend (complete with mouth-made sound effects) that I was beaming people places. Since I create the Transporter Effect for the show, I jokingly refer to the Transporter Room as My Office. The rest of the group has dubbed it The Pony Express!
6. In your own words, how would you describe both the atmosphere on set and the realization of a dream that many dream but few can say they have experienced
PH: The atmosphere on-set is hectic and professional, but also fun. We have a new director, Mark Burchett, and he keeps the work going and keeps the fun quotient up. To me the realization of the dream is both kinda magical, and a bit of cold water in the face. It’s a set, like most other movie sets, so in that respect it’s all cardboard and MDF and plywood and masonite. You realize, with a bit of a letdown, that none of it’s real. BUT, with that in mind, the first time I stepped onto the Bridge, I sat down at Chekov’s station and casually hit a button on the console, and the whole console suddenly LIT-UP and CAME TO LIFE! A was really startled by that, and quite delighted! Same thing at Spock’s Science station, Uhura’s Communications, Kirk’s chair, etc. So in that respect, there was little need to pretend. The Bridge set really WORKS!
The fact that I’ve been officially stationed there as Navigator during one or two episodes, in full Starfleet uniform, is literally living a 45-year dream!
7. Is it really a “family” as some people have described?
PH: Yes, very much so, with all of the positive and negative aspects implied. We all like, and even love, each other, and tend to get along quite well, but like any family there are occasional conflicts. But we all stay in touch on the phone and on-line, and honestly I think they may have saved my life. I lost most of the people closest to me, all in just the last two years, to death. Two of them were brutally murdered, another was allowed to die in a coma due to a lack of financial resources. I am still having a very hard time with this, and if it had not been for this group that has become a new family to me, I don’t think I’d be here now.
8. What is it about the original Star Trek that carries on even today in your opinion?
PH: That’s hard to say, as today’s youth have not “gotten it’ when it comes to Roddenberry’s idea of a hopeful future. The new TREK movie, for example, is a fun ride with nicely-realized characters. But it was devoid of the hopeful message that Roddenberry was trying to convey. It was all about the coolness, the fights, and the VFX. Of course, Leonard Nimoy was top-notch as always, and I liked his take on Spock in the film. But it doesn’t really make-up for the lack of a proper story. Great VFX and dazzling moments do not a great film make, it has to come down to great STORY. I think PHASE II is much closer to what Roddenberry intended, storywise and moralistically, than the 2009 movie was.
So, that message does carry on with me, but I really fear it has been lost on the younger ones today. They’re too cynical, too inured to the harsh realities of life today to accept such a positive message without a lot of skepticism.
9. Are you amazed at the volume and quality if the Trek episodes that RFS produces? And do you see an end in sight for the 5-year mission?
PH: I am not amazed at either. We don’t put out as many episodes as we would like simply due to the practicalities and difficulties of doing an expensive, all-volunteer production. The quality is top-notch as far as I’m concerned. I hope there’s no end to the mission. There should not be, as long as we get great stories to tell.
10. What part did you play in “No-Win Scenario” coming back from the dead
PH: John Carrigan asked me if I would like to create the VFX on the film, and I said YES! That’s basically it, I created all the VFX you see, as well as the DVD cover art. Tobias Richter, who handles a lot of our VFX, was kind enough to help me on some shots as well.
11. Are there any other projects you are working on? Whether it is Star Trek or Something else
PH: Yes, I’ve just finished a fan film of my own, a vignette based on STAR TREK: PHASE II !! It’s a comedy short (Comedy similar to TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES or A PIECE OF THE ACTION, only a bit crazier) that will be hitting the web on Christmas Eve, 2011. It has been put up on the PHASE II website. It’s titled “1701 PENNSYLVANIA AV.” So, it’s basically a fan film based on a fan production!
12. Any other thoughts you’d like to share with our readers? If you’d like to promote something you are in or are interested in here.
PH: I’d like to thank you for the chance to discuss PHASE II and my work, and I want to express my great good feelings for everyone involved in PHASE II !
Well, my website is new to the Phase II crowd, so it’s…
And I’m doing high-end book trailers if any authors or publishers need one.
Here is an aside: Here are two podcasts that Pony was on:
All right Ladies and Gents, that will do it for today… I want to Thank Pony for the pleasure of interviewing him. Second, please watch 1701 Pennsylvania Ave, And see Pony guest starring as K’Sia in “Kitumba” and the upcoming episode “Bread and Savagery” as Justinus Casius… not to mention his VFX shots in all the upcoming episodes… Until Next Time Trek fans
About Jaime "Fez" Sanchez
Jaime Sanchez or Fez as he is known on the set of Star Trek: Phase II, is one of the youngest mainstays on the production. Originally a grip he has risen to the level of Assistant to the Producers, which entails a lot of his Star Trek knowledge and research done both on and off the set. In his spare time Fez, writes and does impressions of favorite characters this phenomenon is referred to as FezTV.