Interview With Bill Lutz and Glenn Smith of Omniverse

After coming together to create Star Trek Phase II: Illustrated and discovering how well they worked together in creating digital comics, Glenn E. Smith and Bill Lutz formed Omniverse Productions LLC. Omniverse Productions is IMAGINATION UNLEASHED. Its mission, in addition to continuing the adventures of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek Phase II: Illustrated, is to bring you original stories set in brand new realities that will always entertain, sometimes inform, and perhaps on occasion even provoke.

1.       In my April 2011 interview with Glenn, Omniverse was a relatively new thing. How has it grown in that time?

Bill:  Actually, it has grown but it is still in its fledgling state. We recently released issue #1 of Star Trek Phase II: Illustrated, [available] for free download on the web, and are working on issue #2 right now. We have a full website now, in part designed by Rob Mauro of AI Built PC, and have begun to advertise our upcoming titles. We expect it to grow even further as we are trying to gather the necessary talent together to create more stories and artwork digitally.

Glenn:  To pick up where Bill left off, the website still needs work, but it is online and functional. Two of those “more stories” that he mentioned are Pathways, a series of vignette-sized prequel stories to The Return of the Frontiersmen, both created and written by Bill, and The Realm, a fantasy series that I created and am writing. People who visit our website right now will see a logo for a series titled Legend of the Khi-Mara as well. That is a fantasy series that I created and have been working on for quite some time, but as I developed The Realm I came to realize that it would make a great prequel to Khi-Mara, so I decided to shift my focus to The Realm and present that first. There are several other projects in development as well, including one based on a very, very popular property that I cannot identify at this time because negotiations with the owners of the rights to that property are ongoing, and two others being written by writers outside our company whom I’m also not prepared to identify yet. So, yes, Omniverse Productions LLC is growing, but we still have a long way to go.

2.       Glenn, in last year’s interview you were working on a Bachelor’s degree. How did that turn out?

Glenn:  I finished the program in February, 2012, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix and induction into Delta Mu Delta, the Business Honor Society. It was a very intensive program taught by numerous experienced industry professionals—the best kind of instructors in my opinion—and I learned a lot.

3.       Bill, why do you use “The Brain” as an avatar?

Bill:  Why not?

🙂 Actually I’m a BIG fan of Warner Bros. Pinky and the Brain and I can surely relate to the Brain at times. Other times, I can seriously channel Pinky.

4.       How did the two of you meet?

Bill:  We met through the Star Trek Phase II blog. After chatting for some time, we discovered that we lived quite near each other and decided to meet.

Glenn:  When Bill says “quite near”, he means it. At the time he lived in Phoenixville and I lived in West Chester—both western suburbs of Philadelphia. I’d like to give a shout out to the place where we met face-to-face for the first time. The Blarney Stone on West Chester Pike in West Goshen has fantastic food and makes awesome Black and Tans…and no, I don’t have any financial interest in the establishment. I just miss it.

5.       When did you start working together artistically?

Bill:  Probably a few months further down after we met, we were always talking about collaborating on stuff.

Glenn:  It started with Star Trek Phase-II: Illustrated. At the time, Jeff Hayes, an incredible artist in his own right, was publishing a periodic e-Magazine that took fans behind the scenes of the web series production. As I recall, he had worked out a deal with Ron Boyd—another great artist and the man who plays DeSalle in the series—to create short comics for the publication, but after the first installment Ron became too busy to continue. Jeff contacted Bill and asked him if he would like to draw the comic, and they in-turn contacted me and asked me if I’d be interested in writing it. The rest is history…and future.

6.       How do the two of you collaborate when you live in different states?

Bill:  Phone, email, smoke signals, telepathic inversion… Actually, we talk quite a bit in regard to the various projects we are working on. Today’s tech makes the distance apart basically irrelevant.

7.       In what ways have each of you been involved in Star Trek, Phase II’s episode shoots?

Bill:  I have been the Digital Ingest department head since we filmed Enemy: Starfleet and have worked as the on-site editor since Kitumba. I’ve also been a set photographer, boom man, camera operator, worked in G&E, transportation, and a whole lot of other stuff. I do prefer DI and being a camera operator and the set photographer.

Glenn:  I started as a production assistant and bit player in Blood and Fire, during which I wrangled wires, held a boom mike, moved G&E equipment, helped turn sickbay into a corridor… whatever had to be done that I could help to do. I also sat around in Starfleet uniform a lot, waiting to be needed on set to play my bit role as a red-shirt…which my character survived, by the way. The following year I worked as second assistant director and unit production manager on Enemy: Starfleet, though to be honest I barely did enough in either role to earn the titles, at least in my opinion. I missed the next few years’ shoots due to my school schedule, but last June I returned and worked as first assistant director for Bread and Savagery, in which I also briefly portrayed a pretty useless Invicta guard, and the vignette Boldly Going, in which I once more donned one of Starfleet’s red shirts. As I write this, I am working as pre-production first assistant director for the upcoming fall shoot. I recently started a new job, so I will not be able to attend, unfortunately.

Going Boldly: Glenn, Bill, and AmyBeth all worked on this one. Those are Glenn’s hands and head you see with the flag in the beginning.

8.       What is the most difficult aspect of getting through a shoot?

Bill:  Getting up there, getting the necessary funds, the days off, etc. A shoot is costly. The hardest thing about being at the shoot is trying to stay ahead of the game. As DI, I get all the shot film after the takes are done. I do leave later sometimes than the rest of the crew. I have to make sure that film is processed into our hard drives.

Glenn:  As Bill mentioned, it is costly. We all pay for our own transportation, lodging, and meals, and we are not paid for the work we do on set, but the most difficult aspect of getting through a shoot? I don’t think that I can point to any one thing and identify it as “the most difficult aspect.” The long hours can become difficult, the last-minute schedule changes can become difficult, uncooperative weather conditions can become difficult… But despite all of that and all the other little things that can pop up unexpectedly, such as exploding water pipes in the studio, I have to say that in the end, when we wrap an episode’s principle photography, it’s all worth it.

9.       What is the most rewarding aspect of participating in a Phase II shoot?

Bill:  We MADE a Star Trek episode. Indeed, I am part of a team that is doing PROFESSIONAL level television / internet webisodes. It’s really cool to see your name on the credits and it’s also fun to be making these webisodes.

Glenn:  Agreed. I guess the only thing I can add is that it’s also very rewarding to be able to come together with the whole Phase-II family each time and renew the friendships that I’ve formed with so many of them. It is because of them that working so hard at a shoot feels more like a fun adventure with friends than it does like work.

10.   In what other ways is Omniverse involved with Star Trek, Phase II?

Bill:  Omniverse came together after the Star Trek Phase II Internet magazine closed up shop. Glenn Smith and I were tasked to create an online comic book for the magazine. Our first story, Friends and Foes, written by Glenn, was supposed to be a 12-part series in the magazine. The magazine closed and we decided that we wanted to finish the story. We also decided that we wanted to do digital comics and graphic novels. It was a perfect fit. Glenn is an excellent writer and I like to draw sequential art. And we wanted to finish Friends and Foes. It’s a great story. So, in creating Omniverse, we decided to use Star Trek Phase II: Illustrated as the launching point. Issue #1 was released a month and half ago.

Glenn:  We continue to produce Star Trek Phase II: Illustrated and will for the foreseeable future. Our other titles are all our own original work or that of the writers I mentioned earlier.

11.   Do the occasional casting changes in Phase II affect the way you draw the characters?

Bill:  Yes, but I love to draw and the changes keep me on my toes.

12.   What is the flavor of The Frontiersmen?

Bill:  The Return of the Frontiersmen is both a superhero comic and a science-fiction/fantasy comic. I’m combining many different elements to try to create a solid storyline. As I am writing and drawing The Return of the Frontiersmen, Glenn is helping me by using his talents to serve as editor and sounding board.

13.   On the Omniverse website there are two icons for The Frontiersmen. Are Pathways and The Return going to come out simultaneously even though they are set in different times?

Bill:  No. Pathways is coming first. It’s a sort of Primer for RoTF. They are mini-comics ranging from six to ten pages that introduce the main characters and storylines. Pathways is a limited series whereas RoTF will be an ongoing title.

14.   The third project highlighted on the Omniverse site is The Legend of Khi-Mara, which Glenn talked about in last year’s interview. How is this project different from the others?

Glenn:  Well, let’s see. Fans of Star Trek pretty much know what to expect from a Star Trek project, and Bill has already described Pathways and Frontiersmen as essentially a superhero property. Legend of the Khi-Mara is a fantasy story that, as I mentioned earlier, will now follow The Realm as a direct sequel to that series. I don’t want to say too much about it yet because I might inadvertently provide spoilers regarding The Realm.

15.   What can you tell me about The Realm?

Glenn:  The Realm is a character-driven fantasy story about brothers who, as the story begins, are leading very different lives in different parts of a kingdom that has not known war in 500 years, at a time when an ancient evil is on the verge of arising once more. Like virtually everything else I write, it will not be intended for children. Even in the comic world, I write for adults and my work sometimes includes what the motion picture industry would consider to be adult content, violence, profanity, nudity, and sexual content.

16.   What can you tell me about Mars Vs Earth?

Bill:  Mars Vs Earth is another upcoming Sci-fi adventure title written by someone who we are not yet ready to identify that will be penciled by Rob Barnes. It’s in production now and starting to look great.

17.   Who else besides the two of you contributes to Omniverse’s many productions?

Bill:  Our colorist is Rob Barnes. He is from New Zealand and has been onboard with us since we started Star Trek Phase 2: Illustrated and Omniverse. Rob and I collaborate on designs for the pages and he will be doing some of his own pencil work for us soon. Rob is very talented and it’s fun working with him on our current projects. Rob Mauro—the G&E guru and line producer of Star Trek Phase II—is our webmaster. He is extraordinary in his help in designing our website and he and Glenn are in constant communication for updates. Charles Root is a contributing writer to our company having provided a one-off Star Trek Phase II: Illustrated story idea for us. We are also working with other people on some of the upcoming projects.

18.   Do you have expected release dates for all of these great projects?

Bill:  Pathways is due out in November and will be our first for purchase title.

Glenn:  November, if all goes well.

19.   Where do you see Omniverse headed in the future?

Bill:  With many digital comics and other multimedia projects that will be headed by Glenn and myself.

Glenn:  Where no such company has gone before.

20.   Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

Bill:  That’s an easy one: Pinky and the Brain shot first.

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About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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