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This month sees the release of a new non-fiction Star Trek book by author Joe Nazzaro, Star Trek: The Art of Neville Page. Given that, I recently interviewed him about this much-anticipated book.

What kind of background do you have and how did your Star Trek fandom begin?

I was always a sci-fi geek. I read from the time that I was two and of course I had, you know, thousands and thousands of books I read constantly, so I was always a genre guy. I picked up an interest in makeup and creature effects probably in the ’70s, not knowing that that was going to be an area that I would branch into quite heavily. And my wife, who I married in ’93, was a makeup artist who had worked on shows like Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, so we had a little bit in common there. But I didn’t necessarily know that I was going to get into this as a living until maybe the mid-’80s, when I used to write for various science fiction fan clubs.

Joe’s first book, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Makeup FX Journal

I actually did my first Star Trek book in ’91, with Mike Westmore, and it was just when I was getting started in the business. My first actual formal book contract was for that book. It was the same time as I got made redundant from my boring office supply job. My wife said, “Look, you got a contract to write your first book. Why don’t you see if you could become a a freelance writer full time and do that? That’s what you want to do anyway, and if you need to, I can lend you a little bit money, tide you over.” Although it was actually done for Starlog Press, it was Titan who bought the rights to the British printing. And in fact, I didn’t hear about the fact that Titan was doing it until it was sold out. So, I barely even got a copy of the British one. That was in ’91, so I’ve been working for several decades as a full-time journalist now.

That’s amazing. Did the experiences of writing previous Star Trek books inform how you approached writing this upcoming Neville Page book?

The Neville Page one is the fourth one that I’ve done. [After doing the Mike Westmore book], a couple of decades went by and I did another book with Joel Harlow, the makeup effects guy on Star Trek Beyond. And I think that that was more the template, in a way, for a John Eaves book that I did later and the Neville Page book, because it had the same sort of size, number of pages, and the idea of trying to use big, full-page photographs.

Joe’s books about Joel Harlow and John Eaves

The most important thing was probably that I wanted to do the books in first person, so that they were actually written from that person’s perspective, which of course is not that easy to do, because you have to make it sound like it’s in their voice. [All four books were] done first person. It can actually take a lot of time to make sure you get it right. I’ll send the first chapter off to Neville and say, “Does this sound like you?” And if he says yes, then I’m good — I hit the right note, that’s fine, and I can keep writing it. If he was to say, “Well, I don’t know, it doesn’t really sound like me at all,” then I know we got a problem. But generally speaking, I haven’t run into that difficulty.

What was the genesis of the Neville Page book?

The book had a strange genesis, in that I think — after the John Eaves book — I was looking to try and do another Star Trek book for Titan and I had suggested another sort of makeup effects book, based on Alchemy FX and the work that they were doing on Star Trek: Discovery. And at that point, I thought that Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick were partners at Alchemy, so I thought, Oh, this will be a good book. You know, we have the design aspect of Neville’s; we have the, you know, makeup end from Glenn’s. And Titan sort of went away and considered that for a while.

Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick

I don’t know if Neville and Glenn had some sort of a falling out. Something happened, and I was never told exactly what happened. But suddenly, Titan said, “We don’t want to do one book, but we think we’re going to do two books. So we’ll do a Neville Page book and we’ll do a Glenn Hetrick Alchemy book, and you can do the Alchemy book.” And I said, “Well, how about letting me do the Neville Page book as well? Because I was planning to do this as one and if it’s going to be two, I’m happy to do both books.” It went along that way for a number of months before they finally came back and said yes. So, it was sort of a strange genesis of one possible book splitting up into two projects.

This book was actually finished during the pandemic and it was sitting in Titan’s offices for a long time, because they kept waiting for all the photos to get it done. That took forever, and it was completely out of my hands. So, I think in a way the book is a little bit more dated than I would like it to be, particularly the last season of Picard, although we did manage to get some designs for the Borg Queen in there, so that was good. It was a bit of relief, but you don’t wanna hand in a book and then it doesn’t come out for two years and people look at it and go, “Oh man, that’s old.

A two-page guide to the Borg from the new book

Originally, was there any consideration to having this book cover Neville Page’s art in general or was it always geared towards being solely about his Star Trek work?

I think the pitch was, basically, it was always going to be a Star Trek book, and I think Titan had it in mind to make it the same sort of size and look of the Harlow book and the John Eaves book.

I had originally written the first chapter to have a lot of introductory material about Neville’s work prior to Star Trek, so it would have covered a lot of the films and stuff like that. It was a pretty large first chapter, but I guess they didn’t want to use too much of it. They ended up cutting that chapter way back, so that chapter one is just sort of a basic introduction that sort of gets [the reader] through as fast as possible and then, boom, we go right into Star Trek.

A two-page spread from the new book, all about Federation fighter spacecraft

Reading about his other design work, I thought it was really quite interesting to read that Neville Page has designed cars and stuff like that — you know, significantly different from the film and TV industry. Also, you’re talking about the first chapter, and I was wondering if there will be a foreword to the book or not.

I always try to get somebody interesting to do a foreword. So, I said to Neville, “Who do you think we could get?” Like, on the Joel Harlow book, for example, we got one of the actors from Star Trek Beyond, which I thought was a good idea. So, I always want to put something in there that might interest people. And so Neville said, “Well, how about Alex Kurtzman? You know, because getting one of the main producers on Star Trek to write the foreword would be a good thing.” And I said, “I don’t know Alex that well.” I mean, literally the first time I interviewed Alex was like two or three decades ago, when he was a writer on Xena. That’s how long ago it was. So I said, “If you can get him, that’s fine.” And he went, “Yep.

I suggested that we get Mike Westmore to do the afterword, because I’ve obviously been in touch with Michael for decades and there was the connection from Face Off; they had worked together on Face Off for years. So, I just picked up the phone and called Michael and said, “Would you do the afterword?” And he said, “Yeah, sure.” So, we’ve got a foreword by Kurtzman and an afterword by Mike Westmore.

Wow, that’s amazing! How much time were you permitted to speak with Neville Page while writing the book?

Well, some people are very organized, because these books are usually done by telephone. So, you say, “Okay, let’s put, you know, an hour or two aside on a Sunday morning,” and you generally go through it that way. I sort of figure we go through for maybe an hour or so on the phone and then say, “Okay, when can we next get together again? And hopefully, we can next do these characters,” and you sort of give them an idea of what we’re going to go through.

So, I would say there’s no set amount of time. It’s sort of like… it takes as much time as it takes to get it done. But I would say probably twelve hours, if you took all the time. You know, because some of it is, you’re not talking about the characters. Sometimes you’re just talking about life in general and small talk and stuff like that. I’d say somewhere between ten and twelve hours of actual time devoted to the characters. And then I go off and I transcribe all that material and then I sit down and I write it, with Neville’s voice in mind.

While writing the book, what notes or recommendations did your editor or publisher give you to help guide the process?

There wasn’t anything to start with, because basically you sort of pitch them the idea. I remember having lunch with my editor in London when we started, to sort of go over things and make sure we were sort of on the same page. We went through the proposal, and then I went off and did my thing.

The problem sometimes is you hand it in and you hope that it’s going to go through with no problem. So, the book that I did with Joel Harlow, for example, I had, like, no notes at all. They said, “Fine, perfect, go ahead.” And I was like, Oh, that’s the easiest book I’ve ever written in my life! Then, the John Eaves book had lots of notes from Paramount, because the guy who was in charge of looking at the book was actually friends with John and he wanted to know a lot more, so I had to go back in and do a lot of rewriting. And then with the Neville Page book, the main problem — if it was a problem — was they said it was too long. So, they said, “We need you to cut it down quite a bit, mainly the first chapter,” which wasn’t a Star Trek chapter anyway. So, that was basically it — it was just sort of cutting it down.

Sometimes, they might have small things that you might have to drop because — being a licensed book, your license through Paramount — they don’t want you to be critical of anything or anybody. If you put in something that might be construed as critical, they might say, “Take it out.

So, there are a couple of references to a particular producer who had made suggestions for a character that went through big changes and they said, “Take his name out.” And so, I’d remove the name and I’d say “one of the producers,” which isn’t really a big deal. You know, you could say that, on the record, “one of the producers” had some outlandish ideas for Discovery, including the idea of Saru with countless eyes. Of course, that would never work, because you’re not going to put a main character on the bridge with a dozen animatronic eyes and cables to operate, going off in all different directions, or spending a fortune for digital augmentation to make all the eyes blink. That same producer had some outlandish ideas about the new Klingons, including the idea that they literally had eyes on the back of their heads, which made them the ultimate predator. And of course, that idea didn’t go anywhere either.

A two-page Klingon guide from the forthcoming book

Regarding the design sketches of the many-eyed Saru, some of that art was already used in an Art of Star Trek: Discovery book by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block. Did you have to consider making your Neville Page book different from that book?

The short answer from my perspective is no, because when I was doing my book, I wasn’t even aware that Terry and Paula were doing an “art of” book. If somebody had said at the time, “Oh, by the way, there’s going to be a book that might overlap yours,” I might be concerned. But I think ignorance was probably bliss, because I had zero idea what was going to go into their book.

The Art of Star Trek: Discovery, by Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann

And as far as Saru, the only thing I had seen at the point that Neville and I talked about it was one picture from the original makeup test that was online. I didn’t even know if Paramount would give us permission to use anything in the book anyway. So frankly, when I got my copy of the book for the first time and I saw there was like three pages of the original Saru design and the picture, I was delighted because I didn’t even know that we are going to be able to use any of this. I didn’t even know if it existed, to be honest.

Speaking of the images in this book, where did they come from and how easy or difficult was it to sort through them?

When I started the book, my main initial source was Neville himself. If you’re talking about somebody that’s designing things, you have to get most of your material from the designer. What we did with the book, funnily enough, was that, once we got started, I said, “Send me files of all the designs that you did for the various characters.” Having that as my sort of jumping-off point, I could then look at those designs and then go back and look at the various episodes and ask questions about them, so I was basically going to match up the designs and photographs to the stories about doing them and then, you know, we added as time went on. But basically, I had this huge file that was sent to me on Dropbox and I downloaded it, went through it and made my list of all the characters that I knew we had pictures of and then worked backwards from that.

A two-page guide about Molly, an alien creature from the third season of Star Trek: Discovery

The problem that I knew was going to be a problem with this book was that, when people are designing digitally, a lot of stuff — these 3D sculptures and stuff — all look sort of the same; it’s a lot of gray monochrome sculpture. I couldn’t imagine doing a whole book like that, because it would look really samey, so I knew we had to get pictures hopefully of the finished characters, which would probably come from Paramount.

Normally if you’re doing a makeup effects book, that’s not really a problem, because you could start with designs, and then you have maybe pictures of the guys sitting there sculpting the character, and then you have pictures of them creating the prosthetic makeups, and then you have pictures of them on set. Whereas with this, I didn’t think we were going to necessarily have that luxury. So, we did have to get a lot of sort of final on-set pictures from Paramount. I hadn’t seen any of that stuff because that all came in after the book was handed in.

Do you know how many total images there are in the book?

I was going to count them and I haven’t done it yet, but I would say there’s got to be between 100 and 200. The thing that I really wanted to do with these books is… if you’re putting a big coffee table book together, you know that the people who are going to buy it — either Star Trek fans or people who are into makeup effects or design — want to see big full-page pictures if they can, because they want to study the details. I found this out on one of my previous books, that people who are like Star Trek cosplayers, they want to buy the book because they study the pictures in detail, so that they can make their own costume replicas. So, I always thought, Well, ideally let’s do this character so that one side of the page is the text and maybe a couple of little designs — little pictures and things — and then the opposite page is a full-page picture. And then of course, you have to make sure that you’ve got enough pictures that can be blown up to full page, and I was happy that we did.

Neville Page with his… elaborately detailed… Klingon Torchbearer suit

With some characters in the book — like the Klingon Torchbearer suit — I knew we had a ton of images and I knew that Neville wanted to put a lot of that in, so that you can see details of all the different parts of the armor. So, I think that was like four or six pages in the book, and a ton of detail. But off the top of my head, I’d say [the total is] probably a couple hundred pictures.

Cool. In addition to the work that Neville Page has done on Star Trek films and TV series, he also redesigned the Gorn for one of the Star Trek video games. I wondered if that is covered in the book, or was it considered too peripheral to be included?

No, I didn’t ask him about it and it never came up in conversation. But the reason that things like that maybe weren’t followed through dates back to when I was doing the John Eaves book… and this relates to how many changes and so forth were done. We did a whole chapter, John and I, on all the peripheral stuff that he worked on that was all Star Trek. There was a lot of it, whether it was calendars, model kits, toys and things like that. That whole chapter was actually cut from the book, so there’s literally a whole chapter — with illustrations of all the Star Trek ship model kits that John had worked on — completely gone. So, I figured we probably wouldn’t talk about anything that was peripheral.

The only thing that’s sort of on the border of that was some of the stuff that Neville designed for some of the Star Trek: Short Treks episodes. And a lot of that sort of segwayed in, because if you’re going to be talking about the Kelpians, well, there was a Kelpian Short Trek that came out before the big Kelpian episode, and they sort of segwayed into each other. I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a peripheral thing, but that’s about as close as we got.

Were there any eye-opening discoveries that you made while writing the book?

I don’t think I discovered a lot, per se, because a lot of it comes down to hopefully you’ve done your research and you’ve done your homework, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but like I said the more discovery was when the final book arrived in my lap and I looked at some of the images that were in there. That was a bit of a discovery. Certainly, like I said, the multi-eyed Saru thing was a big revelation to me, because I’d never seen some of those pictures. So, sometimes there’s an aspect of discovery in terms of the book you hand in and then the one that comes out and you look at it and go, Oh, I didn’t know it was going to look like this. And hopefully they’re all going to be happy discoveries, not unpleasant ones.

So what would you say is the best part about the book?

I like the idea of having these big behind-the-scenes art books that people who are Star Trek fans can enjoy and, like I said, be able to look at characters literally down to the smallest detail and find out how these characters were designed and constructed. I think that that’s an area that, in a lot of making-of books, often gets overlooked. You know, they usually do the same thing. They go, “Okay, we’re going to do production design, costume design, makeup, special effects, props.” You know, it’s like a checklist of everything that they have to cover. My interest in makeup effects and creature effects informs a lot of these books that I do, because I look at them as books that I would like to see as a fan of that area.

A couple of pages about the Talosians from the new book

So, certainly with the Neville Page book, I think it works for people who are interested in design. I think it’s good for people who are interested in makeup effects and creature effects. I think it’s good for people who want to learn about designing by computer and people who are just Star Trek fans who want to learn more behind-the-scenes stuff about their favorite movies and shows.

Can you tell us some more about the book regarding Glenn Hetrick and Alchemy FX Studios?

I’ve finished that one and it’s been handed into Titan a few months ago. I guess that’ll have to wait for a while until the sales for this book have sort of died down and they’re ready to do the next one. I don’t know what we’ll call it, but I guess it’s the Art of Alchemy FX book. I assume that’s going to be my next book, as far as Star Trek is concerned.

Have they given you an NDA, meaning you can’t talk about the Glenn Hetrick book?

It did have an NDA, but it was only because I knew there was going to be a big wait time for the book to come out, and I knew that we are going to have to talk about the next season, the last season of Discovery, which hasn’t aired yet. And so, in order to make Glenn feel good about talking about it — that he was protected — he wanted me to sign something with Titan and with Paramount to say that I wouldn’t talk about Discovery Season 5 with anybody else. So, I did [sign that], but I didn’t feel that I had to necessarily because, if you’re doing the licensed book with Titan, I figured you automatically had a sort of a built-in NDA to not talk about something.

Does that mean that the Glenn Hetrick book will be released after the fifth season?

Judging from the amount of time that it takes to get these books out, I would say probably. And I was trying to avoid one of the mistakes that was made with the Neville Page book, [specifically the long wait time between its writing and publication].

My final question is: are there any other projects that you’d like to talk about currently?

I’ve finished a book which is the biography of a very well known makeup artist named Dick Smith, and we’re in the middle of putting that one together right now. It’s been done for some time, and we’re literally just finishing putting in the images and so forth, so I’m hoping that comes out at the end of the year or maybe the beginning of next year. And then I’m dusting off a bunch of other books that I want to do for various genre projects, including a British fantasy series called Neverwhere that came out in the ’90s, because I actually covered that for the BBC while it was being filmed. They decided not to do a making-of book and they said, “Go ahead and write one if you want to.” So, I’m finishing it up, so I can send it out to a couple of publishers, and then a couple of other makeup projects and maybe another book on a show called Blake’s 7 that I covered for many years, so I’ve got a few irons in the fire, some that are hot and some that are lukewarm, but you never know which one’s going to come up next.

Star Trek: The Art of Neville Page is available for pre-order now and will be released on 8ᵗʰ August.

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