Exclusive: Richard Hatch on his new sci-fi short film, Loadout: Going in Hot

Loadout Richard Hatch

Loadout: Going in Hot is the latest live-action short film adapted from a videogame by Wayside Creations, with Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch on board to star. Hatch plays Captain Gaz, leader of a ragtag crew of "space merchant marines" who deal in antiquities and curios -- but find themselves constantly competing with other local haulers to get their hands on the goods. The short builds upon the third-person shooter published by Edge of Reality and paves the way for a potential new space-opera series.

Hatch, of course, is best known to sci-fi fans as Captain Apollo on the original 1978 Battlestar, and as Tom Zarek in the 2003 remake, as well as for penning several Galactica novels. But Hatch is no stranger to the new and evolving worlds of online content: In addition to doing Loadout, he also played the Klingon commander Kharn in the crowdfunded Star Trek short Prelude to Axanar, which has been so successful that a full-length feature called Star Trek: Axanar -- with Hatch returning as Kharn -- is now in preproduction. He's also ventured into steampunk alongside Malcolm McDowell and Walter Koenig in the short film Cowboys and Engines.

We had a chance to chat with Hatch via phone (while he was on his way to a sci-fi convention in Biloxi) to discuss Loadout, his championing of online and crowdfunded content and what's happening with Battlestar Galactica.

Blastr: What drew you to appearing in this short? What can you tell me about it about working on it? 

Richard Hatch: First of all, I thought there had not been a sci-fi space show out there, because just about every one of them has been off the air for several years now and there's not been a show out there like Loadout, which is really a combination of Firefly and Galaxy Quest. It's unlike any other show. It's a dramedy, it's fun, which sci-fi fans love. They love a show that's part drama, part comedy and like Galaxy Quest, which was so successful and crossed over to your average demographic. It didn't even have to be a hardcore sci-fi audience; everybody loves Galaxy Quest, and I think this has this delicious quality of the little guys trying to find a way to out-strategize and out-think the bigger guy, who has more money, more guns, more weapons, and is more dangerous. [My character] has this little broken-down ship with his quirky crew of nerds, each a specialist in their own way. And like Galaxy Quest, each character is really well designed, deliciously well drawn, and the comedy comes out of the moments and comes out of the relationships and the dialogue between these characters. It's not like joke-type comedy, it's kind of situation-based comedy, and it's got this perfect blend of drama and comedy and action, which I think sci-fi fans just eat up. So that's why I think it's got this unique quality that could make it very successful.

So, these characters are very much like the characters in Serenity or something like Alien -- they're blue-collar workers out in space.

It's kind of like that. It's this really, really young quirky crew, and each one has got their own little unique talents. This one guy, his name is Snacks and he crates all these weapon systems, but he doesn't know how to use a weapon himself at all, so he's almost blowing himself up half the time. My character's got this misogynistic love-hate relationship with his broken-down ship. He screams, he yells at it, he cajoles it. It's the number-one relationship in his life. And then the second one is trying to keep his whole crazy crew together, keep them on line and moving forward to accomplish what they've got to do, which is to find a way to deliver their commodities and outsmart the big bad guys in this universe. 

I think what makes it cool is that it's not one of those apocalyptic projects where everything's the end of the world, this is just life in a very volatile universe where everybody is trying to make a living ... I loved the writing. I love the relationship, the chemistry of the characters, and who knows where this can go? I think Wayside and Machinima are finding new formats and new ways to deliver content to the audience more directly and doing it in different ways, outside the normal business model.

Videogames are notoriously hard to translate to the screen. Had you looked at the game beforehand, and did you see that this could make that jump where others maybe had not made the jump as well?

Let me tell you what I think the problem in the past was: They would take a successful series, but the game technology wasn't all that exciting or interesting, and those games didn't do all that well. In this case, they're taking a successful game and they're doing a live-action version of it. So what's nice about this is you take a game that's basically got the story, it's got the game technology, and it's got the characters, but they're not fully fleshed out, and that's what usually happens with these gamers' imaginations -- he fills in the blanks, fleshes out the characters and starts to make that into something that is an interesting world that he wants to participate in. In this case, I got the script, but had not seen the game, so I had nothing to compare it with. I got a script breakdown, and just like I always do, I look at the character, the relationships, the dialogue, and I delve into who this guy is and what makes him tick. And then what's wonderful about creating a character for the first time is the collaboration, just like on Battlestar, where you take the rudiments of that character on the written page and you breathe life into it. You add dimension to it. You add things to it. It evolves into something more than what's on the page.

Is it challenging to create a fully fleshed character in the short film format? You don't have one or two hours, or at least not yet, a series to explore this character.

Even if you had only three lines, even though it's not written on the page, you, the actor, have to go and become a story writer. You've got to fill in a backstory and a subtext. Who is this guy? Why is he here? All that stuff that may not be in the script; you've got to build that in your imagination so when those lines come out, it comes out of a real living breathing character who has a purpose, who has a reason for being there and is connected to a life. That's not always in the script; that's where the actor learns to bring that, through their craft and imagination. 

You touched on this a little bit before -- this is appearing online via Machinima, and you've been involved in other online and even crowdfunded projects as well. What are your views on all this original material that is being generated through these new formats? Do you think this is healthy, not just for fans and for pop culture but also for working actors?

I think we are in a perfect storm of social, economic, philosophical change in a way that very few people realize. I mean, business models are changing, and old business models are falling apart. We're finding new ways of funding, new ways of shooting, new ways of delivering a product directly to the audience. Sometimes you bypass the old distribution channels. Sometimes there's a relationship with a network or a studio who recognize there are a lot of gifted, talented people out there who are creating their own networks online. I just think it's the wave of the future, and I think this show is right on the cutting edge of where it's all going. It's a very exciting time where a lot of really creative people are getting a shot to develop stories and present them and see what the audience thinks. And if the audience likes it, now they've got something that they can build to the next level, and maybe some cable channel might want to pick it up and make it part of their programming. Or they're just going to do it directly online, build up that business model and find a way to be very successful catering to a much smaller audience than what a network normally needs.

Is there a plan to make Loadout an ongoing series?

I'm not exactly sure what the plan is, but I do think they're planning on doing an ongoing series. I don't know exactly how that format will evolve, whether there will be longer episodes or short episodes, but I think it's kind of a foray into exploring all the creative ways that you can create programming that doesn't necessarily have to follow traditional formats. 

What's new on the Battlestar Galactica front? I read that you were interested in doing something with crowdfunding. Anything happening on that front or with the proposed movie?

[Original BSG creator] Glen Larson just passed away, and he had the film rights, and I know that he had a deal at Universal and they were developing a script at one point with Bryan Singer for a feature. And now that Glen died, I think the rights are still part of the family, and I think that they're still moving forward. I don't know exactly who's involved, but I think that they are still in development in creating a Battlestar Galactica movie, which I think would be phenomenal. I played the original Battlestar TV movie on IMAX for a convention up at Universal several years back, and it looked amazing, except for the matte paintings. And I know that one of the CGI guys who worked on both the old and new show has done a whole bunch of new CGI for the original, and he's got excerpts online, and I think he's trying to work out a deal where he can basically redo all the special effects for the original Battlestar. So I think in the next couple of years you're going to see a new Battlestar movie, and you'll probably see maybe another edition of the original Battlestar with all-new special effects. Lots of things are happening in that regard. 

And then I think you'll see these fan films, which have grown and grown and grown. Axanar, which is a project I'm involved in, is probably the most ambitious. It's a groundbreaking Star Trek indie film on the level of a studio production. I have never seen anything like it. They've raised a lot of money online, and they first created Prelude to Axanar. You can go online and watch it -- it's 21 minutes. And now they've raised a tremendous amount of money, and they're building sets and renting studios, and they're going to be filming in the next couple of months, and it's all professionals from top to bottom. They can pay everybody. They can pay for the full production.

Paramount lets them do it as long as there's no profit involved. So the full feature is moving forward and you're going to reprise your role -- do you have any idea when that might start shooting?

I think they're going to start shooting in March/April. They're doing a second Kickstarter now. They're very smart. They've done it in stages. They got money to make the prelude, which turned into something pretty phenomenal, and then they raised another million dollars off that. They're doing another one for additional sets and post-production and all the other stuff they have to do. I think eventually, as things get to this level, there's no reason why studios won't license these things and do revenue sharing and distribute it in multiple different formats. I would love to do the same thing for Battlestar. I would love to see a production done on the level that they're doing with Axanar for Battlestar. In the beginning, obviously, it will be done like a fan film, but if I was involved I would have all professionals doing it. So again we would bring all the expertise to bear. There are a lot of talented people out there who are big Battlestar/Star Trek fans, and they're willing to come on board for much, much less money and do very, very high-quality work. So you can get a lot value for a lot less money, and these productions can be followed by millions of fans. 

Loadout: Going in Hot is online now via Machinima, and you can watch it below:

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