Canada takes off with Shatner’s “Captains”

Ahead of tonight's Canadian premiere of The Captains, a William Shatner-directed doc about the actors who played starship captains on the Star Trek franchise, exec producer Craig Thompson talks to realscreen about the process of financing and launching the doc. (Pictured: Shatner with actor Patrick Stewart)
October 20, 2011

Ahead of the October 20 Canadian premiere of The Captains, a William Shatner-directed doc about the actors who played starship captains on the Star Trek franchise, executive producer Craig Thompson talks about signing up distribution rights to the doc and the process of finding the right broadcasters for the project.

Ballinran Entertainment president Craig Thompson met William Shatner during the DocFest Stratford film festival in 2009, where he was in attendance for his doc Gonzo Ballet, at a time when Shatner was trying to get The Captains off the ground.

Thompson agreed to come on board, alongside Le Big Boss Productions, to raise money and sign up broadcasters for the project. “We pitched the project to the networks that had the network rights to various Star Trek properties, so Epix in the States was very interested in packaging it. It wasn’t hard, but it took a long time to get the money together,” he tells realscreen.

Epix, the joint venture premium channel from Viacom, MGM, and Lionsgate, picked up the U.S. rights to the  90-minute feature doc, and aired it in July. The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada own the English-speaking rights, and will premiere the doc tonight (October 20), while French-speaking network Canal D,in Quebec will follow on November 13.

The doc sees Shatner, who portrayed James T. Kirk in the 1960s version of TV series Star Trek, meeting and interviewing other actors who played starship captains, including Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation; Kate Mulgrew, who was Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager; and Chris Pine, who played James T. Kirk in the 2009 film reboot of Star Trek.

“It’s not just about Star Trek, it’s really an intimate look at the men and woman who played starship captains,” Thompson explains. “It’s very much a discussion of the actor’s craft as well as the personal stories behind what goes into the careers that made these people so famous.”

He adds that the team is in final talks with a major distributor right now for international rights, although currently Ballinran Entertainment owns the major distribution rights. “We’ve got North America sold but we do have a lot of interest internationally and expect to do very well in a lot of territories.

Star Trek is a worldwide phenomenon but it’s a topic that goes beyond Star Trek. It’s a very emotional, introspective portrait of all of these people. It’s interesting that Bill is investigating his own life’s work through these conversations,” he says.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.