Above: Robert's friends 'Mark' (Eric McCormack) and Sean try to convince Claire to come back to Robert, who they fear has become terminally depressed. The 'speech' made by Mark to Claire -- a plea to return to Robert -- is reminescent of a speech made by Captain Kirk in a Star Trek episode. Free Enterprise is full of such 'gems' from throughout the science fiction genre.

Eventually she confronts him and the breakup scene is at sunset, on this hillside, facing the ocean.

Above: In the meantime, Bill has a great idea. A three-hour, musical version of William Shakespear's 'Julius Caesar', in which he plays all the parts. Here, he 'pitches' the idea in a smoky, dim-lit bar.

Robert and Claire have much in common, but Claire begins to see how irresponsible Robert really is. 

Above: The woman Robert has fallen for is 'Claire', played by Audie England.

Robert and 'Sean', played by Patrick Van Horn, are regulars at the club and spend lots of time chasing women together. But Robert meets someone special and begins to abandon Sean and other male friends.

Above: Marlena, the club owner, played by Debra Van Valkenberg, is aproached by Bill, who has finally -- with Robert's encourgement -- mustered the courage to talk to her.  But Bill has had a bit too much to drink.  Despite heroic effort, Marlena shoots him down in flames.

Above: Bill (Shatner) and Robert (Rafer Weigel) check out the scene at The Garden of Eden, one of  the clubs where Robert and his friends hang out. Robert has just learned that his fantasy hero has trouble meeting women, so he's trying to help him out.

brightness.  This over­exposed Shatner by five stops and his background by 13 stops.  I knew that the resulting over-exposure of the background would be so severe that no image would be visible in the foreground either, in spite of the fact that Shatner was wearing dark clothes.  Then, on a count of five, we began dimming the screen and stopping the lens down toward f 5.6.  I set the low end of the screen brightness at f 22, so that it was about 3 stops over-exposed at its darkest.  I felt this would be enough over-exposure to keep the background from reading too 'warm' due to the low color temperature of the dimmed tungsten source.  But I felt it would not be so much over-exposure that it would harm the image of Shatner which, by then, would be normally exposed.
I put Shatner in front of an 8-foot x 8-foot sheet of 3M 7610 front projection screen, approximately 30 feet away from the camera, on an 85mm lens.  The camera and beam-splitter assembly were mounted on a geared head.  The screen and Shatner were then lit, through the beam-splitter, with a 1k Baby on a Variac dimmer. ​Shooting with Kodak Vision 5277, rated at El 200, I got a reflective reading from the screen of better than f 2.8 across the entire field, when the dimmer was up full.  At this maximum setting, the incident reading on Shatner was a mere f 4.  I then lit Shatner so that he was keyed to an f 8. The shot starts with the taking lens wide open at f 1.3 and the screen at full 
The effect worked beautifully.  When we saw the dailies, it was as if watching a finished effects shot.  From a blindingly white field, in which there is not the faintest hint of an image, the shape begins to appear. It's amorphous at first, but quickly gathers form and then, suddenly, it is a fully formed, normal image of Shatner, looking as though he is standing in 'white' limbo. At that point, we cut to the high angle, wide shot of Shatner and the boy. This was done on a stage, in front of a white cyc.  It was lit from above with a single 5K Xenon Arc, with 4x4 bead board bounce fill for the close-ups. How does it end?  Well, the rest of the sequence is dialogue between Shatner and the kid.  Shatner tries to talk the kid out of fighting.  But when the kid tells him the fight started because the bully said, "Hans Solo was better than Captain Kirk," Shatner tells the kid to "kick the little f_ _ _ er's ass.”  Cut to reality, back to the fight: The kid wakes up and beats the tar out of the bully.

Cheap Tricks

An Inexpensive "In Camera" Special Effects Shot For "Free Enterprise"

There is a scene in the prologue of Free Enterprise where one of the characters goes to school dressed in a Star Trek uniform. The school bully picks a fight with him and knocks him silly. While unconscious, the boy dreams that Captain Kirk has appeared in front of him, to give him advice about what to do.

​The director, Robert Burnett, wanted Shatner to appear in the kid's POV, "out of pure whiteness," and take full form in one con­tinuous shot lasting about five seconds.  Since the kid has just been knocked silly, it makes sense that his POV would be a totally white field at first.  This would not be a difficult effect for any normally budgeted film, but Free Enterprise was not a normally budgeted feature.  If  I could do this effect 'in-camera", utilizing "front projection", as I knew I could, it would look great and not cost anything extra. Producers love stuff like that.

Around 1983 or so I designed and built a com­pact, lightweight front projection system to create an in-camera effect for Automan, a Glenn Larson/20th Century Fox TV series.  I decided I could use the front projector to do this effect.

Last Update: 1/27/14                      Web Author: Chuck Barbee
© 1998 Charles L. Barbee - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


The camera package was an Arri BL 4s and a set of 5 Ziess Super Speed primes, consisting of the 18, 25, 35, 50 and 85 mm lenses, plus a 135 mm Ziess, t2.0.  Director Robert Burnett and I like to use primes only, because if forces us to really think through choices about where we're putting the lens, what focal length we're using and how we're moving the camera and/or actors.  Too often, with a zoom lens, we end up zooming when we should be moving the camera or simply adjusting the blocking.

Shatner gives them nothing but wrong advice on subjects like love and the theater: Shatner confides the mission he considers his personal final frontier -- an epic musical on Julius Caesar. 'I know it's a ridiculous idea to do Caesar as a six-hour musical, with me playing all the parts,' says Shatner, 'but I know I can pull it off!"

The film culminates with Shatner belting out the historical rap tune 'No Tears for Caesar.' The pic is directed by...Robert Meyer Burnett from a script he wrote with Mark a. Altman, and Shatner follows John Malkovich -- booked to star in 'Being John Malkovich' -- as a good sport not above poking fun as his serious onscreen image."

Notes on the Photography

[Arri BL4a with 1,000 ft. mag & 85mm lens.] I photographed "Free Enterprise" on Eastman Kodak's Vision 320T (5277) for tungsten balanced interiors and night exteriors, 250D (5274) for daylight balanced interiors and EXR 50D (5245) for day exteriors.   When we shot pickups and night 2nd unit, I used Vision 500T (5279) to keep the lighting to an absolute minimum.  I'm really in love with the Vision stocks, especially 74 and 77.

From Daily Variety, June 9th, 1998, 
"Dish", by Michael Fleming:

"SHATNER RETURNS: Distributors will get their first peek on Thursday at 'Free Enterprise,' a film...that is reminiscent of 'My Favorite Year," and undoubtedly boasts the oddest moment in William Shatner's singing career since his hallucinogenic '60's rendition 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.'

The film, produced by Mindfire Entertainment, toplines Rafer Weigel ('Jenny') and Eric McCormack as two 'Star Trek'-obsessed screenwriter wannabes who meet Shatner while he's perusing porn in a bookstore. Capt. Kirk agrees to become their mentor, but they find his brain operating at warped speed.