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(written from a Production point of view)
Edward "Ed(die)" K. Milkis (16 July 1931 – 14 December 1996; age 65) was a Hollywood film and television producer hailing from Los Angeles. He began his Star Trek career as post-production supervisor on Star Trek: The Original Series, before ultimately being promoted to associate producer in early 1968 for the show's third season. He went on to briefly become a post-production producer for Star Trek: The Next Generation during pre-production of that show's pilot, "Encounter at Farpoint".
Milkis had already been repeatedly asked in 1964 by Gene Roddenberry – who had known him from the MGM The Lieutenant series on which he served as assistant editor – to work on the first Star Trek pilot, "The Cage", but he had to decline as he was not available at the time. (Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, p. 88)
Two years later, though, the near-debacle with the opticals or special effects (as visual effects – VFX – were still called at the time), VFX company Howard A. Anderson Company were producing at the time for the first regular production episode, "The Corbomite Maneuver", and which caused the nervous breakdown of its CEO, Darrell Anderson, constituted a serious crisis and a desperate Roddenberry, now acutely aware that the show was in dire need of a dedicated VFX supervisor, again contacted Milkis.
Milkis recalled, "One afternoon he called and wanted to see me. I agreed to see him the next day and Gene said, "No, no, I mean NOW! Tonight." I left my office and went to Desilu where I met with Gene, Bob Justman and Herb Solow. Herb was head of Desilu and I had met Bob briefly at MGM some years before. Gene told me he was having problems with the post-production and they thought that their air dates were in jeopardy. Gene asked if I would come to work after a somewhat lengthy conversation." Declining at first, on the basis that he was a film editor and that he did not had any experience with supervising any of the post-production aspects, Milkis relented, "Confidently, Gene said, "Yes, you do. You do know how to do it" and literally the next day, I was there." (Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, p. 88)
As post-production supervisor, officially credited as "Assistant to the Producer" for the first two seasons, Milkis started work on the show on 31 August 1966, being responsible for the VFX, as well as serving as the primary liaison between all the effects houses and the studio. From season two onward, he officially took over the supervising duties of all other post-production work from Post-production Executive Bill Heath (credited for having done so for the first two pilots and the entirety of the first season), who, as a studio executive, proved to be unsuited for the position. From an organizational point of view, this was a pivotal moment as post-production oversight was transferred from the purview of the studio to the production proper. Heath, an uninitiated, classic, old school studio staffer and incidentally responsible for Anderson's nervous breakdown by continuously disallowing his VFX proposals for budgetary reasons, was in over his head for a show as challenging as Star Trek was, by far the most technically sophisticated hitherto produced for television.
As was discovered by Roddenberry and Justman at the start of the regular series following the VFX debacle, the show was far better served if post-production was situated closer to the actual production under specialized supervision. The format was adhered to ever since in Star Trek, and, as time progressed, adopted in the rest of the motion picture industry as well.
It was soon realized that the effects demands for a recurrent show like Star Trek, the most effects-laden television show in history up to that point in time, far exceeded the capacity and capabilities of the one single VFX company Desilu Studios hitherto employed, or any other for that matter. Together with Producer Robert Justman, Milkis searched for and employed virtually every other Hollywood effects house in existence at the time to divide the VFX workload for the new science fiction show.
Described as "cool, calm, and totally unflappable", Milkis became a key production staffer and was invaluable to Justman, who stated that he "saved our bacon" on many occasions, having further added, "Without Eddie Milkis we couldn't have gotten it done. He came along at just the right time. It was Gene and myself doing the show, and there was no staff. There was nothing, We were physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted by the time we were halfway through the first season.". A very appreciative Justman rewarded Milkis by promoting him to associate producer, officially credited as such, at the start of the third season of the series. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, p. 262: These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One, 1st ed, p. 265)
Still, Milkis has admitted that the VFX aspect of his work was the most daunting one, "Each time a script would call for a new ship, either Starfleet or alien, it sent shudders up my back. It was extremely difficult to get a miniature designed, built in a size which we could afford to make and shoot and have enough detail to meet our creative standards. Of all the post visual effects problems, time and dollar pressures probably showed mostly in this area." The ever decreasing budgets for the Original Series was something that irked Milkis to no end, "Another television show on the Desilu lot, Mission Impossible, was relegated a bigger budget than Star Trek, even though our show was the more difficult one to produce in our minds. The deal Desilu made with CBS [note: for Mission] was better than the deal they were able to make with NBC. NBC never understood Star Trek. They moved it around to different time slots in the three seasons it was on the air on three different nights." (Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, pp. 88-89)
In 1993 Milkis has described a typical working day for him in more detail:
"I was working from about five-thirty in the morning until midnight, or even sometimes later. That's because throughout the first season, we were desperately short on traveling shots of the Enterprise. Y'know, we needed generic shots of the ship flying across the screen, or toward camera, and we also had to shoot a lot of script-specific stuff as well. And as you know, we really worked with two different miniatures. One that was about three feet long, and we'd use that whenever we needed a pod to blow out or to launch a shuttlecraft or whatever. Basically, whenever we needed to customize or damage the model, we'd use the small guy. We'd never do that kind of stuff to the big one; we needed to preserve her.Charged with the post-production editing of the last third season episodes, and residing on an otherwise empty studio lot, Milkis was the very last production staffer to leave the Original Series, long after everybody else, cast, support and production staff alike, had unceremoniously left the production. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, pp. 413-414)
"Actually, the big model had lights running all around the saucer area and was loaded with detail. It was really intricate. It was also eleven feet long, and impossible to shoot. It was just too big. Anyway, after a full day of running from lab to lab and spending some time in the editing room, I'd had to go over to a place called Film Effects [note: one of the additional VFX houses Milkis and Justman brought in], where we had a guy named Linwood Dunn shooting our miniatures. They had a big stage there, and the first thing we did was to paint the whole thing blue. That's because we knew we'd be doing "blue-screen" effects, which basically allowed us to shoot the ship, the remove this blue-paint background and add in an outer-space panorama.
"Anyway, we generally hung the ship about four feet off the floor, and they ran dolly tracks for the camera across right underneath it. Then we'd shoot, and if the ship was supposed to look like it was flying toward camera, we'd just dolly in toward the front, then pan away at the last possible second. When we got back to the lab, took out the blue added a background and processed that shot, it'd look like the ship was "flying" right into camera. We'd do the same kind of thing whenever the ship was supposed to fly across the screen. If we shot film and dollied left, the ship appeared t move to the right, and vice versa. This wasn't really a new process, it was just hard to do, because you could either do it perfectly or not at all. If the color of the ship wasn't precisely right or if your lighting was slightly off, the shot wouldn't work. You'd end up not being able to remove the original blue background. You were either perfect or dead. One screwup, and the whole night's work would be wasted." (Star Trek Memories, 1994, pp. 240-241)
Two decades later, in early October 1986, Milkis, together with Original Series co-workers Justman, David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana were brought back by Roddenberry to form the original production nucleus to help out with the pre-production of The Next Generation. (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, pp. 9-11) By that time however, Milkis was a full-blown producer in his own right and officially it was stated by the franchise that he had little desire to work in a lower capacity for others, so his work on the series ended in late April 1987 while the first pilot of that series, "Encounter at Farpoint", was prepared for filming. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2003, p. 28) Yet far more pertinent to his decision to do so, was Milkis' disgust with Roddenberry's uninitiated attorney and business partner Leonard Maizlish, who "destructively" meddled with the creative decision making for the new series. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, p. 433)
In the original series second-season blooper reel, Captain James T. Kirk performer William Shatner declares over the opening titles that the series is produced by Desilu, Inc. and was starring "Eddie Milkis." A private man, shunning every form of public acclaim, caused that virtually no interviews, with the exception of the 1996 Cinefantastique interview, with Milkis on his Star Trek work – or on any other work for that matter – are known to exist (nor does any published photograph of him, though an artist's impression of his likeness has been featured in the 2014 documentary William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge), but it was Shatner who persuaded Milkis to talk in-depth to him for his 1993 autobiography, Star Trek Memories. These two sessions however – timely ones as it turned out, since Milkis was to pass away only a short time later – , along with the lavish recognition Justman accorded him in his reference book, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, prevented Miklis' key role in the production of The Original Series to slide into oblivion. Shatner, as already indicated when he made the exclamation in the blooper reel, considered his role so crucial, that he had dedicated an entire chapter to him in his autobiography.
Career outside Star Trek Edit
Edward Milkis started out in the motion picture industry as an assistant editor for MGM working uncredited as such on films as Tom Thumb (1958) and North by Northwest (1959). When Edward Milkis was asked to join Star Trek in 1966, he had already left the motion picture industry, after having worked on The Lieutenant, and was pursuing a career in real estate, but agreed to help out Roddenberry "for a while". (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, p. 262)
The experience gained in Star Trek served Milkis well, when he afterwards formed a partnership with Thomas L. Miller, founding the production company Miller-Milkis Productions in 1969 in order to produce theatrical features, co-producing such films as Silver Streak (1976), Foul Play (1978), and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982).  Aside from feature films the company also produced TV shows as Petrocelli (whose regulars included TOS guest actress Susan Howard and TNG guest actor David Huddleston) as well as the hit sitcoms Happy Days starring Don Most, Gavan O'Herlihy and Anson Williams, Laverne & Shirley starring David L. Lander and Michael McKean, and Bosom Buddies. Being a CEO of his own company was a reason for Milkis to decline tenure on The Next Generation.
In 1984 he left the motion picture industry for the second time to devote his time and energy to a number of charitable organizations, including the "Guardians of the Jewish Home for the Aging" and the "Weizmann Institute of Science", the latter of which he presided over as president.  He shortly returned to the motion picture industry to serve as an executive producer on his final movie projects, the 1990 TV movie The World According to Straw and the 1994 comedy Exit to Eden. To this end, to market his services as a free agent, he had founded his own, personal company Edward K. Milkis Productions in 1984.
Edward Milkis passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 65 and was survived by his wife, Marcia, and five children. Both production companies he had (co-)founded closed their doors shortly thereafter.
Star Trek interviewsEdit
- "A Shot in the Dark", Star Trek Memories, 1993, pp. 234-248
- "Post-Production Guru", Sue Uram, Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, 1996, pp. 88-90
Further reading Edit
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 1992
- Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1996
- Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, 1997