Interview: Director Eduardo Sanchez On Going From ‘Blair Witch’ To Bringing TOS Style To ‘Strange New Worlds’

(Photo: Eduardo Sanchez)

The latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New WorldsAmong the Lotus Eaters” was directed by Eduardo Sanchez. While this was his first time directing for the franchise, Sanchez is a veteran of directing both episodic television and a number of independent horror movies. He is best known for co-writing and co-directing the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, considered a modern classic using the “found footage” style of filmmaking. Sanchez also happens to be a longtime fan of Star Trek and made a Trek parody student film back in 1989. TrekMovie had a chance to talk to the director about his experience directing his first “real” Star Trek.

I know you are a fan, but how is it that you ended up directing for Star Trek? And did you expect they wanted you for a more horror-style episode?

It was kind of a last-minute thing, so I don’t think it was them thinking to bring me in to do something scary, even though I would love to do that too. I think one of the directors shifted out or something. I had maybe a month and a half to prep. It just happened that I was up for consideration and my agent told me and I was super excited about it. It was a dream come true to even think about doing a Star Trek episode. I understand Star Trek and am very comfortable in that space. I love my episode because it was kind of an old-school kind of Original Series episode.

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was a kid and during the time of the pandemic, since I was home a lot, I decided to watch every single Star Trek episode that has ever been produced. I loved The Original Series but hadn’t had as much of an occasion to fully sit down and watch all the other shows. So watched it all, in chronological order of the Star Trek timeline, starting with Enterprise. I know people bag on that one but I like it and I like seeing how the different series changed into the 2000s and to now. And I love Strange New Worlds and how they are taking big swings. That is what I think is missing from a lot of other shows on television. You’ve got to take a chance and it’s better to take a big swing and fail than do something mediocre. I think the people in charge of this show are just fans of Star Trek and giving us what they want to see, and it’s what we want to see as well.

Behind the scenes on “Among the Lotus Eaters” on the bridge set (Paramount+)

As you said, your episode “Among the Lotus Eaters” had a classic feel with returning to the planet from “The Cage” along with a TOS-like story about what happened to the crew. Did you want to use that classic Trek style in the way you shot it?

Absolutely. I mean, the show looks a certain way. You can’t go in and do something totally crazy like shoot in black and white. But, there was a lot of collaboration with the DP as far as putting it together. And for me, this episode feels like a classic episode. I’m not opposed to doing cool moves and using the new style of television with camera movements and things they really couldn’t get away with too much back then, because of cost and difficulty. But the idea of classic framing of stuff and simplifying the coverage and I definitely felt the ghost of The Original Series constantly in my head. In fact, probably too much in my head. Like a couple of times at the beginning, I would talk about “Spock and Kirk,” because you are used to that. The idea I was directing a character named Spock, this character I grew up with! But of course, I got it was Pike and got my head on straight and luckily Anson didn’t hear me. But the episode was old-school, I could hear the old soundtrack in my head as I was doing scenes and transitions. So I wanted to keep it as classic as I could without it being too retro.

Speaking of Anson, there was a critical scene with Pike when he is attacking Zacarius until he remembers himself and it was pretty violent and not how we are used to seeing Pike. Was there a lot of discussion with Anson to get that scene right?

Anson and [co-executive producer and episode writer] Davy [Perez] talked a lot about it and Davy is on the set a lot. The first time I met with Anson, that was the first thing he brought up. It was definitely a complex episode and you have to figure out the different personalities and what you remember, what you don’t remember, and how you react. It’s heavy lifting for all the actors, and especially for Anson. We talked about the brutality of it because Pike at that moment is going to kill him and then that bit of humanity enters him. He was really worried about that moment. I told him to just do it as he did in rehearsal, and I’ll do a little move into your face, and it’ll be very clear that the old Pike is back. It was a big place to go, especially for Anson, who has been playing this character for a while. I don’t think you have seen Pike this out of control and violent and barbaric. It was a big deal for him and we worked on it a lot. We had to really layer it with the DP and with him with a number of takes. And he has a long monologue there and we didn’t want to burn him out. But he is a professional and he knows his lines and in the end, it went very smoothly.

Anson Mount in “Among The Lotus Eaters” (Paramount+)

If there was a scene where you did lean into your horror roots it was with Melissa Navia, when Ortegas has just lost her memories and is kind of freaking out in her quarters. Were you trying to play up the fear angle there?

Yeah, absolutely. We went handheld on purpose. We wanted to get the audience so close you are almost inside her head. We worked with Melissa on how long we were going to take it. I always saw it as a kind of montage showing little bits of her mental state, so you don’t know how long she has been there but you get little beats of her kind of freaking out and stuff. So we did these long takes for that scene and then we just cut up the best little pieces. I think we did like three or four takes of that and it was exhausting. Again, I wanted to create a kind of haunted house almost with the flashing outside. And then I love this shot outside the window of the Enterprise looking in, kind of voyeuristic. You put as much in there as possible and I am glad it felt that way to you because we definitely were going for that. You are deep in her psychosis and you’re deep inside her and it’s as close as you get with any character. I just thought she did a great job and the editor did a great job and the camera crew. We had two cameras on her at the same time. It was just very collaborative. Again, it’s easy to do when you have such great people.

Behind the scenes on “Among the Lotus Eaters”(Paramount+)

This episode used the AR wall but even though it’s super high-tech, to me, it almost felt like old-school Trek with those planet sets from TOS. Was that in your mind as you worked on the AR volume stage?

Yeah. That’s why the AR wall is perfect for Star Wars and Star Trek because it does give you–even if you try to do something super photorealistic–it still gives you this little bit of that old aesthetic. You are limited to the size and scope of the stage you are inside and you can only shoot in certain directions. It’s kind of like shooting on a stage of a playhouse. You can’t point the cameras toward the audience. It was definitely challenging and we had some big scenes. For that scene in the quarry where Pike gets into the fight and they escape, that was supposed to be done on location outside and we did some scouting and I said that it’s just not going to match what we do in the volume. And it was February and drizzling and so everything would go slower, so we made this last-minute decision to shoot it on the AR stage.

To me, that is what I love about the episode. Not only story-wise, but it has the look. There are a lot of things that remind you of The Original Series and all those alien planets inside a soundstage. Not that we wanted it to look like a soundstage, but for me at least, every time I looked through the lens in the volume I thought about that. Obviously, it’s a lot more photo-realistic and definitely it’s the next level of it, but there is this kind of soundstage quality to it. Once we made the decision that all the planet exteriors were going to be in the volume that was the style we had. That is the room you have but we kind of leaned into it. “This looks cool.” There are a lot of elements that look just like original Star Trek.

Behind the scenes with AR wall (Paramount+)

Strange New Worlds prides itself on mixing up genres. Are you interested in coming back and maybe trying a more horror-style episode?

I was talking to Davy Perez about that. He wrote my episode and he was the one that wrote the sort of Aliens kind of episode for the first season, with the Gorn. I would love to come back to do any kind of episode, but especially a scary episode. That would be amazing.

Thinking of your background starting with Blair Witch and the style you have used in other films, do you think that found footage style could work within Star Trek?

That’s exactly what Davy and I were chatting about. Because it’s in the future so you have image-taking devices all over the place. You can have a camera anywhere, so I think it’s a really cool idea. He and I talked about that but I haven’t reached a level where I can actually suggest an episode. I am just happy directing my episode and hopefully, they invite me back.

Director Eduardo Sanchez on the bridge set (Photo: Eduardo Sanchez)

Sanchez’ Star Trek: Demented

In 1989 Sanchez wrote, produced, and co-directed Star Trek: Demented as a student film at Montgomery College. It was their final project and Sanchez tells TrekMovie he was inspired by his own Star Trek fandom and how the studio on campus always reminded him of the USS Enterprise due to a low hum coming from the air conditioning.

Sanchez has posted the entire film in seven parts to his YouTube channel. You can see the first part below.

For more about Sanchez’s movies, visit his production company website at

New episodes from season 2 of Strange New Worlds drop weekly on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S, the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Season 2 is also available on SkyShowtime elsewhere in Europe. The second season will also be available to stream on Paramount+ in South Korea, with premiere dates to be announced at a later date.

Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at

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“The Blair Witch Project” is one of my favorite movies, so I was pretty happy to see Sanchez working on Trek. Solid episode, too, I thought!

I didn’t ding the episode for the surprisingly cheap AR wall look because it DID lend the episode a classic 60s Star Trek vibe that fit the episode well. (And like on the original series, if the story is good, concerns about ‘realism’ melt away and you can just take the story at face value, like in a stage play.)

Sounds like it wasn’t originally the aim but they leaned into it a bit. A good choice in this situation, I think.

Eduardo Sanchez did a great job with the episode, and it was easy to see that a fan of the original was in charge. I really liked The Blair Witch Project and think that would be awesome if he returned to do a found footage episode with the Gorn for SNW. I hope they invite him back.

I really like this show and have made no secret about that, but why does it seem like in every interview they have to say the show is “taking big swings”? I can almost picture a suit standing to the side miming the swinging of a baseball bat to remind them to say it.

I think the helmsman melting down in quarters was a well-made bit, but the rest just laid there. Not sure I’m even gonna keep P+ for the duration of SNW at this point (am thinking of calling it PMinus.)

Now that Prodigy has been removed, SNW is the only thing keeping me subscribed. I’m not really into the other shows and already own the Berman era shows.

I wish I could say there was something to please everyone, but I know that isn’t the case.

Until I was into my 40s, I was convinced that later Trek could never measure up to my TOS expectations, even with as many DS9s as I liked. But then I saw FIREFLY, and even though the science was putrid / horrible, it felt like ‘home.’ So I know getting that loving trek feel back is possible … just that I don’t think it’ll happen with anything sporting the official TREK brand (though DS9 comes damned close.)

Man, really?! There are a number of things I like about “Firefly,” but I can hardly think of a genre property less likely to give me my TOS fix.

It’s the whole ‘family you choose’ thing, I guess. Except for CHEERS, which rarely spoke to me, I always seem to favor shows that have that as a core basis.

Have you been away? Haven’t seen posts from you this week.

Very busy at work, as I’m retiring next Friday. Plus, I haven’t seen the latest SNW ep yet (probably tomorrow night) so any opinions from me would be even more value-free than usual.

I guess it’s fair to say that longtime fans, myself included, came to think of the TOS crew as a surrogate family, but the series doesn’t actually much give off that kind of vibe during its first and best year. The Firefly crew actually comes much closer, in the sense that they’re hardcore scrabblers on the fringes of society, bound together by the business of survival even if some of them don’t much like each other. And hey, I love Cheers.

First off: Congratulations, you made it!

I really gave CHEERS a pretty good try. My first exposure to it was when the ST. ELSEWHERE characters get verbally abused by Carla on a brief crossover on the doctor show, which set me up to hate her character right off and for all time. I didn’t even own a TV when CHEERS started (a trend I sometimes wish I’d continued for a longer stretch, because I got a ton of reading and writing done in the early 80s, along with all the attempts at zero-budget filmmaking), but I saw a lot of the later run during afternoon syndication in the 90s when I would wake up while mired in a five-year stint of grave shift production. (that was also when I fell in love with CHINA BEACH, decided Robert Picardo was a helluva good actor and got to catch up on the MOONLIGHTING eps I missed first run, all thanks to LIFETIME network of all things.)

And there were moments when CHEERS really worked … there was a show where the characters started humming something, probably the Bernstein theme from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, as they left or entered the bar, and it was PER-FECT. And when Kelsey Grammar’s character launches into a dramatic recital of THE PICKWICK PAPERS after doing an off-the-cuff rewriting of the end of TALE OF TWO CITIES, that was inspired. But I think the prob for me was that I just didn’t like very many of the people. I recognized them from life, so the material was true, but staying with them for dozens of shows would be like watching NASCAR for me (to paraphrase the dry cleaning guy in the 78 BODY SNATCHERS, “that not my thing.”)

As much as I appreciate pre-Coon TOS for its daring, the eps still feel kind of arid. Then again, I’m really a season 2 guy, one who sees S3 nearly as interesting owing to the exceptional exceptions like THE EMPATH and moments in DAY OF THE DOVE like the ‘ship out, freak!’ exchange between Spock and Scott which features some stark lighting that I often tried to emulate.

Now that I think about it, they could do a lot worse with the current shows (and they are) than to emulate early TOS s1, where you get a real sense that there’s just cold hard space outside the hull. And in theory, they should be able to put that across visually now, since they have all that money and those resources, even though I usually can’t see it onscreen. Maybe making space scary, even wonderful and scary, is more achievable than getting the magical chemistry right with the actors and characters, especially given the limitations of the writing.

Ever since the end of TSFS, I wanted to see the TOS folk go and stay renegade, spending their lives together on a ship outside the regs and limitations of ‘fleet and Fed. Production could have spent the limited funds on some strange new worlds integral to the storytelling instead of having to always show Earth and spacedock in act 1, and that would have afforded a ton more screentime for all the cast, too (the feel of one early post-TSFS comic book — the only stretch I think I ever read and/or enjoyed — is kind of what I was hoping for.) FIREFLY kind of fulfilled that for me, and also showed me that the anti-Trek series notion I spent a lot of the late80s and early 90s working on was very valid, so I kind of had the ‘wish I’d gotten to do that’ jealousy, even while admiring hell out of the thing.

I would have thought your favorite “Cheers” moment would have been in the episode where Woody Harrelson’s country bumpkin parents order him to return home to the farm as they’re concerned that he’s being corrupted by his exposure to big city life. Diane (naturally) makes a thoroughly pretentious art house faux-Bergman black-and-white film extolling the virtues of Cheers and Boston to let them know that their son is in good hands, but they’re unconvinced, writing Woody that they thought the movie was stupid. Diane takes umbrage, implying that the parents were too unsophisticated to understand what she was trying to get across, and Woody agrees, adding “They also said it was very derivative of Godard.”

Many thanks for the kind words on my retirement. Don’t know if my finances will hold up, but we’ll see.

Maybe you could do this newfangled blogging thing — I think you might have a talent for it, but I don’t know if there is any money in it unless you marry a Cardas-Kardassian.

I haven’t seen any of the Diane eps, maybe I should, that was pretty funny reading!


Thanks! Hopefully I won’t starve.

They really (REALLY) need to stop talking about ‘taking big swings’, because A: haven’t seen any yet, and B: makes me cringe like there’s no tomorrow. It makes basically any interview feel produced and not real. Some of The Ready Room episodes feel overly produced as well. More like marketing than sincere interviews and bts.

Agree. The ready room has become quite insufferable lately. I feel embarrassed for the guests, I see them literally squirming in their seats with the questions they get asked. It gets quiet uncomfortable.

Yeah, it seems like everyone is going out of their way to use that term ‘big swings’ in their interviews, which is getting tiresome. To me, most of the swings this season are unfortunately misses.

Agreed. Half the season has already aired, and there has yet to be a “big swing.” Good episodes? Yes. Big swings? Not in the slightest–it’s all been stuff we’ve seen before.

Yes, it’s all marketing. They must be told by the higher-ups to say that. It’s like when a producer or show-runner says they’re excited about this or that… you know it’s BS.

I’m kinda surprised they didn’t brand the TOMORROW episode as a (god I hate this word now, ever since AVATAR) gamechanger, given how it is being used as a get out of jail free card for canon violators.

The Ready Room interviews seem really scripted to me. Wil Wheaton really doesn’t stray off his index cards.

I’d be thrilled if every episode was as good as this one.

I would love a found footage episode! The X-Files did a C.O.P.S. episode and I loved that too. Granted it was done more for laughs, but I did like it.

The one with the werewolf. Loved that episode, still watch it from time to time.

Does anyone feel that this season’s episodes are needlessly padded out? With each episode almost hitting the hour mark, they often feel like a slog to get through and there are plenty of moments that are superfluous. Spock stealing the Enterprise and La’an and Kirk walking about Toronto are two extended sequences that spring to mind. If the editing was a bit tighter then it might improve the overall quality of the season.

Yes, the last 2 episodes for sure. I was getting Doctor Who series 11 vibes, where the episode would start out intriguing and then slow down too much in the middle, with a very simple conclusion. It’s never a good moment when I’m starting to check my phone LOL.

The courtroom episode was sooo long, and the drug induced Klingon punch fest from the first episode felt interminable, like minutes and minutes of slow motion beat the piss out of people, completely glorifying the violence and probably the least Star Trek Star Trek has been in a while. I really hate that they teased the war with the Gorn at the end of it too, like the only way to tell Star Trek stories is about war, war war war, restart the Klingon war, war with the Gorn, let’s fight, it’s all so dumb and, like you said, can pad out episodes needlessly when all we’re watching is dumb action.

I don’t see how any of this is the fault of the episode’s length; these were core thematic writing and directing decisions, and they’d almost certainly still be there even if it lasted 45 minutes.

No it’s not the length per se, it’s the fact the story is padded out. It doesn’t have enough material to warrent the 1 hour length. That’s what we’re talking about (well I at least). I have no problem when episodes are 1 hour long (I even prefer it), but only when there’s enough material to keep it going/interesting for that long. You know, keep the pace up. Some of the scenes in episode 3 and 4 were just halting the story, in a place where it should’ve kept going. The scenes started to become repetative.

I like my TV series to hit the 40-45 minute mark, just like in the old days. 58+ minutes is unnecessary week to week unless we’re doing a big or special episode.

No. I’m glad they’re lasting an hour; things feel a lot more fleshed out than 45 minute installments.

I think PICARD season 3 would have been a lot better had all its episodes lasted a full hour; we could have spent more time understanding Vadic’s backstory.

The character of Luq and Reed Birney’s performance is what really made the episode work for me. I’d love to hear more about the writing of the character and directing around him.