A Conversation with Bjo Trimble: Film Clips and Lincoln Enterprises
The names Bjo and John Trimble appear frequently in the records ofStar Trekfandom. The reason for this, of course, is that the Trimbles, who became Star Trek fans in 1966 before the rest of us had even seen it on television, have made significant contributions to The Original Series (TOS) universe. They organized the original Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in Star Trek being renewed for another season. They compiled and wrote the first concordance for Star Trek. They successfully lead the effort to have NASA’s first shuttle, the Constitution, be renamed the Enterprise. They… well, they did a lot of things for Star Trek. But the thing they did that I most appreciate–and now let’s start moving towards the focus of this article–was to become the key players in the formation of Star Trek Enterprises, Inc.
Star Trek Enterprises, for those of you unfamiliar with the company, eventually became Lincoln Enterprises and then Roddenberry.com (which it remains today). Regardless of its various incarnations though, Star Trek Enterprises started as a mail order firm in Los Angeles that specialized in the sales of authentic Star Trek merchandise–merchandise often obtained directly from the studios of Desilu or Paramount. Initially, Star Trek Enterprisessold exclusively TOS-related items such as film clip frames, scripts, official stationery, etc., all available for purchase at modest prices through their catalog. Later, they expanded their line to include material from other television shows–e.g., Kung Fu, Search, QuestorandGenesis II–as well as to selling their items in the hucksters rooms of conventions. However, it is their early sales of production-used TOS material for which we owe Star Trek Enterprises and the Trimbles our biggest debt of gratitude. For today, I believe that without those sales, much of Star Trek’s history would have ended up in the dumpsters of the studios instead of in the hands of the public.
This website is about Star Trek’s history, and a large part of that history is found exclusively in the images on the film clips that were sold by Star Trek/Lincoln Enterprises. We get a lot of questions about them, and I have to admit that as a collector myself, I had always wondered about how Lincoln Enterprises acquired the film used to make them, how it was cut, whether that film was really found “on the cutting room floor,” etc. And I could think of no better person than Bjo Trimble, who was there from the start, to provide the answers. So a few years ago, I corresponded with her about film clips, Lincoln Enterprises, and a few other things, and this article is a portion of that conversation. It is reproduced here with her permission and we hope you enjoy it!
[Dave Tilotta]: Ms. Trimble...
[Bjo Trimble]: Call me Bjo. Everyone does, except Harlan Ellison when he's mad at me. That's pronounced BEE-joe and is really short for Betty JoAnn, a name I've not used in many years.
[BJO]: John and I not only started Lincoln Enterprises for Gene, but we talked him into it. Nobody in Hollywood (in those bygone days) believed that a sales franchise could be built around, of all things, a TV show! Ha!
[DT]: Where did the name “Lincoln” come from?
[BJO]: Gene loved Abraham Lincoln. It’s that simple.
[DT]:If I may ask, how hard did you have to push Gene to start Lincoln?
[DT]: It seems that he [Gene Roddenberry] is sometimes painted as a person who tried to profit on everything on every occasion so it comes as a small surprise to me that he had to be pushed.
[BJO]: That is such an unfair and thoughtless accusation. Of course he wanted to make a profit off his creation, and didn’t he have the right to do so?NBC, Desilu and Paramountcertainly made (and still make) a huge profit off Star Trek. So what is wrong with making a profit off your own work? It’s OK for Stephen King to profit off his writings. It’s just dandy for movie stars to profit off their talents. But it’s never OK for anyone else to make a profit off their work. What is the problem here?
[DT]: I have been a life long Star Trek film clip collector. I first starting buying them from Lincoln Enterprises in the 1970's and, since then, I have also purchased them from private collectors, conventions, on e-bay, and at other places. And over the years, I have wondered about their history. Specifically, how did the rolls of film come to Lincoln Enterprises?
[BJO]: They came to us from the Paramount editing rooms for the most part.
[DT]: If I may ask, did Gene or Majel bring them by?
[BJO]: No, John and I would go to Paramount (after Gene got permission to sell them) and pick them up from the people who bagged up the film strips
[DT]: Were they really swept off the floor?
[BJO]: No, that old saying about "ending up on the cutting room floor" was made by someone who had never been in an editing room. All film to be edited used to be run through a Moviola, and into a large cloth bag held open with a wire frame. Editors handled the film with cotton gloves. Very few film clips end up on the floor, and that would be only if something dropped there.
[DT]: Were they really removed from the Desilustorage vaults as Mr. Justman indicates in his book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story?
[BJO]: Not in the sense the book implied; that we helped ourselves to valuable archival film. All the film clips and strips were part of the stacks and stacks and stacks of film and boxes of film in the editing rooms. Most of these films were cut up to edit the shows, then the pieces were gathered in bags and dumped. The longer strips were rolled up, sometimes many of them together, and stored in flat film boxes. Over time, decisions were made to either throw those boxes out, or store them in vaults. Those that were stored in vaults are sometimes removed to make room for more film storage. Those old film strips are then tossed out.
[BJO]: Well, the film editors cut them up first. Then when the film strips got to us, John and I with a bunch of Trek friends would cut them up in night-time sessions either at the Lincoln office or at our house. We did all of the cutting back in those days. Sometimes we’d have a group of Trek fans over, who would sit around watching TV and cutting up film strips. Naturally, they got to pick out some for themselves. Gene was never stingy about our helpers.
[DT]: Oh my! As a 10-year old kid, I envisioned that there was an assembly line somewhere that had some sophisticated machine that would cut the strips into frames and then automatically sort them...
[BJO]: That would have been very nice and time-saving as well. But it didn’t happen. There were no sophisticated machines that did that in those days. Any film clips that were cut were done by hand.
[DT]:How many clips did you guys cut? Any way to guesstimate?
[BJO]: No. We made up little packets of… I dunno how many at this late date, but a goodly packet… We had stacks of flat film boxes full of hand-cut film clips, with my notes on the front edge of the box saying what was in it: “Kirk CU” (closeup), “Group shot”, “Guests”, “FX” and so on.
[DT]: I've talked to a lot of collectors over the years who've wondered how many clips were available during those years. That may not be an answerable question though!
[BJO]: We had mostly film strips from the first two seasons. We got only a few strips from the third season while John and I worked for Lincoln. Part of that was because Gene was out of favor by that time with Paramount. So they just didn’t let us have many strips. But the ones we had amounted into the hundreds of thousands.
[DT]: And also, were clips sold when Star Trek was either still being produced or was still on the air?
[BJO]: Not that I know of. Remember, back before computers did most of the editing work, you didn’t toss film clips and strips until the show was really, truly aired. Then the episode was ‘writ in stone’. But during production and first airing, no.
[DT]: I have heard a lot of anecdotal stories from my fellow collectors over the years. For example, I've heard that Mr. Roddenberry gave away rolls of film to his employees as payment prior to Lincoln Enterprises.
[BJO]: Whoever started THAT story has never dealt with film industry unions! I'm sure producers would love to pay off their employees with film clips, but it just can't happen. Were we paid in film clips? No way; we got a salary just like any employee. Gene did give film clips (not whole rolls) as gifts to Trekkers when he was finally convinced that film clips were worth something to fans, and not just trash as the film industry viewed them.
[DT]:If memory serves, the clips that Lincoln sold were cut more roughly, presumably because you folks had lots of orders to fill and needed to get the orders out quickly?
[BJO]: No, that came later. While John and I managed Lincoln, all the clips were carefully cut apart into individual clips. We had lots of orders to fill, but we thought that each order needed individual attention. After Majel took over from us, she told her people to cut the clips roughly, as she thought it was done in “real” editing rooms. That is, the film would be cut half-way through a clip above and below the one you were purchasing. It drove fans crazy! They hated the waste of two clips to get one, and they kept complaining to us about it. Well, we were long gone from Lincoln by that time and had no control over it. I did mention it to Majel at a convention, but she was totally convinced that her way was the only way so I dropped the subject.
[DT]: I've also heard that Mr. Roddenberry destroyed some reels of film, rather than sell them as film clips, in order to prevent unaired scenes from being seen. Are these stories true?
[BJO]: There is no truth in that story. Producers may not have a sense of history about every little film clip or roll of film, but nobody destroys film without a very good reason. Every producer has hopes that at some time he or she will be able to put all those unused scenes back in the original film and show people what the whole story might have been. That seldom happens, but there is always the hope.
[BJO]: Yes, of course. The most outstanding example of this is re-editing “The Cage” into “The Menagerie”. Gene had to take out a lot of material from “The Cage” to make the story fit in the time allowed. However, he always regretted having to remove the shots of the other aliens that had been collected, and the other by-play that went on in the original episode. He said once that “The Menagerie” could have been edited into a full movie had he been allowed to add as much of “The Cage” as he wished. Of course, in those ancient times, nobody would have considered making a movie from a TV show – who in the world would go see it? It was a well known industry fact that TV watchers didn’t go to movies and movie fans didn’t watch TV. Can anyone get any sillier? Back to the original question: yes, Gene would have liked to re-edit many of his shows, but it didn’t happen.
[DT]: Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed answers to my questions! You've cleared up a lot of misconceptions and rumors, some of which I didn't even know I had!
I expected that my answers would not be precisely what you expected.
Bjo and John Trimble currently reside in Southern California and own and operate the Griffin Dyeworks & Fiber Arts Company.