Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000 and the Long, Leisurely Chat

 

Peter David, Bob Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman have been writing and performing Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000, their Mystery Science Theater 3000 Alive!-style live-show featuring Star Trek universe experiments nearly every year at the Shore Leave scienty fiction convention in Baltimore, Maryland for neigh on 25 years.

The doors opened on their first performance, featuring the Star Trek original series episode Turnabout Intruder, the morning of Sunday, July 12th, 1992. Ever since, they’ve been wrangling their friends, an innocent bystander or two, and usually a cameo from a celebrity, onto the stage. In the early days, noted letterer of comic books Bob Pinaha and scienty fiction writer Brad Ferguson served time as the opening-skit mad-scientists who forced them to watch bad Star Trek episodes. After a while Shore Leave regular T.A. Chafin came aboard and he’s been playing the mad scientist ever since. Eventually, the Sunday evening slot came open and MTT3K turned into a regular Sunday night thing that closed out the con.

MTT3K is arguably the first ever homage to Mystery Science Theater 3000; beating Ryan K. Johnson’s fanvid by a few months. (Interestingly, both featured experiments from Star Trek.) And, it was nearly the first ever live MST3K-style show! When MTT3K first started, MST3K had been going on television for five years, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 Alive! was nearly not even yet a thing. But, two days before P, B, and Jan (and pals) performed their first live-version homage of MST3K, Best Brains (the folks that produced the original show) performed their own live version of MST3K in Minneapolis, Minnesota — at the first Conventioconexpofestarama, which shared a weekend with Shore Leave.

Come this Sunday evening, Peter David, Bob Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman will have enjoyed a long and well-received run of their MST3K-inspired live-show, with what will be 24 total performances of Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000. But, come this Sunday evening plus about an hour, Mystery Trekkie Theater 3000 will be no more. They’ve decided to retire the show.

Why would they do that? Why now? Quick! Someone email them a torrent of questions and compile their answers together into what will then appear to be one long, leisurely conversation about a show the last 25 years have trained us to expect would never leave us!

Someone did.

Let’s “listen” in:

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Subterranean Cinema 4000

In what might be called “just over five years ago”, a group of former band mates from Hillsboro, Illinois released what might be called “experiment 1” of their own take on what might be called the genre “of” fan-made Mystery Science Theater 3000. On April 11, 2012, the YouTube became just over one hour and twenty minutes larger, with the debut of Subterranean Cinema 4000. It has custom sets, robots, a mad scientist, shadowrama, host segments, theme music, and an original door sequence (in the form of a decrepit elevator shaft) — everything a proper homage to MST3K deserves.

STC4K’s non-standard premise, instead of a mad scientist shooting someone into space, has a mad scientist trapping a guy under ground. In fact — and this isn’t explained in the instrumental theme song or in any on-screen exposition — the guy the evil Dr. Wehttam has trapped underground is his own clone! Dr. Wehttam’s favorite TV show is MST3K. So, after the show went off the air, he went to work trying to recreate the show himself — a mile beneath the surface of the Earth. He strands his clone in a subterranean bunker, with a couple of robots (Vic and Ray). Then, “phase 2” of his evil plan begins: force the clone to watch bad movies.

In a fit of unseemly obsession, Wehttam spent ten years constructing an underground, highly secure bunker to unleash his master plan–an experiment in media based torture, for his own entertainment. Wary of his claustrophobia, he decided to clone himself so he could function as both the observer and subject of the experiment. (STC4K/Facebook)

The first experiment was the 1993 feature film Robot Wars.  The milk shake that brings the boys to the Robot Wars yard is gigantic, robotic war-machines brought to life with stop-motion animation — and the main character’s sweet feathered hair. Some might call it a sequel to Robot Jox from 1989, but some might argue differently.

“It gives me great pleasure to introduce phase two of my master plan….”

The creator of SubTCin4000, Matt Reck (who played Matt), says that he started building Vic and Ray originally without any plans to use them in anything. Building them was just something to kill the time over a few weekends. The same goes for Dr. Wehttam’s robotic left arm; he made it a few years earlier for no good reason at all. It was Matt’s aimless creative output that finally lead to the four friends, who had met in high school, to get excited about doing an MST3K-style project:

I built a bunch of stuff and my friends got more and more excited at the idea every time I’d show them something else I’d built.

Things started to get going in earnest around July of 2010 and he says that it took about nine months to write and shoot the first episode; most of the shooting taking place in the cold, cold Illinois winter months from October to January. Soon after shooting ended, Matt moved out of town to seek his fortune in Florida — leaving his friend Dustin O’Dell to complete the editing.

Matt and the bots having a devil of a time in some footage from the ill-fated second episode of Subterranean Cinema 4000.

Work on the second episode of Subterranean Cinema 4000 began not too long after the first episode was released, giving Matt a whole year to decide to move back to town. The second experiment was originally going to be the feature film The Prisoners of the Lost Universe, starring Battlestar Gallactica‘s own Richard Hatch. But, the plan was derailed when they discovered that Rifftrax had already trod those boards and they decided to abandon the riffs they’d already written and take on a different movie: 1989’s Night Shadow.

Originally, the second episode was planned to be released in the summer of 2012. After two years, they had written and shot footage for some host segments, and had written riffs for something like 3/4 of the new experiment. Dustin, who also wrote the understated morceau of an overture at the beginning of the first episode, even wrote a whole new theme song. But, Subterranean Cinema 4000 succumbed to a common affliction of MST3K fanvid projects. As Dustin puts it:

…the whole thing unfortunately sort of fell apart for us as life happened–we all parted ways physically and so couldn’t do more episodes. There wasn’t a falling out or anything but physical distance made working on the show’s skit material inconvenient.

It wasn’t Randolph Cohlan’s genre picture that killed the project. It was just plain old life getting in the way. Eventually, the sets were dismantled. Official Twitter and Facebook postings teasing progress of the second experiment ceased in early 2014.

Dr. Wehttam’s henchman Internet Jeff eats a microwave samich as Matt, Vic, and Ray get the low down on the experiment and the effects of disobeying the “movie alarm”.

As far as the future of STC4K goes, Trevor Klump (who played Ray) posted on Facebook, not too long ago, his interest in getting the gang back together. Dustin is also game, noting that there’s hope in that they had never formally declared that the project was dead. But unless the problem of Hillsboro, Illinois not being able to keep its residents from moving away can be solved (even Matt’s twin brother Andrew Reck, who played Dr. Wehttam, skipped town for a while), it looks like the most that those encouragement posting YouTube commenters might be able to hope for will have to be cobbled together from what’s already in-the-can. Which, Matt thinks, needs to see the light of day:

Episode 2 has a ton of stuff filmed.  I’ve thought about uploading a short-film style of everything we have filmed because it’s really funny and deserves [to be uploaded] since we put so much work into it.

Another MST3K fanvid series that ended its run by putting out an unfinished episode is Nathanial Torres’s Moon Base Nine. The third episode of Moon Base Nine (The Transformation of Fanghorn) features the MB9 characters in the host segments; but the theater segments were never shot, so even though the characters mention having to go in there, they never actually do. The experiments are short cartoons Nathanial produced himself. They appear as they normally would have, only shadowrama (and riff) free. But, not all unfinished episodes escape the edit bay.

Subterranean Cinema 4000 has a few things in common with MST3K fanvid project Subterranean Cinema Realm (1999-2002) — besides their names (which turns out just to be a pretty neat coincidence). Neither of them has anything to do with Don Alex’s Subterranean Cinema nor Kyle Pittman‘s Subterraneabut, both of them do have an unreleased episode languishing unfinished, with no clear future. They both take place, eponymobviously, subterraneously. And, they both were produced in Illinois; a stone’s throw from St. Louis, Missouri.  (If you add the once a year performances over the last 20 years of Mysterious Theatre 337, Illinois seems to be a hot-bed of MST3K fan-made activity!)

Technically speaking, STC4K was edited with Sony Vegas; the sound was recorded with two shotgun microphones, and those goofy over-the-ear mics; and the camera they used was a Panasonic DVX100a. The garage where they shot everything (a friend’s garage dubbed Buckeye Trail Studio) had a noisy kerosene heater they couldn’t use while they were shooting; so it was always something like 40 degrees in there. The shadowrama was done with a green-screen chroma-key effect.

There’s a whole channel on the YouTube, if you want to check out the one episode of STC4K; you can also check out a blooper reel and a “trailer” for episode two. If you’d like to be surprised by future postings on disused or defunct social media accounts, keep an eye on the STC4K Twitter and Facebook pages. There are even Facebook pages for Ray the Robot and Internet Jeff (Dr. Wehttam’s dopey, tum-tum-exposed minion played by Jesse Elliot). To round out the cast, Vic the Robot (a fictional character who doesn’t seem to be on social media) was played by Jarrod Law.

Bromance on Film: Asylum of Satan

In a feet of double-digit consistency, Bromance on Film dips a second toe in the William Girdler waters with a tenth-in-as-many-months episode. This time, instead of a crazed, supernaturally-sized bear — and sweeping, helicopter panoramas — they keep it strictly 4×3 with a horror film definitely not shot in the Todd A.O. format: 1971’s Asylum of Satan.

Bromance on Film: Asylum of Satan was released, say, noonish (Austin, Texas time), unto the YouTube on June 25th. Phil and Taylor meet up, discuss their shared love of classic literature, and then head to the theater to get up to their first shared love-of: watching bad movies. Before the main feature is a provocative educational short film from 1959 for plant supervisors, commissioned by McGraw-Hill Book Company, called The Trouble With Women. Movie riffing enthusiasts may remember this popular little number that asks the question, “What is Brad’s trouble,” from its 2005 appearance as part of Jason Soto’s B-Movie Central 5000: Shorts Spectacular!! (Volume 1); and as a stand-alone short-subject riff by Rifftrax in 2008. Horror movie enthusiasts may be interested to know that Asylum of Satan features cross-dressing, stylish checkered pants, and a blind chick who definitely didn’t watch out for snakes!

 

Bromance on Film: Night of the Demon

The latest episode of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanvid series Bromance on Film was released onto the YouTube on May 28, 2017. As scooped, the day before, by some “website” known for collecting information, of the sort which was scooped, the experiment was the 1980 feature-length motion-picture Night of the Demon.

NOTD concerns itself with a group of college-aged campers, camping out in the woods, with their professor, who has dragged them along to investigate a reported Bigfoot in the area. Some very parental guidance events occur throughout the movie, but BOF has efforted to censor the most egregious and offensive uncovered body parts in order to keep viewers from having to give their age to watch it. This latest episode makes nine total episodes from Phil and Taylor.

 

 

Bromance on Film

When not investigating fraud for a multi-billion dollar trans-national computer company or running a “full service multimedia visual design company“, Taylor Boston and Philip Lee (respectively) of Austin, Texas, spend some of their off-hours writing riffs and improvising host segments for their own Mystery Science Theater 3000-style fan-made video series.

Bromance on Film fanartThey call it Bromance on Film. The first episode of BOF appeared on the YouTube on September 10, 2016, with the Todd A.O. feature film Grizzly as the inaugural experiment.

As the premise goes, Phil and Taylor are strangers, whose girlfriends have demanded that they both hang out and become the best of buds. They reluctantly submit to the demand by getting together to do the only thing either of them has in common — watching bad movies. BromOnFil doesn’t have any mad scientists, just a pair of ladies (life-long besties Ashley and Rebecca) who want to go on couples’ dates with their beaus without their beaus ignoring each other. PhiliTay would be watching the movies anyway. Which is pretty unique, and lands Broofi squarely in the realm of what Mystery Science Theater 3000 Fanvid and Live-performance Database, The calls “non-standard”.

While non-standard as far as emulating MST3K goes (For example, Ryan K. Johnson’s two episodes are considered “standard” while Mystery Fandom Theater 3000 is just slightly non-standard.) Bromance on Film has a commonality with the turn-of-the-century fanvid Count Xigeous’ Halloween Bloodbath, as far as the shadowrama goes. Rather than fill the theater segment shot with the experiment and sitting in front of it, they both position the movie on a smaller screen in the middle of the shot; with the characters tossing asides from the darkened peripheries without obscuring the film, except occasionally for a visual gag. Like Count Xigeous, who is trying to do a horror-host show by watching a movie on the TV in his living room, sometimes Phil and Taylor watch movies in Phil’s living room. But, mostly they sit in the back of a small local theater which seems to specialize in bad movies.

Visual gags from Bromance on Film and Count Xigeous' Halloween Bloodbath

{Left} Phil of Bromance on Film attempting to cover on-screen nudity. {Right} Count Xigeous trying to pull off Grandpa’s mole.

According to Phil, the plan is to release an episode about once a month for a year and then decide where to go from there. They both have day jobs, and don’t want the show to become a chore or get in the way of paying the rent:

[T]his is a labor of love, so we are just enjoying doing what we are doing for now, and taking it as it comes.

When choosing suitable movies and shorts to use, Phil says that due to his love of old horror and scienty fiction movies, he was aware of some of the experiments already. But he also does online research to make sure that whatever he chooses as an experiment is either public domain or appears to be abandoned. (Nobody needs a copyright strike on their YouTube channel to be sure.) He mentions archive.org as a potential source for PSA’s and movies, but since even some of those are getting flagged on YouTube, there is still some peril associated with grabbing media from that site.

What’s next for B-on-F? For seven episodes, the only people in the show were Phil and Taylor. But, in episode eight, Ashley makes an appearance in the opening host segment. In real life, Phil and Taylor have mused about having “guest riffers”, but nothing is set in stone. Though, Phil reveals, for sure, the ninth episode will feature Night of the Demon. It’s a movie with Bigfoot in it. And, this time, he’s not supernatural friends with a kid who escapes from boarding school.

Other feature-length movies which have had their day in front of the Bromancers are Hospital of Terror, Home Sweet Home, Don’t Open Till Christmas, The Giant Claw, Invasion from Inner Earth, and The Cremators. And, sometimes there’s an educational short: Good Eating Habits, Are You Popular?, and Sniffles and Sneezes. You may remember The Giant Claw from the final episode of Media Center Theatre 3000. That fanvid series also riffed on Starcrash, which appears also in an episode of Mystery Fandom Theater 3000. But, more recently, Starcrash was used as an experiment in the newly released eleventh season of the official Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. So, Bromance on Film has two degrees of separation from Joel Hodgson, the Great Creator himself.

You can follow Bromance on Film on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and Plus.Google. Or, check them out on their website or the YouTube. Phil’s got a Vimeo, too.

 

 

KCOS: For Health and Happiness (corrected)

A new episode of Ken’s Cinema of Shenanigans is scheduled for release this coming Tuesday, April 11, 2017. It will feature the educational short film For Health and Happiness.

KCOS is produced by The Computer Clan. They’ve released five other episodes since 2015. For a taste of the upcoming episode, there’s a preview on the Computer Clan YouTube channel.  For more information, check out the KensCOS websiteFacebook, and Tumblr. Ken’s Cinema of Shenanigans is a non-standard Mystery Science Theater 3000-style fan-made video series. In it, Ken is trapped on a satellite, and forced to watch bad movies, by an evil scientist. His robot pals EyeEye and Boomer keep him company, but Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo have also become series regulars.


UPDATE: Also featured in this episode are a couple of shorts from the post-apocalyptic advice series Protect and Survive produced by the British government, circa nearly 40 years ago. The couple in question detail how to maintain the lavatory of your nuclear fallout shelter: Sanitation and Sanitation Care. For the more literary minded of the time, there was also a handy booklet.

KCOS: For Health and Happiness

There’s a new episode of Ken’s Cinema of Shenanigans out today, April 1, 2017. Continue Reading »

Mysterious Rifftrax 337

The fellas at Rifftrax recently announced a super secret mysterious new riffing target for Rifftrax Live. On March 27, 2017, the triumvirate du trax stepped into a time machine, fiddled with the control knobs, and boldly exclaimed they would be live-quipping it up to the likes of Doctor Who: The Five Doctors in “theaters across the country on August 17th”. Using modern broadcasting technology, and those wizards at Fathom Events, you’ll be able to watch the show as it happens, in the comfort of your local movie theater. It’s like America is the Rifftrax Live overflow room! (Your silver screen may vary.)

T5D is an episode of the British scienty-fiction series Doctor Who which features four incarnations of the eponymous main character messing about on their/his/them’s home planet of Gallifrey. This won’t be the first time Rifftrax has hit the boards for a live version of their Mystery Science Theater 3000 inspired, shadowrama-free, jokery. It also won’t be the first time they’ve targeted something that has already taken licks from riffing crews. But, they’ve got a large catalog of tra”x”, and it’s not like anyone’s been keeping tra”ck” of what fans of MST3K have been riffing on their own, and does it really matter anyway? Maybe not.

Anyhoo, in this case, the riffing overlap involves those silly billies over at The Federation. You may know them from their Doctor Who fan-films, and the live-show they’ve been performing for twenty years called Mysterious Theatre 337. MT337 is an MST3K Alive!-style show performed at Doctor Who/scienty-fiction conventions, featuring episodes and movies of Doctor Who. They started in 1996 with a single performance at the now-defunct Visions convention in Illinois, but quickly settled into doing two shows a year; usually at the Chicago TARDIS and Gallifrey One conventions. In 2003, they took on Five Doctors, The at Gallifrey One — giving them a 14 year head-start over Rifftrax. Ten years later, armed with a “special edition” copy of The Five Doctors, they performed with an updated script at Chicago TARDIS 2013. MT337 reprised the DW:T5D(SE) show a few months later at UK Expo 2014, in Milwaukee. That year, they performed at an unprecedented four conventions, adding also CONsole Room in Minnesota.

So, Mysterious Theater 337 totes beat Rifftrax to the punch once, twice, twice again times a lady. However, according to MT337 big-cheese Steven Hill, it ain’t no thang:

I think it’ll be a great show and even though we might shout it from the rooftops that we did it first, we can’t be envious, since we wouldn’t have done anything without the inspiration from them in the first place.

The “them” of course being the founders of Rifftrax: Michael J Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett — former cast members and writers on Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show which introduced the world to the art of movie riffing. (Rifftrax itself was founded ten years after The Federation started doing up Mysterious Theatre 337.)

Truth be told, Steven himself even recommended the episode to Rifftrax:

When there were rumors months ago that there might be some Doctor Who in their future, I posted my recommendation – backed up by experience – that The Five Doctors was the best choice. Maybe they took my comment into consideration.

Only their hair dresser knows for sure (presumably) if the Rifftrax crew has already written the script for their live riffing event in August. But, if B.C., Nelstone, and The Murph run into a snag on their own version and need a bailout, there’s a script from 2013 on the downloads page of the official Mysterious Theatre 337 website they could crib that has a proven record of success.

Other notable Doctor Who related Mystery Science Theater 3000 connections include Brian Uiga, who produced a (no-longer-available) fan-made MST3K episode featuring as the experiment the Doctor Who episode Time and the Rani; and Ryan K. Johnson, who produced two fan-made episodes of his own. Neither of RKJ’s episodes featured Doctor Who experiments, but he and his pals did produce a few Doctor Who fan-films in the 1980’s (which he still offers on his website), and he started a long-running Doctor Who fan-club in Seattle called The Society of the Rusting TARDIS . You may recognize Brian Uiga from the documentary InDoctornated when it’s finally released.

 MT337 shadowrama

Desirae Seter: The Finaler Interview

Binding Polymer had a virtual sit-down with Desirae Seter, the writer and editor of the Final Sacrifice 2 and Final Sacrifice 3 (a Space Mutiny cross-over) fan-films. Desirae also produces short videos starring her pug dog, Lucy, called Literary Lucy, and a podcast (G.O.A.) with her friends Matt, Kevin and Don.


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It Zappened Again!

In what may be Zap Rowsdower’s final final sacrifice, Great Desirini films has released, Final Sacrifice 3: The Quest for Beer on the Sun.ZvsB fanart

After finally sacrificing for the second time in Final Sacrifice 2: The Finaler Sacrifice, Zap dreams of a day when he can reach the only warm place he’s ever known. Being from the great, white northerliness of Alberta, Canada, that warm place is the Sun; where he’s convinced he’ll find beer. FS3:TQFBOTS is not only a fan-film of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan-favorite experiment and director Tjardus Greidanus’s epic action-adventure, The Final Sacrifice. It is also a cross-over fan-film of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan-favorite experiment and Battlestar Gallactica stock-footage-using space-opera, Space Mutiny. (There is no word on whether or not Joel Robinson’s Cartuner was consulted.) You’ll have to watch to see what happens when a former Ziox cult member turned drifter gets a sponsorship from Molson, Canada’s beer. Don’t spoil the surprise ending for your friends. No one will be seated during the epic enforcer chase scene. How old is Sherry anyway?

Screengrab of Zap Rowsdower pledging to make it to the sun.

Zap won’t take “no” for an answer.

FS3, which by it is known to its friends, is the hive-mind child of the cast of a podcast whose name may not be safe for reading unless you are exactly 18 years old on the day of its reading– and then only if your eyes are closed and ASCII code 83 is permanently swapped with code 36. (Your parental guidance may vary.) The initials of the podcast are G.O.A., but let’s call it Gif of “Icicles”, when the children have ears. (Do they have those?) Not to be confused with the inhabitants of the Indian state of Goa, these podcasters are known to spend weekends in a basement in Denver, Colorado, musing to one another about imaginary movie plots and watching Rifftrax, MST3K, or other modern classics such as Zombie Nightmare and Sharknado. One weekend they hatched an imaginary plot to a The Final Sacrifice sequel. Before they knew it, someone was making costumes, and they were in production of Final Sacrifice 2. (Alternately known as The Zappening.) It was released unto the world via the YouTube on January 2nd, 2016, where it awaited universal acclaim.

Several months later, the group, who had not yet started their podcast, and who thus were hitherto just a group of friends getting together to chat, were convinced (Or tricked. Who’s to say?) to start recording their conversations about imaginary movie plots. They released the first recording as a podcast a few days before the Ides of April, and have done three or so more episodes since then. Somewhere between their first and second recordings, FS2 received a mysterious spike in viewership, and a write-up on some website, which put a bee in their bonnet that provided the subject for the two-part second episode of their new podcast. In the basement, on a Saturday like many others, they discussed the plot of not their previously mused and intended Space Mutiny fan-film, but what was to become a cross-over of SM and FS.

Over the next few weeks (some may call it a coupla months), a script was hammered out, costumes were sewn together, Molson’s Canadian beer was quested for at five different liquor stores but nobody really drank any of it, props were painted, and a fan-film was acted in and edited together. On July 16, 2016Final Sacrifice 3 was released.  A week or so later — today, in fact — a behind the scenes video was also released, giving a succinct accounting of the events leading up to FS3 and even a few bloopers.

Screebgrab of Bolt punching Zap

Zap takes three to the Molson muscle courtesy of Bolt Vanderhuge.

Final Sacrifice 3: The Quest for Beer on the Sun is three times the special effects, three times the cast, and three times the sacrifice. Reprising their roles from the Final Sacrifice 2 fan-film are Don Austin as Zap Rowsdower, Matt Ahern as Pipper, and Lucy (star of the Literary Lucy video series) as Pugsdower. Kevin Gentilcore also returns to the screen; this time not as an exploding Ziox cultist, but as Moose Molson, ostensible president of the Molson beer company and Mutant #5. Not to be out done in the double roles department, Matt (who definitely isn’t the beloved Indianapolis news anchor, the famed British pirate radio DJ, or the aging Australian politician Mike Ahern) also plays the captain of the spaceship the Great White Northern Sun, Bolt Vanderhuge. Three timesing up the cast are Adam Laarsen as Hornswaggle, and other close and personal friends of the podcasteers. Podcast note-taker, fan-film script writer, and pug-mother Desirae Seter sneaks in as a crew member with eye-popping fashion sense.

Screengrab of Bolt Vanderhuge firing a ray gun.

Three times the effects!

If you want to listen to the genesis of this fan-film, in it’s most raw form, uncensored and not safe for work, get permission from your parents and check out episode 2 and episode 2.5 of the podcast sheepishly and coyly mentioned above. They’ve posted it in video form on the YouTube. If you want it as an actual podcast, look in the usual places you consume podcasts, including podomatic. They also have a twitter account where you can find behind the scenes photographs and other podcast related news. If you’re not ready for that many “icicles” in your face, Desirae also has BTS photographs of FS2, FS3, and Literary Lucy on her personal instagram account.

 

Still not reached for comment: Tjardus Greidanus.