DS9 show-runner STEVEN IRA BEHR discusses the FAN FILM GUIDELINES! (audio interview)

Last year, Justin Lin and J.J. Abrams both went on record as being supportive of Star Trek fan films and that the fans should be encouraged to make them.  A month later, CBS and Paramount issued a set of fan film guidelines that shocked many fans and angered others with their restrictions on length, shutdown of continuing fan series, and moratorium on participation by anyone who had previously worked on any studio-authorized Star Trek project…from movie and TV series to video games and even package design.

On the one hand, it was nice to finally have a set of guidelines that clearly defined what the fans would be allowed to produce without the fear of getting sued.  On the other hand, a good number of fans familiar with fan productions felt that certain of the guidelines (like the ones I just listed) had overshot the mark, landing in a place of being too constraining and unnecessarily Draconian.

However, unlike a year ago when big names like Abrams and Lin spoke out on the fan film issue, no major names in the world of Star Trek have commented on the new guidelines other than John Van Citters (who was one of the people responsible for writing them).

But now that has changed, as I was able to interview Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Executive Producer STEVEN IRA BEHR and ask him directly, on the record, how he felt about the guidelines.  Granted, I don’t expect Ira to rush out and rally for the guidelines to be revised and loosened.  But I was curious if we fans who feel so negatively toward some of these guidelines are justified in feeling that way or not.  Would Ira agree with us….or would he think that we’re just being petulant (or crazy!) to have any problems with these reasonable studio rules?  You can find out below…

And for anyone curious how a small-time blogger managed to score an interview with Ira Behr and get him to speak on the record, I donated to the Indiegogo campaign for his Deep Space Nine documentary “What We Left Behind,” which blew through its initial $150,000 goal to reach nearly $650,000!  (Click on the above link to learn more about this exciting project.)

The perk I donated for was a 10-minute call with Ira Behr where I could ask him anything.  I cleared with his assistant beforehand that I’d be able to record the call and post it on my blog site, and last week, we spoke for more than 15 minutes.  It was a really great conversation.

And here’s what we talked about…

A FAREWELL TOUR of INDUSTRY STUDIOS! (editorial and video)

This past Saturday, my son Jayden and I drove to Industry Studios in Valencia to help pack up the Axanar Productions items for a move east to a new production facility in Atlanta, GA.

It was a sad day for me because I really loved Industry Studios.  I’d loved watching it evolve from a stark, gutted building with no individual offices and a huge, echoing warehouse with loud concrete floors…into what looked like (to my eyes, at least) a high-end Hollywood studio and sound stage.

Jayden and I had watched for months with excitement as piles of stacked wood were cut, molded, and sculpted by industry professionals, slowly morphing into a starship bridge, a turbolift, a transporter, captain’s quarters, and a Klingon bridge.

Even though my visits weren’t particularly frequent, I still felt as though I were a part of Ares Studios (later renamed Industry Studios)—helping to fund it, volunteering to do everything from carrying carpet rolls up the stairs to assembling IKEA furniture, and even sorting and packing perks.  I watched all the work that went into making the dream of a studio dedicated to Star Trek fan film-making (not just Axanar) grow and take shape from basically nothing into a facility that fans could be truly proud of.

I can already hear the detractors typing feverishly about the hubris of starting a “for profit” studio based on donations obtained from unapproved use of copyrighted material owned by a Hollywood studio.  And I’m sure others out there are already halfway done with comments about the folly of signing a 3-year lease on a location with a $12,000 monthly rent when all Alec Peters ever needed to do was make a simple fan film, not build a full sound stage!

All are fair points when viewed with 20/20 hindsight—and all are arguments made and countered hundreds of times over.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.  Instead, I want to give you a tour of Industry Studios…

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MELBOURNE – Interview with VANCE MAJOR OWEN, Part 1

At the end of March, a new Star Trek fan production titled MELBOURNE (just that, no “Starship” in front of the name) posted its debut fan film: “Storm Front, Part 1.”  One of several fan series shot on the sets of STARBASE STUDIOS (while they were still in their previous Oklahoma City location), Melbourne initially released two ultra-short vignettes, “Pen Pals” and “Pen Pals 2”.)  But fans were really waiting for their first full episode to see what this new fan production would be all about.

Most successful Star Trek fan projects have a driving force behind the production, and in the case of Melbourne, that driving force is show-runner/producer/writer VANCE MAJOR OWEN (his friends call him “Vman”), who lives in Kansas with his wife of 17 years and his newborn son, Royce.  I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Vance for a very friendly interview.  In fact, “friendly” is one of the best adjectives I could use to describe this warm and humble film producer from the Sunflower State.  Since having our interview, we’ve actually become good friends, have spent hours on the phone talking Trek and swapping “Daddy” stories, and he’s invited me to appear on camera in an upcoming episode of Melbourne anytime I can get myself over to Arkansas (the new home of Starbase Studios).

So here’s what Vance had to say…

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ALEC PETERS answers READER questions about the AXANAR FINANCIALS!

Last month, I published a blog where I provided a copy of the AXANAR financials, along with reporting on the go-forward plans for AXANAR PRODUCTIONS and INDUSTRY STUDIOS.  Obviously, those plans have changed quite a bit over the past few weeks—as Tuesday’s blog pointed out—but the financials remain constant because they’re now a matter of public record.

In that same blog from last month, I also invited readers to submit their own questions for Alec via the comments section and received dozens of inquiries.  It was a mix of questions from supporters and detractors, some about the financials and some about other things, but I submitted every one to ALEC PETERS, requesting that he try to respond to as many participants as he could.

It’s been a busy few weeks to be certain (with the Indiegogo campaign and finding new studio space in Atlanta).  But a few days ago, Alec submitted his answers back to me.  And so, without further ado, let’s see what he had to say…

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STAR TREK CONTINUES releases new BLOOPER/GAG REEL!

Bloopers.  Gag reels.  Behind-the-scenes flubs.  Call them what you will, but they’ve been a part of the Star Trek fan experience since the 1970s when Gene Roddenberry first began bringing his TOS “blooper reel” to conventions to show hilarious outtakes by Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, and the rest of the original cast to fans in the audience.

The tradition continued with The Next Generation, and I recall owning bootlegged copies of both blooper reels on VHS tapes that I bought at cons in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The reason these outtakes are so special and treasured isn’t simply because they’re funny but because they give fans a glimpse into who these beloved actors and producers were as people…people who make mistakes and can laugh at themselves, cut loose sometimes, and have fun.

Not all fan films collect their bloopers and release them.  Some don’t even have time to do multiple takes of the same scene.  Others simply have collections of goofs and flubs.  But the best of the gag reels contain just that: gags.  It’s not just the missed cues and forgotten lines.  Sometimes the actors know they’re going to have to do another take, and so they just go with it and have fun playing with the scene.  And if we’re lucky, hilarity ensues while the camera is still rolling.

Such is the case with Star Trek Continues.  They have edited together and released hysterically entertaining gag reels for all but their second episode.  (You can view all seven gag reel videos at the bottom section of this web page.)

It’s no secret that I love this particular fan series and lament its impending conclusion in the coming  year.  But I don’t love STC only because of the great episodes it produces.  I love it because of what I see on their gag reels.

I’ve worked on fan films, and it can be tedious, mind-numbing, stressful, exhausting, frustrating, irritable, and even confrontational.  But it can also be a lot of fun.  In fact, if it weren’t for the FUN, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever do it!  STC‘s gag reels show us the camaraderie that can exist at the core of fan productions.  Sure, the actors and crew work hard—incredibly hard!—but they play hard, too.  They laugh at themselves, play practical jokes on each other, and keep their sense of humor through the seemingly endless late-into-the-night hours when shoots can shift between moving at a snail’s pace to a manic sprint in the span of seconds.

So I invite you to join me and others in celebrating Star Trek Continues in that most special of ways: sharing their laughter…

AXANAR PRODUCTIONS is moving its sets to ATLANTA!

As I reported previously, ALEC PETERS of AXANAR PRODUCTIONS worked out a deal with his landlord that was unexpectedly positive in that it allowed him to vacate the Valencia, CA studio (where he has been paying $12,000/month in rent) eight months early with no financial or legal penalties. And the landlord has even offered some partial reimbursement for the donor funds that were used to improve the facility and convert the warehouse into a studio and sound stage.  Industry Studios will continue, and Axanar Productions will still be allowed to film in it, but the landlord will now be in charge, and the sets will need to be removed.

Ah, the sets.  Nearly complete, they really are quite gorgeous and very well constructed.  They are also quite large and can’t simply be stored in someone’s living room or garage.  So Alec has been forced to find another home for them, and apparently, that home has been found in Atlanta, GA.

Axanar Productions just released the following statement to donors…

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FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 6) – The CARROT and the STICK

First I should mention (in a follow-up to our previous post) that the survey results are in.  I invited members of the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign to vote in an online Facebook poll: which ONE if the new fan film guidelines feels like it is the most problematic for fan filmmakers?  This would be the guideline that Project: SMALL ACCESS will focus on convincing CBS and Paramount to revisit and revise.  And there was a clear winner: Guideline #1.

However, Guideline #1 is actually a two-part guideline made up of the following:

#1a – The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total…

and

#1b – …with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

It’s possible for us to request a revision by CBS to one part of this guideline without necessarily changing the other part.  And so I divided Guideline #1 into two options, and together these were, by far, the highest vote-getters, taking more than 95% of the nearly 140 submitted responses.  So which one got the most votes?

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TOM HANKS watches STAR TREK FAN FILMS!

Sometimes people ask me why I spend so much time writing about and obsessing on Star Trek fan films.  After all, few people even know about them, and on a good day, I only get about 1,000 visits to this blog (on a bad day, it’s about 500…and on an Axanar day, it’s about 3,000!).  Some comments have even said that fan films are just wasted time with Trekkies playing “dress up,” and most fan films aren’t even watchable.  So why do I write this blog?

Well, first of all, someone’s gotta do it, right?  I mean, whether or not a fan film is good or bad (and remember my Prime Directive of Fan Film Factor), a great deal of work and dedication goes into each one.  Sometimes it might not look that way, but trust me, I’ve worked on enough of them and spoken to enough creators to know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into even the most humble, low-budget fan film.  And frankly, someone out there should be covering it all and giving them some credit.  Why not me?

Second, I find it really interesting to watch this medium developing and evolving.  And this blog is an archive, of sorts, of that evolution.  Granted, things were much more ambitious before the guidelines, but it’s still exciting—at least to me—to see what fans can come up with: the stories, characters, sets, props, costumes, VFX, sound and film editing, music, etc.

And third, it’s not as small a world of viewership as you might think!  Sure, I only get about 45K-50K visits a month, but fan films like Horizon, Renegades, and Prelude have gotten MILLIONS of views on YouTube!  People out there are taking notice of fan films…usually in a good way.  And one of the people who took notice was none other than Academy Award-winning actor TOM HANKS!

I’d forgotten about the 2013 interview with Tom Hanks that took place on actor/comedian Kevin Pollak’s online chat show.  In it, he briefly discussed Star Trek fan films and STAR TREK CONTINUES in particular.  Although he mistakenly said they were based in South Carolina (it was actually southern Georgia), it was clear that he was talking about STC.

At the time, they had only released their first episode “The Pilgrim of Eternity,” but that was clearly enough to make an impression upon Mr. Hanks.  I thank STC actor MICHELE SPECHT for posting this little gem a week ago and reminding me of yet another reason I work on this blog site: BECAUSE TOM HANKS WATCHES STAR TREK FAN FILMS!  YAY!!!  Take a look at this 79-second clip…

 

“ENTERPRISE – LADY” tribute music video

For over a year, this music video has been sitting in a menu area of Fan Film Factor called “THE CARGO BAY.”  When I began this blog site, I imagined that section would be a good place to drop miscellaneous content that didn’t fit in anywhere else.  But in the upcoming weeks, I’ll be doing a bit of top menu reorganization, and “THE CARGO WAY” will be jettisoned.  So I’m pulling out this video from its previous blog and creating a new blog for it so it can live elsewhere on the site.

So what the heck is Jonathan’s ENTERPRISE – LADY” tribute music video?  Well, back in 2002, I edited together my own Star Trek music video montage, a “love letter” to all the wonderful starships called Enterprise.

This music video was inspired by a similarly-themed montage that I saw at a convention in Cleveland, OH back in 1988.  That video also used The Little River Band’s “Lady” as a musical score (and I do love that song!).  But back then, there were only the TOS and TAS episodes, four movies, and one season of TNG.  Footage of the USS Enterprise in 1988 was  limited to the original, the refit, and the 1701-D…no bloody A, B, C, E or NX-01.  (Well, technically there was a bit of the 1701-A at the end of Trek IV.)

By 2002, I now had nine feature films, seven seasons of TNG (plus DS9 and Voyager), and the first two seasons of Enterprise.  There weren’t remastered VFX back then, and I didn’t have own DVD collections yet, so I worked off the VHS tapes I’d recorded from TV broadcasts of episodes (and that’s why you can see the UPN logo on all the NX-01 shots!).

I added a lot of little touches—the cuts match up to the beats of the music and, in many cases, the images match to the words of the song.  It was a labor of love that took me a few months to complete (and it eventually won a fan Star Trek music video contest at a Los Angeles Creation convention).

I invite you all to enjoy my little effort below…

My 6-year-old son JAYDEN does his first-ever STAR TREK PODCAST interview…and it’s ADORABLE!

I’d always hoped to one day have a child who would enjoy Star Trek as much as I do (or at least not hate it completely).  And I’ll freely admit that I’m a totally biased daddy who is super-proud of his Trekkie son.  But Jayden recently did his first-ever Star Trek podcast, discussing the TOS episode “Mirror, Mirror.”  And he just blew me away with one of the most priceless and hysterical interviews I could have ever imagined.

The podcast that Jayden (and I) appear on is called ENTERPRISING INDIVIDUALS, and it’s an interesting concept.  Each week, the show features a different guest from the world of Star Trek—authors, screenwriters, experts, and superfans—and they discuss their favorite episode (from any of the series) along with providing information and insight about themselves and their experiences with Star Trek.

It’s a fun way to do an interview, with just enough banter about the featured Star Trek episode to keep the interview from getting too monotonous…and just enough interview that it doesn’t feel like yet another “discuss-an-episode-for-an-hour” podcast.

When the Minnesota-based host, who goes by the handle of Ka1iban of Just Enough Trope Studios, first reached out and asked me which episode was my favorite, I’d actually said “The Doomsday Machine.”  But that one had already been taken by a previous guest.  So I suggested “Mirror, Mirror,” which Jayden and I had just finished watching as we make our way through TOS episodes each night while I exercise.  And then I suggested that it might be fun to include Jayden for part of the interview, as he’s a real fan…and the host agreed.

And Jayden didn’t let me down.  His 17-minute segment is PRICELESS!  The rest of the podcast with me is also a lot of fun, but yeah, Jayden’s segment is a MUST-HEAR and leaves my interview in the dust!

The full interview can be linked to here, and Jayden’s segment begins at about the 39:35 minute mark.  But to save you from having to scroll to the good part, I’ve created a version with just Jayden’s portion below…

(Oh, and that beard is water-soluble magic marker.  It washed off completely in 20 seconds.)