STAR TREK CONTINUES becomes a CBS All Access AFFILIATE!

Things got very interesting on Sunday morning after STAR TREK CONTINUES posted this message on their Facebook page overnight:

Got CBS All Access yet? STC has been invited to join the affiliate program, so you can sign up through our website now. Sign up today!

Almost immediately, fans started conjecturing what this meant for STC.  Were they suddenly being accepted by CBS?  Would they now be allowed to complete their cancelled 12th and 13th episodes?  Were they getting a kickback from CBS?  Would STC be shown on All Access?

The answers to all of these questions appear to be “no.”  Apparently, STC was simply contacted by a division of CBS (likely CBS Interactive or else someone in marketing) and offered the option of becoming a CBS All Access Affiliate, promoting subscriptions to the network’s streaming service through online banners on their startrekcontinues.com website.  (Note to CBS Interactive: the hyperlinks aren’t working from Mac browsers.)

It’s unclear whether or not STC will be receiving a commission for any fans who sign up for CBS All Access.  STC posted on their Facebook pages that they are not being compensated.  However, I just signed up Fan Film Factor for the same program and was required to agree to terms that included the following (which I screen capped)…

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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…

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…

 

STAR TREK CONTINUES releases their eighth episode: “Still Treads the Shadow”!

Once again, STAR TREK CONTINUES proves itself the undisputed king of the Trek fan film genre.  This isn’t meant as a slight against any other fan film or series.  It’s simply that STC‘s eight full episodes just get better and better and are all but flawless in their interpretation of classic Star Trek.  They tell stories that are both well-written and extraordinarily well-produced and well-directed…with excellent editing, musical scoring, visual effects, costumes, make-up, lighting, and of course, meticulously recreated TOS sets.

“Still Treads the Shadow” was written by Judy Burns, a professional Hollywood screenwriter and producer with a long list of credits.  And her very first one was as co-writer for the third season TOS episode “The Tholian Web”…which should be kept in mind as fans watch this latest episode from STC.  (No spoilers!)  Also of note is a guest appearance by Battlestar Galactica series regular Rekha Sharma (one of the final five “sleeper” Cylons), who has an extensive list of Hollywood television roles.  The episode was directed be Julian Higgins, who also directed the sixth episode of Star Trek Continues, “Come Not Between the Dragons.”  Both episodes were magnificently directed.

In the finest traditions of Star Trek, this latest episode provides wonderful literary themes that serve to richly enhance the viewing experience.  The title, “Still Treads the Shadow,” is taken from poetic masterpiece The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  A passage from that epic poem is quoted during the episode, and I highly recommend that you click that link I just provided and (re)read that classic work (especially if you skipped reading it in high school!).  It will provide some interesting insights into the symbolic “ancient mariner” who appears in this episode.

So now the question is: what will CBS and Paramount do…if anything?  STC has now finished production on its final four episodes (this being the first of them) and plans to release all of them over the next several months.  And although the $200,000 in crowd-funding was completed shortly before the new fan film guidelines went into effect, the run-time of this episode is 54 minutes (longer thsn 15 minute), it’s part of a continuing fan series, it features paid professionals including alumni of studio-based Star Trek productions (including writer Judy Burns and star/executive producer Vic Mignogna himself, who worked on Star Trek Online), and of course, it has the words “Star Trek” in the title.

The STC folks hope that they’ll be permitted to complete their run, having told me in a conversation last August that the guidelines don’t say that a production WILL be sued if it fails to follow all of the guidelines, only that it WON’T be sued if it does follow all of the guidelines.  Fingers crossed that they’re correct!

In the meantime, “Still Treads the Shadow” premiered yesterday at the Fan Expo Dallas convention with a sneak preview for donors.  But now it’s available for everyone.  Enjoy…

STAR TREK CONTINUES answers some questions from fans about their FINAL EPISODES!

As reported a week ago, STAR TREK CONTINUES has announced a release date for its eighth episode, “Still Treads the Shadow,” of April 1 at Fan Expo Dallas.  STC also confirmed that they will release three additional episodes after that, completing their run with eleven episodes total (two fewer than their originally-planned thirteen episodes).

These announcements led to some major speculation among fans (especially here on FAN FILM FACTOR and on the SMALL ACCESS Facebook page) wondering how long the episode will be, how are they getting around the guidelines, have they been in contact with CBS and gotten any kind of permission, etc.

Yesterday, STC sent out a newsletter to donors (yep, I got mine!) that included a spotlight on STC guest star Rekha Sharma (of the new Battlestar Galactica, who will be appearing in this upcoming STC episode) as well as some frequently asked questions and answers about their remaining episodes.

Before I publish the STC Q&A, I want to warn any Axanar supporters reading this that, yes, they include a bit of a dig in their fifth answer.  As many fans are aware, there is no love lost between Vic Mignogna of STC and Alec Peters of Axanar (total understatement!).  And in the “I hit Krako, Krako hits Teppo, Teppo hits me…” traditions of fine fan film feuding, we have yet another hit.

As a proud backer of both series who loves watching Vic play Kirk and Alec play Garth, I personally find the mutual animosity distasteful (whichever of them it comes from).  And as a donor to STC, I could have done without the inclusion of the Axa-negativity in the statements.  It wasn’t necessary to say it like they did and just serves to prolong the feud another day/week/month.  But it’s their production, their newsletter, and their chip on the shoulder.

I do dream of a day when we can all just get along and celebrate each others’ successes.  Maybe someday.  But I will stop editorializing now.  Just know that, yes, the dig is in there.  Yes, you’re all welcome to light up my comments section with yet another flame war (they’re kinda like tribbles, aren’t they?).  But no, I’m not going to participate.  I love BOTH productions, and I’m ROOTING for both productions.  I invite those of you who can get past the resentment and anger to join me in not exploding yet again.  It requires a LOT less energy and doesn’t raise your blood pressure nearly as much.

All right, getting down from my soapbox now and handling the mic over to STC

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STAR TREK CONTINUES announces PREMIERE DATE and TITLE for their EIGHTH episode!

It’s been quite a while since fans and donors got an update from STAR TREK CONTINUES.  Despite many, many new posts (sometimes more than one a day!) on their Facebook page, there has been precious little news on the plans for Star Trek Continues now that the fan film guidelines are in place.  After all, with guidelines saying that a Star Trek fan film can’t contain the words “Star Trek” in the title, must be less than 15 minutes in length and a maximum of a 2-parter (for 30 minutes total), and cannot be a continuing series, it seemed like Star Trek Continues couldn’t…well…continue without running afoul of multiple guidelines.

As I reported here last August, STC writer/director/co-producer JAMES KERWIN had told me at Creation’s 50th Anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas that what CBS and Paramount have said is if you follow all of these guidelines, then they will not sue you.  But they do NOT say that if you don’t follow these guidelines, then they will sue you.  There is a big distinction there.

James also told me during our talk that STC wanted to spend the remainder of their crowd-funding resources to film their final four episodes to wrap up the series. They hoped that their good relationship with CBS might result in the studio allowing the fan series to complete its run.  The plan for STC had always been to do a limited number of episodes (originally planned for 12 or 13–now the total will be 11)…as star and show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA himself said that he won’t be able to play a 37-year-old Captain Kirk forever.  (The Internet reports Vic’s current age as 54.)

But since last August, updates have been scarce from STC…until now, that is.  They just published a MAJOR announcement confirming their intention to release the last four episodes of the series (already filmed and in post-production) and providing a premiere date for their eighth episode, “Still Treads the Shadow.”

Here’s the full update…

The announcement you’ve all been waiting for!

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DREADNOUGHT DOMINION and STARSHIP VALIANT cross-over in “CHAIN OF COMMAND”!

chain-of-command-dreadnought-dominion-and-svBack in April of 2015, a new Star Trek fan series called DREADNOUGHT DOMINION premiered with its initial episode, “Haunted.”  Three months later, a second episode, titled “Anchors Aweigh” (a bit of a prequel to the first episode), made its debut.  It wasn’t the only TOS-era fan series to feature the crew of a non-heavy cruiser class starship, but it was the first and only one to feature the crew of a Starfleet dreadnought-class starship based on the mid-1970s Franz Joseph Star Trek Technical Manual.

dreadnought-dominionThanks to a 3D model created by Kenneth Thomson, Jr. and Thomas Phong, the beauty shots of the tri-nacelled USS Dominion in the opening credits and during the episodes were gorgeous.  The two episodes were filmed primarily on the very impressive TOS sets in Starship Farragut’s Studio Two in Kingsland, GA (also the shooting location of Star Trek Continues).

A year earlier, another fan series, Starship Valiant, made its debut on YouTube with an introduction vignette titled “Legacy.”  Valiant was filmed using the TOS bridge set at Starbase Studios in Oklahoma City.  (The following year, a “special edition” version of “Legacy” with added footage was posted after Starbase Studios built a new sickbay set.)  Valiant has since completed principal filming on its second episode “The Ties That Bind,” although post production is still ongoing and the second episode hasn’t been released yet.

So what do these two fan series–filmed in different locations in different states during different years–have in common?  A man named Vance…

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STAR TREK CONTINUES releases their seventh episode “Embracing the Winds”…and sparks new debate about the fan film guidelines!

STC-Embracing the WindsSTAR TREK CONTINUES’ seventh full-length episode, “Embracing the Winds” is–at least in my opinion–a masterpiece.  It’s a MUST SEE+ Star Trek fan film and possibly one of the best ones released to date.  Fan reaction has ranged generally from positive to gushing, with almost no one saying anything overall negative (only pointing out this or that little issue…and we Trekkers always have our “little issues”).

But really, STC has continued to up their game, and the quality and watchability of their newest offering is superb.  The acting, writing, directing, pacing…everything is top-notch.  There’s not of a lot of “wasted” scenes where the viewer feels the production has indulged itself too much and stretched things out.  In short, it’s a tight, exciting story that does what Star Trek has traditionally done so well: take a modern day issue (in this case, a very politically charged one at the moment) and provide a “safe” mirror through which we can examine our society and beliefs…and look at ourselves with a critical eye.

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STAR TREK CONTINUES plans to make FOUR more full episodes…hopefully

Cover 3When the new fan film guidelines were announced by CBS and Paramount, one of the biggest concerns was what would happen to Star Trek Continues.  This celebrated fan series now violated most of the guidelines, including a run time of more than 15 minutes per episode, the fact it was a continuing series in the first place, their recent $200,000 crowd-funding campaign (the new limit is $50,000), the distribution of perks, their use of professional actors and crew (including some who have previously worked on Star Trek films and/or licensed products), and of course, the words “Star Trek” in the title.

Of course, fans didn’t mind any of this.  In fact, Star Trek Continues remains one of the most popular and successful of all the fan series…with a passionate and devoted following (including myself, a proud donor).  And that’s why we were so concerned that these new guidelines would spell the end of Star Trek Continues (as they had already claimed another beloved fan series, Star Trek: New Voyages).

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CREATION CONtroversy…how’s that new “no talking about fan films” policy holding up?

Creation Logo

Before I begin, I’d just like to go on record that I’ve had the time of my life here in Las Vegas for the last five days.  And CREATION ENTERTAINMENT founders Adam Malin and Gary Berman (and their many employees, volunteers, and celebrity guests) have outdone themselves in putting on a superb 50th anniversary tribute to Star Trek.  I laughed, I cried, I kissed about $250 goodbye in the dealers room.  It was the best of times; it was an incredible gift to the 6,000 fans who could afford to make it to Las Vegas and ordered their tickets before they sold out.  So well done, I say to all of Creation!

And then came the “but.”

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