It’s RED SHIRTS…will they survive? (feature)

When it comes to everyone’s favorite walking Starfleet targets, there’s been a lot of fan film attention paid to the humble and ill-fated “Red Shirt.” Of course, Starfleet security only wore red for a few short years during the TOS-era, but that was long enough for Trekkers and even some non-Trekkers to accept that, when it came time to beam down—unless you were Scotty or Uhura or Rand—you did NOT want to be wearing the color red!

With titles like RED SHIRT, RED SHIRTS: A STAR TREK PARODY SERIES, and THE RED SHIRT DIARIES (to name but a few), fan filmmakers have been hilariously spotlighting these poor bastards—I mean, noble heroes—for nearly a decade.

One of the very first parody fan films of this sub-genre of a sub-genre of a sub-genre was posted to YouTube back in 2013—the brainchild of two show-runners who, at the time, were both studying Multimedia at California State University Northridge. ANTOINE BANDELE and his friend RICARDO ELLIOTT II decided in early 2013 to start up a YouTube channel called “Akimbros”—a hybrid of the word “akimbo” (when you stand with your hands on your hips) and “bros.”

Antoine Bandele and Ricardo Elliott II…the Akimbros!

At the time (and even now) African-American showrunners on Star Trek fan films were a rarity. So despite its light-hearted nature and the fact that this was the only Star Trek fan film that the Akimbros would ever release, RED SHIRTS still holds an important place in fan film history.

Antoine and Ricardo initially set out to release one new film every two weeks on their Akimbros channel, and Red Shirts was their first offering. It debuted on May 17, 2013. Their second release, an epic light saber battle on the roof of a garage next to the 405 Freeway in West Los Angeles, followed just over two weeks later. However, their third film, an action short titled Tower 46, took another six weeks to post, and their fourth release, an ultra-short but ultra-clever “real life” video game between Pirates and Ninjas, wouldn’t see release for another six months. Their final offering, a brief teaser-trailer for an Oblivion fan film, came out a year later…and then that was that for the Akimbros.

But right now, let’s take a look at their hilarious first project, Red Shirts

Continue reading “It’s RED SHIRTS…will they survive? (feature)”

INTERLUDE wins the GRAND PRIZE in the 5th annual IndieBOOM! Awards!

For the third time in the last five years, a Star Trek fan film has won the Grand Prize in the annual IndieBOOM! Film+Music Festival…and this year, the winner was my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE! The previous two winners were (in 2019) “The Equinox Effect” and (in 2020) “Mask“—both from THE FEDERATION FILES anthology series.

Actually, when I say “my” fan film, I really mean OUR fan film…because this was a labor of love and dedication from more than 50 people. And the two most important individuals in that group were my directors, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN. Technically, Victoria was listed in the credits as “director” and Josh as “director of photography.” But as far as I’m concerned, they EACH deserve the highest accolades, which is why I submitted the film with both of their names listed—and here’s the official certificate that was just e-mailed to me yesterday…

Although entered in the Fan Film category, Interlude received more views and viewing hours than any other selection in any category. I was told by IndieBOOM! festival co-founder ANTHONY DEVITO that Interlude was viewed more than 2,600 times for a total of 488 viewed hours! As such, it was elevated to Grand Prize winner, allowing another fan film, Stegosaurus: A Jurassic Park Fan Film (directed by BARRY WILKINSON from the UK) to win the Fan Film category.

Another notable winner was the the music video STAR TREK IS REAL, written and performed by ILIA “PIXI NEREID” McNEAL, star and producer of the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series, which took the title of Winning Original Song and scored Pixi a $250 prize…yay, Pixi!

Continuing the Star Trek strength in the festival, Trek anthology series The Federation Files took the award for Best Series.

And finally, my composer for Interlude, KEVIN CROXTON, won in the category for Best Musical with his James Bond-inspired fan film starring the 4th and 5th graders whom he teaches: IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE (which is an amazing film in its own right and something you should definitely take ten minutes out of your day to watch).

You can see all of this year’s winners here.

Now, some folks on Facebook have complained that choosing winners based on views and viewing hours turns IndieBOOM! into little more than a competition to see who has the most followers on social media and who can “turn out the vote” most effectively. Maybe so, but those are the rules. Other film festivals work differently, but IndieBOOM! has decided that this is the best way to let the viewers make their choices known. And so those of us who submit our films do what we can to reach out to friends, family, donors, fans, etc. and ask them to vote for us by viewing. In that way, it’s kind of like crowd-funding: the more interest and support you can generate from people, the more successful you’ll be.

And speaking of crowd-funding, the Grand Prize Winner for the IndieBOOM! festival receives $500. As soon as it arrives, I am going to donate it directly to the Avalon Universe crowd-funder!

Continue reading “INTERLUDE wins the GRAND PRIZE in the 5th annual IndieBOOM! Awards!”

How I ended up writing QUARK’S MENU at STAR TREK: THE EXPERIENCE in Las Vegas! (biography blog #3)

My first biography blog was posted on January 11, 2016, a day after Fan Film Factor first launched. It described how I turned down a job working for MICHAEL OKUDA in the Star Trek Scenic Art Department at Paramount Studios back in 1993. A year and a half later, I published my second biography blog, describing how I came to work as a freelance “professional Trekkie” fan consultant for Viacom Consumer Products starting in 1997. It was a gig I’d have for another six years.

It’s now 2022, today is my birthday (January 17), and I am going to indulge myself by finally publishing my THIRD biography blog, explaining how I ended up writing the menu for QUARK’S BAR & RESTAURANT at Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. And as a special treat, here is a high-quality PDF file of the original menu for you to read and enjoy…

It was the summer of 1997, and I’d been working with JULIET DUTTON of Viacom Consumer Products for about 8 months, reviewing submitted Star Trek CD-ROM game scripts for accuracy, since Juliet wasn’t a Trekkie and didn’t know an Andorian from a Tellarite. Another person in licensing, KIRSTI PAYNE, was assigned to PARAMOUNT PARKS, a licensee that was finishing construction on a new Star Trek attraction at the Las Vegas Hilton that was scheduled to open early the following year. It would have an immersive virtual reality motion simulator ride, a Star Trek prop and costume museum, a gift shop (of course!), and even Quark’s Bar and Restaurant.

There was just one problem: their proposed menu was a complete disaster.

It wasn’t the food that was the issue so much figuring out what to call the various items. Uninspired names like “Cosmic Burger” and “Galaxy Fries” were falling far short of being Star Trek enough, and the menu just sounded boring. They needed help—badly! During a weekly staff meeting, Kirsti asked her fellow licensing staffers if anyone knew a creative Star Trek fan with a good sense of humor who was also able to write well.

Juliet said, “I have just the person for you…!”

Continue reading “How I ended up writing QUARK’S MENU at STAR TREK: THE EXPERIENCE in Las Vegas! (biography blog #3)”

Three positive COVID-19 tests among AVALON UNIVERSE cast and crew delay film shoot!

In a video interview that we did during the end of December, JOSHUA IRWIN of the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series was excited for a film shoot they had scheduled for early January. That shoot was supposed to be this weekend, but three significant members of the cast and crew have each, separately, been diagnosed with COVID-19 this past week, necessitating the delay of the shoot at least until February.

This was a major shoot for their next fan project, “The Needs of the One.” The story deals with a Vulcan crew member going through pon farr, similar to the beginning of the TOS episode episode “Amok Time.” But the similarities end there, as this crew member doesn’t simply accept the ancient traditions of the Vulcan culture where Vulcan females are “promised” to males as children. This episode turns all of that on its ear…or so I’m told.

This isn’t the first time a fan film has needed to delay a shoot due to COVID. Indeed, an earlier release from Avalon, AIR AND DARKNESS, had a COVID delay in late 2020, just as the pandemic seemed to potentially be receding a little (yeah, that didn’t happen).

Interestingly, it isn’t just Avalon that had to cancel a Star Trek-related film shoot this week. On Thursday, production on STAR TREK: PICARD season three had to be suspended when more than 50 members of the production crew (out of a total of 450) returned from the holiday break testing positive for COVID. SIR PATRICK STEWART was, thankfully, not among those reported to be sick. Filming restarted on Friday with COVID-negative replacements.

And it’s not just here in America where COVID is interfering with production. British Earl of CGI, SAMUEL COCKINGS, has already lost three shooting days for TREK SHORTS due to last-minute COVID infections. Sam has tried to make lemons from lemonade, though. During shoots when a single actor has had to cancel because of a positive COVID test or exposure to someone with COVID, Sam used the opportunity to either shoot scenes for alternate films or else write entirely new shorts with the actor or actors who did show up. You can read about one of those incidents in this blog about the origin of the bonus fan film HOURS AT WARP.

Three additional shooting days for Sam were affected by non-COVID illnesses (bloke can’t catch a break!) But because of costs to bring the actors in, travel and lodging, plus having to set up new shoots to replace the impacted ones, Sam no longer has the funds remaining to complete everything he promised donors. So Sam plans to launch an additional crowd-funding campaign. “There will be a LOT of new stuff to show,” Sam told me, “both to reveal what we actually did in 2021 but also all the new things we need help with finishing in 2022 and 2023!”

Continue reading “Three positive COVID-19 tests among AVALON UNIVERSE cast and crew delay film shoot!”

Announcing TWO new FAN FILM AWARD SHOWS coming in 2022!

File this under: “Great minds think alike…” or perhaps under, “This is what you get for missing staff meetings, Doctor.” Either way, GLEN WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS of THE FEDERATION FILES and I had the same idea at the same time, and now there are going to be TWO new fan film awards shows coming your way in 2022!

In my case, the idea of hosting an annual awards show for Star Trek fan films has been percolating in the back of my mind for a few years…not as a way of competing with the annual BJO AWARDS but as simply an additional opportunity for Star Trek fan filmmakers and their productions to shine.

As the new year dawned a few days ago, I was able to finally enjoy a break from the blogging “sprint” that took up much of my December. And I decided that, if I was really serious about creating some Fan Film Factor awards show, now might be a good time to do some thinkin’…

At first, I tried to come up with a name—and you know how much I like things that abbreviate to “FFF.” The Fan Film Festival Awards? Nah. Fan Film Faves? Cheesy. Fan Film Friends? Family? Flamingos? Jeez, I had nothing decent!

Okay, time to try a different approach vector…

So I shifted to thinking about judging. I mean, I suppose it could just be me deciding the winners and losers, but no one fan should possess such power! And, sheesh, what a way to completely piss off almost all of my friends, right? Nope, I needed a panel, but whom? When I finally answered that question, the name for the awards show fell easily into place: THE SHOWRUNNER AWARDS.

I’ve always felt there should be a fan film awards competition where members of the community judge each other’s work…and who knows more about what it takes to make a fan film than a showrunner? But I didn’t want too many judges, so I decided to limit my invitations to showrunners who had successfully released at least four or five completed Star Trek fan films.

Of course, the next concern was making sure there weren’t too many entries. Goodness knows that VANCE MAJOR alone (one of the judges) could enter dozens—maybe hundreds!—of fan films all by himself! So I decided that, unlike the Bjo Awards, the Showrunner Awards will feature a nominal entry fee (maybe $10) plus an additional $1 for each special category like Best VFX, Best Music, Best Film Editing, etc. As I’m learning from entering my fan film INTERLUDE in various film festivals, this is how most of them work with application fees.

Speaking of Vance, or any of the judges, how do we make certain that all of them don’t simply vote for their own fan film, and we wind up with a 6-way or 10-way tie each year? Glad you asked…

Continue reading “Announcing TWO new FAN FILM AWARD SHOWS coming in 2022!”

Did I just watch an episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY that was 90% just people STANDING AROUND AND TALKING???? (editorial review)

I’ve gotta hand it to the folks at STAR TREK: DISCOVERY…this episode took chutzpah!

We’re going into the mid-season hiatus—six weeks without new episodes of Star Trek: Discovery—and one might have expected a “big” episode with lots of action sequences and suspense and drama building to a huge cliffhanger ending that would leave the viewers shouting for “more!” And while we did get that aforementioned cliffhanger, the rest of episode—I’d estimate 90% or more—was just people literally standing around and talking. Just…talking. Okay, a few were sitting. But just talking, talking, and talking some more.

Heck, they didn’t even leave the room! Nearly the whole episode took place entirely on just two sets…and neither was even the bridge! If last week’s “Stormy Weather” was a bottle episode, then this week’s “…But To Connect” was a thimble episode.

And yet, as God is my witness…

It somehow worked!

It would have been easy to simply dismiss this episode as a misfire. After all, “all talk, no action” is a valid criticism for most shows. And don’t even get me started on the amount of heavy exposition in this episode! At times, the dialogue bordered on science lecture—or maybe law lecture…or both—and at other times felt a little like watching CSPAN. (For those readers outside of the U.S., we have TV channels that air nothing other than proceedings in our Senate and House of Representatives. Most times, watching CSPAN and CSPAN2 is orders of magnitude LESS interesting than watching paint dry.)

So why did this quiet, no-action, potentially even “boring” episode work for me? What left me wanting to write a positive review rather than tearing it apart? Let’s dive in…

Continue reading “Did I just watch an episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY that was 90% just people STANDING AROUND AND TALKING???? (editorial review)”

Please VOTE for INTERLUDE in the 5th Annual IndieBOOM! Film + Music Festival!

It was late 2017 when the IndieBOOM! Film Festival debuted with a category exclusively for “FAN FILMS”—one of the first major film competitions to do so. Created by the team at the award-winning Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, IndieBOOM! offers categories for filmmakers, musicians, and screenwriters working in all short-form formats and genres. In addition to Fan Films, their other categories include Comedy, Drama, Documentary, Horror/Sci-Fi, Experimental, Eusic Videos and Musicals, Animation, Series, Commercials, Dance, and Songs.

In 2019, the winner in the Fan Film category (and also the Sci-Fi category) was “Walking Bear, Running Wolf” from THE FEDERATION FILES. In 2020, the winning fan film was BATMAN: THE SCHEME IS SOUND, which (even though it wasn’t Star Trek) was written, directed, and produced by the man who composed the music for my fan film INTERLUDE: KEVIN CROXTON. And at the beginning of 2021, the announced winner in the category was a Star Wars fan film from Mexico titled JUNDLAND: NO MAN’S LAND.

Now, that we’re in 2022, I think it might be time for a Star Trek fan film to win again. What do you think?

This year’s official selections in the IndieBOOM! Fan Film category include two live-action Star Wars films (one from Australia and one from the USA), an animated Ghostbusters short from the USA, a live-action Jurassic Park fan film from the UK, a James Bond fan film from the USA with kids playing all the role, and two live-action Star Trek fan films from the USA. One of those is my fan film Interlude, and the other is an amalgamation of two fan films from The Federation Files (USA) released over the past two years.

Obviously, I’d like you to please vote for Interlude, although the choice is certainly up to you!

Voting is done by watching on Vimeo, and every view counts as one vote. So watch early, watch often! (Actually, if Vimeo works like YouTube, then each computer browser can log only one vote…so no cheating, I guess!)

Voting runs continuously from today through January 16. Here is the link to view and vote for Interlude

https://www.indieboomff.com/interlude-star-trek.html

And maybe give it a like while you’re there, just so I know there’s someone out there watching Interlude.

The first prize for the most viewed film over all of the various categories wins $500. If Interlude wins (fingers crossed!), I intend to donate the prize money to the AVALON UNIVERSE GoFundMe so my DP and Film Editor on Interlude, JOSHUA IRWIN, can produce even more awesome Star Trek fan films. I fully expect to see him winning IndieBOOM! next year!

I encourage you all to check out each of the wonderful films selected as finalists. And if you do choose to vote for Interlude, I thank you.

2021 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!

Well, it’s been another year, and the CBS guidelines still haven’t killed Star Trek fan films! In fact, even focusing on just the highlights, this is still gonna be a loooooong blog. But that’s a GOOD thing…unless you’re the guy who has to write it up. But I don’t mind. In fact, I’ve actually written 108 blogs this year…94 of them about Star Trek fan films and the others a mix of editorials, reviews of new CBS Star Trek episodes and series, tracking the now-settled Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up lawsuit, and sadly a few eulogies).

It’s always a challenge how to organize these year in review blogs, but this time, I think I’ll just go chronologically, highlighting the biggest releases for each month. However, before I do that, I’d like to acknowledge a few key people who go beyond simply making fan films and actually give of themselves to the greater fan film community in significant ways…

VANCE MAJOR – The creator of the fan-favorite character of Erick Minard, Vance has produced nearly 150 Star Trek fan films in total…including 30 this year alone covering both the CONSTAR series as well as other fan films released under the NO BUDGET PRODUCTIONS banner. (Because he’s released so many, I’ll be leaving most of Vance’s films off of this year’s highlight list…lest this blog becomes longer than War and Peace!) Vance has also been helping some of his actors make the transition to producers. In previous years, this included GREG TEFT and GREG MITCHELL. This year, PAUL JACQUES and SEAN REIMER joined that expanding group. And in addition to providing these wonderful opportunities, Vance is also spotlighting fan filmmakers regularly on his PIZZA ROLL DIARIES and CRITICAL, NOT CYNICAL video podcasts.


DAN REYNOLDS and GLEN WOLF – In addition to producing the Star Trek anthology series THE FEDERATION FILES, Glen and Dan also maintain TOS set replicas in their WARP 66 STUDIOS facilities, allowing those sets in northern Arkansas to be used by other fan filmmakers, as well.


RAY TESI – Another fan who owns TOS set replicas, Ray bought the STAR TREK CONTINUES/STARSHIP FARRAGUT sets from VIC MIGNOGNA and now allows them to be used by fan filmmakers at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland,GA.


SAMUEL COCKINGS – If you see amazing CGI visual effects in a Star Trek fan film, there’s a good chance that the British “Royal of Rendering” created them. Indeed, at this point, it’s almost shorter to list the fan films that Sam Cockings hasn’t done the VFX for! While top-level CGI isn’t a requirement for a good fan film, it can add a professionally polished look. Sam spends an unbelievable amount of his time doing this for his fellow fan filmmakers, and it makes such a big difference for so many.

Continue reading “2021 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!”

AVALON UNIVERSE (re)releases AGENT OF NEW WORLDS…version 2.0! (video interview with JOSHUA IRWIN)

On Halloween, JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner of the the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series, released the team’s latest full-length fan film, AGENTT OF NEW WORLDS. It marked the beginning of a new era for their fan series, introducing multiple new characters and jumping the story forward in time to the next captain and crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur, following the departure of former stars VICTORIA FOX and CHUCK MERÉ from the series earlier this past year.

The new release was a labor of love for all involved…in more ways than one. For some on Team Avalon, it meant dozens of hours of round-trip driving to remote outdoor filling locations…along with trips to the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS in Avalon‘s home state of Arkansas. For Josh himself, the total distance driven surpassed 5,500 miles!!! For an explanation of how that happened, along with a description of one of their most dangerous shoots, take a read through this blog from back in August.

Fast forward to Christmas Day (because, apparently, Josh really likes holiday releases), and Josh surprised the fan film community with a NEW cut of Agent of New Worlds. Apparently, “really good” wasn’t good enough for Josh, as he made about a dozen tweaks and improvements to the film. Take a look at version 2.0…

Amusingly, this wasn’t Josh’s only update of a previously-released fan film. A couple of weeks earlier, after working with me and composer KEVIN CROXTON for about four months, Josh released a third version of INTERLUDE. You can read all about that new edit, what was changed and why, and watch the new version on this blog page.

After watching the new version of Interlude, one of my readers commented that it might be fun to post the previous version and the newest version side-by-side so that fans could compare the two. Perhaps someday. But when it comes to Agent of New Worlds, I can do you one better right now!

Josh and I just finished a special interview that’s a bit different than my usual fare. This video chat focuses on each of the changes that Josh made—showing the “before” and “after” of each shot—followed by Josh explaining how and why he made the adjustment(s).

It’s a really fun and informative interview, especially if you’re interested in film editing. Josh is great at explaining both the philosophical side as well as the technical side without making your eyes glaze over. Also, there’s just a lot of enjoyable banter back and forth between us. I think you’ll really like watching this one…

Oh, and remember that the Avalon GoFundMe campaign is still active, and donations go directly into making really awesome fan films…

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

Even ST: DISCOVERY “haters” would LOVE the most recent episode “STORMY WEATHER”! (editorial review)

SPOILIN’ FOR A SPOILER? WE GOT ‘EM!

I literally have zero complaints about this episode! Well, that’s not entirely true…I found Book’s dad to be a very annoying hallucination. On the other hand, so did Book, and I think he was supposed to be grating. So can I really complain about something I’m meant to complain about? Interesting question!

But what’s not up for questioning is how much I absolutely LOVED this episode. And that’s saying something because “Stormy Weather,” STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s sixth episode of season 4, was forced to do more with less. Budget-wise, this episode was about as inexpensive as they come. First of all, it was a “bottle” episode…which means it took place entirely on the ship and/or on existing sets. No new sets had to be built, no one had to create virtual backgrounds for the AR Wall, few extras were used (the bridge almost felt kinda empty, and the ship’s bar definitely was), outside of the ship was just blackness (saving on VFX shots), and even make-up costs were minimized by having the alien Linus off-screen all episode in his quarters “under a heat lamp.”

Low budget episodes like this often happen mid-season (we’re just about halfway through season four now), allowing money to be reserved for the BIG final episodes with all of the action and huge VFX sequences…which is a fact of life for nearly every show on TV these days. With low budgets and limited sets, “bottle” episodes can be hit and miss. But some have been quite excellent—TNG‘s “Ship in a Bottle” (the ultimate “bottle” episode where holodeck Moriarty returns) and “Disaster” are two that come to mind.

And speaking of TNG, perhaps the main reason this particular episode came out so well is because it was directed by a person who is no stranger to TNG-style “bottle” episodes: JONATHAN “Commander William T. Riker” FRAKES.

Frakes knows what makes Star Trek “feel” like Star Trek, and he brought that knowledge to this episode. When done properly, a ship-gets-trapped-and-crew-needs-to-find-a-way-out story is really just a tool for spotlighting the abilities of characters whom we care about. On TNG, we cared about all of them—Picard, Riker, Data, Beverly, Deanna, Worf, Geordi, even Wesley when he wasn’t saving the ship in some annoying way. Do we care as much about the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery as we did about the crew of the Enterprise-D? Well, if anyone can make us care, it’s Jonathan Frakes.

Believe it or not, this was Frakes’ SEVENTH(!) time directing Discovery. He’s also directed 17 additional episodes of other Star Trek series along with two of the feature films. So…y’know…wow! The guy’s about as “veteran” as it gets behind a Star Trek camera.

Continue reading “Even ST: DISCOVERY “haters” would LOVE the most recent episode “STORMY WEATHER”! (editorial review)”