MINARD joins the AVALON UNIVERSE in “NEW ORDERS” (interview with VANCE MAJOR and JOSH IRWIN)

There’s a lot of love and camaraderie in the fan film community. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy creating and maintaining this blog. Oh, sure, there’s also some trolls and drama and silly “feuds,” but honestly, I don’t really pay much attention to all of that anymore because it’s pretty meaningless.

What is meaningful—with the emphasis on the FULL part—is all the positivity that Star Trek fan films bring…because when it comes right down to it, we’re FANS. It’s what got me involved in the world of Star Trek to begin with, knowing there was this group of people who loved something that I loved, too, that we could share and bond over…no matter our backgrounds or location or anything else that might separate us. Star Trek brought us TOGETHER!

And that’s why I cheered when I saw this new vignette from the AVALON UNIVERSE

NEW ORDERS might not seem like much. There’s minimal VFX, and only two characters are talking to each other via subspace for most of it, with a third popping up at the very end. But for me, it was so much more—it was a chance for me to watch two dear friends come together to make a fan film.

JOSHUA IRWIN and VANCE MAJOR have worked together before this. Josh (as well as his Avalon Universe collaborator VICTORIA FOX) has appeared in some of Vance’s CONSTAR productions, like “SHAKEDOWN.” And Vance made a very brief cameo in the Avalon Universe episode DEMONS. But this time felt different. New Orders wasn’t simply one of them appearing briefly in the other’s film. It was two two fan filmmakers who have become “legends” in our small-but-close-knit community, coming together as equals, and teasing the arrival of an awesome fan-favorite character into a fresh, new universe.

The fun thing about the Avalon Universe is that it’s Star Trekish but without five decades of canon weighing it down…kinda like what Star Trek: Discovery coulda/shoulda been had they just told us from the beginning that it was a parallel Trek universe (then most of us would have forgiven the different-looking Klingons and shiny uniforms and super-advanced tech). So characters from “standard” Star Trek fan films can pop up in the Avalon Universe in completely new ways. In fact, Captain Jakande, who died in my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE, will be making an appearance in an upcoming Avalon fan film, alive and healthy and played by actor WARREN HAWK.

As most of you probably know, Josh and Victoria were my directors on Interlude, and I consider both to be good friends. We often spend hours on the phone. The same is true for Vance, for whom a “short” call between the two of us is defined as anything under an hour!

So when I saw Josh and Vance having their own subspace “call” in New Orders, I decided to ask them both to say a few words about this new project…

Continue reading “MINARD joins the AVALON UNIVERSE in “NEW ORDERS” (interview with VANCE MAJOR and JOSH IRWIN)”

A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a great way to crowd-fund! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, part 1)

SAMUEL COCKINGS is the distilled essence of the truest of Star Trek fans—gifted with an amazing talent that he enthusiastically shares with other Trekkies in the form of stunning CGI animations which appear in an endless parade of fan films. Indeed, it’d probably take less time to list the major fan films that Sam DIDN’T work on than those he did! (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but if you want the complete list of every Trek fan film that Sam has turned into CGI gold with his digital Midas touch, just check out Sam’s IMDb page.)

In addition to providing VFX animations for innumerable Star Trek fan productions, Sam is also the co-host of the amazing and engaging TREKYARDS series of podcasts. And if you don’t know what that is and you’re a Trekker, you are totally missing out!

But beyond just helping out other productions, Sam has also been trying his hand at creating some fan films of his own. Back in 2013, he began work on what he was calling STAR TREK: TEMPORAL ANOMALY. It took him 6 years to complete it, and thanks to a call from CBS’s lawyers, he had to remove the words “Star Trek” and a few other things (click here to find out more and to view the finished fan film). But Temporal Anomaly was nevertheless a groundbreaking project, taking virtual backgrounds to an entirely new level for fan films.

In late 2018, Sam launched an Indiegogo for an ambitious new fan film to be titled CONVERGENCE and featuring a crossover of FIVE different Star Trek fan production. It ended up raising $7,385 from 114 backers and was supposed to be completed by now. Of course, it was funded before the world turned upside-down and had to shut down amidst a global pandemic.

With Convergence still paused in the middle of production, Sam surprised the fan film community at the beginning of May by launching yet another Indiegogo campaign, but this time, it wasn’t funding just one fan film but SIX!!! The series of unrelated anthology stories will be set in different time periods of Trek from TOS to the Wrath of Khan era to the Dominion War to the Enterprise-E encountering another “Doomsday Machine” planet-killer. Calling the anthology series TREK SHORTS, Sam announced participants from various other Trek fan series including: INTREPID, AVALON UNIVERSE, STAR TREK CONTINUES, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, DARK ARMADA, and of course Temporal Anomaly.

After just two weeks, the campaign is already about 40% of the way to its $10,000 goal with more than 60 backers. And if you’d like to be one of them (I am!), the perks are cool, and the project is really exciting. Here’s the link to donate…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

In fact, the project is SO exciting that Sam couldn’t even wait for it to fund before releasing the competed first of the six Trek Shorts: A LONG WAY FROM HOME. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look:

And now, let’s chat with Sam…

Continue reading “A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a great way to crowd-fund! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, part 1)”

OOOPSIE! The Indiegogo for TREK SHORTS didn’t include the PITCH VIDEO…and it’s a MUST-SEE!

Let this be a lesson to all of you crowd-funders and would-be crowd-funders out there: ALWAYS check your campaign pages…not just once but often!

When SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Sensei of CGI, launched his new Indiegogo for his ambitious SIX-episode TREK SHORTS project (six fan films for the price of one!), he included an absolutely amazing and snazzy pitch video. I mean, it’s a totally MUST-SEE pitch video, with the kind of jaw-dropping CGI that’ll leave you drooling plus clips of cast members spanning Trek fan films from four different countries on two different continents. There’s catchy music, exciting behind-the-scenes details, and even a hilarious ending.

Just one small problem: the Indiegogo campaign page lost the link to the video!

Had the video been linked, fans would have seen this…

Sam has no idea how it happened. The video was up there when he first launched it. But I visited the page and donated just a few hours later, and I didn’t see it. I just assumed there wasn’t a pitch video. After all, they’re not required.

Even without the pitch video, the campaign still managed to raise about a third of the $10,000 goal in just 10 days, which is certainly impressive. But I kinda wondered why it wasn’t doing better. However, there were still three weeks left, and I was prepping a two-part interview with Sam to help promote the campaign.

By the way (before I forget!), if you want to donate, here is the link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

Fast forward to Monday, and I was preparing the Sam interview for later on this week (you will definitely want to read this two-parter, trust me!). While questions and answers were going back and forth across the Atlantic, Sam typed the following…

SAMUEL – I’m particularly pleased with the Norway bridge as seen in the Indiegogo pitch video.

And then the following exchange happened…

JONATHAN – What video?

SAMUEL – The video on the Indiegogo page. It’s in the part where Jakub says we have made it in 3D.

JONATHAN – Um….

JONATHAN – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

JONATHAN – Watch the video. I’ll wait.

SAMUEL – It’s there in the video. I know it is.

JONATHAN – Seriously, click on the link. Watch the video.

SAMUEL – Why is the video not showing up? It was there when I launched it.

JONATHAN – Dude!!!

SAMUEL – I know because I watched it. Wonder when that glitched out.

JONATHAN – It was never there for me, but I’m sure it was awesome.

SAMUEL – Well, that explains why there were fewer views on the pitch video then I’dd like. But you did see the pitch video, right? I did send that to you, didn’t I?

JONATHAN – Nope and nope.

SAMUEL – Some journalist you are, not even looking for the pitch video. 😛

JONATHAN – I didn’t know there was one! I think you’re confusing me with Q.

SAMUEL – When the f*ck did it de-link? What bollocks. 😛

JONATHAN – You’re welcome. 😛

SAMUEL – Yeah seriously. Well…go take a look now. lol

And again, here’s that link to donate, folks:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

INTERLUDE Confidential #19: Watching ARES STUDIOS come alive…

INTERLUDE is knocking on the door of a combined 75,000 views for “version 2.0.” You can watch it on the AXANAR YouTube channel or the AVALON UNIVERSE YouTube channel…or both!

A few weeks ago, I published a blog looking at three scenes from Interlude that wound up on the digital “cutting room floor.” But one of the most talked about aspects of that blog was a clip that I included showing 18 minutes of the actual shoot itself…filming the stunning opening scene looking down from above onto the bridge with all sorts of activity going on. Fans of Axanar and ARES STUDIOS loved getting a glimpse into all of the action happening on that set.

Well, folks, there’s a LOT more where that came from…and I’m going to share it with you starting today!

As producer on Interlude, most of my job was done by the time we got to the weekend of our two-day shoot at Ares Studios on November 2-3, 2019. In addition to writing the script, I was in charge of budgeting, crowd-funding, paying for things that needed to be paid for (everything from chest emblem patches to camera and lens and light rental to hair and make-up supplies to renting chairs and tables to the caterer himself…plus about a hundred other little and not-so-little things!).

Another part of my job was to make sure we had the right people at the studio on the right days—actors, extras, production crew, even an on-site medic—that they knew where to be and when and that their gas, travel, food and lodging was paid for if/when necessary. My efforts were designed to make it possible for VICTORIA FOX, JOSHUA IRWIN, and the entire amazing Interlude production team to shoot the scenes of our fan film over two 10-hour days with everything they needed ready and waiting for them.

In short, I was the guy setting up the buffet table so all of the guests could have a good time at the party. So once the party got started, what was left for me to do?

Well, there were still some minor fires that needed putting our during those two days—figuring out where to put the hair and make-up people, handing my credit card to people I hardly knew to go make emergency runs to Home Depot or Target or wherever. But for the most part, the producer wasn’t really needed on set.

But that provided me with a very unique and special opportunity…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #19: Watching ARES STUDIOS come alive…”

A fan releases a RESTORED VERSION of PARAGON’S PARAGON from 1974! (interview with ROBERT LONG II, part 2)

In Part 1, we took a look at the story behind PARAGON’S PARAGON, the first “major” Star Trek fan film to be produced…way back in 1974. It wasn’t the first Trek fan film ever; those were being made when TOS was still in first-run (like THE THING IN THE CAVE from 1967). But writer/director/producer JOHN COSTENTINO, a carpet-layer from Warren, Michigan, spent $2,000 of his own money (the equivalent of $11-15,000 today) to build multiple elaborate set replicas of the bridge, transporter room, turbolift, and other parts of the starship Enterprise (or, as he renamed it, the U.S.S. Paragon).

John based his story on the James Blish Star Trek novel “Spock Must Die!” released by Bantam Books in 1970. His characters were the same, only with different names like Captain Richard Kirk and Mr. Sellek. The final film ran 100 minutes and was shown for a number of years at various Star Trek conventions. But as time went on, this seminal piece of Star Trek fan film history slowly disappeared into obscurity. John wrote some behind-the-scenes articles with a few black and white photos, but for the longest time, if you wanted to see any part of Paragon’s Paragon, that was pretty much it

In 2012, one fan posted about 8 minutes of Paragon’s Paragon highlights on YouTube, but the voice dialog was gone, replaced by a sound track of simple Trek background music. It was enough to get a taste of what Paragon’s Paragon looked like, just not what it sounded like.

The following year, John Costentino himself posted a low-resolution video of Paragon’s Paragon bloopers to his blog site. Those appear below…

Still, for fans wanting to get a true feel for this fan film, there simply wasn’t much available. But then, in April 2021, the same fan who had posted those 8 minutes of highlights, ROBERT LONG II, unexpectedly posted a new, longer version…this time with restored audio! Although still not the entire 100-minute fan film, the two 15-minute parts show the first 25 minutes plus 5 minutes of “next week on Paragon’s Paragon.” You can view the two videos here…

Intrigued by this mystery fan, I reached out to him through his “1966tvbatman” YouTube channel. Robert was happy to chat, and here’s what he had to say…

Continue reading “A fan releases a RESTORED VERSION of PARAGON’S PARAGON from 1974! (interview with ROBERT LONG II, part 2)”

If ever there was a MUST-DONATE crowd-funding campaign, TREK SHORTS is certainly it!

Okay, I usually say things like “If you can afford to give a little something…” or “At least please share the link with your friends…” And yeah, consider me having said those things.

But seriously, get out your wallet! Go here and donate something:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans

Why am I so pumped about this new Indiegogo campaign from TREKYARDS‘ SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Brit who doesn’t quit when it comes to CGI animation? Well, first of all, it’s Sam Cockings! What he can’t do with a 3D starship just isn’t worth doing, people! But here’s the real reason you need to donate to this project:

IT’S NOT JUST ONE FAN FILM…IT’S SIX!!! AND ALL FOR JUST $10K!

How can Sam afford to produce SIX different fan films for just $10K (or whatever the heck that is in British pounds)? Well, actually, one of these films is already finished as a proof of concept. So you’re really just paying for five new fan films and reimbursing the costs for the sixth. But take a look at the incredible quality of the one that was just released:

You’ll probably recognize the four main actors in this fan film. There’s NICK COOK and his real-world wife LUCITA COOK on board the U.S.S. Intrepid from the long-running Scottish fan series of the same name. There’s NIMRAN SAUND, who did an amazing job back in 2013 filming scenes for TEMPORAL ANOMALY (which was released in 2019). And finally, making her triumphant return to fan films, the much beloved MICHELE SPECHT from STAR TREK CONTINUES plays a brand new character.

And that’s just ONE fan film!

Honestly, I don’t know why Sam is calling them “short.” The first one is pretty much pushing the 15-minute time limit imposed by the fan film guidelines. But I suppose if ViacomCBS can call their 15-minute mini-episodes Short Treks, Sam can make his just as long and call them Trek Shorts.

Anyway, to answer the question of how Sam can afford to make multiple releases for the price that some fan filmmakers raise for just ONE project, the answer is simple: virtual sets. But not just any virtual sets. Over the years, Sam has been collecting and developing some of the highest quality and most realistic virtual set models anywhere, which you can see from the above video. In fact, that’s where most of the funds raised will be going: 3D models of backgrounds and starships (which do cost money to create, as they are very time-consuming). Once Sam has them, he can animate and composite green screen footage of the actors. But paying 3D modelers is like paying for props or costumes…the time-consuming labor is not free.

Samuel Cockimgs (front) uses subtle blurring to create depth of field for the virtual Intrepid-class bridge.

The rest of the money raised will be used for the aforementioned props and costumes, studio equipment, cast expenses like travel, and catering…all done “on the cheap,” as it were.

So what will the other five fan films be about? Glad you asked…!

Continue reading “If ever there was a MUST-DONATE crowd-funding campaign, TREK SHORTS is certainly it!”

A fan releases a RESTORED VERSION of PARAGON’S PARAGON from 1974! (feature, part 1)

Back when I initially started blogging about Star Trek fan films, the very first blog I published was about the 1974 fan production PARAGON’S PARAGON from show-runner JOHN COSTENTINO. Some folks mistakenly assume this was the first-ever Star Trek fan film, but those have existed since Star Trek TOS was still airing first-run episodes. In fact, I recently discovered the remnants of a silent fan film from 1967 titled THE THING IN THE CAVE that used actual props and tunics apparently borrowed from those used on the Paramount set! A more high-end Star Trek fan film was pitched directly to GENE RODDENBERRY by a film school student back in 1968, and Gene was all for it, but a Paramount studio lawyer nixed it.

But by 1974, things were much different for Star Trek. The original series had been off the air for half a decade, and while a small but well-produced series of 22 animated episodes featuring the voices of most of the original cast was airing from 1973-74, nothing much else was happening with Star Trek at the time. Well, I shouldn’t say “nothing.” As TOS reruns grew in frequency on television in the early 1970s, Star Trek conventions had just started to become popular beginning in 1972, attracting a few thousand fans, and the word “Trekkie” was entering the colloquial vernacular (usually describing an obsessed and nerdy fan who would use terms like “colloquial vernacular”).

But in 1974, Trekkie fans were still starving for new Star Trek content. With Star Trek literature limited to episode adaptations by author JAMES BLISH into novelized anthologies plus one original story titled “Spock Must Die!” released by Bantam Books in 1970. With no other original stories of Kirk, Spock, Bonesm and the crew, Trekkies created their own underground fan fiction using typewriters and distributing their original tales person-to-person at cons. Most of the mid-1970s fan-produced paraphernalia like the U.S.S. Enterprise blueprints and Technical Manual were still a year or more away.

Into this “desert” of fresh Star Trek content in 1974 walked a carpet-layer from Warren, Michigan named John Costentino. In additional to having interests in being an artist, engineer, and amateur filmmaker, John was also a huge Trekkie. And he would go on to produce what might not necessarily be the first-ever Star Trek fan film but is undeniably the first MAJOR Star Trek fan film with elaborate sets, costumes, lighting, make-up, a 65-page script, and a run-time of 100 minutes. John spent nearly $2,000 of his own money on the project (that’s about $11-15,000 today!), about half of which went to building sets like a recreation of the Enterprise bridge, transporter room, and turbolift.

Originally shot on Super-8 film, the film was shown at conventions for a few years and ultimately transferred to a limited number of VHS tapes. But as the years passed, this important piece of Star Trek fan film history passed into oblivion. Or so we thought…

Continue reading “A fan releases a RESTORED VERSION of PARAGON’S PARAGON from 1974! (feature, part 1)”

INTERLUDE Confidential #18: The “McFly Edit”

Ready for some fan film FUN???

The RE-launch of INTERLUDE last Friday with new cast member TYLER DUNIVAN went amazingly smoothly. Already, after just four and a half days, there’s a total of nearly 48K views on YouTube (more than 40K on the AXANAR Channel and 7.5K on the AVALON UNIVERSE Channel—take your pick of which one you’d like to watch…again).

Fan reaction to Tyler’s performance as the chief engineer of the ill-fated U.S.S. Artemis is getting rave reviews. Personally, I’m really happy with this new version, and 97.5% of viewers are giving it a thumbs up! Who are the other 2.5%? Well, remember how 4 out of 5 dentists recommended sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum? Ever wonder about the fifth dentist? Obviously, you can’t please all the Trekkies all the time, but we sure are pleasing nearly all of ’em!

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you a quick video that will hopefully make you laugh. Y’see, Tyler Dunivan isn’t simply a great actor who takes his craft very seriously. Tyler is also a professional MICHAEL J. FOX impersonator…especially playing the character of Marty McFly from the Back to the Future movies. In fact, Tyler had the starring role in the absolute BEST Back to the Future fan film ever! (Check in out here.)

So when Tyler and JOSHUA IRWIN drove down to ARES STUDIOS in Georgia a couple of weeks ago to reshoot the engineering scenes for Interlude, I asked the guys if Tyler could do a “Marty McFly” version of the take…just for fun (because fan films are FUN films!). I didn’t know if we’d ever use it, but at least we’d have it, right?

Well, folks, it came out even better than I expected. There’s not much, but I cut together this 30-second vignette for your viewing pleasure. Thank you, Tyler!

Prepare to party like it’s 1985…

There’s something NEW to view at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview with RAY TESI)

The amazing TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA got their start back in 2008 when the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT began building some of their own sets. They didn’t want to have to continue borrowing JAMES CAWLEY’s sets in upstate New York (where they’d filmed scenes for their second episode “For Want of a Nail”). By 2009, they had an awesome shuttlecraft set interior plus a transporter room, turbolift, captain’s quarters, and a corridor…and they were about to start work on a bridge set!

The original location for these sets was a small building in the lovely city of St. Marys, GA (the second oldest city in America) just north of the border between Georgia and Florida. The facility was dubbed “Studio One” and hosted the first-ever fan series “open house” on April 17, 2009. At the time, this is what those sets looked like…

By the time of their second “open house” on December 4, 2010, the bridge set looked like this…

A year later, two big announcements came. The first was that VIC MIGNOGNA (who had joined the Farragut Films team to direct their third full-length episode “The Price of Anything,”) was going to be taking over creative direction and film crew operations not only for Starship Farragut but also for a new fan series starring Vic as Captain Kirk to be titled STAR TREK CONTINUES. The second announcement was that the sets were going to be moved to a new facility 10 miles away in nearby Kingsland, GA with nearly four times the square footage. There, in the newly-dubbed “Studio Two,” the TOS sets would be expanded. And by 2013, nearly all of the original Star Trek sets that existed back in the 1960s at Paramount Studios had been recreated…with the notable exception of Engineering.

But that set addition would happen in 2015 after a very successful second STC Kickstarter (what they called a “Kirkstarter”) brought in $215K, which was enough to fund the construction of most of Engineering plus a buy-out of the sets from Farragut Films (the two fan productions officially parted ways later in the year), pay the next year’s rent, and produce two new episodes in 2015.

STC finished their run in 2017 with the release of their tenth and eleventh episodes. But Vic Mignogna was still covering the $4,000/month rent to house these beautiful sets that he and this fan series no longer needed. Vic couldn’t continue paying this expense indefinitely, but thanks to super-fan RAY TESI, Vic’s problem was solved.

In February of 2018, Ray bought the sets from Vic, took over the monthly rent from his retirement savings, and opened up the sets to all fan films to use for a nominal daily fee. The sets were renamed Stage 9 Studios, a name that was subsequently changed to Neutral Zone Studios the following February after a virtual reality group in the UK calling itself “Stage 9” was shut down by CBS for trying to create an unlicensed VR walkthrough of the Enterprise NCC-1701-D.

And that’s the story so far…

Continue reading “There’s something NEW to view at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview with RAY TESI)”

(Re) Presenting: INTERLUDE…the big premiere, TAKE TWO!

I’ve been writing a series of blogs about all of the typical things that happen with fan films, things that I’ve been encountering during the development of INTERLUDE. But now it’s time for something that I don’t think has ever happened on any Star Trek fan film!

Someone in our cast has asked (demanded, actually) for his shots to be completely REMOVED from the Interlude fan film…forcing us to re-shoot specific scenes using a different actor and to re-edit those scenes back into a new version.

The actor in question is PAUL JENKINS. I won’t go into details on this other than to say what is already known publicly: that Paul and ALEC PETERS are involved in litigation following Paul’s parting of ways from the AXANAR sequels in the early summer of last year. As I understand it, Paul is concerned that his appearance in a fan film that features Alec Peters in a leading role within the Axanar continuity could imply some kind of endorsement by Paul of Alec, Axanar, Ares Studios, and/or Axanar Productions.

Paul’s request/demand for all footage of him be removed from Interlude came first via a Facebook message sent to me barely 24 hours before the big premiere on April 5. Obviously, that was not enough time for us to make such significant changes, and we weren’t about to delay the release on such short notice. I’d already told the entire fan film community plus my friends and family about it. Heck, my parents had told all of their friends about it!

So as planned, we premiered the version of Interlude (with Paul in it) that we’d worked so hard to complete, but on the request/demand of Paul and his CEO at META Studios, a disclaimer was pinned as the top comment of the YouTube video page making clear that “META Studios and its employees, including Founder and Chief Creative Officer Paul Jenkins, DO NOT endorse the use of the Axanar logo and the solicitation of funds for the purpose of creating fan films associated with CBS intellectual property. “

So yeah, that happened.

We also agreed to their imposed constraint that Interlude could only be posted to the AVALON UNIVERSE YouTube channel and not to the Axanar YouTube channel, probably costing us a few hundred thousand views during our opening week. The video still crossed 50K views in 12 days with more than a 97% thumbs-up/thumbs-down ratio, so I didn’t really lose any sleep over it.

Meanwhile, our director of photography/editor JOSHUA IRWIN jumped into action to act on to Paul’s main request.demand to be removed entirely from Interlude, and two weeks later, Josh has come through with flying colors.

This was no small feat, folks…!

Continue reading “(Re) Presenting: INTERLUDE…the big premiere, TAKE TWO!”