It’s a FANtastic time to be an AXANAR supporter…with big news and updates coming fast and furiously now. It’s creating a feeling of excitement and electricity throughout the community. Meanwhile, the detractors are rapidly running out of things to complain about! (Seriously. After perk packets began arriving in mailboxes this week, the folks on the Axamonitor Facebook group were reduced to making fun of a single typo in the perk letter from ALEC PETERS and suggesting that they should all burn their perk patches. So yeah, lots to be proud of over there.)
Meanwhile, back on the side of goodness and light…
With only two weeks until filming begins on the first Axanar shoot in Lawrenceville, GA on the bridge of the USS Ares (plus recording of the audio version of the full Axanar script), all the pieces are rapidly coming together. In the last few months, a LOT has been happening behind the scenes, and now fans are beginning to see what’s been taking so long.
A fair amount of Axanar news was revealed in my audio interview with Alec Peters last week. But already there’s even MORE news to share! Most of that news came out last night during the first new Axanar Confidential podcast in three and a half weeks. I’ll include that video at the end of this article.
But for those of you who want the highlights, here’s what we now know that we didn’t before…
When most of think of Star Trek fan films, we picture fan actors—trained and untrained—dressing up and portraying characters on fan-made sets or green-screen composited in front of virtual backgrounds. Sometimes, we only hear the actors’ voices under computer-generated scenes or captured from Trek online or CD-ROM games.
The one thing all of these types of fan films have in common is they feature actors. But what if you don’t have any actors? What if the stars of your fan film are…starships?
There’s a whole sub-sub genre of Star Trek fan films where the filmmakers don’t bother with sets or actors but instead simply use their CGI or animation skills to tell a story. I call these “fanimations.” Now, of course, there’s countless digital artists out there looking to showcase their work with elaborate (or simple) renderings of fly-bys and “hero shots” of various well-known starships. But I’m not talking about those folks this time.
Instead, I’d like to focus on those “fanimators” who tell a STORY through their productions. It’s not easy! It usually involves at least two different ships (or a ship an an object), since having only one ship usually falls into the “hero shot” video category that I described in the previous paragraph. For there to be a story, the viewer needs to imagine the crews on board, hear in their head the familiar orders given (“Raise shields!” “Evasive maneuvers!” “Fire phasers!”), and figure out what has happened at a pivotal moment. In other words, the viewer should be able to figure out the story even without words or narrations…and hopefully the story is compelling and makes some sense.
As you’ll see from the following selection of “ship star” (as opposed to “starship”…get it?) fan films I’ve included, the filmmaker’s CGI animation skills don’t have to be breathtaking (although some are pretty high up there). Heck, some aren’t even 3D! The trick lies simply in communicating the plot through sound and movement. The ships become the characters in these fan films, and they must do a sort of interpretive dance. Do they succeed? I think these five fan films do.
The eagle has landed…or more precisely, the LANDERS have landed. I refer, of course, to RANDY LANDERS, the show-runner of POTEMKIN PICTURES, and his wife. Mrs. R. recently got a new job in a new state, and so the two of them have just moved from Pelham, Alabama, about six hours away to Lexington, Kentucky. And they took a half-dozen starships with them!
Those starships are, of course, the many elaborate sets used to film a plethora of fan series including Starship Tristan, Starship Deimos, Starship Endeavour, Hospital Ship Marie Curie, Starship Triton, and Battlecruiser Kupok…plus a half-completed full-size “shuttlecoupe.” You can view all of the several dozen fan films released during the past almost-decade by Potemkin Pictureshere on their website.
Over the years, there’s been a lot of Star Trek fan film-making in the southeastern U.S.—including in Georgia (Star Trek Continues), Alabama (Potemkin), North Carolina (DreadnoughtDominion), Tennessee (The Romulan War(s)), and Arkansas (Federation Files and Avalon). But to my knowledge, Kentucky has never before been the home to a significant Trek fan film production…which is surprising because Kentucky (and specifically the Lexington area) is Shatner horse country!
But that’s about to change in a big way, as not only is Randy Landers bringing his sets with him with plans to continue his existing fan projects, but he also intends to launch a NEW fan series featuring local area residents as actors and production crew!
So if you or someone you know live(s) in or around Lexington, Kentucky and want(s) to be part of an established fan filmmaking, er, enterprise (Enterprise, Potemkin, Lexington…this blog is becoming a fleet!) and get in on the ground floor of a new fan series, check out the following announcement and invitation from Randy Landers to attend a Pre-Production Meeting on Saturday, October 26th from 10:00AM until 11:30AM at the Tates Creek branch of the Lexington Public Library in Lexington, KY…
Believe it or not, it’s been nearly three months since my last blog update on the status of the AXANAR sequels. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a TON of stuff going on!
For those folks who have been watching the regular updates by ALEC PETERS on the (usually) weekly “Axanar Confidential” YouTube podcast, you know a lot of the exciting things that have been happening lately…including the fact that the first official shoot for the two Axanar sequels is scheduled for October 4-6! This will include J.G. HERTZLER flying down to Georgia to appear as Sam Travis. Scenes will be filmed on the USS Ares bridge set along with green screen scenes and recording the audio drama version of the full Axanar script.
But for all of those recent updates, I still had a few unanswered questions for Alec—things like…
If this production is going to cost $150K-$200K (as Alec has estimated previously), then when is he planning to start raising private donations from backers…and who has been paying for things up till now?
Is KATE VERNON going to appear in the Axanar sequels?
Who else has been brought onto the project and in what roles (both actors and production crew)?
How close is the bridge to being finished—and will it be ready in time for October’s shoot?
How many other shoots are planned, and where and when will they be happening?
So with these and other questions floating around in my head, I decided this might be a good time to interview Alec. We set up a phone call for last Friday evening, but naturally, he was late because he had to rescue a dog. And so we had to reschedule. (Yes, I’m serious.) So we chatted a couple days later, and I’ve just finished editing the sound file…which—I am certain will not surprise anyone—includes the sound of dog barks in the background.
So please enjoy the latest Axanar update with Alec Peters (woof!)…
I feel overwhelmed right now, deeply touched, humbled, and just a little bit verklempt.
A few hours ago, during the 53rd anniversary of the debut of Star Trek on NBC, the GoFundMe campaign for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE reached its goal of $19,500. It was an amazing feeling…especially as the donation that got us there was for an incredibly-generous $500. Earlier in the day, another donor had brought us to exactly $19,000 with a $28 donation. That kind of support and belief in our team and me means more than I can put into words.
The backer who pushed us into the end zone was SHANE FREUND, an Axanar supporter who had also donated to Interlude a few weeks previously. Along with yesterday’s donation came this message:
On the anniversary of Star Trek, I wanted to help you reach your goal because having the courage to take a risk is what Star Trek is all about.
I thought about that statement for a few minutes. In my mind, Star Trek is about a lot of things: tolerance, empathy, inclusiveness, loyalty, duty, honesty, a desire to explore and discover, hope for the future, and a willingness to help others to make things better. And yes, Star Trek is also about taking chances and believing in yourself, in the abilities of your friends and crew, and even believing in luck and your ability to beat the odds.
I grew up in the 1970s watching scenes like this over and over in reruns…
And when you think about it, taking a chance and beating the odds is also what crowd-funding is all about. You put yourself out there and hope that your friends (and crew…and a bunch of strangers) will come through and help you out.
Of course, successfully crowd-funding a project (or a dream) does require a lot of work . Campaigns don’t just fund themselves. But it all comes down to one game-changing word: CAN. “I can.” “You can.” “We can.” Those are among the most powerful sentences in the English language.
And do you know what the other most powerful sentences are? “I can’t.” “We can’t.” “You can’t.”
I mention this because I’ve spent this entire GoFundMe campaign these past three months trying my darnedest to ignore the almost constant drip-drop of negativity from many, many members of the Axamonitor Facebook group. Even when some fair-minded folks over there tried to be supportive of me and my project, others would make comments like this…
As we celebrate the 53rd anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek on September 8, 1966, let’s take a trip back in time five decades to what was very likely the first-ever Star Trek fan film to be shut down by the studio that owns the franchise.
It’s generally accepted in our community that the first major Star Trek fan film produced with a decent degree of quality by American fans was the 1974 project PARAGON’S PARAGON. But thanks to the folks at RODDENBERRY ENTERTAINMENT and some recently-discovered letters from the archives of the late GENE RODDENBERRY (Star Trek‘s creator), we’ve just learned that there might well have been a significant Star Trek fan film half a decade sooner—while Star Trek was still on the air!—if only a lawyer at Paramount hadn’t killed the fan project in its infancy.
Sure, we all know about the Axanar lawsuit. And some fans mistakenly believe that CBS (and before them, Paramount) hate Star Trek fan films and want to shut them all down. But if you look at the numbers, that claim doesn’t hold up. Over the decades, there have been thousands of Star Trek fan films created and released onto the Internet and, prior to that, copied from VHS tape to VHS tape and even shot on Super 8. In all of that time, the studio lawyers have only stepped in a small handful of times.
In other words, this blog isn’t a hit-piece bashing CBS or Paramount for being “evil” corporations dedicated to trying to screw over their loyal fans. Instead, it’s what Spock would consider a fascinating look back at a time when the concept of a fan film was likely as alien to a studio lawyer as an Andorian or Tellarite.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not so), Star Trek‘s very own creator—a man often considered ahead of his time—was all for the idea of a Star Trek fan film and tried to talk Paramount’s lawyer into it. But there’s an old saying that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.
This is a story of what happened when a Trekkie tried to get permission…
Kickstarter is a harsh mistress. Since its inception in April of 2009, Kickstarter has held to one simple rule that has confounded, frustrated, and in some cases terrified crowd-fund organizers:
If your campaign doesn’t reach its goal, you get nothing.
So why risk using Kickstarter when other crowd-funding platforms like Indiegogo and GoFundMe allow campaigns to keep all donations made—even if a goal is not reached?
The simple answer is that Kickstarter campaigns, on average, take in about 2.35 times as much as Indiegogo campaigns (and way more than GoFundMe’s). Perhaps this disparity is because Kickstarter backers feel more confident that a project they support will happen rather than fearing their donation night disappear into a crowd-funding black hole if a campaign comes up far short of its goal. Or maybe it’s because Kickstarter does more marketing, has more site visitors, or simply has a better reputation in general for more high-quality projects than other services. Likewise, the same article linked to above says that conversion rates are 3x-4x higher for Kickstarter campaigns than for Indiegogo.
Whatever the reason, Kickstarter has the greater potential payoff, just with an increased risk of getting nothing. Because of this, determining the right amount to set as a goal on Kickstarter is critical. Ask for too much and fail to get there, and you’ve just wasted months of work. Ask for too little, and you might make your goal but wind up with less than you really need.
This was the dilemma facing the folks making episode 2 of COZMO’S (the same folks who made s Star Trek: Renegades and the two-part Renegades: “The Requiem”). They need $100K to make this film, and so that’s what they asked for. And with a week left, their campaign is doing pretty well. So far, 341 backers have pledged more than $67K (including two $10K donors!) to bring them 2/3 of the way there.
But with only seven days left, it’s gonna be a nail-biter!
The producers recently sent out an update reminding folks that episode 2 and beyond will be more serious than the pilot:
Though we understand that the pilot may have been a bit too much on the slapstick side, we wanted to point out that it was directed by Animal House alum, Stephen Furst. He had put his own twist on things, as Hollywood directors often do. Then again, The Orville started out as a comedy and has now pulled back those strings to become more of a Star Trek drama, which most people are loving.
The new episode will lean more toward the dramatic side of storytelling, utilizing a piece of sci-fi literary history penned by Damon Knight that was also used to create an extremely famous Twilight Zone episode. The episode was called “To Serve Man.” Of course, we’ll be throwing in some new twists in the Cozmo’s fashion.
With a cast including Star Trek and sci-fi genre veterans, and amazing make-up and effects by Hollywood professionals, this is a project definitely worth supporting…
Back when he was filming the Yosemite scenes for Star Trek V, WILLIAM SHATNER recorded a behind-the-scenes segment providing his insights as writer and director. Specifically, “The Shat” discussed Kirk’s free-climb of El Capitan and why he decides to put his life at risk climbing that mountain. This deeply contemplative commentary was included when the Blu-ray for Trek V was released in 2009 along with a collection of the other five TOS feature films to coincide with the theatrical release of J.J. Abram’s first Star Trek reboot movie. Shortly thereafter, an audio and music studio in Hollywood and Brooklyn called Fall On Your Swordspliced together a surreal edit (quite brilliantly, I must say) of Shatner’s mountain musings and added in a musical soundtrack. Many of you have probably seen the result…
But it didn’t end there. A year later, Fall On Your Sword Studio produced an elaborate parody of their previous parody! And this time, not only did they get their own actor to play Shatner, they actually cast the mountain, too…along with adding in a bunch of dancers, a hot tub, a plate on donuts—oh, just watch it already…!
In 2012, Star Trek Conitnues‘ VIC MIGNOGNA did his own take on the concept…
And since this is the Internet, folks, anything that can be done can be done again…and again. So before we leave Captain Kirk to climb and make love to his mountain, let’s take a quick listen to the 8-bit Nintendo Mario Bros. version…
Before I dive into the slings and arrows of outrageous scheduling, I’d like to thank INTERLUDE supporter and donor STEPHEN HUGHES for creating the stunning image above (along with several others). This is the kind of love and enthusiasm that’s the cherry on top of the sundae that is fan filmmaking.
I’d also like to thank all of the donors who have helped bring the Interlude GoFundMe to a staggering $18,808!!! This included an amazingly generous $300 donation this past weekend from a member of the Axamonitor Facebook group—CLARENCE THOMPSON—who had previously donated $100…bringing his total to $400 and giving him the honored rank of “Captain” in my credits.
Clarence is one of a small few of that group who have donates, but I want to acknowledge this support from some of those whom I’ve historically called “detractors.” Many of them still detract and deride and demonize, but obviously not all…and that says and means a lot to me. So a big THANK YOU to everyone who has stepped forward to support Interlude.
And of course, there’s still time to donate (we’re less than $700 from our $19,500 goal):
Okay, let’s get onto the update as I shine the spotlight on…scheduling!
Y’know how starships have short-range and long-range sensors (and if the script calls for it, medium-range sensors)? Well, it turns out that fan films have the same thing—or at least mine does. You might remember from back in June a blog I wrote about all of the things that went wrong and threatened to delay the launch of my GoFundMe campaign: epic floods, stray dogs, trapped woodpeckers, etc.
Well, it turns out that Murphy and his law about things going wrong isn’t quite finished with me yet. Read on, my friends…
Eight days ago when I first covered this story, ERIC L. WATTS had just launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $11,000…of which, the first $6,000 would go toward getting his house out of foreclosure and the other $5,000 would pay off the credit card debt accrued from Eric personally covering the shortfalls from the TREKLANTA convention (held each year since 2011). For the past five years, that convention has hosted what is now known as the BJO AWARDS, the only annual contest focused exclusively on honoring Star Trek fan films.
While I don’t usually cover campaigns for personal crowd-funding help, in Eric’s case, I made an exception because Treklanta and the Bjo Awards are a special resource for our fan film community, and I’d rather not lose either of them. And of course, Eric is a friend, and I don’t want the guy to be homeless.
I’ll be honest with you—I doubted that Eric would be able to pull this off…even just making it to $6,000 to save his house. It wasn’t that I doubted the generosity of our community. Heck, my own recent crowd-funding for Interlude has been surprisingly successful. But this isn’t a campaign for a fan film. Donors won’t get anything in return for supporting Eric’s campaign…other than the satisfaction of helping a fellow human being in need.
But it turns out that our community has quite a big heart after all! And in just a little over a week, Eric is within $535 from being able to save his house…and just in time, as his past-due mortgage payments must be received by early September (I don’t have the specific date) or else his home goes into foreclosure.
Part of the reason for the success of Eric’s campaign is certainly Eric’s reputation as an important part of our fan film and Star Trek community, along with his work in organizing the Bjo Awards each year. Another is that Eric wisely made use of a relatively new crowd-funding feature on Facebook where donations can be made through their site, as well.
So instead of having one campaign trying to reach $11,000 to cover mortgage and credit card debt, Eric now has two campaigns, each trying to reach only $6,000 combined to cover just the past-due mortgage itself. (Paying off the credit card will potentially be a separate endeavor. Right now, the priority for Eric is to keep his home.) Here are links to the two campaigns…
By splitting the campaign in two, a new avenue for donations was opened, and now the GoFundMe is up to $3,145 from 52 donors (including me), and the Facebook total is at $2,320 from 53 backers. That combines to $5,465…just $535 away from the $6,000 Eric needs to (after fees) save his house. I think he might just be able to pull this off after all!
Eric provided me with the following statement of gratitude…