Mystery revealed: AVALON UNIVERSE angel-donor announces DOLLAR-MATCHING for a week!

Last Friday, JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner for the very impressive fan series known as the AVALON UNIVERSE, surprised and confused fans and supporters by posting a video telling viewers NOT to donate to their current GoFundMe campaign—at least, not until Monday…

This fun-yet-intriguing video was followed by a shorter one on Saturday…

And a third one on Sunday…

The videos have done their job, as commenters on Facebook have generally expressed interest in finding out what’s going on. After all, when you’re trying to crowd-fund THREE different upcoming episodes of your series by raising $20,000 in donations from fans, you kinda WANT people to donate. So…what gives?

Well, wonder no more—as earlier today the big reveal was, er, revealed. A few clever folks actually guessed correctly: Monday begins a seven-day DONATION MATCH WEEK where every dollar donated to the current Avalon Universe will be DOUBLED (up to $3,000)…thanks to the generosity of angel-supporter RAY MYERS.

Take a look at today’s awesome video…

And here’s the link to the campaign…

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

If the name Ray Myers sounds familiar, you might remember him from my own fan film INTERLUDE, where Josh Irwin was director of photography. Back in the summer of 2019, I’d launched a similarly ambitious GoFundMe with an $18K goal. A few weeks into the campaign, I woke up one morning to discover that at some point the previous night, someone had donated a whopping $3K to my project—someone I’d never even met before!

Ray and I went on to become friends, and in addition to getting listed in the Interlude credits as associate producer and getting his name on the Game of Thrones memorial coffee cup in the engineering scene, Ray also got to play the first officer of the ill-fated U.S.S. Artemis.

Ray Myers as the first officer of the U.S.S. Artemis in Interlude

Ray has maintained a friendship with Josh as well as with me. And when he saw a few weeks ago that the Avalon GoFundMe was slowing down a bit at a level about a quarter of the way there, Ray reached out to Josh with an offer to do a dollar-matching donation promotion for a week whenever Josh was ready to do so.

With the Creation Las Vegas con and then the 55th anniversary of Star Trek sucking up most of the oxygen in fandom, it was decided that this week would be the best opportunity to build up to a big reveal and then pull out all the stops for the next seven days…so expect me to be talking up Avalon quite a lot this week! In fact, I’ve got a special Zoom video interview coming up (hopefully) on Friday to coincide with a brand new release from Avalon and also an exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming AGENT OF NEW WORLDS Avalon fan film…the first to be funded using donations from this current campaign.

Continue reading “Mystery revealed: AVALON UNIVERSE angel-donor announces DOLLAR-MATCHING for a week!”

Why should we NOT donate to the AVALON UNIVERSE crowd-funder until MONDAY?

Back in July, I was pushing my blogging warp engines to the red line trying to help my friends over in the AVALON UNIVERSE reach their green line goal of $20,000 for their current GoFundMe campaign. The money raised will go toward production costs on THREE separate fan films, including the upcoming AGENT OF NEW WORLDS, set to debut on October 31 (and it looks amazing with breathtakingly beautiful desert cinematography that includes aerial drone footage).

Anyway, when your crowd-funder is trying to reach $20K these days, it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. Heck, it took me more than three months to reach that amount with my fan film INTERLUDE back in 2019.) So it wasn’t surprising to find the Avalon campaign stalling out at about $5.5K…

Obviously, however, it’s critically important to get the campaign back into gear and raising more donations again. And that’s why it came as quite a surprise on Friday morning when showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN posted the following video telling fans NOT to donate to the campaign—at least not until this coming Monday…

It’s a fun little video, showing actor TLYER DUNIVAN (who plays Captain Derek Mason) struggling to get his lines right while PIXI NEREID (Commander Micaela Allenby) is just her usual perky, playful, patient, and positive self…lighting up the room with her smile. It’s candid moments like this that just make me love all these guys and their wonderful enthusiasm.

Anyway, this afternoon saw the second video in what I suspect will be a trilogy leading up to the big reveal on Monday. Video #2 was much shorter but still included some fun chuckle moments…

So what’s the big announcement? Why should fans and supporters not donate just yet and instead wait until Monday? I guess we’ll find out in just two more days, folks!

INTERLUDE Confidential #21: watch the ENTIRE Saturday shoot at ARES STUDIOS!

A few months ago, I posted a fun video showing ARES STUDIOS “coming to life” just before we began the first day of a two-day shoot for my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE back in November of 2019. But that was only SOME of the footage that I shot!

The great thing about being the producer on a film project is that you’re the boss. While the director runs things on the set during filming, the producer is still the person ultimately in charge of everything from the earliest budgeting and pre-production meetings through post-production and the release of the finished project.

My goal in making Interlude wasn’t simply to produce a Star Trek fan film or to shoot something on the bridge set at ARES STUDIOS—although that was certainly part of the goal. But what I really wanted to do was to document the entire experience of creating a fan film, start to finish, for my readers. And certainly the most exciting aspect of that experience was the two-day shoot in Lawrenceville, GA on the U.S.S. Ares (and Artemis) bridge set!

My director, VICTORIA FOX, and my director of photography, JOSHUA IRWIN, were okay with me filming the shoot as long as I kept quiet, kept still, and didn’t interfere in any way with the cast and crew. So I got to record nearly the entire shoot from start to finish. As such, this is a pretty long video…but that’s a good thing!

Why not edit the footage down to something shorter, you ask? Because I wanted you folks to experience exactly what it was like on that set, even when things weren’t moving at wrap speed. In fact, on TV and movie sets, there’s a lot of time that goes by with seemingly little to nothing happening (or at least, that’s the way it might look to someone on the outside).

And as it happens, I didn’t film “everything.” In fact, the Saturday shoot lasted nearly TEN HOURS once things finally got going, and the video I’ve posted below is only two hours long. Part of the reason is I didn’t spend much time filming when lights and cameras were being moved around—that gets boring really quickly! Instead, I concentrated on moments when the cameras were either rolling or about to roll. I also paused every so often to switch over from video mode on my camera to picture mode so I could also take behind-the-scenes production photos. That’s why you’ll see many spots in the video where one clip unexpectedly ends and another begins.

Do you have to watch the WHOLE video…?

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #21: watch the ENTIRE Saturday shoot at ARES STUDIOS!”

Some thoughts on “TOXIC” fandom… (editorial)

The “fallout” from my Star Trek Day blog editorial continues even five days later…on Facebook, in the comments section of that blog, and even via e-mail. In fact, after sharing my excitement over the new Trek series with my best friend, he was adamant in his resistance to the new direction of Star Trek.

You can slap the name on it but it don’t make it Star Trek! Okay, maybe it’s a little bit Trek, but it really is just bad TV, forget bad Star Trek. Terrible writing, terrible acting, bad directing. Unwatchable to me. If I had never seen Trek I still wouldn’t watch it as just below the standards of everything else I prioritize.

Yeesh! Well, hoping that I might be able to change his mind just a little, I sent my friend something I was really psyched about: the just-released trailer for the brand new animated series Star Trek: Prodigy

He watched it, but my friend was NOT impressed…

Terrible.  Not recognizable as Star Trek no matter how much you put old Trek actors in the show.  It’s all young kids, stupid aliens, and action and special effects.  It’s not about people and it lacks any depth and intellectualism.  It bears no resemblance to Star Trek.

I joked to my friend that I was a Star Trek “liberal,” and he was a Star Trek “conservative.” This is also true in real political life. He voted for Trump and other GOP presidential candidates going back decades (although he has recently left the Republican party and re-registered as an Independent, but he is still quite conservative), and I’ve voted for Democrats pretty much since I turned 18. And yet, we’re best friends…we just constantly argue about politics. Yes, folks, it CAN be done!

However, in reference to Star Trek, I was using the terms “liberal” and “conservative” not politically but literally…as in dictionary definition of each word. Liberal literally means “open to new ideas, not bound by traditional forms.”  I’m totally that way when it comes to Star Trek. I have a love/hate relationship with Discovery, and I think Picard did well for eight episodes and then jumped the shark on the last two in its first season (and the villains totally sucked). But I remain open and supportive of the various new series…as I’ve said in countless blog posts.

As a comparison, conservative means “tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.” That’s my friend (and many fans) when it comes to Star Trek these days. And back in 1987, it was those “conservative” fans who thought Star Trek must be about Kirk and Spock (or maybe Captain Sulu) and 23rd century adventures, not a bald French captain with an English accent in the 24th century flying around in a starship that looked like a pregnant duck.

In short, my friend is Scotty looking at the U.S.S. Excelsior and saying, “Aye, and if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.” And I’m Kirk responding, “Now, now, Mr. Scott…young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.”

Continue reading “Some thoughts on “TOXIC” fandom… (editorial)”

Now THAT was a STAR TREK DAY…I am SO excited now to be a fan!!!! (editorial)

What a difference five years makes!!

No, you are not accidentally reading yesterday’s blog where I compared the anemic celebration of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary with the announced “Star Trek Day” livecast and events scheduled for the 55th anniversary. In that blog, I asked whether NO Star Trek really was “better” than BAD Star Trek? And honestly, I thought the answer was obvious…so much so that I worried that folks on Facebook would make fun of me for writing 2,210 words on a question as easy as “Is the sky green?”

Man, was I surprised!

Nearly a thousand views of yesterday’s blog, and every few seconds another “DING!” from Facebook where someone added a comment in one of the dozen or so groups where I posted a link. While many folks agreed with me that even low-quality Star Trek provides room for improvement (and CBS Trek HAS been improving)., others passionately disagreed. They felt angry and betrayed, insisting that the sacrifice in quality isn’t worth it. Star Trek needed to remain pure and true to GENE RODDENBERRY’s vision. And if it didn’t, if Star Trek simply became “bad TV” (which they felt the new shows were) then better to have no Star Trek at all…if forced to make that binary choice.

I almost couldn’t believe how many fan still felt so thoroughly negative about the newer Star Treks. Frankly, it kinda brought me down as the day went on knowing how many fans would really choose to have no new Star Trek at all over at least something…no matter the quality. By the time the Star Trek Day livestream started, I was almost too bummed to watch it.

In fact, I started out NOT watching it because I had to pick up my son and drive him home from Robotics. By the time we returned, the first half of the online event was already over, but I noticed folks posting all over Facebook, excited about the characters joining the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise under commad of ANSON MOUNT’S Captain Christopher Pike on in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Perhaps you saw the following…

Now, I did shudder a little at the Andorian/Aenar make-up—assuming that’s what he is. But despite being somewhat different than established canon, it still looked pretty cool (WAY better than first-season Star Trek: Discovery Klingons). And I’m not sure yet about those uniforms. On the other hand, being able to see a younger Nurse Chapel and Cadet Uhura is intriguing to me. It’s a bold move, and not entirely outside of the realm of canonic possibility. We’re at a time now when Kirk is likely already serving aboard the Farragut (in his early 20s), so if Uhura is a few years younger than that, it works. As for Dr. M’Benga, he could totally have been on the Enterprise at that point. And there’s a crew member named La’an Noonien Singh? KHANNNNNNN!!!!!!

But wait! What was this emotion I was suddenly feeling? Oh, yes…excitement!

Continue reading “Now THAT was a STAR TREK DAY…I am SO excited now to be a fan!!!! (editorial)”

STAR TREK at 55…is NO Star Trek really “better” than BAD Star Trek? (editorial)

Today is “Star Trek Day“…marking 55 years since the first-ever episode of Star Trek was aired on NBC Television back on September 8, 1966.

In celebration of this special day (at least for us Trekkers), ViacomCBS announced a series of panels that will stream live today at 5:30 PM Pacific Time/8:30 PM Eastern Time from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. These panels and a number of related special events will be free to watch on StarTrek.com/Day. The panels will also be available to stream for free in the U.S. on Paramount+ and Paramount+’s Twitch page. After their initial airing, the panels will be available on-demand on Paramount+’s YouTube Channel and on Paramount+.

To go along with this announcement, the studio released this wonderful montage video…

Seriously, how cool was that? I mean, even if you aren’t a fan of the newer CBS Star Trek series, this whole event is pretty impressive. Indeed, that same Skirball Cultural Center will be running an exclusive Star Trek: Exploring Strange New Worlds exhibit for four months beginning in October. During that time, a new animated Star Trek series titled Star Trek: Prodigy will be debuting not only on the subscription-based Paramount+ streaming service but also on the children’s broadcast channel Nickelodeon. This will be the first Star Trek series in 48 years to be targeted specifically at kids (the next generation of Trekkers).

But that’s not all! Next year will see the debut of ANSON MOUNT as Captain Christopher Pike in the brand new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds…a return to episodic Star Trek where storylines won’t stretch over entire seasons featuring ever-escalating risks, challenges, and dangers. Instead (we’re desperately hoping!), it’ll be good old-fashioned Star Trek the way we’ve loved it in the past.

And of course, we’ve got Q, Guinan, and the Borg Queen coming to Star Trek: Picard, and whatever the U.S.S. Discovery is gonna do now that her nacelles detach. (Okay, maybe not EVERYTHING is coming up roses.) Oh, and we’ve still got two-thirds of a season of Star Trek: Lower Decks coming out each week.

But hey, let’s stop for a moment and take a look back—way, way, waaaaaaaay back in time (with the help of a Guardian named “Carl”) to a year you all might barely remember because it was soooooooo long ago. That year, of course, was…

Continue reading “STAR TREK at 55…is NO Star Trek really “better” than BAD Star Trek? (editorial)”

STARSHIP FARRAGUT is coming BACK…or is it FORWARD??? (interview with JOHNNY K.)

When last we left STARSHIP FARRAGUT, showrunner JOHN BROUGHTON and his gallant crew had crowd-funded about $15K at the end of 2015 for what was to be their series finale, “Homecoming.” Footage for that fan film was shot in 2015 and 2016, and there were sporadic updates to donors (like me) but nothing major until about 14 months ago, when it was announced that musical composer STEVE SEMMEL had taken over as Post-Production Supervisor (you can check out the interview I did with Steve here).

According to the most recent update, “Homecoming” will, at long last, be released on October 1 of this year. Here’s a trailer for that fan film, which features an eye-catching cameo by the deeply missed, legendary Marvel Comics creator STAN LEE…

While “Homecoming” was to mark the end of the U.S.S. Farragut‘s five-year mission under Captain Jack Carter (played by John Broughton), the end was just the beginning. Also back in 2015, John announced that the team would soon be launching a new sequel series to be titled FARRAGUT FORWARD. At the time, Farragut Films had officially ended their relationship with “sister” series STAR TREK CONTINUES, leaving their TOS sets in Kingsland, GA—nearly all of which Farragut folks had either built or helped to build. Many members of the Farragut team lived in the Washington, D.C. area anyway, not particularly close to southeastern Georgia.

The new Farragut series would jump forward (hence, the name) in time about 20 years, just as Star Trek itself had done with the feature films, into the Wrath of Khan/”monster-maroon” uniform era. However, with the guidelines emerging within just a few months of John’s announcement, many wondered if the group would still launch a brand new Star Trek fan series when the very first guideline said that you can’t have an ongoing Star Trek fan series. And indeed, any news about Farragut Forward pretty much stopped after the guidelines were announced.

Until two weeks ago.

Fans were ecstatic to find a Facebook post from John Broughton linking to this website announcement that Farragut Forward had finally entered pre-production! John has joined forces with independent film studio KAOTICA STUDIOS in Washington, DC, and the studio’s founder, JOHNNY KARZAI, will be directing the initial episode.

The announcement said that fans “…can expect a more ‘sophisticated’ version of Farragut…  a darker, more serious side.” And indeed, after doing a lighting test with John Broughton in a meticulously-crafted captain’s uniform, Johnny K. commented, “This isn’t your Daddy’s Farragut!”

As you can see from the above photo, John B.’s character of Captain Jack Carter has aged VERY gracefully and looks as awesome as his uniform. “I think shelving this project for 5 years has helped us greatly in many ways, including the older self!” John said in a Facebook post.

Fans already know a good deal about John Broughton (if not, then read this 3-part History of Starship Farragut). But what about director Johnny Karzai? I reached out to Johnny K. for the inside scoop on all things Farragut Forward

Continue reading “STARSHIP FARRAGUT is coming BACK…or is it FORWARD??? (interview with JOHNNY K.)”

Fan remasters STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN to HD quality! (interview with DAN ARMITAGE)

Last month, I released a compilation of what I determined were the very best scenes and sequences from the world of Star Trek fan films. (You can watch it here.) I grabbed about three dozen clips from fan productions spanning the last two decades, using an application that downloads videos from YouTube.

Unfortunately, the quality of the videos was all over the place. The most recent fan films like the ones from AVALON UNIVERSE, SQUADRON from the Czech Republic, and A LONG WAY FROM HOME from SAMUEL COCKINGS looked spectacular with High Definition (HD) quality. And even going back five years, stuff still looked awesome.

But when I got to fan films released prior to 2010, video quality dropped significantly because those productions were shot before HD quality digital video was available to the masses…both due to camera equipment and the size of video files and the cost of hard drive storage.

But hey, the show must go on, right? So I used what I had to work with, and the feedback to the video has been generally positive. Nobody seems to have an issue with the image quality of older fan films. But, man, if only…

“If only…” happened last week, about a month after I released my video. Without fanfare, a fellow named DAN ARMITAGE from a town near Liverpool, England released an upscaled version of STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN onto his YouTube channel! Originally shot back in 2006 and directed by TIM “Tuvok” RUSS, ST:OGAM was shot primarily on JAMES CAWLEY’s TOS sets at Retro Studios in Ticonderoga, New York and at Vasquez Rocks north of Los Angeles. The fan film was professional quality, starring a wealth of actors from the (at the time) rich 40-year history of Star Trek, including NICHELLE NICHOLS as Uhura and WALTER KOENIG as Chekov. All of the performances were amazing. (You can read more about the production here.)

The groundbreaking fan film was originally released in three parts between December 2007 and June 2008. Those segments were combined into one YouTube video a few years later in 2012, and here’s the way the film has looked to most fans for more than a decade…

Now take a look at the remastered version that Dan Armitage just released…

Pretty amazing, huh? Granted, it’s still not as pristine as the 80 episodes of TOS or the seven seasons of TNG that Paramount and CBS Home Video spent millions of dollars remastering. However, in fairness, those folks went back to the original film negatives, digitally scanned and color-corrected them, re-edited each episode from scratch, and had CGI artists spend thousands of hours creating brand new VFX sequences.

What did Dan have to work with? Let’s ask him…

Continue reading “Fan remasters STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN to HD quality! (interview with DAN ARMITAGE)”

Did STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS just make fun of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY??? (editorial)

JONATHAN, HIS BLOG FILLED WITH SPOILERS!

I almost couldn’t believe it, but there it was. STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS‘ second episode of season 2, “”Kayshon, His Eyes Open,” includes a total zinger at the end aimed directly at its older sister-series, Star Trek: Discovery. But before I show you the clip (you’re just gonna scroll to the bottom of this blog to watch it anyway, but y’all come back up now, y’hear?), let me share a few thoughts with you…

It’s becoming increasingly more challenging to write these blogs about the various CBS All Access…er, I mean ViacomCBS Paramount+ Star Trek series. The reason is that I’m not really a reviewer…and most people don’t actually care what I or other reviewers think about the episodes, anyway. It’s not that we don’t have interesting insights to share, but people either agree with us and just want validation that someone else believes the same way they do, or else they don’t agree and pretty much just want to argue and tell us how wrong we are. Star Trek reviewers these days might as well be shouting “Kal-if-fee!” at a Vulcan marriage ceremony or “All Klingons are wussies!” at an Ascension Ritual.

That’s certainly the case with Discovery and, to a SLIGHTLY lesser extent, to Star Trek: Picard. Lower Decks, however, has been a bit of a strange puppy. Unlike the two other Trek series I just mentioned, not nearly as many fans seem to have that same level of soul-devouring moral indignation about Lower Decks. In other words, there’s not quite as many Lower Decks “haters” out there. And indeed, there’s rather a few fans who think Lower Decks is the only “real” Star Trek series being produced anymore—embracing Star Trek‘s rich heritage and feeling very much like a sequel to Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager rather than a complete makeover reboot that shakes canon like an Etch-a-Sketch. The stories on Lower Decks FEEL like Star Trek…except for one thing:

Humor.

It’s not that Star Trek can never be funny. Ever since Captain Kirk got buried under an avalanche of dead tribbles and Spocko uttered the words, “I’d advise ya’s ta keep dialin’, Oxmyx,” Trek has demonstrated itself to be quite capable of humor. The most quotable lines from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (“Well, a double-dumbass on you!” “I love Italian, and so do you…” “Hello, computer…” “No, I’m from Iowa; I only work in outer space…” “Ve are looking for nuclear wessels…”) were the funniest ones. Data studied comedy from Joe Piscopo, for goodness sakes, and an entire episode of DS9 could well have been titled “The Bad News Niners.” And don’t even get me started on Dr. Chaotica!

But Lower Decks is different. It crosses a line.

Or does it…?

Continue reading “Did STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS just make fun of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY??? (editorial)”

Funny video: The One Where the DS9 Credits Have a FRIENDS Theme…

This video is awesome for a number of different reasons, not least of which is the inspired brilliance of recreating the opening credits to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with a Friends theme (both musically and thematically). But what really makes the video work is the selection of the clips—a combination of mostly one-person and two-person shots—both in and out of uniform but showing the characters doing very UN-characteristic things. In other words, it FELT like the whimsical opening to Friends, rather than simply looking like someone had tossed together random cuts of DS9 with “I’ll Be There for You” playing under them. It amazed me seeing the diversity of fun costumes and situations that the main cast of DS9 had gotten themselves into over seven seasons. Enjoy…