“The very BEST of Star Trek FAN FILMS” video premieres THIS SATURDAY at Treklanta!

For the past two and a half years, I’ve been quietly working on a “secret” project for Star Trek fan films. I mean, it wasn’t purposefully a secret. I just never bothered to mention it to anybody…

…until now, that is.

My new video compilation, “The Very Best of Star Trek Fan Films,” will premiere this Saturday night (August 7) at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time after the closing ceremonies of this year’s virtual TREKLANTA™ on the Holodeck mini-convention.

The idea behind this 75-minute montage was to collect what I considered to be the “best” scenes and sequences from the many, many, MANY Star Trek fan films that have been released during the last two decades or so.

It wasn’t easy choosing!

First of all, what does “the best” even mean??? The best…what? Acting? Directing? Story? Visual Effects? Make-up? Costumes? Sound quality? Music? Editing? Well, yes to all of the above! But few Star Trek fan films actually check ALL of those boxes. So once again, I was left the challenge of deciding what “the best” actually means.

I ultimately created two criteria for inclusion in the video. The clips needed to (in my determination):

  1. Make an average viewer who wasn’t really familiar with this sub-sub-sub genre of ours react with something akin to, “Wait, this is a FAN film???”
  2. Leave the person watching the clip wanting to see more of that particular fan film or series.

Once I knew what I was looking for, I needed to do a LOT of looking! That’s one of the reasons this project has taken as long as it has to complete. But I did discover something important early on. Really short clips (on the whole) don’t work. You need at least a minute or two—and sometimes even three minutes or more—to convey the power and impact of a sequence. Otherwise, you just get disjointed VFX sequences and isolated snippets of dialog that don’t really pack much of a punch. You have to give the viewer a chance to get the “flavor” of a sequence and a grasp of what is going on.

Ultimately, I ended up selecting about three dozen clips and sequences from fan films spanning the last decade and a half…for a total run-time of 75 minutes (an average of two minutes per segment). Sadly, I couldn’t include content from many of my closest friends in the fan film community. (I didn’t want this video to go on forever!) And so I sincerely apologize to anyone who didn’t make it into the final selections. It wasn’t personal, and I love you all and the wonderful work you and your teams bring to us.

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If STAR TREK supposedly “sucks,” then why did ALEX KURTZMAN just get a $160 MILLION mega-deal??? (editorial)

Over the past few days, there has been a combination of irate indignation, embarrassed disbelief, and smug “I toldja so!”s going around Star Trek fandom faster than COVID at a super-spreader event! And all of this is because ViacomCBS just inked a five-and-a-half year, $160 million development deal with ALEX KURTZMAN and his SECRET HIDEOUT production company.

Make no mistake, this is a HUGE agreement…even for Hollywood. It’s comparable to other recent 9-figure mega-deals like the ones Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy just inked with Netflix and Jordan Peele closed with Amazon Studios. Kurtzman is now sitting quite pretty and comfortably as not only an unquestioned powerhouse in the entertainment industry (and at CBS specifically) but also as the unquestioned and unchallenged “Trek Tsar” (get it?) for at least the next half-decade.

Some fans were not amused.

After confident (and often arrogant) prognostications that Mr. Kurtzman was not only on the way out at CBS but had already been fired—multiple times!!!—over his “humiliating failures” with the Star Trek franchise, news of this mega-deal shocked most of these previously self-assured fans. It has sent many of them into an overly dramatic show of resigned indignation, like this fellow…

Some folks just couldn’t accept that VCBS actually loves Alex Kurtzman—even AFTER the deal was announced. Amusingly, I was chatting with one of these people the day before the announcement, and we had this exchange (I am not sharing this individual’s name). My comments are in blue…

Continue reading “If STAR TREK supposedly “sucks,” then why did ALEX KURTZMAN just get a $160 MILLION mega-deal??? (editorial)”

TREKLANTA is back, baby…and this year, it’s VIRTUAL!!!

Believe it or not, the Star Trek fan film community DOES have its own convention every year…or at least it did until COVID shut down the entire world in 2020!

Granted, TREKLANTA isn’t only a fan film convention. Since 2011, ERIC L. WATTS, Founder and Chairman of the the Treklanta mini-con (originally called TrekTrax), has invited a wide range of guests over the years that’s included a wealth of Star Trek and sci-fi veteran actors, authors, and production people…along with other fine folks whom fans have always enjoyed seeing and meeting.

But Treklanta is also the convention that Star Trek fan filmmakers call “home.” For the past half-decade, Treklanta has presented the annual BJO AWARDS—the only competition devoted exclusively to recognizing and honoring Star Trek fan films. It’s the closest thing we have to the Oscars (only “Oscar” is now the woman who saved Star Trek from cancellation with a giant letter-writing campaign back in the 1960s!).

Sadly, Treklanta didn’t happen at all last year because of the pandemic. And because this mini-con is typically funded with revenue from the previous year’s event, there wasn’t enough in the coffers to entirely finance an in-person Treklanta this year. Fortunately, fifteen months of quarantining has taught fans that the show CAN go on—and you don’t even have to leave your house!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Treklanta™ on the Holodeck!

This year’s Treklanta event will be a full day of FREE virtual panels beginning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time and going straight through till 10:00 p.m. THIS SATURDAY (August 7, 2021). All of the panels will be accessible via Google Meet at the following link:

https://meet.google.com/nxm-nnmz-ppf?fbclid=IwAR3FltmbCZgHPr-tjK5-hI-n_BXCSu1KvVl3kXOgVKifMPWMlx3qzc68eFI

The only requirement is that you have a Google/Gmail account to participate in the online events. And what if you don’t? Well, creating a free Google account is free and easy and doesn’t take very long. And you never have to use the Google account again if you don’t want to. But aside from that one requirement, Treklanta™ on the Holodeck is open to anyone at anytime during the day on Saturday. Start watching a panel, stick around for bit, ask a question or two, leave, come back, or just keep the link open all day long. It’s the easiest convention you’ve ever stayed home for!

Here’s the schedule of events (including a Fan Film “Power Panel” at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time that you will NOT want to miss!)…

Continue reading “TREKLANTA is back, baby…and this year, it’s VIRTUAL!!!”

OUTRAGED raises the bar on green screen fandemic films… (interview with DAVID CHENG)

DAVID CHENG and his gang of cosplayers at Star Trek Fan Productions International are upping their game with each new fan film that they produce…and there’s been quite a few in the past two years—six, in fact! Their first, THE HUMAN ADVENTURE, was a very rare Star Trek: The Motion Picture era fan film, shot and released in late 2019. That was half a year BEFORE the world shut down due to a once-in-a-century pandemic. The global quarantine didn’t stop David and his team, but it did force them to start being creative. And thus was born one of the many examples of what I went on to dub the “fandemic” film, where each of the actors is filmed separately and individually, and these self-contained pieces of footage are then edited together to create scenes with conversations and story…a new kind of Star Trek fan film.

(Actually, there was nothing really “new” about it. VANCE MAJOR had been doing similar editing together of footage shot in various people’s homes for years in his many, many MINARD and CONSTAR fan films.)

Beginning in June 2020 with LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY, David and co-showrunner MIKE LONGO (who played Jim Kirk) began releasing fandemic films where one character appeared in the screen at a time, first simply seated in front of backgrounds in their houses, sometimes with props visible…

A few weeks later, JENS DOMBEK, known internationally as “The German Spock,” released a very stylized vignette titled I AM SPOCK, shot against a stark black canvas background with only himself (dressed as Spock) and a series Vulcan props , accompanied by a monotonal voice-over and haunting minialist music track.

By October 2020, the bar was lifted slightly when, for the first time, their newest release worked in chroma-keyed virtual backgrounds against cosplayers who had shot their footage in front of green screen. UNREST also featured a few VFX shots of the U.S.S. Excelsior (under Captain Sulu) and the U.S.S. Enterprise-A (under Kirk, of course), with David Cheng returning to the front of the camera as Admiral Nogura for the first time since The Human Adventure.

For Christmas of 2020, PEACE AND GOODWILL continued building on their previous steps, incorporating green screen footage composited over digital backgrounds, but now some of those backgrounds included CGI animated VFX shots. Also, a few of the green screen shots were wider angles, showing more of the characters than just their head, shoulders, and torsos. And finally, the size of the cast had grown to six actors, their largest complement yet.

And finally, the month of June 2021 brought their most ambitious project yet, OUTRAGED, with a cast of 15 characters! But even more impressive were scenes that include TWO characters on screen at the same time…even though everyone’s footage was still being filmed separately. Thanks to digital compositing, fans could now see “over-the-shoulder” scenes plus Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock together on the Enterprise bridge, even though Mike Longo and Jens Dombek live on separate continents!

Take a look…

Continue reading “OUTRAGED raises the bar on green screen fandemic films… (interview with DAVID CHENG)”

Reason #4 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!

Your mission: find an actress—young, positive attitude, who lives in Oklahoma—willing to appear in a volunteer Star Trek fan film. Oh, and she needs to be of Native American ethnicity.

You have two days.

When you donate to the AVALON UNIVERSE Star Trek fan production, you’re paying for a get-it-done attitude and a proven track record. Over the past few weeks, I’ve provided three solid reasons to lend your financial support to this hard-working fan production crew: Jakande Lives, Do It for Pixi, and The Team. This week, I’ve saved the best for last—the most compelling reason to donate to their GoFundMe campaign, which just happens to be located at this link:

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

These folks never give up…ever! No matter what obstacles God, the gods, fate, the Universe, and/or or the Flying Spaghetti Monster throw their way, showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN and his team will always find a way to get their fan film(s) finished.

Avalon Universe has already released SEVEN high-quality fan films (two of which were two-parters of 30-plus minute length) in less than three years. And even as they try to crowd-fund another three productions, they’re already hard at work on a fourth fan film: AGENT OF NEW WORLDS.

And therein lies a tale…

Continue reading “Reason #4 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!”

With a little help from Home Depot, the newest fan series PROJECT RUNABOUT launches their “PILOT” episode! (interview with GARY DAVIS)

To paraphrase (De)Forrest Gump: “Fan films are like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get.”

That was certainly the case when I sat down to watch the premiere of the new fan series PROJECT: RUNABOUT, created by GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN, who are also the co-showrunners behind the veteran fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. I went in completely cold, knowing only that Gary had worked long and hard to build a brand new TOS-era cockpit set in his basement and that British VFX phenom SAMUEL COCKINGS had designed an awesome-looking CGI model of a 23rd century runabout and was really excited about the visual effects that he was creating for this initial release.

I knew this first episode was titled “Pilot,” and I’d heard there was an all-female cast (with one male Klingon thrown in). But the phrase I’d heard bandied about was “girl-power.” Well, alrighty, then! So I was kinda expecting a space battle of some kind, great VFX (because Sam isn’t capable of creating anything else) and an intriguing new “homemade” Star Trek set.

What I was NOT expecting was…a music video??? And honestly, a really good music video! Here, take a look…

Of course, it’s kinda hard to make a “bad” music video when you’re playing RACHEL PLATTEN’s uplifting Fight Song! But Gary and Randy were also helped along by four newcomers to Star Trek fan films.

Naturally, there was a lot to chat with him about…

Continue reading “With a little help from Home Depot, the newest fan series PROJECT RUNABOUT launches their “PILOT” episode! (interview with GARY DAVIS)”

Reason #3 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: THE TEAM!

Fan films are like weddings. (Ha, got your attention!)

Think about it. Weddings can be as cheap and simple as a trip to City Hall or a few friends in the backyard. Or they can be expensive galas with hundreds of guests and all the trimmings. Or they can be anywhere in between.

And so it is with fan films. We get everything from cardboard sets and scenes shot with cell phones to professional-looking productions with trained actors, meticulous sets and costumes, top-quality recording equipment, and budgets into the five-figure range and sometimes even beyond that.

In general, the larger and more ambitious the wedding, the more critical it is that a team of planners and managers be involved to make sure everything goes smoothly. You get one chance at the actual ceremony, and it’s all that the behind-the-scenes planning that can determine if the wedding is a triumph or a disaster.

The AVALON UNIVERSE fan films aren’t exactly Kardashian weddings (thank goodness!), but they are still pretty impressive, with production quality a few steps above the majority of Star Trek fan films out there. This is not meant to diminish those other fan films. All fan filmmakers deserve support and encouragement. But when you donate to an Avalon Universe crowd-funding campaign, you know your money will be well-spent, and the finished product will look and sound and be amazing.

Oh, and speaking of donating, Avalon has a crowd-funding campaign going on right now, if you’d like to back it…

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

Like a successful wedding, a well-run fan production requires careful planning and preparation, and that means having the right people in the right jobs…not just during the shoots but in the months and weeks leading up to the director yelling “Action!” for the first time.

As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t initially planning to be part of “Team Avalon,” even though I consider Avalon Universe director/showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN to be a close friend. (Josh was my Director of Photography and Editor on INTERLUDE.) What I did offer to do was to advise Josh and his producer, PIXI NEREID, on strategies for crowd-funding…advice I’ve also offered to other fan filmmakers over the years.

But before I knew it, Pixi had jumped into action, adding me to the production crew’s Facebook chat, giving me access to their Slack productivity app account where the cast and crew keep all of their online resources, and inviting me onto the kick-off production meeting Zoom call. So that’s how I became a part of “Team Avalon,” and it’s given me a fascinating look into who these fine folks are and all that they’re doing to make the wedding…er, fan film extra spectacular and go off without a hitch.

Let me tell you about the team…

Continue reading “Reason #3 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: THE TEAM!”

Why is the Fan Films & Audio Dramas Facebook group REJECTING posts about the AVALON UNIVERSE? (editorial)

I’m extremely troubled about something that happened last week on Facebook, and I’m not sure what to do about it other than bringing it to the attention of my readers.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been putting in a fair bit of effort over the past few weeks trying to help encourage donations to the current GoFundMe campaign for the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series. They’re doing pretty well so far, about 18% ($3.6K) of the way to to their $20K goal. If you’d like to give a little sumthin’, by the way, here’s the link:

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

Now, helping fan productions get the word out for their campaigns is nothing new for me. Over the past three months, I’ve written multiple blogs about SAMUEL COCKINGS’ TREK SHORTS crowd-funder back in May and GARY DAVIS’ campaign for DREADNOUGHT DOMINION in June. Naturally, I’d also want to help out JOSHUA IRWIN with his Avalon GoFundMe…not only because he’s a Star Trek fan filmmaker but because he did an awesome job as DP and editor on my fan film INTERLUDE and because he’s a good friend.

So last week when I posted to Facebook a “progress” graphic like the one at the top of this blog, I shared it with the usual collection of Star Trek and fan film groups on Facebook that I’m a member of. I do this with all Fan Film Factor and related posts to increase visibility, and invariably, I either see an immediate “Your post has been shared with your group” message or, within a few minutes to a few hours, “An admin has approved your post.”

What I don’t usually see is a DECLINE notice like this one…

Huh?

Now, two things immediately struck me as odd about the note from the admin at the bottom. The first was that a Facebook group called “Star Trek Fan Films & Audio Dramas” was restricting anything related to JJ Trek. There’s almost no Star Trek fan films set in that universe anyway, but why exclude the few that are? I mean, even if you loathe J.J. ABRAMS and the motorcycle he rode in on, why should the “sins of the producer” also be an albatross worn around the neck of a fan filmmaker? (What a wonderful mix of metaphors!)

So I looked at the rules of the group, just to be sure. And lo and behold…

7) No Kelvin universe fan films will be permitted. Nor will discovery based fan films

Continue reading “Why is the Fan Films & Audio Dramas Facebook group REJECTING posts about the AVALON UNIVERSE? (editorial)”

COSMIC STREAM is the first-ever fan film to be shot at THREE different TOS set studios! (video interview with JOSHUA IRWIN and TYLER DUNIVAN)

The AVALON UNIVERSE isn’t the Prime Star Trek universe, and it’s not the Kelvin timeline either. It’s not the Mirror universe or the Axanar universe or any other Star Trek or Marvel or DC or sci-fi universe you’ve ever seen before…unless, of course, you’ve watched the previous six Avalon fan films releases.

Instead, the Avalon Universe is simply a place where show-runner JOSHUA IRWIN (from Fayetteville, Arkansas) can play around with Star Trek stories without worrying about tripping over existing canon or angering this or that Trekkie because such-and-such never happened or this-or-that did happen so what you’ve just shown us doesn’t work. It works in the Avalon Universe, and that’s all you need to know.

The Avalon fan series got its start on Halloween 2018 with the release of the creepily comedic (or was that comedically creepy?) GHOST SHIP, which can best be described as “Star Trek meets The Walking Dead.” It was fun and surprisingly professional-looking. The reason for the latter is because Josh and many members of his team do actually work in the film industry and know how to shoot a proper film…fan or otherwise.

Ghost Ship introduced the new crew of the recently-repaired U.S.S. Excalibur, including VICTORIA FOX as First Officer Amanda Beck, VICTORIA ARCHER as Engineer Jamie Archer (yep, same last name as the character), and TYLER DUNIVAN as Captain Derek Mason. But no sooner had Mason been introduced than we saw the character die a noble death in the second Avalon episode AVALON LOST.

The third Avalon episode, DEMONS, released a year after Ghost Ship and eight months after Avalon Lost, showed fans how Commander Beck and new commanding officer, Captain Lance Ramirez (played by  CHUCK MERÉ) dealt with the loss of their close friend and colleague. LEGACY and NEW ORDERS were both short vignettes, while AIR AND DARKNESS was an ambitious full-length episode with night shots, stunts, great VFX, and lots of Klingons!

Earlier this month, “Team Avalon” launched a brand new GoFundMe campaign trying to raise $20K to continue their saga, hoping to finance as much of their next multi-episode chapter “Crisis on Infinite Excaliburs” as possible. Barely a week and a half in, the campaign is doing strongly with 55 backers and nearly $3K in donations so far—about 15% of the way to their goal. But more support is sorely needed to generate the remaining 85%, so please consider making a donation, even if it’s a small one, by clicking here…

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

While the team waits for more backers, they have been doing anything BUT resting on their laurels! In fact, Josh has already released a number of interviews with the team and other special features, and today they’ve just premiered their seventh fan film, COSMIS STREAM. Take a look…

Is that Tyler Dunivan’s character of Derek Mason, back from the dead??? Or is he in heaven, purgatory, another universe, another dimension, or is it just a dream? Fortunately, I was able to interview both Tyler and Josh and discover the answer.

Continue reading “COSMIC STREAM is the first-ever fan film to be shot at THREE different TOS set studios! (video interview with JOSHUA IRWIN and TYLER DUNIVAN)”

Reason #2 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: DO IT FOR PIXI…!

If you’ve never been part of the making of a fan film, it’s kinda hard to explain. But there’s a bug that bites ya, and then there’s an itch that you just need to scratch. It’s difficult to say when exactly that fan film bug bites—I guess it’s different for everyone; like the moment someone realizes they’re a Trekkie/Trekker—but when it does, everything can change in a heartbeat.

Or not. Some people make a fan film or participate in a production or two and they’re done. And that’s fine. But for many others, fan films get into your blood—sometimes into your very DNA—and then there’s just no stoppin’ it!

Which brings us to PIXI NEREID.

That’s actually her stage name. Pixi’s real name is ILIA McNEIL…and yes, the “Ilia” is actually inspired by the bald Deltan navigation officer from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as her parents were TOS fans. And Ilia is a hardcore fan herself. But all of her friends call her Pixi, and so do I because Pixi has (almost overnight!) become a friend.

And honestly, it’s hard not to absorb all of the positivity, fun, and optimism that radiates from her—so much so that you almost need to call her Pixi. And if you’re wondering where that name comes from, Pixi has a side gig (along with a small number of other women in the Fayetteville, Arkansas area) performing as a mermaid at children’s parties. So I suppose that Pixi Nereid isn’t her “stage” name so much as her “pool” name, but whatever you call it, she’s totally a Pixi!

We got no troubles…life is the bubbles…under the sea!

JOSHUA IRWIN, who will be directing the new AVALON UNIVERSE fan films that are crowd-funding now (click here to donate), first met Pixi on the set of the soon-to-be-released COSMIC STREAM while filming at WARP 66 STUDIOS in northeastern Arkansas. Pixi was told about the shoot by one of her fellow mermaids, who had a role in the fan film. But Pixi didn’t come to appear on camera, she just wanted to help out. In fact, she arrived and immediately told Josh that she’d be happy to be a grip for the day (a grip is someone someone who moves the lights around…not very glamorous but super-important).

It’s a 108-mile drive each way from Fayetteville to the studio, so the people who volunteer for these fan film shoots at WARP 66 have to be pretty committed. After the shoot in mid-March, Josh posted the following photo and comment to Facebook…

Continue reading “Reason #2 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: DO IT FOR PIXI…!”