The future of AXANAR! (audio interview with ALEC PETERS & PAUL JENKINS)

A lot was happening in the world of AXANAR just three short weeks ago. After raising $50K to cover 2/3 of the cost of the first two shoots at Ares Studios (ALEC PETERS covered the rest personally), an additional $5K was raised in a new private crowdfunding campaign in February. That allowed a third one-day shoot to happen on March 15, just as fears of the pandemic were beginning to take hold in many states.

This led Alec to announce via Axanar Confidential that the fourth shoot, a major two-day green screen excursion to Los Angeles to film nearly half a dozen aliens in full prosthetics and makeup, would be delayed and no longer happen in April as planned. And the premiere of Axanar itself would likely no longer occur at San Diego Comic Con, as it was possible that the huge gathering of hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans might itself be canceled.

This didn’t stop Axanar completely, however. The first full trailer was released online the night of March 15, and you can see it here if you haven’t already…

This followed the release a few weeks earlier of some rough cut footage of actor JAMIE RENELL doing some background ad-lib for his on-screen interview as USS Ares Chief Engineer Alexei Leonov

And of course, on March 15 Axanar also launched its third private fundraiser on Ares Digital, this one with a goal of $30K to cover the major “alien shoot” in L.A. Some people asked if this was an appropriate time to raise money for a Star Trek fan film with people being furloughed and losing their jobs and the economy in a tailspin. Alec answered that question in a blog on the Axanar.com website. At the time, the campaign had already taken in about 25% of its goal in less than a week. In the two weeks since then, donations have slowed considerably, although they’re still trickling in steadily…

If you’re interested in donating (and are able to), you can do so by clicking here:

https://aresdigital.axanar.com

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SPACE COMMAND is filming a special VIRUS-SAFE episode: “Ripple Effect”!

The global coronavirus pandemic has shut down most, if not all, television and movie production nationwide. Many TV news anchors are broadcasting from their homes and basements, self-quarantining because they want to keep themselves and others safe. And while a number of fan films that have already been shot are still being worked on in post production—where folks can work individually at home (including my own fan film INTERLUDE)—projects that were either in, or soon to be entering, production have had to put their plans on hold for the time being.

All but one, it seems.

Publicly launched back in 2012, SPACE COMMAND has already raised over a million dollars from crowd-funding and from selling shares in the production. The brainchild of TNG and DS9 episode writer MARC SCOTT SICREE, Space Command will ultimately span twelve 1-hour episodes for its first season, featuring such notable sci-fi actors as DOUG JONES (from Discovery); ROBERT PICARDO (from Voyager) ; MIRA FURLAN, BRUCE BOXLEITNER, and BILL MUMY (from Babylon 5); FARAN TAHIR (the captain of the USS Kelvin from Star Trek 2009); JAMES HONG (from Big Trouble in Little China and Kung Fu Panda); and a host of others.

Already, work has been completed on the first full hour episode, which you can watch here. (Mira Furlan, Doug Jones, and Robert Picardo give especially poignant performances…definitely worth checking out!) Post production is being completed on the second half-hour, which will form a single two-part episode titled “Redemption.”

The second two-parter, “Forgiveness,” is currently in production. Part 1 has been fully crowd-funded and filmed, and Part 2 is being crowd-funded right now. In fact, their Kickstarter ends on April 4. Although they’ve crossed their $48K goal, it’s only just barely. So a little “cushion” would certainly help. If you’d like, you can donate to “Forgiveness – Part Two” by clicking here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spacecommand/space-command-forgiveness-part-two

Obviously, actual production won’t be starting on that episode until the COVID coast is clear.

BUT!!!

Marc Zicree just announced that he’s writing a special standalone episode of Space Command called “Ripple Effect”—and it will be filmed now…during the pandemic while everyone is self-quarantining. How is this possible while not being irresponsible? Simple: everyone will be working from home!

Many of the main actors from the series have agreed to film scenes in their own homes with their own equipment. No camera crews or lighting or sound or make-up or wardrobe people…just actors and their cameras. Some might have green screens, others might not. Then their footage will be edited, scored, VFX added, sound-mixed, etc. And everyone will be working completely apart from each other.

Will it work?

Too soon to say, but it certainly sounds intriguing and exciting! And to make it even more so, Mark is planning to make the magic right in front of us, showing fans the project AS it takes shape every step along the way. No crowd-funding necessary, and the finished film will be posted for free.

Here’s Marc to tell us more…

JOHN SIMS makes an impression as [Q]uincy in DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’s latest vignette! (interview with GARY DAVIS)

Let face it, most (not all) Star Trek fan films take themselves seriously. And why not? Many are crowd-funded, and most require weeks or months or even years of planning and hard work to complete successfully. So Star Trek fan films have every right to take themselves seriously.

But one fan series in particular, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, has bucked that trend. Granted, over the past half-decade of releasing fan films, not everything from Dominion has been a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek romp. In fact, their first couple of episodes were completely serious, as was the recent “Redemption at Red Medusa.” But mixed in with those offerings were a series of humorous vignettes like “Reality Check” (which broke the 4th wall) and “Technical Difficulties.” Both of these short fan films featured actor JOHN SIMS playing a crewman named Quincy…who turned out to be a member of the Q Continuum. The character is mysterious and compelling—and quite a bit mischievous—all at the same time.

Quincy makes is third and most significant appearance in the latest Dominion vignette, “A Barrel Full of Quincys,” and it’s quite a hoot! John Sims gets to show off his range of celebrity impersonations in a short film with rather impressive production values. Check it out…

I asked John what his impression of the episode was (get it?), and he typed back in a very British accent (he’s actually from Worcester, Massachusetts and currently lives in Florida, but he’s a self-declared Anglophile):

I enjoyed the opportunity that Gary and Randy gave me. They are alright blokes with great sense of humour!

Indeed they are! GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN are the show-runners for the Dominion fan series, and I spoke to Gary recently about what went into creating this latest vignette. Turns out a LOT more work went into crafting this little short film than you’d suspect…!

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Why I loved…and hated…the finale of STAR TREK: PICARD! (editorial review)

SPOILERS…SHINING ON ME—
NOTHING BUT SPOILERS…DO I SEE!

As usual, I’m probably going to piss off the folks who love STAR TREK: PICARD if I say anything negative about the season finale…and piss off the folks who hate the series if I gush about the last episode.

So let’s just piss off everyone this time, shall we?

To properly convey my reaction(s) to “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2,” I need to walk you though the following sequence of events that affected the way I thought about this episode…

It began last week when I was underwhelmed (for the first time this season) with the ninth episode, which I detailed in my previous editorial review. I realized that, being a part one, the penultimate episode was setting things up for the ultimate episode. But I wasn’t certain that I liked everything that was being set up. The tail was beginning to wag the dog as the writing was getting somewhat sloppy and lazy, trying to check boxes in order to move the pieces where they needed to be for the “big finish.”

Then, a day before the finale aired, I read this really great interview from Variety with Picard co-creator and show-runner MICHAEL CHABON (a MUST read, folks!). It provides some fascinating insight into what sculpted the writing of this series, but one passage stood out for me in particular:

I think a useful metaphor for thinking about it is an Etch A Sketch. If you remember, there are two dials on the Etch A Sketch, one is plot and one is character. What you’re trying to do, and it’s really hard, is to turn them exactly the same amount so that you’re getting a perfect 45 degree angle. But as soon as you commit to a plotted story, which we committed to from the opening scene of Episode 1, you’ve strapped yourself to a plot-driven engine that you’re going to have to push back against really hard to try to hold it into that 45 degree angle.

I realized as I read that part of the interview that the first eight episodes were much more front-loaded with character development. There might not always be enough time to develop every character as much as we (or the writers) might want, but what the show lacked in action and speed of storytelling was more than made up for in series after series of deep, character-defining scenes. And I was getting kinda used to that.

But eventually, you have to not only get on with the plot but you actually have to finish the darn story already. And that’s when I felt the show had finally delivered a mediocre episode. Would the trend continue into the finale? Would finally giving us some action “ruin” the last episode for me, as well?

And so Thursday came and a finally hit play

Continue reading “Why I loved…and hated…the finale of STAR TREK: PICARD! (editorial review)”

New teaser for THE ROMULAN WAR: “Nightingale”!

Back in June of 2018, show-runner MARK NACCARATO managed to crowd-fund more than $11.6K for an ambitious new fan production titled THE ROMULAN WAR. Set during that critical interstellar conflict that resulted in the founding of the United Federation of Planets, this exciting project will feature the same “mock” documentary format as PRELUDE TO AXANAR with a number of trained actors and some incredible VFX by fandom’s #1 CGI hit Brit, SAMUEL COCKINGS.

The Romulan War has had some unfortunate and unavoidable delays during post production, including the passing of a close family member of Mark Naccarato’s last year. But in the meantime, Mark has released a wonderful series of enhanced audio dramas focusing on compelling “War Stories” from various participants in the war—from admirals to MACO grunts to civilian freighter pilots to the inventor of the Warp 7 engine. Each vignette features an audio monologue augmented by a series of graphics and animations…and each is 100% MUST SEE viewing. You can watch all of the “War Stories” vignettes here.

Mark has also released a series of short teasers and trailers over the past two years, and last week, he posted his latest offering: a teaser clip entitled simply “Nightingale.” The VFX by Sam Cockings are, as usual, pulse-pounding and breathtaking—as is the music. And amazingly, this teaser tells a full story in less than 35 seconds (well under the 15 minutes allowed by the guidelines!). Take a look…

For those wanting a little more background to the story of this ill-fated vessel , Mark also posted this…


The Tale of the Nightingale

DATELINE: May, 2156 – After a brutal nuclear attack on the Centauri colonies which killed over 450,000 civilians, the medical ship Nightingale mounted a rescue operation to evacuate the survivors of Alpha III.

A refitted transport left over from the Cochrane Expedition seventy years earlier, Nightingale was old, slow, and unarmed. Escorted by two Intrepid-class light cruisers, the medical ship managed to take on approximately 5,500 sick and wounded refugees when long-range sensors detected enemy movement. Nightingale and her escorts left the system, bound for Tau Ceti, with two Romulan Raptor-class heavy cruisers in pursuit.

The Romulans chased the Earth convoy for nearly two days when the escort ships decided to break formation and try to cover Nightingale’s escape. The escort ships, Republic and Sirius, were not heard from again. When Nightingale began braking maneuvers to hide inside a gas cloud, the Romulan cruisers caught them.

Subcommander Chulak, who led the Romulan assault, reported in his log that “those who are not healthy enough to serve the Empire don’t deserve to live. They should be thanking us for the mercy we’ve shown them.”

This clip from The Romulan War: A Star Trek Fan Production features the voice of L. Honey Hereth, visual effects from Samuel Cockings, and an original music piece by Nashville composer Mark Allen.

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FLOWER-POWER doesn’t energize this week’s weakest episode of STAR TREK: PICARD… (editorial review)

A FISTFUL OF SPOILERS!

By now, you guys know that I love the new STAR TREK: PICARD series. I’ve raved about every episode so far. And even things I didn’t like (such as the swearing or Narek’s inability to act convincingly or his incestuous sister Narissa or Commodore Oh’s unfortunate name choice) I was still able to overlook because I was enjoying everything else so much.

Not this time, folks.

Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t “hate” this episode or even really dislike it. I was simply rather underwhelmed. And I found myself annoyed by enough plot contrivances and missed opportunities that, this time, the bad outweighed the good.

Granted, my hat is completely off to ISA BRIONES, who plays her sister Sutra with a subtle, sinister sleekness signaling significant sophistication and a solid skillset. (Sorry, sometimes alliteration frantically flows through my fingers.) And of course, the rest of the cast does a solid job…but at least for this one episode, not a really great job.

And yes, I do blame director AKIVA GOLDSMAN for that. He’s just not a great director yet. Over the past ten years, he’s directed less than a dozen hours of television, and four of those were episodes of Fringe in the first two seasons. And for the next four years, he directed nothing. He directed two episodes of Discovery‘s lackluster first season (including the disappointing finale), and now he gets to direct both parts of the season finale of Picard…which is unfortunate and doesn’t bode well for next week. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Of course, if a director is given a weak script, that can also be a problem. And “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” wasn’t the best script of the season. Even though the excellent MICAEL CHABON had a hand in writing it, so too did AYELET WALDMAND and Akiva himself. Sometimes multiple writers on the same script is a boon. But sometimes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.

So what went wrong this episode? Well, to be fair, it was a “part 1” episode, setting up the pins so that the conclusion next week can knock them all down with a strike. This means we can expect a lot of plot contrivances making sure characters are properly placed for the finale (Seven and Elnor on the Cube, Narek escaped, etc.). But there were also some “unforced errors,” as they say in baseball.

Let me tell you what bothered me the most…

Continue reading “FLOWER-POWER doesn’t energize this week’s weakest episode of STAR TREK: PICARD… (editorial review)”

How will CORONAVIRUS affect STAR TREK FAN FILMS?

Last Friday night on AXANAR CONFIDENTIAL #52, ALEC PETERS announced that the fourth shoot for AXANAR, originally scheduled for April in Los Angeles, will need to be delayed at least until May and possibly longer because of the coronavirus pandemic. (The good news is that he now has a little longer to raise $30K in the fundraiser on Ares Digital.) The planned premiere of “The Gathering Storm”—the first of the two Axanar sequels—might no longer happen during San Diego Comic Con or even at Creation’s Las Vegas Star Trek convention because there’s a chance that one or both events will be postponed or canceled.

Whether or not you personally feel that the media is making too much out of all this, the fact remains that folks across the United States and the world are taking this new virus very seriously. Sporting events, concerts, offices, schools, theaters, restaurants, fitness clubs—all are being temporarily closed to prevent people from inadvertently sharing this very infectious new virus while congregating in close quarters. All of these measures are intended to slow the spread of the disease until such time (hopefully soon) when a vaccine can be developed, tested, and deployed to the general population.

And this also includes film production. CBS, ABC, Netflix, Apple, and Disney are all suspending shooting on series including Young Sheldon, Grey’s Anatomy, Supergirl, Batwoman, Claws, All Rise, Lucifer,  Stranger ThingsGrace and Frankie, The Morning Show, Foundation, For All Mankind, and NCIS…to name but a few! (Get the whole current list here.) Disney has halted production on nearly all pilots, including the new Falcon and the Winter Soldier planned for release on Disney+. So this is going to cost the studios some big bucks and major lost revenue in advertising and subscriptions.

But the logic is sound. Production crews can often number in the hundreds, and they work in very close quarters as make-up and costume people, lighting and camera people, actors, directors, sound engineers, and countless others are constantly near or touching each other and the same items to adjust mics, wardrobe, make-up, hold up light meters, etc. And production teams can’t afford for even small numbers of their crew to be out sick at the same time.

And of course, even though survival rates are in the 98%-plus range, the elderly are most susceptible…and most younger folks in sets have parents and grandparents (plus some of the actors themselves are older). It would be irresponsible on the part of the studios (and possibly trigger some legal liability) to put so many people at risk just to make a TV program, Indeed, I suspect even more shows will announce they are suspending production soon.

So what does all of this mean for Star Trek fan films? After all, Axanar‘s production and release might very well be delayed by months due to COVID-19—what about other productions? I decided to ask around…

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AXANAR releases the FULL TRAILER…kicks off fund-raiser for SHOOT #4!

The full trailer for AXANAR is finally here!  Four months ago, after the first October shoot at Ares Studios, a brief teaser was released with about 30 seconds of actual footage—a combination of a couple of brief VFX sequences and a bunch of quick-cut live-action shots filmed on the USS Ares bridge set.  Since then, however, fans and donors have been patiently (and not-so-patiently) waiting to see more.

And now that time has come. Over a thousand people watched the live premiere of the trailer live on Sunday evening. So many people wanted to donate to the Axanar fundraiser that it temporarily crashed Ares Digital and the Axanar.com websites! Both problems were fixed within the hour, but in the meantime, over $1,000 was donated to Ares Studios through superchats during the live podcast.

Here’s the new Axanar trailer…

Pretty impressive huh?

The just-launched fundraiser is attempting to raise $30K to pay the costs for a fourth and final shoot in a green screen studio in Los Angeles, travel and lodging, equipment rental, and most of all for the make-up and prosthetics for two Vulcans (including GARY GRAHAM as Soval), two Andorians, one Klingon plus two humans. (Will one of them be KATE VERNON as Sonya Alexander? No confirmation yet!)

The trailer does have a few visual glitches, so the plan is to re-edit it, possibly adding in some additional footage, and then re-release a new version in a week or so. And when that happens, I’ll be sure to let you all know.


Of course, the question on many people’s minds is why did it take until now (March 15) for the trailer to be released?  After all, the first shoot was back in October and the second shoot in December.  It’s now the middle of March.  I spoke to ALEC PETERS and asked about the apparent delay. Here was his answer…

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STAR TREK: PICARD’s “Broken Pieces” has a little something for EVERYONE…even the complainers! (editorial review)

HOUSTON, WE HAVE SPOILERS!

At this point, if you’re not liking (or loving) STAR TREK: PICARD, then I really just don’t get it. Not to say you’re not entitled to your opinion, but it’s just beyond my ken trying to figure out if we’re even watching the same show!

I enjoy this series as a Trek fan, as a sci-fi fan, and simply as a television viewer. I love the story, the characters, the acting, the writing, the VFX (just enough lens flare not to drive ya nuts!), the costumes, the make-up, the sets, and even (especially!) the music.

This eighth episode had a little something for everyone…even the complainers. So if you’ve been criticizing the show on social media, did you at least like any of the following…?

YOU WANTED ACTION? YOU GOT ACTION!

Okay, I’ll admit that a good portion of this eighth episode featured the crew members of the La Sirena just sitting around and talking to each other. The ship wasn’t getting shot at, Elnor wasn’t cutting off people’s heads, and no one was being murdered.

But meanwhile, back on the Borg Cube Artifact, it was Fast and Furious 7-of-9! (Let’s all pause a moment to appreciate that pun.) For those viewers complaining that episodes of Picard are “too” slow, these cutaways to Seven-of-Nine and Elnor must certainly have felt like a welcome pick-me-up! The stakes were high, the tension palpable, the urgency immediate, and the action thrilling. The bad guys were nefariously plotting and preparing, the good guys were struggling to come up with a workable defense, and our “hero” Seven was forced by circumstance into making an impossible choice.

And let’s hear it for the “head fake” of leading us to the edge of having Seven release the Borg hounds and then—SWOOSH!!!—having Narissa space them all in five seconds. So much for that idea! Granted, in retrospect, that “plot twist” saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in make-up and wardrobe costs that would have been required to turn the end of the episode into Borg War V (or whatever we’re up to…”Descent,” First Contact, “Dark Frontier,” “Unimatrix Zero,” feel free to add any Borg-heavy episodes to that list). But even knowing that the decision was as much cost-savings as anything, the moment was still unexpected (for me, at least), and it definitely left Seven in a very scary place.

Let’s see what other goodies were on the menu this episode…

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PACIFIC 201 releases a brand new TRAILER! (interview with ERIC HENRY)

PACIFIC 201 was initially crowd-funded with a $26K Kickstarter way back in September of 2015. The following year, an Indiegogo campaign raised about $32K more. So armed with more than $58K, Harrisburg, PA-based show-runner ERIC HENRY set off to make a fan film…and not just any fan film.

Eric was building actual sets (and paying monthly rent for a warehouse), creating costumes, refining new starship designs, doing his own VFX, and treating this project very professionally. The images looked amazing, and the story very intriguing.

Pacific 201 is set in the year 2200, four decades after the Romulan War, and Earth is still hesitant to trust the galaxy.  The desire to explore space faded after the first few years of the NX program—helped along by the Xindi and Romulans—and was replaced with a fear that seeking out new life and new civilizations would result in them shooting at us.

But now Earth is just beginning to shake off its post-traumatic stress, and the starship Pacific NCC-201 is the first vessel in decades to head out with UESPA scientists aboard alongside Starfleet military.  Can humanity conquer its fears and truly embrace its destiny among the stars?

This push/pull of paranoia vs. positivity is put on display in one of my all-time favorite fan vignettes, which Eric released back in late 2016. (You can watch it here.) In this short film, the first officer of the USS Pacific is grilled by a talk show host who is anything but fair and balanced when it comes to restarting the exploration of space. The following summer, another Pacific 201 short vignette was released, featuring the new captain. (You can watch that here.)

All this time, the “coming soon” dates were coming and going with no Pacific 201. Most recently, in 2018, a series of images were released along with a promised release date of spring 2019. We’re now a year beyond that, and still no fan film. BUT!!! For the first time since 2018, new content from Pacific 201 has been released in the form of this intriguing new trailer…

So…August 2020 it is, then! Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I thought it might be a good time to check in with Eric Henry on what’s been taking so long, what still needs to be done, and whether there will be any sequels to Pacific 201 (once the first film comes out, that is!). Let’s hear what Eric has to say…

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