Is TREK crowd-funding in TROUBLE? (a lively chat with MARK NACCARATO of THE ROMULAN WAR)

Are Star Trek fan films in danger of having the donation well run dry?  It’s hard to know, but right now, things look somewhat troubling.

Last month, a Kickstarter for the proposed The Holy Core fan film (the same folks who produced the excellent Chance Encounter) didn’t even manage to get half way to their $12,000 goal and instead got nothing.  Another Kickstarter for The Roddenberries’ new album and music video set a two month goal of $9,500 and, with only 11 days to go, is only up to $3,565.

And now, THE ROMULAN WAR, an exciting new Star Trek fan project, is struggling to reach its $10,000 goal on Indiegogo.  Although they burst out of the starting gate with $4,200 in less than two weeks, last week was a veritable desert of donations with only a few hundred dollars coming in over the span of six days.  And this despite the fact that last Monday saw a new video posted to social media spotlighting the cast and showing some never-before-seen footage, and on Wednesday there was a cool TrekYards feature on the Romulan “Strombird” class.  Fortunately, yesterday saw nearly a thousand dollars come in (not sure why, since nothing notable happened on Sunday), but they’re still only 55% of the way to their goal with just 12 days left!

What the heck is going on???

It wasn’t that long ago that Star Trek fan projects were taking in five or even six figures in donations.  Then the Axanar lawsuit happened, the guidelines happened, and fans’ wallets seemed to begin suffering from a case of donation P.T.S.D.  This wasn’t true of all fan projects, though.  Even after the Axanar lawsuit was filed, Star Trek Continues took in nearly $200,000 in an Indiegogo campaignPacific 201 raised over $30,000.

One year ago, the Deep Space Nine documentary “What We Left Behind” raised nearly $650,000 in an Indiegogo campaign.  Two months later, the original sci-fi anthology series The Circuit took in more than $100,000.  And just this past November, the indie sci-fi fan series Space Command from Marc Zicree came away with $108,000 in a successful Kickstarter for their pilot episode “Redemption.”

So why are the smaller fan projects struggling so much?  Is it just because they don’t have big-name celebrities?  (All of the projects in the last paragraph will feature major Star Trek and/or sci-fi veteran actors.)  If that’s the case, then Trek fan films are toast.  But maybe it’s something else.  Maybe this problem can be fixed.  It needs to be fixed, folks.  But…how?

With that in mind, I turned what was intended to be a straightforward interview with MARK NACCARATO of The Romulan War—trying to encourage donations to his Indiegogo—into a lively discussion of the trends in Trek fan film crowd-funding and how Mark is tackling these headwinds right now.  Yes, we still talked about his project and why you should donate to it (c’mon, you know you want to!), but we also took a hard look at what might be going on and whether this spells the end of fan financed films or if fans just need some time to adjust the the “new normal.”

It was a fun and informative chat, and I think you’ll really enjoy it…

And if you want to donate, just click here or on the graphic below…

Also, be sure to check out their website:

22 thoughts on “Is TREK crowd-funding in TROUBLE? (a lively chat with MARK NACCARATO of THE ROMULAN WAR)”

  1. You know why TREK fan films aren’t getting donations? It’s not because of AXANAR. It’s because they’re not very good. Fan films need to step up their game. AXANAR, CONTINUES and HORIZON are now the baseline. Fan Films need to do better. Fans don’t want to watch other fans play dress up any more. They’re demanding more, and rightfully so. In “Space Seed,” Khan commented on how little man himself changed over the centuries. Well, frankly, like Khan, I’m disappointed in how little Trek fan films have improved. All fan films, from Harry Potter, to Star Wars to Trek, are raising the bar to the next level. Why support a fan film when you can pay the same amount to watch the most expensive episodic Trek ever produced with Disco, horrific though it may be? Why should fans be expected to support mediocrity? Trek fan filmmakers need to step up to the plate and show how good they can be. Only then will other fans donate to their efforts.

    1. Rob, my friend, I think you accidentally set your Delorean’s time clock destination to the wrong year…

      But seriously, Rob, this is kind of like saying that unless the local community theater can put on “Hamilton” at Broadway quality, you’re not going to buy anything from their bake sale. Are fan films only “worthy” when they have industry professionals and top-notch talent? Sure, Axanar, STC, and Horizon raised the bar, but those were always the exceptions, not the rule. For every STC, there were five Exeters, Farraguts, Valiants, and Intrepids, and even more ultra-low budget Potemkins and Minards and Eagles and so many others.

      To withhold donations from a production simply because it doesn’t rise to the level of the top 5% of fan films seems, to me at least, very unfair and short-sighted. Granted, I don’t think a production like “The Romulan War” can justify a $50,000 crowd-funding goal, but $10,000 seems quite reasonable when Prelude was made for $125,000 and Horizon for $70,000. From what I’ve seen of “The Romulan War” so far, it looks to be quite good. These aren’t fans doing cosplay on cardboard sets in bad-fitting costumes with poorly-rendered CGI effects. These are trained actors and a director who actually went to film school and has been an editor. They have a costumer, a top-notch VFX guy, make-up person, a DP, sound guy…these folks are making this production as good as they can.

      As another example of how expectations for film films might be set unrealistically high, the recent Kickstarter for “The Holy Core” failed to get to $12,000. In their case, they had already shown they could play in the big kids’ sandbox with “Chance Encounter.” Did you see their shuttle set? And their acting, music, lighting, sound quality, and most of all story were fantastic, engaging, and quite touching. “Chance Encounter” is a must-see fan film. Did you see it? In my opinion, Gary O’Brien had earned the right to ask for (and get) $12,000 for his next project. Instead, he didn’t even make it half way. And to me, that’s a tragedy.

      I think fans have to ask themselves: would they rather have less ambitious Trek fan films or no Trek fan films at all? Because I think that’s the choice now. Like it or not (and of course, we don’t like it), the guidelines changed the reality of Trek fan films, likely forever. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but the days of the six- and seven-figure Trek fan films are over. But the days of the five-figure fan films are still possible…but only if fans are willing to donate. If not, then ALL Trek fan films will need to be self-funded, ultra-low budget cosplays (except those made by independently wealthy fans like Kenny Smith who is nearing completion–hopefully!!!–on First Frontier).

      Frankly, Rob, I think you should really consider buying a brownie and helping those community theater folks perform “Hamilton”…because that’s the only way some of them will take it to the next level and maybe even get to Broadway someday…like you did. 🙂

      1. Jonathan,

        Cacun a son gout. I never donated to STC because the acting and storylines didn’t meet my standard. The last two parter had Kirk jeopardize the safety of his own ship by 1) not taking precautions, and 2) believing the first thing that came out of the person’s mouth.. That’s a Big No-No to me. Judy Burns’ story was better (Judy was one of my writing instructors) but I just couldn’t get past Vic’s acting. (Hey, it’s just me. If you guys liked it, great.)

        Axanar blew me away, so I plunked my $$ down.

        What law says I have to donate to every fan production?

        1. “What law says I have to donate to every fan production?”

          Don’t I say in the interview “You don’t have to donate to every fan film project…”?

          1. Another great blog Jonathan, I keep coming back!

            I have to say that I think Rob has something of a point though. The fan productions that move the game on, pushed the boundaries (final frontier?) of what’s possible always have a great chance of pulling in the big bucks. The problem is this can only go so far, perhaps this is a bit of a boom bust scenario (amongst all the other factors of course).

            I think it’s a case of go big or go self fund. The guidelines are a pain in this regard. (Relatively) Modest productions looking for modest amounts really don’t stand the same chance of getting them. To take it to an extreme, would anyone fund me $10 (better still £10) to speak to camera in front of a hand drawn bridge background? No way, save your pennies… please!

            This is to no way disrespect any of the fan productions out there. I admire them for doing what they do even if I don’t always choose to watch it. One thing I don’t understand (pardon my lack on knowledge on this) is why anyone use Kickstarter over Indiegogo? (ref. Holy Core) Are there less fees with Kickstarter? Seems a shame that they couldn’t have made use of the money they did raise, I’m sure they’d have found a way to come up with something pretty decent.

          2. It used to be that Kickstarter was the more attractive option because 1) they got more site traffic in general (about 4X-5X more than Indiegogo), and 2) their all-or-nothing rule gave donors a warm fuzzy feeling that they weren’t just throwing away their money on a loser project. Enough people had to also believe in the project in order for the project leaders to get anything, and that inspired more confidence that Kickstarter projects would fund completely and get made, rather than being some black hole for donated dollars to disappear.

            Lately, however, I don’t think those arguments hold as much water. Even if Kickstarter still gets more site traffic, the chances of someone coming to Kickstarter for another project, happening to see your campaign, and suddenly deciding out of the blue to give you money seem to have fallen off significantly. There’s just too many other campaigns now, and donors aren’t as predisposed to just throw their money at projects as they used to be. Nowadays with crowd-funding, you can’t just build it and expect them to come. You have to actively go hunting for contributors and drag them in. And of course, As Gary O’Brien just learned with “The Holy Core,” it would have been nicer to have half of what he was asking for, or even a third, rather than nothing.

    2. Axanar was borderline professional. As was STC and STNV. I’d hardly call those traditional fan films.

      This fan film has no industry natives on board, it’s completely being built by a novice.

      The type of fundraising Axanar and STC did was only sustainable for so long. For a time they were filling the gap with Trek not being in TV. For a time…they were taking in oodles of money but even before Axanar the numbers were declining. You can only go to the same pot of hard core fans and ask for money so many times.

      It has nothing to do with quality Rob Burnett and everything to do with fundraising sustainability with a finite pool of fans willing to donate.

  2. I’ll skip the long read and answer the headline succinctly: Yes. Thanks to the actions of ONE careless, unethical, reckless irresponsible individual’s actions. Next.

        1. I think what bad just happened is those trying to turn this into a Hanlon’s razor: THE POST-LAUNCH DOLDRUMS IS NORMAL CROWDFUNDING BEHAVIOR, PEOPLE. Nothing to see. Move along. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

          DON’T try and attribute to malice what can properly be attributed to NORMAL behavior. It’s not even stupidity (well, except for those that try and equate the two). My wife just finished her fifth successful Kickstarter (over 300% funded) and even we hit the doldrums and had to work our way out. A creator has to PLAN for it nowadays, or they’ll get left behind.

          It’s in the book. Go read it.

          1. Oh, I know all about the doldrums, David. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of crowd-funders go through the same mid-campaign slow-down. But this one is highly unusual. Donations didn’t just just down, they screeched to a halt. That is something I consider most troubling.

            Even in the 36 hours since this blog posted, there has not been a single donation. Considering that this blog page was viewed nearly 400 times in that period and there’s currently 45 backers, this seems rather unusual even to an experienced campaign-watcher (and donor) like me.

  3. Jonathan,

    Uh, no, that’s what crowdfunding does. Funding plateaus during the middle of the campaign. Tax day? Yep. Holiday? Yep. Get the crash cart as backers disappear during these times.

    Mark was also on point: he’s an unknown asking for $10k. Only created one other campaign, no clue if he’d backed any others (remember crowdfunding is a community, if you don’t back others they won’t back you). On his Indiegogo page there’s this big line that says (basically) “More info on our great cast is not available yet!!!” Why would anyone even THINK about supporting that? Perk levels are steep. You want ‘bread and butter’ levels (the bulk of your backers) at $20 to $25 and 11 x 17’s as perks may not get backers excited enough.

    No discussion of Risks whatsoever. Why would anyone back this?

    Not all is lost, but Mark may need to re-tool the campaign. Start with a lower level, make only the first few minutes (enough to get everyone to the “hook” at page 2) Do the BEST job possible getting the film finished to that point. Then crowd fund again until the next logical ‘break’ point. Repeat until finished. With multiple lower goals this ESTABLISHES a proven track record that Mark can DELIVER. Then backers will be willing to continue or fund if they haven’t already.

    Perks, hmm. I’d think that folks would pay more if they can get their names on the set somehow. $30 gets your name on a control panel as one of the buttons. $50 in big print. $100 and they actually mention the “(Backer name) tricorder” during a scene. Get it? Give the backers a REASON to want to pay you.

    Read my wife’s book (OK, shameless plug),204,203,200_QL70_&dpSrc=detail . Yeah, it comes from a comic (independent creator perspective, but there’s lots of things to think about.

    But, gee, a campaign mired in the ‘doldrums’ after a week? Surprise? NOT!!!!! It’s standard procedure nowadays and the campaign has to have a plan to work its way through. Preferably BEFORE the campaign has started.

      1. Sure did, Jonathan. Though I wonder if Mr. Rosing actually listened to the interview you posted before commenting. He seems to be applying “rules” that apply to films which are NOT Star Trek fan films.

        For one thing, Trek fan films can’t do elaborate perks, per the guidelines. The days of the amazing Axanar-like perks are over and Mr. Rosing either doesn’t know that or he doesn’t care. The one perk that we’re exceptionally proud to offer – the chance for backers to be heard or seen in the film itself – is completely ignored in his critique and is actually quite popular. The importance of the perks is actually less of a factor than I originally thought and definitely less than Mr. Rosing thinks. All you have to do is look at our IG page’s Comments section and at the amounts people are donating (odd amounts that do not qualify them for perks) and you can see that many fans don’t even want us to send them their perk because they know that perks cut into our costs. These backers’ intent is for us to use their dollars to finish the film, not send them swag. I find this to be incredible and it just reminds me that so many Trek fans are selfless and “get it” about what the whole point of crowdfunding is. Don’t get me wrong, we are glad to offer perks and I wish we could have offered cooler ones but we can’t, per CBS. Besides, to me crowdfunding a fan film project isn’t really about getting swag – or at least, I don’t think it should be. But that’s just my personal opinion and I don’t pretend that it’s the only one.

        Speaking of perks, I simply can’t agree with with Mr. Rosing that the “perk levels are steep”. We start at $10 for crying out loud! According to our Indiegogo metrics so far, we’re actually getting more donations at the higher levels than we are at the lower levels. So however Rosing defines “steep”… it’s not actually a problem in our case. If anything, we probably could have ditched the $10 level altogether and have been fine.

        We covered the thing Mr. Rosing mentions about Tax Day in our interview and as I’ve already said, I think that is some speculation that we just will never be able to prove. Our biggest week of donations happened during the week when most people were actually preparing their taxes, so that in some ways flies in the face of that theory. Though I certainly don’t rule it out completely. Certainly it “feels” true.

        As for Mr. Rosing’s idea of us finishing the first part of the film to “hook” people so they want to see another part… I have two things to say to that:
        1) I think we demonstrated quite clearly what we’re capable of producing if you watch the Pitch Video and the Cast Video on Indiegogo.
        2) Filmmaking rarely gets done in a linear fashion. It was not cost-effective for me to only shoot the first two minutes of the film and then stop to shoot the rest. Other people might have had that game plan (and more power to them) but I don’t. Again, if Mr. Rosing had watched our Pitch video, had read your articles on TRW, or listened to our interview, he’d know that we’ve already shot most of the footage and need to crowdfund to get the post-production done. That means that it’s not really possible for us to show a completed version of the first few minutes of the film since special fx shots and other things aren’t done yet to insert into that first few minutes. And truth be told… even if we could show the first few minutes in a final, polished version, I wouldn’t do it anyway. Our strategy (which is a sound one) is to show some finished out footage in bits and pieces – whether that’s in small sequences, individual shots, or in trailers.

        And just to clarify… you can’t keep fundraising ad nauseam on Indiegogo. You get, at most, three shots at it before you have to end your campaign. Now that doesn’t mean we couldn’t fundraise for a “Part Two” of The Romulan War. We have considered that and aren’t ruling that out. Again, that was discussed in our interview.

        As for “mentioning risks”… I’m not sure what exactly Mr. Rosing is talking about here. I am not inclined to go on my own campaign page and talk about what is “risky” about donating to our campaign. There is no risk – backers will get a completed film that conforms to the guidelines. The only “risk” is that if we don’t meet our goal, we have to scale down the end product and that has been mentioned in the Pitch Video, on the IG page, and in all the interviews that I’ve done.

        I AM glad that Mr. Rosing brought up the thing about who our cast is – I had forgotten to update that one sentence on the IG page when we released our Cast featurette almost two weeks ago. Here’s the link if anyone wants to find out more about the Cast of TRW:

        So while I appreciate Mr. Rosing’s advice, much of it seems to be irrelevant to Trek fan films in the post-guidelines world, or he is bringing up issues that have already been asked and answered – either on our Indiegogo page or here on Fan Film Factor. I hope he will also pay a visit to our website at, where there is more information about the project.

        Still… I don’t have all the answers and never claimed to have them. I encourage people to reach out to me with their advice and input at [email protected]. More importantly, I encourage people who care about Trek fan films to literally put their money where their mouths are and contribute to The Romulan War in any amount they feel comfortable with. They will not regret it.

        – Mark

  4. Hey, the Spelling Nazi’s back! 🙂

    In your blog, made reference to the Romulan “STROMbird” class. I checked the YouTube video that was made by Trekyards, and they call it the “STORMbird”(emphasis mine).

    On the subject of crowdfunding, David is correct. The momentum and inertia DOES tend to peter out in the middle. Many of them fly right out the gate, slow down in the middle, and go absolutely crazy over the last 3 or 4 days. I think the first stage happens the way that it does because people want to get any “limited time” or “limited quantity” stuff while the window of opportunity is there. Once that rush ends, the campaign just sort of meanders along until people realize that “Oh my God! The campaign to raise money for the creation of hemorrhoid cream for hamsters IS ALMOST OVER! I’d better donate!” and they plunk down their change because, let’s face it, the rectum of your favorite rodent is worth it. 🙂

    And now, having classed up the conversation considerably, I depart. 🙂

    1. To honor you, my Spelling Nazi, I shall leave the typo in the blog as a testament to my eternal shame.

      As for the mid-campaign lull, yeah it happens. On the other hand, in the 58 hours since I posted that blog and audio interview, there has not been even a single donation to the campaign. That’s not just petering out, that’s screeching to a complete halt.

        1. I’m one of those people who gets really mad when someone says “presently” when they really mean “currently.” But I think I’m losing that war as language evolves. Damn you, evolution!!! 🙂

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