ARES ASSEMBLE! – AXANAR volunteers put together GARTH’S QUARTERS in Ares Studios! (interview with ALEC PETERS)

When ALEC PETERS reluctantly shut down Industry Studios in Valencia, CA and moved to the current ARES STUDIOS location in Lawrenceville, GA, he took with him as much as he could fit into the trucks. This included the various pieces of the amazing USS Ares bridge set, costumes, props, equipment, patches, and a second set designed and constructed by DEAN NEWBURY: Captain Garth’s Quarters. Initially intended to be used for certain scenes in the full 90-minute AXANAR fan film (which will, sadly, never be completed and released), the Captain’s Quarters was disassembled for transport, and the “flats” (pieces of the set) were stored in the new facility.

While the Ares Bridge set has taken center stage (rather literally) over the past almost-year as it neared completion, the pieces of the Captain’s Quarters sat humbly off in the corner, waiting for someone to come along and put them back together.

That finally happened this past weekend when Alec and a small number of volunteers got together to reassemble the pieces for the first time since they sat in Industry Studios in California. The initiative was led by and JOHN “Stoggy” STREKIS , who has been producing the many, many videos that have been posted to the Axanar YouTube Channel (if you haven’t been watching those videos, you really should check out a few). John was visiting Georgia from new Jersey, saw the bridge pieces sitting there unused, and suggested (rather strongly) that they finally be reassembled so Ares Studios would have more sets to offer filmmakers wanting to shoot at the facility.

Joining Alec and John were volunteers DAN WAGNER and DALE SIMPSON, who are local and have already been taking point on completing the Ares Bridge, plus CHRIS WEUVE, a guest who was also down in Georgia visiting the sets. Together they worked for a couple of hours trying to figure out how to arrange the various flats (they weren’t marked, and they weren’t necessarily laid out in a four-wall square…more of an angled “W”) before Dana took a screwdriver and locked the pieces together.

I thought this might be a good time to interview Alec and get an update on all things Axanar (well, most things)…

ALEC PETERS (right) with volunteer CHRIS WEUVE.

JONATHAN – So, Alec, does this mean the Captain’s Quarters will now appear in one or both of the upcoming Axanar sequel fan films?

ALEC – Possibly.

JONATHAN – “Possibly”? Care to elaborate?

ALEC – At present, we don’t have any scenes written for the two 15-minute sequels that use the set, and the scene I want to do might take us over our time limit. But I’d really like to see that scene happen at some point.

JONATHAN – An “extra” for the DVD or Blu-ray, perhaps?

ALEC – Possibly.

JONATHAN – You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

ALEC – It means exactly what I think it means, Jonathan. Next question?

DANA WAGNER with one of the Captain’s Quarters set pieces

JONATHAN – The Captain’s Quarters takes up a lot of additional space. Does this mean that you’ll be staying in the larger facility rather than moving into the new building with the smaller square footage and lower rent?

ALEC – That decision is a monetary one, not a square footage one. If we get enough backers to our Patreon to reach $4,000/month (or pretty close to it) so I don’t go broke paying the rent and utilities, we’ll stay where we are. If not, we’ve got enough in patron support right now to afford the smaller space pretty comfortably…at least for now.

JONATHAN – What does that mean, “at least for now”?

ALEC – Patreons are great things, and they bring in steady, mostly-reliable income. But can they last forever? Ares Studios isn’t monetized right now, so we really do rely almost entirely on fan donations and what I can afford to cover myself. My personal resources won’t last forever, so what will happen in another five years, ten years, or twenty years? Will hundreds of donors still be giving us enough money each month to pay the rent? Or will we have to shut down and say good-bye to these beautiful sets?

I don’t know the answer. Right now, the Patreon is going great. We just crossed the halfway point last week, and the totals are still steadily increasing. We’re up to $2,122/month right now from 223 Patrons.

JONATHAN – That’s good, right?

ALEC – It’s incredible! After only three months??? We’re already one of the top two Star Trek-related Patreons…and we don’t even have “Star Trek” in our name top help donors search for us. So yeah, I think it’s awesome, and I can’t thank our fans and backers enough! I really mean that; they’re amazing!

Hopefully, we’ll make it to $4,000. But more importantly, will be be able to stay there? Each month we see a small dip when people receive their monthly invoice from Patreon and decide they no longer want to contribute…and that’s fine. So far, those have been minor hiccups. But ten or twenty years down the line, who knows?

Since launching in mid-January, the Ares Studios Patreon has trended upwards with the exception of minor “hiccups” at the end of each month when patrons are invoiced. A few decide to cancel, but as you can see, the dips don’t last for long…so far.

That’a why we have to keep pushing the Patreon everywhere we can for as long as we can. We can’t let ourselves get complacent.

JONATHAN – Yep, and here’s that link again, everybody…

ALEC – Thanks, Jonathan.

JONATHAN – Okay, so we were discussing the studio and whether or not it’ll need to move.

ALEC – As I said, if we make it to $4,000, we’ll stay in the current location.

JONATHAN – But don’t you have to make that decision in the next few weeks?

ALEC – No, not anymore. The landlord hasn’t broken ground yet on the new building, so it likely won’t even be ready until August at the earliest. So right now, there’s nowhere for us to even move to. Until the new building is ready, I don’t have to decide anything, and we’ll stay in our current location at least until then.

JONATHAN – Well, that’s a relief, I guess. Okay, speaking of things that aren’t ready yet…

ALEC – Oh, geez, here we go…

JONATHAN – Ares Digital 3.0.

ALEC – You know exactly what’s going on with that, Jonathan.

JONATHAN – Yeah, but my readers don’t. So I’m asking you to tell them.

ALEC – Why don’t you tell them, Mr. User Experience Designer?

JONATHAN – Okay, I admit it. I am the reason Ares Digital 3.0 is two months late.

ALEC – Well, JERRY ABLAN [the programmer] is also really busy with his regular job and doesn’t have a lot of free time to work on our project. But yeah, it’s pretty much your fault.

JONATHAN – Let me explain to folks what happened. A few months ago, I volunteered to beta test the Ares Digital 3.0 website…and I had a number of issues with it. Most involved the user experience and how straightforward or confusing it was in places. My professional area of expertise is User Experience Design and Information Architecture (I wasn’t born blogging, y’know!). I felt that things like the log-in and registration needed some overhauling in order to minimize frustrated e-mails to customer service asking some very basic questions.

I won’t bore everyone with all of the permutations, but I eventually worked with Alec to create 14 pages of process flowcharts, use cases, and wireframes…and now Jerry is stuck turning all of that into Ares Digital 3.0

A sample of one of the wireframe pages that I developed for Ares Digital 3.0

ALEC – To be fair, though, Jonathan did an incredible job, and Ares Digital 3.0 really will be so much better after Jerry implements those changes. Once it’s set up, people will be able to see how much they’ve donated, what perks they’re supposed to get, which perks have been fulfilled, and which are still pending. They’ll also be able to make additional private donations and do a bunch of other cool things.

JONATHAN – When do you expect it to launch?

ALEC – That depends on Jerry’s speed and availability…and how fast you beta test, Jonathan! But we’re really close. You helped us solve a bunch of potential problems that we hadn’t previously thought about.

JONATHAN – Okay, circling back to the new Captain’s Quarters set, now that it’s assembled, what else needs to be done to get it ready for filming?

ALEC – There’s still quite a bit left to do! It needs a new coat of paint—and we might go with something lighter and a little closer to TOS this time.

JONATHAN – Why is that?

ALEC – Well, I’ve talked to some people who have served in the navy, and they say that while the bridge and control rooms are usually darker, personal quarters and meeting spaces tend to be brighter. Also, we might film some extra scenes on Ray Tesi’s TOS sets in Kingsland, GA. If we do that, we should try to come closer to matching the TOS color scheme. After all, the Ares-class and the Constitution-class were constructed one after the other.

JONATHAN – That makes sense. So, new coat of paint…what else?

ALEC – Furniture, like a desk, chair, etc. Then we have to figure out what kind of bed is in the bunk area, sheets, pillow, etc. And of course, the set has to be decorated with things Garth might collect or want to display. So yeah, there’s a lot of production and set design still to do.

JONATHAN – Well, even undecorated, it still looks really cool.

ALEC – Yeah, Dean did an amazing job designing and building that set. I can’t wait until we have a chance to shoot on it.

JONATHAN – Speaking of filming…

ALEC – More news on that soon, Jonathan, but not just yet. All I will say is that we’re now working on getting the Starfleet duty uniforms made, so progress is being made. And there’s one other piece of REALLY big news, but I’m not allowed to share it yet.

JONATHAN – Seriously????

ALEC – Sorry, Paul Jenkins [Axanar co-writer and director] swore me to secrecy.

JONATHAN – Oh, bollocks! Well, just keep us posted.

ALEC – You’ll be the first to know!

9 thoughts on “ARES ASSEMBLE! – AXANAR volunteers put together GARTH’S QUARTERS in Ares Studios! (interview with ALEC PETERS)”

  1. I love it! Every step forward, be it large or small, is still a step forward and I can say I’m very proud to be a Patreon donor. Here’s to moving forward!

  2. Ok Jonny, let’s put aside my past comments about Peters and Axanar for a minute. This comment is strictly out of concern for any donors who will be using Ares Digital 3.0.

    The UI is the least of their problems. There’s a reason small businesses don’t write their own portals, security. By collecting and storing PII (Personally Identifiable Information) they are subject to many regulatory and legal obligations. I don’t know what the situation is in the US these days, but in Europe they are subject to GDPR. This is a wide ranging data protection law that has very specific requirements and very stiff penalties. I’ve been on a week long GDPR course and deal with personal financial information on a daily basis. I am completely confident they will not have considered any of this in the creation of this website. Name and address are one thing, but potentially holding credit card or bank details is a much larger can of worms. At a minimum data at rest should be encrypted. Better would be two factor authentication or similar. Has there been any security testing? Industry standard tools like HP Fortify highlight insecure code, out of date patches, etc. It’s a bare minimum. Has the site been penetration tested? It should be.

    Security testing is a specialised role, your average programmer isn’t qualified to know all the ins and outs. I work for Equifax UK as a Quality Engineering Lead and we take data security VERY seriously, especially after the US data breach last year. I implore Peters to have his system carefully built and checked to protect the donors. I also implore any donors to do due diligence and keep asking questions about the sites security before they enter their information.

    1. I’ll pass the message along to Alec, Sandy. But my understanding is that no credit card information has been or will be stored in the Ares Digital database itself. All previous donations up until now were made through Kickstarter and Indiegogo, neither of which share credit car information with the campaign organizers.

      1. It’s just as pertinent if it’s just holding name, address, and email address. Also, it’s been said this will be used for the future fundraising efforts as well so it’s entirely likely it will contain other info. GDPR applies either way.

          1. Hell no! I don’t work for free and only volunteer for charitable causes.

            My primary concern is that donors will be entering their details in a system that wasn’t properly security tested. I can’t help with that as I’m not a specialist.

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