It’s kinda mind-blowing, I know, considering that my fan film, INTERLUDE, is shooting on two existing sets (Ares Studios and Neutral Zone Studios), the guidelines don’t allow me to pay people, and we’re only planning to film for three days. On the other hand, my goal is to do a top-quality fan film…a worthy sequel to Prelude to Axanar. And apparently, even keeping things really tight budget-wise, doing this thing right is gonna cost some bucks.
At the risk of invoking 1980s rock-and-roll wisdom, I may ask myself: “Well, how did I get here?” (And more to the point: “My God, what have I done???”) Let me take you through it.
Now, before I get started diving into the nitty gritty, let me warn you that this is going to be a looooooong blog. If you don’t care, then by all means, please skip it. I won’t take it personally. And some people (including one with the initials A.P.) told me not to even bother explaining that high number. “It’s gotta be Axanar quality,” he said. “It costs what it costs. People will accept that.”
Maybe. But if even I was shocked by that high number, then I just know others are gonna wonder if I’m just trying come up with some sushi and tire money…and believe me, nothing could be farther from the truth! So I want to be as forthcoming and up front with all of you as I can be. And when someone says to me later, “Hey, I know you don’t need that much money for such-and-such,” I’ll just answer, “Yes, I do—check out paragraph 27 of my blog!”
Also, as a blogger who devotes his waking moments to bringing fans closer to fan filmmakers and their processes, discussing my budget in detail provides a unique opportunity for a deep-dive into what I consider to be one of the most fascinating aspects of production: figuring out what everything is gonna cost.
So if you haven’t bailed on the blog yet, let’s all boldly go into Jonathan’s budget for Interlude…
As I said, I went into this kinda clueless. I know that Vance Major can make 30 fan films with the loose change he finds in his sofa. On the other hand, Renegades can easily spend $850,000 (possibly more!) on a single feature-length fan film. The 20-minute Prelude was made for about $125,000. A typical hour-long episode of Star Trek Continues averaged about $50,000. Of course, all of those productions (except Vance’s) paid people. The guidelines have nixed that practice. Also, my fan film will likely only be around 10-12 minutes long (if that). And I’ll be filming entirely on existing sets.
So I went into this (naively?) believing that we could do everything pretty inexpensively. But I trusted by directors, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN, to guide me. After all, not only are they both industry professionals with knowledge and experience, they’ve also successfully completed two excellent Star Trek fan films and are hard at work on a third. Victoria and Josh know what things cost and what’s expected by the people who show up for work on your production.
One of the most basic courtesies is this: even if you’re not paying people, the general rule of thumb is that they should NOT have to pay for the privilege of taking part in your project. That includes travel and lodging if they are traveling more than a short distance…as well as feeding them while on set. People usually arrive early (like 8am) and often work long past dinner (8pm or later). That’s three meals plus drinks and snacks for everyone, and the typical estimate is about $25/person per day for feeding and watering.
I hadn’t even thought about that going in, and that was only the first hint of the rabbit hole I was about to dive into…
FOOD – $1,800
Okay, since we were just talking about food, let’s start there. We are going to have a pretty full set. We’ll have about 25-30 people per day. This will include actors, extras, production crew, and some student volunteers from the local high schools. That’s Saturday and Sunday. Monday in Kingsland will be a smaller shoot with maybe 10-15 people…and we might not need to supply dinner. But yep: $1,800 for feeding, watering, and snacking…yeesh!
GAS AND CAR RENTAL – $1,000
Note that this does NOT include airfare. I will be flying from L.A. to GA using frequent flyer miles. And while we briefly considered flying Joshua and Victoria from Arkansas to Atlanta—saving them about 22 hours of round-trip driving—Josh decided to bring along his sound engineer, and the airfare for three people just couldn’t be justified. Also, Josh will be bringing some of his own equipment, which will somewhat lower the cost to rent equipment…although we’ll still need things like lights and cameras and mics and tripods and slides, etc.
So what about the car rental? That’s for me. Not only do I need to get from the Atlanta Airport to Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, but I’ll also need to drive from there to Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, 363 miles away. I’ll fly back from Jacksonville, FL (only 45 minutes from Kingsland), so I’ll need my own transportation. While I can use frequent flyer miles for air travel, car rental is 600 bucks. So that’s in the budget, too.
HOTEL – $900
Alec has two spare bedrooms. I’ll be using one. That leaves three people who will have just driven 11 hours from Arkansas…and they ain’t all staying in one guest room. So that’s at least a couple of hotel rooms for a couple of nights in or near Lawenceville, plus we’ll all need rooms for all of us on Sunday night in Kingsland if we’re gonna be there bright and early on Monday morning (rather than still be driving).
EQUIPMENT RENTAL – $2500
As I said, Joshua is going to be bringing some of the things we need, but we’ll still need other stuff. Estimates for a weekend rental come to $2,500 at present. This might ultimately go up or down depending on what might be available at both studios. We’ll know better as we get closer to the shooting date, but to be safe, we’re using the $2,500 estimate.
STUDIO RENTAL – $800
Renting Neutral Zone Studios for one day is $300. Renting Ares Studios for two days is $500.
UNIFORM TUNICS – $5,000
Okay, here’s where the sticker shock starts coming in. Now, I know that the fan film guidelines say you can’t buy existing Star Trek uniforms from bootleggers. If something is licensed, you need to buy it from a licensee. Fine…but we’re NOT using existing Star Trek uniform styles.
Working from a tunic originally designed by BILL KRAUSE, the uniforms from the Four Years War era depicted in AXANAR will look like this…
Very cool, but they have to be custom made by a professional tailor or seamstress. This is one of those line items where a fan film has to pay someone, just like paying for the hotel or the food or the equipment rental. While actors and extras and camera people and music composers and editors might be willing to volunteer their time, costume-makers don’t. There’s just too much labor involved. And even if there weren’t, the fabric itself still costs money. So yep, we’ve gotta pay for uniforms just like we gotta pay for pizza. We’re buying an item, not a service.
Between the cost of material and labor, it’s going to be about $250 per tunic (a decently-tailored TOS tunic from a licensee like Anovos can cost anywhere from $225 to $345…so we’re in the right neighborhood with $250).
So how many do we need? Well, we’re going to need to show two different bridges, each with about 8 officers so the set doesn’t look empty. Plus there’s a scene in sickbay and another in engineering. We’re estimating 20 uniforms, each tailored to the sizes of our actors. If we come up short on the crowd-funder, we might be able to trim a few extras, but we’d really like to be able to shoot wide establishing shots of both bridges.
Oh, and it’s not just tunics…
UNIFORM TURTLENECKS – $600
God forbid the tunics were just one piece! But it’s a V-neck tunic over a high-neck black turtleneck shirt. Land’s End has them for about $28 each…plus tax. Gotta buy 20 of ’em.
PANTS AND BOOTS – $2,000
This one I’m not certain about yet, so that number might change. We’ve estimated $100/pant or $2,000 for 20. Plus boots are about $100 each…another $2,000.
So why doesn’t it say $4,000 for this line-item?
We might be able to “cheat” this with some actors and extras sitting in the “well” of the bridge. If so, then they’ll likely be filmed just from the waist up and they can wear cargo shorts and sneakers if they want to and no one will ever know.
Obviously, this isn’t the case with the captains and the officers sitting or standing at the upper console stations…or the doctors/nurses in sickbay. Now, we might be able to get by without boots for some of those people I just listed, but others will need boots. We’re still pricing all of that, but we’re putting in $2,000 for now to cover pants and boots together for those who will need them.
PATCHES – $1,500
Patches? We don’ need no steenkin’ patches! Well, actually we do…and we kinda need a LOT of patches. Y’see, the way it’s designed, each uniform has three different patches! There’s a chest patch with the ship insignia, a shoulder patch on the left sleeve with the vessel’s full emblem (like the NX-01 crew had on Star Trek: Enterprise), and a First Fleet patch on the opposite shoulder (or Second, Third, Fourth, or Fifth Fleet depending on the alien race).
Custom embroidered patches in the sizes we’ll likely need are about $150 for a minimal run of 25 of each patch design (ordering less than 25 makes little difference because the embroidering set-up fee eats up the majority of that cost). So for every kind of patch we need—even if it’s just a few of them—it’ll be $150. Yeesh!
So each uniform has three patches, but here’s the problem: two of those three patches are ship-specific. The First Fleet patch is the same for all uniforms, but the USS Ares and the USS Artemis have different chest and shoulder designs. So instead of three patches, I need five, right?
As happened on TOS, each department color—command, sciences, engineering—has its own chest insignia. And heaven help me, I’ve got a science officer, a communications officer, a navigator and captains, engineer, and a doctor all with speaking parts (plus extra background crew). I need all three chest insignia for each of the two ships…six total. Oh, wait, my directors think it’d be cool for the medical staff to have red crosses on their insignia like Christine Chapel did. Oh, why the heck not??? Seven patch runs for the chest.
Fortunately, I get a break on the shoulder patch, as everyone on the ship wears the same design. So that’s just two patch runs, one for each ship.
Let’s add it all up…
- 1 patch design for the First Fleet
- 7 patch designs for the chest
- 2 patch designs for the shoulder
So that’s 10 patch runs at $150 each. Now, I might be able to save $300 if Alec has leftover USS Ares and First Fleet patches. There’s also a possibility if we come up short that we just decide that everyone in this era wears an insignia with a command star. But we’re still gonna need a good amount of patches.
RANK BRAID – $100
Everyone’s gotta have a rank on their sleeve cuff, right?
SEWING – $250
Someone’s gotta sew 3 patches on each of 20 uniforms…or 60 patches. Victoria estimates that a decent seamstress at a shop can do about five or six patches per hour at $20/hour. Plus there’s rank braid on the sleeves. With luck, we only have to spend $250.
SERVICE FEE – $550
I’m going to be be using GoFundMe because it has one of the lowest service fees: 2.9% of each transaction plus 30 cents per donation. If I can reach my goal, that’ll be about $550. So the goal needs to add on the amount we pay for servicing.
PERKS – $0
No perks??? What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?
I thought long and hard about this. Perks cost money to make and to ship. And even though many fan productions are still offering patches and T-shirts and posters and other items, the guidelines still say that’s a no-no.
Now here’s the thing. If I raise a little over my goal, enough to cover postage and envelopes, I’ll drop some leftover patches into the mail and send them to donors as thank you gifts. But that’s very different than a perk. A perk is expected and is determined by the size of the donation. (More money, better perk.) The only thing being determined by the size of your donation to my campaign is the size of your name in the credits. The thank you gift will be the same for everyone.
That said, if I get raise a few thousand dollars above my goal, there might be a really cool thank you gift in addition to the patches. But we’ll cross that bridge when we cross our goal.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? – $1,800
Have we forgotten anything? Probably! What about make-up supplies? What happens if one of our actors’ cars breaks down and he/she needs to Uber? How about dying Alec Peters’ hair to look like a younger Garth?
My directors have both told me—and other folks I know out here in Hollywood have confirmed—that an unassigned “contingency” of 10% is typically added to any production budget.
What if nothing goes wrong and we have $1,800 (or a portion of it) left over? Well, instead of treating everyone to sushi, there’s a different “luxury” I’d really like. STEVE JEPSON played Admiral Slater in Prelude to Axanar, and I wrote a very brief scene for him in Interlude. It takes place in front of a green screen and only lasts for about 10-15 seconds of dialog. Steve lives in Missouri, which is the state just north of Arkansas, which is where my directors both live. Joshua is willing to drive the 10-hour round trip with a portable green screen to film Steve (who already has a costume), and right now, that’s the plan.
But Steve has quickly become one of my favorite people on the planet, and I’d love for him to actually be able to join the rest of the cast and crew for filming in Georgia. That’s roundtrip airfare, cab fare to and from the airport, and a hotel room for the night…maybe $650. If there’s unused money left in the budget, then I’d love to fly Steve out to the shoot. If not, then as we say on Earth, c’est la vie.
Now, before I end this ultra-long blog, I’d like to address the 800-pound mugato in the cave. Does any of this money go to Alec Peters?
Quite simply, no (with the exception of studio rental fees). As you can see from all of the line items above, there’s almost nothing extra available. In fact, if anything, Alec might be able to help me out. Since he’s going to be making his own Garth uniform for the Axanar sequels, there’s no need for me to make him one. So we go from 20 uniforms in my budget to 19. That’s about $500! If I can use a few of his extras uniforms for my extras, that trims my budget, as well.
So it’s possible we might be able to get this done for less than $18,800. Granted, it might not be that much less, but we’ll do our best.
Of course, if by some miracle we wind up exceeding our goal by a lot (like $10K or $20K), then what happens to all of that extra money? Does it get used on Interlude? Probably not; our costs are pretty much set…although maybe a little to produce and mail a thank you gift. But if there’s thousands and thousands of dollars left over, the obvious question some will ask is: does the extra go to Alec for Axanar?
I think that’s a no-no. Although I haven’t seen his settlement with CBS and Paramount, I know it doesn’t allow for public crowd-funding. And since Alec will be helping me promote my campaign, if I turn around and give him money for Axanar, that might violate his settlement, and I really don’t want to risk it for either of us.
So what happens to any money we have left (assuming we do)? It gets put into the bank to help with the NEXT Axanar Universe fan film. There’s more stories out there—TREY McELWAIN has written some good ones for his Axanar Comics, and I wouldn’t mind adapting my Axanar short story “Why We Fight”…along with another post-Four Years War story I’ve been working on called “Why We Explore.”
Of course, first I need to actually reach my $18,800 goal…and hopefully YOU will be able to help me do just that when I launch my crowd-funder in June!