Set Cancellations, Scheduling Conflicts, Costume Conundrums, Stray Dogs, Trapped Woodpeckers, and Acts of God…what I DIDN’T expect when I decided to make a fan film!

Before we begin, quick crowd-funding update! After ten days, 88 backers have already donated $7,621 to INTERLUDE (nearly 40% of the way to $19,500!). That’s amazing! If you haven’t donated yet, or if you’d just be willing to help spread the word, here’s the link:

And now, today’s blog…

“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” Man, am I learning that lesson with Interlude!

Over the years, I’ve interviewed countless fan filmmakers, and the one thing that nearly all of them have in common are stories of unexpected crises that pop up out of nowhere…demanding to be dealt with quickly lest the project get partially or completely derailed.

I never truly appreciated what these show-runners go through until I became an executive producer myself. My fan film hasn’t even started shooting yet, and already I’ve had to deal with some of the weirdest occurrences that I could have ever imagined—including emergency dog rescues, woodpeckers in chimneys, and an honest-to-goodness flood—all of which have conspired to try to delay the launch of my crowd-funder!

The dog actually DID delay it. You all probably remember how a stray canine in Alabama crossed the highway in front of ALEC PETERS and CRYSSTAL HUBBARD, and how they spent the next two hours trying to keep the dog safe (keep it from trying to cross back) until help could arrive. And those two hours ate up the window for livecasting Axanar Confidential that Monday night, forcing us to delay the roll-out of the GoFundMe campaign for INTERLUDE until the following night.

But wait till you hear about some of the other Murphy’s Law moments I’ve had over the past month and a half…

As you might recall, it was late May when I discovered that RAY TESI had decided to no longer allow me to film at Neutral Zone Studios. Now, I’ll admit that was quite a shock at the time, but fortunately, GELN WOLFE quickly stepped in and offered the use of his and DAN REYNOLDS’ WARP 66 STUDIOS TOS sets in Arkansas. However, this change of venue created some serious nail-biting for me barely two weeks later!

If you folks have watched my elaborate 13-minute(!!!) ask video, you know that it features “special guests” that I cut to—Alec at 3 minutes and 30 seconds, and my directors VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN at the 5 minute mark. Alec’s clip was filmed over Memorial Day weekend by Josh and Victoria while they were visiting Georgia, but they were also supposed to film their segment in Kingsland at the Neutral Zone sets that weekend. Obviously, they weren’t able to do so.

However, they told me that they’d be filming some scenes for their next Avalon Universe fan film the following weekend at WARP 66 Studios. So no worries! They’d wrap filming and stay 15 more minutes to film my stuff…and I’d still have over a week to edit their segment into my ask video.

But filming that weekend took much longer that anyone expected. They shot until midnight both Saturday and Sunday and were too exhausted to shoot anything for my ask video. (As it was, Josh and Victoria didn’t get home until 2am Monday morning!) But they’d be going back to Glen’s studio on Tuesday, and Josh sent me an image of Alan Ruck as Captain Harriman of the Enterprise-B to assure me of the new plan. Tuesday then.

Tuesday didn’t happen either, for various reasons. Neither did Wednesday or Thursday. Joshua and Victoria felt awful, but they’re both very busy professionals. With only a few days left until the launch of the campaign, I finally got the video from them late Friday night. Although they weren’t able to get back to WARP 66, they shot that evening in front of a green screen, and Josh added a cool “flying through space” effect to their background. Just enough time to edit in the footage over the weekend…whew!

God also tried to delay my rollout…or maybe it was global warming. Whichever culprit, do you remember all of that flooding along the Arkansas River last month? Guess where my composer, KEVIN CROXTON, lives? And on the day that he was going to start writing the music for my opening VFX sequence with the D7s and the two Ares-class cruisers, the river levels began rising…quickly!

Instead of composing, Kevin was rushing to the local Wal*Mart to get whatever bottles of water were left on the shelves along with other emergency supplies before they closed all of the bridges over the river, trapping him on one side.

One of the bridges over the Arkansas River during the flooding near where Kevin Croxton lives…yikes!

In the midst of this chaos, I called him up…naively wondering when he’d like to schedule some time to discuss the music. I had no idea he was so close to the epic flooding. Once he told me about his situation, though, I thought: Oh, this is NOT a good time to ask him about a silly fan film!

Amusingly, Kevin then said, “But this is actually good news for you, Jonathan. They’re closing the bridges tonight, and since a lot of students and teachers live on the opposite side of the river, they’ve canceled classes for the last two days of school. So I’m stuck at home all day tomorrow with nothing to do but work on your project!”

Okay then…maybe God doesn’t hate my fan film after all.

Actually, the jury is still out on that one. Over the course of the next week, Kevin’s work composing my music took a lot of “lightning breaks.” Y’see, Kevin’s home sound studio is loaded up with electronics, and when thunderstorms come through, he has to power down everything in order to not risk frying his whole set-up. That meant no composing or uploading music files to review until after the storms passed. And there were a LOT of thunderstorms that week!

To my relief, though, Kevin got the VFX segment scored with time to spare. But that still left the upbeat music loop that would play under the segments where I interview myself. We’d gone back and forth on those for several days, and it was now June 8…the Saturday before the Monday launch date. But no worries. Kevin and I had both cleared our Saturday to work together. What could possibly go wrong?

As it happens, a woodpecker could go wrong. Or more precisely, a woodpecker got stuck in Kevin’s chimney, and he and his family spent all morning and some of the afternoon trying to get the scared, noisy little critter out! So there went most of Saturday. Fortunately, Kevin and I managed to finish up on Sunday…just in time for me to complete editing the music into the full ask video late Sunday night before Monday’s launch (which ended up becoming Tuesday’s launch anyway because of that darned dog!).

The last two things to go wrong weren’t animal-related, natural disasters, or acts of God. But they both became challenges that had to be solved.

The first involved our shooting schedule. I had originally booked ARES STUDIOS for the weekend of September 28-29. Josh and Victoria were both available, Alec was available, it was cooler than mid-summer but not so late as to get into the holiday craziness. Seemed perfect.

My directors Josh Irwin and Victoria Fox

But last month, one of my directors informed me that there might be a problem. Remember that they both work professionally in the entertainment industry in Arkansas, and a major production had just announced its intention to shoot there in early September. This would be “all hands on deck” and wouldn’t allow for traveling out of state for a long weekend to work on another production (Interlude).

Granted, that shoot was scheduled weeks before mine, and my director said it “probably” wouldn’t be a conflict. But there were no guarantees; a slight delay or additional filming time could mean I’d lose one of my two directors just when I needed them most.

With Murphy’s Law already establishing its presence, I didn’t want to take that chance.

Since there was nothing officially locking us into to the late September date yet, I made the executive decision to push our filming weekend to early November. I avoided October because I’m the chairman of the Halloween Carnival at my son’s school, and that’s my busy month. But come November 1, I will be on a flight to Atlanta…hopefully! Josh and Victoria are both clear that weekend, too…as is Alec. The move also gives us a little more time to crowd-fund—and an extra month to get all our costumes made.

And speaking of costumes…

The last conundrum remains a conundrum—at least for now.

As some of you know, my fan film shows Admiral Ramirez getting severely wounded. We’ll be using an extra about the size and shape of Tony Todd to lie on a med-bed in sickbay, but we’ll need to borrow Ramirez’s original admiral’s tunic from Alec. I naturally assumed that Alec still had it…after all, he collects screen-used costumes and knows how to keep them in pristine condition.

Well, all but one, it seems.

Granted, it wasn’t Alec who took Ramirez’s tunic to the dry cleaners without any specific care instructions. But unfortunately for me and my fan film, that beautiful admiral tunic was ruined when the fancy gold trim bled all over the white areas. It’s no longer usable.

I found this out just after we’d determined that our final budget for Interlude would be $19,500. I contacted the costumers in Italy who could remake the tunic. Claude Dozière and Angela Avino created a beautiful admiral’s tunic for Steve Jepson, who plays Admiral Slater. Claude would be happy to make us another tunic…for 450 euros plus international shipping. So about $550 for a tunic that’ll appear on screen for five seconds.

Merde! (I didn’t use that word, but Claude is French.)

I decided to keep the extra $550 out of the budget for now. I didn’t want to cross that $20K” threshold.” But if we raise enough, we’ll have them make the tunic. If not, we’ll probably use Steve Jepson’s tunic (which is tailored to his thin measurements) and just leave it open over our large extra in the sickbay scene. In fact, it might even work better that way, since an open tunic allows us to put blood all over Ramirez’s chest and abdomen.

Steve Jepson in his brand new, custom-tailored Admiral Slater uniform.

Anyway, despite all of the craziness, the show must go on! But it can only go on with contributions from backers. So if you haven’t donated yet, please consider tossing in a little (or a lot…I don’t mind big donations either!) to help us make a truly wonderful fan film…

10 thoughts on “Set Cancellations, Scheduling Conflicts, Costume Conundrums, Stray Dogs, Trapped Woodpeckers, and Acts of God…what I DIDN’T expect when I decided to make a fan film!”

  1. Ha, just wait until you start filming and the weird nextdoor neighbor starts revving his LOUD motorcycle as he goes up and down the cul de sac the day you’re filming. Or that normally quiet bird suddenly decides its mating season and starts singing its song at the top of its lungs. And best yet, a key cast member has car trouble and can’t make the shoot. Then talk to me about how the shoot went. 😉

    1. In my case, pounding rain in Lawrenceville is more likely than a neighbor with a loud motorcycle. But plan for the worst, hope for the best. Heck, even though we’re already 39% of the way to our goal after just ten days, I’m still looking for ways to get this done if we fall significantly short.

    2. My favorite is when there’s a guy who’s crop dusting and flies over once every ten minutes, and each take has to be perfectly timed in between flyovers.

  2. Jon, I could tell you some crazy stories about the fully, budgeted, professional shoots I’ve produced. It’s wild.

    Here’s just one: I produced a short last December. It had a very good budget, I hired top people, paid them well. It was SAG. Monday was the equipment pickup and test day, we started shooting on Tuesday. On Monday the AC picks up and tests the equipment — she texts me the all clear — everything’s good. (ProTip: Never rely on text messages. You don’t get the full story. Always *call* people and speak to them directly.)

    I arrive early to the sound stage on Tuesday, get everything set up in my office upstairs from the stage. Everyone else arrives, I gather the crew and make my welcome speech. The vibe is great, everyone’s thrilled to be there. I hand everything off to the director and AD and head up to the office to start making phone calls to finalize last-minute stuff for Wednesday’s shoot.

    Not long after the 2nd AD bursts into my office. They need me on set! (oh, shit)

    I go down to discover that the superfancyexpensive tripod has no base plate. They can’t attach the camera. And the DP can’t find his high capacity, high speed CF cards, without which the camera is a very fancy looking boat anchor. (What the hell, people! This is what the *budgeted* equipment checkout and test day is for!)

    So now we’re all standing around on a $6,000/day sound stage, and I’ve got a stunt coordinator and two stunt riggers, each of which make $980/day per SAG rules, standing around the crafty table stuffing their faces. (This delay is potentially catastrophic — if we don’t make our day I cannot afford to rent this sound stage or pay these stunt people for an additional day.)

    Now here’s the thing about being a producer: the shoot, the *entirety* of the shoot, is your responsibility. If you don’t make your day, if you don’t find a way to get it done, it’s on YOU.

    I was so tempted to start yelling and screaming — but I look at the faces of my DP and AC and they are in agony over this. They know they messed up — yes the base plate is supposed to be included with the tripod rental, but it’s the AC’s job to verify that it’s there. And the DP… he thinks his cards were stolen, and they probably were, but he’s supposed to check *before* the shoot.

    As soon as I saw those faces I knew I couldn’t add to their low morale. Not only would I be kicking a person when they were down, they *still* had to work that day. It would be bad for the production. So I made an effort to assume a nonchalance I absolutely did not feel, and laughed it off. “We’ll figure out something, don’t worry.”

    I ran up to my office and started making calls. I got the camera vendor to bring the base plate to us — I expressed my displeasure at it being missing in the first place, and our need for extreme haste — and to their credit the owner of the rental company dropped what he was doing and rushed it over to us himself. But the cards were another matter. They were very expensive. If I could find them on a shelf in some store I couldn’t afford to buy them. Luckily I know a guy who takes care of equipment for a couple of TV productions and I made a deal to rent two of their cards that would have been sitting on the shelf that day anyway. I ran over there — literally ran, it wasn’t far — and grabbed them before he changed his mind.

    Crisis averted. Yes, there was a delay and we were behind schedule, but you know what? The first AD and I had built some extra time into the shooting schedule that day because it was the first day and we had stunt rigging, and I was nervous that it was going to take longer than the stunt coordinator was promising (it didn’t). Thank goodness we did.

    The rest of the shoot went pretty smoothly.

    So, yeah, film shoots are monsters. They fight you every minute. Professional or amateur. That’s why I’m always impressed whenever a fan production finished their film at all, let alone creates a great film.

    Welcome to the madness, my friend.

  3. This is about war, but it applies here as well: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”: A piece of military wisdom deriving from a formulation by the nineteenth-century Prussian military commander Helmuth van Moltke.

    I’m also reminded of a fun seminar I once took that equated software development to a military campaign. And I’m reminded of what happened during a kitchen remodel we once undertook.

    So in your spare time, you might watch some good war movies to put you in the proper mood for the next battle.

    1. I was a creative director for 12 years. I managed project development teams ranging from 2 people to 16. One of our clients was Disney (where assets are delivered two weeks late and deadlines are moved earlier by another two weeks) and Nestle’s Willy Wonka division (where everyone is expected to work at Oompa Loompa speed). I’m used to the best laid plans going astray. One of the reasons the ask video was completed on time (in addition to a whole bunch of late-nighters on my part) is because I built in as much lead time as I could. And even then, it came right down to the wire!

      Now I just need to stop worrying about those costumes being ready on time…which isn’t going to happen until I actually see them arrive! 🙂

  4. Hi Jonathan,

    As everyone is sharing his experience, let me tell you this:

    It was a barely made budget project with **pejpirjep–_** poorly trained fellows, –gdbddlj,lme,ennll–
    We started filming when ##arrrfhjyon## failed &&&tbetnbpbp&&& lead to disastrous mishap @@fefegfvev@@ that destroyed **brbrbnrltn,l** wounded –rfgbnoo–. So we ##gbgttgotognlbnltr## prosecuted and ruined.
    I hope my testimony helps you ~~erbgtoernbertnhl~~to be afraid of what is to come and **gergerobvgenh** punk will hack –tnertnlberreolk,– you. Good luck !

    Original text with communicator amplifier and anti-detractor filter:
    It was a barely made budget project with not really poorly trained fellows, thery are all professionals.
    We started filming when nothing failed nor lead to disastrous mishap that destroyed anything nor wounded anybody. So we avoided to be prosecuted and ruined.
    I hope my testimony helps you not to be afraid of what is to come and no punk will hack my message for you. Good luck !

    Sorry, couldn’t resist to that joke.
    Relax 😉

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