How I spent my first crowd-funded $12 on INTERLUDE…

As filming dates rapidly approach, things are getting really exciting for both AXANAR and INTERLUDE! And while ALEC PETERS updates everyone on the progress of his fan film, I’m going to write a series of blogs about the happenings on the Interlude side of the fence…since it’s a really fascinating journey we’re on. I want to share that journey with all of you as much as I can; that’s what blogging is all about!

I’m not planning to write a blog whenever I pay for something for my fan film. But your first time is always special, and I wanted to tell you about it.

But first, I’d like to share a another special moment that came at 12:16am on June 23, 2019—12 days after I’d launched my crowd-funding campaign for Interlude. I received what was to be the first of nearly 100 daily e-mails from GoFundMe…

Wow. Just…wow.

It’d taken me a couple of weeks to get my bank account properly linked to my GoFundMe account. But truth to tell, I hadn’t realized that GoFundMe gives you the money each night just after midnight for any donations your campaign receives that day. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how they did it, but getting money transferred each night at midnight felt like having elves or leprechauns visit and leave money behind! Some days, I’d receive less than $10 while other days would see deposits into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars! For for three months, those “Your money is on the way” e-mails appeared almost every night. It was soooo weird.

Anyway, I let that money accrue, and the balance in my bank account just kept growing. As of the beginning of September, my account balance was over $19,000. (This is a separate bank account set up for the campaign, not our main joint account.)

But then came the moment that I knew was inevitable. After watching the money only go INTO the account for three months, I was finally going to have to make my first payment FROM that account. And even though, as executive producer, I’ve always known I was going to have to one day start spending those crowd-funded dollars, it still felt weird…and a little scary! After all, once money is spent, it doesn’t come back without more crowd-funding. And I gave donors a very specific budget.

To make things even more scary, my first expense was completely unplanned for and unbudgeted. (See? I toldja we’d forget something! That’s why we need contingency.) Fortunately, the unexpected expense was (this first time) was only twelve bucks…

So what cost us just $12? Glad you asked…

I was chatting via Facebook messenger with our VFX guy, LEWIS ANDERSON (not his real name; he wants to use a pseudonym), and we were discussing one of the scenes I have planned for the end of Interlude. If you don’t want a spoiler, scroll past the following snippet from the comic version and pick back up in the paragraph below…

Now, 75% percent of those lines are spoken by actors I can’t use. RICHARD HATCH passed away, J.G. HERTZLER worked on Star Trek, and KATE VERNON is a SAG union actress and must be paid were I to hire her.

So instead, I’m going to use (okay, another spoiler coming, but it’s minor—although at this point, you might just want to skip the rest of the blog if you don’t want to know anything)…

Okay, still here? Good. So I’m going to use Admiral Slater, played by STEVEN JEPSON, to provide half of those exposition lines at the end (and Garth gets the other half). This part of the film will be in the same “talking heads” format as PRELUDE TO AXANAR. At this point in time (ten years after the events of Interlude and the Four Years War), Admiral Slater has been reassigned as Commandant of Starfleet Academy. Both Alec and Steve will be filmed in front of green screens for these “interview” scenes.

While Garth will be talking from the same place in Earth orbit as we saw in Prelude, what about Slater? Well, if he’s heading up Starfleet Academy, then it’s pretty obvious that we’d see the Golden Gate Bridge outside his office. After all, that’s what’s ALWAYS outside the windows at Starfleet…everyone gets a magnificent view of the bridge! But here’s the challenge: we needed a good, high-resolution photo of the Golden Gate Bridge. And what’s more, we needed a night shot.

Why a night shot? Well, for one thing because it’s cool, right? We usually see views from Starfleet offices on crystal-clear, bright sunny days. Why not do something unusual and switch to night? But there’s another important reason.

Lewis is doing me a big favor because the guidelines don’t allow me to pay anyone to work on this fan film. But as such, he and I both need to be realistic about his workload. Lewis said he’d be happy to have a shuttle or two fly across the background, but it’d be a lot of extra work to design, model, and add a bunch of futuristic buildings to a photo taken right now in the present. By going with a night shot, we can fake all of those buildings easily in Photoshop by just having them be lights in the distance.

Now, it just so happens that I have a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge at nighttime that I took about 18 years ago. So I own that and don’t have to worry about royalties. And it’s a pretty awesome shot, if I do say so myself…

The only problem, as Lewis infomred me, is that the original photo was taken on 35mm slide film at night. As such, if you magnify it a bit, the image is grainy. It won’t match the quality of the video and would likely look like we just took a grainy photo of San Francisco and put it behind Slater. What’s worse is that any shuttle flying would also look sharper than the photo, making it feel even more fake.

We needed a sharper photo at a higher resolution. And that meant searching around for a stock photo we could purchase a license for. Next stop: the iStock photo website by Getty Images. Typing in “Golden Gate Bridge Night”as search terms, I found hundreds and hundreds of really nice images for purchase.

What followed was a back-and-forth with Lewis discussing various visual considerations: how late at night? how vibrant? how much motion blur? In the end, we decided to go with something at dusk with as little motion blur as possible. (The darker the photo, the longer the camera’s shutter has to stay open to let in enough light, meaning that cars going across the bridge will look like streaks of light.) We also didn’t want things too vibrant (many of these photos were artificially super-saturated with color) because that would look fake when composited behind Slater. But I could fix that pretty easily in Photoshop.

In the end, this is the photo we decided on (full rights to use it cost $12)…

And then it was time for a little Photoshopping! I offered to do the grunt work myself, as I’m a pretty good Photoshopper, and it would save Lewis a lot of time. So off I went. The first thing I did was desaturate the super-vibrant coloring while trying to leave the lights bright. Then I used two images of the “covered” Golden Gate from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to make the bridge look consistent with what’s been seen on screen before…

The top image is from the original release of ST:TMP, and the lower one is the special Director’s Edition with the CGI effects that came out in 2001.

I didn’t do too much else. I matched the hue and brightness of the covered part of the bridge to the yellow/orange tint of the lights on the bridge itself. Then I added some Starfleet buildings on the San Fran side of the bay. Here’s the finished version…

The lack of color saturation makes the image look a little foggy, which works with the ominous quality of the ending to Interlude. Anything too bright and cheery would negate the mood we’re trying to create. In fact, creating the proper mood around this scene is one example where nearly all of the current the team members will combine their talents:

  • Lewis will adjust my Photoshopping slightly, add in a shuttle or two heading for the landing platform on the right, and do some kind of speeding glow inside the “tubes” that span the bridge (probably a fast-moving tram or hovercar). He might also add in a little twinkling to some of the lights.
  • JOSHUA IRWIN will light Slater in such a way as to make him look somewhat dark in the evening twilight outside his office window.
  • VICTORIA FOX will direct Steve Jepson to play Slater and deliver his brief lines to convey gravitas.
  • Then Josh will composite the green screen footage of Slater in front of Lewis’ animation sequence, possibly tinting it slightly toward a warm yellow glow.
  • KEVIN CROXTON will compose some suspenseful military music.
  • And finally, MARK EDWARD LEWIS might add in a very subtle whine of the passing shuttle, fading it down as it moves farther from the window.

One short scene (well, two, actually) utilizing the skills of a half dozen people—plus me—all relying on one photograph I bought online for $12.

My first fan film expenditure. And it hasn’t been the last!

10 thoughts on “How I spent my first crowd-funded $12 on INTERLUDE…”

  1. Your Bridge photo is excellent. Also looking forward to seeing Professor Jepson reprise his role as Admiral Slater. In Prelude this character reminded me of the historical Admiral Husband Kimmel of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

    1. Good comparison! Some also saw him as more of a Neville Chamberlain, but I saw him more as Jimmy Carter…who has had a much more successful and effective career in public service after leaving the Oval Office than he did as president. Slater was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  2. Hey – what about any comment on what Jepson has to do to deliver those lines with the proper amount of “gravitas”? That requires some work as well…

  3. This is cool! Thanks for sharing both your excitement and the “look behind the scenes” of what it takes to make one small image. Congratulations on your first $12. (Grin)

  4. Thanks for this update, Johnathan! I can see that you are using my donation very frugally. I appreciated your workflow description showing how you arrived at the final background view of San Francisco. A photo blogger named Blake Rudis recently posted a clever PS process using inversion to desaturate specific colors within a picture, as well as detecting if and where a photo might be too saturated.
    I’m really looking forward to seeing Interlude, the final puzzle in the Axanar story!

  5. Oh, I agree with that, Jonathan. I was referring to filling the gap that Interlude is tackling, getting ready for those Axanar chapters. I love having the details spelled out and the transitions explained.

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