INTERLUDE Confidential #2: This is really, really BAD…and I’m going to need some MAJOR HELP!

I need a Christmas miracle.

My heart sank last Friday morning when I got the call from Axanar director PAUL JENKINS. I immediately wished I could shift the blame to someone else and cover my ass in some way.

But no, that’s not what Star Trek taught me. Kirk always took responsibility for the actions of his crew, whether or not the captain himself had personally been the one at fault And as executive producer on INTERLUDE, the buck stops with me…or rather, the 4,700 bucks stop with me.

That’s what it’s going to cost to replace Paul’s 100 ft. x 20 ft. professional-quality, custom-made green screen that was accidentally ruined during the November INTERLUDE film shoot at Ares Studios.

Paul owns a production company, META Studios, and the giant portable green screen belongs to him (not to Alec Peters or Ares Studios). Paul brought the green screen to Ares Studios to use for the October AXAANR shoot and left it there to use again in December for last weekend’s shoot.

In November when we filmed the scenes for Interlude on the Ares bridge, we wanted to be able to shoot toward the view screen and composite in shots later using a green screen. It would (and probably still will) look really cool. But we needed a green screen to do it.

Fortunately, there was one on site, and we assumed it was okay to use it (Paul wasn’t there at the time; he visited the following day). And by “we,” I mean my Interlude team. And as a team, I am not singling anyone out for having screwed up. It was my team, and as such, I’m responsible for what happened next…

Now, when it came to setting things up on the set itself, I was mostly trying to stay out of the way. So I don’t know who did what (so don’t ask me). But here’s what ultimately happened. Paul’s green screen was way too long to hang horizontally (think of a really huge unrolled scroll) and still be kept “tight” for even lighting. So instead, it was hung vertically.

And this is where it gets bad, folks.

With hundreds and hundreds of square feet of extra green screen material, the team members let it all just clump on the floor. And worse, because there was so much fabric, they pushed most of the clumps of canvas under the raised floor of the bridge set to keep it out of the way so no one tripped on it or accidentally ripped it. In other words, they meant well.

Unfortunately, the floor under the set—which hasn’t seen the light of day since the move-in back in mid-2017—isn’t what you’d call “clean.” In fact, it’s not only covered in dust, it’s got some lubricating oil and grease mixed in.

Did I mention the word BAD???

When Paul and his production team arrived at Ares Studio on Friday morning to prepare for the weekend’s filming, Paul discovered to his HORROR that the majority of the green screen was now speckled with droplets of oil and grease that had saturated both the green and white sides of the screen….

When lit, the splotches became translucent, rendering the majority of the $4,700 canvas unusable for filming…

To Paul’s credit, he didn’t yell at me, even though he was quite understandably livid. And I didn’t try to throw anyone under the bus. I simply said, “I take full responsibility, Paul—how much is this going to cost to fix?” I was hoping for a number in the hundreds (which I could afford). Unfortunately, I was off by one important zero.

Paul said that he was going to make some calls to see if it was possible to clean it in some way. A few hours later, he called me back. The oil had been completely absorbed, staining the fabric permanently. It couldn’t be saved. He’d called his manufacturer, and they quoted him a price of $4,760 to replace the custom-sized item. YIKES!

I’ve anticipated a few of the questions you might have right now…

Why so much?

It’s 2,000 square feet of a high quality fabric custom matched to a specific digital Pantone color value. It’s made for professional industry use.

Can Paul split the replacement cost with you?

Why should he? He left a perfectly good green screen at Ares Studio. He came back and it was ruined. Had Paul loaned me his car and I totaled it, would it be appropriate for me to say, “I’ll split the cost with you for replacing your car…”? Nope. Paul will need to spend more than $4,700 (plus tax!) to replace his equipment because of our screw up. NONE of that should come out of his own pocket.

That said, Paul did tell me that META Studios will absorb the sales tax (likely hundreds of dollars) as his donation to the cause. I would have ordered it from out-of-state here in California, but the green screen company is also based in San Diego…so that totally screws up that idea.

Did you get production insurance?

No, but it wouldn’t have helped anyway. Production insurance costs $2,500 and has a $2,500 deductible. So the cost for replacing the green screen would have been the same even with production insurance. Alec Peters has insurance on Ares Studios (which is why I didn’t spend money on production insurance), but it only covers liability for injury, not damage to equipment.

Can Alec Peters chip in because it’s an Axanar green screen?

But it’a NOT an Axanar green screen…nor an Ares Studios green screen. It belongs to Paul Jenkins and his production company. Also, all of Alec’s money right now (personal and donated) is going into the Axanar project.

Can you make the person responsible pay for it?

No one who volunteered to work on Interlude is independently wealthy. They don’t have $4,700 lying around any more than most people do. Even if I did try to force them to pay for the replacement, they couldn’t. In some cases, I actually needed to help pay for people’s gas in order for them to come to the studio to volunteer. So, no…this isn’t a realistic or even compassionate option (especially at Christmastime). And keep in mind, it wasn’t done maliciously. It was an accident.

So what are you going to do now?

Unfortunately, the funds raised for Interlude are now almost entirely spent, with the exception of paying for the hotel room for the fellow who’s flying from Cleveland to Arkansas to play Ramirez and the money for materials I’ll be giving to GLEN WOLFE of WARP 66 Studios for all he’s been doing to get his sickbay set ready. Beyond that, there’s a little less than $200 left from all donations.

I have about $500 of my own money that I personally can afford to put in to reimbursing Paul. And I’ve spoken with some of our bigger donors, and three of them are each willing to match what I put in, taking us to $2,200. So that leaves us with another $2,560 to cover.

We have about 250 total Interlude donors. If each of them can give just $10 (and a few can give $20 or a little more because not everyone will give $10…and there are service fees), then we’ll come close enough to make it adding in the $200 we have left.

So I’ve increased the goal for the Interlude GoFundMe to $25,000 and put my $500 in. And I’m now asking everyone to help create a Christmas miracle.

Ironically, I usually tell people who are thinking of crowd-funding a fan film: “Never crowd-fund during the holiday season!” Money is usually tight, and there’s not much left to donate to Star Trek fan films.

And yet, here I am, asking for help during the holiday season.

“Let me help.” In another ten years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist from a planet circling the far left star in Orion’s belt will write a classic using that theme. He’ll recommend those three words—even over “I love you.”

If you can help, please click on the link below to donate a little something…

I thank you in advance, everyone, and happy holidays.

41 thoughts on “INTERLUDE Confidential #2: This is really, really BAD…and I’m going to need some MAJOR HELP!”

  1. There’s a word in my background that applies to how you are handling this: You are a mensch, Jonathan. I’m going to honor how you are handling this by kicking in some money. “Live long and prosper”.

  2. You go on and on about personal responsibility yet you’re asking donors to pay for your teams screw up…

    1. I’m not sure I follow. I had two choices when Paul called me: 1) try to fix the problem, or 2) say it wasn’t my problem and try to blame someone else for it (a team member or someone from the studio for not noticing or not telling us we couldn’t use the green screen or some other bullshit cover-your-ass distraction). Instead, I said, “What do I need to do to fix this, Paul?”

      The answer, of course, was to find some way to come up with $4,760. I had $500 available to put toward this from my own pocket, and that was immediately applied. This left $4,200. I didn’t ask Paul or Alec to try to find me donors (even though I could have asked Alec to use the Axanar or Ares Studios e-mail list…since it was Paul’s green screen and it was at Ares Studios.) But I didn’t. This was my problem to solve.

      So I made calls, sent e-mails and IMs, wrote the blog, composed the e-mail update asking my donors to help, posted both, and put the full-court press onto Facebook for moat of the day. And it paid off. 74 people stepped up with over $1,500 in less than 18 hours…including $300 from someone in the Axamonitor group! That kind of camaraderie and support is incredible, Sandy, and really inspiring. And I thanked each donor personally by name (all 74)…no mass e-mails.

      In addition, I was able to convince three of our biggest donors to chip in $500 each. That’s a huge ask, but they were each willing to help out because they all like Paul, they believe in the project, and they believe in me. And they are simply good people with big hearts. One of them even offered to put in a little more in January if we found ourselves still short of our goal.

      So here we are, less than a day later, and Paul’s green screen is nearly all paid for. If I could have covered the $4,700 all be myself, Sandy, I would have. But that was never an option for my family financially. Most fan filmmakers and their families don’t have that kind of money. Do you think Vance Major does? Or Gary O’Brien (“The Holy Core”)? Or Matthew Blackburn (the “Survivor” trilogy)? The list of fan filmmakers who are not independently wealthy goes on and on, Sandy. And that’s why we crowd-fund. That’s why I crowd-funded “Interlude” and why I crowd-funded the $4,200 I couldn’t afford myself. And the community came through for me and for Paul because the community is full of good people. You should try to get to know them.

    2. And what have you ever done Sandy besides get bitch-slapped on Facebook by David Gerrold? Your accomplishments seem so overwhelming from this perspective

  3. I’ve had to replace school equipment that the kids have wrecked in the past, as well as chipped in for fundraisers to repair leaky/broken stuff at church. Just gave another $10 for Interlude, Jonathan; hope all of your other readers can help out with this, too!

  4. Why don’t you just get a personal loan from your bank or credit union or a home equity line of credit. The payments wouldn’t be too much and you’d have it paid off in a few years.

    1. If taking out a loan on our home were a viable option, Randy, don’t you think I would have done so when I first decided to make a $20K fan film? As I said to Sandy, most fan filmmakers aren’t independently wealthy people. That’s why they crowd-fund. The whole idea of crowd-funding is that a large number of people each give a little money to help make something from nothing. In the past, I’ve given dozens of different fan filmmakers anywhere from $25 to $300 to help their dreams come true. Now, it seems, that goodwill is circling back in my direction. I didn’t necessarily expect it to, but I had my hope and faith in the community…and they didn’t let me down.

      1. Sorry, I didn’t realize you were in a financial position were you couldn’t get a loan for $5k. By looking at some of your videos it seemed like you were at least upper middle class. I totally understand if you’re in a place where an extra $50 or $100 a month on a loan would be a burden.

        1. I’m sure you understand that I’m not comfortable discussing my family’s personal finances publicly on a blog, Randy. And keep in mind that crowd-funding does not require the release of tax returns or credit scores or bank statements. Crowd-funding, as you’ll notice from many of the comments above, is about wanting to support someone else and help them…not interrogate them. I’m sure most people get that.

  5. Here is what I am not understanding.. You did not have a buffer room for extra expenses as this would qualify. Why in the name of hell was there NOT anyone on hand from Ares studio to WATCH what you all were doing? You are not a film producer you should not have been left alone. Alec needs to rethink how things are managed here on in. Lane this is your screw up! The fact you did not bother to asked before you used the green screen you should cover the expenses NOT the donors..

    1. There were a lot of simultaneous moving parts that weekend, Mike…a lot. It was actually something amazing to see. Folks from Ares Studio were making things happen left and right, providing some amazing engineering feats that would have made Scotty jealous! On film, it’s going to look incredible. Unfortunately, with so many hands and feet running simultaneously in all directions at once, each trying to help in his or her own way to provide for the production what it needed, someone saw the green screen and assumed it was okay to use it. It might have been a studio person or an Interlude team member or volunteer. Honestly, I don’t know how it happened. But it happened.

      That said, Alec called me on Monday to check in, and he told me a story from this past weekend’s shoot. On Sunday, after the green screen (Paul brought in a smaller one from his production studio to use) was no longer needed, Alec called for it to be taken down, folded up, and put away. With the clock ticking down to the start of Axacon, someone suggested that they leave the green screen up for now and put in away later in the afternoon or tomorrow. Alec immediately said, “No, we’re taking it down and putting it away now.” So…lesson learned.

      Look, Alec and Paul knew how bad I was feeling, and despite how angry they both were, they each told me stories of how things got screwed up on other shoots they worked on. Paul told me over the phone about how on one shoot he was directing, there was a bad memory card that had a piece of tape on it that said, “Bad card, don’t use.” But there was no other memory card available for the camera (and no one told anyone so they could run to the store and buy another), so someone just pulled the tape off the card and put in into the camera. Everything shot on that camera ended up unusable. The next day, Alec told me his own story in over Messenger: “My first shoot my first AD dropped the dolly on the pin and cost me $2500. And that was a guy that was working in Marvel movies.”

      So yeah, these things happen even to professionals. No one was ever “left alone.” There were simply so many things happening all at once that one mistake was made. Granted, it was a costly mistake, but I’m just happy that only one mistake like this happened the entire weekend. Considering how much was going on, there could have been so many other screw ups. But there weren’t because this really was an awesome team. One mistake does not take away their awesomeness!

  6. Another option might be to source it internationally. Rreputable Australian supplier Dragon Image has the fabric for $30 per lineal meter… at 3m wide.

    So, 2000sq feet equals 62 lineal meters, which is $1, 848 Australian, or $1,259 US. Shipping might be a couple hundred, but you’re still looking at half the cost.

    1. I just checked out their website, Matthew, and I didn’t see custom sizing for high-quality green screens available. Do you have a direct link to the actual ordering page? Paul needs 100 ft x 20 ft (which is 30.5m x 6.1m). If their pricing is that good and the quality is comparable (including key matching), I can certainly mention it to Paul…if not for this green screen then maybe for his next one.

  7. Don’t know if I was the first, but I put my part in…. not much but I hope that it helps.

  8. That’s heartbreaking, and clearly was an accident. I feel terrible for whomever was involved and hope they don’t feel too guilty. Accidents happen! I’ve chipped in what I can; wish I could do more. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that you can get a Christmas miracle.

  9. Good leadership would’ve been to apologize, make good, and not write about it or ask for money. Good leadership is quiet.

    1. Lincoln wasn’t quiet when he pushed to abolish slavery through ratification of the 13th amendment. Churchill didn’t rally the British in WWII by being quiet. John F. Kennedy didn’t inspire Americans to go to the moon by the end of the decade by being quiet. Gene Roddenberry was anything but quiet when he fought the network to allow a “colored” woman sit on the bridge of his starship. Reagan wasn’t quiet when he challenged Mr. Gorbachev to tear down his wall. Steve Jobs was never quiet when running Apple.

      So I challenge your assertion…Seriously.

  10. Jon,
    I would ask that the ruined cloth be kept by you, or your production company, on behalf of the donors that are buying a new replacement.

    There may be usable smaller portions that can be used for closer shots. The large cloth may be ruined, but I suspect that there is a residual usable portion.

    The owner may want to retain it and certainly it is his privilege. However, if you can capture the remaining cloth, it is a potential resource and savings for future fan films.

    A small “benefit” from the tragedy…. and hopefully the owner gets a nice new greenscreen to cover his loss….

  11. I am sorry to hear of this sometimes bad things happen to good people.

    Yes you are completely correct to assume responsibility I am surprised Paul Jenkins
    was not more upset as surely it screwed up his shooting?

    1. I respect Paul now more than ever. Like me, he’s a get-it-done kind of person. Yes, Paul was incredibly upset. Who wouldn’t be? But we both realized that stewing in the raging emotion of the moment wouldn’t get anything accomplished…and time was short for both of us. Paul had a shoot to prepare for (he brought another, smaller green screen from his studio the next day). And I needed to figure out how to crowd-fund $4.7K over the $21.6K I’d already successfully raised. This was going to be a delicate thing to explain, and yesterday’s blog and e-mail to donors went through many iterations.

      In the end, Paul and I both had our jobs to do. I suspect, however, that had I not been so quick to acknowledge the screw-up and offer to pay for the replacement that Paul might not have skipped over the yelling part. πŸ™‚

  12. You just got yourself my first ever crowd funding donation. Looking forward to Interlude! Happy holidays to you and your family, Jonathan!

  13. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…” from Henry V, W.Shakespeare

    One cannot falter even with times such as they are – thus my privilege to provide help as this helps both our dreams – yours in getting your film made with minimal worries; mine – in helping to contribute to this fan film. Happy Holidays to you and yours, Jonathan!

  14. Jonathan,

    Not that it matters much now, but the looks of the material from the pictures, don’t resemble oil & dust from the floor. What it does look like, is mold. Somehow, the fabric got wet, and in a humid climate like Georgia?, well, mold spores are floating around everywhere. So, humidity could have been the growth factor. If the screen was stored or used in a humid environment, that could be enough to grow mold on it. The pattern on it doesn’t look like it is from oil over spray on the floor. The pattern is too uniform. It might be worth looking at the care and storage instructions for that type of material? It could have even gotten wet, if stored under AC lines that were dripping condensate from Overhead. Mold needs moisture to grow. Once dried, it stops growth.

    If it is mold, you might be able to to wash it out using soap with fungicide as an ingredient. A commercial cleaners might be able to to handle a task that big? Or hang it up outdoors, using a power washer, soap & rinse, then air dried.

    1. Paul had it checked. It wasn’t mold. The spotted areas were translucent to light, suggesting some kind of oil or grease. But I’ll recommend that Alec do a mold check under the bridge just in case.

  15. I’m suggesting the mold was on the fabric already, and that moisture got to it somehow. It may have been damaged even before your crew used it, is what I’m getting at. Depending on how it was stored, temperature and humidity could have been enough. Was it stored laying on the floor when folded up, or rolled up? It’s doubtful there’s mold under the bridge set, unless that wood used was stored outside before use, which in dry California, I doubt that would be a factor. But, the dew point can cause dampness in outdoor storage, and cause metal to rust. Georgia has very high humidity, so things stored in a warehouse, without climate control, is not much better than a shed in your backyard. As for the light, translucency, mold degraded the coating on the green side, letting light seem like it’s shining through.

    If you could get a sample cut from the corner, you could get a cheap mold testing kit from online or home center. Or ask Alec to test a spot on the fabric.

    Well, as you were the last to use the item, the “you broke it, you bought it” idium applies. I borrowed a rototiller once, used it for less than a min, and the gearbox broke. So, I understand the saying too.

    Glad to see so many pitch in to help.
    Merry Christmas

    1. While Georgia is certainly hot and humid, the inside of that studio warehouse is VERY dry. But I will suggest to Paul, when he looks to see if any parts of the green screen are salvageable, that he have them check for mold, too. Thanks, David.

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