On the one hand, 2020 pretty much sucked. Political upheaval, protests and rioting, wildfires burned, rains flooded, hurricanes and tornadoes blew…and some crazy bat virus got loose and started spreading rapidly across the world while scientists tried to find a vaccine at warp speed. Civilization as we knew it seemed to have hit “pause,” and we’re still wondering if things will ever return to the way they used to be.
On the other hand, with most of the world’s outside-of-the-home activities curtailed, we did have ample time to catch up on our binge-watching on TV and YouTube. And for those of us with a predilection for Star Trek, 2020 gave us, for the first time ever, TWO new Star Trek TV series premiering in the same year! STAR TREK: PICARD debuted in January (you remember January, right?) and STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS followed in August.
And no sooner had Lower Decks finished than a new season of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY fired back up…meaning that 2020 will have a total of 32 new episodes of Star Trek in a single year! We haven’t had that much new Star Trek on TV since back in 1999 when Deep Space Nine and Voyager were running concurrently.
And if 32 new episodes of television Star Trek weren’t enough for you, then fan films gave you even MORE to binge-watch during your quarantine! Anyone who had “The guidelines will totally destroy Star Trek fan films” in the office betting pool lost big for a fifth straight year, as not only did Trek fan films live long and prosper, they even did so despite a global pandemic with the release of new “fandemic” films shot carefully with masks and social distancing during production.
This year also saw the debut of multiple long-awaited Star Trek fan films that had been in production for three years, five years, and even 35 years! It’s been an exciting twelve months for our fan film community, and a darn BUSY one for bloggers like me (assuming there are any other bloggers like me!) who spend their time covering the people behind these productions and the seemingly endless parade of of content they bring to us. In fact, back in October, I published my one thousandth blog since starting back in January of 2016!
So let’s take a look at some of the good that came out of 2020 in the form of a wonderful supply of new Star Trek fan films…
GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT
Some fan films can be produced fairly quickly and easily. Others, for various reasons, take more time to complete. Going into 2020, fans had been waiting years for a number of high profile fan films. But by the end of this year, nearly all of them will have finally debuted at least a part one if not a part two, as well…
STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER – September 8, 2020 was the 54th anniversary of the first airing of STAR TREK back in 1966. It was also the five-year anniversary of the beginning of production on STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, the long-awaited fan film from show-runner KENNY SMITH. Kenny had a dream to create a fan film focussing on the very first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, Robert April, and his first mission commanding that legendary starship. Kenny’s dream was BIG! He wanted real sets and real professional actors and even visual effects with a real, custom-built 11-foot model of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Fans waited patiently while Kenny and his team spent years finishing post-production. During that time, I had behind-the-scenes interviews with both Kenny himself as well as with the builders of his incredible Enterprise and Hangar Deck models (along with the sets themselves), MATT GREEN and SCOTT LYTTLE. And when First Frontier finally premiered, I had a third interview with Kenny and his producer/editor ZEKE FLATTEN.
The finished fan film had some sound level issues, but it’s still received more than 1.3 million views on YouTube since its premiere! Kenny promises a new version in early 2021 that corrects the sound issues. But in the meantime, you can watch First Frontier right now…
THE ROMULAN WAR – The first hints of this fan film appeared back in 2017. Not to be confused with the fan series THE ROMULAN WARS (plural) from show-runner LEE GARTRELL in Arkansas, The Romulan War (singular) from show-runner MARK NACCARATO in Tennessee is a straight-up two-parter—presented in the same “mockumentary” style as PRELUDE TO AXANAR.
By the time 2018 hit, The Romulan War had most of its scenes filmed and was crowd-funding for mainly post-production costs with a $10K Indiegogo (which ultimately took in more than $13K). With visual FX by the sensei of CGI, Great Britain’s SAMUEL COCKINGS, the trailers and stills from this dynamic fan film created a palpable excitement throughout the community. Mark released a series of trailers, enhanced audio dramas, and even short comic books before finally releasing The Romulan War (Part 1) in late October. It’s gotten nearly 300K views so far.
I did an audio interview with Mark to coincide with the release, and you can watch part one of this exciting fan film here…
PACIFIC 201 – Originally crowd-funded with a $26K Kickstarter way back in September of 2015 and a $32K Indiegogo campaign the following year, Pacific 201 was the brainchild of Harrisburg, PA-based showrunner ERIC HENRY. It would tell the story of a starship launched 40 years after the end of the Romulan war with the Coalition of Planets, a time when earth was still uncertain if space exploration was a good idea.
Over the years, Pacific 201 seemed always on the cusp of debuting. Back in 2018, a series of images were released along with a promised premiere date of spring 2019. That didn’t happen. But then earlier this year, a new trailer with some amazing footage promised a release date of August 2020. The film (part one of two) actually came out in November and has received early a quarter million views so far. There’s an audio interview with Eric and his producer/star MARGARET HERBENER that you can listen to. Part 2 was released on December 31 and can be viewed below along with Part 1…
YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL – Holding a record that will likely never be broken for most long-awaited fan film, Yorktown got its start waaaaaay back in 1985 when Show-runner STAN WOO convinced GEORGE TAKEI to appear as Sulu in Stan’s fan project. Also appearing was well-known actor JAMES SHIGETA, while legendary Star Trek designer ANDREW PROBERT created custom starship designs for the production.
Things got off to a fast start but stalled in 1987, not starting up again in earnest until JOHN ATKIN came aboard in 2010 to help finish the production. It’s taken another decade, with participation from a veritable Who’s Who of the fan film community. But tomorrow, on the very last day of the year, the 35-year wait for Yorktown will finally come to an end.
The full history is fascinating, and you can read it all in a mega six-part blog series! There’s also an audio interview with Stan and John. And of course, there’s also Yorktown itself…
AT THE LAST MINUTE ON DECEMBER 31, JOHN ATKIN ANNOUNCED A DELAY IN THE PREMIERE UNTIL JANUARY 31, 2021. DRAT!
THE QUINTAIN – Unlike the four films I just listed, fans didn’t really know they were waiting for The Quintain from CURT DANHAUSER. He never crowd-funded anything, didn’t have big celebrities (or any actors other than himself!), and many fans never even heard of him. But Curt had previously released three ambitious Star Trek fan films created in the animated style from the Filmation episodes of the mid-1970s. These were all posted on his very full and informative “Guide to Animated Star Trek” website from 2008 to 2016.
But from 2016 onward—with the exception of a fun series of short animated “Public Service Announcements”—nothing new came from Curt…until the summer of this year when he released an awesome new animated adventure featuring Scotty.
AXANAR – No, ALEC PETERS didn’t release Axanar while you weren’t looking! But ever since CBS and Paramount sued Alec and Axanar Productions at the end of 2015 and delayed the scheduled 2016 start of production, countless fans, supporters, and donors (and others) have wondered if they would ever see this ambitious project come to fruition. Despite a legal settlement with the studios in early 2017 allowing Axanar to be produced and released as two 15-minute short films, two and a half years passed before production finally restarted in October of 2019.
The first trailer for Axanar with clips of the new footage was posted back in April. Edited by MARK EDWARD LEWIS from a combination of live-action footage filmed at Ares Studios in Georgia and VFX created back in 2015 and 2016, the 60-second trailer has generated nearly 55K views so far on YouTube.
Six months later, a longer 8.5-minute behind-the-scenes feature/trailer was edited by yours truly. It includes even more live action footage and VFX along with snippets of interviews with the various actors who were present for the weekend of filming in October 2019. So far, that video has received a staggering 346K views…
Some fan series have been around for many years and are still going strong, giving us a steady stream of new adventures to enjoy…
THE FEDERATION FILES – Founded by GLEN WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS and operating out of WARP 66 STUDIOS in northeastern Arkansas, where they have constructed various TOS set reproductions, The Federation Files has been consistently releasing a series of quality Star Trek anthology-style fan films since their first one in 2016, with another one in 2017, one in 2018, two in 2019, and four in 2020! (You can view all of their releases on this Youtube playlist.)
This year’s releases included “Voices from the Past,” “The Green Manifesto,” “Friends and Foes,” and “Mask” (the latest two having both come out in the last two months, and I haven’t had a chance to cover them yet). All of their episodes have been crafted with great care and a love for Star Trek‘s centuries-long, rich fictional history (it is fictional, right?).
DREADNOUGHT DOMINION – This TOS-era fan series got its start in 2015 under the leadership of FRANK PARKER, JR. Command has since passed to GARY DAVIS and RADNY WRENN who have taken this tri-nacelled starship out of Spacedock and out into a galaxy of adventures. All told, the Dominion crew has appeared in a dozen fan films (you can view them all on this YouTube playlist).
This year, they released three new films: the comedic “A Barrel Full of Quincys,” then a fun music video made up of clips and viewer comments, and finally the serious half hour-long “We Are Many.” These guys put a lot of effort into their fan films.
POTEMKIN PICTURES – Even with a move of its homemade sets from Alabama to Kentucky, show-runner RANDY LANDERS has kept things going strong with his many, many creative teams. Potemkin Pictures has averaged about a dozen fan film releases per year for the past almost decade, and they are still knocking them out. (You can access nearly a hundred of their fan films on their website.)
Although the move and the pandemic resulted in a bit of a slowdown, Potemkin still had four releases from STARSHIP DEIMOS, one from HOSPITAL SHIP MARIE CURIE, one from STARSHIP ALEXANDER, one from STARSHIP TRISTAN, plus they launched a new creative team handling STARSHIP WEBSTER (see below). Some of their many teams might not be continuing after the move, while other new ones might pop up. But we can always count on new content from Potemkin Pictures.
INTREPID – The pride of Scotland, the folks on the Intrepid team began production on their first fan film waaaaaay back in 2003. Since then, they’ve released more than a dozen 24th century advertures starring show-runner NICK COOK at Captain Daniel Hunter. They’ve crossed over with the American fan series STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER multiple times, and next year, Nick will be playing Captain Hunter in the multi-fan-film crossover event CONVERGENCE.
Still enjoying playing in the Star Trek universe, Intrepid released their 12th episode in February, “Dissonant Minds,” which actually began production 8 years ago! Then in July, they released their 13th episode, “A Treasure for the Ages,” their first production filmed entirely after the announcement of the fan film guidelines back in 2016.
CONSTAR CONTINUES and CONSTAR COMPLETED – If you’ve lost count of how many Star Trek fan films that VANCE MAJOR has released, you’re not alone! I’m pretty sure I have no idea either. It’s gotta be close to a hundred by now! Vance produces ultra-low budget productions made with heart and dedication…some filmed on TOS sets in Georgia or Arkansas, others filmed in his house, on homemade sets, in cars, on streets, in backyards, on bridges…pretty much anywhere.
What began as the MINARD saga covering the artificially-extended long life of Erick Minard from “The Cage”-era up through the 24th century continued with a drop of 40 episodes all at once of THE CONSTAR CHRONICLES at the end of last year. That was followed this year by the release of multiple episodes of a new series entitled CONSTAR CONTINUES. (You can access all of those episodes from this YouTube playlist.) These two series included a number of cameos by various well-known members of the fan film community (including yours truly). And most recently toward the end of this year, Vance has transitioned into his latest series CONSTAR COMPLETED and even more cameos, with a projected 17 more episodes coming next year. (Those episodes are being added to this YouTube playlist.) Enjoy the binge-watching!
STARSHIP ANTYLLUS – GEORGE KAYAIAN has been making Star Trek fan films since the 1990s when he cast his mom and dad in multiple movie-length fan films with homemade sets in their house! Now George is all grown up and still making Star Trek fan films with homemade sets in his house. But now he’s making them with his adorable daughter ANYA.
Antyllus released its first episode back in 2013. Since then, George has managed to churn out between two and five half-hour episodes each year. 2020 has seen the release of Antyllus‘ fourteenth through seventeenth episodes (plus a couple of cameo appearance in the Constar series). You can view all on Antyllus episodes on this YouTube playlist.
LEFT BEHIND – Southern California-based MATTHEW BLACKBURN released his first fan film, STAR TREK: SURVIVOR, back in 2010. After a seven year hiatus, he returned to Trek fan films in 2017 with SURVIVORS and in 2018 with LAST SURVIVOR. They form a trilogy of sorts, following a general “pattern” of featuring nearly all of the action down on a planet where the protagonist(s) is/are separated from any help from the ship. While down on the surface, they face a threat that usually involves running, climbing, and at least one solid fight scene.
Matthew works with a small team of about six actors and production crew, but the results are excellent and fun to watch. This year saw the release of a fourth installment—not necessarily a sequel—titled LEFT BEHIND with lots of action and stunts. Matthew is planning at least two more fan films in the coming year(s).
THE AVALON UNIVERSE – Fans got their first taste of what JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX were capable of producing on Halloween in 2018 with the release of GHOST SHIP, the first of what would become multiple Star Trek fan films set in the “Avalon Universe.” This similar-yet-slightly-different Starfleet features a mix of uniforms from TOS and the Kelvin timeline with starships that look nearly the same as TOS but are a teensy bit different.
The production quality of Ghost Ship, shot on the TOS sets at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA, towered over most Trek fan films primarily because Josh and Victoria are themselves both professionals in the filmmaking industry in Arkansas. The following year, Victoria and Josh released two more films in their Avalon Universe: AVALON LOST and DEMONS, each even more impressive than the previous one. And now in 2020, just five days before the end of the year, they’ve released their fourth Avalon fan film, LEGACY, a short vignette that will lead into their fifth release, AIR AND DARKNESS.
THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
There’s always room in our community for new Star Trek fan films, fan series, and fan producers. Let’s welcome some newcomers to our ranks…
LET OLD WRINKLES COME – BENNY HALL is the very epitome of what fan films are all about. Quietly crowd-funding $50,000 in 2019, he wrote, produced, and starred in his first-ever fan film. This 16-minute story of Captain Kirk was shot both at Neutral Zone Studios as well as at the iconic Vasquez Rocks Park north of Los Angeles where Kirk fought the Gorn. But in this fan film, Kirk isn’t fighting a Gorn—he’s fighting a Mugato! Benny is planning to produce another Star Trek fan film after the pandemic is over.
HORREUR POST ATOMIQUE – Speaking of the pandemic, one of the first Trek fan films to be released after the world started to quarantine came out of France. Four friends produced a “fandemic” film with three of them filming their parts at home and the fourth editing those performances together into a post-atomic horror story with a very unexpected ending that ties everything firmly into Star Trek continuity.
STAR TREK FAN FILMS INTERNATIONAL – Also working in a pandemic production environment, cosplayers and fans from around the world came together under show-runner DAVID CHENG to release a series of socially distant but heartfelt tributes to Star Trek and its beloved TOS characters. Although David’s first release, THE HUMAN ADVENTURE, came out before the pandemic in October of last year, 2020 has seen four “fandemic” films from these cosplayer folks: LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY, I AM SPOCK, UNREST, and the recent holiday-themed PEACE AND GOODWILL.
STARSHIP WEBSTER – I realize that I already covered POTEMKIN PICTURES above, and I mentioned their move from Alabama to Kentucky. But the launch of their newest creative group late this year warranted its own mention as a special “welcome to world of fan films” to the folks in Lexington, KY. Webster has already released its first three fan film projects: LAUNCH, A VOICE IN THE DARK, and THE TOMBSTONE, each filmed very carefully with temperature checks, social distancing, masks, and sanitizer.
AND SO MANY OTHERS I HAVEN’T HAD A CHANCE TO COVER
There are literally dozens, possibly hundreds, of other Star Trek fan films—long and short, funny and serious, low budget and not-so-low budget—that came out this past year from filmmakers of all kinds both in the Unites States as well as from other countries around the world. In fact, I highly recommend Czeching out recent fan releases from FS FILMS and also from VICTORIA FAN FILMS, both located in the Czech Republic using their amazing 360-degree, 24th century bridge set that was built a few years ago in Prague. Also, JENS DOMBEK, “The German Spock,” just released a really amusing and unique comedy vignette titled TIMES ARE CHANGING. And finally, I didn’t get a chance to cover the three new CERBASI TREK releases out of the United Kingdom. I hope you have an opportunity to check out at least some of these.
My apologies to all of the fan films I couldn’t get to this past year. For a complete list of everything—and I mean everything!—that gets released in the Star Trek fan film world, visit the amazing website STAR TREK: REVIEWED.
COMING IN 2021
But wait, there’s more! We expect Part 2 of The Romulan War to get released sometime next year. Be sure to donate to their Indiegogo, which is halfway to its $10K goal.
The long awaited “Animals” is due out in January and will mark the first new fan film release from STARSHIP VALIANT since their preview of the first act of “The Ties That Bind” back in June of 2017.
The Wizard of Space and Ships SAMUEL COCKINGS has announced an early 2021 release of A LONG WAY FROM HOME, a sneak peek vignette featuring cast members from his upcoming CONVERGENCE mega-fan film crossover.
The eagerly anticipated SQUADRON from the Czech Republic is due out in the first couple of months of 2021. It’s set during the Dominion War and features incredible make-up for both a Vorta and two Jem’Hadar. And it’s got some amazing VFX from the aforementioned Mr. Cockings.
Fans are also looking forward to the newest STALLED TREK puppet parody “The City on the Edge of Foreclosure.” If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, it looks so AWESOME. You can view it on their Indiegogo page, where you can also make a donation to help defer the costs for professional quality sound-mixing.
More fan films will, of course, be coming from Potemkin Pictures, Dreadnought Dominion, The Federation Files, Intrepid, Starship Antyllus, Constar Completed, Natures Hunger, and Neutral Zone Studios.
Oh, and I almost forgot! I’ve been working on a little fan film of my own called INTERLUDE that takes place in the Axanar Universe. It’s oh-so-close to being finished! The music is finally completed, but there are just a couple of small tweaks to do. Shuttlecraft are going to be placed outside of Admiral Slater’s office just after New Years, and then we hand it off to MARK EDWARD LEWIS for the final sound-mixing. I’m resisting the temptation to announce a premiere date, having missed the one I announced this past summer. But rest assured that this fan film is inches from the finish line!
And that’s it for me for 2020. I hope you’ve all been enjoying this labor of love blog I humbly bring to you. Remember that I do have a Patreon for Fan Film Factor, and I work for tips. Please consider signing up for a small monthly donation if you’d like to support my efforts. But whether or not you do, I want thank all of you for being a part of Star Trek fan films and reading my blog entries.