Well, it’s been another year, and the CBS guidelines still haven’t killed Star Trek fan films! In fact, even focusing on just the highlights, this is still gonna be a loooooong blog. But that’s a GOOD thing…unless you’re the guy who has to write it up. But I don’t mind. In fact, I’ve actually written 108 blogs this year…94 of them about Star Trek fan films and the others a mix of editorials, reviews of new CBS Star Trek episodes and series, tracking the now-settled Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up lawsuit, and sadly a few eulogies).
It’s always a challenge how to organize these year in review blogs, but this time, I think I’ll just go chronologically, highlighting the biggest releases for each month. However, before I do that, I’d like to acknowledge a few key people who go beyond simply making fan films and actually give of themselves to the greater fan film community in significant ways…
VANCE MAJOR – The creator of the fan-favorite character of Erick Minard, Vance has produced nearly 150 Star Trek fan films in total…including 30 this year alone covering both the CONSTAR series as well as other fan films released under the NO BUDGET PRODUCTIONS banner. (Because he’s released so many, I’ll be leaving most of Vance’s films off of this year’s highlight list…lest this blog becomes longer than War and Peace!) Vance has also been helping some of his actors make the transition to producers. In previous years, this included GREG TEFT and GREG MITCHELL. This year, PAUL JACQUES and SEAN REIMER joined that expanding group. And in addition to providing these wonderful opportunities, Vance is also spotlighting fan filmmakers regularly on his PIZZA ROLL DIARIES and CRITICAL, NOT CYNICAL video podcasts.
DAN REYNOLDS and GLEN WOLF – In addition to producing the Star Trek anthology series THE FEDERATION FILES, Glen and Dan also maintain TOS set replicas in their WARP 66 STUDIOS facilities, allowing those sets in northern Arkansas to be used by other fan filmmakers, as well.
RAY TESI – Another fan who owns TOS set replicas, Ray bought the STAR TREK CONTINUES/STARSHIP FARRAGUT sets from VIC MIGNOGNA and now allows them to be used by fan filmmakers at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland,GA.
SAMUEL COCKINGS – If you see amazing CGI visual effects in a Star Trek fan film, there’s a good chance that the British “Royal of Rendering” created them. Indeed, at this point, it’s almost shorter to list the fan films that Sam Cockings hasn’t done the VFX for! While top-level CGI isn’t a requirement for a good fan film, it can add a professionally polished look. Sam spends an unbelievable amount of his time doing this for his fellow fan filmmakers, and it makes such a big difference for so many.
ERIC L. WATTS – Despite a significant personal commitment of both his time and financial resources, Eric has kept the BJO AWARDS (Trek fan films’ answer to the Academy Awards) going for well over a decade, having just announced the latest batch of winners on December 11 in person at Neutral Zone Studios.
JOSHUA IRWIN – As I mentioned a few weeks ago in this blog, in addition to working looooooong hours and driving literally thousands of miles to create the highly impressive AVALON UNIVERSE fan series, Josh has been helping out a whole bunch of other fan filmmakers. Beyond being my director of photography and film editor for INTERLUDE, Josh is lending his considerable talents to Vance Major for Constar, Glen Wolfe and Dan Reynolds for The Federation Files, supervising behind-the-scenes content for the upcoming AXANAR sequels, assisting Sam Cockings with one of his many TREK SHORTS fan films, and helping JIM VON DOLTEREN write a script for an upcoming fan film. And all of this while working crazy hours in the professional filmmaking industry in northwest Arkansas!
Okay, let’s start talking about the fan films themselves. This past year saw the world start to slowly claw its way out of the global pandemic and lockdown. “Fandemic” films became fewer as fan actors and filmmakers found their way back into studios and onto locations…just being very careful.
There were also some “long awaited” releases…a few of them in post-production for half a decade or more! And of course, there was new stuff—everything from the low-budget, shot-on-a-cell-phone labors of love to highly polished productions that looked almost professional. In other words, business as usual for Star Trek fan films.
The following list is be no means even close to complete. There were far more Star Trek fan films released in 2021 than I could even manage to WATCH let alone report on. Where possible, I’ll link you to blogs I’ve published. For those I didn’t cover, I’ll try to provide links to the fan films themselves. And for those I leave out completely, my sincere apologies; it’s nothing personal.
Let’s take it from the top of the year…
The year started off with a bang as the Avalon Universe released their most ambitious fan film yet, AIR AND DARKNESS, with some amazing stunt fighting considering it’s “only” a fan film. We would learn shortly thereafter that stars VICTORIA FOX and CHUCK MERÉ were leaving the series, giving Avalon an opportunity to reinvent itself with new main cast members.
The Federation Files released its ninth Star Trek anthology fan film and their fifth in the row NOT to make use of Glenn Wolfe’s and Dan Reynolds’ TOS sets at WARP 66 Studios. In an interview spotlighting “MASK”—the sequel to their sixth episode “Voices from the Past”—Glen explained why five consecutive fan films didn’t use the sets.
Production began on STARSHIP VALIANT‘s fourth dedicated fan production, “Animals,” back in June of 2017. Three and a half years later, it finally premiered, and I took the opportunity to publish a 4-part History of Starship Valiant.
The best word I can think of to describe this fan film from the Czech Republic is “stunning”! SQUADRON was filmed on a couple of gorgeous 24th century starship sets with impeccable costumes, meticulously crafted props, and some incredible make-up. In addition to a Vulcan, Andorian, and Orion (all very common in fan films), Squadron also features amazingly accurate Jem’Hadar and an awesome Vorta. Add in top-notch CGI, a thrilling musical score, fantastic lighting and camera work, along with a great story and acting, and it’s totally worth watching this release with English subtitles turned on, as it’s a MUST SEE.
While fans wait for the conclusion of MARK NACCARATO’s 2-part THE ROMULAN WAR documentary-style fan film, Mark has treated us to a series of captivating vignettes called WAR STORIES. This latest offering animates his previously-released fan comic called “HOLOCAUST,” and it came out really well. It’s something a different than your typical fan film.
Even though I didn’t cover it, show-runner GEORGE KAYAIAN released part one of the 18th episode of his long-running STARSHIP ANTYLLUS fan series. Also released in February was the 3-part THE GORN IMPERATIVE by long-time fan filmmaker KENNETH THOMPSON, telling the story of the first encounter between the Federation and the Gorn…from the Gorn point of view! Fascinating.
“36 HOURS” marked the 90th(!!!) fan film release from POTEMKIN PICTURES in the decade since they kicked things off. Is was also the 21st installment of STARSHIP TRISTAN. This film almost didn’t get made, as filming was incomplete when the Potemkin sets (along with show-runner RANDY LANDERS and his wife) moved from Alabama to Kentucky, and certain cast members were no longer able to continue their participation. Enter film editor RICK FOXX, who managed to make some tasty lemonade from lemons and finish a new version of the film.
Later in March, the STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group would premiere their 4th fan film, “The Emissary.”
Not all the news was good this past year when it came to Star Trek fan films. On March 30, our community’s greatest cheerleader, BARBARA READER, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Many years earlier, Barb had created the first-ever blog dedicated exclusively to Star Trek fan films: Star Trek Reviewed. It remains the gold standard today, maintained now by a group of volunteers whom Barb began recruiting in 2016 when her illness made it impossible for her to keep the site going all by herself. You can (and should) read tributes to her from the fan film community.
While not technically a fan film, fans had a lot to do with this upcoming film. In 2015, 455 Films managed to crowd-fund $662K on Kickstarter from fans to produce the documentary FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK about the life of the late LEONARD NIMOY. In 2017, they raised another $647K on Indiegogo to finance the Deep Space Nine documentary WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND. But in March of 2021, 455 Films blew past both totals to raise more than ONE AND A QUARTER MILLION dollars to produce a documentary about Voyager called TO THE JOURNEY. Click here to read the blog announcing their crossing the one million dollar mark with three days to go.
PARAGON’S PARAGON was the first “major” Star Trek fan film. A carpet-layer from Warren, Michigan named JOHN COSTENTINO spent nearly $2,000 of his own money (about $11-15,000 today), to build a recreation of the Enterprise bridge, transporter room, briefing room, and turbolift…all in order to film a 65-page script based on the JAMES BLISH novel Spock Must Die. Shot in 1974, this historic fan film had been mostly lost to time, with only short snippets on YouTube…most of them with no sound. But then ROBERT LONG II, who had been given a VHS convention copy of Paragon’s Paragon about a decade ago, decided to clean up the audio and post what he had: two 15-minute parts that show the first 25 minutes plus 5 minutes of “next week on Paragon’s Paragon.”
More than two years in the making, INTERLUDE takes place between PRELUDE TO AXANAR and the two upcoming Axanar sequels. It was also the first fan film I ever wrote and produced, and it gave me insights and perspective on filmmaking that I never could have learned without actually doing it. Joshua Irwin and Victoria Fox were my directors, helping me lead a team of more than 50 volunteers. Three versions of Interlude were released. The first version had to be re-done when PAUL JENKINS (who was in litigation with ALEC PETERS) demanded that his likeness be removed from our Axanar-related fan film. The second version debuted two weeks later, having replaced Paul’s footage with TYLER DUNIVAN from Avalon. A third and final version intended for film festivals was released just a few weeks ago.
IAN RAMSEY launched a new YouTube channel called STAR REKT with a fun and creative music video adapting The Four Seasons’ song Oh, What a Night into a hilarious parody of the TOS episode “Arena.” Watch and you’ll certainly be impressed. He has since released an additional three parody music videos, and I intend to interview this fellow in the coming year.
May kicked off what would become several consecutive months of major crowd-funding campaigns for various fan films. The first was for British CGI Sentinel Samuel Cockings’ new multi-film fan series, TREK SHORTS. He introduced the campaign with the release of the eye-catching A LONG WAY FROM HOME, filmed entirely against green screen with incredible 3d backgrounds. Later in the month, on his way to successfully funding what will eventually be SIX short fan films, Sam released a bonus SEVENTH film vignette titled HOURS AT WARP, also entirely green screen with virtual backgrounds.
Vance Major’s character of Erick Minard seems to pop up everywhere…in multiple fan films and multiple universes! Well, you can now add Avalon to that list of universes, as Vance made a guest appearance in a short Avalon vignette titled NEW ORDERS. Vance and Josh Irwin have become close friends and have been collaborating on a number of fan films lately.
After a 2-year hiatus from producing Star Trek fan fils, Australian filmmaker AARON VANDERKLEY returned to the fold with BEYOND THE SUN, a powerful Prime Directive story set in the Star Trek: Voyager era. Aaron’s previous five fan films (each excellent) were all set in the Enterprise NX-01 era. Aaron has since united all of his fan productions, both past and future, under the umbrella “THESE ARE THE VOYAGES,” with behind-the-scenes content and updates posted to Facebook.
FRANK PARKER, JR. was the original showrunner of the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. But in 2016, he abruptly and mysteriously left the project and disappeared from fan films in general. 2021 marked Frank’s return as he partnered up with Vance Major to create No Budget Productions/Filk Ferret Productions and launch his new fan series CROSSROADS: PROJECT GEMINI. Earlier in the month, Frank and is wife returned as one-episode guest stars for Dreadnought Dominion‘s 10th episode, “The Passenger with Baggage.” Dominion would kick off their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in June just as Sam Cockings wrapped up his Indiegogo for Trek Shorts.
Also released this busy month were part two of the 18th episode of Starship Antylllus and the hour-plus “Razor’s Edge” from the folks at NATURES HUNGER.
June was a relatively quieter month, but it did kick off with the seventh release in under two years from the cosplaying creators at Star Trek Fan Productions International. During the lockdown, they released six of their “fandemic” films by editing and compositing together footage recorded remotely by different actors. This latest effort, OUTRAGED, was their most ambitious project to date.
Although I didn’t have a chance to cover it, Vance Major’s CONSTAR COMPLETED released the first two Star Trek fan films to include characters and storylines set in the Star Trek: Picard era. These included the June releases in succession of “Minard 2: Hemorrhage” which transitioned from the Kelvin timeline to Picard, and “Odyssey,” which took place entirely in the Picard timeline. By year’s end, Vance would release another 4 fan films in the Picard era and a total of 28 fan films overall during all of 2021!
Also released in June was the latest offering from FSFILMS in the Czech Republic: THE BINARY BELIEF. These are not the same folks who produced SQUADRON (released earlier in February), although they did film on the same 24th century bridge set.
July shifted back into fast gear with some big releases. The first was The Federation Files‘ “Doppelganger,” a fan film three and a half years in the making! It was the tenth fan film from this long-running anthology series from Wolf/Reynolds Productions, and their first production since 2019’s “Galaxy Hopper” to utilize the TOS sets at WARP 66 Studios in northern Arkansas.
The departure of Avalon Universe director and lead actress Victoria Fox (and her character of Commander Amanda Beck) from this fan series was marked by the return of two characters who had previously been killed off: Captain Derek Mason (played by TYLER DUNIVAN) and Lt. Commander Jamie Archer (played by VICTORIA ARCHER). COSMIC STREAM kicked off an ambitious$20K GoFundMe campaign to finance multiple new episodes in what will become a new era for Avalon under the sole helm of showrunner Josh Irwin.
GARY DAVIS, the co-showrunner of the long-running Dreadnought Dominion fan series, decided to build a TOS cockpit set in his basement because…well, why not? The result was a new spin-off fan series called PROJECT: RUNABOUT. The first episode, titled simply “Pilot” was more of a music video—but a very well-crafted and well-acted one.
This month also saw the release of what serves as the final installment of a trio of “parallel” fan films. The first two were the crossover/mirror universe productions CHAIN OF COMMAND and COMMAND AND CONQUER, merging the talents behind Dreadnought Dominion, Starship Valiant, and Vance Major’s Minard character. This third fan film, CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED, was completed five years after the first two and tells the same parallel story only set in the Kelvin timeline.
August was another relatively slow month for Star Trek fan film releases. But that was fine because it gave a bit of breathing space to a compilation video that I created to close out 2021’s virtual TREKLANTA convention. THE VERY BEST OF STAR TREK FAN FILMS video collects what I feel are the best scenes from all Star Trek fan films…sequences that will make the viewer ask, “Wait, this is from a FAN film???”
August also brought tragic news as our community received word of the passing of a beloved fan filmmaker, MICHAEL SYLVESTER of RENEGADES and MELBOURNE, from Coronavirus. Michael lived in Huntsville, Alabama, and was reportedly vaccinated and very careful. He passed away within a week from receiving his COVID-19 diagnosis. At the same time, ASHLEY WYLES, who is an actress with Team Avalon, contracted COVID and needed to be hospitalized. Due to previous cancer treatment, Ashley was immunocompromised and couldn’t be vaccinated. Fortunately, she has since recovered, but this pandemic is far from over, my friends. Please get vaccinated and boosted, wear your mask for safety, and continue to take this ongoing global crisis seriously. COVID-19 should be as apolitical as a hurricane or tornado…a reason to come together, not struggle against each other.
This month also brought the release of the nineteenth episode of Starship .Antyllus along with the sixth episode of EUDERION INFINITY: “Risa.” The Euderion Infinity folks, based in Berlinm Germany, have been releasing 24th century-era Star Trek fan films since 2013. They include excellent English captions, so you can enjoy them even if you do not Deutsch sprechend.
One of the stories-behind-the-stories of 2021 was the arrival of the one-and-only PIXI NEREID to the Avalon Universe and the fan film community in general. Pixi has taken our community by storm with her enthusiasm and no-nonsense positivity…perhaps the best hope of an antidote to toxic fandom. As part of the push to energize the Avalon GoFundMe campaign (still going!)—which managed to get $6K in two and a half days in September thanks to a dollar-match promotion by a generous donor), Pixi recorded a catchy music video filmed on the WARP 66 sets titled STAR TREK IS REAL. You should get to know Pixi.
The 17th fan film from the STARSHIP DEIMOS Creative Group, “Leviathan,” was the third release from Potemkin Pictures for the year. They used to average 10-12 releases per year, but a move to Lexington, Kentucky combined with the pandemic slowed production in 2020 leading to fewer releases in 2021.
September also saw the release of INVASION, PART 1, a computer animated Star Trek fan film from Kenneth Thompson ten years in the making and featuring the destroyer-class starship the U.S.S. Saladin.
October ended up being a very full month, kicking off in a big way with the long-awaited series finale of the venerated STARSHIP FARRAGUT fan series. “Homecoming” was originally filmed back in 2016 and featured a cameo by legendary Marvel Comics creator STAN LEE. Unfortunately, difficulties encountered during post-production delayed completion and release by more than five years.
October also featured the release of another major fan film, this one the highly ambitious AGENT OF NEW WORLDS from the Avalon Universe. To see how ambitious, read this blog. This episode does a time-jump forward and introduces new characters, including Pixi Nereid’s Commander Michaela Allenby and the new captain of the U.S.S. Excalibur, Commodore Imari Jakande, played by actor WARREN HAWK. This fan favorite character was killed off after a brief appearance in Interlude, but in the Avalon Universe, Jakande survived the Four Years War with the Klingons.
The Starship Webster Creative Group from Potemkin Pictures released their second fan film for the year: “Landing Party.” It used a clever technique that allowed safe filming during COVID by featuring Starfleet crew members beaming down to the planet wearing “breathing masks” along with Gorn played by actors wearing face masks underneath their rubber Gorn masks.
One of the final fan films shot at STARBASE STUDIOS before it disappeared was intended to be a “commercial” for the facility. But the footage was never completed and edited…until now. WORD’S WOMEN, from showrunner KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS, is a testament to the never-say-die determination of fan filmmakers to finish the projects that they start.
November was another quiet month but with two big releases. The first was the latest (and possibly the best yet) fan film from Dreadnought Dominion: “The More Things Change.” It features a compelling story, some wonderful fan performances, and really nice CGI effects from Samuel Cockings.
The other November release hasn’t gotten a Fan Film Factor spotlight blog yet, but it’s worth checking out for an amazing recreation of the original S.S. Botany Bay set from the TOS episode “Space Seed.” The latest offering from The Federation Files is the excellent “No Good Deed.”
The folks at Potemkin Pictures ended the year with a short fan film “Christmas card” from Starship Deimos. Removing opening and closing credits, the runtime of “Together in the Night” is barely more than three minutes. Then again, it doesn’t take all that long to say “Merry Christmas.”
Not quite as filled with holiday cheer, LOST AND FOUND is the closest Trek fan films have come lately to a full-on acid trip! The fifth release from MATTHEW BLACKBURN in what began as the SURVIVOR “trilogy,” the story continues with some very scenic location shooting in the Mojave Desert and surrounding areas.
December also included the re-releases of two re-edited fan films. The first was Interlude, version 3.0. After quickly removing and replacing Paul Jenkins’ footage two weeks after the premiere (see April releases above), Josh Irwin, composer KEVIN CROXTON, and I worked for about four months on a third edit with some small but significant adjustments. This is the version that will be entered into film festivals. Then two weeks after the Interlude re-release, Josh premiered a new, second version of the Avalon Universe‘s Agent of New Worlds. This one also featured subtle changes that combine to create an even better fan film.
AND THE REST…
As I mentioned waaaaaaay above at the beginning of this blog, there have been far too many Star Trek fan films released in 2021 for me to get to every one here. However, I’d like to include shoutouts to just a few who have been particularly prolific this year in releasing MANY fan films each…
CONSTAR COMPLETED – I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all of the episodes that Vance Major has completed and released this year…including a whole bunch from his Constar Completed fan series.
STARSHIP EAGLE – I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I haven’t had a chance to check out the offerings from these folks yet, but they’ve released seven fan films and one blooper reel during 2021.
STAR TREK STUNT DOUBLES – That MR BONK 85 continues to produce wild ‘n’ whacky Star Trek parody shorts using his own props, costumes, wigs, fake mustaches and beards, and an at-home green screen with virtual backgrounds. And he plays every part (even the women) himself! Another seven surreal segments saw sunlight in 2021.
EGOTASTIC TREK – Speaking of wild ‘n’ whacky. MATT WEISS’ Egotastic Trek is a little of both…well, a LOT of both. He’s just getting started on the path of fan filmmaking, and it seems like he’s carving out a lane for himself. Best of luck to you, Matt.
And of course, best of luck to ALL of the many, many fan filmmakers out there living the dream and keeping that dream alive through their own efforts and dedication! My apologies to everyone who released a Star Trek fan film in 2021 that I didn’t get to. There were just so darn many of them!
And for anyone who wants a mind-blowingly complete list of every Star Trek fan film that gets released, I invite you to check out meticulously-crafted and assiduously-updated STAR TREK REVIEWED blog site. It’s a wonderful complement to FAN FILM FACTOR, and I’m so glad to know they’re out there.
Here’s to a FANtastic new year for Star Trek fan films. See you all in 2022!