STALLED TREK is crowd-funding its third TOS puppet parody: “THE DUMBSDAY MACHINE”! (interview with MARK LARGENT)

Back in 2012, one of the earliest Kickstarters for a Star Trek fan film set a goal of $600 and raised $2,200 from over a 100 backers. The result, a hilarious animated puppet parody of the TOS episode “Amok Time,” premiered later that same year. Showrunner and animator MARK LARGENT originally intended that STALLED TREK: “AMUTT TIME” would be a one-off fan production…especially considering all of the work and computer rendering hours required to complete it.

But Mark’s CGI puppets weren’t quite finished yet!

In 2016, during the early days of the AXANAR lawsuit, I was interviewing Mark about “Amutt Time,” we got to talking, and we ended up co-writing and co-producing a hysterical puppet parody called PRELUDE TO AX’D-WE-ARE. Although it didn’t feature any of the zany Kirk/Spock/McCoy/etc. characters, it was still branded as Stalled Trek.

Two years later in 2018, Mark decided that it was time to go back to the TOS roots of Stalled Trek and parody a second classic episode. STALLED TREK: “THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FORECLOSURE” launched a Kickstarter with a humble goal of just $600 and blew past it in just 8 hours! By the time that campaign ended, Mark had generated $4,181 from 114 backers. But shortly thereafter, Mark discovered that the 3D application he’d been using to animate Stalled Trek would no longer be supporting or updating the application on the Macintosh platform, and Mark didn’t have the money to switch to a Windows PC. Instead, he switched programs and started from scratch with Blender 3D.

The following year, as a proof of concept, Mark released the short vignette, ALL AHEAD FULL, in June of 2019, which was—as usual—brilliantly funny. And in the meantime, work continued on “City…”

Close to the finish line, Mark held an additional Indiegogo campaign at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 that raised another $3,785 from 54 backers for “City…” offering DVDs/Blu-rays plus a high-quality 48-page “flip” comic styled after the old Star Trek “fotonovels” from the 1970s—one side adapting “Amutt Time” and the upside down side adapting City…”

And before anyone starts yelling about selling unlicensed Star Trek merchandise, Stalled Trek is unquestionably a PARODY and is—unlike most non-parody fan films—directly protected under the Fair Use doctrine.

“City…” was finally completed and mailed to donors on a blu-ray in June 2021. Since then, this humble fan film has gone on to win a ton of awards…

  • Indie Short Fest
  • IndieX Film Fest
  • Azure Lorica Fan Film Awards
  • LA Sci-Fi & Horror Festival (2 awards)
  • New York International Film Awards
  • Grand Rapids Comic-Con Film Festival
  • MonsterFlix Awards
  • Oniros Film Awards
  • Cult Movies International Film Festival
  • Independent Shorts Awards
  • RED Movie Awards
  • Berlin Sci-Fi Filmfest

Plus it was a finalist in The Galactic Imaginarium Film Festival and the Beyond the Curve International Film Festival.

So where can you see this marvel on YouTube? At present, you can’t. But Mark is once again making “City…” available on DVD along with “Amutt Time” and a BRAND NEW puppet parody, STALLED TREK: “THE DUMBSDAY MACHINE.” Here’s a trailer for it…

As you can see, Mark has launched yet another Indiegogo. This one had a goal of $4,000 and crossed it in just three days! Fans can donate to receive all kinds of combinations of merchandise, including the newest Stalled Trek on DVD, the previous releases, the photo-novels, and trading cards. Here’s the link…

And speaking of trading cards, having surpassed the $4,000 goal already by $730 with almost three weeks remaining, Mark has set a $5,000 stretch goal wherein everyone who receives any physical perk will get THREE NEW PARODY TRADING CARDS! There were also trading cards in the previous crowd-funder that looked like this…

It’s been a while since I’ve interviewed Mark, so now seemed like the perfect time to ask him some fresh questions about this brand new project…

JONATHAN – When did you decide you were going to go for the hat trick and make a third TOS Stalled Trek?

MARK – I don’t think I ever truly thought “The City on the Edge of Foreclosure” would be the last one. I certainly entertained that idea plenty of times, though. That was a really tough film to make…without question the hardest project I’ve ever done.

It took me a full year to recover from it.

I’d say, I started to get the bug to do this one around September of last year. As burnt out as I was, I missed working on the film. I attempted a couple of smaller projects, but I was just too drained.

I’ve experienced this before, a kind of post-project depression, but it was drawn out this this time. Extended. Maybe because of how long it took to make the last one.

It was only a few months ago, that I found myself having the energy again.

JONATHAN – So what made you choose to parody “The Doomsday Machine” (my personal favorite episode)? Maybe I just answered my own question, but I thought you were going to do “Balance of Terrier.”

MARK – Back in August, I had the very great opportunity to premiere “City…” at the 55-Year Mission convention in Las Vegas during a panel. I flew in that morning, and during the flight, I made some notes—and in those notes, I wrote down some options for the “third and final” Stalled Trek.

“The Dumbsday Machine” was on that list.

“Balance of Terriers” was on that list, too.

I don’t know what date it was that I decided “The Dumbsday Machine” was going to be the one, but it was an immediate “it has to be this one” realization.

I do remember that I ordered the light-up Planet Killer miniature from Eaglemoss, and my receipt says that was ordered in mid-November.

JONATHAN – How long do you think until this newest parody is released?

MARK – I’ve put the estimated date for getting the DVDs out as December of 2023, but my optimistic guess is that I’ll have it done around this time next year. I’ve already built several of the sets that I’ll need…including a new, from-scratch bridge model. “The Doomsday Machine” is one of those rare episodes where we get to see the entire 360 degrees of the bridge. The model that was built for the last one only needed about 50% coverage.

I’m currently working on the Engine Room model, which is a lot of fun. This episode has a lot of great things that I haven’t had the chance to play with…including the Transporter Room, the Jefferies Tube, and the Shuttlecraft!

Not to mention the damaged model for the U.S.S. Consternation.

JONATHAN – You current Indiegogo says this release will “wrap Stalled Trek up with one last hurrah!” Say it ain’t so, Joe…er, Mark! Will you REALLY stop at three? You KNOW you want to do more!

MARK – I will be stopping with this one, yes.

One of the things I love about doing these is making physical things. The “thing” this time is the boxed set. Once I’m finished, I’ll literally be able to put Stalled Trek on a shelf.

There’s a novelty to doing these that would be lost if you do too many of them. Mad Magazine wouldn’t have worked if they’d only parodied one TV show over and over again.

JONATHAN – I do really love that you’re doing a retro version of the 1980s VHS video cassette boxes for TOS as your DVD packaging. But now that you’ve got that design style, doesn’t that just make you wanna do a few more? I mean, “Spot’s Brain” almost doesn’t need any changes from the original TOS script to become a parody!

MARK – It’s funny, but SCOTTT MANTZ suggested “Spock’s Brain,” as well. He said that since “The City on the Edge of Forever” is the best episode, why not do the worst one? As you said, it’s already its own punchline.

But no, I’ll be stopping at three. What “The Dumbsday Machine” has that the other two didn’t was the space stuff, which is an excellent opportunity to have some fun with the remastered Trek. “Amutt Time” was written way before they were done with those, and “The City on the Edge of Foreclosure” wasn’t really changed that much. “The Dumbsday Machine” is the poster child for remastered special effects.

JONATHAN – Is “City…” ever going to be released on YouTube? Obviously, you want to encourage people to donate right now (a.k.a. order DVDs). But when does “City” finally get let out of the doghouse and onto the Internet?

MARK – I view releasing these to YouTube as the “end of life” phase. Kind of like in the old days when a movie would have its theatrical release, then go to the second run theaters, then get released on home video, then pay cable, then network TV, and then finally it would end up on basic cable, where movies go to die.

“The City on the Edge of Foreclosure” is very much still alive. I have it entered into festivals going up to February of next year.

I’m sure I will eventually put it up on my YouTube channel, but I’m not ready to stick a fork in it yet.

JONATHAN – What was your reaction to the speed of reaching your funding goal in just 3 days? I barely discovered that the campaign was up, and POOF! You were at $4K before I could even give you a little friendly promotion! How did you advertise the campaign, and what do you think is the reason that you reached your goal so quickly?

MARK – What comes between “pleasantly surprised” and “stunned”?

I haven’t done much promotion for “The Dumbsday Machine” campaign yet. I wanted to get the word out first to the backers of my previous films, so I posted updates to my old campaigns and on Facebook and Twitter.

The majority of my backers are return backers. I’m blessed to have several who have been with me since “Amutt Time” …which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

It’s a small audience, but I’m deeply grateful to them. They’ve stuck with me through the whole process, and I can tell you that there were plenty of times during the last film when I would have just given up had it not been for their support and my obligation to them.

I don’t really have an explanation for how it reached its goal so fast. A friend said, “You have a reputation now.” Maybe that’s it?

I’d like to think that’s it. I really hope people have enjoyed what I’ve made and are excited about seeing the new one.

The “Legacy Collection” perk

JONATHAN – I noticed that not every perk in this latest Indiegogo includes the actual “Dumbsday Machine” DVD. That suggests people could decide to fund your project and not get to see the finished film once it’s done. Is that correct, or did I miss something?

MARK – No, there isn’t a DVD for “Dumbsday Machine” included in every perk, only for some . For example, the $70 option just includes legacy items from previous campaigns. IndieGoGo is a bit different than Kickstarter in that you aren’t locked into just a single perk. You can back the same project multiple times to get what you want. So it’s good if you wanted to get something as a gift or get multiple items.

JONATHAN – You’re only a couple hundred dollars away from your $5K stretch goal of the three new trading cards. Do you have other stretch goals in mind beyond that?

MARK – I’ve given thought to a couple. I’ve been looking into some options where I might be able to upgrade the packaging. I’m not counting my chickens yet.

I do want to get the word out as far as I can, though. I’ve heard from many people this past year who missed out on the last campaign.

With this being the 10th anniversary of the first one and all about wrapping up the trilogy, I am enjoying the sense that this is very much like approaching the finish line. The last hurrah, as it were.

I’ve been lucky to have a bunch of backers go on this journey with me, and I hope even more of them will join me for the last mile.

Mark Largent

4 thoughts on “STALLED TREK is crowd-funding its third TOS puppet parody: “THE DUMBSDAY MACHINE”! (interview with MARK LARGENT)”

  1. I believe I was Backer #3 for this new IndieGoGo campaign. I went for the DVD perk, partly because that was what I was most interested in, and partly because I’d agreed to “crowdfunding parity” with the hubby. (So I can only back crowdfunding campaigns to the same (or less) dollar amount as what he’s pledged in other campaigns.) Looking forward to the “giant space burrito”!

    1. Yeah, I opted for just the Blu-ray of the new film, as I already have everything else. In fact, my 11-year-old son Jayden LOVED the flip-comic!

      1. Thanks, Catherine! I like that “crowdfunding parity” idea! Jonathan, I should point out that there isn’t a Blu-ray of The Doomsday Machine period. It is only being released as a DVD this time. I heard back from more than a few of the backers on The City On the Edge of Foreclosure that they didn’t have Blu-ray players and so, I decided to make a DVD boxed set. This will be the first time it (The City On the Edge of Foreclosure) will be on DVD …and at least for now, there will be no Blu-ray of The Doomsday Machine. Thanks to both of you for backing and I love that Jayden enjoyed the comic!

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