Ladies and gentlemen, as I begin my seventh (sheesh!!!) year publishing this blog site, I am very pleased to announce that neither the CBS/Paramount guidelines, the AXANAR lawsuit, COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, high gas prices, the collapse of the crypto market, crazy conspiracy theories, nor Elon Musk buying Twitter have managed to destroy our little niche of a niche of a niche community of Star Trek fan films!
In fact, I’d say we’re as strong as ever!
The challenge I always face when writing these year-end blogs is having waaaaaay too much to cover properly. There are literally hundreds of fans involved in making Star Trek fan films…from writing and directing to acting and producing to building sets and making costumes to doing make-up and writing music to editing and creating amazing visual effects. And there’s no way I can possibly cover everyone and everything that deserves mention.
So once again, I’m going to spotlight a few of the biggest stories and trends of the past year. And thus, without further ado…
A YEAR OF AMBITIOUS CROWD-FUNDERS
Although many fan films are produced on a shoestring budget, others get by with a little help from their friends. And sometimes, they need more than “a little.” And sure, it’d be great if everyone could afford to self-fund their own “hobby” (and some do), but other fan films have loftier ambitions without the accompanying large bank accounts. And for those, crowd-funders can be the solution—if handled properly.
Ever since the guidelines set the crowd-funding limit at $50K, few projects have attempted to raise anything near that. Most barely tried to get more than the four-figure range, although a small number have set goals in the $20-30K range. One such fan film was the long-awaited FARRAGUT FORWARD, a sequel to the long-running STARSHIP FARRAGUT fan series, which ran from 2007 through 2016 (although the final episode, “HOMECOMING,” although filmed in 2016, wasn’t released until the end of 2021).
Led by showrunner JOHN BROUGHTON with professional filmmaker JOHNNY K. of KAOTICA STUDIOS as director, Farragut Forward debuted a jaw-dropping 3-minute teaser trailer in March, set in the TOS movie era, and simultaneously launched an Indiegogo with a $30K goal and 60-day duration. Many (including me) wondered if such an ambitious target could be reached, and two months later, the answer turned out to be YES with $33K donated from 139 backers. The campaign is still active as an “InDemand” status, having raised an additional $2K from another 14 backers, and you can donate to it here.
The next crowd-funder for a Star Trek fan film launched in April with a much more modest goal of $4K, which it managed to raise in just three days. This was a campaign for MARK LARGENT’s next STALLED TREK animated 3D puppet parody, THE DUMBSDAY MACHINE. While many fans have seen his hilarious first Stalled Trek, AMUTT TIME, on YouTube, they probably haven’t seen THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FORECLOSURE, as that one isn’t on YouTube. It’s only available in film festivals (it’s won a ton of ’em!) and through crowd-funders like this one that offer DVDs. And since it’s a parody, the guidelines’ preclusion on selling DVDs doesn’t apply. Anywhoodle, offering collections of all three films (once the final one is completed), Mark managed to raise $6.5K from 60 backers in 30 days and another $700 since then from 11 more backers. It still remains in “InDemand” status if you’d like to order your set of DVDs.
The month of July brought two new crowd-funding campaigns, both relatively modest. The first was an Indiegogo for THE TEST OF TIME, the next production from anthology series TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS. They managed to raise one-third of their $6K goal in just six days and finished after a month with $7,452 from 64 backers. Another “InDemand” campaign (because they surpassed their goal), they’re currently up to $8,232 from 72 backers, and you can still donate here.
The other July Indiegogo actually had a two-month active period, beginning toward the end of The Test of Time so as not to compete much for the same donor dollars. This second campaign was for the AVALON UNIVERSE, and showrunner JOSHIA IRWIN launched the campaign with the premiere of the excellent THE NEEDS OF THE ONE. Unlike the other campaigns, this one really struggled—perhaps because so much had already been donated to previous Indiegogos or possibly because inflation was rearing its ugly head as gasoline fill-ups began to cost more than a steak and lobster dinner! But eventually, Avalon fought its way to and past its $8K goal to reach $11.6K from 88 backers. It’s also still “InDemand,” with an additional $400 from six more donors, and here’s the link if you’d like to be “InDemand” donor #7!
And finally, in October, British Blazer of CGI SAMUEL COCKINGS launched the most ambitious Indiegogo of them all for his TREK SHORTS fan series with a goal of £31,000 (that’s British pounds, which is around $35K-$38K depending on the value of the dollar). Sam pulled out all the stops, including debuting TWO new fan films during the campaign plus releasing multiple trailers for more upcoming productions. But in the end, 40 days wasn’t enough to get him more than 42% of the way to his goal…although £13,191 (or about $16K right now) is still pretty darn impressive! Ultimately, the world economy, especially in the United Kingdom, is probably under too much stress at the moment to support that ambitious of a crowd-funder. And because the campaign fell short of its goal, it’s not in “InDemand” status, and Sam will likely need to launch another campaign next year.
But all in all, that’s four successful campaigns and one nearly successful campaign, three of which made it to five figures, and two into the high four-figure range. While there were a small number of Trek crowd-funders did fall flat this past year, none of them worked with Fan Film Factor to get promotion and coverage, nor did they put in much more than minimum efforts to promote the campaigns. And if you don’t work for it, crowd-funding doesn’t do the work for you.
AND THE AWARD GOES TO…
Starting in 2015, the Star Trek fan film community had an annual awards show—initially called the Independent Star Trek Film Awards and later changed to the BJO AWARDS in honor of BJO TRIMBLE, the woman credited with having saved Star Trek from network cancellation during its original 1960s run. Up until the COVID pandemic, the Bjos were awarded at the annual TREKLANTA mini-convention, organized each year by ERIC L. WATTS. The Bjos went virtual in 2020, and Eric has faced some personal challenges more recently, and so the Bjos are, at least for now, on an hiatus of sorts. “The Bjo Awards program is NOT dead,” says Eric. “It has merely been… interrupted. Once I get my personal life under control, I will return to work on the Bjos and the program will pick up where it left off, with films from 2020 and moving forward from there.”
But this year brought not one but TWO new awards shows organized by prominent and well-respected members of the fan filmmaking community…and both were conceived at just about the same moment. The first contest, THE DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS, was the brainchild of GLEN L. WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS of WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas. Their contest would cost $10 per fan film to enter and allow the submitter to choose up to six categories to compete in. The judges would be the directors of those submitted fan films, with the requirements that they could not vote for their own fan film and, if they failed to vote, their film would not be allowed to win in any category. Entry was open to any fan film, Star Trek or other, released during the 2021 calendar year. About 30-40 films were entered, with the winners announced in April.
The other contest, THE SHOWRUNNER AWARDS, was my idea. A bit different than the Directors Choice Awards, the Showrunners were exclusively for Star Trek genre fan films but were open to any fan film released during the 5-year period from January 2017 through December 2021. This would allow a fan film that didn’t win one year to have as many as four additional tries (no fan film is eligible to win twice). Like the Directors Choice Awards, the Showrunner Awards cost $10 per fan film to enter, although it was $1 additional to enter supplemental categories like best actor or best music or best VFX (much like most independent film festivals), with no limit on the number of categories that could be entered. The judges were a panel of twelve fan film showrunners, and each would vote for their top five choices in order…the top three of which could not be their own film(s). There were 38 entries, and the winners were announced on September 8.
There was also a third new fan film awards show, but I chose not to give it coverage. The reason is that the organizer, MATTHEW MILLER of Australia, complained bitterly about the other two shows charging $10 to enter a fan film. So he launched his TREKZONE AWARDS specifically not charging to enter, which is fine. I had no problem with that. But for some odd reason, Matt felt the compulsion to repeatedly denounce the other two contests for charging an entrance fee…despite more than 75 paid submissions to the two shows combined (in other words, it didn’t seem to bother actual fan filmmakers). Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but the fan film community should (in my opinion) be a place where we support each other rather than tear each other down. When Matt decided to go scorched earth on the other two shows, I chose not to give his awards show coverage nor to participate in it.
By the way, I should remind folks that the Directors Choice Awards are accepting submissions of films released in 2022 until January. Click here to enter (for $10 per submission). I intend for the Showrunners to start up again after the Directors Choice Awards are done. As for Matt and Trekzone, I have no idea, but I’m hopeful that he can move beyond whatever it was that made him so hostile to the Directors Choice and Showrunner Awards.
The year 2022 brought with it some fan films that have spent a lot of time in production and post production. And while none of them was named Axanar, that troubled fan film hasn’t taken nearly as long to get finished as YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL. Begun back in 1985 when teenaged fan filmmaker STAN WOO convinced GEORGE TAKEI to play Sulu in Stan’s project (and later convince actor JAMES SHIGETA to play Admiral Nogura), Yorktown lingered in limbo for nearly a decade and a half until JOHN ATKIN from Toronto reached out to Stan in 2010 and offered to help him finish up production. But even then, and after two crowd-funding campaigns, and even with help from a veritable who’s who of the fan film community, it wasn’t until April 5, 2022—37 years after the start of production—that Yorktown was finally released on YouTube…with a warm and enthusiastic welcome from Trek fans all over the world.
The British-based AMBUSH crowd-funded around $7.2K in a Kickstarter back in 2014. Showrunner GREG LOCK finally released a completed fan film in February of this year.
As I already mentioned, Farragut Forward finally emerged from limbo earlier on this year. Originally announced back in 2016 as Starship Farragut was wrapping up, nothing was heard for more than half a decade. And even though the full Farragut Forward fan film won’t be completed and released until 2023 at the earliest, I’m counting the teaser-trailer because it was just so darn amazing!
And finally, the folks from INTREPID in Scotland just released their humorous (or it is humourous?) homage to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a short fan film titled THE ONE WITH THE WHALES. Filmed on the streets of San Francisco (and Alameda and Monterey) back in 2016, this project had been sitting in post-production dry dock until late November on the 36th anniversary of the theatrical release of Star Trek IV.
So don’t lose faith, folks! While some fan films don’t ever get finished, others just need a half-decade or decade or maybe even two or three decades to finally come out!
Speaking of finishing fan films, no one can accuse VANCE MAJOR of taking too long with the releases from his numerous CONSTAR series. Over the course of 6 or 7 years, Vance managed to produce and release a total of 146(!!!) Star Trek fan films featuring his character of Erick Minard (in all its many iterations!) And that doesn’t include Vance’s appearances in other fan series like STARSHIP VALIANT and THE AVALON UNIVERSE.
Vance has been a staple of our fan film community this entire time, and his parade of new releases—sometimes appearing almost weekly!—provided a recurring reminder that Star Trek fan films come as much from the heart as from the camera. Not only that, but Vance’s frequent collaborations with other fan filmmakers for everything from brief cameos to full-on crossovers with other fan series helped to bring our community closer together, and Vance was generous in letting “newbies” have opportunities to write, produce, edit, and even direct episodes of “his” various Constar series.
Earlier this year, Vance announced his impending retirement—and this time, he meant it! (He’s “retired” from fan films a couple of times in prior years.) Vance is still involved in the fan film community to an extent, but he’s not actively making his own Star Trek fan films anymore. You can watch his entire catalog of releases on this YouTube playlist.
Vance also released an impressive (and impressively long!) 4-hour retrospective titled CONSTAR: BOLDLY GOING, documenting the incredible path that he’s traveled these past several years. It featured interview and commentary segments with scores of fan filmmakers, actors, writers, directors, and other collaborators who had joined Vance on his trek (including me).
May the winds be ever at your back, Vance.
IF ONE IS GOOD, MORE IS BETTER
Speaking of Vance Major, he’d be the first to tell you that his fan films are pretty “humble” in terms of budget, production values, etc. Other fan films and series are more ambitious and complex, and completing and releasing even one of them in a calendar year is an impressive accomplishment (while Vance releases dozens!).
So I’d like to make a shout-out to those fan filmmakers who have managed to produce and release multiple fan films this past year…
RANDY LANDERS – Over the past decade-plus, POTEMKIN PICTURES has birthed twelve different creative teams, and six are currently active. As such, it’s probably not surprising to learn that Randy and his teams have released a total of TEN new fan films in 2022: three for STARSHIP WEBSTER, two each for the long-running STARSHIP DEIMOS and the just launched STARSHIP CALIBORN, one for the even-more-recently-launched SCOUTSHIP QAB’ELTH, the one-off FIREHAWK, and the “missing link” between their first fan series PROJECT:POTEMKIN and its relaunch under next management next year.
SAMUEL COCKINGS – On the one hand, Sam’s TREK SHORTS series of fan films mainly rely on actors shot—one or two at a time—in front of a green screen with digital backgrounds composited in. Easy, right? Not so fast. Those digital backgrounds of sets from starships and shuttles throughout Star Trek‘s history are uncanny. And add in jaw-dropping CGI effects sequences, and Sam’s films are wonders to behold. So completing one or even two would be impressive enough. But this past year, Sam premiered SEVEN new Trek Shorts films plus a few trailers for upcoming releases, all of which are totally worth checking out (and you can do so here).
JOSHUA IRWIN – The skill and finesse that go into fan productions from THE AVALON UNIVERSE are truly impressive. Shot on the TOS sets at both WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas and NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Georgia, Josh isn’t afraid to drive thousands of miles to shoot a fan film! Over the course of the last four-plus years, Josh has managed to release eleven Avalon fan films ranging from short vignettes to full-length productions with both interior studio and exterior on-location footage, plus amazing VFX, incredible music, great lighting and sound, perfect editing, and awesome acting performances. You can view all of those releases here, including the latest two—NEEDS OF THE ONE and THE TRUTH WITHIN—both released this year. In addition, Josh helped out on three non-Avalon fan films for other showrunners as director/DP on DOOMSDAY from TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE and as director of photography two from DREADNOUGHT DOMINION (see below).
GLEN WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS – Beginning in late 2017 and continuing through the end of last year, THE FEDERATION FILES “fanthology” series had completed and released an impressive ten full-length fan films. Now 2022 has brought that total to an even dozen with MUDD’S MISSION and ESCAPE FROM MAGNA ROMA. Watch all of their releases here.
NICK COOK – The INTREPID folks in Scotland have been making Star Trek fan films since your grandfather was in diapers (assuming your grandfather is still in high school), and this year brought two new additions to the parade: PURSUIT OF A DREAM (with some amazing de-aging and space VFX work from Sam Cockings) and THE ONE WITH THE WHALES (an adorable parody which was filmed waaaaaay back in 2016!).
GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN – DREADNOUGHT DOMINION released “MOM” on Mothers Day and then released “THE REPLACEMENTS” in late October. In between, Gary and Randy released the second installment of their spin-off fan series PROJECT: RUNABOUT, an ambitious fan film called “YORKTOWN,” a good potion of which was shot on an actual World War II aircraft carrier floating museum.
JUSTIN LEE – During April of 2022, a hitherto unknown fan filmmaker from Toronto, Canada came out of nowhere and amazed Trekkers by creating an animated version of a short 2-minute sequence from TNG‘s ultra-popular “The Best of Both Worlds” in the style of the cartoon 1970s Filmation Star Trek series. It was brilliantly done! Two months later, without any fanfare, he released a second animated short, this one about 5 minutes and adapting one of Voyager‘s most cringe-worthy episodes, “Threshold.” If anything, it was even better! Justin hasn’t released any additional animated adaptations since the summer, but we’re hoping for more!
AARON VANDERKLEY – The fan film “Wonder from Down Under,” Aaron and his team from Perth, Australia produced five amazing NX-era fan films between 2016 and 2019. You can watch them all here. They took two years to reenergize before jumping back in Star Trek fan films and also jumping from the 22nd to the 24th century of Starfleet history with a new fan series called “THESE ARE THE VOYAGES.” Their first release in this new era, BEYOND THE SUN, came out last year, and this year added two more excellent productions: OUTBREAK and the just-released RESISTANCE.
And there you have it, folks. Another VERY healthy year for Star Trek fan films. What’s in store for next year? I know about quite a few new projects in works, and I’ve already reached out to a bunch of fan filmmakers—both established and just emerging onto the scene—for what I’m sure will be some great interviews and exciting productions in 2o23! Stay tuned…