NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS holds its final shoot in KINGSLAND, GA…so what’s next? (interview with JOSHUA IRWIN, part 2)

In part one, I reported on the dismantling on the TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA, beginning this past weekend. The disassembly is in preparation for a planned move to a new facility, likely somewhere in central Florida (significantly closer to where set owner RAY TEST lives in Baca Raton). A final location has not yet been decided upon, but Ray has narrowed down the choices. Numerous considerations go into the decision, including size of the space, electrical capabilities, A/C and other amenities, safety and accessibility of the new location, etc.

The move was necessitated when the previous next-door tenant at the Kingsland location moved away, leaving half of the building vacant and requiring significant repair costs for the roof on the empty side. The landlord, not wanting to cover the roofing expense while simultaneously being unable to generate half of the rent revenue for the building, has decided to sell it. The landlord is being very kind to Ray, not specifying any particular move-out deadline. Ray is nevertheless expediting the move, taking advantage of the hot summer months when Neutral Zone Studios typically closes for filming anyway.

Two weekends ago, fans and volunteers assembled at the facility for a final two-day shoot for a new episode of TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, directed by JOSHUA IRWIN. In the conclusion of our two-part interview with Josh, we’re going to shift our focus to the shoot itself and the people who were there…

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I had been planning to publish part 2 of the interview with JOSHUA IRWIN about the final shoot at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS two weekends ago. However, that will have to wait until tomorrow, as I need to print a retraction and an apology to KASEY SHAFSKY for something that was inadvertently included in the interview that should not have been.

Josh, in commenting about Kasey (who has been hyper-critical of Neutral Zone Studios for quite a while), included the following remark: “Kasey Shafsky was a part of the first two or three STC episodes ten years ago and was not invited back.”

Kasey responded indignantly on social media with the following two posts…

Josh has asked me to publish the following response, verbatim, to Fan Film Factor

I likewise need to apologize to Kasey for publishing that portion of Josh’s interview. I listened again, and it wasn’t clear whether Josh meant for that part to be off the record, but I should have double-checked with him. My apologies to both Kasey and Josh for that oversight.

I will say that others have mentioned to me in passing that Kasey was not directly involved with the production of STC episodes nor was he in attendance during shoots beyond the third episode of the series, although he did reportedly visit the sets from time to time. It was for this reason that I felt comfortable in including Josh’s comment in the interview.

However, no one has agreed to go on record in confirming (or denying) any of those above statements, so I cannot officially confirm nor deny them other than to say, “I was told off the record.” If anyone wishes to comment on the record, please feel free to post something in the comments or contact me directly. Otherwise, my apology to Kasey stands.

Part 2 of Josh’s interview will appear tomorrow.

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS holds its final shoot in KINGSLAND, GA…so what’s next? (interview with JOSHUA IRWIN, part 1)

Back in 2012, FARRAGUT FILMS moved their TOS set recreations to a new, larger facility in Kingsland, GA and expanded the starship interiors to include nearly everything that existed on the Paramount backlot during the 1960s—eventually adding a two-story Engineering set, as well. In addition to STARSHIP FARRAGUT, a second series, STAR TREK CONTINUES, began filming there, ultimately taking over exclusive use of the entire studio until shooting wrapped in 2017.

At that time, the sets were owned in their entirety by STC showrunner VIC MIGNOGNA. But he was still paying thousands of dollars a month in rent out of pocket to keep the amazing TOS sets from being tossed into the nearest dumpster. In early 2018, however, Vic sold the sets to Boca Raton, FL resident RAY TESI, who took over the Kingsland facility, assumed responsibility for the rent, and shortly thereafter renamed STAGE 9 STUDIOS to NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS.

Ray Tesi

Ray also proceeded to open the sets up to filming by any fan production willing to pay a nominal daily rental fee to cover basic expenses like electricity. Since then, a parade of fan films and series have been shot there, including DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, AVALON UNIVERSE, CONSTAR, RED SHIRT DIARIES, TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE, LET OLD WRINKLES COME, and a host of other projects. Ray has even produced his own fanthology series, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, which has released seven fan films so far.

Over the weekend of July 6-7, Neutral Zone Studios hosted its final shoot in Kingsland, GA with JOSHUA IRWIN directing the latest installment of Tales from the Neutral Zone, an episode titled HISTORY NEVER FORGETS. And starting this past weekend, the TOS sets have started to be disassembled. What’s going on, you ask? I reached out to owner Ray Tesi, but he’s actually inundated right now with the logistics of managing volunteers and equipment to deal with the studio. However, Ray told me to direct my questions to Joshua, so without further ado….

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The TIME has come to submit your ULTRA-SHORT Star Trek fan films to TREKS IN 90 SECS!

Back in February, I announced a fun little challenge for Star Trek fan filmmakers: TREKS IN 90 SECS. With the guidelines limiting the run-time of a Trek fan film to no more than 15 minutes (30 minutes if you make it two parts), it was suggested to me that we take that limit WAY DOWN to just a minute and a half! Could a Star Trek fan film tell a decent story in just 90 seconds???

A number of fan filmmakers eagerly and proudly picked up the gauntlet and did exactly that! They created ultra-short fan film vignettes and posted them to YouTube.

And now it is time for those folks to submit their mini-projects for judging by…well…YOU! I am going to post whatever Treks in 90 Secs links that are sent to me and let the readers of Fan Film Factor decide who gets bragging rights.

Here’s how this is all gonna work…

You can either IM me the YouTube link via Facebook if you’ve already friended me (or want to) or you can e-mail he link to me at news (at) fanfilmfactor (dot) com. If I don’t confirm receiving the link, you ain’t entered.

I will then post all entries to a fresh blog page during the first week of August and let folks vote for their favorite video. Readers will be able to vote for up to three videos. Polls will be open until August 25, and then I will announce the top three winners the following week. After that, they can brag.

And these are the official rules:

  1. The fan film doesn’t need to be “exactly” 90 seconds. It can be less or even a little more. But if you run over two minutes, it’s not gettin’ entered.
  2. The fan film needs to be Star Trek related in some way.
  3. The fan film must be a complete “story” (however you want to define that term). It can be funny, dramatic, sad, exciting, all dialogue, no dialogue, whatever you’d like. But what it can’t be is a segment from an existing fan film. It needs to be 100% new.
  4. A maximum of three fan film submissions per entrant.
  5. Deadline to enter is midnight Pacific Time, July 31, 2024.

And there ya go! Good luck, everyone. Let’s have FUN!

A fresh quartet of ANNA KELLEY episodes of TREK SHORTS! (video interview with NIMRAN SAUND and SAM COCKINGS)

SAMUEL COCKINGS, the British bastion of fan film fabrication, continues to pop out new releases of his TREK SHORTS fanthology series with the speed of tribbles on fertility drugs! And four of Sam’s most recent five offerings have starred the very talented NIMRAN SAUND as the fan favorite character of Anna Keeley.

What makes Keeley so wildly popular is a combination of Nimran’s captivating performances along with the fact that, thanks to Trek Shorts having no specific setting or time frame, the stories can and do jump around to various points in Keeley’s Starfleet career. We’ve seen this character at every rank from ensign to captain, growing and evolving as an officer and a person. And with the most recent Trek Shorts vignettes, we can add Cadet Anna Keeley (in her first year at Starfleet Academy) to the mix.

Speaking of the most recent three releases, they’ve come out in concert with the launch of Sam’s latest GoFundMe crowd-funding campaign, which is already nearly 3/4 of the way to its  £4,000 goal (about $5,100). You can donate at the link below, and even just a little contribution will get Sam that much closer to his target…

The three most recent Trek Shorts each focus on a story from THE LEGACY OF one of the starships EnterpriseTHE NX-01

THE NCC-1701-A

And THE NCC 1701-C

And all feature Sam’s typically gorgeous CGI effects shots.

The fourth recent Trek Short premiered back in March of this year and takes place mainly on Deep Space Nine, an unusual location for a Trek fan film due to the challenge of creating sets, even using CGI. But Sam and his team took on the challenge with some very impressive results. Take a look at LIVING THE DREAM

By the way, you can watch more than two dozen Trek Shorts fan films on this playlist. They are all visually spectacular and form a complex, tapestry storyline across the entire series.

While I’ve interviewed Nimran Saund before, it was a in written text format, which is fine but doesn’t typically provide a true flavor of a person’s energy and presence. I’ve been wanting to get Nim in front of a Zoom camera for an in-person video interview for years, and now I’ve finally gotten the opportunity—along with Sam Cockings himself, of course. But this interview is primarily focused on Nim and the unique challenges of playing the same character at different points of a decades-long Starfleet career.

Nim is simply delightful, and this interview is absolutely worth checking out in its entirety…

Did MATT MILLER write a SONG about LIL’ OL’ ME? I do believe he DID!

Okay, folks, this was totally NOT on my Bingo card for, like, ever!

It’s been more than two years since I last wrote a blog about Trekzone’s MATT MILLER from Australia. And honestly, I was fine not talking about him ever again (except, of course, when he appears in a fan film that I’m covering, like this one).

But, man! When Matt takes the time to not only write a song about me but to have someone professionally sing and record it and then use it to kick off the latest video for his Matt Miller Fan Film Awards show—well, how can I not return the favor and sincerely thank him for thinking of me (apparently constantly!) enough to put in all of this amazing effort?

Anyway, without further ado, this is the song that opened this year’s Trekzone Awards. It’s only 2 and a half minutes, it’s totally surreal, but it’s definitely worth a listen…

Has a kinda JONI MITCHELL vibe, don’t it?

Frankly, I’d be way too embarrassed to ever do anything like that with the annual SHOWRUNNER AWARDS, as they’re meant to celebrate the achievements of fan filmmakers, not serve to extend some silly vendetta. But Matt’s gotta be Matt, I suppose.

And I personally wouldn’t be all that thrilled to win an award for my fan film knowing that the presentation was tainted by some cringe attack song at the opening. I’d probably think twice before showing the video to friends since I’d have to explain what the darn song actually meant. (And what did it mean, by the way? Which side is the “haters” and what “truth” will they see? I have no earthy idea!)

Matt was, of course, careful not to use my actual name or the name of ALEC PETERS (whom he calls “The Producer”—I am, of course, “Fan Film Blogger Dude”), although he does reference my AXANAR-inspired fan film INTERLUDE at one point. But I’m obviously living rent-free inside of Matt’s head for him to include this weird vendetta-ballad at the start of the video (which you can watch in its entirety here; I don’t mind if Matt gets more views, as he certainly needs them).

By the way, I do not typically cover the Trekzone Awards because one of Matt’s requirements for eligibility is that he doesn’t hate you, and he hates a LOT of people in the fan film community (including at least a couple dozen of my close friends—along with me, of course). So each year, there end up being many very deserving fan films that are capriciously excluded from even being considered for a Trekzone Award, as Matt selects all entrants himself and has only two judges: Matt and one other fellow from Australia.

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DECEPTION III technologically goes where no fan film has gone before! (interview with LEO TIERNEY)


“Yer a wizard, ‘arry.” I realize that’s a totally different franchise than Star Trek, but when Hagrid says those words to Harry Potter, he might as well be talking to fellow Brit LEO TIERNEY, as well. Y’see, when it comes to making Star Trek fan films, Leo is totally a wizard…a cutting-edge innovator.

A still from the first Deception fan film

Fans got their first look at what Leo was capable of back in 2013 with his release of STAR TREK: DECEPTION. Clicking that link will take you to my full blog about that fan film, which I hardily suggest you click on and check out, as it includes some awesome “making of” videos along with the production itself. At a time when nearly all 24th century fan films and series were either using green screen and static backgrounds or very simplified sets, Leo constructed a near-perfect and very believable runabout cockpit. And along with some standout performances, top-notch VFX, great camera work, and very tight editing, Deception was a gem of a fan film that made many viewers’ jaws drop with its professional quality.

The amazing Starfleet bridge set from the second Deception fan film

Leo returned five years later with DECEPTION II— if anything even MORE jaw-dropping than its predecessor! Indeed, Leo’s construction of a duo of sets (one a Klingon bridge and the other a Federation starship bridge) in what was an emptied out one-car garage in a quiet English village south of Manchester became interesting enough to merit its own two-part blog. And that blog is worth checking out for the construction photos alone!

It’s been six additional years, but Leo the Wizard is back with DECEPTION III, yet another jaw-dropper. The opening shot alone is enough to make fans go, “How the heck did he do that????” But Leo also did something else truly revolutionary for a Star Trek fan film. However, before I tell you what it was, why not take a look for yourself…

Could you tell what it was? Often, the most game-changing innovations are barely even noticeable at first. And indeed, you might have to look more carefully in this case. Obviously, virtual 3D backgrounds were used for the starship interiors, as is common for many fan films trying to save money on set-building by shooting against green screen and then compositing the backgrounds. And when that happens, even the best chroma-keying has trouble with things like stray hairs, which can either disappear or get pixely unless the actor has a very short, clean haircut.

But with Deception III, all stray hairs are 100% visible! The outer contours of the actors are perfect, showing no hint of aliasing or cropping. As I said, it’s almost unnoticeable beyond something in the back of your head thinking, “Wow, this looks amazingly clear and realistic for a fan film with virtual backgrounds!” So how did Leo manage this? I’ll let him explain in this short-but-fascinating “making of” documentary…

Continue reading “DECEPTION III technologically goes where no fan film has gone before! (interview with LEO TIERNEY)”

From ITALY with LOVE AND HONOR…DELL’AMORE E DELL’ONORE is molto bene! (video interview with JACK PONISSI and his team)

I’m not certain if there has ever been a Star Trek fan film produced entirely in Italy before, but there certainly hasn’t been a major one of note…until now, that is. Benvuto a DELL’AMORE E DELL’ONORE, which translates to welcome to OF LOVE AND HONOR, an artistic fan film from showrunner and writer CARLO “JACK” PONISSI and director WALTER “WEBB” CHIORINO.

More than two and a half years in the making, this fan film got its start back in late 2021 with the launch of a crowd-funder. To show what they had in mind, a short teaser trailer was created with actors show in front of green screen and composited against TOS-era backgrounds, although their hope was to take in enough to construct some practical TOS set pieces. This was their teaser trailer from February 2022, dubbed in English to encourage donations…

Jack reached out to me for help in promoting the campaign, but sadly, the day they launched their GoFundMe, February 26th, Vladamir Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine. Crowd-funding an Italian Star Trek fan film seemed to be the last thing on anyone’s priority list, especially in Europe. Ultimately, they took in enough to buy some uniforms but nothing more, and any dreams of building TOS sets had to be abandoned. Jack himself ended up financing the lion’s share of the production costs out of his own pocket.

Later on, Jack once again requested my assistance in cleaning up the English translation of the script that they had created for dubbing with voice-over actors. While the original fan film that was just released is performed completely in Italian (a beautiful language that I love to hear spoken), they are also currently working on a dubbed English version that will be released some time in the near future. That will make Dell’Amore e Dell’Onore / Of Love and Honor one of the only Star Trek fan films to ever be produced in two different languages.

The Italian version currently has English subtitles which you can turn on tp display in YouTube. As you can see when you watch the film (below), the sets and props are minimal. Indeed, Dell’Amore e dell’Onore / Of Love and Honor feels more like a filmed stage play, which only adds to the unique European flavor of their presentation. In many ways, this film carries the look and feel of an independent foreign film that one might see in a small art house theater showing international fare. It is certainly not your typical Star Trek fan film! Take a look…

Continue reading “From ITALY with LOVE AND HONOR…DELL’AMORE E DELL’ONORE is molto bene! (video interview with JACK PONISSI and his team)”


The year was 1998, and the concept of a “fan film” was still unknown, even to most fans. At the time, ROB CAVES was a member of the U.S.S. Angeles chapter of the STARFLEET INTERNATIONAL fan club, and he invited his fellow members to be a part of a new fan series he was calling VOYAGES OF THE U.S.S. ANGELES. It lasted for one full-length feature and five additional short episodes before Rob evolved the series into STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER, which lasted for seven seasons, releasing  FIFTY episodes of about a half hour each in addition to spawning no less than FIVE spin-off series.

And in the center of all of this—both literally and figuratively, as her character often sat in the command chair on the “bridge” (shot against a green screen)—was JENNIFER COLE. She appeared in a total of 23 of those 50 episodes, plus 6 episodes of spin-off series STAR TREK: ODYSSEY, 2 of spin-off series STAR TREK: HENGLAAR, M.D., and the crossover fan film (with STAR TREK: INTREPID) OPERATION BETA SHIELD. Jennifer also directed that crossover fan film as well as directing 17 episodes of HF! And all told, on her IMBd page, Jennifer has producer credits on nearly FIVE DOZEN Star Trek fan films from HF and various spin-off series!

What’s most notable about all of this is that Jennifer wasn’t particularly interested in filmmaking before all of this began. Although she lived in Los Angeles, CA, she wasn’t really involved with Hollywood (she worked in a local F.B.I. office, of all things!). She had never taken an acting class or a filmmaking class, and she seldom dealt with the technical aspects of video production like camera lenses or the minutiae of green screen compositing. That was always Rob Caves’ department.

Additionally, Jennifer didn’t exactly have what one might call a “Starfleet” body type. Indeed, she struggled with obesity (as many fans do, including myself). But she never shied away from appearing in front of the camera, and that inspired many other fans to do the same, regardless of their appearance. Jenn was proof for any fan who needed it that Star Trek fan films could be made for the fun of it—even though it was often hard work—and that “anyone could make a fan film.” The trick was simply in having the confidence, determination, and organization to just go for it and make it happen.

And Jenn was amazingly organized! Over the years, after co-founding the U.S.S. Angeles in 1995, Jenn served as first officer, commanding officer, and second officer of the club at various points from then onward. Until her health started deteriorating a few years ago, Jenn found a way to attend nearly every chapter event, regardless of how far she had to drive or fly. One of her favorite places to visit was Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas, and I snapped many of photo of her there enjoying herself…

Continue reading “R.I.P. JENNIFER COLE (1967-2024) of STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER”

“CERRITOS, LOST” from TREK SHORTS is a live-action STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS fan film! (audio interview with SAM COCKINGS and MARIE-LOUISE SVALENG)


Before we go any further, just a quick heads-up that the latest annual TREK SHORTS crowd-funding campaign (for 2024) is now up and accepting donations. This year’s goal is £4,000 (about $5,000 in the U.S.), and CGI cobbler SAMUEL COCKINGS is already two-thirds of the way to that goal in just a week! If you’d like to help Sam keep on producing this terrific series of fanthology films, here’s the link to contribute:

Sam’s latest offering, released at the end of this past April, was created specifically to show support for STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS, which is officially reaching the end of its planned 5-year run after this upcoming fifth and final season.

Some fans have chosen to call this a cancellation, although that is not technically true. Star Trek TOS was canceled, as the original plan was for a five-season run, and the show ended after only three seasons. TNG, DS9, and Voyager, each completed their runs after seven years, and few fans use the word “canceled” to refer to those shows and their finales. Enterprise, on the other hand, was unceremoniously canceled after just four seasons, having failed to make it to seven seasons as its older sibling series did.

But enough semantics! The fact remains that many, many fans (including yours truly along with Sam Cockings), greatly enjoy Lower Decks and very much want to see it continue past this final announced season. And yes, I signed one of the many online petitions. But such efforts tend to yield minimal and unreliable results—especially when the streaming industry is contracting rapidly while the board of directors of Paramount desperately tries to sell off the corporation.

So Sam decided to try something a little more flashy to get the attention of Paramount and CBS Studios: he made a Lower Decks fan film! Last year, after the announcement of the cancellation of STAR TREK: PRODIGY—which absolutely was being canceled after only a single season—Sam leapt into action and, in the span of just six days, created and released the first-ever Prodigy fan-film: FLIGHT OF THE PROTOSTAR.

Of course, neither fan film could feature the actual animated characters from those two series, but the ships were certainly fair game! And with some clever writing, Sam was able to tie these two films into the overall plot lines of each series to create an engaging story. Indeed, his latest Lower Decks fan film, CERRITOS, LOST, conveys a wonderful tongue-in-cheek comedic flavor to match that of the streaming series. Take a look…

The film features fan favorite actor and showrunner of INTREPID, Scotland’s own NICK COOK playing Captain Daniel Hunter, as well as the evil A.I. character Grathar. A number of other frequent and infrequent Trek Shorts actors are part of the film, as well, but this is the first time that Sam’s girlfriend, MARIE-LOUISE SVALENG, has appeared in front of the camera. In previous Trek Shorts releases, Marie has voiced Starfleet historian Dr. Louise Nilson, but she had yet to appear on screen.

Continue reading ““CERRITOS, LOST” from TREK SHORTS is a live-action STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS fan film! (audio interview with SAM COCKINGS and MARIE-LOUISE SVALENG)”