AXACON schedule released – and I need YOUR questions for J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, and ALEC PETERS!

The first-ever AXACON is less than three weeks away, and ALEC PETERS has just released the schedule.  It’s a pretty busy weekend, filled with all kinds of activities and panels…most of them focused on AXANAR (both past, present, and future), but also a few opportunities to expand beyond just one fan film.

Here’s a look at some of the things that will be going on:

FRIDAY

  • A set tour of OWC Studios (including photo ops on the USS Ares bridge)
  • A reading from the full 90 minute version of the Axanar movie script (featuring J.G. Hertzler, Gary Graham, Alec Peters, and Steven Jepson)
  • Socialize at the bar with the actors and Axanar team (donor funds will NOT be used to pay the bar tab!)

SATURDAY

  • The Top 10 Star Trek fan films (at least in our opinion…and we don’t all agree!)
  • J.G. and Gary talk about their time on televised Star Trek
  • An Axanar UPDATE with Alec Peters and director/co-writer Paul Jenkins
  • Alec discusses how the Honor Harrington novels influenced Axanar
  • A special Axanar donor lunch with the actors and production team
  • Axanar fan fiction with three people who are writing/drawing/animating it
  • Alec and Paul discuss the evolution of Axanar from story to screenplay
  • The Axanar fleet – designing cool starships from 20 years before TOS
  • A preview of upcoming Star Trek fan films
  • Klingon kostuming…er, costuming
  • The Axanar project from a fan’s perspective
  • Everyone hits the bar again, including J.G. and Gary

SUNDAY

  • Starship combat in the Axaverse (when did we start calling it that?)
  • J.G., Gary, and Alec discuss working on Prelude to Aanar and plans for the remaining two Axanar films
  • When fan films become professional independent films…what does the future hold?
  • Alec discusses James T. Kirk’s hero: Garth of Izar, and Steven Jepson discuss the infamous “Admiral Scaredy”: Conrad Slater
  • Axanar trivia…with PRIZES!

As you can see, a lot of careful consideration went into filling this mini convention with diverse content while still keeping it centered around Axanar.  I think the organizers did an excellent job with that.

They also scheduled me to host five panels and appear on an additional three…for a total of EIGHT panels in THREE days!  Oy.  But in one of those panels, I have to interview J.G. Hertzler, Gary Graham, and Alec Peters about their work on Prelude and plans for the two upcoming Axanar films.  And that’s where I need YOUR help…

Continue reading “AXACON schedule released – and I need YOUR questions for J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, and ALEC PETERS!”

A different kind of fan film: I’m a fan of Elysa…

Please indulge me as I take a quick break from Star Trek to spotlight a very special little girl and her amazing parents… and an inspirational song and music video for anyone facing illness, adversity, or just being dealt a bad hand in life.

I first met ELYSA  SHAPIRO a little over a year ago at the beginning of first grade for my son, Jayden.  His school admits a wide diversity of students, and Elysa was no exception.  She had leukemia.  She’d been diagnosed a year earlier, and her treatment and hospitalization had resulted in her missing her entire kindergarten year.  Faced with the choice between of holding Elysa back or letting her start school as a first grader with children her own age, Elysa’s parents, HOWARD and NANCY, decided on the latter.

It wasn’t an easy decision.  While the other kids in her new first grade class had all shared the lessons and social development of kindergarten together, Elysa had spent the prior year in and out of hospitals, wearing a mask to filter out any germs that could overwhelm her immune system, and undergoing chemotherapy and other agonizing and exhausting cancer treatments at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

As welcoming as Jayden’s school is to new children and those with unique challenges, it was still a sometimes-traumatic experience for Elysa.  Although most days, Elysa was just fine, with a smile and laugh and courteous demeanor that melted my heart, other days I would see her struggling, sobbing, crying to her mother not to leave her.  During those first few months of first grade, while the other kids would be picked up at the back gate in the afternoon, Elysa often wouldn’t even make it through a full day and had to be taken home early.

Her treatments were still going on, and Elysa’s mom and I would occasionally chat about how things were progressing for Elysa.  It broke my heart to hear what this sweet little girl had to go through.

Continue reading “A different kind of fan film: I’m a fan of Elysa…”

QUICK TREK brings IMPROV to Trek fan films! (interview with DAVID WHITNEY)

For the last couple of years, if you wanted to see the USS Voyager and its crew in a Star Trek fan film, the place to look has been STARFLEET STUDIOS in Iowa (not to be confused with Starbase Studios; that’s a whole different life form) and show-runner DAVID WHITNEY.  David is an avowed Voyager fan and has already made a name for himself and his production company with a series of Voyager Continues fan films including the half-hour long RAVEN from 2016 and the short fan film DERELICT.

With plans in motion for more Voyager and Raven productions, David has also busied himself with a new and unique series of five “QUICK TREKS” (not to be confused with Short Treks, since David’s fan films came first), each running between two and four minutes.  The first Quick Trek debuted last November and focused on Captain Janeway’s quest to order a simple cup of coffee while being “thwarted” at every turn by a friendly and helpful barista.  Take a look…

The next four episodes of Quick Trek were all released nearly simultaneously at the end of May 2018 and shifted the setting to a Cheers-like bar and even featured the Cheers musical theme during the intro and over the closing credits.  This time, the characters were a motley crew made up of Counselor Deanna Troi (played by TAWNYA HOLLY), an unnamed Vulcan (played by JIM VON DOLTEREN of the fan series Starship Republic), along with Harry Mudd and Chakotay (both played by DAVID WHITNEY).

Here’s one of their “Cheers” episodes to give you a taste of what these other four Quick Treks are like…

I’ll save the rest for the later in this blog.  Right now, I’d like to share with you what turned into a very surreal interview with the always-surprising David Whitney…

Continue reading “QUICK TREK brings IMPROV to Trek fan films! (interview with DAVID WHITNEY)”

STAGE 9 STUDIOS opens up the STAR TREK CONTINUES sets to fans…FOR FREE! (October 19-21)

For years, if you wanted to see the Kingsland, Georgia sets being used to film the legendary fan series STAR TREK CONTINUES, you needed to either be working on the production itself or else a very special VIP.  But now STC has wrapped filming, and the sets have been purchased by super-fan RAY TESI.  And Ray is opening the Stage 9 Studios sets for the first time ever to the fans to come, look at, take pictures of, and even talk to some of the cast and production crew of STC itself!

The event is happening in a week and a half, and is open to any fan.  No tickets are needed, and admission is FREE!  You can get a behind-the-scenes look at Stage 9 Studios‘ starship sets, walk through the corridors, visit engineering, the transporter room, sickbay, the captain’s quarters, the iconic bridge, and more!

The guests include

  • VIC MIGNOGNA – STC‘s Captain Kirk
  • CHRIS DOOHAN – STC‘s Scotty (and son of actor James Doohan)
  • LISA HANSELL – STC producer and make-up supervisor
  • GINGER HOLLEY – STC costumer and designer
  • SARAI DUENAS – The actress who played Miramanee’s child in STC‘s episode “The White Iris”
  • JOE HALDEMAN – Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author
  • ROBERT MASON – Vietnam War veteran and author of several books including the sci-fi novels “Weapon” and “Solo”
  • KAVITA MAHARAJ – Artist best known for her acrylic medium Spock paintings
  • SAMUEL COCKINGS – “Trekyards” co-host, VFX artist, and fan filmmaker

The studio will be open for three days at the following times:

FRIDAY, OCT 19 – 2:00 PM-7:00 PM
SATURDAY, OCT 20 – 9:00 AM-7:00 PM
SUNDAY, OCT 21 – 9:00 AM-6:00 PM

There will be activities and ample opportunity to take photos…including sitting in the captain’s chair (a must!).  Here’s what’s in store:

  • Fan Film Production Q&A
  • Panel Discussions
  • Workshops
  • Special Effects Makeup Demos
  • Prop and Costume Displays
  • Trek Trivia Game Shows
  • Fan Art Demo
  • Vendor Tables
  • Fan Film Audience Participation
  • Fan Film Mania

Also, the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION will be filming there on Friday afternoon for anyone who wants to watch the magic happen.  (They might even need a few extras!)

Check out all the details at: https://www.stage9studios.com/visit

Stage 9 Studios

is located at:

516 W William Ave
Kingsland, GA  31548
(just minutes off I-95)

CBS ALL ACCESS releases its version of a fan film: SHORT TREKS (editorial review)

WARNING: there will be some spoilers LATER,
but I will give you ample advance notice.

Going in, I wasn’t certain what to make of the first of CBS All Access’ SHORT TREKS, four “mini-episodes” of Star Trek to be released once a month leading up to the January premiere of season two of the Discovery series.

I’ll be honest, part of me was ready to hate it.  It’s no secret that I was mostly disappointed and frustrated with nearly every episode of Star Trek: Discovery‘s first season.  And these Short Treks seemed to be just a way to “lure” fans into paying extra money to CBS not for 4 or 5 hours of new Trek episodes each month but for only 10 or 15 MINUTES of these brief vignettes.

Adding insult to injury for Trek fans outside of the U.S. and Canada (which are getting to see these four short films on the subscription services All Access and Space, respectively), Netflix has decided NOT to offer Short Treks…at least for now.  TrekMovie has some theories as to why (which you can read here), but basically, CBS offered and Netflix passed, as the latter service is more geared toward binge-watching behavior and accepts short films in batched packages, not one at a time.

So Short Treks was carrying a lot of baggage right out of the starting gate, for me and others.  Some fans have even been suggesting recently that CBS ripped off the concept of a short stand-alone vignette from fan films themselves.  To them, I say: so did Battlestar Galactica with “The Resistance” in 2006, “The Face of the Enemy” in 2008, and “Blood and Chrome” in 2011.  The Walking Dead has done numerous short-film webisodes also.  In other words, just because CBS had the idea to make mini-episodes, that doesn’t mean they “stole” the idea from fans…or from Syfy or AMC.  Sometimes a good idea is just a good idea.

But to me, at least, the first Short Trek, an episode entitled “Runaway” which debuted October 4, felt a lot like a fan film…especially now that CBS’s guidelines are limiting the run-time of Trek fan films to no more than 15 minutes.

The question is, though, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Continue reading “CBS ALL ACCESS releases its version of a fan film: SHORT TREKS (editorial review)”

Life after STAR TREK CONTINUES – cast members REUNITE for WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS!

When STAR TREK CONTINUES completed its 11-episode run of superb Trek fan films, fans of the series wondered, “What’s next?”  It seemed a shame that such a talented group of actors, writers, directors, and production crew would simply go their separate ways.  Alas, that is all too often the case in show business.  But not this time…at least, not for everyone.

Although many members of the STC team did, in fact, move on to other endeavors, a small number reunited for a special independent short film project titled WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS.  The cast included STC alumni VIC MIGNOGNA (Captain Kirk) along with veteran Trek actors JOHN “Q” DeLANCIE, REKHA SHARMA (from Star Trek: Discovery and the new Battlestar Galactica), and MICHAEL FOREST (who played Apollo both in the original series episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and also in the first full-length STC episode “Pilgrim of Eternity“).  STC cast member (and writer) KIPLEIGH BROWN was initially slated to appear in Train… but had to pull out at the last moment due to a family emergency.  She was replaced by Rekha Sharma.

Also boarding the Train… cast were STC alumna ÉMIE MORISETTE, who appeared in the final two-part episode of STC, along with voice-over actor DARREN JACOBS, whose vocals were part of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Dunkirk, and Papillon.  Directing Train… was STC director/writer/producer extraordinaire JAMES KERWIN, and STC‘s make-up supervisor and producer, LISA HANSELL, served as producer for Train…

An Indiegogo last November reached its $43,000 goal with just eight hours to spare, allowing the campaign to extend indefinitely as “In Demand” status.  Since then, their donation total has grown to more than $51,000…allowing them to not only film all the scenes but also to wrap up post production and release a completed film, which happened in mid-September in a special early release perk for certain donors.  The rest of the donors (like me) got to view it as a private download early this past week.  And let me tell you, it was EXCELLENT!  The 20-minute film was expertly crafted with an engaging story that provides a wonderful Twilight Zone twist at the end.  It’s definitely worthy of viewing.

So when can YOU see it?

Continue reading “Life after STAR TREK CONTINUES – cast members REUNITE for WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS!”

CONVERGENCE launches new INDIE-GOGO campaign (audio interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

Welcome to CONVERGENCE…a fan production uniting FIVE accomplished fan films and series from FOUR different countries into ONE amazing crossover event!

And YOU can help make it all possible.

These folks have already completed one video shoot with four of their five primary actors: NICK COOK from Star Trek: Intrepid (Scotland), ROBIN HIERT from Star Trek: Dark Armada (The Netherlands), and CHRIS BURDETT and NIMRAN SAUND from the upcoming Temporal Anomaly (Great Britain).  They also have a number of jaw-dropping VFX created by SAMUEL COCKINGS, life-long Star Trek fan and co-host/co-creator of the popular webseries “Trekyards.”  Some of this CGI will include the Archer-class starship from the original Star Trek: Renegades, as well as the villains from that fan film, the Syphon.

Their project is already well underway.  But now they need $5,500 to complete it, and they’ve just launched a new Indiegogo campaign. Fan donations will allow Samuel to fly in his full cast for a second studio green screen shoot to get the rest of their scenes filmed with proper lighting, sound, and staging.  This will include their final main actor, JIM VON DOLTEREN from Starship Republic, who will be flying to the U.K. from America, along with the others.

They’ve got some really nice perks that you can choose from, and thanks to a series of preview teaser promos released over the past month, the campaign is already off to a decent start, taking in about 9% of the goal in the first 24 hours (including $60 from me).  It also has one of the most impressive “ask” videos that I’ve seen for a crowd-funding campaign in a very long time.  Check it out…

After you watch that video, you’ll probably be excited enough to donate.  But even if you’re not, you should listen to this really awesome audio interview with Samuel.  Not only do we discuss Convergence, but we also discuss Temporal Anomaly, his interactions with CBS legal, the fan film guidelines, and a host of other topics that you’re certain to find, as Jean-Luc Picard would say, engaging…

Click here to donate.

AXACON ticket prices LOWERED from $85 to $50!

AXACON is now exactly one month away, and ticket prices for the weekend convention have just been lowered from $85 (not counting online processing fees) to $50.

This price reduction is based on a different scope to the ticket being purchased.  Initially, attendees would be required to first buy a $60 ticket to SphinxCon (celebrating the Honor Harrington book series) and then add on a $25 Axacon ticket.  The attendee would then be able to attend BOTH conventions.

But although attendees for SphinxCon were allowed to opt out of Axacon and simply buy the one ticket, attendees to Axacon had to buy a ticket for both…even if they didn’t really care about or were completely unfamiliar with the Honor Harrington novels (like me).

The challenge for ALEC PETERS and the organizers of Axacon was this: they’re “piggybacking” their convention on top of an existing convention.  SphinxCon is paying all the bills for the hotel facilities, and Axacon is then using a small section of their convention area for a weekend of panels and events.  So it seemed logical to Alec (at the time) to require all Axacon attendees to buy a regular ticket for SphinxCon.  That way, SphinxCon would recoup some of the added costs for the extra hotel space.

Yeah, it seemed logical.  But then again, so did this comment from ERIC L. WATTS, the chairman of the annual TREKLANTA convention: “You’re looking at a minimum of $85 for admission to Axacon, which to me, seems rather pricey for what you get if you’re not interested in Honor Harrington.”

“Fair enough,” thought Alec.  “I may be a huge Honor Harrington fan, but we can’t expect everyone to be!”  After discussing the situation with DAVID WEINER, who manages SphinxCon, the two came up with the following new pricing policy:

Axacon-only ticket: $50 – can attend only Axacon panels and events.

SphinxCon/Axacon-combo ticket: $75 – can attend panels and events for both conventions.

In this way, SphinxCon still gets reimbursement for sharing their hotel space (half of each Axacon ticket), but Axanar supporters no longer need to pay for a separate SphinxCon ticket if they have no intention of going to the Honor Harrington panels.  Or they can buy a combo-ticket for both.  Also, information on one-day tickets will be posted soon, as well.

Those Axacon attendees who have already purchased a SphinxCon ticket and don’t want to use it will be given a refund.

You can order Axacon tickets here.

5-in-5! STARSHIP TRISTAN releases its 16th fan film: “Distant Echoes, part two”!

Five fan film releases in five weeks!  Last week, POTEMKIN PICTURES had gone four-for-four, releasing a new fan film for three of their six (soon to be seven!) active fan series…including two from the STARSHIP TRISTAN creative group.  Well, make that THREE from Tristan, as “Distant Echoes, part two” completed their first-ever mutli-part episode late last week.

As explained previously, the run-time of the full episode was 18 minutes, above the 15-minute limit set forth in the fan film guidelines.  So the Potemkin folks decided to cut this fan film in two.

I asked show-runner RANDY LANDERS whether we’d be seeing a sixth new fan film next week…

This pretty much gets us caught up for the time being. (All hail the time being!)  We have six in post-production.  Oh, we shot one last Saturday.  Make it seven in post-production.  Two nearing completion.  We generally release six months after we film.

I then asked what “caught up” means….

“Caught up” is six releases.  It takes six months for a production to go from the completion of principal videography to release:

  • 1st month: capturing and editing
  • 2nd month: sound and ADR
  • 3rd month: final edit with sound (color correction and other tweaks are in the 3rd month as well)
  • 4th month: VFX guys
  • 5th month: music guys
  • 6th month: release

So if we have six in post, then we’re on target.  It’s a PROCESS. And it’s what works for us.  This is why so many fan films never make it.  They don’t know what to do after they shoot their movie.

Also, we use the 96% rule. If it’s good to the point of being 96%, then it’s time to move to the next step. The remaining 4% is not worth the expenditure of time and energy required to get to 100%.  That 4% is the law of diminishing returns.  That’s a harsh measure to produce by, but it’s what works for us.

I’m aware of everything in our films that’s not perfect, believe me. We have five producers with eagle eyes, but we ask ourselves: “Is the problem worth fixing?”  Most of the time, we can do it immediately. But when an actress or actor is not available for ADR or reshoots, then guess what? Time to cut your losses.

Coming up next: Endeavour and Kupok!

In the meantime, you can access all the dozens and dozens of Potemkin Pictures fan films from their website.  And check out the conclusion of “Distant Echoes” below…

CBS has SHUT DOWN fans creating a free VIRTUAL REALITY Enterprise-D Walk-Through!

Well, $#*&!

One of the most mind-blowingly exciting and immersive fan projects EVER has just received a Cease and Desist letter from CBS.  And I’m not just speaking in hyperbole here.  The STAGE 9 project was virtually (pun intended) guaranteed to get an “OMG…I can’t believe this exists!” from Trekkies who discovered it.

It wasn’t a fan film but rather a virtual reality recreation of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D…not just from the outside but also from the inside!  What began back in 2016 as just a simple art project by a Trek fan in the UK trying to make a really nice 3D recreation of the TNG bridge quickly grew to so much more!

Using the fourth iteration of the Unreal Engine from Epic Games, an open-source way for anyone to design and build their own virtual reality simulations for first-person shooters and the such, a number of developers from around the world hopped on board with this U.K. artist to improve and expand what the newly-dubbed “Stage 9” project had to offer.

New version by new version, more decks and destinations were added to the virtual walk-through: the observation lounge, Picard’s ready room, the hangar deck (a very BIG hangar deck!), sickbay, transporter rooms, battle bridge, Picard’s quarters (with Ressikan flute!), Data’s quarters, Worf’s quarters, engineering, ten forward, nine forward, other crew lounges, flight deck control operations, the arboretum, the brig, science labs, computer core, holodecks, phaser range, and endless corridors.

But that’s not all!

Continue reading “CBS has SHUT DOWN fans creating a free VIRTUAL REALITY Enterprise-D Walk-Through!”