Announcing the WINNERS of the 3rd annual DIRECTORS CHOICE fan film awards for 2023!

There are currently two annual contests open to any fan filmmaker where their production(s) can be judged exclusively by a group of their peers. One of these is the SHOWRUNNER AWARDS, which is dedicated exclusively to Star Trek fan films and judged by a panel of fan film showrunners. And the other is the DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS, where the judges are the directors of the submitted films. Unlike the Showrunner Awards (which begin taking submissions later on this month), The Directors Choice Awards are open to fan films in any genre, not just Star Trek.

Created and administered by GLEN L. WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS of WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas, the showrunners behind THE FEDERATION FILES “fanthology” series, the cost to enter was $10 per film, which included consideration in up to six categories (chosen by the submitter at the time they filled out the entry form). Each director of a submitted film was required to cast a ballot in order for that director’s film(s) not to be disqualified. Also, a director was not allowed to vote for their own fan film(s).

As happened last year, this year’s winner for “Best in Fest”—determined by which fan film received the most total votes across all categories—received a $250 grand prize.

Glen Wolfe was very pleased with the depth and variety of applicants for the awards that covered fan film releases in calendar year 2023…

The idea behind contests like these, in addition to honoring the fan filmmakers and their work, is to provide more exposure for these productions. So hopefully, you’ll check out at least a few of these fan films to see something you might like a lot. I did and was pleasantly surprised by more than a few of them.

For a list of all the fan films that were entered, all of the nominees in each category, and all the winners, you can watch their presentation video. Below is a list of the winners and runners up in all the categories, along with YouTube links to those specific fan films.

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THE ICARUS MANEUVER expands the AXANAR saga of THE FOUR YEARS WAR! (video interview with MARK EDWARD LEWIS)

PRELUDE TO AXANAR debuted in 2014 and awed fans with its production quality, acting, costuming, make-up, sound, music, visual FX…the whole shebang. The 20-minute “mockumentary”-style fan film became iconic, a new level of achievement to strive for. And with a cliffhanger ending, fans eagerly awaited the continuation of the saga of the Four Years War between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

And they awaited…and they awaited…and they awaited some more.

Now, a decade later, all of the live action footage of the 19 actors and actresses who will appear in the two 15-minute AXANAR sequels has been shot and is in the can. The project has officially moved into the post-production phase with completion and release scheduled for later on this year. Yes, 2024 will see the long-awaited conclusion to the cliffhanger from ten years ago.

However, a settled copyright lawsuit with ALEC PETERS from 2017 has unfortunately ensured that Axanar will not be the full-length feature film that it was originally intended to be. And that means that many of the jaw-dropping VFX created back in 2015 and 2016 will never see the light of day because Axanar is now limited to a total runtime of a half hour.

Enter MARK EDWARD LEWIS.

Mark is the co-director of the Axanar sequels, along with being one of the sound effects people on the original Prelude. He was also the sound designer on INTERLUDE, the fan-film-of-a-fan-film from 2021 that took place in the Axanar Universe and told a tale of the Four Years War. Interlude was written and produced by me, although it was filmed on the U.S.S. Ares bridge set in Lawrenceville, GA and featured three of the actors (plus one voice actor) who would also appear in the Axanar sequels.

Even though Alec and AXANAR PRODUCTIONS are constrained to two 15-minute sequels by the legal settlement, CBS and Paramount never had a problem with Interlude because it was produced by a different production company (two, actually): FAN FILM FEATURES and AVALON UNIVERSE.

Following that precedent, Mark Lewis has done something very similar. Utilizing the Ares bridge set, actors, and some of the production crew for Axanar, Mark is also using some of those original VFX (many of them, actually) to tell yet another story that takes place during the Four Years War: THE ICARUS MANEUVER. Although written by and featuring Alec Peters as Garth, Icarus was directed and produced by Mark using his own production company and resources.

Mark is a former Hollywood professional with extensive experience, and what he has put together is a six-minute tour de force with production quality and immersion within the action that is seldom seen in Star Trek fan films. (The film is temporarily unavailable.)

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DEFENDERS OF THE FEDERATION shows what STAR TREK might have looked like during the early 1970s… (an interview with JEFF NORD)

Two years ago, Los Angeles-based filmmaker JEFF NORD released an intriguing fan film: COMMANDERS OF STARFLEET. Although less than six minutes in runtime, the short film did a brilliant job of reinterpreting Star Trek as a black and white 1930s/40s-style sci-fi adventure. It was a truly fun viewing experience and excellently crafted to look and feel like Star Trek meets the original Flash Gordon movie-matinee serial.

When Jeff announced that he was working on yet another reimagining of Star Trek, many of use expected 1940s or 1950s-style sci-fi. Instead, DEFENDERS OF THE FEDERATION turns out to be early-1970s in look and concept. Check it out…

Of course, “reimagining” Star Trek in the 1970s isn’t really necessary. The animated series aired in 1973-74, and of course, Star Trek: The Motion Picture caught the last few weeks of the 1970s be debuting on December 6, 1979. That said, there was a tremendous difference between the kind of sci-fi you’d see in the early versus late 1970s, and Defenders of the Federation is definitely in the earlier category.

Nevertheless, I was curious to find out why Jeff decided to “fast forward” the era. And that brings us to part one of a really fascinating interview with LOTS of behind-the-scenes photos…!

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THE FEDERATION FILES: “MOTHER” is based on STAR TREK screenwriter LARRY BRODY’s unsold story idea for VOYAGER! (video interview with DAN and KELLY REYNOLDS)

This is pretty cool! Back in 1968, with a newly-sold novel under his belt, LARRY BRODY (and his wife) moved to Los Angeles to see if he could break into Hollywood as a writer. A science fiction fan, Larry was soon pitching stories for the third season of Star Trek. Although none of his ideas was optioned, in 1972, legendary story editor DOROTHY “D.C.” FONTANA bought Larry in to pitch directly to GENE RODDENBERRY for the upcoming Star Trek animated series.

One of Larry’s stories—which ultimately became “The Magicks of Megas-Tu,” the eighth episode of the animated series that aired in 1973—intrigued Gene, who had wanted to do an episode about the Enterprise encountering God. Ultimately, the network wasn’t comfortable with featuring God in a children’s cartoon, and so the main omnipotent alien became the devil instead.

By that point, Larry’s notoriety as a Hollywood screenwriter was flourishing, and by the end of the 1970s, he was also a producer on the TV series Police Story. Over a multi-decade career, Larry would produce for eight other television series as well as writing dozens of scripts for shows like The Six Million Dollar Man, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Woman, The Fall Guy, The New Mike Hammer, Automan, Walker: Texas Ranger, Diagnosis Murder, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Silver Surfer, and Spawn (to name a small few!). And in 1995, Star Trek: Voyager was added to that list with a second season episode about Chakotay titled “Tatoo.”

Larry Brody isn’t the first Star Trek scriptwriter to also work on a Star Trek fan film. That list also includes the aforementioned Ms. Fontana along with tribbles-creator DAVID GERROLD and TNG and DS9 episode writer MARC ZICREE. But since the fan film guidelines came out in 2016, no Trek writer has been associated with a Star Trek fan film…until now, that is.

THE FEDERATION FILES is a “fanthology” Star Trek fan series created by DAN REYNOLDS and GLEN L. WOLFE, co-owners of the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS in northern Arkansas. Since 2016, they have released fourteen fan films spanning the long history of Trek‘s prime universe from the 20th-24th centuries:

Their fourteenth release, the first since December of 2022, was an adaptation of a story that Larry Brody pitched for Voyager titled “MOTHER.” Set during the TOS-era, their latest production has a very Star Trek “flavor”…

While Larry himself was not available for an interview, I did have a chance to sit down with Dan Reynolds and his wife Kelly to discuss how “Mother” went from Voyager story idea to fleshed-out script to full TOS fan film. The following video also includes a fun rarity in our community: a fan film blooper reel. You can watch that segment starting at the 19-minute mark of this interview…

It’s TIME for two new TREK SHORTS: DESTINY CALLS and BACK TO YESTERDAY (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, Part 2)

In Part 1, I began talking to “Time & CGI Master” SAMUEL COCKINGS about his latest two TREK SHORTS releases DESTINY CALLS (which premiered on November 30 of last year), and BACK TO YESTERDAY (which was posted this past February 10).

They join a looooooong and ever-growing list of Trek Shorts that Sam has written, produced, often directed, and provided jaw-dropping VFX for (along with his team). Indeed, last year alone, in addition to Destiny Calls, Sam released no less than EIGHT other Trek Shorts—almost one per month…!

You can watch all 20 of Sam’s Trek Shorts releases, dating back to 2021, on this YouTube playlist. Meanwhile, here are Sam’s latest two productions, both dealing with time travel in some way, if you haven’t seen them yet…

Sam and I have already discussed Destiny Calls in Part 1 of our interview. So now we shift our focus over to Back to Yesterday

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It’s TIME for two new TREK SHORTS: DESTINY CALLS and BACK TO YESTERDAY (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, Part 1)

Give your time to SAMUEL COCKINGS, and he will give you his time, and we will all have a great time watching fan films about…time!

Time to cover another couple of TREK SHORTSDESTINY CALLS and BACK TO YESTERDAY, the latest two releases from the time lord of Trek CGI in the UK, everyone’s good buddy, Sam Cockings.

Last year, Sam managed to release nearly one fan film per month…!

That’s a whole lotta blogs, let me tellya—so many, in fact, that I had serious trouble keeping up with them all! In fact, just two weeks after my most recent blog about his September and October releases, Sam premiered yet another new fan film on November 30, the aforementioned Destiny Calls, which turned out to be one of my favorites so far. Take a look…

While I loved the CGI renders of all of the ships and shuttles, as I always do, this time what I enjoyed even more was seeing different versions of the same character from various times interacting with each other. This was certainly not the first time Star Trek has ever done this (most recently, Captain Pike encountered his future self—granted, from an alternate reality—in the season one finale of STRANGE NEW WORLDS , and of course, Admiral Kathryn Janeway went back in time to have a little encounter with her past self in the Voyager series finale “Endgame”).

But Sam’s offering was fun in that there were actually FIVE separate versions of his character, William Davis, each plucked from different points of his Starfleet career, each wearing a different uniform but also with different memories of this same event. It was a “small” story (as Trek fan films are limited in run-time by the guidelines), but it didn’t really need to be any bigger. Indeed, as a piece of a much larger tapestry of fan films with many ongoing plotlines, Destiny Calls was just long enough to be enticingly intriguing.

Sam took a well-deserved break in December and January, not releasing any new Trek Shorts. But on February 10, 2024, Back to Yesterday premiered, starring NICK COOK from the long-running Scottish fan series INTREPID playing his character of Captain Daniel Hunter. But this Captain Hunter was from a later time in his career, commanding a different starship. And like William Davis in Destiny Calls, Hunter travels through time himself—backwards about a century or so—to meet an ancestor of Davis who, as it happens, is again played by Sam. It’s less complicated than it sounds, but you can watch it here…

Sam’s father, STEVEN COCKINGS, also appears in yet another Trek Shorts, reprising his role of Lee Galloway from last February’s This Side of Morality.

Anyway, with so much time travel, the time had come to once again chat with Sam. The first part of this interview deals primarily with Destiny Calls

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PLEASE HELP fan film actress ALEX REXFORD become a MOMMY…

When I take the time to recommend donating to a crowd-funder, it’s usually to support a producer trying to make their fan film dream come true. But today’s blog is about a fan film actress and helping her and her husband make their dream of adopting a baby come true.

ALEX REXFORD is the amazing actress who took over the role of Micheala Allenby in THE AVALON UNIVERSE, making her very memorable fan film debut in CRISIS ON INFINITE EXCALIBURS at the end of last year.

Alex will appear again in an upcoming TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE release next month, and later this year, Alex will star in the Avalon series finale THE ONCE AND FUTURE CAPTAIN.

But now Alex and her husband Peter are ready for a different role: being parents. But they need our help.

People who have never adopted a child often ask: “Why does it cost so much?” Adopting a child can range between $25K and $50K!!! There are many reasons for this. In the case of my wife and I adopting our son Jayden 13 and a half years ago, costs included:

  1. A California adoption attorney ($12K) because there are so many legal rstrictions that vary by state.
  2. A California adoption agency ($5K), required for us to register with under California law.
  3. Costs for medical exams, maternity clothing, food, rent, car maintenance, etc. for not one but two birth mothers (as we had a mom change her mind at the last minute—and no, they don’t give you back the thousands of dollars you gave them if they change their mind, and you can’t sue them for it because those were considered “gifts”…since buying a baby violates the 13th Amendment of the Constitution).
  4. Hiring a Louisiana adoption attorney and agency ($12K) at the last minute when Jayden’s birth mother went into labor 5 weeks early in Shreveport, LA, requiring us to fly there rather than flying her here to Los Angeles and therefore placing us under the regulations of the state of Louisiana, which requires an in-state adoption attorney and agency, among other things.
  5. A last-second flight from Los Angeles to Shreveport, hotel stay for ten days until the paperwork cleared with the secretaries of state of both LA and CA, and rental car for that entire time.
  6. Extra hospital costs, as Jayden needed to spend his first few days in the NICU (and because he wasn’t officially our son yet, insurance didn’t cover those costs!).
  7. Believe it or not, hiring a private investigator to track down the birth mother’s estranged husband (wanted or identity theft in Louisiana) in order for him to sign away his parental rights….even though he wasn’t even the real father! (Oh, don’t get me started on Louisiana’s “no bastards” law!)

I wish adoption were less expensive because I know how many couples can’t conceive and would love to adopt. And the costs of overseas adoption and/or IVF are comparable. Have your bank account full, and your credit card handy if you’re not able to make a baby in the more fun, old-fashioned way!

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The curious case of Jonathan’s YouTube channel “SURGE”…

It was recently brought to my attention that a false rumor has begun circulating that I purchased views for my YouTube channel last summer to boost my numbers for some strange reason. (See the above screen cap.)

Of course, this doesn’t address the most obvious question of I why would do this and then never even mention it. I mean, you buy 300,000+ views to…what? Brag? I completely forgot to brag, folks…d’oh!

In fact, I never even noticed it, let alone talked about it. And apparently, it boosted my subscribers by a couple of thousand, as well, and I never mentioned that either until earlier this past week—and even then it was buried deep inside this response (paragraph 3) in the comments under a blog. I mean, if you’re gonna buy that many views, then shout it from the rafters, right?

The other thing I wondered after hearing about this crazy, stupid rumor was: how much exactly do 300,000+ YouTube views cost to buy? I mean, haven’t YOU ever wondered that? Well, you probably haven’t—but I bet you’re curious now, aren’t you? And that’s why I looked it up

Wait…what??

Buying 300K would have cost me more than FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS?!?!?!? Holy second mortgage, Batman! I would be kicked out of the house at warp speed if I did that!

Anyway, I was still kinda curious where this surge came from. I mean, SOMETHING happened last summer! A bump like that doesn’t materialize out of nowhere, and I doubted that anyone else out there liked me enough to drop over a grand and a half buying views for my channel. So where did those views come from?

Turns out the answer was: STONE TREK!

Huh?

Back in 2016, one of my first-year’s blogs was about the hilarious fan series Stone Trek, a brilliant mash-up of Star Trek and The Flintstones. At the time, their episodes appeared on this Angelfire web page using the Adobe Flash player to animate (which is how the episodes were created in the first place).

A couple of years later, a convention organizer from San Diego where I’d be a guest wanted to show Stone Trek along with other shorter fan films as part of a continuous program in one of the smaller panel rooms. So I did a video capture from the Flash player of the five completed Stone Trek episodes and provided them as mp4 files for the convention.

And thank goodness I did!!!

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STARFLEET [JOBS] looks at STAR TREK from a fresh, new perspective… (video interview with STEVE SHIVES)

One of the great things about Star Trek fan films is that many of them approach Star Trek from new and fascinating directions…whether it’s a fan series about a crew of Klingons or Romulans on board a warship, a look at classic TOS episodes from the point-of-view of a redshirt ensign sitting in her quarters on deck 7, or a Star Trek parody featuring talking puppets rendered out in 3D.

Oh, the creative possibilities of fan films are nearly endless!

And the latest fresh idea comes from YouTuber and Podcaster STEVE SHIVES, whose channel has nearly 200K subscribers and more than 3,500 videos!!! Most of his videos deal with pop culture, sci-fi, politics, religion, and of course, Star Trek…nothing that anyone would ever get particularly passionate about, right? But the guy is REALLY hilarious and deeply insightful. If you’re a liberal (like me), his political content is totally on the money. And if you’re a conservative, well, stick to the Star Trek stuff (trust me on this).

Anyway, in April of last year, Steven began releasing what he describes as Star Trek “skits” but I’ve decided to classify as Star Trek fan films because, honestly, they totally are. His first one, STARFLEET LAWYER, was a 15-minute “interview” with Commander Richard Tuckman, Esq., an officer and attorney in the Starfleet Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) corps. Steve plays the role with a sardonic, amusingly resentful flair, as an attorney on a starship turns out to be one of the least respected individuals in the crew. It turns out that captains and first officers always seem to think they’d do a better job as lawyers than someone who is actually trained in law (think: “The Measure of a Man”). As the interview goes on, Tuckman gets increasingly drunk, increasingly sardonic, and increasingly hilariously resentful.

Two months later, Steve was back as Chief Petty Officer Jimmy Gruniger, the Chief Custodian aboard the U.S.S. Knoxville. About as different from lawyer Richard Tuckman as you can get, Gruniger loves his job, even though it’s one of the messiest ones on a starship. But this STARFLEET JANITOR is about as lovable as can be, and just as hilarious as his high-brow predecessor from the previous skit. Take a look…

In October, shortly after the Writers Guild strike ended but while the Screen Actors Guild was still striking along with the United Auto Workers, Steve introduced us to Crewman First Class Albie Milano, STARFLEET UNION REP for the enlisted personnel in the Vehicle Maintenance Department. “Wait!” you say. “How is there a union rep if the Federation doesn’t use money in the future?” Steve deals with this question by setting this interview shortly before the launch of NX-01 in the 22nd century. But it isn’t just about the money. It’s about safety initiatives like installing inertial dampeners and gravity nets throughout the entire ship, and a host of other reasonable concerns. And everything is delivered with an Italian flavored Bronx accent by yet another unique and lovable character.

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AXANAR finally WRAPS principal photography!

It’s a moment that many Star Trek fans thought would ever happen. This past weekend, AXANAR finally wrapped filming for ALL 19 actors set to appear in the two upcoming Axanar sequel fan films!

After a seven-year delay from the originally-scheduled start of principal photography back in February of 2016—interrupted by a year-long copyright lawsuit that ultimately settled, a move across country from California to Georgia, the departure of two directors, the passing of cast members RICHARD HATCH and (very recently) GARY GRAHAM, a pandemic lockdown that prevented filming for over a year, a second move to a smaller and less-expensive studio space, an 8-month cancer treatment and recovery by studio manager DANA WAGNER that delayed reassembly of the bridge set, and simply synching the schedules for more than 50 production crew, cast members, and extras —all the necessary filmed footage of the actors for Axanar is now “in the can,” as they say in the business.

This final shoot was intended primarily to film just two actors, one of whom offered to return to redo their lines while the other had been unable to attend the previous full studio shoot at the end of September 2023. That was an all-hands-on-deck, 3-day production weekend filming scenes involving 7 different actors, a number of whom required significant amounts of prosthetic alien makeup. Compared to that, this final shoot was a much smaller affair, with “only” about 20 people there making up the cast and production crew.

Reports from folks in attendance at ARES STUDIO for this past weekend’s shoot said that it went off without a flaw. MARK EDWARD LEWIS (co-director) and GEOFF FAGIEN (director of photography) oversaw the visual aspects of the shoot—lighting, shot framing, camera motion, etc.—while TED BRUNETTI (co-director) coached the actors through their performances. Alec is keeping the identities of these final two actors confidential for the moment, their names to be revealed at the premiere later this year.

There was also time available for Alec himself to do a few pick-up lines as Captain Garth, lines that were shot previously, but it was felt they could be delivered better (which, reportedly, they were). I actually have some behind-the-scenes footage of some of Alec’s time in the command chair, complements of JEFFERSON KELLEY from BEYOND TREK PODCASTS. The video below doesn’t show either of the two “mystery” actors, but it does give a flavor of how Mark and Geoff collaborated behind the camera while Ted worked with the actors. There’s also a quick 30 seconds at the beginning showing the green screen setup…

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