The COVID vaccination is a shot in the arm for fan filmmakers…but only if they get it! (editorial)

Most of my readers, I am hopeful, are either planning to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines or have already gotten one or both (if necessary) shots. And if you are one of those people, I applaud you!

In fact, as of this week, I have joined the partially-vaccinated group, having received my first dosage of the Moderna vaccine. (California just opened up vaccinations to people with obesity…the only good thing to ever come from my chronic weight problem!)

I am pleased to report that, with the exception of a ridiculously sore left upper arm for 36 hours—which is now mercifully back to normal—I am feeling just fine. I didn’t die or go into anaphylaxis; I didn’t pass out or grow a second head.

In fact, now that I’ve gotten my first vaccination shot, there’s only unusual thing that I’m feeling:

AN AMAZING SENSE OF RELIEF!

Honestly, folks, I hadn’t realized how much I’d been living with this almost constant pounding of fear and dread these past 14 months. Like some crazy end-of-times sci-fi horror movie, there was literally a super-virus out there that could kill me! And sure, COVID-19 isn’t necessarily fatal to everyone, but when you’re 5′ 9″, 255 pounds, and have hypertension, this unpredictable virus was more likely than not to do a serious number on me…and possibly even end my life at 54. When you feel as though you’re taking a potentially fatal risk just by going to Costco…that’s stress!

Now, I realize that, with the Moderna vaccine, one dosage isn’t enough yet. Full immunization doesn’t come for me until my second shot in the middle of April. But for the next four weeks, the odds of my surviving an infection if I get one just shot up considerably!

It’s troubling to me that a number of people in our fan film community are not planning to get the vaccine (I won’t name names). In fact, I was texting one of my own INTERLUDE team members that I was at Rite Aid awaiting my shot, and this person sent me back the following IM…

You’re really going to take vaccine that hasn’t been through more than 4 months of clinical trials? You really are a gambler. Also, do note, that you’ll be 3 times more contagious for 2 weeks after you take the vaccine, so you’ll want to have st. john’s wort on hand for your family. There’s a high likelihood they’ll get it from you.

Nothing like getting a little emotional shot in the arm just before you get an actual shot in the arm! So I showed the message to Helen, my Rite Aid pharmacist. I’ve known this woman more than a decade, and I’ve literally trusted her with my life as well as the lives of my wife and son.

Helen explained something to me about the vaccine that I was unaware of…

Continue reading “The COVID vaccination is a shot in the arm for fan filmmakers…but only if they get it! (editorial)”

The stop motion fan films STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE II – “The Crossing” and “The Beginning of the End”! (feature)

Two of the most ambitious and visually stunning Star Trek fan films you will ever see don’t feature a single human actor on the screen. Instead, both fan films star action figures from the Art Asylum line for Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (plus a Terminator action figure thrown in for good measure).

One of these fan films took two and a half years to complete…the other took more than eight years! Both of them will blow you away, and you’ll be even more blown away when you go behind-the-scenes to see the meticulous work and craftsmanship that went into each one.

JÜRGEN KAISER lives in the Bavarian region of German, and he has always loved Star Trek. As a teenager, going to the annual FedCon convention in Augsburg, Germany, he dreamed of one day showing a fan film of his own up on the big screen. In 2005, when Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled, Jürgen decided that the show had ended too soon. He wanted to see more of the crew of NX-01. And if Paramount Studios wasn’t going to oblige, then this 24-year-old living in Schweinfurt was going to have to do it himself!

JÜRGEN KAISER

Interestingly enough, Jürgen wasn’t an actual Trekkie, per se. He just really liked the Enterprise series and wanted to see more of it. Of course, Paramount had had tens of millions of dollars to spend and access to actors like Scott Bakula and Jolene Blalock. All Jürgen had was a bunch of 7″ and 8″ Art Asylum action figures, some paper, cardboard, scissors, an SLR camera…and a great deal of patience and persistence.

But Jürgen also had a very specific set of skills he had learned and honed from working with his father. Jürgen knew how to make precise, meticulous models—miniatures of larger items that he would study carefully and painstakingly reproduce.

Filmmaking had always inspired Jürgen, and he’d watch countless “making of” special features while growing up, learning a lot. His day job as a measurement specialist of oil channels in automatic transmissions at an automotive supplier did not provide much opportunity for creative expression. So to bring a little balance to his life, Jürgen founded the JK Produktion Stop Motion Studio in 2005 and began what would be a decade-plus-long odyssey creating two amazing stop motion Star Trek fan films.

Continue reading “The stop motion fan films STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE II – “The Crossing” and “The Beginning of the End”! (feature)”

INTERLUDE Confidential #14: Ample post-production patience and perseverance!

“Production hell” (or “development hell”) is a real thing in Hollywood…so much so that it has its own Wikipedia page. But did you know there’s also post-production hell? Or at least, there SHOULD be!

The three phases of film creation are typically pre-production (planning, budgeting, financing, hiring, scheduling, location scouting, construction, costume and prop preparation, etc.), then production (actually shooting footage), and finally post-production (editing, picture level and color adjustment, visual effects, sound effects, music, sound-mixing, etc.). It’s understandable that the first phase would take a while, and of course, you might spend weeks or months (or more) filming everything that you need. And of course, sometimes these phases overlap a little with each other. But you’d think that, once all the raw footage is “in the can” as they say in the industry, that post-production would go pretty quickly…even on a big-budget project. In fact, especially on a big-budget project, as you can afford to pay people to focus on finishing YOUR production rather than splitting up their time.

Yeah, you’d think post-production would be nice and fast. And maybe it is for some projects…but sadly, not for me and my debut fan film INTERLUDE.

I’m actually not alone in having an unexpectedly extended period of post-production for my project. Some of the most ambitious Star Trek fan films shot the majority of their footage years or even as much as half a decade(!!!) before finally releasing their finished products: STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, PACIFIC 201, STARSHIP EXETER, THE ROMULAN WAR, STAR TREK: TEMPORAL ANOMALY, many episodes of INTREPID…just to name a few. Heck, the series finale of STARSHIP FARRAGUT, “Homecoming,” was crowd-funded back in 2015, shot in 2016, and still isn’t out yet. And of course, fans have been waiting for YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL for what feels like forever. The most recently-announced release dates were this past Christmas day and then the end of January. (A major illness of one of JOHN ATKIN’s family members has delayed the release a bit longer.)

And then there’s Interlude.

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VOYAGER Documentary crowd-funder raises nearly HALF A MILLION DOLLARS in just 36 HOURS!

Wow. Just…wow!

Four years ago, when 455 Films—the production team behind the popular Star Trek-related documentaries FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK, CHAOS ON THE BRIDGE, THE CAPTAINS, THE CAPTAINS CLOSE UP, STILL KICKING, and GET A LIFE—began crowd-funding for a major new documentary celebrating Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it took them a full week to reach $300K (and they finished their Indiegogo with nearly $650K).

A new documentary retrospective spotlighting Star Trek: Voyager just launched an Indiegogo campaign at 2am Pacific Time on Monday morning and had reached $300K barely nine hours later! As I type this Tuesday afternoon, they’ve crossed 490K with 4,869 backers.

Now, before anyone starts saying “Nyah, nyah…fans like Voyager more than DS9!” keep in mind that it’s always easier to crowd-fund a project when you have 1) an existing list of previous donors and 2) another successfully-completed crowd-funded project under your belt.

It also helps that this Indiegogo campaign has some pretty exciting perks at relatively affordable levels, like exclusive zoom calls (limited to no more than 50 donors) with duos of Star Trek celebrities from various Trek TV series…each for only $150.

Meanwhile, for donors with deeper pockets, three different “away missions” to sacred filming sites of Star Trek—Vasquez Rocks, Griffith Observatory, and the Japanese Garden (aka Starfleet Academy)—will be led by Trek cast members and limited to groups of just 40 donors…and those perks are $1,000 each (travel costs not included). Then $2,000 gets you access to a 10-donor dinner with JAMES DARREN, NICOLE DeBOER, CONNOR TRINNEER, DOMINIC KEATING, and maybe more. There are also perks at lower levels, like $36 T-shirts and lapel pins, and even perks at levels of just $15 or even $5.

The initial goal was a “modest” $150K, which was passed in the first few hours. Since then, stretch goals have fallen like dominoes…funding additional 3D graphics and animations, the filming of the Voyager reunion convention in London this November, expanding the scope of the documentary from 60 to 90 minutes, and composing an original score.

And that’s all just in the first 24 hours of the campaign—there’s still 29 days left!!!

What does all of this donated money actually pay for? The campaign page answers…

We are still in the early stages of production with more interviews and support footage yet to be filmed. Once that is complete, Post-Production expenses will need to be covered such as editing, music, animation, color-correction, sound mixing and CBS/Star Trek footage licensing. The more we raise on this Indiegogo campaign, the more creative ways we have of making this documentary unique.

Also, remember that the Ds9 documentary, WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND, ended up doing additional fundraising for special remastering of the original film negatives and VFX footage to provide clips to match the HD quality of the remastered Next Generation blu-rays—something ViacomCBS sadly does not seem likely to spend money on for the other pre-CBS Trek series.

Anyway, the Indiegogo campaign is up, there’s already more than 4,500 backers, and you can be one of them if you’d like to donate here…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-star-trek-voyager-documentary#/

Get a little TOS chuckle from TIMES ARE CHANGING (interview with THE GERMAN SPOCK)!

A couple of months ago, shortly before Christmas, JENS DOMBEK (known to the world as “The German Spock”) gave fans the gift of a fun little vignette titled TIMES ARE CHANGING. And with the exception of bookends of 15 seconds at the beginning and at the end, there is no dialogue whatsoever for the three-and-a-half minutes in between!

And that’s what makes this such a unique and enjoyable fan film.

Back in the fledgling days of filmmaking, silent movies endeavored to tell stories without the benefit of spoken words. Indeed, the early works of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton endeavored to make audiences laugh with purely physical (“slapstick”) comedy. In many ways, silent movie-making is a bit of a lost art.

But what’s so great about the fan film format is that there are no rules (only guidelines), and that freedom and flexibility allow fan filmmakers to explore all aspects of cinematic expression…including, as of now, silent slapstick comedy.

Granted, I don’t think Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have anything to fear (yet) from the comedy hijinks of Jens and his buddy MICHAEL O’CONNOR KELLY. But who cares? It’s fun watching Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in a whimsical series of sight gags. Take a look…

Jens (pronounced “Yens”)has been cosplaying as an uncanny Spock lookalike in Germany and elsewhere for many years, sporting a nearly infinite number of costumes and uniforms in nearly infinite combinations…

Jens made his Star Trek fan film debut last June in one of the earliest “fandemic” films, LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY, alongside fellow cosplayers MIKE LONGO as James T. Kirk and FRANK JENKS as Dr. McCoy—keeping socially distant via a subspace zoom call. A month later, Jens released a short fan film vignette of his own, I AM SPOCK—a mesmerizing 90-second soliloquy made all the more impactful by the eerie doppelgänger of our favorite Vulcan played by Jens. Jens also appeared in another “holiday” fandemic film, PEACE AND GOODWILL, with fellow cosplayers DAVID CHENG (playing admiral Nogura) and KEN HAYASHIDA (playing Sulu) just last December.

I did a full text interview with Jens when he released I Am Spock, but Times Are Changing was so unusual that I wanted to chat with Jens specifically about his latest effort…

Continue reading “Get a little TOS chuckle from TIMES ARE CHANGING (interview with THE GERMAN SPOCK)!”

My MUSIC VIDEO tribute to the SQUADRON fan film…

Sometimes you get a crazy idea in your head and you just have to do it. This was one of those times…

On February 1, a bunch of talented and enthusiastic Trekkers from the Czech Republic (with the help of one CGI bloke from the U.K.) released Part 1 of their amazing Dominion War-era fan film, SQUADRON. Six days later, they released Part 2. In the 2-3 weeks since, the two parts (both separately and combined into one) have garnered more than 100K Youtube views—an amazing feat, considering that the entire film is spoken in Czech and requires those not familiar with the language to watch with subtitles turned on in order to follow the plot. But even without a translation, the film looks completely amazing.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look…

I’ve been closely following the efforts of these Czechie Trekkies since they started planning to launch their Indiegogo campaign about a year ago. And so I was really excited to record an international interview with them for Fan Film Factor. And to make this even more of an event, I had a whopping SIX Czech fan filmmakers on one Zoom call! Indeed, it was my first-ever Zoom interview for this blog (I mainly do audio or text-based interviews). So I wanted to make it extra awesome!

The creators of Squadron gave me a great 90 minutes, but I wanted to spice it up even more. Since it would be a true video interview, I wanted it to be more visually interesting than watching seven “Brady Bunch”-style talking heads for an hour and a half. So I began to look for clips of footage from the stunning 2-part fan film to include as cutaways from the Zoom screen. You can watch the full interview here to see how it turned out…

Anyway, because the “search for scenes” doesn’t require actually listening to the fan film (and I don’t speak Czech anyway), I had some music playing in the background while I was looking through the footage for clips. More specifically, I was perusing the iTunes catalog (as I often do) looking for lesser-known songs from hit recording artists to purchase. In fact, I was up to the R’s, having just had an awesome (and somewhat expensive!) retrospective of the decades-long career of the late Ray Charles, and was now sampling the greatest hits of Ray Parker, Jr. (yep, the guy who recorded the famous Ghostbusters them song). Ray actually had a few other chart-topping hits like “You Can’t Change That” and “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do).”

Continue reading “My MUSIC VIDEO tribute to the SQUADRON fan film…”

STARSHIP WEBSTER’s 3rd episode “THE TOMBSTONE” (interview with JERRY WILLIAMS)

Even though POTEMKIN PICTURES has been around for over a decade now, the folks in their STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group are definitely the new kids on the fan film block. Their predecessors include PROJECT: POTEMKIN, STARSHIP DEIMOSSTARSHIP ALEXANDERSTARSHIP TRISTANHOSPITAL SHIP MARIE CURIEBATTLECRUISER KUPOKSTARSHIP TRITON, and STARSHIP ENDEAVOUR.

When show-runner RANDY LANDERS and his wife moved from Alabama to Lexington, Kentucky in 2019, it provided an opportunity to find and invite a whole new collective of local Trekkers in the fan film family. And even though the pandemic made things a little more challenging, the new Webster group still managed to release their debut fan film, “LAUNCH,” on October 9, followed quickly by their second offering, “A VOICE IN THE DARK,” just two weeks later. The latter allowed one of their actors, BILLY SWANSON, to take the lead and both write and direct—as well as star in—what was essentially a “one-man show.”

Two months later, released on Christmas day, another member of the team, JERRY WILLIAMS, got to write and appear in an episode…although this time, Randy Landers was the one directing, and the cast consisted of more than one actor (seven, in fact—three in major roles).

I’ve been making it a point to give these fine fan film folks a spotlight here on the blog as both a welcome to the community and also in acknowledgment of their quick embrace of this sub-sub-genre and dedication to getting their first few fan films produced and released.

As such, I asked Randy whom he thought would be the best person to interview for this third release, and he quickly said it should be Jerry Williams himself. “Jerry is quite a local legend,” Randy told me.

So let’s take a look at Jerry’s first Star Trek fan film, “THE TOMBSTONE,” and then we can chat…

And now, heeeeeeerrrrrrrreeeeeee’s Jerry (do my younger readers even get that reference?)…

Continue reading “STARSHIP WEBSTER’s 3rd episode “THE TOMBSTONE” (interview with JERRY WILLIAMS)”

THE ROMULAN WAR presents a new MOTION COMIC Star Trek fan film: HOLOCAUST! (interview with MARK NACCARATO)

One of the biggest challenges right now for fan films (and Hollywood itself) is the global pandemic. And while COVID-19 hasn’t completely stopped production of either fan films or the larger entertainment industry itself, it has made shooting such projects much more challenging, somewhat more limited in scope and flexibility, and in a number of cases, more expensive due to the need to provide PPD and sanitizer and other mitigations for infection among the actors and crew.

So what’s the alternative?

Well, the most obvious answer is to do an audio drama. After all, voice-actors don’t need to be together in one place; they can record their lines at home or in a studio sound booth one at a time. And indeed, there have been Star Trek audio dramas of varying quality for many, many years. But they typically appear on YouTube with either one or a slideshow of still images. They’re meant to be listened to, not watched. So what if you want to create something for fans to see as well as hear during the pandemic?

Beginning in the middle of last year, several resourceful Trekkers began producing what I’ve decided to call “fandemic” films. These were fan films showing characters mainly in single shots, so that the actors would not have to be close to each other. Many (but not all) of these stories featured Starfleet officers talking to each other via subspace—like cosmic Zoom or FaceTime calls—with footage the actors recorded in their own homes.

But now fan filmmaker MARK NACCARATO has come up with a new idea for socially-distanced fan films which he calls a “motion comic.” There have actually been a few “proto” motion comics released prior to this, most notably a series of AXANAR COMICS (like this one) from creator TREY McELWAIN, where still artwork of a comic that he wrote and had an artist illustrate are presented one panel at a time with pans and zooms along with a narrator reading the captions out loud, sound effects, and music.

But Mark has taken things a step further. Although Mark also has voice-over narration (performed by KYLE GEARY) plus sound FX and music, his comic artwork isn’t merely still images with pans and zooms. Mark brought in an animator to actually MOVE the artwork.

Granted, it isn’t full animation like Star Trek: Lower Decks because Mark doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend. So the movement is simple, but still clever enough to provide a visually engaging viewing experience. Take a look…

The “Holocaust” comic book itself (without the animation) was initially published back in April of 2019 as the first of two such comics in Mark’s THE ROMULAN WAR: WAR STORIES anthology of tales with art by YUDHI SURYO and colors by ULULL AZM. You can read the original pure comic version of “Holocaust” here. And you can read the other comic, “Intruders,” here.

Continue reading “THE ROMULAN WAR presents a new MOTION COMIC Star Trek fan film: HOLOCAUST! (interview with MARK NACCARATO)”

The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 4)

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, we watched how the fan series STARSHIP VALIANT grew from the aborted STARSHIP AJAX fan project, utilizing the 360-degree TOS bridge set at STARBASE STUDIOS in Oklahoma City. The brainchild of local resident MICHAEL L. KING, who would play the main character of Jackson Bishop, Valiant was the first completed fan production to film at Starbase Studios back in late 2013. They released their debut fan film, “LEGACY,” the following summer at SoonerCon 2014. Then in 2015, they released a special edition of “Legacy” with a freshly-added scene that introduced new characters on screen that hadn’t been seen in the original version, including VANCE MAJOR as Chief Engineer Erick Minard and DAVID COX as Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roger Floyd.

The Starship Valiant team headed into 2016 with plans to produce a much more ambitious second project, a 90-minute fan film titled “THE TIES THAT BIND,” and they were able to shoot the first ten minutes during the summer of that year. (You can view that segment here.) But just as they were filming those scenes, CBS announced new fan film guidelines that effectively killed any possibility for a single episode longer than 30 minutes. For a few months, plans for further work on “Ties” were put on hold.

However, at the same time, Vance Major decided to expand upon his character of Erick Minard in a new series of fan films, and some of these projects also featured Michael King as Captain Bishop. This included MINARD, THE VALHALLA STONE, a new fan series called MELBOURNE: “Storm Front”, and a crossover with fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION called CHAIN OF COMMAND. Each of those included footage shot at Starbase Studios in 2016 and were released in either 2016 or 2017.

In the meantime, Michael made a decision to move forward with Starship Valiant and continue filming “The Ties that Bind.” But because director BRADY FOSTER had picked up some professional production work outside of the country, shooting had to be scheduled for after he returned in November. But that wasn’t much of a problem—the Starbase Studios sets weren’t going anywhere.

Or were they…?

Continue reading “The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 4)”

The MUST-SEE Czech Trek fan film SQUADRON is complete! (Zoom video interview)

When you think Star Trek, you probably don’t immediately think of the Czech Republic in central Europe (Star Czech maybe, but not Star Trek). But when it comes to Trek fan films, there’s some folks in Prague who have taken things to a whole other level!

I first took notice of the Czechie Trekkies in late 2018 when I saw an amazing-looking 4-part Star Trek fan film called DIPLOMACY. What made it so remarkable was that these folks had built a 360-degree 24th Century-era starship bridge set! While not as elaborate as TNG, DS9, or Voyager, it was still darn impressive…as were the Starfleet uniforms and the make-up (they actually had a Benzite!). I put this on my long-range sensors to cover here on Fan Film Factor, but after a year of being really busy, I hadn’t gotten around to reaching out to them.

However, I needn’t have worried because they contacted to me in late 2019! More specifically,  JAKUB “JIM” HOLÝ reached out. He had been part of Diplomacy, but he said I shouldn’t bother covering that fan film because he and his team had something that was gonna blow away Diplomacy!

Color me intrigued.

Jakub explained that a new, more action-oriented fan film called SQUADRON had already been shot on that amazing bridge set. All of the live-action footage was “in the can,” (as we say in America) and about half of the VFX shots had already been completed or were in progress. But money was needed to properly finish the VFX and the rest of post-production, and they were planning to launch a crowd-funding campaign in early 2020. I was, of course, more than willing to help promote it with blog features like this one that included an audio interview with Jakub.

Although they missed their $16K goal, they still took in nearly $9K of it…despite the fact that, during the February-to-April campaign, the world turned upside down with the COVID pandemic, and donation dollars became scarce. One of the reasons for their success was a flawless and energetic Indiegogo campaign with almost constant promotion (trailers, behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, etc.) by Jakub and the team…most of whom spoke very good English, despite the film itself being entirely in Czech.

The money was used wrap up post-production, which included stunning CGI effects for the second half by the British Bastion of Blazing Battles SAMUEL COCKINGS. Part 1 premiered week ago on February 1 and has already been viewed more than 42,000 times on Youtube! In contrast, Diplomacy, after two and a half years, is barely over a thousand views, and other Czech fan films shot on that bridge and released over the past couple of years are still only in the low-to-mid thousands of views. So this one’s pretty special, folks!

In fact, you can see for yourself, as the concluding Part 2 has just been released. Here’s both parts together (with close-caption English subtitles that I actually helped edit)…

Continue reading “The MUST-SEE Czech Trek fan film SQUADRON is complete! (Zoom video interview)”