INTERLUDE Confidential #19: Watching ARES STUDIOS come alive…

INTERLUDE is knocking on the door of a combined 75,000 views for “version 2.0.” You can watch it on the AXANAR YouTube channel or the AVALON UNIVERSE YouTube channel…or both!

A few weeks ago, I published a blog looking at three scenes from Interlude that wound up on the digital “cutting room floor.” But one of the most talked about aspects of that blog was a clip that I included showing 18 minutes of the actual shoot itself…filming the stunning opening scene looking down from above onto the bridge with all sorts of activity going on. Fans of Axanar and ARES STUDIOS loved getting a glimpse into all of the action happening on that set.

Well, folks, there’s a LOT more where that came from…and I’m going to share it with you starting today!

As producer on Interlude, most of my job was done by the time we got to the weekend of our two-day shoot at Ares Studios on November 2-3, 2019. In addition to writing the script, I was in charge of budgeting, crowd-funding, paying for things that needed to be paid for (everything from chest emblem patches to camera and lens and light rental to hair and make-up supplies to renting chairs and tables to the caterer himself…plus about a hundred other little and not-so-little things!).

Another part of my job was to make sure we had the right people at the studio on the right days—actors, extras, production crew, even an on-site medic—that they knew where to be and when and that their gas, travel, food and lodging was paid for if/when necessary. My efforts were designed to make it possible for VICTORIA FOX, JOSHUA IRWIN, and the entire amazing Interlude production team to shoot the scenes of our fan film over two 10-hour days with everything they needed ready and waiting for them.

In short, I was the guy setting up the buffet table so all of the guests could have a good time at the party. So once the party got started, what was left for me to do?

Well, there were still some minor fires that needed putting our during those two days—figuring out where to put the hair and make-up people, handing my credit card to people I hardly knew to go make emergency runs to Home Depot or Target or wherever. But for the most part, the producer wasn’t really needed on set.

But that provided me with a very unique and special opportunity…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #19: Watching ARES STUDIOS come alive…”

A fan releases a RESTORED VERSION of PARAGON’S PARAGON from 1974! (interview with ROBERT LONG II, part 2)

In Part 1, we took a look at the story behind PARAGON’S PARAGON, the first “major” Star Trek fan film to be produced…way back in 1974. It wasn’t the first Trek fan film ever; those were being made when TOS was still in first-run (like THE THING IN THE CAVE from 1967). But writer/director/producer JOHN COSTENTINO, a carpet-layer from Warren, Michigan, spent $2,000 of his own money (the equivalent of $11-15,000 today) to build multiple elaborate set replicas of the bridge, transporter room, turbolift, and other parts of the starship Enterprise (or, as he renamed it, the U.S.S. Paragon).

John based his story on the James Blish Star Trek novel “Spock Must Die!” released by Bantam Books in 1970. His characters were the same, only with different names like Captain Richard Kirk and Mr. Sellek. The final film ran 100 minutes and was shown for a number of years at various Star Trek conventions. But as time went on, this seminal piece of Star Trek fan film history slowly disappeared into obscurity. John wrote some behind-the-scenes articles with a few black and white photos, but for the longest time, if you wanted to see any part of Paragon’s Paragon, that was pretty much it

In 2012, one fan posted about 8 minutes of Paragon’s Paragon highlights on YouTube, but the voice dialog was gone, replaced by a sound track of simple Trek background music. It was enough to get a taste of what Paragon’s Paragon looked like, just not what it sounded like.

The following year, John Costentino himself posted a low-resolution video of Paragon’s Paragon bloopers to his blog site. Those appear below…

Still, for fans wanting to get a true feel for this fan film, there simply wasn’t much available. But then, in April 2021, the same fan who had posted those 8 minutes of highlights, ROBERT LONG II, unexpectedly posted a new, longer version…this time with restored audio! Although still not the entire 100-minute fan film, the two 15-minute parts show the first 25 minutes plus 5 minutes of “next week on Paragon’s Paragon.” You can view the two videos here…

Intrigued by this mystery fan, I reached out to him through his “1966tvbatman” YouTube channel. Robert was happy to chat, and here’s what he had to say…

Continue reading “A fan releases a RESTORED VERSION of PARAGON’S PARAGON from 1974! (interview with ROBERT LONG II, part 2)”

If ever there was a MUST-DONATE crowd-funding campaign, TREK SHORTS is certainly it!

Okay, I usually say things like “If you can afford to give a little something…” or “At least please share the link with your friends…” And yeah, consider me having said those things.

But seriously, get out your wallet! Go here and donate something:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans

Why am I so pumped about this new Indiegogo campaign from TREKYARDS‘ SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Brit who doesn’t quit when it comes to CGI animation? Well, first of all, it’s Sam Cockings! What he can’t do with a 3D starship just isn’t worth doing, people! But here’s the real reason you need to donate to this project:

IT’S NOT JUST ONE FAN FILM…IT’S SIX!!! AND ALL FOR JUST $10K!

How can Sam afford to produce SIX different fan films for just $10K (or whatever the heck that is in British pounds)? Well, actually, one of these films is already finished as a proof of concept. So you’re really just paying for five new fan films and reimbursing the costs for the sixth. But take a look at the incredible quality of the one that was just released:

You’ll probably recognize the four main actors in this fan film. There’s NICK COOK and his real-world wife LUCITA COOK on board the U.S.S. Intrepid from the long-running Scottish fan series of the same name. There’s NIMRAN SAUND, who did an amazing job back in 2013 filming scenes for TEMPORAL ANOMALY (which was released in 2019). And finally, making her triumphant return to fan films, the much beloved MICHELE SPECHT from STAR TREK CONTINUES plays a brand new character.

And that’s just ONE fan film!

Honestly, I don’t know why Sam is calling them “short.” The first one is pretty much pushing the 15-minute time limit imposed by the fan film guidelines. But I suppose if ViacomCBS can call their 15-minute mini-episodes Short Treks, Sam can make his just as long and call them Trek Shorts.

Anyway, to answer the question of how Sam can afford to make multiple releases for the price that some fan filmmakers raise for just ONE project, the answer is simple: virtual sets. But not just any virtual sets. Over the years, Sam has been collecting and developing some of the highest quality and most realistic virtual set models anywhere, which you can see from the above video. In fact, that’s where most of the funds raised will be going: 3D models of backgrounds and starships (which do cost money to create, as they are very time-consuming). Once Sam has them, he can animate and composite green screen footage of the actors. But paying 3D modelers is like paying for props or costumes…the time-consuming labor is not free.

Samuel Cockimgs (front) uses subtle blurring to create depth of field for the virtual Intrepid-class bridge.

The rest of the money raised will be used for the aforementioned props and costumes, studio equipment, cast expenses like travel, and catering…all done “on the cheap,” as it were.

So what will the other five fan films be about? Glad you asked…!

Continue reading “If ever there was a MUST-DONATE crowd-funding campaign, TREK SHORTS is certainly it!”

A fan releases a RESTORED VERSION of PARAGON’S PARAGON from 1974! (feature, part 1)

Back when I initially started blogging about Star Trek fan films, the very first blog I published was about the 1974 fan production PARAGON’S PARAGON from show-runner JOHN COSTENTINO. Some folks mistakenly assume this was the first-ever Star Trek fan film, but those have existed since Star Trek TOS was still airing first-run episodes. In fact, I recently discovered the remnants of a silent fan film from 1967 titled THE THING IN THE CAVE that used actual props and tunics apparently borrowed from those used on the Paramount set! A more high-end Star Trek fan film was pitched directly to GENE RODDENBERRY by a film school student back in 1968, and Gene was all for it, but a Paramount studio lawyer nixed it.

But by 1974, things were much different for Star Trek. The original series had been off the air for half a decade, and while a small but well-produced series of 22 animated episodes featuring the voices of most of the original cast was airing from 1973-74, nothing much else was happening with Star Trek at the time. Well, I shouldn’t say “nothing.” As TOS reruns grew in frequency on television in the early 1970s, Star Trek conventions had just started to become popular beginning in 1972, attracting a few thousand fans, and the word “Trekkie” was entering the colloquial vernacular (usually describing an obsessed and nerdy fan who would use terms like “colloquial vernacular”).

But in 1974, Trekkie fans were still starving for new Star Trek content. With Star Trek literature limited to episode adaptations by author JAMES BLISH into novelized anthologies plus one original story titled “Spock Must Die!” released by Bantam Books in 1970. With no other original stories of Kirk, Spock, Bonesm and the crew, Trekkies created their own underground fan fiction using typewriters and distributing their original tales person-to-person at cons. Most of the mid-1970s fan-produced paraphernalia like the U.S.S. Enterprise blueprints and Technical Manual were still a year or more away.

Into this “desert” of fresh Star Trek content in 1974 walked a carpet-layer from Warren, Michigan named John Costentino. In additional to having interests in being an artist, engineer, and amateur filmmaker, John was also a huge Trekkie. And he would go on to produce what might not necessarily be the first-ever Star Trek fan film but is undeniably the first MAJOR Star Trek fan film with elaborate sets, costumes, lighting, make-up, a 65-page script, and a run-time of 100 minutes. John spent nearly $2,000 of his own money on the project (that’s about $11-15,000 today!), about half of which went to building sets like a recreation of the Enterprise bridge, transporter room, and turbolift.

Originally shot on Super-8 film, the film was shown at conventions for a few years and ultimately transferred to a limited number of VHS tapes. But as the years passed, this important piece of Star Trek fan film history passed into oblivion. Or so we thought…

Continue reading “A fan releases a RESTORED VERSION of PARAGON’S PARAGON from 1974! (feature, part 1)”

INTERLUDE Confidential #18: The “McFly Edit”

Ready for some fan film FUN???

The RE-launch of INTERLUDE last Friday with new cast member TYLER DUNIVAN went amazingly smoothly. Already, after just four and a half days, there’s a total of nearly 48K views on YouTube (more than 40K on the AXANAR Channel and 7.5K on the AVALON UNIVERSE Channel—take your pick of which one you’d like to watch…again).

Fan reaction to Tyler’s performance as the chief engineer of the ill-fated U.S.S. Artemis is getting rave reviews. Personally, I’m really happy with this new version, and 97.5% of viewers are giving it a thumbs up! Who are the other 2.5%? Well, remember how 4 out of 5 dentists recommended sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum? Ever wonder about the fifth dentist? Obviously, you can’t please all the Trekkies all the time, but we sure are pleasing nearly all of ’em!

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you a quick video that will hopefully make you laugh. Y’see, Tyler Dunivan isn’t simply a great actor who takes his craft very seriously. Tyler is also a professional MICHAEL J. FOX impersonator…especially playing the character of Marty McFly from the Back to the Future movies. In fact, Tyler had the starring role in the absolute BEST Back to the Future fan film ever! (Check in out here.)

So when Tyler and JOSHUA IRWIN drove down to ARES STUDIOS in Georgia a couple of weeks ago to reshoot the engineering scenes for Interlude, I asked the guys if Tyler could do a “Marty McFly” version of the take…just for fun (because fan films are FUN films!). I didn’t know if we’d ever use it, but at least we’d have it, right?

Well, folks, it came out even better than I expected. There’s not much, but I cut together this 30-second vignette for your viewing pleasure. Thank you, Tyler!

Prepare to party like it’s 1985…

There’s something NEW to view at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview with RAY TESI)

The amazing TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA got their start back in 2008 when the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT began building some of their own sets. They didn’t want to have to continue borrowing JAMES CAWLEY’s sets in upstate New York (where they’d filmed scenes for their second episode “For Want of a Nail”). By 2009, they had an awesome shuttlecraft set interior plus a transporter room, turbolift, captain’s quarters, and a corridor…and they were about to start work on a bridge set!

The original location for these sets was a small building in the lovely city of St. Marys, GA (the second oldest city in America) just north of the border between Georgia and Florida. The facility was dubbed “Studio One” and hosted the first-ever fan series “open house” on April 17, 2009. At the time, this is what those sets looked like…

By the time of their second “open house” on December 4, 2010, the bridge set looked like this…

A year later, two big announcements came. The first was that VIC MIGNOGNA (who had joined the Farragut Films team to direct their third full-length episode “The Price of Anything,”) was going to be taking over creative direction and film crew operations not only for Starship Farragut but also for a new fan series starring Vic as Captain Kirk to be titled STAR TREK CONTINUES. The second announcement was that the sets were going to be moved to a new facility 10 miles away in nearby Kingsland, GA with nearly four times the square footage. There, in the newly-dubbed “Studio Two,” the TOS sets would be expanded. And by 2013, nearly all of the original Star Trek sets that existed back in the 1960s at Paramount Studios had been recreated…with the notable exception of Engineering.

But that set addition would happen in 2015 after a very successful second STC Kickstarter (what they called a “Kirkstarter”) brought in $215K, which was enough to fund the construction of most of Engineering plus a buy-out of the sets from Farragut Films (the two fan productions officially parted ways later in the year), pay the next year’s rent, and produce two new episodes in 2015.

STC finished their run in 2017 with the release of their tenth and eleventh episodes. But Vic Mignogna was still covering the $4,000/month rent to house these beautiful sets that he and this fan series no longer needed. Vic couldn’t continue paying this expense indefinitely, but thanks to super-fan RAY TESI, Vic’s problem was solved.

In February of 2018, Ray bought the sets from Vic, took over the monthly rent from his retirement savings, and opened up the sets to all fan films to use for a nominal daily fee. The sets were renamed Stage 9 Studios, a name that was subsequently changed to Neutral Zone Studios the following February after a virtual reality group in the UK calling itself “Stage 9” was shut down by CBS for trying to create an unlicensed VR walkthrough of the Enterprise NCC-1701-D.

And that’s the story so far…

Continue reading “There’s something NEW to view at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview with RAY TESI)”

(Re) Presenting: INTERLUDE…the big premiere, TAKE TWO!

I’ve been writing a series of blogs about all of the typical things that happen with fan films, things that I’ve been encountering during the development of INTERLUDE. But now it’s time for something that I don’t think has ever happened on any Star Trek fan film!

Someone in our cast has asked (demanded, actually) for his shots to be completely REMOVED from the Interlude fan film…forcing us to re-shoot specific scenes using a different actor and to re-edit those scenes back into a new version.

The actor in question is PAUL JENKINS. I won’t go into details on this other than to say what is already known publicly: that Paul and ALEC PETERS are involved in litigation following Paul’s parting of ways from the AXANAR sequels in the early summer of last year. As I understand it, Paul is concerned that his appearance in a fan film that features Alec Peters in a leading role within the Axanar continuity could imply some kind of endorsement by Paul of Alec, Axanar, Ares Studios, and/or Axanar Productions.

Paul’s request/demand for all footage of him be removed from Interlude came first via a Facebook message sent to me barely 24 hours before the big premiere on April 5. Obviously, that was not enough time for us to make such significant changes, and we weren’t about to delay the release on such short notice. I’d already told the entire fan film community plus my friends and family about it. Heck, my parents had told all of their friends about it!

So as planned, we premiered the version of Interlude (with Paul in it) that we’d worked so hard to complete, but on the request/demand of Paul and his CEO at META Studios, a disclaimer was pinned as the top comment of the YouTube video page making clear that “META Studios and its employees, including Founder and Chief Creative Officer Paul Jenkins, DO NOT endorse the use of the Axanar logo and the solicitation of funds for the purpose of creating fan films associated with CBS intellectual property. “

So yeah, that happened.

We also agreed to their imposed constraint that Interlude could only be posted to the AVALON UNIVERSE YouTube channel and not to the Axanar YouTube channel, probably costing us a few hundred thousand views during our opening week. The video still crossed 50K views in 12 days with more than a 97% thumbs-up/thumbs-down ratio, so I didn’t really lose any sleep over it.

Meanwhile, our director of photography/editor JOSHUA IRWIN jumped into action to act on to Paul’s main request.demand to be removed entirely from Interlude, and two weeks later, Josh has come through with flying colors.

This was no small feat, folks…!

Continue reading “(Re) Presenting: INTERLUDE…the big premiere, TAKE TWO!”

It’s FEAST OR FAMINE here at FAN FILM FACTOR…and it’s about to be FEAST! (editorial/news)

Have you noticed that these past couple of months have been relatively quiet in the Star Trek fan film world? There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. There’s an “ebb and flow” with news and releases from time to time…feast or famine, as they say.

And it’s not like there’s been no new Trek fan films whatsoever. The folks at POTEMKIN PICTURES never let us down, and there was a new release from STARSHIP ANTYLLUS a couple months ago that I haven’t gotten around to covering yet. Oh, and we can’t forget the steady stream of new content from that fan filmmaking machine known as VANCE MAJOR, who has been releasing one new episode per week of CONSTAR COMPLETED this past month. Vance says that he’s only going to release another five Trek fan films and then he’s hanging up his cell phone. Of course, he’s “retired” before.

Okay, so maybe things haven’t been nearly as quiet as all that. But they have been pretty quiet, all things considered. Since January’s release of the AVALON UNIVERSE’s AIR AND DARKNESS and STARSHIP VALIANT’sANIMALS,” and then February’s release of the blockbuster Czech fan film SQUADRON, there haven’t been many totally new releases other than those I mentioned above.

This was actually somewhat serendipitous for me, as it opened a convenient four-week window for me to release my four-part History of STARSHIP VALIANT blog series. Then I filled up some “thin” weeks by covering (two months late) the December release of the German Spock JENS DOMBEK’s TIMES ARE CHANGING, the launch and staggeringly successful conclusion of the Star Trek: Voyager documentary Indiegogo campaign, along with some features about older fan films that I’ve had on the back-burner, like STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE and the amazing stop-motion fan films ENTERPRISE II from German wunderkind JÜRGEN KAISER.

Oh, and let’s not forget the release of my AXANAR-universe fan film INTERLUDE and some of the the subsequent Interlude Confidential behind-the-scenes blogs that I’ve published since. And of course, the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up lawsuit is still going on and is as interesting as ever!

And sadly, we lost that beloved cheerleader of Trek fan films, BARBARA READER, last month.

So even when the Star Trek fan film world is a little slow with new releases, I’m still doing my best to supply you fine folks with new content. Indeed, between the “back-burner” features I’ve been working on and an impending uptick in new fan film news and releases, Fan Film Factor is about to be getting VERY busy VERY soon!

Here’s what’s coming down the, er, pike…

Continue reading “It’s FEAST OR FAMINE here at FAN FILM FACTOR…and it’s about to be FEAST! (editorial/news)”

INTERLUDE Confidential #17: On the cutting room floor…

Christy Price Pagano deserves the top image because she wound up on the cutting room floor!

INTERLUDE is finally released, and it’s already up to 42K views on YouTube! Did you see it? (If not, click here.) Did you like it? Is it everything you hoped it would be? Personally, I’m extremely happy with the way Interlude turned out. So many people put SO much work into making an awesome fan film.

But I feel really bad about CHRISTY PRICE PAGANO (pictured above) because her ONE shot in Interlude wound up on the cutting room floor.

Christy showed up on our second day of filming Interlude at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA (on Sunday, November 3, 2019) along with her good friend LISA BURGESS (pictured below). The two moms live nearby in the suburbs north of Atlanta, and they were told about the shoot and our need for extras by one of our actors, JAY PLYBURN, who played the U.S.S. Ares science officer with the cool 70’s-era mustache.

Lisa Burgess

If you watched Interlude, you might have noticed that there’s really only one very brief shot of the U.S.S. Ares where we see most of the extras on the bridge…

There are some other close-ups and medium shots, but this was the only shot that featured nearly all of our Ares crew members at once. Only two officers aren’t in the shot: the aforementioned Jay Plyburn and Christy Pagano, who was actually about to come out of the turbolift. But we cut away before the turbolift doors ever have a chance to open.

This is what the full sequence would have looked like had the decision to cut away not been made (note that there are no sound effects or music in following clip)…

That’s Christy coming out of the turbolift. And though we barely get to see them, the wounded engineer is JOSE CEPEDA from the fan series STAR TREK: NATURES HUNGER, and the person carrying him off is CRYSTAL RAMOS, who was so excited to be a part of this production. And now, we don’t even get to see their faces! But I’m going to fix that right now (at least on this blog page, since we can’t reshoot the scene without it costing a lot of time and money)…

Crystal Ramos and Jose Cepeda

Anyway, back to the wide shot. As you can see from the full 11-second clip, there was a lot going on! The ship was shaking, panels were flickering, Garth was giving an order, people were moving across the bridge with some getting up from seats and others sitting down, the turbolift doors had to open AND close, and not only did Crystal have to make it look like she was carrying Jose into the lift, but Christy had to rush out of the turbolift without bumping into either Crystal or Jose and then squeeze past the communications chair without looking as though she was squeezing (’cause it is a very tight fit!).

And that’s just what was happening ON camera!

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #17: On the cutting room floor…”

Bombshell in the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss MASH-UP infringement lawsuit: are SNEETCHES and ZAKS in the PUBLIC DOMAIN???

Copyrights don’t last forever. Unless they are properly renewed, they eventually expire. And when they do, the works those copyrights protected fall permanently into the public domain, free for everyone to use without fear of infringement lawsuits.

Is this the case with some of the most beloved creations of the late children’s book author DR. SEUSS? Can you or I use the Sneetches or the Zaks in any way we’d like? If so, the ramifications in the current Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up lawsuit (and beyond) could be staggering!

Okay, a brief recap of where we are. After getting sued for copyright infringement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) for trying to mash-up Seuss drawings with Star Trek characters and calling their book Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! (or “Boldly,” for short), publisher ComicMix, along with Tribbles creator DAVID GERROLD and artist TY TEMPLETON, appeared to have won. In March of 2019, Ninth Circuit Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO dismissed the case having found that Boldly qualified for protection under the doctrine of Fair Use.

So DSE appealed the ruling, and this past December, a 3-judge appellate panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously agreed that Boldly was NOT Fair Use and sent the case back to Judge Sammartino’s courtroom with the understanding that Team Mash-up could no longer rely on a Fair Use defense to save their Lorax.

Things looked really bad for Team Mash-up, but just as I and many others were about to count out ComicMix and company, they seem to have pulled an ace from their sleeve. Well, actually, it’s somewhere between an ace and a “Hail Mary” pass late in the fourth quarter, but whatever it is, it could be a total game-changer!

Let’s dive in…

In their latest renwed motion for summary judgement (meaning, “Don’t even waste everyone’s time with a jury trial, Judge, ’cause you know we won, so just give us our money now…”) from this past Friday, DSE is asking for a statutory award of $75,000 per work infringed, and they are claiming that THREE Dr. Seuss books were “slavishly copied”—Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (“Go!”), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (“Grinch”) and The Sneetches and Other Stories (“Sneetches”). Some examples are as follows…

On the left, two pages from stories in “Sneetches”…and on the right, corresponding pages from “Boldly.”
On the left, a page from “Go!” (top) and “Grinch” (bottom)…and on the right, corresponding pages from “Boldly.”

So that’s 3 x $75,000 = $225,000 in potential damages awarded to DSE that ComicMix would have to pay…and possibly attorneys fees, as well. Yeesh!

Now, before I tell you how Team Mash-up is planning to get out of this predicament, we need to go over two VERY important things…

Continue reading “Bombshell in the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss MASH-UP infringement lawsuit: are SNEETCHES and ZAKS in the PUBLIC DOMAIN???”