CHAOS AT THE NEUTRAL ZONE…the most ADORABLE technobabble EVER! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

First off, you’ve still got about 24 hours left to donate to the TREK SHORTS Indiegogo! While the amount raised is still well short of its original $37K goal (or the equivalent in pounds, as Lord SAMUEL of COCKINGS lives in the U.K.), the campaign has seen a surge in the last week, doubling the level it was at when I published my previous blog about the new release DUTY CALLS.

So if you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, give the link below a click and toss a few shillin’s inta the ol’ collection hat, guv’nor (’tis Christmastime, after all, Mr. Scrooge)…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

And speaking of my last Trek Shorts blog, it spotlighted the adorable newcomer to Trek fan films EMMA THORNE, who plays the even more adorable Ensign Laura Reed. And if you thought they both couldn’t get any more adorable, then you need to watch the latest Trek Shorts release, CHAOS AT THE NEUTRAL ZONE

This is the second Trek Shorts “Memory Alpha Documentary” style release, the first one being THE BATTLE OF VELSAK 2, released back in October at the beginning of the current crowd-funding campaign. That one featured a monologue by NICK COOK recounting the battle from the perspective of Daniel Hunter of the U.S.S. Intrepid. Nick’s a strong actor and a fantastic guy…but he’s not nearly as adorable as Emma!

Now, one of the LEAST adorable things in Star Trek is what is affectionately known as “technobabble” by both fans and the writers. Star Trek: Voyager was full of it, but so, too, were TNG, DS9, and most of the rest of the Trek series. Actors dreaded having to deliver those tongue-twisting lines where the ship had to generate an inverse polyphasic neutrino burst through the starboard emitter array without blowing the EPS conduits and imploding the duonetic phase inducers on the aft side of the secondary hull.

But Emma somehow manages to to take those long lines of sciency-whiency gibberish and make them oh-so endearingly cute and lovable. I asked Sam Cockings about that and other aspects of this campaign-closing fan film release in the following mini-interview…

Continue reading “CHAOS AT THE NEUTRAL ZONE…the most ADORABLE technobabble EVER! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)”

A GIANT PROBLEM brings a family into the world of Star Trek fan films! (video interview with the YISRAELs)

It’s no secret that I love Star Trek fan films (kinda hard to keep blogging about ’em for seven years if’n I didn’t!). It’s not that they’re all superb cinematic viewing experiences or that every script kicks ass or every performance is a masterpiece of dramatic presentation.

But that’s why I love these productions!

I love seeing what fans can do with the resources they have or can assemble—either alone or with the help of crowd-funding. I love to see what they can accomplish. And most of all, I love the community that assembles around them in support and camaraderie.

And that’s what happened recently with a very low-budget fan film release titled A GIANT PROBLEM. I learned about it after VANCE MAJOR, the fan behind the CONSTAR series, spotlighted the project. So I watched it, as did many others. The film didn’t have incredible sets or top-notch costumes or jaw-dropping visual effects. It was simply a bunch of fans in store-bought uniforms standing in front of green screens with composited background stills from TOS.

And I thought: “THIS is the essence of what Star Trek fans are!” Take a look…

The first thing I noticed was probably the most obvious: everyone in the cast is an African American. While there are certainly a decent number of Black fan filmmakers both in front of and behind the camera, it’s no secret that, at least when it comes to Star Trek fan films and series—for whatever reason(s)—most of the people involved are white. So an all-Black cast is a true rarity, and a most welcome one!

More than that, however, these folks had their heritage on proud display with hair, clothing accessories, and even jewelry that embraced and celebrated Black culture. If you’re a fan of IDIC, this is certainly the fan film for you!

And then, as I watched the closing credits, I saw this…

Everyone in the cast shares the same last name! In other words, this was a family project. How awesome is that?? While there are some husband/wife, parent/child, and even sibling fan filmmakers, seldom does an entire family get together to produce a film. I found myself wanting to learn more about these fine fan folks.

Heading off to Facebook, I discovered that writer/director/lead actor LUD YISRAEL is a jazz man from Chicago who owns the Neo Jazz School of New Orleans and has a doctorate in theology from Yahweh University. AND he’s a Trekkie??? Along with his family?

Well, if that wasn’t worth a video interview, I don’t know what would be! So I reached out to DR. LUD and had a wonderful discussion with him, his wife TAMAH, and his son YAH’EL YISRAEL. And what was the most fun was seeing and hearing how excited they are to learn more about and dive into this wonderful fan film community that we share…

INTREPID travels from SCOTLAND to SAN FRANCISCO to give fans a “sequel” to STAR TREK IV…THE ONE WITH THE WHALES! (interview with NICK COOK)

Okay, I totally have a new favorite Star Trek fan film! I mean, I don’t like to play favorite, but man, I loved this one!

So why is it my new favorite? Is it the sets? Nope, no sets. The costumes? Not really, most of the scenes don’t even have people in costumes. The visual effects? Well, they’re nice, but still no.

It’s the concept…and execution…and the nostalgia!

STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME—the film that most non-Trekkies (and even some Trekkies) refer to as “the one with the whales”—premiered on this date, November 26, back in 1986…36 years ago if you can believe it! And it was such a lovingly-crafted, funny, and adorable film. Like the best of Star Trek, it had a message for us in the present (a not-so-subtle one!) warning us to change our ways. Each member of the “sensational seven” crew got something to do: Kirk went after the girl, Spock got to be smart and logical and then transcend, McCoy got to practice medicine and be snarky, Scotty got to show off his engineering prowess and show everyone how to use a computer (if he’d only had Alexa or Siri!), Sulu got to be a pilot, Chekov and Uhura got to visit the nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise (really the U.S.S. Ranger, but this is Hollywood)…and at the end, they’re all back on a brand new U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC – 1701-A. What’s not to like?

Indeed, we LOVED it! Oh, you can complain about leaving Saavik behind on Vulcan, violating the temporal prime directive by giving the world transparent aluminum, or ponder the infinite time loop of Kirk’s spectacles. But in the end, this was just a fun movie to watch, and watch it we did! Thanks to the advent of VHS tapes in the late 1980s, some of us watched this film dozens and dozens of times on our VCRs (I’m not naming names, mind you, although one of them had the initials J.L.).

And of course, we know all of those adorable, whacky scenes that took place on the streets of San Francisco (or San Fran, as those who live in California know to call the City by the Bay…none of this “Frisco” dipsh!t). This magnificent city that I’ve visited so many times—I didn’t wear flowers in my hair, but I might have left my heart there once or twice—is the future home to Starfleet Headquarters, and yet, there’s never been a major Star Trek fan film shot there.

Until today!

Ladies and gentlemen, thanks to the efforts of NICK COOK, his wife LUCITA FARIA of Dundee, Scotland, and members of the INTREPID fan filmmaking crew, I am oh-so-proud to present to you my new favorite Star Trek fan film: THE ONE WITH THE WHALES (you’re gonna love it!)…

Oh, you betcha I interviewed Nick Cook about this one…!

Continue reading “INTREPID travels from SCOTLAND to SAN FRANCISCO to give fans a “sequel” to STAR TREK IV…THE ONE WITH THE WHALES! (interview with NICK COOK)”

The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 3: DUTY CALLS (interview with EMMA THORNE)

In the last of my triptych of interviews with the female actors who have been playing leading roles in recent releases of TREK SHORTS from VFX Minister SAMUEL COCKINGS, I turn the spotlight on newcomer-to-fan-films EMMA THORNE. (The previous two interviews were with NIMRAN SAUND and ALEXA BROWN.)

Now, Emma might be a newcomer to Star Trek fan films, but she is certainly NOT a newcomer to YouTube! In fact, Emma has spent the last six years building a following of more than 112K subscribers to her YouTube Channel, having posted in excess of 200 separate videos (most of them of quite decent duration)!

Sam noticed Emma on one of his many long stretches of editing his films when YouTube videos playing on the second monitor can keep him company. He liked her vibe and noticed her geeky props in the background, and he’d been wanting to expand the cast of regular actors/character in Trek Shorts. So he took a chance and messaged her on Instagram.

“She saw my rather detailed first message,” says Sam, “and because she has experience working in the VFX field, realised the quality of the shots I was sending. This wasn’t as amateur as the ‘Star Trek Fan Film’ name suggests. We had a wonderful Skype chat, and she was clearly curious but still a bit, ‘What is all of this?’ Now I’m thrilled to say we have shot on multiple days with multiple cast, and we’ve become good friends.”

The first Trek Short to feature Emma, DUTY CALLS, made its debut on YouTube at the end of September, and has already logged upwards of 42K views. Take a look…

According to Sam, “The reaction to her prologue short has been TREMENDIOUS! The You Tube algorithm rarely favours fan films, but when it does…amazing! We’ve had a ton of comments asking for her to do more, and I know Emma is pleased with this reaction because we have done more, and she didn’t know what the reaction would be—ha!”

By the way, before I forget! Sam’s crowd-funding campaign for Trek Shorts is struggling with about a week and a half left. It’s only about 15% of the way to its ambitious $35K goal, but with Indiegogo, you get to keep whatever donations you raise regardless, which is currently very close to $6K, which is still decent money!

But every little bit WILL help. So if you can afford to give even a little bit, it’ll go directly toward making some impressive Star Trek fan films…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

Continue reading “The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 3: DUTY CALLS (interview with EMMA THORNE)”

You don’t have to live like a “REFUGEE” if you’re on the STARSHIP DEIMOS! (interview with RANDY LANDERS)

The fine folks at POTEMKIN PICTURES consistently continue to dutifully deliver a steady stream of finessed fan films mostly monthly. (Did you catch all the awesome alliteration in that previous sentence? Hey, a blogger’s gotta keep you on your toes, right?)

Anyway, their latest release comes from the long-running STARSHIP DEIMOS creative group, their 20th completed fan film in six years. “REFUGEE” is an intriguing story and worth viewing…

There’s actually a LOT going on behind the scenes in this little fan production. For more insights and info, here’s Potemkin show-runner RANDY LANDERS…

Continue reading “You don’t have to live like a “REFUGEE” if you’re on the STARSHIP DEIMOS! (interview with RANDY LANDERS)”

The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 2: THE ICARUS ENCOUNTER (interview with ALEXA BROWN)

Last week, I presented the first of what will be three consecutive interviews with the very impressive female actors who have played (and will continue to play) leading roles in the TREK SHORTS fan series. British Czar of CGI SAMUEL COCKINGS has created an ever-expanding buffet of eye-popping Star Trek fan films compositing performers acting in front of green screens with ultra-detailed and realistic-looking digital backgrounds recreating starship interiors from the 23rd through the 25th centuries of Starfleet history. Then he combines these live-action scenes with uncanny VFX shots to bring to life character-based stories in ways that few fan filmmakers can.

Before I go any further, this is a good time to remind readers that Sam is currently trying to raise $35,000 to make even more Trek Shorts. There’s less than a month left, so don’t wait to make a donation…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

Since the kick-off of Sam’s previous Indiegogo campaign a year and a half ago, he’s already released an impressive EIGHT Trek Shorts fan films:

And more will be completed and released soon, with several others waiting to be crowd-funded.

I covered The Tholian Gambit last week along with an interview with lead actress NIMRAN SAUND, who has appeared in no less than five of Sam’s films (see last week’s interview for links). This week, I turn our attention to another skilled thespian, the talented ALEXA BROWN, who reprises her role of Captain Joan Keller of the U.S.S. Vigilance for the first time in a Trek Short entitled The Icarus Incident.

Wait a second! Did I just says “reprises her role for the first time”? Yes, for the first time in a Trek Short. You might recognize Alexa’s character of Captain Keller from another excellent fan film from filmmaker GARY O’BRIEN (also of Great Britain), THE HOLY CORE, originally released in mid-2019. Sam brought in Alexa to play the same role in a Trek Short that was released back in August of this year, which you can watch below…

Pretty good, huh?

Alexa’s character is actually replacing the role of Captain Alexander Richardson, played by Dutch actor and showrunner of STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, ROBIN HIERT. Robin was supposed to appear in the mega-fan film crossover project, CONVERGENCE, which Sam had crowd-funded back in late 2018 and was delayed due to the multiple COVID lockdowns in Europe. “Robin was set to join us for our June shoot as late as January 2022,” explains Sam. “However, in February, Robin’s real life took over, and we didn’t hear from him for a long while. At that point, he left the project, but we had still set a June Convergence shoot, as we were long overdue.” And that’s when Sam reached out to Alexa Brown.

Continue reading “The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 2: THE ICARUS ENCOUNTER (interview with ALEXA BROWN)”

The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 1: THE THOLIAN GAMBIT (interview with NIMRAN SAUND)

Even though the awesome fan film THE THOLIAN GAMBIT from the British Minister of Visual Effects, SAMUEL COCKINGS, came out nearly six months ago, I’ve been saving it in my back pocket in order to combine today’s interview into a series of three interviews, each with one of what I was originally going to collectively call “Sam’s Women.” Instead, I’ve decided to use the monicker “The Women of TREK SHORTS.” Either way, the three actresses have all proven themselves to be very impressive performers, certainly some of the highest caliber among Star Trek fan films.

But perhaps even more notable than their obvious talent is the fact that Star Trek fan films don’t typically present women as the leads. There have certainly been plenty of female actors who appear in a wide range of Trek fan films, but seldom do they sit in the center seat and/or become the main/sole focus of the story. There are, of course, some notable exceptions, dating all the way back to Captain Elizabeth Shelby in STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER, Lexxa Singh in STAR TREK: RENEGADES, Captain Sian Gabriel of STARSHIP DEIMOS, Captain Castille of STAR TREK: DECEPTION II, Captain Kara Carpenter of STAR TREK: AURORA, three of the four captains of the Czech fan film SQUADRON and Captain Shelby of the Czech fan film MYSTERIOUS ODYSSEY, Ensign Williams of THE RED SHIRT DIARIES, the two PROJECT: RUNABOUT fan films, Commander Alisa Vandre of PACIFIC 201, Captain Keller in THE HOLY CORE, and Aaron Vanderkley’s main character in LINE OF DUTY plus his captain in BEYOND THE SUN and OUTBREAK.

(And yeah, I might be missing a few female fan film leads, but trust me, that list is waaaaay shorter than the list of male captains and lead actors…kinda like Star Trek itself, to be honest.)

So let’s give Sam Cockings credit for casting three very talented female actors as leads and captains in his various fan films, including his recent parade of Trek Shorts releases. Speaking of which(!), just a friendly reminder that Sam is trying to raise $35,000 for a series of even MORE awesome Trek Shorts (plus the final release of CONVERGENCE), and he’s 11% of the way there as I type this. I encourage everyone reading this to click on the link below and donate at least a little something. There’s some very nice perks, but mainly, Sam and this team just make incredible fan films, and we’d really like to see more…!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

Today’s Part 1 blog turns the spotlight on NIMRAN SAUND, or “Nim” for short. Her first Trek fan film dates back to 2013 when she filmed scenes for Sam’s excellent TEMPORAL ANOMALY, which was eventually released in 2019. Since then, she’s reprised her character of Keeley (or rather, Keeley’s 24th century descendent) in A LONG WAY FROM HOME, ONE SMALL STEP, and a cameo in the INTREPID episode “PURSUIT OF A DREAM.” And most recently, Lt. Anna Keeley got a promotion to Captain in one of the first Picard season two fan films, The Tholian Gambit

Continue reading “The women of TREK SHORTS, Part 1: THE THOLIAN GAMBIT (interview with NIMRAN SAUND)”

The LOWER DECKS finale’s post-credits EASTER EGG tag…

NEEDLESS TO SAY…SPOILER!

With new Star Trek episodes of the various active series now dropping nearly every week throughout the year, I’ve stopped canceling and reactivating my Paramount+ subscription and have just accepted the reality of yet another streaming service sucking away a “small” monthly fee from my credit card.

And honestly, I do enjoy having Paramount+, even if mainly for Star Trek and little else. But the one thing I most unequivocally do NOT like is the way their app handles their shows’ closing credits! You get about 5 seconds before the active credits roll shrinks down to an unreadable size to make room for whatever show they want to recommend next (as opposed to making the recommendation the small overlay).

This means that, if you wanted to see if that familiar voice you heard on the latest episode of LOWER DECKS was really ARMIN SHIMERMAN or GEORGE TAKEI or JEFFREY COMBS or J.G. HERTZLER, you need to move at warp speed to your remote, hit the right arrow, hit enter, and hope you were fast enough to restore the credits roll to full size before the names of the guest stars finish displaying.

And of course, you’re NEVER fast enough.

So you now need to rewind the playback 15 or 30 seconds (not sure how big the jump is) and let it play again. Of course, then the resizing algorithm activates a second time, and you have to go through the whole rigamarole AGAIN! So next time, you restore the credits to full size and let them play through a little longer before jumping back. This brings up another failure of the Paramount+ application: the credits are slightly dimmed out as they play. I’m not sure what that’s all about, but it confirms to me that there is/was no QA (quality assurance) bug testing at CBS Interactive when the original All Access application was being created, as this problem has existed since day one without ever being corrected.

Now, what if the show’s creators decide they want to include a post-credits easter egg? Disney does it all the time. First of all, that will be dimmed out, too, and barely visible. But also, just in case you missed it (or couldn’t see it well enough or simply wanted to watch it again), by the time you each the end of the credits, the jump back button on your remote NO LONGER WORKS!!! Instead, the application jumps to the next recommended show (which for me is always—shudder!—DISCOVERY).

So you navigate back to the main menu, but now the Paramount+ application takes you back to the beginning of the episode, NOT the end of the closing credits where you left off! And worse, if you’re like me and opt for the cheaper subscription with forced commercials, the app doesn’t credit you the commercials you’ve already watched but instead plays them AGAIN even if you fast-forward to the closing credits! And of course, once you reach them, the resizing algorithm kicks in again…ARGH!

Continue reading “The LOWER DECKS finale’s post-credits EASTER EGG tag…”

GARY DAVIS drives 12 hours EACH WAY to deliver a new CAPTAIN’S CHAIR to NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview)

It takes a special kinda crazy to be a part of Star Trek (or any) fan films. But when I heard that GARY DAVIS, showrunner of the long-running fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, and his wife Tracey had driven 12 HOURS from central Ohio to the southeast corner of Georgia, installed a chair, and then drove 12 hours back home, well, I just had to find out more!

Now, just to be clear, the chair was the iconic CAPTAIN’S CHAIR, the center of command on the bridge set recreation at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA, which is used for multiple TOS-era fan films and series…including Gary’s. So he’s sat in that chair a lot and would know as well as anyone that it needed replacing. (He also built the chair that was being replaced!)

But let’s also make clear that Gary and Tracey drove down there, staying overnight in a hotel along the way, installed the chair, and then turned around and went back home, staying overnight in another hotel. They didn’t film anything at the studio or hang out any longer than to have a quick chat with people there. According to Gary, he simply did a short walk around the studio looking for things to use in their next Dominion shoot on November 4-6 and then they headed out.

And yes, my friends, you read that right: Gary will be heading BACK to Neutral Zone Studios in two weeks! So he and Tracey made this 1,600-mile round-trip drive just to deliver and install a chair that they could have delivered and installed 14 days later! Huh????

I can’t take it. Gary, get your butt over here now! We need to have a little chat…

Continue reading “GARY DAVIS drives 12 hours EACH WAY to deliver a new CAPTAIN’S CHAIR to NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview)”

TREK SHORTS releases THE BATTLE OF VELSAK 2 and launches new INDIEGOGO! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

CGI MasterChef SAMUEL COCKINGS has so much on his plate that he kinda needs an entire buffet table! If you watch Star Trek fan films, you probably see his awesome VFX work all over the place, most recently in the AVALON UNIVERSE, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION and PROJECT: RUNABOUT, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, the two most recent releases from AARON VANDERKLEY of Australia BEYOND THE SUN and OUTBREAK, SQUADRON from the Czech Republic, INTREPID from Scotland, and the amazing THE ROMULAN WAR, PART 1.

Even now, Sam is busy in the U.K. working on or preparing to work on VFX for the upcoming FARRAGUT FORWARD plus new releases from the Avalon Universe, Tales from the Neural Zone, Dreadnought Dominion and Project: Runabout, Aaron Vanderkley’s next Voyager-era fan film RESISTANCE, plus The Romulan War Part 2 and an under-the-radar TNG-era fandemic film from the U.S.

Tell me that isn’t a LOT of work!

Oh, I completely forgot to mention: Sam ALSO has a fan series of his own called TREK SHORTS!

Talk about WORK! Sam has released SEVEN films in the Trek Shorts series so far:

The final one has just premiered, starring NICK COOK (of Intrepid), who does an amazing acting job! It’s Trek Shorts first exploration of the mock documentary format—along with being a VFX feast for the eyes, as you can see below…

Just FYI, The Tholian Gambit, The Icarus Incident, and Duty Calls will be featured in a three-part blog series over the coming weeks as I interview the stars of those fan films one at a time.

Another Trek Shorts film (possibly two) will be released soon in support of Sam’s new Indiegogo crowd-funder, trying to reach an VERY ambitious goal of $35K. You can donate something yourself by clicking the following link…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2022-by-fans-for-fans

Interestingly, Sam did another campaign for Trek Shorts a year and a half ago, raising $11K to fund five fan films—and yet, none of those were among the seven that were already released! I’ll be asking Sam about that shortly. Note that a sixth Trek Shorts film debuted during the campaign, the aforementioned A Long Way from Home, but it was billed as a “bonus” release, as were the other films listed above.

Also interestingly, Sam is still working on his five-way crossover fan film CONVERGENCE, which raised more than $7K in an Indiegogo waaaaay back in late 2018…before COVID interrupted the production. I’ll also be asking Sam about that shortly.

Actually, why wait? Let’s bring in Señor Cockings and fire a bunch of questions directly at him…!

Continue reading “TREK SHORTS releases THE BATTLE OF VELSAK 2 and launches new INDIEGOGO! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)”