Last week, I revealed that I’m going to need to raise $18,800 (possibly more if I end up getting production insurance) in order to make my fan film INTERLUDE, which takes place in what I’ve decided to call the “Axanar Universe.” Now, $18.8K is pretty ambitious in the post-guidelines fan film world. So how am I going to get there?
Over the years that I’ve published the Fan Film Factor blog, I’ve seen a LOT of crowd-funding campaigns—some more successful than others—and I’ve noticed some things that work and some that don’t. I’ve shared this “acquired wisdom” with many folks along the way, but now it’s time to see if I can practice what I’ve been preaching!
They say that a magician should never reveal how they do their tricks, but today I am going to do just that. I’m gonna tell you all exactly what I’m planning to try to make this a successful crowd-funding campaign. And hey, if you’ve got any additional ideas that I haven’t thought of (and don’t require me to “break bad”), please feel free to share them in the comments.
Each year at the annual TREKLANTA convention in Atlanta, GA, the Star Trek fan film community holds its version of the Academy Awards. But instead of Oscars, ours are called Bjos, named after legendary fan BJO TRIMBLE, who is credited with having saved Star Trek from cancellation back in 1968.
This will be the fifth consecutive year that Treklanta has honored Star Trek fan films and their creators with awards. Originally named the Independent Star Trek Fan Film Awards, the name was changed to honor Bjo Trimble after the 2016 awards were presented by Mrs. Trimble herself. For a full listing of previous winners and the complete history of these awards, click here to visit their website.
Treklanta will be held this coming weekend at the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel, and tickets are still available. The guest list includes Star Trek cast members and background players, authors, artists, fan filmmakers, fan club representatives, and a host of others. While not a large convention, those who attend Treklanta always have VERY positive things to say about the experience there.
Fan film selections are made by Treklanta Chairman ERIC L. WATTS based on Star Trek fan films released during the previous calendar year and which meet certain requirements for eligibility. (For a complete list of all 28 selections for this year’s competition, click here.) Then finalists are chosen for various categories (this year, there are 11) based on points determined by a panel of judges. Typically, there are four finalists per category, but occasionally, an unbreakable tie for fourth place ups the number of finalists in a specific category.
The judges this year are Diana Dru Botsford, Andrew Greenberg, Jason P. Hunt, Deborah Stevenson, William Schlichter, and Andrew Wallace. Winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony to be held Sunday afternoon, May 26, at Treklanta. Presenters will include Aron Eisenberg, Bill Blair, and Nichole McAuley.
Below is a list of finalists with links to the films…
Sure, CARLOS PEDRAZA and I have seldom seen eye-to-eye on most things (although we both think the Tardigrade lawsuit is ridiculous and should be thrown out of court…but I digress). However, good advice can come in many sizes, shapes, and packages. And after I published my projected $18,800 budget last week for my fan film INTERLUDE, Carlos posted the following comment:
You, Josh and Victoria appear to have neglected to include production insurance, which you will definitely need, especially if you plan on having minors working as crew. And your liability is likely to be complicated because your cast and crew are all volunteers rather than employees. Insurance could cost you upwards of $2,000.
Now, I’m sure there’s some suspicious minds out there wondering what Carlos’ angle is on posting such a comment here to Fan Film Factor. After all, he’s never mentioned production insurance for any other Star Trek fan project before (not even Axanar). Is Carlos trying to make it harder for me to make it to my goal by driving it up to nearly $21K? Is he trying to make me reconsider inviting locals students to help out on set? Does he not believe I’ll play by the guidelines and pay my crew instead of requiring them to all be unpaid volunteers?
I’ll be honest, many of these cynical thoughts (and others) went through my own head. And unfortunately for me, my directors (JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX) were both shooting their own fan film this past weekend, and I didn’t want to bother them until they returned back home. So I had ample time to fret over this new wrinkle.
While I waited for a chance to talk to Josh and Victoria, I read up on film production insurance on this website, and it doesn’t seem to be the scary boogey man I feared. And hey, they even allow for productions to have volunteers and interns. It’s not “complicated” after all, since many productions do the same thing. So yay!
On Monday, I finally touched base with Josh and Victoria and had a very enlightening conversation with them. Keep in mind that I’m a total novice at this whole filmmaking process. While I’ve worked on a few fan films over the years (decades now), I’ve never been a show-runner. I never had to worry about all of the details and deal with questions like “What is production insurance and do I need it?” Josh and Victoria, on the other hand, do all of this professionally, and they have been wonderfully patient with me. So on Monday, I shared Carlos’ message with them…
It’s the announcement fans have been waiting more than three years to hear!
Production on AXANAR (the sequel to PRELUDE TO AXANAR) had originally been scheduled to begin in early 2016. I had even cleared my schedule to drive to Valencia, CA to visit the set on the morning of February 2 and then drive a contest winner from there for a quick trip to nearby Vasquez Rocks in the afternoon. Fans were so excited to see this highly-anticipated full-length Star Trek fan film finally begin shooting.
You know what happened next.
A copyright infringement lawsuit filed by CBS and Paramount forced ALEC PETERS to suspend production, and a year-long legal battle finally ended in a settlement that allowed Axanar to be made with the same actors and professional crew…but only as two 15-minute short films rather than a full 90-minute feature, and with no public crowd-funding allowed (although private donations are permitted).
The subsequent loss of Industry Studios in mid-2017 resulted in a move from California to Lawrenceville, Georgia, and additional delays…during which time the amazing USS Ares bridge set has been nearly completed.
The delays in the start of production have confounded fans and supporters. Shooting had initially been announced (in an audio interview I did with J.G. Hertzler) to begin late last year, but Alec didn’t officially confirm the dates, and 2018 ended with no cameras rolling and the bridge still unfinished (although very close to completion).
In January of 2019, a new Patreon campaign was started to help fund the monthly rent for Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, renamed after the 18-month sponsorship of the studio by OWC Digital ended. Four months later, the Patreon is 55% of the way to its $4,000/month goal and still growing…currently at an impressive 229 backers contributing $2,184 each month.
For most of 2019 so far, Alec had been hinting at an unnamed fan production, in addition to Axanar, that would be filming on the USS Ares bridge set. Then earlier this month, I announced that the mystery project was my fan film, INTERLUDE, and would take place in the Axanar Universe…separate from Alec’s sequels and intended to fit in between them and Prelude (hence my title). But still no official word on when Axanar itself would begin filming.
This past weekend, the word was finally given. Production on the first of four shoots for Axanar will kick off during the first weekend of October, 2019…one week after I complete my two-day shoot at Ares Studios (plus one day at Neutral Zone Studios in nearby Kingsland, GA). The timing is not entirely coincidental, but I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming blog.
Right now, however, I turn the spotlight over to Alec Peters himself and a video update from Saturday that’s already garnered several thousand views…
Man, I hope nobody misread that headline as “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is ON FIRE!” No, no, no…that is NOT what’s happening!
But what is happening is that donations are coming into their Patreon campaign at an awesome pace! It was barely three weeks ago that I published a blog marveling at a single donor committing to pay more than $800/month(!!!) to help keep the rent, utilities, maintenance, and insurance paid on the building housing the amazing TOS sets that had first been used for both Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues.
After purchasing the sets from VIC MIGNOGNA in late 2017, uber-fan RAY TESI decided to open up the renamed NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA to any fan filmmaker wanting to shoot there (cost is $300/day). Already, Dreadnought Dominion, Ghost Ship, and the upcoming Constar Chronicles have all shot there…with more projects scheduled soon, including an appearance by NICHELLE NICHOLS for the proposed documentary about her amazing life and career.
The sets were also opened up to the general public for a weekend last October and will be opened up again this coming weekend for Fan Appreciation Weekend 2. (It’s free to attend, and you can still sign up here.)
But while they say the best things in life are free, in this case, someone has definitely been paying for the “free”—Ray Tesi himself. Considered by many (including me) to be one of the nicest guys in our fan film community, Ray has been paying the costs for this studio out of his retirement savings for the last year and a half. That’s about $3,500/month or $42,000/year.
Think about that number for a second. Ray isn’t a Kardashian (or even a Cardassian). He’s just a nice guy with a modest income and some decent savings wanting to keep these unbelievably beautiful and important sets out of the dumpster.
It’s kinda mind-blowing, I know, considering that my fan film, INTERLUDE, is shooting on two existing sets (Ares Studios and Neutral Zone Studios), the guidelines don’t allow me to pay people, and we’re only planning to film for three days. On the other hand, my goal is to do a top-quality fan film…a worthy sequel to Prelude to Axanar. And apparently, even keeping things really tight budget-wise, doing this thing right is gonna cost some bucks.
At the risk of invoking 1980s rock-and-roll wisdom, I may ask myself: “Well, how did I get here?” (And more to the point: “My God, what have I done???”) Let me take you through it.
Now, before I get started diving into the nitty gritty, let me warn you that this is going to be a looooooong blog. If you don’t care, then by all means, please skip it. I won’t take it personally. And some people (including one with the initials A.P.) told me not to even bother explaining that high number. “It’s gotta be Axanar quality,” he said. “It costs what it costs. People will accept that.”
Maybe. But if even I was shocked by that high number, then I just know others are gonna wonder if I’m just trying come up with some sushi and tire money…and believe me, nothing could be farther from the truth! So I want to be as forthcoming and up front with all of you as I can be. And when someone says to me later, “Hey, I know you don’t need that much money for such-and-such,” I’ll just answer, “Yes, I do—check out paragraph 27 of my blog!”
Also, as a blogger who devotes his waking moments to bringing fans closer to fan filmmakers and their processes, discussing my budget in detail provides a unique opportunity for a deep-dive into what I consider to be one of the most fascinating aspects of production: figuring out what everything is gonna cost.
So if you haven’t bailed on the blog yet, let’s all boldly go into Jonathan’s budget for Interlude…
If you haven’t signed up to be a backer of the ARES STUDIOS Patreon campaign yet, to quote Chekov: “Now vould be a good time!”
Patrons at all levels (even as low as $2/month) get access to a monthly PRIVATE livestream YouTube Question & Answer session with ALEC PETERS. The link isn’t posted publicly but rather is emailed directly to anyone who is part of the Patreon.
Tonight (Thursday, May 16) at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, I will be joining Alec to discuss BOTH of our upcoming fan films…and there’s a lot of news about each! You can be among the first to learn what the budget will be for my fan film Interlude, who will be working on it, and when we expect to film. As for Axanar, well, I’ll let Alec share his big news himself…and trust me, it’s BIG news!
There’s another perk to being part of the Ares Studios Patreon—which is already over halfway to its $4,000/month goal, having now reached an all-time high of $2,164 from 225 patrons. In addition to the private YouTube chats with Alec, each month backers at the $5 level and above get early access to exclusive videos from last November’s AXACON.
Although only 30-40 people were in attendance at the 3-day event, Alec hired a professional camera crew to record pretty much every panel and guest. So far, seven interviews have been released exclusively to patrons. The general public has only gotten to see two of these videos so far. The first, an interview with ALBERT MARTINEZ—a fan filmmaker guest at the con who created Chasing the Infinite Skyand will be part of the upcoming Axanar VFX team—was released publicly three months ago. It included a special HD remastered version of Albert’s breathtakingly beautiful fan film.
And earlier this week, the second Axacon video was released. It’s a lively discussion I had with STEVE JEPSON, one of my favorite people on the planet and the man who became of the face of Prelude to Axanar‘s ill-fated commander: Admiral Conrad Slater. But was Slater really ineffectual, or was he just a Starfleet scapegoat? And what happened to Slater after he was replaced by Admiral Ramirez? It’s a fascinating conversation that you’re now able to check out for yourself…
And remember that there’s still five other exclusive Axacon videos that the public hasn’t seen yet…with more being added each month. So if you haven’t yet signed up to help fund Ares Studios, now you’ve got two great reasons to do so: exclusive videos plus a chance to ask Alec and me questions LIVE about our two upcoming projects (and get inside info before anyone else in the fan community).
Last week, we began a fascinating discussion with LUKAS KENDALL, who, after raising $31,000 in an Indiegogo campaign a year ago, set out to direct a short sci-fi film that he wrote himself: SKY FIGHTER. The 15-minute vignetter story is part of an expansive full-length feature film which Lukas will be pitching to production studios. Sky Fighter will serve as a proof of concept to illustrate not only what the completed film could look like but also how competent of a director Lukas can be.
As a first-time director, studios might be more willing to buy his script and give it to someone else to direct, and Lukas doesn’t want that. This is his dream, and he is going all out to turn it into a reality.
Although the film was just completed a few weeks ago, it hasn’t yet been shared with the general public because that would disqualify Sky Fighter from consideration in most film festivals. However, backers to the original campaign were given a password-protected private link to a screening copy, and those wishing to donate to a new campaign (to fund a Blu-ray and music CD) will also be given special access to the completed film…and it is absolutely worth checking out! Here is the trailer…
A donation as low as $5 gets you immediate access to the backer-only link—and donating a little more gets you other cool stuff…
“A warm blanket of love”??? Who writes this crap? Well, I do…and frankly, that’s what it felt like to me Monday night as I sat in a Los Angeles movie theater watching a special screening of WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND with 200 other Trekkers. It was love, pure and simple…from IRA BEHR and the cast and crew of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to their fans and also to each other.
Most of you know the story of how an Indiegogo campaign in early 2017 with what seemed like an ambitious budget of $150K exploded into $650K in donations from fans of DS9. This would fund the documentary that Paramount and (now) CBS never made and were never going to make. All their effort went into remastering TOS and TNG. But DS9 was never seen by the studios as reaching the level of significance and commercial viability as the former two Trek series.
So if you want something done right…
I have to admit it: Deep Space Nine is my favorite of all the Star Trek TV series. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the others. I could watch “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Inner Light” over and over again. (“Spock’s Brain” and “A Fistful of Datas”…not so much.) And even DS9 had its share of clunker episodes. But overall, for me, the series that I feel captures Star Trek the most of all of them, the series that I’d take with me if I were ever stranded on a deserted island…that would be DS9.
This documentary was for ME. And if you’re like me, then it was made for YOU, too. If you never “got” Deep Space Nine or preferred all or most of the other series more, then this documentary is probably not for you…and that’s fine. The beauty of Star Trek is IDIC, and we’re all entitled to an opinion.
But if you are a “Niner” like me, here’s why I enjoyed this documentary so much…
It’s not easy making a set-based TNG-era Star Trek fan film! Unlike TOS, where there are multiple set recreations where fans can film, TNG sets are much more difficult to construct and maintain. Most often, 24th century Trek fan films go the route of compositing actors filmed in front of a green screen with digitally-generated backgrounds.
Such was not the case with GARY O’BRIEN from Great Britain. His first Trek fan film, the must-see CHANCE ENCOUNTER, was released in 2017 to rave reviews from fans. While filmed primarily in outdoor locations, it also featured an elaborate shuttlepod interior set as well as a turbolift constructed for the production. The whole film was produced for an unbelievably meager $2,700 crowd-funded from fan backers via Kickstarter.
For Gary’s next TNG-era project, however, there were a LOT of sets to build (you can see some behind-the-scenes video in this blog entry). Once again co-written with Gary’s friend PAUL LAIGHT, this new script—titled THE HOLY CORE—was much more ambitious and would require $11,000 (£8,700) to produce. Unfortunately, a 30-day Kickstarter campaign in early 2018 failed to reach more than half-way to the goal, and so no money was collected from backers.
Just when all seemed lost, however, an angel donor named ALEXANDER MAYER stepped up with an offer to fund the entire project. Gary and Paul were ecstatic and immediately got to work turning The Holy Core into a fully realized fan film. One year later, here is the result…
Although Gary has produced a plethora of behind-the-scenes updates and videos, there were still a few things I figured the fan viewers might like to know. So here’s a short interview with the director and co-writer of The Holy Core…