Are Star Trek fan films in danger of having the donation well run dry? It’s hard to know, but right now, things look somewhat troubling.
Last month, a Kickstarter for the proposed The Holy Core fan film (the same folks who produced the excellent Chance Encounter) didn’t even manage to get half way to their $12,000 goal and instead got nothing. Another Kickstarter for The Roddenberries’ new album and music video set a two month goal of $9,500 and, with only 11 days to go, is only up to $3,565.
And now, THE ROMULAN WAR, an exciting new Star Trek fan project, is struggling to reach its $10,000 goal on Indiegogo. Although they burst out of the starting gate with $4,200 in less than two weeks, last week was a veritable desert of donations with only a few hundred dollars coming in over the span of six days. And this despite the fact that last Monday saw a new video posted to social media spotlighting the cast and showing some never-before-seen footage, and on Wednesday there was a cool TrekYards feature on the Romulan “Strombird” class. Fortunately, yesterday saw nearly a thousand dollars come in (not sure why, since nothing notable happened on Sunday), but they’re still only 55% of the way to their goal with just 12 days left!
ATROPA is not a Star Trek fan film, nor was it ever intended to be one. In fact, it’s closer to an independent sci-fi film than a fan film. So why am I talking about it here?
Ever since the Star Trekfan film guidelines came out two years ago, armchair quarterbacking fans have suggested than Trek fan filmmakers simply create original sci-fi stories and then go sell them directly to Netflix or some other streaming or on-demand service. They offer this advice with the same casual confidence of telling someone to remember to use brown sugar to make chocolate chip cookies…as though what they’re suggesting is the easiest thing in the world.
And that’s why I’m focusing today’s blog on Atropa, a film by ELI SASICH. In a really fascinating and enlightening audio interview, he taught me a LOT about how things work in the real world of Hollywood for an independent filmmaker trying to break into the industry. If you’re one of those people who thinks it’s a simple thing to make a good film and sell it to Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime…this interview is going to open your eyes. (So if you want to keep your eyes closed, don’t listen!)
Now, if you absolutely, positively MUST have a Star Trek fan film connection to care about this film, then I’ve actually got one for you! The visual effects for Atropa (and they are STUNNING!) were created by TOBIAS RICHTER of the The Light Works in Cologne, Germany. Tobias has done equally stunning VFX for Star Trek: New Voyages, Renegades, and Axanar.
Here’s a trailer for the 7-episode Atropa miniseries (totaling about 80 minutes):
You can watch Atropa via the special STUDIO+ app from Vivendi. Here is information about how to create an account. There is a monthly subscription of $3.99, but the first month is free. So watch Atropa (and maybe a couple of other series) and then cancel…no big deal. Apparently, you can also sign up for 7-day free trial followed by $2.99/month to access Studio+ content if you are an Amazon Prime member via Prime Video (although I haven’t tried it that way myself).
By the way, Atropa was one of ten finalists in the inaugural edition of Canneseries Digital at the Cannes Film Festival. Although Atropa did not win (that award went to a digital series called Dominos out of Canada), making to the finals is nothing to sneeze at!
And now, here’s an interview with Eli Sasich that I’m certain you’ll enjoy…
Easter came early to STARBASE STUDIOS on a cold day in January. That’s when Emmy-winning musician and Parkview Elementary School teacher KEVIN CROXTON brought 33 students from his Music Club to shoot a Star Trek fan film.
The previous summer, Kevin had agreed to compose and record music for GLEN WOLFE’s and DAN REYNOLD’s fan production “Walking Bear, Running Wolf” (part of their FEDERATION FILES anthology fan series). In exchange, Kevin was invited to bring his 4th and 5th grade students to the Starbase Studios TOS sets in Marble Falls, Arkansas (about three hours from Parkview Elementary) to spend a day there filming.
The finished product was released a couple of weeks ago and is already up to an impressive 3,200 views. I consider this a MUST SEE Trek fan film not simply because the kids are adorable but because it really is a remarkably well-produced fan film! It’s well-lit with lots of interesting camera angles, the sound levels are perfect, the music is great (the kids even get to sing!), there’s amazing make-up on Spock and the Klingons (plus really nice TOS Klingon uniforms), and all of the children do a spectacular job.
But don’t just take my word for it, have a look…
I reached out to Kevin for an interview, and we had a wonderful chat. Toward the end, he told me that a photographer named BRENDA YELVINGTON had taken hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos, and offered to let me use them for the interview.
Normally, I just do my audio interviews as MP3 files with no visual elements. But this time, I was able to do something a little extra special and turn the interview into a full YouTube video. But before anyone says, “That looked really great, Jonathan, you should do it more often…” it only works when you’ve got hundreds of photos and I have a lot of extra time!
Anyway, now that you’ve watched this wonderful little fan film, please enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at group of kids and adults who made it possible…
Fans gave a sigh of relief in early February when it was announced that the STAR TREK CONTINUES sets in Kingsland, Georgia had been purchased by a fan filmmaker who intended to make the sets available to other fan filmmakers to create their Trek fan productions. The new owner is a fellow by the name of RAY TESI, and his own fan project was STARSHIP REPUBLIC, which had released the 9-minute “Serpent of Yesterday“ vignette in February of last year.
But I was curious about something: how was Ray affording all this?
Y’see, after releasing his fan film vignette, Ray launched an Indiegogo campaign to try to raise $16,000 to continue the production of his fan series. That campaign only made it to $2,351, and the project was shelved indefinitely.
Now, I didn’t know whether Ray had purchased the sets from VIC MIGNOGNA of Star Trek Continues or had gotten them for free (turns out Ray bought them). But I did know that the rent for the warehouse where the sets reside is tens of thousands of dollars per year!
So how is a guy who needed $16,000 in crowd-funding a year ago suddenly able to afford thousands of dollars a month in rent? Did he win the lottery? Rob a bank? Blackmail a rich politician?
It turns out, fortunately(!), that it was none of the above. In fact, when you hear the actual story behind Ray’s purchase of the STC sets, I think that you—like me—will gain a new respect for Ray Tesi and feel truly inspired and positive about the future of this wonderful fan resource.
Here’s the interview…
And for anyone wanting to see how awesome these sets are, here’s a walkthrough from a few years ago (before they added Engineering, which makes it all even MORE awesome!)…
What? You’ve never heard of the fan film project STAR TREK: TEMPORAL ANOMALY??? Where have you been for the past five years?
Just kidding. Most members of the fan film community have never heard of this production…even though it goes all the way back to 2013. In fact, along with Star Trek: Renegades and Star Trek: Deception, Star Trek: Temporal Anomaly was one of the first three Trek fan films to ever fund successfully on Kickstarter.
But while the other two projects were ultimately completed (Deception later in 2013 and Renegades in 2015), Temporal Anomaly seemed to be stuck in a time loop of always appearing to be “coming soon.” Seven months after their Kickstarter took in £1,741 (about $2,000 at the time), fans saw this pretty simple teaser:
Not much to write home about by today’s fan film standards, but back in 2013, that looked like a pretty cool green screen-based fan project.
A year later in late 2014, a new teaser promised a 60-minute long fan film (up from the original 20 minutes originally announced) coming in 2015…and the visual effects were looking much more exciting:
But 2015 did not bring the completed fan film. However, that year brought the following newer, even more impressive 2-minute trailer that showed an increasingly impressive compositing of green screen actors against a wide range of starship interior backgrounds. We also got to see even better VFX and brief clips of Picard and Riker on the bridge of the Enterprise-E:
That was nearly three years ago. Since then, nothing…
Earlier today, writer/director SAMUEL COCKINGS released a brand new trailer for Temporal Anomaly along with a promise to release the finished film NEXT MONTH!
This new trailer is the best-looking one yet and really blew me away:
So why did this project take so long to finish? And why do so few fans even know about it? I posed these questions and many others to Mr. Samuel Cockings during an eye-opening audio interview, which I proudly present to you below…
Look for a follow-up interview next month when Star Trek: Temporal Anomaly is released onto the Internet in its entirety!
Some call them “haters.” I call them “detractors.” Any way you slice it, though, they are the Captain Ahabs and Khans of the fan film community. They will chase ALEC PETERS ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round perdition’s flames before they ever let go of their anger and resentment for him and his fan project AXANAR.
And their wrath and indignation aren’t simply reserved for Alec himself but also for anyone who supports him and his production, anyone who stands up to defend him, and in fact anyone who has any connection to him and Axanar whatsoever…real or perceived.
Sometimes, the detractors just insult people, call them names, and/or create a few snarky memes. Sometimes it’s angry tweets and posts on Facebook. But occasionally it goes beyond that to attempts to sabotage people in social media through reports to Facebook and the like, online threats, or even interfering with people’s livelihoods. Such a thing happened the week before last…and I wouldn’t have even known about it had not a member of Carlos Pedraza’ AXAMONITOR Facebook group contacted me privately to share his newfound concerns and disgust for the group.
I personally stopped visiting the Axamonitor Facebook group (and any other lingering detractor echo-chambers) many, many months ago. It was a waste of my time, as the petty nastiness and cruel vulgarity in those groups was frankly nauseating. And it wasn’t just the insults against Alec (or me). These guys often turned venomously on each other, and the moderators had to frequently warn members to be respectful of other members (just not respectful of any Axanar supporters).
So when JOES DIAZ sent me an IM request on Facebook on Superbowl Sunday morning, I had no idea who he was or what had happened in the Axamonitor group. When I found out, I was pretty disgusted myself…although not entirely surprised.
As we messaged back and forth, I asked Joe if he felt strongly enough about this incident, and about his fellow detractors, that he might want to do an interview to share his story. He said yes, and the next day, we had the following very eye-opening discussion…
I can imagine how the detractors will react to this interview. But maybe, just maybe, a few of them might hear Joe’s words and begin to realize that hating on Axanar and Alec Peters won’t solve anything…and perhaps it’s finally time to just settle down and move on.
The year was 2012. The name of the place was Kickstarter. The project: SPACE COMMAND.
But back in 2012, fan films weren’t exactly scoring big bucks. In fact, at the time of the Space Command Kickstarter in May of that year, no Star Trek fan film project had yet succeeded in reaching their goal and getting funded. (Star Trek: Renegades‘ Kickstarter was still four months away). And even though Space Command wasn’t actually Star Trek (it was an original production created in a modern style that drew inspiration from the sci-fi literary and film classics of the the 1950s), it featured a cast that included notables from Star Trek and other well-known sci-fi franchises:
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, and now Star Trek: Discovery’s Saru)
Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5)
Mira Furlan (Babylon 5)
Bill Mumy (Babylon 5 and Lost In Space)
Faran Tahir (Star Trek 2009…he was the captain of the USSKelvin)
James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China)
And that’s only a partial list from just their first episode. Space Command is intended to be an entire series made up of multiple 2-hour episodes. The 2012 Kickstarter was in tended to set-up a studio, build sets, and film the first episode…which they did. They raised $221,000 from nearly 3,000 backers!
Two years later, in 2014, I got my first taste of Space Command when I saw the following scene with Robert Picardo and Doug Jones from their first episode…
I was blown away, and I couldn’t wait to see more! Unfortunately, it turned out that I would have to. Despite trailers like this one and this one that made it look like the finished product was nearly ready, years would go by with nothing new happening.
Last week, Space Command launched a new Kickstarter campaign to complete the final post-production on the first 35 minutes of their debut episode. And if you’re wondering if fans are still willing to support a non-studio project that had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and not delivered a finished product even after five years…the answer is: HELL, YEAH!!!!
With a goal of only $39,000, they blew past that in a matter of days! As I write this, they’ve topped $52,600 from 530 donors (including $60 from me), and they still have more than three and a half weeks to go! Stretch goals will allow them to complete additional segments of their first 2-hour pilot episode.
I caught up with writer/ show-runner MARC SCOTT ZICREE last week (just look at his IMDb page to see all the stuff he’s worked on—including Trek, B5, Sliders, and the Star Trek: New Voyages fan film episode “World Enough and Time“), and I asked him about the Space Command project, the new Kickstarter, plans for the future, and or course, why it’s been over 5 years with no finished episode yet.
Since he first made his debut as Chief Engineer Minard on the initial episode “Legacy” of the fan series STARSHIP VALIANT back in 2014, VANCE MAJOR has been involved with no less than FIFTEEN different Star Trek fan films and series…in positions both behind and in front of the camera. That’s why I like to call Vance the “Where’s Waldo of Star Trek fan films!”
Here’s a complete list of the films he’s either produced, written, directed, or appeared in (or any combination of the above)…in addition to “Legacy”:
Vance’s latest release is, I think, one of his best yet: the 7-minute Minard. The episode provides a series of scattered glimpses into the professional and personal life of Vance’s engineering character as Minard advances through Starfleet. There’s laughter, excitement, tears, and tragedy…all in just 7 minutes. It’s worth checking out before you listen to our audio interview with Vance…
I already did a 2-part print interview with Vance back in April, and I invite you to read it, as well. But I’m following that up with a new AUDIO interview that was only completed just a few short weeks ago. In the brief time since we chatted, the prolific Mr. Major has released not just one but TWO more completed Trek fan films that were still in post production when we spoke: Minard and “Command and Conquer.” (This fella is quick!)
Vance is a great guy and really interesting to listen to, but what makes this interview really compelling is that his fan films are so cheaply done…and he doesn’t mind that! Many in the fan film community lament the passing of the high-budget mega-projects like Star Trek Continues, New Voyages, Renegades, and Axanar. Barely two years ago, the future of Trek fan films seemed to hold such promise…
And it still does! That’s what this interview is all about. Sure, we might not see the hundred-thousand and million-dollar Trek fan films any longer, but the genre is far from dead! Guys like Vance Major are keeping the dream alive and prospering, and he’s about to tell you how and why…
UPDATE: A month after this interview was posted, Vance Major set a new record by releasing SEVEN Star Trek fan films in just SEVEN DAYS! All of them continues the Minard saga. Read more about it by clicking here…
How many people does it take to make a Star Trek fan film?
Think about the actors, writer(s), director, camera people, sound people, lighting people, costumers, make-up, props people, set designers and builders, special effects, visual FX, music composers, editor…and don’t forget all the production assistants and even the folks who bring the snacks, do the catering, or just run our for pizza.
For the “big” productions, like Star Trek Continues or Axanar, the number can be 50 or even 100 people! For some of the smaller productions, maybe one or two dozen.
But for a little fan film released in 2010, the answer was just…FOUR. Titled STAR TREK: SURVIVOR, the 10-minute production featured just four names in the credits, including one name who was the writer / director / producer / star / director of photography / camera operator / editor / music composer / special effects / miniatures / make-up / visual effects / and additional voices guy: MATTHEW BLACKBURN.
Considering the small size of the production team, the fan film itself was quite ambitious…with on-location shooting at multiple locations, a lot of physical acting, diverse and dynamic camera angles, and original music. And while a super-low budget necessitated the use of a few toys and collectibles in place of expensive animatronic monsters or familiar Star Trek actors, the story was darkly engaging, and the acting was surprisingly strong for an amateur production.
Seven years went by, and Star Trek: Survivor seemed content to hold its place in fan film history as a simple one-off project. I’d written a blog about it early on for my FAN FILM FRIDAY feature on the Axanar website, and I was planning on bringing it over here to FAN FILM FACTOR eventually. But before I could, Matthew Blackburn surprised me with a SEQUEL!!!
What is THE CIRCUIT…and why are fans so excited by it that the project’s Kickstarter campaign surpassed its initial $50,000 in just ONE WEEK??? (They’re now up to $64,000!)
Is it a fan film? Kinda. Is it a professional independent film? Well, yeah, it’s that, too.
Is it Star Trek? No. But on the other hand, just take a look at this cast…
Walter “Chekov” Koenig (Star Trek)
Terry “Jadzia Dax” Farrell (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Robert “Chakotay” Beltran (Star Trek: Voyager)
Armin “Quark” Shimerman (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Robert “EMH” Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Ethan “Neelix” Phillips (Star Trek: Voyager)
JG “General Martok” Hertzler (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Robert “Gowron” O’Reilly (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Hana “Molly O’Brien” Hatae (Star Trek: TNG/DS9)
Tim “Tuvok” Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Doug “Lt. Saru” Jones (Star Trek: Discovery, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth)
Manu “Icheb” Intiraymi (Star Trek: Voyager)
But wait! There’s more…
Ryan Eggold (The Black List, The Black List: Redemption)
Sylvester McCoy (The Hobbit, Doctor Who)
Gigi Edgley (Farscape, Rescue Special Ops)
Miltos Yerolemou (Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Valerie Leslie (The Paranormal Hour, 5th Passenger)
Corin Nemec (Stargate SG-1)
Rob Archer (Lost Girl, Pixels, Kick Ass 2)
Jai Koutrae (Death’s Requiem)
Mindy Robinson (V/H/S/2)
Olivia D’abo (The Wonder Years, Conan The Destroyer)
Cody Saintgnue (MTV’s Teen Wolf)
Interested yet? Well, guess what? YOU might even be able to work on this project! Yes, YOU, Mr. or Ms. Fan! And it isn’t even just one fan film; it’s TEN—all linked together in…The Circuit!
But what is…The Circuit?? (Didn’t I already write that?)
I recently sat down with MANU INTIRAYMI (the actor who played the Borg teenager Icheb on Star Trek: Voyager) for one of Fan Film Factor’s first-ever audio interviews. And I asked him to help fill in the mystery of what is……The Circuit??? So let’s find out the ANSWER…