AXANAR finally WRAPS principal photography!

It’s a moment that many Star Trek fans thought would ever happen. This past weekend, AXANAR finally wrapped filming for ALL 19 actors set to appear in the two upcoming Axanar sequel fan films!

After a seven-year delay from the originally-scheduled start of principal photography back in February of 2016—interrupted by a year-long copyright lawsuit that ultimately settled, a move across country from California to Georgia, the departure of two directors, the passing of cast members RICHARD HATCH and (very recently) GARY GRAHAM, a pandemic lockdown that prevented filming for over a year, a second move to a smaller and less-expensive studio space, an 8-month cancer treatment and recovery by studio manager DANA WAGNER that delayed reassembly of the bridge set, and simply synching the schedules for more than 50 production crew, cast members, and extras —all the necessary filmed footage of the actors for Axanar is now “in the can,” as they say in the business.

This final shoot was intended primarily to film just two actors, one of whom offered to return to redo their lines while the other had been unable to attend the previous full studio shoot at the end of September 2023. That was an all-hands-on-deck, 3-day production weekend filming scenes involving 7 different actors, a number of whom required significant amounts of prosthetic alien makeup. Compared to that, this final shoot was a much smaller affair, with “only” about 20 people there making up the cast and production crew.

Reports from folks in attendance at ARES STUDIO for this past weekend’s shoot said that it went off without a flaw. MARK EDWARD LEWIS (co-director) and GEOFF FAGIEN (director of photography) oversaw the visual aspects of the shoot—lighting, shot framing, camera motion, etc.—while TED BRUNETTI (co-director) coached the actors through their performances. Alec is keeping the identities of these final two actors confidential for the moment, their names to be revealed at the premiere later this year.

There was also time available for Alec himself to do a few pick-up lines as Captain Garth, lines that were shot previously, but it was felt they could be delivered better (which, reportedly, they were). I actually have some behind-the-scenes footage of some of Alec’s time in the command chair, complements of JEFFERSON KELLEY from BEYOND TREK PODCASTS. The video below doesn’t show either of the two “mystery” actors, but it does give a flavor of how Mark and Geoff collaborated behind the camera while Ted worked with the actors. There’s also a quick 30 seconds at the beginning showing the green screen setup…

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A video interview I did with GARY GRAHAM and J.G. HERTZLER back in 2018…

Fans are still reeling from the unexpected passing last week of beloved sci-fi actor GARY GRAHAM, who died of a heart attack at the too-young age of 73. In my tribute eulogy on Tuesday, I briefly mentioned my own personal encounter with Gary at the first AXACON gathering in Georgia back in 2018.

Unbeknownst to yours truly, ALEC PETERS informed me when I arrived that I would be conducting a number of recorded interviews with various Axacon guests as well as and hosting a number of panels that weekend, including interviewing both Gary along with his PRELUDE TO AXANAR co-star J.G. HERTZLER. And I have to admit that, despite having already done countless interviews with fan filmmakers for this blog site, I was feeling quite overwhelmed with being dropped into the deep end interviewing two well-known Star Trek celebrities.

Adding to the challenge for me is that Gary and J.G. were quite jovial and easily distracted themselves with tangents into all sorts of inanity while being interviewed. In other words, they both loved clowning around…especially at my expense as the poor, overwhelmed interviewer!

But ultimately, our recorded session came out really well and was very informative about both actors’ work not only in Axanar but also in other Star Trek fan films over the years like STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN and RENEGADES. They also discussed their stage craft in general along with sharing information about their backgrounds (did you know that Gary Graham got his start in ballet?!?).

As I thought about Gary after his death last Monday, I remembered that interview and contacted Alec, asking if he still had the footage (which was initially intended for a Blu-ray extra but was also released onto the Axanar YouTube channel shortly after the Axacon event). Fortunately, Alec still had access to the interview, and Alec gave me the green-light to edit the best parts together into a single video that could be (re)posted to YouTube so that fans could watch and enjoy it.

For anyone wanting to get to know Gary Graham a little better and see the kind of funny, vivacious, and thoughtful person that he truly was, this video is for you—and him…

AXANAR completes its FINAL full studio shoot…yes, REALLY!

It’s been a looooooooooooooooooong road…getting from there to here. “There” was back in 2014 when the first Kickstarter for the full AXANAR project, ignited by the release of PRELUDE TO AXANAR, managed to generate over 638,000 from 8,548 backers. A subsequent Indiegogo campaign the following summer pushed that total over over $1.2 million. The planned feature-length Axanar movie promised to be one of the most impressive fan film productions ever.

And then they got sued for copyright infringement. The rest of that story would take another 65 blogs to tell (and it did!), so let’s jump ahead to 2023.

Back in January, Team Axanar held the its first shoot in over a year, delayed due to moving the Ares bridge set and all studio materials to a smaller, less expensive facility about five minutes away from the previous location. The shoot prior to that one had been delayed nearly two years due to COVID. It’s always something with these guys…but at least they don’t give up!

Coming into this previous weekend, footage was “in the can” (filmed and completed) for 10 out the 17 actors/characters who will appear in the two settlement-approved Axanar sequels (each limited to 15 minutes as per the guidelines). Actually, one of those 10 actors needed more time to finish up their scenes, bringing the number of remaining actors to 8. Of those, most were going to portray aliens (Andorians, Klingons, etc.), which is why those specific actors were reserved for a final weekend shoot where there could be a make-up/prosthetics team present.

That shoot, three days in total, took place this previous weekend at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA. Seven of the eight remaining actors were filmed. One actor was not able to make it and will need to be rescheduled. Of those seven who were there, three were shot on the bridge set (which had some computer graphics adjusted to turn it into a starship other than the U.S.S. Ares), and the other four were filmed in front of a green screen. Footage captured included both “interview” segments for the mock documentary format of Axanar as well as dramatic sequences.

Approximately 40 actors and production crew were on set during the entire 3-day shoot, although the main actors only showed up for one day each, of course. All of the action was overseen by co-directors TED BRUNETTI and MARK EDWARD LEWIS. Ted is coaching the actors on their performances while Mark is handling the technical aspects of direction. Mark made a video before shooting began on the first day…

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AXANAR completes its first film shoot in MORE THAN A YEAR!

1/27/2023 Axanar Day 1 at Ares Studio

Wow, can you believe that it’s been more than 14 MONTHS since my last AXANAR-focused blog? I remember back when I used to publish blogs about Axanar almost weekly! Back in November of 2021, I reported on the first new Axanar shoot since 2019…and the first shoot where new directors TED BRUNETTI and MARK EDWARD LEWIS took over the production.

Of course, the 20-month delay before that blog was due in most part to COVID shutting down not only production on Axanar but across the entire film industry! The next 14-month delay was the result of a move to a smaller (and more affordable) studio space located about five minutes away from the previous ARES STUDIOS location. The move required the dismantling of the USS Ares bridge set and its reassembly inside the new facility. Unfortunately, around this same time, studio manager DANA WAGNER became seriously ill, and his treatment and recovery took more than six months. There is no one else on the planet who could have supervised the reassembly of that complex bridge set…and certainly not for free!

Fortunately, Dana came through his treatment and recovery with flying colors and was able to return to the studio, supervising the reconstruction and even adding a number of improvements like LED lighting under the console panels, better power supply infrastructure, and even a new glowing ship schematic plaque next to the turbolift door. You can see how good the new bridge looks in this video that Dana posted to Facebook…

In addition to all of the construction going on, work had also been progressing on other aspects of pre-production over the previous few months. Mark Edward Lewis, who is handling the technical aspects of directing (while Ted Brunetti works more closely coaching the actors on their performances) has been texting almost daily with cinematographer GEOFF FAGIEN to figure out lighting, camera angles, lenses, and lots of other stuff that is so above my pay grade that I won’t even pretend to understand it!

Indeed, both Mark (traveling from Tennessee) and Geoff (traveling from Florida) arrived in Lawrenceville, GA a few days before the shoot to set up the lighting prior to the two-day shoot, which began last Friday. By getting all of the lights set up on both the bridge and in the green screen area, they saved several hours on the actual shooting days, allowing the actors to get into place and then setting up the cameras properly to give everyone the opportunity to capture all the footage with multiple takes and from multiple angles in the time allotted.

And how much time was allotted?

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AXANAR finally has its first film shoot in 20 MONTHS! (video interview with MARK EDWARD LEWIS)

It’s been more than five months since I’ve published a blog regarding AXANAR, ARES STUDIOS, or ALEC PETERS…and that might be some kind of record for Fan Film Factor! The previous blog covered the moving of the U.S.S. Ares bridge set to a new, smaller facility (with lower rent) down the road in Lawrenceville, GA. But since then, there hasn’t been much Axanar news worth covering (I don’t bother with the non-production-related drama anymore).

That said, this past weekend finally featured some Axanar news definitely worth reporting on. For the first time since before the pandemic and lockdown, new footage for the two Axanar sequels was filmed. The shooting location was NOT Ares Studios, however. The bridge set still sits disassembled, awaiting the return of DANA WAGNER (whom I call “the miracle worker” because he’s basically Scotty when it comes to that set and studio) from medical treatment. We all wish Dana the best of outcomes and a speedy recovery…we love you, Dana!

Instead, the shoot took place in a nearby Gwinnett County high school video studio with ample green screen space available. Because Dana’s wife Allison teaches video for the school district and Alec had previously allowed students in the school video program to film on the bridge set at Ares Studios, the school was all too happy to return the favor and allow Axanar to be shot at their campus facility.

Alec reported in a blog on the Axanar website that the shoot was a “HUGE success” (I’m glad my use of ALL CAPS is catching on!). Unlike the first Axanar shoot back in October of 2019 that had 80 people (cast, crew, volunteers) present over three days, last Saturday’s activities were much smaller in scope, lasting for a single day with only about 15-20 people present. The main reason was COVID, which is still a major consideration for all SAG union shoots—so at present, only the most essential personnel are allowed on set…any set.

The scenes being shot this past weekend were of actors J.G. HERTZLER (who flew in from upstate New York), ROBERT HAYES (who recently appeared on The Walking Dead and plays helm officer Deville), and RAJ KALA (an Indian Sikh who plays Commodore Singh). All three of these actors had filmed their lines previously during the first Axanar shoot, but for various reasons, their footage wasn’t usable (which I can personally confirm, having seen it), and in one case, the original footage was completely lost to a damaged memory card.

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ARES STUDIOS moves “down the street” into a new facility!

Back in 2017, ALEC PETERS closed down the massive INDUSTRY STUDIOS in Valencia, CA and moved all of the AXANAR assets—including the massive and still unfinished Ares bridge set—2,500 miles across the country to Lawrenceville, GA. The new and much smaller facility was dubbed ARES STUDIOS, and the bridge set was effectively completed and debuted to the public by AXACON in November of 2018.

Since then, Ares Studios has hosted film shoots for the two upcoming Axanar sequels, my own Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE, a smattering of other fan film projects, a couple of sci-fi parody projects, and a number of student films for high schoolers in the Gwinnett County School District.

Located in a small industrial area nestled behind a strip mall featuring (among other businesses) a donut shop situated NEXT TO a weight loss center(!!!), the 6,000 square foot space was perfect for housing the bridge set, the captain’s quarters set, other set pieces, props, costumes, and a seemingly endless supply of patches and other perks. The facility also had a front office, reception area, a second office that was often used for a changing room, a small kitchenette, and of course, a restroom. You can see Ares Studios in this video I posted for Interlude Confidential

As great as the space and location was, the main drawback was the rent+utilities, which came to about $4,000/month. And even with a Patreon providing monthly donations from hundreds of donors covering about half of that cost, it’s been a huge drain on Alec’s personal financial resources to the tune of about $20K a year!

Alec was (and still is) looking for property to purchase and construct a small metal building to hold the sets, lowering his monthly expenses. But that in and of itself is a time-consuming process, maybe 2-3 years out. In the meantime, the lease on his current space was about to run out, and his landlord had another tenant looking to take over (meaning there was no real pressure on Alec to renew). So a few months ago, Alec and DANA WAGNER began looking around for a new location, preferably less expensive but still large enough to fit the sets, props, costumes, and perks; provide space for an office and make-up/dressing room; and still be practical and functional for filming.

Many facilities were visited, but one was perfect. Located only about 2 miles down the road, and approximately a 1,000 square feet smaller than the previous space, the overall layout was actually much better. The new space would allow for the sets to all be in the back and the office space and make-up/dressing room to be out in front. It was a bit of a fixer-upper—the restroom was a disaster, and the place needed some walls moved, painting, carpeting, etc. But all of these things were relatively easy to deal with. And best of all, the monthly rent was $1,000 less!

Now, the biggest challenge was moving that incredible bridge set…!

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PAUL JENKINS and AXANAR part ways!

Well, I certainly had an interesting Saturday morning! Before I get into the news and the statements from PAUL JENKINS and ALEC PETERS on the subject of the termination of their relationship, I’d like to start this blog with something that happened on Friday night…

Several weeks ago, just prior to Alec contracting COVID-19, I’d offered to help edit a new trailer for AXANAR. Normally, the trailers are cut by the editor, MARK EDWARD LEWIS. But post-production funding is only just starting to trickle in, and I’m willing to work for free patches. So Alec agreed to send me all of the raw footage from the Axanar shoots and let me have at it. Cool, I thought.

Then Alec got sick and couldn’t leave the house. So the hard drive with the files on it didn’t arrive here in California until Friday afternoon. I took a look through everything—hundreds and hundreds of video and audio files—and thought to myself: which of these takes are the ones that the director (Paul Jenkins) wants to use? I watched through nearly everything until about 2:30am, and then went to sleep, expecting to (hopefully) set up a 3-way call with Alec and Paul sometime over the weekend or in the coming week to figure out which takes they wanted to select for the trailer.

Then I woke up Saturday to this…

Click to enlarge

Honestly, the first thing that went through my head as I considered my previous plan of going through selects with Paul and Alec was Lt. Kevin Riley’s line from “The Naked Time”: No dance tonight…

But seriously, folks…WTF???

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GARY GRAHAM leaves the AXANAR project!

The following message from actor GARY GRAHAM was posted to Facebook on Wednesday afternoon:

An hour or so later, when asked what happened, Gary added this brief explanation:

This obviously comes as a blow to AXANAR fans who looked forward to once again seeing Vulcan Ambassador Soval in the two 15-minute sequel fan films. Gary had already played the venerated character to near universal praise in PRELUDE TO AXANAR and then a year later in the 3-minute “Vulcan Scene.” In the years since the lawsuit that shut down production on Axanar in 2016, Gary had been an ardent supporter of both the project itself and of show-runner ALEC PETERS. Gary traveled from California to Georgia to appear at AXACON in 2018, saying positive things about Alec and the original production in interviews like this one (skip to 14:40).

Gary’s announcement came without any warning. And in the last 36 hours, I’ve seen unconfirmed reports of “irreconcilable differences,” that Gary is hoping to land a role on the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds series and worried that an association with Axanar Productions would hurt his chances, and even political friction (Gary and Alec are on opposite sides regarding Donald Trump).

With so many unconfirmed rumors spreading on social media, I reached out to both Alec and Gary for comment. Gary has not yet responded to my request, but Alec confirmed that the first he knew that Gary was leaving the project came on Wednesday, and Alec provided me with the following statement (which has also been posted to the Axanar website)…


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ALEC PETERS tests positive for COVID-19!

ALEC PETERS has logged a lot of “firsts” in the Star Trek fan film community. He was the first to raise more than a million dollars in crowd-funding for a Trek fan film project, he was the first to get sued by the studios, the first to survive such a lawsuit and reach a settlement agreement, and the first to set up an online store to sell merchandise based on original aspects of a fan film.

And now he’s the first well-known Star Trek fan filmmaker to test positive for COVID-19.

At this point, this is kinda “old” news. Alec first told me that he thought he’d caught the virus back on Sunday, July 5th. He’d had a 101-degree fever for two straight days and was feeling sicker than he’d ever felt before (although he never lost his sense of smell or taste). Alec explained that he’s generally healthy, and when he gets sick, symptoms typically don’t get too bad and pass pretty quickly. This felt different. And since it wasn’t flu season, Alec suspected by Sunday evening that he might have contracted the Novel Coronavirus.

It’s not that Alec hadn’t been careful. He wore a mask everywhere, washed his hands often, and social distanced. But Georgia is a pandemic hot-spot, currently 4th in the nation of 50 states in active COVID-19 cases with an average of 3,500 new cases per day for the month of July.

On Sunday evening, as Alec began to suspect that he’d contracted the highly infectious virus, he went to the CVS website to schedule a test and discovered that the earliest appointment they had available wasn’t until Wednesday. (What’s wrong with this picture, folks?) He booked it.

Meanwhile, Alec’s girlfriend CRYSSTAL HUBBARD, kept her distance from Alec while he isolated himself upstairs in his room. Fortunately, they have a five-bedroom house, so separation wasn’t difficult on a practical level. Going to work wasn’t an issue for Crysstal, as her job is at a night club, and those establishments were closed down at the time Alec got sick. In fact, Crysstal was furloughed for about 2-3 months total.

Although Alec announced through social media that he was “95% certain” that he had coronavirus (shortly before taking the test), I decided to hold off reporting it here on Fan Film Factor until the results were in. Alec was told to expect the results in about 6 days. (Again, what is wrong with this picture??? )

There was, of course, an outpouring of sympathy and well wishes from across fandom. And then, sadly, there were also Facebook posts like these…

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AXANAR schedules shoots in AUGUST and OCTOBER!

AXANAR needs only two more shooting days and the production phase will be complete. Just…two…more…days.

Seems so simple, and yet, because of COVID-19, it’s proven to be just out of reach. And it’s not just Axanar that’s been stopped dead in its tracks. Because of concerns from the various Hollywood trade unions, television and motion picture production has been brought to a standstill throughout the entertainment industry. Don’t binge-watch too much too fast because your favorite shows aren’t coming back in September…and probably not even this year!

But there is finally a ray of hope.

Actors, directors, writers, camera people, hair & make-up, grips, gaffers, and pretty much everyone in the film industry are dying to get back to work. They just don’t want to be dying BECAUSE they went back to work (man, that sounded morbid!). As such, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers recently formed a task force to put together this 21-page white paper providing guidelines for “safely” restarting production. I put “safely” in quotation marks because it’s hard to be 100% safe when actors often have to be up close to other actors and not wearing face coverings, and lighting and camera and sound people have to lean in close to each other, and hair and make-up people can’t do their jobs if they’re 6 feet away from the actors and aren’t able to powder noses and put on lipstick because of face masks and…you get the idea.

But the white paper does its best to provide a reasonable “cover-your-asses” approach to restarting film production…and both the unions and the studios are on board with it. After all, people need to get back to work! And the recommendations are pretty obvious, all things considered:

  • Crews should consist of as few people as possible.
  • Have production meetings virtually or at least with social distancing.
  • Everyone wears PPEs on set except for actors when they’re filming.
  • Wash hands frequently; clean every piece of shared equipment as often as is practical.
  • Regular, periodic testing of the cast and crew; social distance as much as possible on set.
  • Use electronic scripts and call sheets on personal handheld devices (or if you need print things out, make sure no paper is shared).

And the list goes on and on. But the idea is to minimize the risk factors on production sets as much as possible.

Because Axanar is a union project, no new filming could be done until a set of guidelines was issued that Axanar Productions could follow. But now that the white paper is available and being slowly adopted throughout the industry, the Axanar project can begin moving forward again, albeit tentatively at first.

Here’s the plan as it stands right now…

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