Some of you might be aware that last night I was planning to launch my GoFundMe crowd-funding campaign for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. We had it all planned: ALEC PETERS would host me and my directors, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN, on his Axanar Confidential YouTube Livecast. The start time was supposed to be 9:00 pm Eastern. I posted all over Facebook and to a number of mailing lists.
And then the dog happened…
To be honest, I’d been a feeling little uneasy about the livecast the entire day. Alec was traveling back to Georgia all the way from Oklahoma (where he had been for the weekend)—a 13-hour drive! Could he make it back in time for the livecast?
As the day went on, I checked in with Alec periodically. By lunchtime, he and his girlfriend CRYSSTAL HUBBARD were in Memphis…half-way there. Later in the afternoon, while passing through Birmingham, Alabama, Alec’s GPS showed an arrival time of 8:30 pm. Cutting it close, to be sure…but we should still make it. Whew!
But then Alec texted me that he had to cancel the livecast. The reason: an emergency dog rescue…
Before I begin, let me state for the record that this budget was compiled by me based on input from a number of sources, including my directors VICTORIA FOX and JOSH IRWIN along with several other people whom I trust. But the final numbers and estimates were mine because, as executive producer, I am the guy responsible for raising the money, explaining to you how we are going to utilize it, and ultimately writing the checks from the money we raise.
So is this budget 100% perfect? Probably not. Some things might end up costing less, some will cost more, and probably a bunch of things we haven’t even thought of will suddenly pop up out of nowhere. If we come up short, we’ll need to figure out ways to trim things. For that reason, I’ve “erred on the side of caution” and created my budget to assume costs on the high side. That way, if we don’t make our goal, we’ll hopefully still have enough to make a decent fan film by streamlining and trimming things from the budget.
And what if we go over our goal? Well, if there’s enough left over, perhaps we take the surplus and mail out some extra patches to our donors as a thank you gift. Maybe we can afford something even nicer than a patch. Maybe we can afford something even nicer than a patch. We’ll see. If there’s a lot left over, it goes into a bank account to be reserved for a future Axanar Universe fan film from me or another Axanar fan.
One place the funds do NOT go is to Axanar Productions to help ALEC PETERS in any way to make his Axanar sequels. That would, according to Alec himself, violate his settlement agreement with CBS and Paramount. This includes giving him any of our uniforms to use for his shoot. (Amusingly, he can loan some of his uniforms to us, but not vice-versa. Even though that sounds odd, it’s the legally prudent thing to do.)
Among the more annoying and often-ignored fan film guidelines is number 6e: “No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.”
Boo. Hiss. Expletive.
And as I’ve said elsewhere, a number of post-guidelines fan film crowd-funding campaigns have ignored that one…offering posters, patches, and a bunch of other perks. Thus far, CBS hasn’t seemed to mind. In one case, the production even got permission from CBS to offer perks!
However, I’d be naive to believe that CBS won’t have me and my production under a microscope. So I’m taking great pains to keep INTERLUDEcompletely separate from Alec Perets’ Axanar sequels (other than having Alec play Garth) and to establish very clearly and publicly my intention to follow ALL of the guidelines.
And that means…no perks!
Man, it’s a huge risk. Perks are exciting! Perks are cool! Perks make people think they’re getting something tangible for their donation (which, if you think about, isn’t that different from simply buying that perk…which is probably why CBS doesn’t want fan productions to do it).
But perks also cost money to make and to mail. In addition to the patches or posters or T-shirts or mugs, you’ve got to buy shipping materials and pay for postage. And heaven help you if you’ve got backers from places like Asia or Australia. That $10 donation is likely gonna cost you $25 just to mail them a frickin’ patch!
So I’ve obviously got a pretty good reason NOT to offer perks. I’m already trying to raise about $20K. Add in perks and packaging and postage, and you can increase that number easily to $22K or $23K!
So instead, all I am going to be offering as a “perk” is getting your name in the credits. But are people going to want to donate simply to see their name at the end of my fan film??? Granted I do have some fun categories for listing the names:
Ensign – donate up to $10
Lieutenant – $11-$50
Lieutenant Commander – $51-$100
Commander – $101-$250
Captain – $251-$500
Commodore – $501-$1000
Admiral – $1001-$2500
Associate Producer – $2501 and up (no Fleet Captain…that rank’s reserved for Garth!)
The idea is that, the larger your donation, the higher your rank and the larger your name in the credits. And for the Associate Producers (assuming I get any), they will also be invited to join us at ARES STUDIOS for filming. They’ll have to pay for their own transportation and lodging—but I figure if they can afford thousands of dollars to donate to a fan film, they shouldn’t have a problem with a plane ticket and a Holiday Inn Express.
So what do you call a fan film that’s already raised over a million dollars, turned a warehouse into a studio with those donations, then closed the studio, isn’t finished with the film yet (even many years later), and is now asking supporters for even more money…and getting it?
Yep, it’s MARC SCOTT ZICREE’s SPACE COMMAND…back again for yet another Kickstarter!
And the fans are still showing their support. With a stated goal of $35K, their newest campaign was already well past $45K before it even launched! How did they manage that? Easy…just open it early to previous donors for 36 hours when they can be the first to claim special limited-time perks. It’s now about a week later, and the Kickstarter is well over $60K and climbing steadily. (I should be so lucky with my crowd-funder next month!)
So if Space Command has already taken in over a million dollars and hasn’t even finished their first 2-hour pilot yet, then what are they doing asking for even MORE money? Glad you asked!
Space Command got its start waaaaaaay back in 2012 with an early Kickstarter that brought in a staggering $212,000 from more than 2,000 donors. It then took five years for the project to reach post-production, where a second Kickstarter raised an additional $108,000 that would help complete the first hour of the 2-hour pilot episode “Redemption.”
The first half-hour segment of the pilot premiered last summer at San Diego Comic cons and debuted on YouTube for fans in August. Then a third Kickstarter raised $102,000 more for post-production on the second hour of the pilot. Marc is also selling individual $7,500 shares in the venture for supporters looking for a return on investment if/when the series sells. Those shares have brought in an additional half million dollars.
Space Command will ultimately span six 2-hour episodes for its first season, featuring such notable sci-fi actors as DOUG JONES (yep, that Doug Jones); ROBERT PICARDO (from Voyager) ; MIRA FURLAN, BRUCE BOXLEITNER, and BILL MUMY (from Babylon 5); FARAN TAHIR (the captain of the USS Kelvin from Star Trek 2009); JAMES HONG (from Big Trouble in Little China and Kung Fu Panda); and host of others. This is a true professional sci-fi endeavor, created through public funding for a fraction of the cost the networks are paying for their shows (although hopefully they’ll be buying it).
The first 2-hour (pilot) episode “Redemption” has already been fully funded, completely filmed, and half-completed with 900 visual FX shots, sounds, music, color adjustment, etc. And the first hour has been available for free on YouTube since January 1. Check it out…!
But now it’s time to crowd-fund the second episode, “Forgiveness.” Let’s talk about that one for a little bit…
A slight change of plans for my fan film INTERLUDE, which will be set in the Axanar Universe and will be crowd-funding soon!
The majority of the fan film will be shot on the amazing bridge set of the USS ARES in Lawrenceville, GA. Initially, the plan was to film there for two days in late September and then drive down to Kingsland, GA for a third day of filming on the TOS sets at Neutral Zone Studios. There are two scenes that take place in my fan film—one in sickbay and the other in engineering—that are brief but still very important to the story.
The new plan, instead of filming in Kingsland, has the sickbay scene being shot in Arkansas at WARP 66 Studios, which is run by GLEN WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS. Those TOS sets have been used for episodes of THE FEDERATION FILES as well as recent Avalon Universe productions from my Interlude directors JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX. In fact, Josh and Victoria live relatively close to Glen and Dan, so the change of location actually makes things quite a bit more convenient for them.
It also trims about $1,000 or so from our budget…YAY! Without the need to drive 5 hours across Georgia, I won’t have to rent a car in Atlanta for the weekend. Plus, we won’t need three or four hotel rooms in Kingsland for the night.
Glen is already coming up with ideas for altering his TOS sickbay set into looking more like the earlier sickbay from the second Star Trek pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” If so, that’d be totally AWESOME(!!!), since Interlude takes place during the Four Years War, two decades before Kirk’s 5-year mission. So Glen has my undying appreciation (that’s a subtle Kharn reference for all those Axanerds out there)!
As for the engineering scene, WARP 66 doesn’t have that set as yet. However, the engineering scene in Interlude is so brief (like, maybe, 10 seconds) that we can easily “fake” it with a green screen composite. And there’s a bunch of engineering backgrounds available out there for our VFX guy to use.
In the meantime, I’ve been working hard on a really fun “ask” video for the crowd-funding campaign, which will launch in just a couple of weeks! The opening VFX sequence is being scored right now, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you. My team is excited, I’m REALLY excited, and I hope that soon you’ll be just as excited, too!
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.
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…