Last week in Part 1, we learned how, in March of 2021, RAY TESI from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS had asked JOSHUA IRWIN from THE AVALON UNIVERSE to make the half-day drive from northeastern Arkansas to southeastern Georgia to be the director of photography for the newest TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE fanthology film “DOOMSDAY.” Josh was happy to help out, and the completed production has quickly become the most watched of all three of the Neutral Zone releases, nearly doubling the views of the previous two offerings, THE LOOKING GLASS (released in June of 2019) and ENDOSYMBIOSIS (February 2021) in only a couple of weeks.
Take a look…
We had just learned that, after arriving at the studio on the day of shooting, Ray had gotten buried under other studio-related tasks he needed to do. And so he asked Josh if he would mind taking over as director in addition to being director of photography (two VERY different jobs). Josh is used to dealing with the unexpected on film sets, working in the film industry himself professionally, and so he agreed to the challenge.
Of course, this gave Josh essentially no time to prepare as director, and so I asked him the following question…
Ya just gotta love the folks at DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. Well, you don’t have to love them, but it’s hard not to! They spread such fun and joy through their fan films.
You would think that a fan series set on board a three-nacelled dreadnought-class starship would involve lots of battles and intense, serious action. And you would be wrong. Out of all of the most active ongoing Star Trek fan series, Dominion is one of the ones that takes themselves the LEAST seriously. Although they have had a handful of dramatic releases, they’ve also had a whole bunch of good, wholesome, fun-for-the-whole-family style episodes that just make you want to laugh and smile.
And what could be more wholesome than the captain’s mother visiting her son on the bridge of his starship? And what could be more family-friendly than releasing an episode titled “MOM” on Mother’s Day? Are you ready for something adorable…?
Seriously, how cute was that??!
Yeah, I know. Nothing like that would REALLY happen on a Federation dreadnought starship …or any starship, most likely. And the repercussions of a cloaked Klingon scout ship deep within Federation space could lead to interstellar war. And to that I say: “Stop complaining and go call your mother and tell her that you love her!” (My apologies to any out there who have lost their mothers, but if you know any mothers in your life, send them a link to this wonderful vignette and put a smile on their face.)
Speaking of smiles, I just couldn’t wait to ask GARY DAVIS, longtime Dominion showrunner and Captain Jason Brousseau himself, some things about this precious piece of production positivity…
NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA is the only place on the planet where fans can shoot TOS-era Star Trek fan films on a full range of TOS-era sets including the bridge, engineering, sickbay, briefing room, transporter room, auxiliary control, captain’s quarters, turbolift, and a full range of corridors. WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas has some, but not all, of these sets for fans to film on. And while JAMES CAWLEY’s TOS sets in upstate New York feature all of the rooms listed above, his sets are now an official licensed tour and are no longer available for shooting fan films.
But Ray Tesi and Neutral Zone Studios also have their own fanthology series called TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE. Their first episode, THE LOOKING GLASS, was released in June of 2019 and has had about 28K views on YouTube so far. Their second episode, ENDOSYMBIOSIS, was hit YouTube in February 2021 and is currently over 15K views.
Their third release, DOOMSDAY, premiered just last month on April 5 (“First Contact Day”) and is already up to a staggering 81K views!!! Why the immediate popularity? Well, it could have something to do with the telling of the long-speculated tale of how Commodore Matt Decker and the crew of the U.S.S. Constellation first encountered the Planet Killer device and wound up the way Kirk and the Enterprise crew found them at the beginning of the TOS episode “The Doomsday Machine.” Take a look…
No too shabby, huh?
One of the most intriguing aspects of this fan film isn’t simply what went on in front of the camera but also who was standing behind it. Fan filmmaker JOSHUA MCHAEL IRWIN (who is also a professional filmmaker) is based in Arkansas and typically shoots his Avalon Universe productions at WARP 66 Studios. He did film Avalon‘s first release, GHOST SHIP, at Neutral Zone, and he later shot their 2021 releaseCOSMIC STREAM there, as well. And although Josh was the director of photography for INTERLUDE (filmed at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA), nobody in the fan film world ever associated Josh with Tales From the Neutral Zone.
Until now, that is.
Josh served as director, DP, and film editor for Doomsday while Ray served as executive producer. Apparently, that was a winning combination, as the film has proved extremely popular on YouTube.
So how did this pairing happen? And what went into the production of this new fan film? I decided to interview both Ray and Josh together…
PURSUIT OF A DREAM is a really great fan film! I almost said “surprisingly” great, but it really wasn’t a surprise because of the two blokes behind it. I call them blokes because NICK COOK and SAMUEL COCKINGS both live on the quaint little isle of Britannia.
Just in case you’re new to Star Trek fan films, here’s a quick primer. Nick Cook of Dundee, Scotland has been the showrunner on the Scottish Star Trek fan series INTREPID since they began work shooting their first fan film waaaaay back in 2003 (and released four years later). You can read the complete history of Intrepidstarting with this blog.
Meanwhile, 422 miles south of Dundee, in the city of Bedford, England, SAMUEL COCKINGS has made a name for himself as the prestidigitator of all things animational when it comes to CGI for Star Trek fan films. I often joke that it takes less time to list the Star Trek fan projects that Sam HASN’T done the VFX for than the ones he has…but I’m not entirely convinced it’s actually a joke.
Among the fan series that Sam has worked on is—you guessed it!—Intrepid. Nick has also appeared in a number of Sam’s TREK SHORTS videos, including the first one (released last year), A LONG WAY FROM HOME. Nick will also be one of the primary stars of Sam’s upcoming mega-crossover fan film event CONVERGENCE.
So these two fan filmmakers are frequent collaborators. However, Sam usually runs his fan films and Nick just appears in them. Meanwhile, Nick runs Intrepid fan films and typically uses Sam on the back end for post production CGI effects. But Pursuit of a Dream is the first time Sam has come aboard Intrepid as a director!
In a story co-written by the two of them, Sam brings his eye for camera composition along with his amazing skills in both CGI animation as well as his ever-improving expertise with compositing green screen footage against jaw-dropping virtual 3D backgrounds to create a visually stunning fan film. Nick, meanwhile, brilliantly portrays his popular Intrepid character of Daniel Hunter at different times in his career. And because this film spans so many years, Sam sneaked in a little de-aging sorcery to make Nick look subtly younger in certain scenes. You really need to see it to believe it…
There’s also a bevy of guest star appearances by actors who have appeared in previous fan films from both Sam and Nick—including NIMRAN SAUND as Anna Keeley, MARCUS CHURCHILL as Sam Harriman, and a surprising cameo by RISHA DENNEY playing the character of Elizabeth Shelby for the first time since STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER!
There is SOOOO much to talk about! So I’m glad I was able to schedule two of my favorite Brits together at the same time during what was lunch for me in Los Angeles and just after dinner for them in the U.K. Are you ready for the British invasion of Fan Film Factor…???
At first, it appeared as though their issue was that the Showrunner Awards are charging a $10 entry fee (plus $1 per additional category like best director or best music). And thus I saw several posts like this…
Of course, submission fees are the industry standard. Just look on Film Freeway (where nearly all independent film festivals list their competitions), and you’ll see that submission fees range from $25 up to $100 per film. Even the recent fan film DIIRECTORS CHOICE Awards charged $10 per submission. Entry fees keep film competitions from being innundated with too many free entries.
When I pointed this out in one of the fan film Facebook groups, suddenly the issue “transformed” into from simply charging an entry fee to using those fees to help defray the ongoing annual hosting and site security costs for Fan Film Factor. The aforementioned JUSTIN BURTON suddenly switched to saying he was “fine” with the $10 fee itself, but not with what it would be used for…
And that’s when I realized: this is a complaint in search of a problem! (Imagine that!!!) I was actually tempted to reply, “Okay, so I won’t use the money raised for Fan Film Factor, and instead I’ll just go out and have a sushi dinner.” But I decided against it.
I probably don’t need to point out that fan filmmakers hold crowd-funders all the time looking for donations to help finance their “hobby.” And of course, I’ve covered hosting and security costs for Fan Film Factor mainly out of pocket for more than six years.
But hey, whether this blog site is a “hobby,” a pastime, a ridiculous time-suck, or a crazy obsession, Fan Film Factor serves our community in a very unique and important way. It honors and celebrates fan filmmakers and their creations, gives their projects extra exposure and web views, helps in their crowd-funding, and provides independent media coverage when these fan filmmakers opt to list themselves on IMDb.
Amusing, though, the negative nellies seemed to be even MORE incensed (if such a thing is possible) with the decision of our 12-member judging panel to open the competition to fan films released over MULTIPLE years—in the case of this first awards show, any fan film released from January 2017 through December 2021.
Back in 2012, one of the earliest Kickstarters for a Star Trek fan film set a goal of $600 and raised $2,200 from over a 100 backers. The result, a hilarious animated puppet parody of the TOS episode “Amok Time,” premiered later that same year. Showrunner and animator MARK LARGENT originally intended that STALLED TREK: “AMUTT TIME” would be a one-off fan production…especially considering all of the work and computer rendering hours required to complete it.
But Mark’s CGI puppets weren’t quite finished yet!
In 2016, during the early days of the AXANAR lawsuit, I was interviewing Mark about “Amutt Time,” we got to talking, and we ended up co-writing and co-producing a hysterical puppet parody called PRELUDE TO AX’D-WE-ARE. Although it didn’t feature any of the zany Kirk/Spock/McCoy/etc. characters, it was still branded as Stalled Trek.
Two years later in 2018, Mark decided that it was time to go back to the TOS roots of Stalled Trek and parody a second classic episode. STALLED TREK: “THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FORECLOSURE” launched a Kickstarter with a humble goal of just $600 and blew past it in just 8 hours! By the time that campaign ended, Mark had generated $4,181 from 114 backers. But shortly thereafter, Mark discovered that the 3D application he’d been using to animate Stalled Trek would no longer be supporting or updating the application on the Macintosh platform, and Mark didn’t have the money to switch to a Windows PC. Instead, he switched programs and started from scratch with Blender 3D.
The following year, as a proof of concept, Mark released the short vignette, ALL AHEAD FULL, in June of 2019, which was—as usual—brilliantly funny. And in the meantime, work continued on “City…”
Close to the finish line, Mark held an additional Indiegogo campaign at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 that raised another $3,785 from 54 backers for “City…” offering DVDs/Blu-rays plus a high-quality 48-page “flip” comic styled after the old Star Trek “fotonovels” from the 1970s—one side adapting “Amutt Time” and the upside down side adapting City…”
And before anyone starts yelling about selling unlicensed Star Trek merchandise, Stalled Trek is unquestionably a PARODY and is—unlike most non-parody fan films—directly protected under the Fair Use doctrine.
“City…” was finally completed and mailed to donors on a blu-ray in June 2021. Since then, this humble fan film has gone on to win a ton of awards…
Indie Short Fest
IndieX Film Fest
Azure Lorica Fan Film Awards
LA Sci-Fi & Horror Festival (2 awards)
New York International Film Awards
Grand Rapids Comic-Con Film Festival
Oniros Film Awards
Cult Movies International Film Festival
Independent Shorts Awards
RED Movie Awards
Berlin Sci-Fi Filmfest
Plus it was a finalist in The Galactic Imaginarium Film Festival and the Beyond the Curve International Film Festival.
So where can you see this marvel on YouTube? At present, you can’t. But Mark is once again making “City…” available on DVD along with “Amutt Time” and a BRAND NEW puppet parody, STALLED TREK: “THE DUMBSDAY MACHINE.” Here’s a trailer for it…
We don’t see much Deep Space Nine in Star Trek fan films. Sure, we get the occasional reference to the Dominion War, as in the Czech fan film SQUADRON, but we typically don’t get to see the U.S.S. Defiant or Deep Space Nine itself. Part of the reason is that it would be nearly impossible for fans on a tight budget to recreate those massive Promenade and Ops sets on the station, or even the smaller bridge of the Defiant. And up until now, there hasn’t really been a decent virtual option to show a CGI background behind an actor filmed against a green screen.
You did notice that I said, “up until now,” right?
CGI Master of the Universe SAMUEL COCKINGS has already become legendary in our community for supplying industry quality visual effects at ridiculously affordable prices for countless Star Trek fan productions (way too many to list, so don’t ask…just look on his IMDb page). Now Sam is becoming just as well known for compositing green screen footage of actors against elaborately realistic 3D backgrounds of familiar starship and shuttlecraft interiors…and his latest interior is the bridge of the Defiant.
Sam pioneered and refined this skill in time collision Star Trek fan film TEMPORAL ANOMALY. He then crowd-funded a crossover film, CONVERGENCE, combining characters and story elements from five different Star Trek fan productions. Unfortunately, repeated COVID quarantines in the U.K. and Europe have prevented all of the actors from getting together in the same place at the same time for filming, and that project remains still in production.
However, that didn’t stop Sam from crowd-funding a second project…or rather, a set of projects. TREK SHORTS would be a series of vignette fan films, shot with smaller casts featuring only one or two actors on screen at once. The successful Indiegogo campaign took in $12.7K intended for the production of SIX separate short fan films. One of those films, the 19-minute A LONG WAY FROM HOME (did I say “short”?), premiered during the campaign and featured four actors, none of whom appeared on screen at the same time…making this technically a “fandemic” film.
But even isolating the actors from each other didn’t solve all of Sam’s COVID problems. On multiple occasions, an actor would test positive, and plans needed to change…often a the last second. This resulting in two “bonus” Trek Shorts releases, HOURS AT WARP and STARGATE SG-1: NEW MISSION (a prequel to a Trek Shorts universe crossover fan film).
Most recently, Sam released yet ANOTHER “bonus” Trek Shorts episode, not previously announced in the Ingiegogo campaign. It features scenes on the U.S.S. Defiant bridge plus a shot of Deep Space Nine at the end, a true rarity in fan films. Take a look…
The 2022 Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS are now accepting submissions! Entries can be submitted until the end of the day on May 31, 2022. Winners will be announced on September 8, 2022. Here is the entry form:
The Showrrunner Awards are the newest annual competition exclusively for Star Trek fan films and will be unique in a couple of very significant ways. The first is that the window of eligibility is not just a release within the previous calendar year but any Star Trek fan film released with in the last FIVE years (January 2017 – December 2021)! Once a fan film wins a Showrunner Award in a specific category, it is no longer eligible to win in that category again.
The other unique feature of the Showrunner Awards is that there will be THREE winners in each category: ADMIRAL, CAPTAIN, and COMMANDER level…each with a digital certificate (sorry, there’s no way I can afford physical plaques).
Following the example of most industry film festivals, the Showrunner Awards will require a small entry fee ($10) for each fan film submission, which allows a qualifying entry to be considered in the main category of Best Star Trek Fan Film. Each additional category will cost an extra $1, plus there is a small processing fee. To keep operational costs down, payments will be accepted only by credit card only (no check, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, or Crypto at the moment) and are processed by the third party service STRIPE.
The money raised will help me cover the annual expenses for FAN FILM FACTOR (domain hosting, support, site security, etc.). While I truly appreciate the monthly contributions from my 8 patrons, the money from my Patreon falls well short of my ongoing costs for keeping this blog site going.
Here is a list of categories for the Showrunner Awards:
Best Fan Film
Best Lead Actor (submitter may enter up to three actors)
Best Lead Actress (submitter may enter up to three actresses)
Best Supporting Actor (submitter may enter up to three actors)
Best Supporting Actress (submitter may enter up to three actresses)
Best Film Editing
Best Sound Design/Mixing
Best Visual Effects (CGI)
Best Special Effects (non-CGI)
Best Musical Score
Best Hair & Makeup
Best Original Character
Best Scene (up to 2 minutes)
Best Micro-Budget Fan Film (total production cost $1,000 or less, not including set construction)
The last three categories are really intriguing to me and were suggested by members of our twelve-member panel made up of Star Trek fan film showrunners…
Up until now, fan films (specifically Star Trek fan films) had only one annual awards competition devoted exclusively to their sub-genre, and those were the BJO AWARDS. Now there are three. The SHOWRUNNER AWARDS will begin taking submissions next week for Star Trek fan films, with winners announced on September 8, 2022. But yesterday, the Fan Film DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS announced their winners and honorable mentions.
Launched by fan filmmakers DAN REYNOLDS and GLEN L. WOLFE of WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas, creators of the fan series THE FEDERATION FILES, the Directors Choice Awards were open to fan films of any genre (not just Star Trek) released during calendar year 2021. The judges were the directors of those submitted films. In order to take part, a director had to cast votes in each category for a fan film other than their own or be disqualified from winning.
Submissions were accepted during the month of February, and Dan Reynolds had this to say about their early trepidations: “We weren’t really sure how the initial response to our inaugural launch of the Fan Film Directors Choice Awards was going to turn out, but we soon realized that we struck a nerve with the fan film community. We knew we were on the right track, and within a few short weeks after our announcement, we received over 30 entries.”
Glen Wolfe echoed Dan’s sentiments: “From its inception, we wanted to fairly honor those hardworking fan film producers with recognition directly from their peers. This experience has been extremely positive, and I think that the films entered and those winning awards should show that the Fan Film Directors Choice Awards was a success and has encouraged us to continue it indefinitely.”
Dan concluded: “I’m very happy with the diversity of fan films that were included this year. We had Star Trek, Star Wars, James Bond, Harry Potter, and Indiana Jones fan films entered this year, and we hope that expands in the coming years. I was also very happy that the winners were from all the represented genres.”
And speaking of winners, that’s the perfect segue into presenting the results of the very first annual Fan Film Directors Choice Awards…
In Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, we got to know STAN WOO and JOHN ATKIN. Back in 1985, Los Angeles-based Stan convinced GEORGE TAKEI and JAMES SHIGETA to play Hikaru Sulu and Admiral Nogura, respectively, in a low-budget fan film titled YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL. The completed production was finally released onto the Internet in April 2022…
Although much of the film was shot between 1985 and 1987, it remained unfinished even in 2010 when Canadian Trek fan John offered to help Stan finally complete the film.
Along with help from Hollywood writer PAUL McCUDDEN, Stan and John expanded the short 15-minute script to bring in new characters in new locations. The first original footage for Yorktown since the 1980s was shot in 2011 and 2012, as two different scenes featuring Klingons were filmed with lines spoken entirely in the Klingon language.
In the meantime, VFX artist ROLAND BARON created CGI models of the U.S.S. Yorktown, a Klingon K-fighter, and the terrorist vessel Nagaer based on sketches from ANDREW PROBERT, who designed the refit Enterprise NCC-1701 from Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as and the Enterprise-D. A short trailer spotlighted Roland’s amazing work…
MORE SHOOTS…LOTS OF ‘EM!
The year 2012 ended with two major shoots that took place at Capilano College, based in North Vancouver, British Columbia. The first shoot was filmed in November in front of a green screen and featured CHARLES EDWARD BAE (who had provided the Klingon translations) as the Klingon Colonel Qumeq, publicly lambasting the evils of the Federation to an audience over a newsfeed.
The second shoot happened at the same location in December but was not simply another green screen. John elaborates, “IAN GUSTAFSON had access to an amazing set at Capilano College. The set was one that had been used on a small independent sci-fi movie, but Ian and Charles modified it so much that it is just about unrecognizable to its original form. The set was transformed into ‘Deck 19, Section 6’ of the U.S.S. Yorktown.”
This was for a new sequence set before the refit, showing the terrorist attack and the death of Jeffrey Pond’s fiancée Lt. Katherine Baetz, played by ZLATINA PACHEVA. This opening sequence will be the only footage in Yorktown to feature the classic TOS-style Starfleet tunics, which were purchased from Anovos and then adorned with Yorktown patches (custom-designed and manufactured by STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE fan film costumer JOE KEREZMAN).
A final piece of the opening segment was supplied the following April in 2013 by none other than GEORGE KAYAIAN, who had begun shooting his own new fan series in New York called STAR TREK: ANTYLLUS. “I had seen some of George Kayaian’s earlier fan film work on YouTube,” John explains, “and I had seen pictures of his small bridge set that he was building on Facebook. I thought that it would be perfect for our Hangar Bay scene and asked if we could use it in the film, and if he would be interested in playing an officer in that scene.” The rest, as they say, is history.