Last week, we met show-runner NICK COOK and his crew of the fan series STAR TREK: INTREPID, based in Dundee, Scotland. In November of 2007, just six months after they released their first episode “Heavy Lies the Crown” in May, fans got their second taste of Intrepid. But it wasn’t an episode produced entirely by Nick and his team in Scotland. This was a crossover fan film with the long-running fan series STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER, shot in Pasadena, CA in collaboration with ROB CAVES and his Areakt Productions. The name of this 12-minute fan film was ORPHANS OF WAR….
Hidden Frontier had already had an impressive run, with fifty episodes (about a half hour each) released from 2000-2007. By the time that the crossover with Intrepid was released, Hidden Frontier had already ended its seven-season run, and a new fan series from Areakt had debuted: STAR TREK: ODYSSEY. The first episode, “Iliad,” tied in directly with Orphans of War and was released just two months earlier.
Intrepid‘s second solo episode, “Where There’s a Sea,” wouldn’t debut until the following summer. So as my in-depth interview with Intrepid show-runner Nick Cook continued, I decided to spend time discussing Orphans…
The latest fan film release from POTEMKIN PICTURES is the sixth episode from the BATTLECRUISER KUPOK (pronounced kah-POOK’) creative team. Altogether, Potemkin Pictures currently has six different fan series—er, creative teams—in active production…resulting in an average of about a dozen fan film releases each year for the past few years. You can watch each of their nearly-80 completed fan films here on their website.
Although there is some occasional cross-referencing of events, characters, and plot elements between and among the various Potemkin Pictures series, full crossover episodes are a rarity. However, for last month’s “A MATTER OF TRUST,” the crew of the Klingon battlecruiser Kupok must seek out the help of the crew of the Federation hospital ship Marie Curie. The two casts and their respective sets are both featured prominently in this ambitious 10-minute episode. You can view it below…
With the frequency of releases from Potemkin Pictures, I’ve begun to ask show-runner RANDY LANDERS a few questions each time. Here’s our latest exchange…
JONATHAN – In a sentence or two, why should fans take the time to watch “A Matter of Trust”?
RANDY – It’s full of the optimism of the original Star Trek series, and I believe it’s a beautiful story. Plus it gave me a chance to work with my old friend, RICK ENDRES (an award winning fan fiction writer) again.
JONATHAN – Were there any unique challenges in filming a full crossover of two of your series?
My heart sank last Friday morning when I got the call from Axanar director PAUL JENKINS. I immediately wished I could shift the blame to someone else and cover my ass in some way.
But no, that’s not what Star Trek taught me. Kirk always took responsibility for the actions of his crew, whether or not the captain himself had personally been the one at fault And as executive producer on INTERLUDE, the buck stops with me…or rather, the 4,700 bucks stop with me.
That’s what it’s going to cost to replace Paul’s 100 ft. x 20 ft. professional-quality, custom-made green screen that was accidentally ruined during the November INTERLUDE film shoot at Ares Studios.
Paul owns a production company, META Studios, and the giant portable green screen belongs to him (not to Alec Peters or Ares Studios). Paul brought the green screen to Ares Studios to use for the October AXAANR shoot and left it there to use again in December for last weekend’s shoot.
In November when we filmed the scenes for Interlude on the Ares bridge, we wanted to be able to shoot toward the view screen and composite in shots later using a green screen. It would (and probably still will) look really cool. But we needed a green screen to do it.
Fortunately, there was one on site, and we assumed it was okay to use it (Paul wasn’t there at the time; he visited the following day). And by “we,” I mean my Interlude team. And as a team, I am not singling anyone out for having screwed up. It was my team, and as such, I’m responsible for what happened next…
This past weekend, Star Trek fan film history was made when VANCE MAJOR released nearly FORTY(!!!) brand new episodes of his CONSTAR CHRONICLES along with another almost-thirty updated versions of his previous MINARD saga of fan films.
All told, Vance just posted about 15 hours of Star Trek fan films ranging from short vignettes of only 3 minutes to full-blown epic episodes a half hour in length…and everything in between!
Vance had previously made a name for himself when he turned his character of Chief Engineer Eric Minard from the fan series STARSHIP VALIANT into an artificially long-lived Starfleet officer whose career spanned from the Christopher Pike era all the way through the Battle of Wolf 359, the re-taking of Deep Space Nine, and beyond. Along the way, Minard has encountered multiple alien races, survived space battles and starship crashes, and even squared off against his Mirror Universe doppelgänger. All the while, Vance paid for his dozens and dozens of fan films with the change he found in his sofa, and shot them all on his cell phone.
To me, Vance represents the true HEART of the Star Trek fan film community—a Trekker who does this not to get noticed or to get accolades for quality or “sizzle” (most of his episodes are, frankly, minimalistic and slow-moving) but because it’s in his blood…an itch he has to scratch. And Vance invites others to come along and play in his little corner of the sandbox simply because it’s fun!
Vance has filmed on THREE different TOS sets: the now-defunct Starbase Studios in Oklahoma; Netural Zone Studios in Georgia, and WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas…and next summer, he’ll be at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA.
After releasing the 30-plus fan films in his Minard saga over the course of years, an emotionally and physically exhausted Vance “retired” from fan filmmaking…or so we thought! Shortly thereafter, about a year and a half ago, Vance came back into the fold and announced a new series of fan films that would feature Minard but focus as well on the various members of his 24th century crew of the USS Constar.
The first AXACON took place during at the beginning of November in 2018 and “piggybacked” an existing mini-convention in Atlanta called SphinxCon. Fans got to walk around the newly-unveiled USS Ares bridge set on Friday and then attend a series of live convention panels on Saturday and Sunday with folks like GARY GRAHAM, J.G. HERTZLER, DAVID GERROLD, PAUL JENKINS, and of course, ALEC PETERS. Most of those panels are now available for viewing online.
The Axacon2018 weekend of events and panels ended up costing Alec about $5,000 out of his own pocket. But the goal was always to launch a new wave of crowd-funding…first to cover the monthly rent and expenses to house the bridge set in Ares Studios (through a Patreon campaign), and later to generate excitement and enthusiasm to encourage private donations to help fund the two AXANAR sequels (click here and then follow the instructions if you’d like to contribute…they’ve raised more than $41,000 so far!).
This year, Alec has already fronted the $75,000 cost of the first Axanar shoot at the beginning of October and the second shoot going on this weekend. So funds are tight, all monies are going into production, and holding another Axacon this year would be out of the question, right?
Well, as it turns out…
Axacon 2019 won’t be the same as Axacon 2018. There won’t be a public tour of the studio or a physical convention. But there will be live panels with guests…AND it’ll be free to attend! How is Alec Peters managing this? Simple: it’ll all be live-streaming on YouTube!
Axacon 2019 will take place beginning at noon Eastern Time on Sunday, December 8, lasting for four hours. All of the panels will be hosted live on the Ares Studios bridge set and available for viewing on the Axanar Youtube Channel.
The four-hour online event is capping off a weekend that will also feature the second Axanar film shoot. Significantly smaller in scope than the first 3-day shoot in October, this one will feature two Garth scenes: one a short clip of Garth on the bridge and one in his quarters looking at casualty reports. Sunday will include multiple behind-the-scenes interviews in the morning, leaving ample time for the panels during the afternoon.
The following is a schedule of the panels, their topics, and the guests…
If you hear the words “Star Trek” and “Scotland,” chances are you’ll immediately think of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. But do you think of NICK COOK and the cast and crew of the STAR TREK: INTREPID fan series? You should…because Intrepid is currently the longest-running Star Trek fan series still in active production (and there’s no end in sight).
Even though their first episode didn’t premiere until 2007, production actually began way back in 2003—before there was YouTube!—and you could count the total number of Trek fan series on one hand (well, maybe you’d need a couple of fingers from your second hand, too).
Since then, Intrepid has released twelve fan films PLUS an additional three crossover fan films with STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER…and has also had its characters make cameos in three (soon to be four) additional fan series.
A resident of the city of Dundee on the eastern coast of Scotland, Nick Cook is the unstoppable force behind Star Trek: Intrepid (now simply “Intrepid,” as the fan film guidelines no longer allow the use of the words “Star Trek” in a fan film’s title). Nick is well known in the fan film community and generally considered one of the nicest guys out there…and I heartily agree!
I recently shared a trip down Memory Lane (no relation to yours truly) with Nick to look back at the full 15-plus-year history of this much-respected fan series from his perspective. We started with the very early years…
The AVALON UNIVERSE made its unexpected debut in our universe on Halloween of 2018…which was somewhat appropriate, considering the storyline of the debut episode (the 2-part GHOST SHIP) was kinda a “Star-Trek-meets-The Walking Dead” mash-up. Exactly one year later, on Halloween 2019, the latest Avalon Universe fan film, DEMONS (the third story so far), premiered the first of its two segments, with part 2 coming out a week later. In between was the one-part AVALON LOST, which came out in February of 2019.
All three stories were something quite different than most other fan films…and I don’t mean just the unusual meshing of Kelvin-verse uniforms with TOS-style sets…along with nacelles and shuttlecraft which looked slightly different than the familiar Prime Universe technology. No, what fans noticed almost immediately was a quality level—of acting, directing, lighting, camera angles and lens selection, sound mixing, film editing, pacing—that was a step or three above the vast majority of other Star Trek fan films.
This is by no means meant to diminish the achievements of those other fan filmmakers…some of whom have used the same TOS sets (initially the former Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues sets in Kingsland, GA and—later—the TOS sets at WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas). But when it came to the Avalon Universe, fans just knew this was something extra special.
That quality came primarily from the two show-runners: VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN, two die-hard Trekkers who work professionally in the film industry in Arkansas. With training in acting and film production, Victoria and Josh brought a level of craft not typically seen in most fan films…and fans watched these releases on YouTube in the tens and even hundreds of thousands.
Demons was the first of the three Avalon Universe fan films to be crowd-funded, raising just over $6,500 from 102 backers (including $45 from me!) on Indiegogo back in March of this year. And even though that was 25% short of their $8,500 goal, the completed fan film still looks mighty impressive.
I present below the two parts of Demons (there are links in the first paragraph of this blog to features on the earlier Avalon releases—along with additional audio interviews with Victoria and Josh). When you watch Demons, look for cameo appearances from two well-known Trek fan filmmakers: VANCE MAJOR and GLEN WOLFE. After that, I invite you all to share my latest fascinating interview with Victoria and Josh. But first, take a look at this…
Pretty impressive, huh? Wanna learn more about how a project like this came together? Have a listen as I interview director/co-writer/lead actor/producer Victoria Fox and co-writer/DP/production designer/executive producer/lots-of-other-things Joshua Irwin about their latest fan film masterpiece…
It’s like clockwork! I call it “PMS”—the Patreon Monthly Slide—although others simply call it “the Dip.” And yeah, it’s a thing. At the beginning of every month, most Patreon campaigns with a decent number of backers suddenly and inexplicably drop by 2%, 3%, or even 5%…only to recover some or most of the loss over the next few days.
It’s happened to both the Ares Studios Patreon as well as the Neutral Zone Studios Patreon (two of the largest current Trek fan film-related campaigns)…over and over again. And when “the dip” hits Ares Studios, you’ll usually see something like this posted over on Axamonitor…
Of course, looking at only a short snapshot of a single month misses the big picture entirely. And if you were to zoom out, you’d see the long-term trend is actually pretty solid (with a noticeable uptick in the weeks since AXANAR successfully completed its first film shoot at the beginning of October)…
So yeah, if you cherry pick a specific short downtick from the nearly year-long graph, you can try to sell the argument that four months of progress have essentially been “erased.” But overall, long-term, Ares Studio is a very strong and steady campaign, consistently taking in more than $2,000/month from over 200 donors, not dropping significantly from that level, and even showing a slight (and later, more pronounced) up-slope. And it’s been providing ALEC PETERS upwards of $25,000 per year to help with the rent and utilities for the studio.
But what’s also obvious from that long-term graph is that, yes, at the start of every month, there’s a mysterious “dip.” It’s there every time. The total number of donors and amount of monthly contributions drops like a brick…only to recover within a few days as though nothing ever happened!
And it got me to wondering…why?
Now, the tempting answer from some out there is to claim that people forgot they were still being charged regularly and, when reminded with a monthly receipt from Patreon showing the charge to their credit card, suddenly “came to their senses” and canceled the automatic renewal.
But that doesn’t explain the rapid recovery that nearly always follows the “dip.” Are all of these disillusioned donors just as quickly and inexplicably replaced in the days immediately following? Do they all suddenly change their minds back? And why do only a tiny few donors go through this “epiphany” each month—and then always seem to quickly get over it?
But something happened to me last month that solved the mystery…
Despite all of the major AXANAR-related events lately—including the exciting October film shoot at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA and the launch of the Ares Digital fundraiser—I haven’t actually sat down for an ALEC PETERS interview for more than two months. This week, I decided to remedy that…and fortunately, this time, no dogs needed to be rescued, so the call happened right on time.
Before we jump into the interview itself, just a quick reminder that Axanar IS currently crowd-funding…it’s just not doing so publicly using Kickstarter or Indiegogo. But if you want to donate, you can! Just click here, sign into your Ares Digital account (or create one if you don’t already have one), and then click “Donate Now!” to log in again.
Wait a second…you have to log in AGAIN???
Yeah, it’s kind of a feature, not a bug. Ares Digital is behind a firewall, but the donation widget requires logging into WordPress, as well. But in this way, donors’ payment information is processed without anyone at Axanar ever seeing it…an extra layer of identity protection. And it’s a pretty easy extra strep, as you can log in the second time with one click using your Facebook or Google account…or your e-mail you you’d prefer.
And then, once you’re in, you’ll see this…
Axanar is currently knocking on the door of $40,000—two-thirds of the way to the $60,000 goal to fund the first two film shoots.
But hasn’t the first shoot already happened? And isn’t the second shoot coming up in a couple of weeks? What if Alec doesn’t make the $60K goal in time? Does the second shoot have to be canceled or postponed? And what about the third shoot and beyond (aren’t there supposed to be five total)? When is that shoot getting funded…and what happens if Alec can’t raise enough in time? Will Axanar itself have to be delayed and the summer 2020 deadline missed?
So many questions!
Looks like Alec and I have a LOT to talk about this time out. Take a listen…
Now, you might think I’m talking about the new Star Trek: Picard series (which features Romulans quite prominently), but I’m not. Instead of looking forward into Star Trek‘s future, I’m referring to an eagerly-anticipated fan film that looks BACK into Star Trek‘s past.
It’s a past that we frustratingly did NOT get to see when Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled after only four seasons. Fans were deprived of what promised to be an exciting season five that would have shown the preamble to the Romulan War with Earth and the Coalition of Planets…a war that would inevitably lead to the founding of the United Federation of Planets.
But now, thanks to fan filmmaker MARK NACCARATO, fans will finally get to see one Trekker’s vision of how that interplanetary war transpired. Sure, it’s not canon (no fan film ever is), but his production THE ROMULAN WAR will still be lovingly and meticulously crafted, with trained actors and jaw-dropping CGI effects by the “star witness of the stars,” SAMUEL COCKINGS.
Already, Mark has released a series of “enhanced” audio dramas where voice-over recordings of personal logs and correspondences, read aloud by accomplished actors (and also by yours truly), are augmented by images and animations. This series of poignant vignettes, titled WAR STORIES, recount emotional experiences during The Romulan War from the point of view of an admiral, a foot soldier, an engineer test pilot (me!), and a freighter jockey. If you haven’t listened to them yet, click here. They are a MUST SEE (well a MUST HEAR)!
In the meantime, as we await the big premiere of The Romulan War fan film (told in the same “mockumentary” style as Prelude to Axanar), Mark has given fans one last tantalizing peek at the upcoming story. Titled PREAMBLE TO WAR, this vignette is also told in that same mock documentary format and features two of the characters who will appear in the final fan film…along with some awesome VFX, wonderful editing, and a really cool original music soundtrack composed by ANDREW CURRIER.
The five-and-a-half-minute mini-fan film does feature about 90 seconds of ultra-short clips and stills from various Star Trek: Enterprise episodes, which is a fan film guideline “no-no.” However, with only 1,170 views so far, and with the new Star Trek Picard series premiering in less than two months, will the newly-merged ViacomCBS even bother with such a minor infraction and risk the fan backlash? Probably not…at least, I hope not, as this is a very nice addition to the hundreds (thousands, actually!) of Star Trek fan films out there.