My MUSIC VIDEO tribute to the SQUADRON fan film…

Sometimes you get a crazy idea in your head and you just have to do it. This was one of those times…

On February 1, a bunch of talented and enthusiastic Trekkers from the Czech Republic (with the help of one CGI bloke from the U.K.) released Part 1 of their amazing Dominion War-era fan film, SQUADRON. Six days later, they released Part 2. In the 2-3 weeks since, the two parts (both separately and combined into one) have garnered more than 100K Youtube views—an amazing feat, considering that the entire film is spoken in Czech and requires those not familiar with the language to watch with subtitles turned on in order to follow the plot. But even without a translation, the film looks completely amazing.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look…

I’ve been closely following the efforts of these Czechie Trekkies since they started planning to launch their Indiegogo campaign about a year ago. And so I was really excited to record an international interview with them for Fan Film Factor. And to make this even more of an event, I had a whopping SIX Czech fan filmmakers on one Zoom call! Indeed, it was my first-ever Zoom interview for this blog (I mainly do audio or text-based interviews). So I wanted to make it extra awesome!

The creators of Squadron gave me a great 90 minutes, but I wanted to spice it up even more. Since it would be a true video interview, I wanted it to be more visually interesting than watching seven “Brady Bunch”-style talking heads for an hour and a half. So I began to look for clips of footage from the stunning 2-part fan film to include as cutaways from the Zoom screen. You can watch the full interview here to see how it turned out…

Anyway, because the “search for scenes” doesn’t require actually listening to the fan film (and I don’t speak Czech anyway), I had some music playing in the background while I was looking through the footage for clips. More specifically, I was perusing the iTunes catalog (as I often do) looking for lesser-known songs from hit recording artists to purchase. In fact, I was up to the R’s, having just had an awesome (and somewhat expensive!) retrospective of the decades-long career of the late Ray Charles, and was now sampling the greatest hits of Ray Parker, Jr. (yep, the guy who recorded the famous Ghostbusters them song). Ray actually had a few other chart-topping hits like “You Can’t Change That” and “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do).”

Continue reading “My MUSIC VIDEO tribute to the SQUADRON fan film…”

STARSHIP WEBSTER’s 3rd episode “THE TOMBSTONE” (interview with JERRY WILLIAMS)

Even though POTEMKIN PICTURES has been around for over a decade now, the folks in their STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group are definitely the new kids on the fan film block. Their predecessors include PROJECT: POTEMKIN, STARSHIP DEIMOSSTARSHIP ALEXANDERSTARSHIP TRISTANHOSPITAL SHIP MARIE CURIEBATTLECRUISER KUPOKSTARSHIP TRITON, and STARSHIP ENDEAVOUR.

When show-runner RANDY LANDERS and his wife moved from Alabama to Lexington, Kentucky in 2019, it provided an opportunity to find and invite a whole new collective of local Trekkers in the fan film family. And even though the pandemic made things a little more challenging, the new Webster group still managed to release their debut fan film, “LAUNCH,” on October 9, followed quickly by their second offering, “A VOICE IN THE DARK,” just two weeks later. The latter allowed one of their actors, BILLY SWANSON, to take the lead and both write and direct—as well as star in—what was essentially a “one-man show.”

Two months later, released on Christmas day, another member of the team, JERRY WILLIAMS, got to write and appear in an episode…although this time, Randy Landers was the one directing, and the cast consisted of more than one actor (seven, in fact—three in major roles).

I’ve been making it a point to give these fine fan film folks a spotlight here on the blog as both a welcome to the community and also in acknowledgment of their quick embrace of this sub-sub-genre and dedication to getting their first few fan films produced and released.

As such, I asked Randy whom he thought would be the best person to interview for this third release, and he quickly said it should be Jerry Williams himself. “Jerry is quite a local legend,” Randy told me.

So let’s take a look at Jerry’s first Star Trek fan film, “THE TOMBSTONE,” and then we can chat…

And now, heeeeeeerrrrrrrreeeeeee’s Jerry (do my younger readers even get that reference?)…

Continue reading “STARSHIP WEBSTER’s 3rd episode “THE TOMBSTONE” (interview with JERRY WILLIAMS)”

THE ROMULAN WAR presents a new MOTION COMIC Star Trek fan film: HOLOCAUST! (interview with MARK NACCARATO)

One of the biggest challenges right now for fan films (and Hollywood itself) is the global pandemic. And while COVID-19 hasn’t completely stopped production of either fan films or the larger entertainment industry itself, it has made shooting such projects much more challenging, somewhat more limited in scope and flexibility, and in a number of cases, more expensive due to the need to provide PPD and sanitizer and other mitigations for infection among the actors and crew.

So what’s the alternative?

Well, the most obvious answer is to do an audio drama. After all, voice-actors don’t need to be together in one place; they can record their lines at home or in a studio sound booth one at a time. And indeed, there have been Star Trek audio dramas of varying quality for many, many years. But they typically appear on YouTube with either one or a slideshow of still images. They’re meant to be listened to, not watched. So what if you want to create something for fans to see as well as hear during the pandemic?

Beginning in the middle of last year, several resourceful Trekkers began producing what I’ve decided to call “fandemic” films. These were fan films showing characters mainly in single shots, so that the actors would not have to be close to each other. Many (but not all) of these stories featured Starfleet officers talking to each other via subspace—like cosmic Zoom or FaceTime calls—with footage the actors recorded in their own homes.

But now fan filmmaker MARK NACCARATO has come up with a new idea for socially-distanced fan films which he calls a “motion comic.” There have actually been a few “proto” motion comics released prior to this, most notably a series of AXANAR COMICS (like this one) from creator TREY McELWAIN, where still artwork of a comic that he wrote and had an artist illustrate are presented one panel at a time with pans and zooms along with a narrator reading the captions out loud, sound effects, and music.

But Mark has taken things a step further. Although Mark also has voice-over narration (performed by KYLE GEARY) plus sound FX and music, his comic artwork isn’t merely still images with pans and zooms. Mark brought in an animator to actually MOVE the artwork.

Granted, it isn’t full animation like Star Trek: Lower Decks because Mark doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend. So the movement is simple, but still clever enough to provide a visually engaging viewing experience. Take a look…

The “Holocaust” comic book itself (without the animation) was initially published back in April of 2019 as the first of two such comics in Mark’s THE ROMULAN WAR: WAR STORIES anthology of tales with art by YUDHI SURYO and colors by ULULL AZM. You can read the original pure comic version of “Holocaust” here. And you can read the other comic, “Intruders,” here.

Continue reading “THE ROMULAN WAR presents a new MOTION COMIC Star Trek fan film: HOLOCAUST! (interview with MARK NACCARATO)”

The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 4)

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, we watched how the fan series STARSHIP VALIANT grew from the aborted STARSHIP AJAX fan project, utilizing the 360-degree TOS bridge set at STARBASE STUDIOS in Oklahoma City. The brainchild of local resident MICHAEL L. KING, who would play the main character of Jackson Bishop, Valiant was the first completed fan production to film at Starbase Studios back in late 2013. They released their debut fan film, “LEGACY,” the following summer at SoonerCon 2014. Then in 2015, they released a special edition of “Legacy” with a freshly-added scene that introduced new characters on screen that hadn’t been seen in the original version, including VANCE MAJOR as Chief Engineer Erick Minard and DAVID COX as Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roger Floyd.

The Starship Valiant team headed into 2016 with plans to produce a much more ambitious second project, a 90-minute fan film titled “THE TIES THAT BIND,” and they were able to shoot the first ten minutes during the summer of that year. (You can view that segment here.) But just as they were filming those scenes, CBS announced new fan film guidelines that effectively killed any possibility for a single episode longer than 30 minutes. For a few months, plans for further work on “Ties” were put on hold.

However, at the same time, Vance Major decided to expand upon his character of Erick Minard in a new series of fan films, and some of these projects also featured Michael King as Captain Bishop. This included MINARD, THE VALHALLA STONE, a new fan series called MELBOURNE: “Storm Front”, and a crossover with fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION called CHAIN OF COMMAND. Each of those included footage shot at Starbase Studios in 2016 and were released in either 2016 or 2017.

In the meantime, Michael made a decision to move forward with Starship Valiant and continue filming “The Ties that Bind.” But because director BRADY FOSTER had picked up some professional production work outside of the country, shooting had to be scheduled for after he returned in November. But that wasn’t much of a problem—the Starbase Studios sets weren’t going anywhere.

Or were they…?

Continue reading “The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 4)”

The MUST-SEE Czech Trek fan film SQUADRON is complete! (Zoom video interview)

When you think Star Trek, you probably don’t immediately think of the Czech Republic in central Europe (Star Czech maybe, but not Star Trek). But when it comes to Trek fan films, there’s some folks in Prague who have taken things to a whole other level!

I first took notice of the Czechie Trekkies in late 2018 when I saw an amazing-looking 4-part Star Trek fan film called DIPLOMACY. What made it so remarkable was that these folks had built a 360-degree 24th Century-era starship bridge set! While not as elaborate as TNG, DS9, or Voyager, it was still darn impressive…as were the Starfleet uniforms and the make-up (they actually had a Benzite!). I put this on my long-range sensors to cover here on Fan Film Factor, but after a year of being really busy, I hadn’t gotten around to reaching out to them.

However, I needn’t have worried because they contacted to me in late 2019! More specifically,  JAKUB “JIM” HOLÝ reached out. He had been part of Diplomacy, but he said I shouldn’t bother covering that fan film because he and his team had something that was gonna blow away Diplomacy!

Color me intrigued.

Jakub explained that a new, more action-oriented fan film called SQUADRON had already been shot on that amazing bridge set. All of the live-action footage was “in the can,” (as we say in America) and about half of the VFX shots had already been completed or were in progress. But money was needed to properly finish the VFX and the rest of post-production, and they were planning to launch a crowd-funding campaign in early 2020. I was, of course, more than willing to help promote it with blog features like this one that included an audio interview with Jakub.

Although they missed their $16K goal, they still took in nearly $9K of it…despite the fact that, during the February-to-April campaign, the world turned upside down with the COVID pandemic, and donation dollars became scarce. One of the reasons for their success was a flawless and energetic Indiegogo campaign with almost constant promotion (trailers, behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, etc.) by Jakub and the team…most of whom spoke very good English, despite the film itself being entirely in Czech.

The money was used wrap up post-production, which included stunning CGI effects for the second half by the British Bastion of Blazing Battles SAMUEL COCKINGS. Part 1 premiered week ago on February 1 and has already been viewed more than 42,000 times on Youtube! In contrast, Diplomacy, after two and a half years, is barely over a thousand views, and other Czech fan films shot on that bridge and released over the past couple of years are still only in the low-to-mid thousands of views. So this one’s pretty special, folks!

In fact, you can see for yourself, as the concluding Part 2 has just been released. Here’s both parts together (with close-caption English subtitles that I actually helped edit)…

Continue reading “The MUST-SEE Czech Trek fan film SQUADRON is complete! (Zoom video interview)”

The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 3)

In Part 1 and Part 2, we saw the birth of the fan series STARSHIP VALIANT, the brainchild of MICHAEL L. KING from Oklahoma. Utilizing the bridge set rescued from STARSHIP EXETER that was restored and expanded at STARBASE STUDIOS in Oklahoma City, the first episode of Starship Valiant, “Legacy,” began filming in late 2013 and debuted the following June at SoonerCon.

In 2015, Michael, with the help of Valiant director BRADY FOSTER, filmed a brand new scene that was shot on the just-completed sickbay set constructed at Starbase Studios for use by their “sister” fan series, STARSHIP GRISSOM. The 3-minute scene featured, for the first time on camera, VANCE MAJOR as Chief Engineer Erick Minard. It also showed the death of Captain Jeffrey Clark, an event that leads directly into the rest of the episode. The “Legacy – Special Edition” debuted at SoonerCon 2015 and was posted to Facebook shortly thereafter.

Michael sums up the Valiant pilot episode like this: “‘Legacy‘ has always been about the consequences of one’s actions. The story is a cautionary tale that tells us that, for every action we make, there is a reaction, either good or bad. It tells us that, sure, we are going to make mistakes and feel badly about them but to stick to our guns and fix them. It tells us that it’s okay to cry for the ones that we love and that those people’s actions are a result of how we have decided to live our lives. Bottom line: we are responsible for those who look up to us for guidance and love, and if we fail them, it’s never too late to make amends or to make it as right as we can.”

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Can THE ROMULAN WAR generate $1,000 more in just 36 hours???

It’s been a surprising (and rather inspiring!) Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign for THE ROMULAN WAR, Part 2. Launched in late November with a $10K goal and sixty-day deadline, that target was reached on January 15 with two full weeks left. So showrunner MARK NACCARATO decided on a stretch goal of $14K.

Usually, stretch goals come with some special perk if you reach that higher level in donations, but Mark is trying it straight up with no extra perk. Actually, there is kinda a perk: if Mark reaches $14K, he’ll be able to give fans more film! Here’s what he had to say…

The Stretch Goal would cover another film shoot which allows us to add more alien characters, and it covers Indiegogo’s “platform and processing fees” which cut into our overall fundraising total.

Since announcing the new stretch goal two weeks ago, nearly $3K of additional donations have come in! That’s truly amazing. But the campaign ends at midnight tomorrow (Pacific Time), and the race is on!

One of the reasons the campaign is doing so well is that Mark has proven himself capable of using backers’ donations to deliver a top-tier, MUST SEE fan film with strong acting, fast pacing, and jaw-dropping visual FX. If you haven’t seen Part 1 yet, you totally need to check it out right now…

The other reason for the campaign’s success, I believe, is the opportunity for donors, at the $100 and $500 levels, to actually APPEAR in Part 2 of this cutting-edge fan film. At the $100 “Captain Access” level, you get to record your voice and have it be heard somewhere in the finished production…along with receiving digital downloads of posters, lobby cards, and the soundtrack, access to their members-only “Memory Alpha” site where you get early access to new releases and updates, and of course, your name in the credits.

And at the $500 “Admiral Access” level, you can actually be SEEN in the film (or you have the option to; nobody’s forcing you)! You also get all of the above plus a T-shirt and an Associate Producer credit in the film (which will appear on IMDb). Already, 14 fans have claimed the “Admiral Access” perk and another 16 opted for the “Captain Access” perk…resulting in about two-thirds of the donations made thus far. But the other third is from $25 and $50 backers, and they still get access to Memory Alpha, their names in the credits, and the $50 donors get the digital posters and sound track. And of course, you can give other amounts—higher or lower—if you have the means right now.

And that’s one of the things that surprised me the most about this campaign: that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic with huge economic uncertainties, and yet so many fans have contributed to this campaign. Yes, I know there are other more deserving charities out there, but fans supporting other fans is a very special thing, too…which is why I let folks know about campaigns like this one…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-romulan-war-part-2#

The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 1)

The fan series STARSHIP VALIANT has just released its latest episode, “Animals,” a fan film that got its start a little over three years ago in 2017. But the story of Starship Valiant goes back farther than that and starts with a fellow named MICHAEL L. KING. Michael is considered my many fan filmmakers to be one of the nicest people in our entire community. He’s positive, polite, doesn’t get angry or hold grudges, and he’s always willing to help out other productions. He loves Star Trek fan films and supports all of the many people who make them.

But before we get into Michael and the history of Starship Valiant, let’s take a look at his team’s most recent fan production…

And now, let’s travel backward in time a bit. Michael had loved watching Star Trek fan films, being particularly impressed with the quality of productions like STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES and STARSHIP EXETER, both of which featured TOS set recreations. In fact, the amazing bridge set from Exeter had managed to find its way from Austin, TX to Michael’s backyard of Oklahoma City (read the entire story of the birth of STARBASE STUDIOS here).

A fellow by the name of JOHN HUGHES had found the Exeter‘s bridge set in 2009, decaying in a Texas barn for five years since they’d shot their second episode “The Tressaurian Intersection” in 2004. John’s intention was to restore the bridge (and build other TOS sets), to use in the creation of his own Star Trek fan series, STARSHIP AJAX. By 2013, with RICHARD WELLS and SCOTT JOHNSON leading the construction team, the bridge set was now ready to film on. And so John set himself the task of looking for volunteers to be a part of the new production.

A photo from March of 2013 of what would have been the cast and crew of Starship Ajax. John Hughes is second-from-the-right wearing a black jacket. Michael L. King is standing behind the command chair wearing a blue tunic.

This is where Michael enters the story…

Continue reading “The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 1)”

The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 2)

In Part 1, we met MICHAEL L. KING from Oklahoma, considered by many to be one of the nicest, most agreeable and helpful folks in the fan filmmaking community. Back in 2013, Michael got involved with a group of local fans planning to launch a new fan series called STARSHIP AJAX to be filmed at STARBASE STUDIOS. The folks who ran the facility, originally located in Oklahoma City, had moved the deteriorating remnants of the TOS bridge set that had been used for the second episode of STARSHIP EXETER and then worked to restore and expand them into Trek fandom’s first and only 360-degree TOS bridge set.

Sadly, the Ajax team never really got themselves going, but Michael—who had initially signed up as a volunteer on that project—was able to launch a fan series of his own called STARSHIP VALIANT. His intention was to focus Valiant‘s stories more on the characters than the action. And although the initial script that Michael wrote, “LEGACY,” began with a space battle, the fight quickly ends, leaving the rest of the episode to focus on the aftermath and how some of the main characters try to deal with it.

Joined by director and editor BRADY FOSTER, Michael and his team were able to film “Legacy” in late 2013 and complete the project by the summer of 2014, where it debuted at the central Oklahoma SoonerCon convention before being posted to YouTube just afterwards. This is what was released…

The new fan series was warmly welcomed into the Star Trek fan film community, and the following year in 2015, Michael was contacted by SoonerCon organizer AISLINN BURROWS asking if he’d like to show “Legacy” again during the convention at the end of June. Michael was more than happy to accept the invitation, but then he had a thought. In the almost-year since “Legacy” had debuted, it had gotten many YouTube views, and fans were pretty familiar with it. But imagine their surprise if the version they saw at the convention included brand new footage!

Continue reading “The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 2)”

Are you ready for the return of STARSHIP VALIANT???

Some of my favorite blogs to write are the “History of…” features where I trace the behind-the-scenes stories of long-running Star Trek fan series like STAR TREK CONTINUES, HIDDEN FRONTIER, STARSHIP EXETER, DARK ARMADA, INTREPID, RENEGADES, STARSHIP FARRAGUT, YORKTOWN, and others. These are among the most challenging blogs to write, as they take a great deal of research and (hopefully) include in-depth interviews with the fan filmmakers themselves…resulting in multi-part features that sometimes stretch into short novels!

I don’t usually have time to do more than one or two of these deep dives per year, and it was early 2018 when I got a Facebook message from MICHAEL L. KING, showrunner of STARSHIP VALIANT, noticing that his fan series wasn’t listed anywhere on Fan Film Factor. I assured him that Valiant was definitely on my short-range sensors, but I first needed to finish doing the history of Intrepid, and I had just started working on that with NICK COOK in Scotland. That history ended up taking much longer than I expected it to, delayed by a combination of busy Nick working on his fan films and busy Jonathan working on mine. The Intrepid feature ended up being three parts and not coming out until the end of 2019.

Valiant was next, of course…although things were still really busy in the fan film world (just read my 2020 Year in Review blog!). But as the year went by, Yorktown totally cut in line in front of poor, patient Valiant! My only excuse is that Yorktown was coming out first (or so we all thought!), and I was able to connect with JOHN ATKIN and STAN WOO for a sweeping set of really fascinating Yorktown interviews.

But then I leaned that Starship Valiant‘s first new fan film release since 2017’s “The Ties That Bind“—a new story titled “ANIMALS“— was coming out on January 20. YIKES! I immediately contacted Michael King and asked if he’d be available for an interview before it came out. Michael thanked me for the offer, but he was really busy with the holidays and politely declined. But he was amenable to answering a few short questions if I had any. (Michael is one of the nicest guys in fan films, so even his noes are still almost yeses.)

So I dived into research on Valiant (interviews, updates, videos, etc), and then I shot Michael a few quick questions about a week before Christmas. I expected fairly short answers, but instead, I received a 700-word reply! Michael, my friend, that counts as an interview! Anyway, I kept sending him more questions, and he kept sending me answers. And as December turned into January, I assembled—with the help of Michael and also VANCE MAJOR—a FANtastic 4-part weekly blog series on the history of Starship Valiant from 2013 up till now…with the first part debuting this week along with “Animals.”

In the meantime, Michael King has been counting down to the big premiere with this fun series of daily videos…

Continue reading “Are you ready for the return of STARSHIP VALIANT???”