TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE releases “LA MORT DE LA GUERRE” (“The Death of War”) featuring AVALON characters in the PRIME universe! (video interview with JOSH IRWIN, CAITLYN BAILEY, and others)

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA (at least for now, the studio will be relocating soon) has provided TOS sets for countless Star Trek fan films and series, including STARSHIP FARRAGUT, STAR TREK CONTINUES, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, THE AVALON UNIVERSE, and so many more. And not to be outdone, the studio itself has its own fanthology series: TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE. Beginning in 2019, NZS has released seven fan films:


And the seventh, which was premiered on May 23, is titled “LA MORT DE LA GUERRE” (“The Death of War”), written by JOSHUA IRWIN and directed by Josh along with TYLER DUNIVAN. It came out extremely well; take a look…

The film features the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur, but not the starship in the Avalon Universe that Josh’s films usually spotlight. No, this time it’s the ship and crew from Star Trek‘s Prime Universe, most recently seen in last year’s CRISIS ON INFINITE EXCALIBURS.

This fan film also represents a somewhat unique pairing of resources, as not only was Neutral Zone Studios involved in the production, but so was the other major fan film studio featuring TOS sets, WARP 66 STUDIOS in northern Arkansas. Co-owner of WARP 66, GLEN L. WOLFE, traveled down to Georgia, bringing along a plethora of TOS tunics and uniforms for both actors and extras to wear. Also joining the production team were FRANK PARKER, JR. from CROSSROADS: THE GEMINI PROJECT (this time playing a Romulan) as well as VANCE MAJOR playing Eric Minard from CONSTAR. Even GARY DAVIS from DOMINION MEDIA got into the act by providing a last-minute photo of a “Sulu scope” for a close up shot of the tactical readout at the helm station.

Heck, even I worked on this fan film as a creative consultant. That meant that I provided Josh feedback and suggestions at various points during the months-long post-production and editing process. That might seem like an easy-peasy way to sneak into the credits, but I’ve actually watched through different iterations of this film more than a dozen times(!!!), marking down time-code and making extensive notes. Combined with the 50 to 70 people who worked on this project during the two days of shooting on the sets, this was truly a group effort of the many.

In the spirit of that sense of camaraderie and collaboration, my fellow fan film fanatic, JEFFERSON KELLEY of BEYOND TREK PODCAST, organized a group discussion of this excellent fan film, inviting a number of people from the production as well as myself, as well as CHEETO and ZAM from the NERD TUBE podcast. So rather than just doing one of my typical Fan Film Factor video interviews, Jefferson has offered to make his group podcast available for me to post here. It was a very fun, lively, and enlightening discussion. Enjoy…

A new category added to the 2024 Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER Awards…


There’s less than two and a half weeks left to enter you fan film into this year’s Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS. We’ve already had more than a baker’s dozen submissions covering the eligibility period of January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2023. Next year, the 5-year window of eligibility will decrease to 3 years, so if there’s an older Star Trek fan film you’d still like to enter, now is your chance. And hey, if there’s a more recent Trek fan film you want to enter, now is also your chance! Here’s a link to the submission form…


Three weeks ago, I posted a blog spotlighting the twelve judges for this year’s awards. Today, I’d like to discuss our newest category (just added for 2024): BEST GREEN SCREEN COMPOSITING. The name pretty much speaks for itself, but I personally feel that compositing actors who were filmed in front of green screens against sci-fi backgrounds has become much more of a fine art form in recent years.

I’ve recently begun watching a long-running fan series that began in 2008 that has always presented a majority of its scenes as green-screen composites. And comparing those early releases to their later work really illustrates how far both the technical and artistic aspects of chroma-keying have come over the years.

Today’s fan filmmakers are currently doing some truly impressive and in some cases groundbreaking (at least for fan films) things with compositing—from generating realistic 3D backgrounds that move and pan with the actors, to getting actors to interact with animated elements of their backgrounds, to matching the lighting on the actor perfectly to the lighting of the background…and quite a bit more than even that! I’m very excited to see which of this year’s films the judges select as the best three in this category.

And for anyone with is curious, here are the other 22 categories for this year’s Showrunner Awards

  • Best Fan Film
  • Best Director
  • Best Writer
  • 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 Cinematography
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound Design/Mixing
  • Best Visual Effects (CGI)
  • Best Special Effects (non-CGI)
  • Best Musical Score
  • Best Costuming
  • Best Hair & Makeup
  • Best Original Set Design
  • Best Props
  • 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)
  • Funniest Fan Film
  • Most Clever Easter Egg

And remember that the deadline to enter for this year is May 31 at midnight Pacific Time. Here’s the submission form link once again…


The SHOWRUNNER AWARDS are not the same as TREKS IN 90 SECS…

I think I screwed up (a little).

Back in February, I announced a brand new contest for Star Trek fan filmmakers: TREKS IN 90 SECS! The idea was for filmmakers to create self-contained stories that could be told in 90 seconds or less. Those ultra-short fan films could be submitted to yours truly on or before the end of July and then be voted on by readers of my blog. The three fan films with the most votes would get the most amazing prize ever: bragging rights! (Sorry, no Vegemite. I can’t afford it.)

I was asked at one point if submissions to Treks in 90 Secs could go a little over 90 seconds, and I said okay. But I added that I would enforce a hard limit of no more than 2 minutes.

That may have been where I screwed up.

Last month when I announced that submissions were now open for the third annual Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS, I forgot to mention that this was a completely separate competition from the Treks in 90 Secs contest. And I’ve since discovered that a few people thought they were the same contest.

Why did they think this? Well, one of the categories for the Showrunner Awards is “BEST SCENE (up to 2 minutes).” For that category, the entrant must create a separate, self-contained YouTube or Vimeo video of what they think is the best continuous sequence from their fan film. The sequence cannot be longer than two minutes.

And so, here’s a blog clarifying the differences between the two contests:


  • Open to Star Trek fan films of any length released between 1/1/19 and 12/31/23
  • Deadline to enter for this year: May 31
  • Click here to submit a fan film through an online form
  • Cost to enter: $10/entry plus $1 per additional category (23 categories total)
  • Judged by a panel of twelve fan film showrunners
  • Certificates awarded to the winners


  • Open to any Star Trek fan film with a total runtime not to exceed two minutes (preferably 90 seconds)
  • Deadline to enter for this year: July 31
  • To enter, e-mail me the link at jonathan (at ) fanfilmfactor (dot) com
  • Cost to enter: absolutely free
  • Judged by Fan Film Factor readers; votes tallied online
  • Nothing awarded to the winners except pride

Actually, now that I have a spiffy logo for Treks in 90 Secs, I might give something to the winners after all. Not sure yet, but I’ve got a few months to decide.

All right, you may all return to your regularly-scheduled lives…already in progress.

How I used A.I. technology to bring the voices of SPOCK AND McCOY back to life in “AN ABSENT FRIEND” (part 3: legal and moral questions)…

In part 1, I discussed how I used Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to turn a Star Trek inspired fan script that I wrote back in 2010 into an audio drama featuring the voices of Spock and McCoy. I utilized ElevenLabs‘ voice synthesis algorithm to convert sound clips captured from a variety of sources into a series of back-and-forth dialog between the two characters. Ultimately, I wound up with an approximately 15-minute long audio drama.

Part 2 covered how I managed to take the audio drama and turn it into an animated fan film with the help of an amazing illustrator by the name of MATT SLADE, music composer MATT MILNE, and my longtime childhood friend MOJO. Indeed, in the end, I was the only person involved in this production whose named didn’t start with the letter M! The finished product came out looking like this…

And now the moment that I am certain many of you have been waiting for: the legal and moral questions of “Can Jonathan legally do this?” and “Should Jonathan ethically do this?” These are both complex subjects to tackle. But let’s dive in…!

Continue reading “How I used A.I. technology to bring the voices of SPOCK AND McCOY back to life in “AN ABSENT FRIEND” (part 3: legal and moral questions)…”

How I used A.I. technology to bring the voices of SPOCK AND McCOY back to life in “AN ABSENT FRIEND” (part 2: the art, animation, and music)…


In part 1, I explained how I had used Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to synthesize the voices of Spock and McCoy to speak the words of a script I originally wrote as a short story back in 2010. In it, Captain Kirk has just “died” saving the U.S.S. Enterprise-B (in the feature film Star Trek Generations), and Bones is getting angry-drunk mourning the untimely passing of his longtime friend. Spock finds McCoy sitting alone in an unnamed bar and offers to join him. It’s the last thing the doctor wants—a Vulcan with no emotions—but, ironically, the thing he most needs. And Spock needs McCoy, as well, even though the Vulcan would never openly admit it.

The story was always intended to be a sort of a two-actor stage play, simple but poignant, giving a glimpse into how these two longtime friends and colleagues deal with the loss of AN ABSENT FRIEND. But the story/script sat quietly on my hard-drive for more than a decade, unused and mostly unpublished, waiting for its “moment.”

That moment came when I discovered the ElevenLabs website (thank you, RAY MYERS!), which can generate synthesized speech from any decent voice sample of a minute or two. Assembling verbal snippets from LEONARD NIMOY and DeFOREST KELLEY from various sources, I set out to create an audio drama of my script. The project took me a couple of months, and I explained the nuances of how I did it in part 1.

Now in part 2, I’ll explain how I got from that audio drama to this completely animated Star Trek fan film…

As I mentioned in part 1, after I completed the audio drama, I was frustrated by the subtle inconsistencies between sentences (especially for McCoy) due to my generating the voices in short segments. This was a necessary evil due to the limitations of the early A.I. technology, but it still bothered me.

Then I had an idea…

Continue reading “How I used A.I. technology to bring the voices of SPOCK AND McCOY back to life in “AN ABSENT FRIEND” (part 2: the art, animation, and music)…”

How I used A.I. technology to bring the voices of SPOCK and McCOY back to life in “AN ABSENT FRIEND” (part 1: the audio)…

While some Star Trek fan films have begun to Artificial Intelligence ( A.I.) in limited ways to age and de-age characters and also to create brief visuals and short bits of dialog, my new animated fan film AN ABSENT FRIEND is the first time that A.I. speech synthesis has been used to generate ALL of the voices. And what’s more, two of those voices are sampled from the late LEONARD NIMOY and DeFOREST KELLEY, allowing the beloved characters of Spock and McCoy to live on.

The obvious question that might come to mind for some people would be: Is this legal? The short answer is “yes…at least for now.” That could change in the not-too-distant future, but no law governing or restricting the A.I. generation of a deceased actor’s voice in a fan film exists at the moment. I will dive more deeply into the legal status of voice A.I. in Part 3 of this blog series (along with the ethical considerations). However, right now in Part 1, I would like to discuss how I managed to digitally recreate the voices of these two deeply-missed actors, and in Part 2, I’ll be covering how I and my illustrator, MATT SLADE, turned an audio drama into a full animated Star Trek fan film.

First, though, let’s take a look at this groundbreaking project…

A.I. has exploded across the planet in the last year and a half, and it’s certainly become a bit of a mixed bag. The term itself is an umbrella for a wide range of digital breakthroughs whereby computers are doing some incredible—and occasionally worrisome—things. A.I. is being used for everything from generating business presentations and news articles to writing millions of lines of computer code in seconds. A.I. digitally de-aged an 80-year-old HARRISON FORD in the fifth and final Indiana Jones feature film last year and also completed an unfinished Beatles song despite two of the original band members having died decades ago.

Law enforcement is using intuitive software to sift through endless social media postings to track down wanted suspects and potential terrorists. On the other side of the moral spectrum, however, some students are using A.I. software to write their school essays for them, while a few political campaigns have begun to generate false images and articles to spread realistic-looking fake news to unsuspecting voters. Earlier this year, a New Hampshire robocall seemingly from Joe Biden that told Democrats not to “waste their vote” in the primary was actually faked by a supporter of one of the other primary candidates. And of course, the recent Hollywood writers and actors strikes worried that A.I. would make many of their jobs all but irrelevant.

My own mind was blown last year when I saw A.I. used to create an actual Star Trek fan film! THE RODDENBERRY ARCHIVE released the following short fan film featuring a deepfaked face of Leonard Nimoy as Spock put onto the body of actor LAWRENCE SELLECK…

Continue reading “How I used A.I. technology to bring the voices of SPOCK and McCOY back to life in “AN ABSENT FRIEND” (part 1: the audio)…”

How DOUG DREXLER was almost fired from STAR TREK for working on a FAN FILM for NEW VOYAGES!

It’s hard to introduce DOUG DREXLER…not because there’s nothing to say about him but because there’s way too much to say about him! He and I both grew up as Trekkies in New York City, but the main difference between us was that I shopped at The Federation Trading Post in midtown Manhattan and read the unauthorized U.S.S. Enterprise Officer’s Manual while Doug managed the store and wrote that book (among several others).

And then, of course, Doug went on to move out to Hollywood, win an Oscar for make-up for Dick Tracy, and then work pretty much continuously on Star Trek from the third season of TNG through the end of Enterprise (and later, on STAR TREK PICARD). I moved to L.A. and worked for the Star Trek licensing department from 1996-2003, but seriously, no comparison there…Doug wins hands down!

Doug began as a make-up artist on TNG (being nominated for two Emmy Awards along the way). He then became scenic artist and production illustrator on DS9, working under MIKE OKUDA on graphics but also designing props. Then, when Voyager and, later, Enterprise debuted, Doug went on to work on the digital VFX at Foundation Imaging. (Years later, Doug would become CGI VFX Supervisor on the Battlestar Galactica reboot, for which he won two “Outstanding Special Visual Effects” Emmy Awards plus three additional nominations.

Doug also contributed to the four TNG feature films and the remaster of the director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well as working on the Borg Invasion 4D ride at Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (which I worked on, too, although again, Doug had a much more awesome Trek career than I ever did!)

And there’s one more thing that Doug and I have in common (aside from some of the people we know): we’ve both worked on Star Trek fan films!

It’s generally accepted that the “golden age” of Star Trek fan films was ushered in just after the turn of the millennium with series like STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER from ROB CAVES and STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES from JAMES CAWLEY. What is not so widely known is that Doug Drexler worked extensively on the first two episodes of the latter series…while still working professionally on Star Trek at Paramount! Operating under the pseudonym “MAX REM,” Doug did VFX, make-up, casting, editing, and served as executive producer on “Come What May.” Doug also was the cowriter (along with Star Trek scenic artist—and my friend—JIM VAN OVER, writing under the pen name “ERIC KORNGOLD”) on the second episode “In Harm’s Way.” Both fan films debuted in 2004 (before there even was such a thing as YouTube!). You can watch those two episodes below…

Continue reading “How DOUG DREXLER was almost fired from STAR TREK for working on a FAN FILM for NEW VOYAGES!”

Meet this year’s JUDGES for the 2024 Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS…

The submission window for the 2024 Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS is now open and will remain so until midnight Pacific Time on May 31, 2024. Any Star Trek fan film released publicly between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2023 is eligible for entry regardless of the person or team producing it. (Why would anyone do it differently, right?)

The online entry form is located here…


They say that two heads are better than one, and if so, then our judging panel is six times better than that, as we once again have a panel of twelve judges, each one a showrunner of either a Star Trek fan film or series. We have seven judges returning from last year, two returning from the year before, and three “rookies” whom we welcome to the Council of the Twelve. (That’s not the official name, but it does sound pretty cool in a Battlestar Galactica kinda way. That said, we’re still exclusively Star Trek, although we do all love a wide variety of sci-fi.)

The departing judges all left amicably for different reasons usually involving time commitments. One of them is actually writing a book! I would like to take a moment to sincerely thank all of them and remind them that their chairs at the table will be kept open for them should they ever wish to return. (There’s no rule against the Council of the Twelve becoming the Council of the Fifteen or some other number!)

Anyway, as I did last year, I’d like to dedicate a blog to introducing this year’s panel of judges and what they’ve done in the world of Star Trek fan films…

Continue reading “Meet this year’s JUDGES for the 2024 Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS…”

FARRAGUT moves FORWARD into post-production while trying to reach the $50K crowd-funding limit…can they make it?? (interview with JOHNNY K.)

Back in 2016, CBS and Paramount placed a $50,000 limit on public crowd-funding in their fan film guidelines. Since then, only one Star Trek fan film (that I know of) has reached that limit. And while a handful of fan projects have made it into the tens of thousands, most top out in the four-figure range. So when a crowd-funded fan project starts realistically knocking on that $50,000 ceiling, it’s certainly newsworthy!

And that brings us to FARRAGUT FORWARD, the sequel fan film to the beloved fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT that produced five full-length episodes, three short vignettes, two animated episodes, and one comic book between 2004 and 2016. The TOS sets that Starship Farragut constructed went on to be used for the entire run of the series STAR TREK CONTINUES and live on still as NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA, providing the starship setting for such fan series as DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, AVALON UNIVERSE, and a host of other Trek fan films and series. The proud legacy of Starship Farragut and the team behind it has benefited the entire Star Trek fan film community for two decades.

But the man behind FARRAGUT FILMS, JOHN BROUGHTON, wasn’t content to just wrap everything up back in 2016. In late August of 2021, John announced a new Farragut project (originally conceived years earlier) that would move Farragut FORWARD into the 1980s movie-era of Star Trek. Such fan films and series are a rarity in the community because of the challenges involved building both the sets from that era as well as the precision required to create those elaborate “monster maroon” uniforms that fans love so much.

But John was up for the challenge, as was his newly-chosen director for the project, JOHNNY K. of KAOTICA STUDIOS. Johnny’s Batman fan film The Oath has already won multiple film festival awards, and he was eager to tackle Farragut Forward.

Director Johnny K. (seated) and executive producer John Broughton on the set of Farragut Forward. Photo credit: Britt Dvorak.

Their Indiegogo kicked off in February of 2022 with an ambitious goal of $30,000. It was definitely a campaign done right, with frequent updates, photos, videos, interviews, and other features letting fans and donors know exactly what was being done and planned for. The Indiegogo fully funded on March 25, and by its “end” date of April 2 had taken in a staggeringly impressive $33,005 from 139 backers!

I put “end” in quotation marks because Indiegogo has a feature that allows campaigns that reach their goals before the deadline to continue fundraising with InDemand status, and that’s exactly what Farragut Forward has done in the two years since. Another $10K in donations has been raised in the last two years, bringing the campaign within just $7K of the $50K guideline limit, and the race isn’t over yet. Farragut Forward is continuing its crowd-funding efforts, having published this recent blog and released the following video after wrapping up its final major location shoot last month…

If you’d like to help Farragut Forward with a donation—or a second or third donation if you’ve already contributed—here’s the link to their Indiegogo campaign…


Continue reading “FARRAGUT moves FORWARD into post-production while trying to reach the $50K crowd-funding limit…can they make it?? (interview with JOHNNY K.)”

The Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS return for 2024…submissions are now OPEN through MAY 31!

Earlier this month, the winners of this year’s DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS were announced. Now it’s time for the other major award competition dedicated exclusively to fan films to kick off: the annual SHOWRUNNER AWARDS.

Unlike the Directors Choice Awards, which are open to fan films from any genre, the Showrunner Awards focus EXCLUSIVELY on Star Trek fan films…allowing our little niche of a niche of a niche both to shine as well as providing a friendly venue for Star Trek fan filmmakers to compete directly against each other.

As the name implies, the judging panel for the Showrunner Awards is made up of a dozen fan film showrunners, and I’ll spotlight them in an upcoming blog. Another unique aspect of the Showrunner Awards is that each of our nearly two-dozen categories recognizes THREE winners, with the top film in that category earning an Admiral Award, the second-place finisher receiving a Captain Award, and the third highest judged film winning a Commander Award. Each award is personalized for that fan film and sent to the entrant as a digital printable certificate.

A final element that distinguishes the Showrunner Awards is that the eligibility window for submission is more than just a single year. In fact, it is currently 5 years (anything released between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2023), giving a fan film that may not have won in a previous year because of strong competition additional chances to earn an award (no film is allowed to win twice in the same category).

That said, it’s been recommended that we shorten the window from 5 years to a less expansive 3 years, and that will happen for next year’s awards. I was going to do it this year, but one of our judges rightly pointed out that such a major change should be announced beforehand just in case a filmmaker was waiting to enter an older fan film. So next year the window will shrink from 5 to 3 years, but we’re still at 5 years this go around.

As always, the cost is $10 per entry plus $1 for each category beyond Best Fan Film that the submitter wishes to enter—things like best director, best actor/actress, best VFX, best music, etc. This year, we’re adding a new category for Best Green Screen Compositing, bringing the total number of categories to 23.

The submission period is now open through May 31, 2023. After that, judges will have until the middle of August to view and vote for their top five fan films in each category, with the most points going to each judge’s top choices. (A showrunner judge is not allowed to vote for any of their own fan films in any of their top three slots.) Winners will be announced, as usual, on September 8, the anniversary of the first airing of Star Trek on NBC back in 1966.

Anyone can submit a nomination using the following form page:


Good luck!