AVALON UNIVERSE GoFundMe takes in $2,135 in 24 hours!!!

I have to admit that I was pretty shocked at the unexpectedly enthusiastic fan response to yesterday’s announcement of that all donations to the AVALON UNIVERSE GoFundMe for this week would be matched dollar-for-dollar by super-supporter RAY MYERS. Ray’s upper limit for matching donations is $3,000, but I honestly expected that the Avalon folks would need to push really hard to reach that big number in only a week.

After all, the campaign has been running for two and a half months, and during that time, donations had only reached a little over $5,500. To expect more than half that amount in new donations in just seven days was being quite optimistic.

Then yesterday happened.

I must give showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN credit for editing together an awesome new crowd-funding “ask” video making the announcement. Likewise, Avalon stars TYLER DUNIVAN and PIXI NEREID have an electric chemistry and charm that comes across not only in their performances but also in their bloopers. Take a look if you haven’t watched the video already…

Reaction to the video was wonderfully positive on both Facebook and YouTube. In fact, Josh has received multiple requests for more Avalon bloopers, and he just might be willing to oblige if Tuesday’s donations come close to Monday’s (hint, hint).

And what were Monday’s donations, you ask?

In just 24 hours, the Avalon GoFundMe campaign was able to pull in $2,135 from 40 donors!!! Adding Ray Myers’ dollar matching, and that brings the total donations raised so far up to a whopping $9,800…or 49% of the final $20,000 goal! Folks, that is friggin’ amazing!!!

So what’s their secret? Well, in addition to the fun new video and sending an update to their existing donors, Team Avalon got by with a little help from their friends. I published yesterday’s blog and shared it to a dozen different Facebook groups. ALEC PETERS blasted the AXANAR donor list with a e-mail announcing of the dollar-match week-long promotion and encouraging Axanar supporters to also become Avalon supporters…as the recent Avalon release COSMIC STREAM featured a cameo by Garth, and an upcoming Avalon production is slated to be filmed at ARES STUDIOS. And finally, $800 came in a single donation from C.W. THOMPSON, who donated a couple of months ago to this same Avalon campaign and, before that, was one of the biggest donors to my fan film INTERLUDE. C.W. is very, very generous.

Anyway, that was the first 24 hours. But this week is full of promotional events for Avalon, so who knows how far they can get? They…could…go…all…the…way! And even if they don’t make it this week, GoFundMe campaigns have no time limit. And I suspect that, once their next major release, AGENT OF NEW WORLDS, premieres on October 31, fan excitement and donor support will pick up all over again.

But fans and supporters appear to be very excited right now, too! If you’re one of them and want to help with a donation—big or small—here is the link…

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

Mystery revealed: AVALON UNIVERSE angel-donor announces DOLLAR-MATCHING for a week!

Last Friday, JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner for the very impressive fan series known as the AVALON UNIVERSE, surprised and confused fans and supporters by posting a video telling viewers NOT to donate to their current GoFundMe campaign—at least, not until Monday…

This fun-yet-intriguing video was followed by a shorter one on Saturday…

And a third one on Sunday…

The videos have done their job, as commenters on Facebook have generally expressed interest in finding out what’s going on. After all, when you’re trying to crowd-fund THREE different upcoming episodes of your series by raising $20,000 in donations from fans, you kinda WANT people to donate. So…what gives?

Well, wonder no more—as earlier today the big reveal was, er, revealed. A few clever folks actually guessed correctly: Monday begins a seven-day DONATION MATCH WEEK where every dollar donated to the current Avalon Universe will be DOUBLED (up to $3,000)…thanks to the generosity of angel-supporter RAY MYERS.

Take a look at today’s awesome video…

And here’s the link to the campaign…

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

If the name Ray Myers sounds familiar, you might remember him from my own fan film INTERLUDE, where Josh Irwin was director of photography. Back in the summer of 2019, I’d launched a similarly ambitious GoFundMe with an $18K goal. A few weeks into the campaign, I woke up one morning to discover that at some point the previous night, someone had donated a whopping $3K to my project—someone I’d never even met before!

Ray and I went on to become friends, and in addition to getting listed in the Interlude credits as associate producer and getting his name on the Game of Thrones memorial coffee cup in the engineering scene, Ray also got to play the first officer of the ill-fated U.S.S. Artemis.

Ray Myers as the first officer of the U.S.S. Artemis in Interlude

Ray has maintained a friendship with Josh as well as with me. And when he saw a few weeks ago that the Avalon GoFundMe was slowing down a bit at a level about a quarter of the way there, Ray reached out to Josh with an offer to do a dollar-matching donation promotion for a week whenever Josh was ready to do so.

With the Creation Las Vegas con and then the 55th anniversary of Star Trek sucking up most of the oxygen in fandom, it was decided that this week would be the best opportunity to build up to a big reveal and then pull out all the stops for the next seven days…so expect me to be talking up Avalon quite a lot this week! In fact, I’ve got a special Zoom video interview coming up (hopefully) on Friday to coincide with a brand new release from Avalon and also an exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming AGENT OF NEW WORLDS Avalon fan film…the first to be funded using donations from this current campaign.

Continue reading “Mystery revealed: AVALON UNIVERSE angel-donor announces DOLLAR-MATCHING for a week!”

Why should we NOT donate to the AVALON UNIVERSE crowd-funder until MONDAY?

Back in July, I was pushing my blogging warp engines to the red line trying to help my friends over in the AVALON UNIVERSE reach their green line goal of $20,000 for their current GoFundMe campaign. The money raised will go toward production costs on THREE separate fan films, including the upcoming AGENT OF NEW WORLDS, set to debut on October 31 (and it looks amazing with breathtakingly beautiful desert cinematography that includes aerial drone footage).

Anyway, when your crowd-funder is trying to reach $20K these days, it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. Heck, it took me more than three months to reach that amount with my fan film INTERLUDE back in 2019.) So it wasn’t surprising to find the Avalon campaign stalling out at about $5.5K…

Obviously, however, it’s critically important to get the campaign back into gear and raising more donations again. And that’s why it came as quite a surprise on Friday morning when showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN posted the following video telling fans NOT to donate to the campaign—at least not until this coming Monday…

It’s a fun little video, showing actor TLYER DUNIVAN (who plays Captain Derek Mason) struggling to get his lines right while PIXI NEREID (Commander Micaela Allenby) is just her usual perky, playful, patient, and positive self…lighting up the room with her smile. It’s candid moments like this that just make me love all these guys and their wonderful enthusiasm.

Anyway, this afternoon saw the second video in what I suspect will be a trilogy leading up to the big reveal on Monday. Video #2 was much shorter but still included some fun chuckle moments…

So what’s the big announcement? Why should fans and supporters not donate just yet and instead wait until Monday? I guess we’ll find out in just two more days, folks!

INTERLUDE Confidential #21: watch the ENTIRE Saturday shoot at ARES STUDIOS!

A few months ago, I posted a fun video showing ARES STUDIOS “coming to life” just before we began the first day of a two-day shoot for my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE back in November of 2019. But that was only SOME of the footage that I shot!

The great thing about being the producer on a film project is that you’re the boss. While the director runs things on the set during filming, the producer is still the person ultimately in charge of everything from the earliest budgeting and pre-production meetings through post-production and the release of the finished project.

My goal in making Interlude wasn’t simply to produce a Star Trek fan film or to shoot something on the bridge set at ARES STUDIOS—although that was certainly part of the goal. But what I really wanted to do was to document the entire experience of creating a fan film, start to finish, for my readers. And certainly the most exciting aspect of that experience was the two-day shoot in Lawrenceville, GA on the U.S.S. Ares (and Artemis) bridge set!

My director, VICTORIA FOX, and my director of photography, JOSHUA IRWIN, were okay with me filming the shoot as long as I kept quiet, kept still, and didn’t interfere in any way with the cast and crew. So I got to record nearly the entire shoot from start to finish. As such, this is a pretty long video…but that’s a good thing!

Why not edit the footage down to something shorter, you ask? Because I wanted you folks to experience exactly what it was like on that set, even when things weren’t moving at wrap speed. In fact, on TV and movie sets, there’s a lot of time that goes by with seemingly little to nothing happening (or at least, that’s the way it might look to someone on the outside).

And as it happens, I didn’t film “everything.” In fact, the Saturday shoot lasted nearly TEN HOURS once things finally got going, and the video I’ve posted below is only two hours long. Part of the reason is I didn’t spend much time filming when lights and cameras were being moved around—that gets boring really quickly! Instead, I concentrated on moments when the cameras were either rolling or about to roll. I also paused every so often to switch over from video mode on my camera to picture mode so I could also take behind-the-scenes production photos. That’s why you’ll see many spots in the video where one clip unexpectedly ends and another begins.

Do you have to watch the WHOLE video…?

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #21: watch the ENTIRE Saturday shoot at ARES STUDIOS!”

STARSHIP FARRAGUT is coming BACK…or is it FORWARD??? (interview with JOHNNY K.)

When last we left STARSHIP FARRAGUT, showrunner JOHN BROUGHTON and his gallant crew had crowd-funded about $15K at the end of 2015 for what was to be their series finale, “Homecoming.” Footage for that fan film was shot in 2015 and 2016, and there were sporadic updates to donors (like me) but nothing major until about 14 months ago, when it was announced that musical composer STEVE SEMMEL had taken over as Post-Production Supervisor (you can check out the interview I did with Steve here).

According to the most recent update, “Homecoming” will, at long last, be released on October 1 of this year. Here’s a trailer for that fan film, which features an eye-catching cameo by the deeply missed, legendary Marvel Comics creator STAN LEE…

While “Homecoming” was to mark the end of the U.S.S. Farragut‘s five-year mission under Captain Jack Carter (played by John Broughton), the end was just the beginning. Also back in 2015, John announced that the team would soon be launching a new sequel series to be titled FARRAGUT FORWARD. At the time, Farragut Films had officially ended their relationship with “sister” series STAR TREK CONTINUES, leaving their TOS sets in Kingsland, GA—nearly all of which Farragut folks had either built or helped to build. Many members of the Farragut team lived in the Washington, D.C. area anyway, not particularly close to southeastern Georgia.

The new Farragut series would jump forward (hence, the name) in time about 20 years, just as Star Trek itself had done with the feature films, into the Wrath of Khan/”monster-maroon” uniform era. However, with the guidelines emerging within just a few months of John’s announcement, many wondered if the group would still launch a brand new Star Trek fan series when the very first guideline said that you can’t have an ongoing Star Trek fan series. And indeed, any news about Farragut Forward pretty much stopped after the guidelines were announced.

Until two weeks ago.

Fans were ecstatic to find a Facebook post from John Broughton linking to this website announcement that Farragut Forward had finally entered pre-production! John has joined forces with independent film studio KAOTICA STUDIOS in Washington, DC, and the studio’s founder, JOHNNY KARZAI, will be directing the initial episode.

The announcement said that fans “…can expect a more ‘sophisticated’ version of Farragut…  a darker, more serious side.” And indeed, after doing a lighting test with John Broughton in a meticulously-crafted captain’s uniform, Johnny K. commented, “This isn’t your Daddy’s Farragut!”

As you can see from the above photo, John B.’s character of Captain Jack Carter has aged VERY gracefully and looks as awesome as his uniform. “I think shelving this project for 5 years has helped us greatly in many ways, including the older self!” John said in a Facebook post.

Fans already know a good deal about John Broughton (if not, then read this 3-part History of Starship Farragut). But what about director Johnny Karzai? I reached out to Johnny K. for the inside scoop on all things Farragut Forward

Continue reading “STARSHIP FARRAGUT is coming BACK…or is it FORWARD??? (interview with JOHNNY K.)”

Fan remasters STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN to HD quality! (interview with DAN ARMITAGE)

Last month, I released a compilation of what I determined were the very best scenes and sequences from the world of Star Trek fan films. (You can watch it here.) I grabbed about three dozen clips from fan productions spanning the last two decades, using an application that downloads videos from YouTube.

Unfortunately, the quality of the videos was all over the place. The most recent fan films like the ones from AVALON UNIVERSE, SQUADRON from the Czech Republic, and A LONG WAY FROM HOME from SAMUEL COCKINGS looked spectacular with High Definition (HD) quality. And even going back five years, stuff still looked awesome.

But when I got to fan films released prior to 2010, video quality dropped significantly because those productions were shot before HD quality digital video was available to the masses…both due to camera equipment and the size of video files and the cost of hard drive storage.

But hey, the show must go on, right? So I used what I had to work with, and the feedback to the video has been generally positive. Nobody seems to have an issue with the image quality of older fan films. But, man, if only…

“If only…” happened last week, about a month after I released my video. Without fanfare, a fellow named DAN ARMITAGE from a town near Liverpool, England released an upscaled version of STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN onto his YouTube channel! Originally shot back in 2006 and directed by TIM “Tuvok” RUSS, ST:OGAM was shot primarily on JAMES CAWLEY’s TOS sets at Retro Studios in Ticonderoga, New York and at Vasquez Rocks north of Los Angeles. The fan film was professional quality, starring a wealth of actors from the (at the time) rich 40-year history of Star Trek, including NICHELLE NICHOLS as Uhura and WALTER KOENIG as Chekov. All of the performances were amazing. (You can read more about the production here.)

The groundbreaking fan film was originally released in three parts between December 2007 and June 2008. Those segments were combined into one YouTube video a few years later in 2012, and here’s the way the film has looked to most fans for more than a decade…

Now take a look at the remastered version that Dan Armitage just released…

Pretty amazing, huh? Granted, it’s still not as pristine as the 80 episodes of TOS or the seven seasons of TNG that Paramount and CBS Home Video spent millions of dollars remastering. However, in fairness, those folks went back to the original film negatives, digitally scanned and color-corrected them, re-edited each episode from scratch, and had CGI artists spend thousands of hours creating brand new VFX sequences.

What did Dan have to work with? Let’s ask him…

Continue reading “Fan remasters STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN to HD quality! (interview with DAN ARMITAGE)”

AVALON UNIVERSE’s crazy and dangerous cave adventure…WHY THE HECK did they do it??? (interview with Joshua Irwin and Pixi Nereid)

You might say that fan filmmakers need to be at least a little crazy at times to do what we do. But this…this was a LOT crazy!

On Monday, August 1, at 5:30 a.m., JOSHUA IRWIN, PIXI NEREID, and NEAL BILBE got into Josh’s SUV at Neal’s home in Farmington, Arkansas, and drove for five hours straight to the middle of nowhere in southwestern Oklahoma.

Then they hiked a mile and a half, gaining more than 200 feet in elevation (the height of a 25-story building) and free-climbing the final portion over sheer boulders with steep drops—all in order to get to this cave…

They spent about 30 minutes filming there, shooting footage that will last LESS THAN 15 SECONDS(!!!) in the final fan film. Then they hiked 1.5 miles back to their car, and drove 350 miles back to Farmington, arriving at Neal’s house about 11:00 p.m. Josh lives close by in Fayetteville, but Pixi lives 3 hours away in Little Rock. She got home around 3 a.m.

WHO DOES THIS??? And for a FAN film???

This was from the PREVIOUS trip to the middle of nowhere!

Now, you might remember how I already wrote about Josh’s 1,800-mile drive (each way) from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Phoenix, Arizona in May for a professional shoot. In that blog, I also described the subsequent 270-mile drive (each way) done by a production crew of a dozen people to shoot two actresses at Gloss Mountain State Park in western Oklahoma on July 23.

This blog isn’t either of those trips. This was a THIRD trip!

I realize that I’ve been blogging quite a bit lately about the folks over in the AVALON UNIVERSE as they try reach their goal of $20K in their current GoFundMe campaign (currently just over 1/4 of the way there). And if you’d like to donate, please-please-please click the link below…

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

But even if I weren’t trying to help with their crowd-funding, I would still write about this adventure because it just astounds me how committed these folks are making to a “little” Star Trek fan film. Of course, when it comes to filmmaking, Josh Irwin doesn’t know the meaning of the word “little”!

But seriously, who does this???

It’s not like there aren’t caves in Arkansas. There are some very nice caves, thank you very much. But their entrances are lush and forest-like. Josh’s other footage was shot in desolate desert terrain, so anything filmed in Arkansas would yield footage that wouldn’t match what had already been shot.

A typical cave entrances in Arkansas

So why not just film Pixi against a green screen and composite her against a photo of some desert cave that Josh could grab off the Internet? Why the 10-hour round-trip drive, 3-mile round-trip hike, and 200-foot dangerous climb?

Obviously, it’s time to talk to Josh and Pixi! (Neal wasn’t available.)

Continue reading “AVALON UNIVERSE’s crazy and dangerous cave adventure…WHY THE HECK did they do it??? (interview with Joshua Irwin and Pixi Nereid)”

“The very BEST of Star Trek FAN FILMS” is now available for viewing!

For the past two and a half years, I’ve been quietly working on a “secret” project for Star Trek fan films. I mean, it wasn’t purposefully a secret. I just never bothered to mention it to anybody…

…until now, that is.

The idea behind this 75-minute montage was to collect what I considered to be the “best” scenes and sequences from the many, many, MANY Star Trek fan films that have been released during the last two decades or so.

It wasn’t easy choosing!

First of all, what does “the best” even mean??? The best…what? Acting? Directing? Story? Visual Effects? Make-up? Costumes? Sound quality? Music? Editing? Well, yes to all of the above! But few Star Trek fan films actually check ALL of those boxes. So once again, I was left the challenge of deciding what “the best” actually means.

I ultimately created two criteria for inclusion in the video. The clips needed to (in my determination):

  1. Make an average viewer who wasn’t really familiar with this sub-sub-sub genre of ours react with something akin to, “Wait, this is a FAN film???”
  2. Leave the person watching the clip wanting to see more of that particular fan film or series.

Once I knew what I was looking for, I needed to do a LOT of looking! That’s one of the reasons this project has taken as long as it has to complete. But I did discover something important early on. Really short clips (on the whole) don’t work. You need at least a minute or two—and sometimes even three minutes or more—to convey the power and impact of a sequence. Otherwise, you just get disjointed VFX sequences and isolated snippets of dialog that don’t really pack much of a punch. You have to give the viewer a chance to get the “flavor” of a sequence and a grasp of what is going on.

Ultimately, I ended up selecting about three dozen clips and sequences from fan films spanning the last decade and a half…for a total run-time of 75 minutes (an average of two minutes per segment). Sadly, I couldn’t include content from many of my closest friends in the fan film community. (I didn’t want this video to go on forever!) And so I sincerely apologize to anyone who didn’t make it into the final selections. It wasn’t personal, and I love you all and the wonderful work you and your teams bring to us.

Continue reading ““The very BEST of Star Trek FAN FILMS” is now available for viewing!”

TREKLANTA is back, baby…and this year, it’s VIRTUAL!!!

Believe it or not, the Star Trek fan film community DOES have its own convention every year…or at least it did until COVID shut down the entire world in 2020!

Granted, TREKLANTA isn’t only a fan film convention. Since 2011, ERIC L. WATTS, Founder and Chairman of the the Treklanta mini-con (originally called TrekTrax), has invited a wide range of guests over the years that’s included a wealth of Star Trek and sci-fi veteran actors, authors, and production people…along with other fine folks whom fans have always enjoyed seeing and meeting.

But Treklanta is also the convention that Star Trek fan filmmakers call “home.” For the past half-decade, Treklanta has presented the annual BJO AWARDS—the only competition devoted exclusively to recognizing and honoring Star Trek fan films. It’s the closest thing we have to the Oscars (only “Oscar” is now the woman who saved Star Trek from cancellation with a giant letter-writing campaign back in the 1960s!).

Sadly, Treklanta didn’t happen at all last year because of the pandemic. And because this mini-con is typically funded with revenue from the previous year’s event, there wasn’t enough in the coffers to entirely finance an in-person Treklanta this year. Fortunately, fifteen months of quarantining has taught fans that the show CAN go on—and you don’t even have to leave your house!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Treklanta™ on the Holodeck!

This year’s Treklanta event will be a full day of FREE virtual panels beginning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time and going straight through till 10:00 p.m. THIS SATURDAY (August 7, 2021). All of the panels will be accessible via Google Meet at the following link:

https://meet.google.com/nxm-nnmz-ppf?fbclid=IwAR3FltmbCZgHPr-tjK5-hI-n_BXCSu1KvVl3kXOgVKifMPWMlx3qzc68eFI

The only requirement is that you have a Google/Gmail account to participate in the online events. And what if you don’t? Well, creating a free Google account is free and easy and doesn’t take very long. And you never have to use the Google account again if you don’t want to. But aside from that one requirement, Treklanta™ on the Holodeck is open to anyone at anytime during the day on Saturday. Start watching a panel, stick around for bit, ask a question or two, leave, come back, or just keep the link open all day long. It’s the easiest convention you’ve ever stayed home for!

Here’s the schedule of events (including a Fan Film “Power Panel” at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time that you will NOT want to miss!)…

Continue reading “TREKLANTA is back, baby…and this year, it’s VIRTUAL!!!”

OUTRAGED raises the bar on green screen fandemic films… (interview with DAVID CHENG)

DAVID CHENG and his gang of cosplayers at Star Trek Fan Productions International are upping their game with each new fan film that they produce…and there’s been quite a few in the past two years—six, in fact! Their first, THE HUMAN ADVENTURE, was a very rare Star Trek: The Motion Picture era fan film, shot and released in late 2019. That was half a year BEFORE the world shut down due to a once-in-a-century pandemic. The global quarantine didn’t stop David and his team, but it did force them to start being creative. And thus was born one of the many examples of what I went on to dub the “fandemic” film, where each of the actors is filmed separately and individually, and these self-contained pieces of footage are then edited together to create scenes with conversations and story…a new kind of Star Trek fan film.

(Actually, there was nothing really “new” about it. VANCE MAJOR had been doing similar editing together of footage shot in various people’s homes for years in his many, many MINARD and CONSTAR fan films.)

Beginning in June 2020 with LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY, David and co-showrunner MIKE LONGO (who played Jim Kirk) began releasing fandemic films where one character appeared in the screen at a time, first simply seated in front of backgrounds in their houses, sometimes with props visible…

A few weeks later, JENS DOMBEK, known internationally as “The German Spock,” released a very stylized vignette titled I AM SPOCK, shot against a stark black canvas background with only himself (dressed as Spock) and a series Vulcan props , accompanied by a monotonal voice-over and haunting minialist music track.

By October 2020, the bar was lifted slightly when, for the first time, their newest release worked in chroma-keyed virtual backgrounds against cosplayers who had shot their footage in front of green screen. UNREST also featured a few VFX shots of the U.S.S. Excelsior (under Captain Sulu) and the U.S.S. Enterprise-A (under Kirk, of course), with David Cheng returning to the front of the camera as Admiral Nogura for the first time since The Human Adventure.

For Christmas of 2020, PEACE AND GOODWILL continued building on their previous steps, incorporating green screen footage composited over digital backgrounds, but now some of those backgrounds included CGI animated VFX shots. Also, a few of the green screen shots were wider angles, showing more of the characters than just their head, shoulders, and torsos. And finally, the size of the cast had grown to six actors, their largest complement yet.

And finally, the month of June 2021 brought their most ambitious project yet, OUTRAGED, with a cast of 15 characters! But even more impressive were scenes that include TWO characters on screen at the same time…even though everyone’s footage was still being filmed separately. Thanks to digital compositing, fans could now see “over-the-shoulder” scenes plus Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock together on the Enterprise bridge, even though Mike Longo and Jens Dombek live on separate continents!

Take a look…

Continue reading “OUTRAGED raises the bar on green screen fandemic films… (interview with DAVID CHENG)”