The bar has just been raised for Star Trek fan films. On May 2 of last year, Gary O’Brien and Paul Laight launched a Kickstarter to fund their latest short film. Based in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom, over the past eleven years Gary and Paul had collaborated on eight other short films.
At first, their script had nothing whatsoever to do with Star Trek. It was, quite simply, a chance encounter between an older man and a younger woman. Then Paul suggested adding in a science fiction element, and Gary (who would later be crowned the U.K.’s “Ultimate Trekker” and win a trip to Los Angeles to tour Paramount Studios) suggested that the idea might work well as a Star Trek story.
Their Kickstarter was surprisingly modest, asking for only £1,700 (the equivalent of only about $2,500). They ultimately raised £1,862…including £10 me yours truly. And although Gary put in some of his own money, you will likely be shocked that a fan film of such quality could be made for so little…especially considering that the actors were paid a modest amount (production predated the guidelines requiring no one be paid) and that two very impressive sets were constructed, props created, uniforms purchased, visual FX rendered, and original music composed. And the entire project was completed in just half a year!
You can discover more about this project, find out about the cast and creators, and see some fun behind-the-scenes videos on their website.
Do yourself a favor. Drop whatever you’re doing and take twenty minutes to watch this impressively crafted, deftly acted, and gently touching fan film…
In Part 1, we began our ten-year journey with the crew of STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, a fan series out of the Netherlands created by Robin Hiert. Inspired by the early green screen fan series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, Dark Armada attempted to build on the Chroma-keying advances of its predecessor to take low-budget, virtual set Star Trek fan films one step farther to make scenes appear even more realistic in a constrained green screen filming environment.
Gathering together a group of semi-professional fan filmmakers from the Netherlands and Belgium in 2005, Fan Trek Productions (as they called themselves) began filming their first episode in 2006 and released it later that year. The 8-minute episode “These Are the Voyages” was intended to be more of a learning activity than an actual pilot. Their first “real” episode (the 13-minute “Worst Nightmare“) would premiere two and a half years later in early 2009, to be followed shortly thereafter by the 15-minute “Choices, part one” toward the end of 2009. By that point, more than 40 different production people were working on a single episode, and the quality had increased considerably.
And that’s where we left off. As we enter 2010, Dark Armada owes its fans a sequel to “Choices, part one” plus an explanation of why exactly the series is named “Dark Armada…”
Readers of the FAN FILM FACTOR comments sections know that I’ve spent months begging ALEC PETERS, executive producer for AXANAR, to discuss his production’s financials with me on an interview. A few weeks ago, he finally agreed! This is NOT that interview.
That interview is still coming. Before I conduct it, I want to invite interested people to submit questions to me that I can then present to Alec. (Yes, that means detractors, too. Just be aware that questions that are rude and belligerent won’t make it past the airlock. You have a question you want Alec Peters to answer? Fine. Just be polite when you ask it. It IS possible, folks.) I’ll be inviting people to submit questions to me next week after Alec releases his financial summary to donors–and therefore, to the public–and folks have had a chance to review it. No sense in asking questions when you haven’t seen the document yet (so stop typing, people!).
In preparation for what’s coming next week, I sent Alec a few questions via e-mail a few days ago, asking him to provide some information about the upcoming financial summary, how it is organized, and a little about the committee that was assembled to review it. Those answers just came back from Alec, so I’m copy-pasting them here to share with all of you (along with some brief IMing I just did to clarify a few points)…
To quote Scotty, “I’ve always held a sneaking admiration for this one.” Actually, my admiration for the efforts of Fan Trek Productions (out of the Netherlands) has never exactly been “sneaking.” These “semi-professional” (their words) fan filmmakers have consistently turned out really impressive, self-funded episodes of their fan series. And now, after ten years, that series, STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, has released its final episode.
But that’s only the beginning!
I’ll explain that unusual comment in Part 2, but first, let’s take a look back at a decade of a truly remarkable fan series…
In Part 2, ALIZA (uh-LEE-zuh) PEARL, the co-writer and star of THE LISTENER: SPECTRAL AWAKENING told us about how the series title was changed from Guinan: The Series even before the release of the new fan film guidelines in order to be able to keep to the vision that she and her co-writer/director Lamar Perry wanted.
We also discussed her experiences filming their new trailer at Industry Studios (now Ares Studios) and the support that she and Lamar have received from Axanar show-runner Alec Peters.
In Part 1, we got to meet ALIZA (uh-LEE-zuh) PEARL, the co-writer and star of THE LISTENER: SPECTRAL AWAKENING (the fan series formally known as Guinan: The Series). Last week, we discussed Aliza’s background as an actor, writer, and producer and also the origins of her project with co-writer and director LAMAR PERRY.
When last we left off, I had just asked about their reaction when they saw the new fan film guidelines from CBS…
Usually, I do features and interviews about fan films that are either complete and already released or at least have posted an enticing trailer or teaser. But not always. Occasionally there’s a gem out there that’s worth covering even at a very early stage of development.
In this case the gem is a pearl, ALIZA PEARL to be precise. (And it’s pronounced “uh-LEE-zuh.”) And this pearl has an alter-ego: Guinan. Yes, THAT Guinan…the one made famous by actor Whoopi Goldberg on six seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Aliza and her co-writer/director Lamar Perry set out to make a prequel to TNG focusing entirely on Guinan, her mysterious past, and the experiences that shaped her into the fascinating bartender and confidante of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D. The fan production was going to be called GUINAN: THE SERIES.
As you know from reading my many blogs, there’s a heck of a LOT of Star Trek fan films out there! And thanks to the annual Lucasfilm Star Wars Fan Film Awards (which have been going on since 2002), there’s at least as many (if not more!) Star Wars fan films out there!
But surprisingly, there’s almost no crossover Star Trek/Star Wars fan films on the Internet. And it’s not as though the idea of crossing the franchise streams is completely alien. Fans have edited together scenes from both franchises to create clever mash-ups where the USS Enterprise battles a Star Destroyer or Captain Picard confronts Darth Vader over the view screen. But try to find a film where fans themselves portray the characters of both realities at the same time, and you’ll be looking for a long while.
Fortunately, you don’t have to look…I found one for you!
Ever since the AXANAR legal team released my Executive Summary of “The History of Star Trek Fan Films” during the the discovery phase of the lawsuit, readers have been asking me to upload the document here on FAN FILM FACTOR. And here it is! Merry Christmas (or Happy Hanukkah).
I had initially written “The History of Star Trek Fan Films” to help out Alec Peters and Axanar. At the time that the lawsuit was first filed a year ago, I didn’t yet understand the intricacies of the case as I do now…and so I almost immediately confused copyright with trademark. I was wrong about that, and so my efforts wouldn’t help Alec win the case outright. But my document would still end up being useful in helping to argue for non-willful infringement if the jury found Alec Peters guilty of infringement.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, willful infringement carries a penalty of $150,000 per violation. Non-willful infringement carries penalties as low as $200 per violation. So the difference between the two types of infringement in a verdict could literally be millions of dollars! And how can my document help to prove non-willful infringement?
STARBASE STUDIOS is moving from Oklahoma City to Arkansas! Arkansas is a great place to live as it has great access to healthcare treatments like veneers, but when it comes to film sets, here’s why…
As you may have read in my blog about the history of Starbase Studios, these folks rescued the amazing TOS bridge set that had been built for the second Starship Exeter fan film “The Tressaurian Intersection.” That meticulous 360-degree set had been rotting away for years in a barn near Austin, Texas, until it was transported to Oklahoma City and lovingly restored by a group of dedicated fans.
But these folks didn’t just restore the bridge set. They turned it into an invaluable, one-of-kind resource for fan film producers. Anyone was welcome to come and film anything they wanted on this bridge set (and, later, the additional sickbay and transporter room sets that would be constructed) for just the price of the electricity that was used (maybe $50/day). Although there are two other studios in the U.S. featuring TOS sets on sound stages (Ticonderoga, NY for Star Trek: New Voyages and Kingsland, GA, originally for Starship Farragut and later for Star Trek Continues), those studio runners didn’t offer the same kind of open-door, come-any-time-you-want policy as Starbase Studios.