TOMMY KRAFT became the first Star Trek fan filmmaker to be “shut down” in the period after CBS and Paramount filed their lawsuit against Axanar. In February of 2016, Tommy released the amazing STAR TREK: HORIZON, a 104-minute Star Trek fan film produced quite literally in Tommy’s parents’ basement for a production budget of only $28,000. The film was set in the era of Star Trek: Enterprise during the Romulan War and featured the crew of the USS Discovery NX-04.
Although Tommy initially said there would be no Horizon sequel, the exuberant fan response led him to reconsider, and by April, Tommy was planning to launch a new Kickstarter to fund Federation Rising, once again featuring the crew of the USS Discovery NX-04. In hindsight, we now know that Tommy had unknowingly chosen a Starfleet vessel with the same name as the upcoming new Star Trek television series. But all we knew back then was that Tommy was contacted by CBS days before the launch of his Kickstarter campaign and told in no uncertain terms that they would strongly advise him against moving forward in any way with his project. They weren’t belligerent or threatening; they were simply reaching out proactively…in much the same way they did NOT do with Axanar. Hoping to avoid the same fate as that other fan film project that he had worked on (yep, Tommy was on the production team for Prelude to Axanar), Tommy opted to shut down his project before it could even get to the launch pad. You can read Tommy’s statement here.
Instead, Tommy and his production partner, Ryan Webber, decided to create an original non-Star Trek production titled PROJECT DISCOVERY, examining mankind’s earliest forays into manned interplanetary spaceflight in the mid-21st century. Tommy and Ryan launched a Kickstarter campaign in late April with a 2-month time frame and an ambitious goal of $250,000. Although they got off to a strong start, just short of a month into the campaign, pledges had stalled in the $17,000 range. Reluctantly, Tommy and Ryan canceled the Kickstarter and decided to pursue other projects.
Tommy moved onto a new non-Trek film production called RUNAWAY. And this time, not only was he successful with his Kickstarter, he has knocked the project out of the ballpark!
Last time, we chatted with Ray Tesi about one of the newest fan projects, Starship Republic. Filmed at Starbase Studios before it recently moved from Oklahoma City to Arkansas, the fan production just released a short vignette and launched an Indiegogo campaign with a $16,000 goal.
One of the most intriguing things about Starship Republic is the fact that show-runner Ray Tesi actually reached out to John Van Citters of CBS Licensing to review their crowd-funding campaign and give feedback on whether or not there was any problem with them distributing unlicensed perks…both physical and digital. And so far, CBS sees no issues with Republic doing just that.
We also learned a little about what will make Starship Republic unique…specifically aiming for a look and feel that reflects more modern cinematic techniques rather than trying to faithfully recreate the style of the 1960’s era original series episodes.
And now it’s time to conclude our interview with Ray as we learn more about how the production came to be, how they found their cast, what it was like to actually produce the project, and what’s in store for the future…
Now, this is intriguing! If you look about half-way down the fan film guidelines to the second-to-last point under #6, you find the following:
No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.
That seems pretty straightforward. If you want to give away any perks, they have to be licensed Star Trek merchandise. You can’t give any patches or T-shirts or signed scripts or posters or anything related to your fan production in exchange for donations…at least if you want to make sure you aren’t sued or sent a cease and desist letter by CBS and Paramount.
So how was it that STARSHIP REPUBLIC, the newest fan film to launch a crowd-funding campaign (and the first to do so since the Axanar settlement), was offering a whole set of perks? Sure, most perks were digital, but there were also physical posters in the mix (like the two images shown above).
Well, it turns out that they simply asked CBS for permission–and they got it! Well, kinda…
The fan film/series RENEGADES was in the right place at the wrong time. Still called Star Trek: Renegades when thefan film guidelines came out last June, the producers had already completed a very impressive 90-minute feature film in 2015 for $350,000 and were about to begin production on a new series of episodes with a starting budget of $515,000 for the first one.
With Tim Russ directing and reprising his character of Tuvok, plus both Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols reprising their roles as Chekov and Uhura (likely for the final time), plus appearances by Star Trek veteran actors Cirroc “Jake Sisko” Lofton, Aron “Nog” Eisenberg, Terry “Jadzia” Farrell, Robert “Chakotay” Beltran, Gary “Soval” Graham, and a few others–some playing the same characters, other playing new ones–Star Trek: Renegades‘ first two-part episode, “The Requiem,” looked like Trekker’s fan film dream come true! Even the production crew was a virtual “Who’s Who” of fan film luminaries, including VFX wizards Tobias Richter and Tommy Kraft, prop guru Scott Nakada, and many more.
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…