INTERLUDE Confidential #10 – I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling…

You can’t please all the Trekkies all the time.

I wrote that sentence at the beginning of yesterday’s blog featuring the new YouTube music video from GARY DAVIS of DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. In it, Gary featured a compilation of many of the viewer comments that have come in through social media over the past five years both praising and scorching their fan film efforts.

The video—set to the popular song “I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again” (the actual title is “Tubthumping” by the band Chumbawamba)—reflects Gary and his team’s positive and “bring it on” attitude about their hobby. They know they aren’t the giants of fan films, but they’re having FUN…and that’s really all that matters.

After writing that blog yesterday, I began thinking about the fan reaction to the trailer I released last Wednesday for my own fan film INTERLUDE. Man, did that one light a match! And it all came from a fun and silly little idea I had to do an homage to the opening credits of one of my favorite sci-fi series from the mid-1970s, Space: 1999. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, or you’d like to check it out again, here it is…

Actually, lots of people liked it. It’s had about 2.1K views so far on YouTube, with 85% of the reactions being thumbs up. Of the 15% that were thumbs down, the main complaint seemed to be my choice of music—likened by some to 70’s porn, and called by one Facebook poster “ear-raping” (whatever that means…although I’m guessing it’s not a good thing).

Others didn’t like the quick cuts, the over-use of the CGI shots, and one fellow thought I had too many clips of people spinning around in their chairs! ALEC PETERS said he liked the trailer but added that it’s not what he would have done. One of my oldest friends, ADAM “MOJO” LEBOWITZ, took time from his busy schedule to write on my Facebook post: “That’s the kind of trailer a fan makes after the movie came out. A mash up. It was cute and cool but I know nothing about your movie other than battle CGI.” Heck, even one of the members of my Interlude production team told me didn’t like the trailer. (Hey, at least he was honest.)

Such a fuss over a 1-minute trailer that I threw together in iMovie on a lark! Honestly, folks, I didn’t make the trailer for Alec or Mojo or for ear-raping guy. I made it for me…as a way to provide a sneak peek to supporters and friends and family members of what this fan film that they’ve been hearing about for a year was going to look like. It was fun to edit together, and I like the way it came out. Sure some people didn’t like it. So what? The world didn’t end (at least, not because of one Star Trek fan trailer).

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INTERLUDE Confidential #9 – We have a RELEASE DATE…and a TRAILER!

Hmmmm, let’s see…should I show you the new INTERLUDE trailer first and then talk about it—or talk about it first and then show it? Aw heck, I know you all really wanna see the new trailer…!

Pretty cool, huh? For those of you unfamiliar with the 1970s sci-fi TV series Space 1999, that trailer is an homage to the way they used to start their episodes (take a look at this video to see an example). The opening credits for that series would include rapid-fire quick cuts from various scenes of “this episode” followed by a slower musical bridge where they would show some of the names behind the production. Then the date would flash: September 13th, 1999—the day the moon supposedly would have been blasted out of earth’s orbit to begin its odyssey through deep space.

Cheesy? Yeah…it was 1975, for gosh sakes! But back then, with Star Trek and Lost in Space in reruns, Doctor Who hidden on weird channels at weird times, and Star Wars still two years away, Space 1999 was one of the only first-run sci-fi games in town. And let’s face it, those eagle transport spacecraft were friggin’ cool! I loved that show, and I loved the opening credits sequences.

So what does any of this have to do with my Axanar Universe fan film Interlude, you ask? Well, technically nothing. That’s not even the actual music I’ll be using (composer KEVIN CROXTON is creating an original score for Interlude).

But I did have this dream a few weeks ago…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #8 – lights, camera, acting!

When our Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE is released in a few months and the credits roll, two names will appear prominently: JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX. And it’s because of them that Interlude will not only be an awesome Star Trek fan film but also a visual work of art.

A year and a half ago, when I first suggested to Josh the idea of shooting a fan film on the Ares bridge set, I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations other than, “It’ll be SOOOOO cool!” Y’see, the Ares Studios bridge set is just so darn awesome-looking that I figured any fan film shot on it would have to look amazing. And when Josh started talking about all of the ways he planned to light it, the angles he’d shoot it from, types of lenses he’d use, etc.—it all just zoomed completely over my head. I simply figured that my fan film was in good hands, and it was gonna be such a blast flying to Georgia and getting to watch someone shoot on those sets.

A couple of months later when I discovered that Victoria usually collaborated with Josh on their amazing AVALON UNIVERSE fan films, I invited her to come on board the project, as well…and after some discussion, she accepted. At the time, I naively thought I understood how things worked with the two of them: Josh would set up the lights and cameras (cinematography) while Victoria would work with the actors. The perfect team, splitting the tasks right down the middle.

Man, was I wrong…!

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INTERLUDE Confidential #7 – we have PICTURE LOCK!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a locked edit!

Back in January, I wrote a blog discussing how we were transitioning from the production phase into post-production on my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. Over the past three months, JOSHUA IRWIN, VICTORIA FOX, and I have been working hard on the editing. As of this past weekend, we officially have picture lock.

“What’s the heck is a picture lock??” you ask.

Editing is kinda fun. You move a shot here, you trim a shot there, maybe you add an extra reaction shot in another spot. As you assemble the “puzzle pieces,” you can experiment and shift things around, tweaking and refining to your heart’s content. But there comes a point when you have to stop and hand the edit off to your composer.

Music is kinda unforgiving. If a scene lasts for 57 seconds, then you need 57 seconds of music underneath it. So that’s what your composer gives you. If the director or editor later decides to insert a 5-second clip in the middle of the scene or trim out 12 seconds, then the music will no longer match the scene length, and the composer will have to re-do all of the music for that scene from scratch. And eventually, if this happens too much, he or she will likely quit, often accompanied by a long series of expletives.

So achieving picture lock is a “speak now or forever hold your peace” moment. Once you hand the edit off to your composer, nothing changes that affects the timing. Nothing. Period.

Picture lock doesn’t mean the edit is all done except for the music, however. In fact, there is still a LOT left to do! For Interlude, LEWIS ANDERSON still needs to deliver two more VFX shots. “Wait,” you say, “doesn’t adding in VFX shots affect the timing and length of the film?” Not in this case. For one of the shots, Lewis has already provided us a low-resolution previsualization animatic to insert as a placeholder. His final high-resolution VFX shot will be the exact same length. In the other shot, he’s creating the digital background of Admiral Slater’s office at Starfleet Academy. We shot Slater (STEVEN JEPSON) against a green screen, and those video sequences are completed. So adding in the background doesn’t change the scene length.

Joshua is also still working on finishing touches here and there like shakes and flashes and sparks. But none of those things will affect the timing. We’re also adding in the background “bridge chatter” sounds, which doesn’t change timing either.

On Saturday, our composer KEVIN CROXTON began composing our score. Once he’s done, the edit goes to MARK EDWARD LEWIS for post-production sound-mixing. He’ll add sound effects, adjust the levels of everyone’s voices, clean up stray sounds from the set, and balance the music with the dialogue and other sounds so nothing is drowning out anything else. At this point, we’re still a month or two away from being finished.

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #7 – we have PICTURE LOCK!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #6 – meet WARREN HAWK, Captain Jakande of the USS Artemis…

Post-production work on INTERLUDE is continuing, with our third rough cut edit currently being worked on. I love seeing it all take shape, and I adore watching actor WARREN HAWK playing USS Artemis Captain Imari Jakande. I can’t wait for you all to see him on screen!

Warren was the final actor we cast, and it happened only four days before before our November shoot! I was biting my fingernails down to the nubs, but VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN assured me that everything would work out. Sometimes actors are cast very late in the process; it’s just the nature of the industry. Turns out they were right.

Casting the rest of Interlude, by comparison, was relatively simple. Our other main character, Fleet Captain Kelvar Garth, would be played by ALEC PETERS (of course!). The rest of the speaking parts were pretty minor. Two of the actors who played bridge officers on the USS Ares for the AXANAR shoot in October—AARON ROMANO as Comm Officer Caine and ROBERT HAYES as Pilot Deville—returned to play those same roles for Interlude‘s November shoot. Also on the Ares bridge was Science Officer Franklin, and Joshua got one of his friends, JAY PLYBURN (who lives in the area) for that part. Jay is also a trained actor, and Josh has directed him in the past.

Admiral Slater will appear at the end of Interlude, and STEVEN JEPSON agreed to play him. The two remaining on-camera speaking roles are the Ares doctor, a role which Victoria is filling, and the Artemis chief engineer, being played by an actor whose name we’re keeping secret for the moment (but it’s a person with some fan film experience). Then there’s two voice-over roles, plus all of the background actors who won’t be speaking.

And that left Jakande…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #5 – the latest CHATTER!

Now, THIS is a cool idea…just till you hear it!!!

But first, I need to update you on where my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE stands at the moment. As I mentioned in my previous Interlude Confidential, we’re nearly finished with principal photography (shooting the live action scenes) plus creating the VFX shots and voice-overs…and have recently started assembling the “puzzle pieces” into a rough cut.

JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX warned me not to expect too much “excitement” from the initial rough cut. It’s also known as a “wide” cut because the takes are purposefully cut to be a little longer (meaning they have a bit more at the beginning and end of the lines). Later on, the wide cut is “tightened” into shorter takes as the timing and pacing of the scenes are refined.

Also, there’s a lot missing from a rough cut. The music isn’t there, for one thing, and that will eventually add a lot of excitement and richness. But right now, it’s all just people speaking their lines on an otherwise quiet set—no red alert klaxon, no explosion sounds, not even the pressing of buttons and the beeps they make. As they said, don’t expect much yet…and I didn’t.

Instead, I used my imagination to fill in what was missing. As I watched the rough cut, I mentally added in the explosions, the red alert, the music, and the camera shake. And in my head, it was MUCH more exciting! But even in my mind’s eye (or rather, ear), it felt like something was still missing.

And almost immediately I knew exactly what it was!

When I started telling Victoria and Josh about my suggestion during our next production meeting, it turned out that Victoria had the exact same idea! And since they’re both actual industry professionals, if I think of something that they’ve thought of, too, then I know we’re in good shape.

So what’s this great idea already??? You’ve been so patient, let me tell you…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #5 – the latest CHATTER!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #4 – putting the post-production puzzle pieces in place!

A little more than a decade before his untimely death in 1997, John Denver trained with NASA and became a finalist for the first citizen’s trip to space in 1986. When asked why a singer/songwriter should be chosen to go to space, John Denver replied by asking who better to communicate the inspirational experience of spaceflight to the masses than someone used to putting sights, sounds, and feelings into words and music?

These “INTERLUDE Confidential” blogs I write are intended to do something similar. I realize that many of my readers will never produce or even work on a fan film. And most fan filmmakers are too busymaking fan films to blog about the experience in depth and try to communicate the nuances of all that they do.

So I want to give you folks a window into the process of creating a fan film from the point of view of someone who has never done this sort of thing before and is still blown away by the entire process. And today, I’d to talk about where Interlude stands right now.

There are three main phases to creating a film. Pre-production is planning everything: determining budgets, raising money, hiring (or in my case, begging for) actors and crew, setting up filming dates, getting costumes ready, and about a thousand other things from renting equipment to scheduling a caterer. The script is worked on and re-worked, the director(s) plan out a shot list…it’s like everything NASA does before a rocket is cleared for lift off.

Then production happens. This is when the various elements that will go into the film are actually produced. This can mean filming scenes or getting voice-overs or having your CGI friend create your visual effects. Every item that gets produced (filmed, recorded, rendered, etc.) becomes a piece of the overall puzzle that will become your final fan film.

Right now, Interlude is still in production. At the same time, we’re also in post-production. How is that possible?

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INTERLUDE Confidential #3: neither RAIN nor SNOW nor TORNADOES will stop these filmmakers!

VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN didn’t think it was necessary that I write this blog. “We do this sort of thing all the time,” they told me. “It’s part of our job.” Well, maybe for work where they’re being paid professionally, but this is a FLIPPIN’ FAN FILM. And what they did this weekend meant a lot to me personally, and I want to tell you folks about it.

First though, I need to ask: what is it about INTERLUDE that invites acts of God, fate, or just Murphy? Do you remember last May when the Arkansas River flooded and trapped my composer KEVIN CROXTON on one side for days? Or the stray dog that delayed my GoFundMe rollout? Or the woodpecker trapped in the chimney? If you’ve forgotten, here’s the blog that listed everything that went wrong leading up to the launch of the Interlude crowd-funder.

Knowing our track record, I had a Star Wars-like “bad feeling” in the pit of my stomach when we scheduled the Sickbay shoot at WARP 66 Studios for the second weekend in January. It wasn’t that I was worried about bad weather in Arkansas. It’s a southern state, and at most, it’ll get four or five inches of snow over an entire winter season. And as for tornadoes, while there have been some during the winter months, those mostly come in the springtime there.

No, I was worried about Cleveland.

The fellow who is playing the wounded Admiral Ramirez in Interlude, DAVID BUTLER-AGRINSONIS (read more about him here), lives in Cleveland, OH. And when I booked his flight to Fayetteville, I had visions of a huge Noreaster or Polar Vortex hitting the northeast and upper midwest and grounding his plane. I purposefully looked for connecting flights to Fayetteville through Raleigh, NC rather than Chicago just to try to minimize the risk of winter storms screwing up our January shoot.

DAVID BUTLER-AGRINSONIS will be playing a wounded Admiral Ramirez in INTERLUDE.

Turns out that I should have been more worried about snow and tornadoes in Arkansas…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #3: neither RAIN nor SNOW nor TORNADOES will stop these filmmakers!”

GREEN SCREEN crowd-funded in SIX DAYS…Paul Jenkins reimbursed!

By now, most of you know about the mishap during the INTERLUDE shoot at Ares Studios in November and how, when AXANAR director PAUL JENKINS arrived in December, he found his 100-foot-long custom green screen ruined. It was an accident, but the responsibility lay squarely (or rectangularly) on the shoulders of the Interlude production team.

No one individual was singled out as being “the idiot responsible” because no one on my team was an idiot. In fact, most of them are amazingly talented, competent, and dedicated craftsmen (and women) and hard-working volunteers…from directors JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX, who knocked it out of the park that weekend, to the good folks who vacuumed the bridge set. As far as I am concerned, everyone is to be praised and commended, and no one will be thrown under the bus!

Anyway, I asked my donors and other supporters of Interlude (and fan films in general) to please help raise enough money to reimburse Paul the $4,760 cost for replacing the ruined green screen. I kicked off the donations with $500 of my own money, and three of my biggest donors each matched my amount…leaving another $2,760 to raise from other contributors. Honestly, I thought I was going to be crowd-funding this until February or March, if not longer.

And then a fan film Christmas miracle happened. We reached our goal for reimbursing Paul in less than a week!!!

Usually, the holiday season is the worst time of year to do fan film crowd-funding (other than anytime near tax day in April). But I reached out to folks anyway, asking for only $10 per donor. Altogether, 112 donors graciously answered the call, chipping in anywhere from $10 to $100 each (one put in $300). It was, for me at least, a heartwarming reminder of what I know is so precious about this fan film community.

I sent Paul the full funds via PayPal last Friday, while we were still a few hundred dollars short of our goal. But I had faith it wouldn’t be long until we got there. And then, on Sunday evening—less than six days after I made my first appeal, we reach the goal. If fact, later that evening, two additional donations brought us $35 over that goal. I’ve let the supporters know that they no longer have to donate anything more. Interlude is covered.

I’ve said it probably a thousand times already, but you can never say THANK YOU enough in my book! So my sincere gratitude to everyone who has supported Interlude…whether you gave to replace the green screen or simply donated along the way to help me and my team make a really awesome fan film.

You are truly the best of Star Trek fandom.

Follow-up: A GREEN SCREEN Christmas miracle!

Wow…with a capital WOW!

This, my friends, is what Star Trek fandom is all about.  Yesterday, I published a blog asking for fans’ assistance in replacing PAUL JENKINS’ custom green screen (at a cost of $4,700), which had accidentally been damaged beyond repair during the INTERLUDE shoot at Ares Studios in November.

I ended the blog with a reference to the TOS episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” when Kirk tells Edith Keeler how a famous author in the future will write a classic recommending the three words “Let me help…” even over “I love you…”

“Let me help…” brings people together.  “Let me help…” can accomplish the most amazing things.  And yesterday, “Let me help…” resulted in 85 donations and a total raised so far of $3,900 (including the $2,000 from three of our biggest donors and myself plus many, many donations of just $10 or $15 or $20).  This leaves us, after only a single day, within $800 of being able to replace Paul’s ruined green screen.

I can’t thank everyone enough for coming through this quickly.  I was deeply touched by this amazing fan response, especially after the emotional punch in the gut last Friday when Paul first told me how much this accident would cost to fix. $4,700 is a lot of money!

But what was most uplifting to me were the literally dozens and dozens of message full of support, understanding, and inspiration that I received on Facebook and from donors themselves.  Here’s just a small sample…

I donated because all Star Trek fans should support each other.
- Judy Reed
In today's world, it is becoming increasingly rare to see someone take responsibility for their own actions let alone for the actions of their crew. That type of integrity and honor deserves acknowledgement. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
- Lawrence Wagner
Jonathan, I'm happy to help with your Christmas miracle.  Hey, accidents happen, and it is the mark of a true gentleman when you suck it up and say, 'The buck stops with me.'  You're right, no one intended to ruin the fabric.  They didn't even realize that what they were doing would mess it up.  However, I admire how you handled it.  THAT is the kind of character that people respect, and you sir, have my respect.  So Merry Christmas...and keep on Trekkin'.
- Troy Light
I wasn't able to donate during the original fundraising effort, so I'm happy to be able to help a little now.
- David Goldsberry
Everyone messes up sometimes (and I've certainly replaced school equipment that the kids have ruined in the past!).
-  Catherine McClarey
Sorry to hear this and I'm happy to help. The only people who never make mistakes are those who never actually do anything. So never mind,  that's life, we'll sort it.
- Alastair Miles

As far as I’m concerned, this is what makes the Star Trek fan film community so AWESOME.  I thank everyone who donated…from the bottom of my heart.

We’re nearly there, folks. If you’d like to help us get to the finish line, please click on the link below to donate a little something…

https://www.gofundme.com/interlude