My visit to CHÂTEAU PICARD…

One of the coolest things about being a Trekkie living in Los Angeles is that I’ve been able to visit a plethora of filming locations used for various Star Trek episodes over the decades. I’ve been to Vasquez Rocks and Bronson Canyon, both of which appeared in numerous episodes of multiple Trek series and movies. I’ve been to “Starfleet Academy” (the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant), “Bajor” (Fern Dell), the Franklin Canyon Reservoir (where Kirk became Kirok), the hill in “Montana” (really Charton Flats in the Angeles National Forest) where the statue of Zephram Cochrane will be built, the Ba’ku lake that Data steps into in Insurrection (really the San Gabriel Dam in Azusa), Starfleet HQ from Into Darkness (really the Getty Center Art Museum) and even stood on the spot where McCoy saw Alice and the White Rabbit in “Shore Leave” (no longer green and lush, as most of the the Soledad Canyon foliage in that area was washed away in a flood in the early 1970s).

While I probably could have found all of these spots over the years by myself, fortunately, I didn’t have to. Thanks to my membership in the local USS Angeles chapter of Starfleet International, I got to join my crew mates on away missions to these many “sacred sites” of Star Trek

Of course, when the producers of Star Trek: Discovery chose Toronto, Ontario in Canada as their filming location, I figured my opportunities to visit Star Trek filming locations would now be limited to only the TV series and movies produced before 2016. But then Star Trek: Picard was announced, and production was set right back here in Trek‘s (and my) backyard in Los Angeles.

Time to add some more “sacred sites” to my list!

Some are easier than others. The new location for Starfleet HQ is the Anaheim Convention Center, which I visit annually to attend WonderCon. The shoreline location for the Daystrom Institute in “Okinawa” was, I believe, Golden Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes—a place I’ve been to a few times. But by far, the pièce de résistance would be the magnificently beautiful and scenic Château Picard, the winery and vineyard where Jean-Luc Picard grew up, and where he’d spent his twilight years after resigning from Starfleet in 2385.

But where the heck is Château Picard?

Continue reading “My visit to CHÂTEAU PICARD…”

For STAR TREK: PICARD, don’t allow the PERFECT to be the enemy of the REALLY REALLY GOOD! (editorial review)

THE SPOILERS’ BACK IN TOWN…SPOILERS’ BACK IN TOWN

I really don’t understand the folks out there who are trying so hard to convince others (or maybe just themselves) that STAR TREK: PICARD isn’t a good show. I mean, the critics certainly love it (and by those I mean the trusted sci-fi critics who provide reviews—rather than just recpas—at places like DenOfGeek, IndieWire, IGN, Space.com, TrekMovie, Escapist, and many others). And numerous fans on Facebook certainly love the show, too. Granted, not everyone is giving it perfect 10’s each time out, but the general consensus seems to be extremely positive as people are enjoying what they see.

And then there are the detractors. There always seem to be detractors.

I’ve personally written more than fifteen thousand words over the last month and a half very specifically explaining why the show is so good (minus the blog about the swearing). So that’s quite the wall to climb in trying to convince me that I, the critics, and an endless parade of fans on Facebook and elsewhere have been wrong all this time. But that doesn’t stop these negative nellies from making such keen and thought-provoking arguments as the following…

Deep thinkers, I know.

I also tried watching Nerdrotic’s latest video podcast bashing the show (as he always does). However, it’s hard for me to give a critic any real credence when he can’t even pronounce the name of the episode…despite living a few hours drive from a famous restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur with the same name. Nepenthe (neh-PEN-they) has been around since 1949 overlooking the cliffs of the majestic California coastline and serving the world’s best hamburger (the ambrosiaburger) along with other culinary delights. For a person who lives in San Francisco to not have heard of Nepenthe…well, that’s just wrong. Take a drive down the coast, dude; it’s lovely!

Anyway, as I watched Gary Buechler skewer the episode on his podcast, all I could think were 1) he’s using juvenile name-calling to make a lot of his points, and 2) he’s getting donations from people while doing the skewering. If people paid me money to bash a show each week, I’d probably find a way to do it. I’m just not sure I’d trust what I had to say as objective or fair-minded. But enough about that.

I’m really trying to understand the folks who don’t think this show is good. A teensy few have written thoughtful, reasonable comments that I’ve published on previous blogs. And while I don’t agree with them, I respect their efforts to convey their thoughts clearly and civilly. But by far, most people who criticize this show just seem to fall into the following five categories…

Continue reading “For STAR TREK: PICARD, don’t allow the PERFECT to be the enemy of the REALLY REALLY GOOD! (editorial review)”

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…

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

A winning streak of SUCCESSFUL Trek fan film CROWD-FUNDERS!

Lately, it seems like I’m covering a LOT of crowd-funding campaigns raising money for a variety of Star Trek fan films. That’s because it’s been a really pretty busy few months…with more campaigns to come!

Fortunately for our wallets, though, four campaigns have just successfully reached their funding goals (or come very close!), clearing the way for the newcomers. So let’s take a brief look at the fan productions that scored recent wins…

THE TEARS OF J’KAH

Two week ago, I reported on how BENNY HALL raised $49,183 (of his $50K goal) for his second Trek fan film THE TEARS OF J’KAH…from just 13 donors! This post-guidelines crowd-funding record was accomplished with the help of some very generous friends and contacts who each made donations of $5K and even $10K.

AXANAR – shoot #3

Last Thursday morning, ALEC PETERS launched a “tiny” (his word) fundraiser on Ares Digital trying to generate $3,400 to cover expenses for the third AXANAR shoot at Ares Studios in Larenceville, GA on March 15. By Sunday evening, he’d taken in more than $5,000!

The surplus will go into the upcoming fundraiser for the “big” fourth shoot. That on is scheduled to happen in Los Angeles and will include GARY GRAHAM playing Vulcan Ambassador Soval plus a bunch of other aliens, each of whom will require a top-level make-up artist. Combined with the cost of studio rental, travel, lodging, etc., this is expected to be around a $30,000 expenditure (although a final budget is still being worked out).

The Axanar fundraiser for Shoot #4 will launch on Ares Digital right after shoot #3 wraps on March 15…with the long-awaited debut of the FULLL TRAILER! You can watch it debut live by clicking here.

STARSHIP INTREPID – “ECHOES”

For the first time in its decade-and-a-half history, those INTREPID folks from Scotland have sought some financial assistance from fans and supporters. NICK COOK set the goal at a humble $2,500 (or thereabouts, since they get their money in pounds, not dollars) with a 60-day deadline. Earlier this week, with less than two weeks left and with the help of 72 backers, they hit their goal.

CONSTAR CONTINUES

With an even more humble goal of $1,175, VANCE MAJOR launched his latest GoFundMe campaign back in December. It’s taken a little while, but this past Monday morning, he also reached (and slightly surpassed) his goal…with the help of 24 backers (including me).


My congratulations to all of the projects I’ve just mentioned, and my thanks to those of my readers who chose to donate in order to help make these fan film dreams into realities.

So what’s left that still needs crowd-funding help (besides Axanar)? Glad you asked!

Continue reading “A winning streak of SUCCESSFUL Trek fan film CROWD-FUNDERS!”

Is there a “RIGHT” way to watch STAR TREK: PICARD? (more editorial than review)

100% CERTIFIED SPOILER FREE!

I was there at the dawn of the third age of TV science fiction…

I was actually there at the dawn of the second age, too, but I was still in diapers. The first age was completely before my time, and the fourth age…well, the fourth age is happening right now! And what the flying flark am I talking about????

I find it interesting to read the comments of the folks who don’t like STAR TREK: PICARD. A few anti-CBS fans out there, I believe, had convinced themselves to hate the show before the series ever started. Others, I suspect, saw how slowly the first few episodes were going and decided right then the show was “garbage.” Still others can’t forgive Picard for not being the second coming of The Next Generation the way The Orville has been. Some don’t like the “dystopian future” or the damaged characters or the swearing (I raise my hand for that one) or the mustache-twirling, sunglasses-wearing, way-too-over-sexual villains.

And as Roseanne Rosannadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live, “It’s always sumthin’. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” And I think that’s true of much of recent sci-fi—and especially Star Trek…and especially lately. But as we crossed the midpoint of the 10-episode run of the first season of Picard, I wondered something…

Are the fans who DON’T like the show—for whatever reason—are they just not watching Picard the “right” way? And for that matter, is there, in fact, a “right” way to watch Picard? I actually think there is!

But to truly appreciate what I’m going to tell you in this blog, we need to take a slight detour through the 70-plus year history of science fiction on television…

Continue reading “Is there a “RIGHT” way to watch STAR TREK: PICARD? (more editorial than review)”

AXANAR launches new “tiny” fundraiser for SHOOT #3 with test footage of Chief Engineer LEONOV!

After raising more than $50,000 to cover the costs for the first two AXANAR shoots back in October and December, ALEC PETERS just reached out to donors on the Axanar mailing list with a request for $3,400 for the third shoot.

Initially, Alec had announced that “Phase 2” of the private crowd-funding would try to raise another $30,000 to cover BOTH the upcoming third shoot at Ares Studios in mid-March as well as the planned fourth shoot in Los Angeles, which would include GARY GRAHAM as Soval along with other aliens requiring a skilled make-up team.

So why separate the fundraisers for the two campaigns?

I’ve been told that there are some specific expenses for the third shoot that need to be paid immediately up front. Alec, along with director PAUL JENKINS and producer SCOTT CONLEY, have streamlined the budget for the March shoot. They’re not doing all the bells and whistles that they did during the first two shoots. But they still have to do things like feed people on set, pay for transportation and lodging for key people traveling from out of state, rent equipment, pay for production insurance, etc.

Last time, Alec paid most of those outlays personally before raising the $50K. This time, Alec doesn’t have the funds to do that again, and there are expenses that need to be covered in the next two weeks. So there is a small campaign right now to raise $3,400, and then another campaign will launch in a couple of weeks to cover the more complex shoot #4.

To generate excitement, Alec just posted the following video of actor JAMIE RENELL “getting into” his character of Chief Engineer Alexei Leonov of the USS Ares. Rather that just having Jamie recite his lines from the script, Paul Jenkins did a little off-script improv with Jamie first, chatting with him as an “old friend” and having Jamie respond in character as Leonov (Russian accent and all). None of what you’re about to see is scripted, and the majority will likely not be included in the two Axanar sequels (except in the “extras”). But it’s still a really fun video…

For those waiting (im)patiently for the eagerly anticipated full Axanar trailer, I have good news! I’m told that you’ll see it within the next two weeks, timed to coincide with the launch of the fundraiser for shoot #4.

In the meantime, the Axanar fundraiser is—as required by the settlement with CBS and Paramount—behind a firewall and accessible only through the Ares Digital portal to fans who have signed up for an account. You can get there be clicking the following link…

https://aresdigital.axanar.com

When you get to the donate page, you’ll notice the goal is listed as only $2,300 and not $3,400. That is because one supporter already generously donated $1,100 directly. Already in the first few hours, nearly $800 more has come in…meaning that shoot #3 is only about $1,500 away from being fully funded!

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is becoming an ESCAPE ROOM???

I bet you didn’t see THIS coming! Neither did I, and my reaction quickly went from surprise to overwhelming curiosity…which I’m sure must be true for a number of you folks, as well.

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS, which houses the TOS sets originally built by STARSHIP FARRAGUT and STAR TREK CONTINUES and is now offered to any Star Trek fan film that wants to use them by current owner RAY TESI, will be moving from Kingsland, GA about 180 miles south to Orlando, FL in late April. (Man, that was a long sentence!) Once relocated, the TOS sets will be repurposed into two sci-fi themed “Escape Room” attractions with video hints recorded by sci-fi celebrities, including NICHELLE NICHOLS, WALTER KOENIG, MARINA SIRTIS, and/or TIM RUSS.

The TOS sets will be divided into two scenarios with three rooms each plus a newly-created bridge control room where players will start their adventure. Customer participants will then experience an hour-long, immersive sci-fi “mission” with puzzles and mysteries to solve. This new business venture will be called GALACTIC ADVENTURES and is set to open on July 1, 2020.

Later on, joining the TOS sets from Kingsland will be the alien bar sets originally constructed in Los Angeles for STAR TREK: RENEGADES and later used for the crowd-funded independent sci-fi comedy COZMO’S from the ATOMIC NETWORK. At some point in the near future, those sets will form a third Escape Room scenario.

(You’re going “WTF” right now, aren’t you?)

To find out some specifics, I went to the source and asked Ray Tesi himself, who told me…

We will not be using the bridge in the escape and instead will keep it in pristine condition. We will be constructing a new bridge with a different look and feel for the escape. We’ll also be re-purposing some of the other sets for the escape and introducing some new sets that are remnants of other productions. Our Escape Room isn’t the Enterprise and instead will feature missions on a new starship (we are creating original stories) because we don’t want it to look like Star Trek.

I can understand why they’d want to change the look, as CBS might not appreciate an unlicensed Star Trek-themed Escape Room…even if the words “Star Trek” don’t appear anywhere.

But where does that leave Neutral Zone Studios and the many fan films that rely on it? Will fan productions still be able to film there? And even though the bridge won’t be a part of the Escape Room scenario, will the rest of the sets still look enough like TOS to be recognizable? Ray responded…

We want it to look like our own starship, but it can change back for fan films. The studio will remain available for fan film productions, and if and when that happens, we will close the Escape Room during filming. But we have a long way to go before any of that happens.

A long way indeed! But they’re off to an impressive start…

Continue reading “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is becoming an ESCAPE ROOM???”

I expected the WORST, but STAR TREK: PICARD’S fifth episode was its BEST yet! (editorial review)

OODLES AND OODLES AND OODLES OF SPOILERS!!!

Who remembers “The Naked Now”? Thirty-two and a half years ago (!!!), it was the second episode of the The Next Generation to air. While it wasn’t the worst episode ever (that would be “The Royale,” in my opinion), it definitely wasn’t the best. At a time when the main characters of TNG were just being introduced to audiences and still making first impressions, they were each reduced to comedic caricatures—Yar throwing herself at Data, Beverly and Picard throwing themselves at each other, Wesley taking over engineering…sheesh, even Data got goofy! Two episodes in, and they’re doing comedy???

That was the mental image I had before watching this past Thursday’s fifth episode of STAR TREK: PICARD, “Stardust City Rag.” The trailer showed what looked like a modern day version of TOS’s “A Piece of the Action” or DS9‘s “Badda Bing, Badda-Bang“—complete with characters dressing up for some kinda heist from dangerous-looking gangsters or something. Even the sneak-peek preview scene from the end of the previous week’s THE READY ROOM showed a comedic vignette of annoying holo-spam ads popping up all over the bridge, requiring the gallant crew to do something physical to get rid of each one.

I was NOT expecting to like this episode.

So imagine my ecstatic surprise when “Stardust City Rag” turned out to be the strongest and most enjoyable episode of Picard thus far…at least for me (and many other reviewers, as it turned out).

What happened to make this episode so good…?

Continue reading “I expected the WORST, but STAR TREK: PICARD’S fifth episode was its BEST yet! (editorial review)”

SQUADRON crowd-funder launches…CZECH IT OUT! (audio interview with JAKUB HOLÝ)

The Czechs are coming! The Czechs are coming! And do they have a treat for YOU!!!

SQUADRON will be the latest Star Trek fan film to come out of the Czech Republic, scheduled for release later on this year. And while you probably don’t speak Czech, if you’re willing to help fund their project, you won’t have to. Raising $15,000 will help them complete post-production on their already-filmed project, but reaching a stretch goal of $17,000 will allow them to bring on native English-speaking voice-over actors to dub the entire 2-part Squadron so you won’t have to read a single subtitle!

But why would you want to help crowd-fund a fan film being made in Eastern Europe? Let me give you a few excellent reasons…

  1. They have an amazing 360-degree, 24th-century bridge set.
  2. They have impeccably tailored uniforms and professional-quality props and make-up.
  3. They will be one of the only Star Trek fan films so far to feature a Vorta and Jem’Hadar during the Dominion War.
  4. They also have a really awesome-looking Vulcan and Andorian.
  5. Think of the conversations you could start with friends and family saying, “Yeah, I just helped fund a Star Trek fan film from the Czech Republic!” and then see who can find that country on a map (hint: southeast of Germany, southwest of Poland).

However, the best reason I can give you for donating to Squadron is the stunning quality of this “ask” video…

Now imagine a half-hour’s worth of this kind of quality! It’ll happen if YOU can help out a little…or a lot. Whatever you can spare will take these hardcore Czecher Trekkers a little bit closer to their goal. Just click on the link below…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/squadron-a-star-trek-fan-production

They’re offering some intriguing perks at all levels (donate a large enough amount, and you’ll get hotel accommodations in Prague, a personal tour of their lovely city, and a visit to the studio with the bridge set…and photos, of course!). Naturally, they have their trailer online, and there’s also a whole bunch of very impressive photos showing their amazing sets, uniforms, make-up, and props…plus, they even have a really cool virtual 3D tour of their bridge. This is a top-notch crowd-funding campaign page, folks. Even if you can’t donate right now, it’s worth checking (or Czeching) out their Indiegogo campaign page just for all of the eye-catching visuals.

And if you’d like to hear some more about this exciting new production, take a listen to this FANtastic interview I did with the man behind the campaign, JAKUB “JIM” HOLÝ, and listen to his uncanny Czech/Irish accent…

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!”