A different kind of fan film: I’m a fan of Elysa…

Please indulge me as I take a quick break from Star Trek to spotlight a very special little girl and her amazing parents… and an inspirational song and music video for anyone facing illness, adversity, or just being dealt a bad hand in life.

I first met ELYSA  SHAPIRO a little over a year ago at the beginning of first grade for my son, Jayden.  His school admits a wide diversity of students, and Elysa was no exception.  She had leukemia.  She’d been diagnosed a year earlier, and her treatment and hospitalization had resulted in her missing her entire kindergarten year.  Faced with the choice between of holding Elysa back or letting her start school as a first grader with children her own age, Elysa’s parents, HOWARD and NANCY, decided on the latter.

It wasn’t an easy decision.  While the other kids in her new first grade class had all shared the lessons and social development of kindergarten together, Elysa had spent the prior year in and out of hospitals, wearing a mask to filter out any germs that could overwhelm her immune system, and undergoing chemotherapy and other agonizing and exhausting cancer treatments at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

As welcoming as Jayden’s school is to new children and those with unique challenges, it was still a sometimes-traumatic experience for Elysa.  Although most days, Elysa was just fine, with a smile and laugh and courteous demeanor that melted my heart, other days I would see her struggling, sobbing, crying to her mother not to leave her.  During those first few months of first grade, while the other kids would be picked up at the back gate in the afternoon, Elysa often wouldn’t even make it through a full day and had to be taken home early.

Her treatments were still going on, and Elysa’s mom and I would occasionally chat about how things were progressing for Elysa.  It broke my heart to hear what this sweet little girl had to go through.

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R.I.P. – HARLAN ELLISON (1934-2018)

HARLAN ELLISON was a literary force of nature.  Heck, screw “literary”!  He was just a force of nature.  Period!  He had opinions about everything…and none of them were at all subtle.  In fact, if he were here at all right now (and gave a crap), he’d probably tell me that writing a one-word sentence “Period!” followed by an exclamation point to hammer home my previous sentence was just plain stupid and amateurish.  “But keep writing,” he’d probably tell me.  “It’s the only way you’ll stop being so terrible!”

Actually, Harlan once called me a “god.”  True story.  (I’ll tell you that one in a moment.)

Most Trekkers probably know Harlan Ellison as the person credited with writing the widely-considered best episode of TOS, “The City on the Edge of Forever.”  Harlan would have told you that he did NOT write that episode.  He wrote a script for that episode that Gene Roddenberry demolished with rewrites and turned to a giant, steaming turd.  Don’t believe me?  Read Harlan’s book on the subject.  He pulled no punches.  (Me?  I still like the way the episode turned out.  But don’t tell Harlan that.)

This souring experience with Gene turned into a decades-long war that makes anything we’ve got in the world of fan films seem like tiddlywinks!  Harlan never missed a chance to eviscerate Gene Roddenberry, and I recall my first time ever seeing Harlan live on stage (at I-CON in Stony Brook, NY in 1991) and hearing him discuss Gene, who was in failing health at the time.  Not being familiar yet with the feud, I learned about it VERY quickly.  To this day, I remember what Harlan said about Star Trek‘s creator:

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A magical STAR TREK moment with my son…

One of the benefits of doing my own blog is that every so often I can share things with all of you that are personally special.  Today, it’s something that just happened with my seven-year-old son.

Longtime readers of Fan Film Factor know that I’m bringing him up with a proper appreciation of Star Trek.  Sure, if given the choice, he’ll watch Star Wars first.  But the kid loves Star Trek, too, I and love sharing it with him.

For the last few years, our Star Trek “routine” has been to watch half an episode or so while I do cardio, just before my little cadet’s bedtime.  We’re watching everything in the order it debuted.  We watched all 79 (well, 80 with “The Cage”) episodes of TOS, then all the animateds.  Then we went through TOS again ’cause I felt he’d appreciate it more now that he was older.  Then we did the first four motion pictures in order.  And just a couple of months ago, we started on Next Gen.

Keep in mind, for what I’m about to tell you, that my son has pretty much seen nothing of TNG, and certainly not Star Trek Generations.  All he knows of the Enterprise-D crew so far is what he’s seen in the first ten episodes.

And so it was that we were watching “Hide and Q” and got to the scene where Riker grants the deepest wishes of his friends.  Wesley ages up to an adult.  Geordi is given his sight.  Worf gets a horny Klingon woman.

Knowing that this was as far as the wish fulfillment went, I paused the Blu-ray and asked my little guy what he thought Picard wanted the most.  I was going to suggest that the captain wanted his hair back, but what I heard next stopped me in my tracks:

“I think he wants a family, Daddy.  I think he wants kids.”

Wow.  As I said, my son has never seen Generations.  But somehow he knew that this was Picard’s deepest wish.  Lucky guess?  Perhaps.  But either way, I’m writing this blog today to show to him in a couple more years when he gets older and we finally watch the seventh Trek film and see Jean-Luc Picard get his deepest wish—a family with kids—inside the Nexus.

Thanks for letting me share this moment with you.  And I thank my little guy for fulfilling my deepest wish.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

A very disturbing series of e-mail exchanges between GABE KOERNER and me…

Some of you know GABRIEL KOERNER from his work on fan films like Star Trek Continues and BSG: Second Coming.  Some know him as “That kid from the Trekkies documentary.”  And of course, he currently does CGI for the Fox TV series The Orville along with an impressive list of other Hollywood projects on his IMDb page.

Of course, he’s also a well-known AXANAR detractor, posting frequent comments to social media and even to this blog disparaging ALEC PETERS and the Axanar production.  In fact, just this past Monday, Gabe referenced Alec (without naming him directly) in this comment to Fan Film Factor.  The blog title read “Is TREK crowd-funding in TROUBLE?”  Gabe answered: “Yes. Thanks to the actions of ONE careless, unethical, reckless irresponsible individual’s actions.”

Ironic that Gabe would use the words “unethical,” “reckless,” and “irresponsible” as, just a few hours later, a video would be posted that included recordings of nearly a dozen harassing voicemail messages left by Gabe on the answering machine of BARNEY CORNETT of West Virginia.  In the video, Barney says that these are just a small sample of nearly 100 harassing calls that he and his family have received over the course of the past five months.

Here is that video…

There’s no need to ask whether I’ve confirmed the veracity of this video.  Gabe has since admitted to making these calls in this public post to the Axamonitor group on Facebook:

An now, my own apology for the length of the rest of this blog, but I want to share a series of increasingly disturbing e-mail exchanges I’ve had with Gabe since Monday night.  (Since none of this was off the record, I feel I can share the exchange here.)  I’ll explain my reasons for deciding to do this after we get through all of the e-mails, keeping my comments minimal until the end.

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My 500TH published blog!!!!!

When I started FAN FILM FACTOR on January 10, 2016, it was suggested that I try to write at least one or two new blogs per week so I’d stay relevant and keep readers coming back.  Instead, I’ve written and published, on average, between four and five blogs per week for over two years.  Some were short—just a few hundred words—while other blogs went 1,000 or 2,000 words (occasionally even longer).   I calculated recently that I’ve written way more than HALF A MILLION WORDS about fan films…sheesh!!!

I wondered how I might mark this 500th blog milestone, and then I had an idea.  Have you ever wondered how I manage to keep all of these blogs coming week after week, month after month, year after year?  If you haven’t, then feel free to stop reading now.

But if you’re curious the learn how the Fan Film Factor sausage is made, this’ll be a fun read for you…

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R.I.P. – STEPHEN HAWKING (1942 -2018)

I suppose I could cite the Star Trek connection: PROFESSOR STEPHEN WILLIAM HAWKING was the only person to ever play himself on an episode of any Star Trek series when he appeared in a Holodeck simulation at the beginning of TNG‘s “Descent, Part 1” in 1993.

But I would have dimmed the lights of Fan Film Factor regardless of Hawking’s appearance on Trek because…well…because we was Stephen Frickin’ Hawking, dammit!  He was cool.  He was a rock star.  He was almost impossible.

What I mean by that is Stephen Hawking should never have happened.  His disease—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—is a cruel killer.  It takes away your body while it leaves your mind trapped inside.  By all predictions of his doctors back in 1963 when he was first diagnosed, Hawking’s expected lifespan was optimistically two years.  By all rights, Stephen Hawking should have been long dead before the first episode of Star Trek ever aired in 1966.  But as we all know, that never happened.

Instead, this hyper-brilliant man found a way to live on for more than FIVE decades beyond his original death sentence.  But he didn’t just live—that would have certainly been miracle enough—but he thrived.  He taught, researched, wrote books, toured and lectured, and became quite the media celebrity.  Hawking opened up the wonders of the universe and science to so many who—like me—had absolutely no idea whatsoever what the heck he was taking about!  (Yeah, I tried to read a Brief History of Time.  I even began my time at Cornell University in 1985 as a physics major.  That didn’t last.  But my love and respect for science lived on.)

Hawking made science and nerdiness seem somehow cool…which was really odd, if you think about it.  Even without the wheelchair and the debilitating motor neurone disease, Hawking still looked like a complete Poindexter…the kind of guy who would have his lunch money taken on a regular basis by bullies who would leave his underwear stretched up to his shoulders.  Add in the monotone computer-synthesized voice, and this guy was sure to be picked on relentlessly by the knuckle-draggers of the world.

Except he wasn’t.

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Reviewing the AXANAR reviewer!!! (editorial with three exclamation points!)

Last summer, shortly after an early version of the 90-minute AXANAR script was leaked, a detractor going by the name of Kate Stark (pretty sure that’s a pseudonym) wrote a 19-part, 30,000-word blog series essentially ripping the poor draft version of that script into tiny literary pieces…trampled under the feet of a very self-important and erudite reviewer.

Yep, 19 parts, 30,000 words.  Don’t believe me?  Just click here and then scroll down to the bottom and click “Older Posts.”  Also, that’s just July.  Remember to also scroll to the bottom right for the blogs from June!

So yeah, that happened.  And the detractors, of course, were ecstatic.  Not only was someone reviewing the Axanar script, but the reviewer seemed to be REALLY smart and really HATED it (like 30,000 words worth of utter disdain written so intelligently!).  The high-fives and posted photos of pies were flowing like water over Niagara Falls on the detractor Facebook groups for quite a while.

But then…frustration.  There was no new Axanar anything left to review and eviscerate.  The 19-part blog series was all but forgotten.

Until last week, that is.  I rescued blogger Kate Stark from endless months of boredom and obscurity by releasing the first-ever Axanar illustrated short story: Why We fight.  Finally, the reviewer’s poison pen—er, keyboard—could come out of hibernation once again!

This time the blog series was much shorter: only 7 parts and 6,000 words.  (Just FYI, my short story itself was a total of 1,900 words.  So, yeah…three times as long.  FUN!)

Actually, it’s a very intelligent review (read part 1 here).  You know it’s intelligent because the reviewer almost immediately compares my short story to one of Ernest Hemingway’s works (and of course, finds my story lacking).  By the time you get to part 7, I’m being criticized for everything from bad character development to using too many question marks and exclamation points.  Hey, that’s my thing!!!  Isn’t it???

I wasn’t going to say anything, but then Kate Stark did something that changed my mind…

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Continuing drama for STARBASE STUDIOS…and my departure

Sometimes no good deed goes unpunished.  When last I reported on STARBASE STUDIOS, things looked like they would finally work out.  An agreement that had been in negotiation for three arduous months had finally been agreed to and signed by all parties. The Starbase Studios lawsuit filed by Glen Wolfe was dropped, and it seemed like things could return to normal.

The new owners of the sets would be GLEN WOLFE (50%), SCOTT JOHNSON (25%), and GLENN MILLER (25%).  KENT EDWARDS would no longer own any part of the sets but would continue to be involved with Starbase Studios, LLC, and working with fan filmmakers.

Although the sets would remain in their current location in Marble Falls, Arkansas until the end of this year, after that, plans were that they would be moved into a fantastic new building with heat, A/C, electrical, and best of all, bathrooms!  Free rent would be provided by the building’s owners, Glen Wolfe and his wife, and fan productions going through Starbase Studios would be able to continue using the sets essentially for free.  It was looking like Starbase Studios had gotten through the rough waters and emerged safely on the other side of the river.

Yeah, well, don’t get out of the boat just yet, folks…

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THIS is what happens when you ask JONATHAN LANE for a FAN FILM FAVOR!

On December 8th, I received an instant message on Facebook from VANCE MAJOR, the creator of the MINARD Saga of fan films.  Vance needed a favor from me.

Vance and I have become pretty good friends over the past year or so…divided only by the distance between southern California and Kansas, but united by our love for fan films and Star Trek, as well as our shared experiences as fathers to wonderful little boys.

Oh, and we’re both fan filmmakers.

Granted, Vance has done waaaaaaay more in that genre than I ever have, and I truly respect his work.  And that’s why I happily agreed to the favor he asked me.

For a few of his final productions, Vance wanted to include brief video clips of some of his closest friends from the fan film community.  One of these was a fan film titled Change (which was released last Friday).  All I needed for the short headshot clip was to look into the camera and say something like, “Comm secure, standing by…” or “Channel encrypted, go ahead…” and then stare at the screen for the next 15-20 seconds.  Then I would upload the video file to Vance who would do the rest, editing the various clips he received from folks into his final production.

Vance said he preferred a late 24th century uniform (final seasons of DS9), but if I didn’t have that style of uniform, I could just wear a black T-shirt and he’d composite my head onto a proper uniform.

Do I have a late-season DS9 uniform!?  Is the Pope Catholic???

(Actually that particular uniform was custom made for me about 15 years ago by none other than GABE KOERNER—yep, the same guy who does VFX for The Orville and just declared that he no longer thinks Alec Peters is a willful criminal.  Hi, Gabe.)

So I went out and bought a blue-colored matte board to serve as a makeshift blue screen background, came home, put on the uniform, set up some lamps, stuck my camera on a tripod, and recorded Vance’s 20 seconds of footage.

I also recorded something else for him—something that, um, well…

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me…and to FAN FILM FACTOR!

Today I turn 51 years old…and FAN FILM FACTOR just turned two.  This blog doesn’t have an official birthday, but my earliest posts are dated January 10, 2016.  It’s two years later, and in that time, I’ve published 465 blog entries!!!  Holy shat!

Although some of my blogs are just 200-400 words, others get well over a 1,000 or even 2,000 words.  (If they reach 3,000 words, it’s time to split them into Part 1 and Part 2!)  So assuming I average a little over a thousand words per blog, that means I’ve probably written nearly a HALF MILLION WORDS in two years…mainly about fan films!

Some folks out there criticize me for writing blogs that are too long, but think of it this way: that’s dedication!  Do ya know how long it takes to research, plan out, organize, and write a half million words of blogs???  (Don’t make fun of me; it’s my birthday.)

About 15 months ago, I added Google Ads to the site to help generate some revenue.  Since then, my ads have earned me a whopping $529.65…or about a tenth of a penny per word.  If you check online, most freelance writing assignments pay about 10 cents a word (maybe a bit higher for more high profile work).

So I’m making 1/100 of what a gainfully employed freelance writer makes!  And yet I still do this.  Why?

Well, there’s a few reasons…

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