INTERLUDE Confidential #11.2 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 2)

INTERLUDE is nearly complete, and this is likely my final “Interlude Confidential” before the release. Last week, I began reminiscing about the big two-day shoot last November at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA. For me, it was truly the culmination of the filmmaking experience…even though there would still be another eight months of intense work. But the shoot itself—that was pure magic.

Nearly 50 people came together that weekend with a single goal in mind: to produce a top-quality Star Trek fan film. They weren’t making gobs of money; they simply wanted to be a part of something fun, creative, exciting and dynamic.

A lot of things had the potential to go wrong. The most effective teams work and train together for weeks, months, or even years to maximize their effectiveness. Our team, with a few exceptions, was mostly strangers who had only met for the first time that weekend. Would they mesh together like a well-oiled machine, or would there be friction? Would one or more people with egos grate against the others, show an attitude, or be uncooperative? I’ve been told it can (and often does) happen, and even one bad apple can cripple a production.

And last but not least—in addition to the thousand other things that could could go wrong—there was me. I’d never been a producer before! It was my job to take care of a seemingly endless list of items to ensure the set would be ready for VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN to film on: everything from making sure all the actors, extras, and production team knew where and when to show up to getting measurements for uniforms to the seamstress to ordering the rental camera equipment to finding the caterer and making sure there were tables and chairs for the food plus a hundred other little details. I needed to make sure everything was prepared so my directors and production crew could focus on making an awesome fan film.

Was I up to the task?

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #11.2 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 2)”

I met an AXANAR fan at the supermarket … and he reads my blog!

There are about 4 million people living in Los Angeles, 40 million in California, 330 million in the United States, and 7.6 billion in the world. Of those, a few hundred to a few thousand read this blog each day. (I can happily live with that.)

Over the years, I’ve met people at Star Trek-related events who have seen my blog…or at least folks who know about fan films. But yesterday I had that experience in, of all places, my local supermarket!

I was wearing my custom-designed AXANAR T-shirt (shown in the photo above) while doing grocery shopping, and a fellow standing near me in produce said, “I like the design on your shirt!”

I looked down—having forgotten what I was wearing(!!!)—and said, “Oh, thanks. Are you familiar with Axanar?”

He was, and I didn’t feel that surprised. PRELUDE TO AXANAR has nearly 4.5 million views on YouTube, and it got a lot of coverage in the press during 2015-2016. ALEC PETERS talks about how he occasionally gets recognized in public, and I’ve actually been with him once when it happened…so I’ve seen in it action.

“Do you know if that fan film is going to be finished?” the man asked me. (I get that question a lot.)

“Absolutely,” I said. “In fact, I talked to the show-runner just yesterday, and there’s a shoot tentatively scheduled for next month. Most of the two sequels have already been filmed at this point, and some post-production has started.”

“Oh?” he said, sounding impressed that I knew so much. “Are you involved with the project?”

“Kinda,” I said. “I write a blog about Star Trek fan films called Fan Film Factor.

“I read that blog!” he said. Now, before I allowed myself to feel completely shocked, I will admit to being temporarily dubious…after all, maybe he was just being polite and had never heard of my blog in his life. But then he added, “In fact, I saw it was down this past weekend. Is it back up now?”

HOLY FRACK! He really does read my blog! I thought.

Continue reading “I met an AXANAR fan at the supermarket … and he reads my blog!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #11.1 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 1)

With INTERLUDE in the final month or so of post-production, my goal of making a Star Trek fan film is nearly complete. The trailer came out last month and seems to have been very well received by most people who didn’t mind the Space: 1999 music. (For those who did mind…well, the world didn’t end, did it?)

Back in November of 2018, my idea of making a fan film was just a crazy suggestion that I’d made to JOSHUA IRWIN, curious to see what a filmmaker of his abilities could do with the nearly-finished USS Ares bridge set to shoot on.

The next twelve months became a rollercoaster ride—starting off slowly and then accelerating as I began to crowd-fund and work through pre-production with Josh and VICTORIA FOX, our director. By the time we reached November of 2019, one year later, I silently prayed that we’d crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” because we had two full days of shooting planned, fifty people coming to the studio that weekend, and thousands and thousands of dollars had already been spent without the ability to afford a “do over” if we screwed anything up.

In this 2-part blog—likely the last “Interlude Confidential” until the premiere on July 25, 2020—I would like to share with all of you some of my most cherished memories of the November shoot. It was, unquestionably, the highlight of the entire filmmaking experience because that was when nearly everyone came together at one time.

During pre-production, by comparison, almost everyone worked either individually or in small groups, getting things ready for production. And after the footage was shot, things shifted to the director, editor, sound-mixer, composer, VFX person, and of course, the producer overseeing it all. But by that point, most of the time, much of the work was being done individually or, at most, in small groups holding production meetings via conference calls.

But it was at the film shoot(s) when all of the excitement happened and all hands—or most all of the hands—were on deck. So here are some of what were the biggest highlights for me personally during that magical weekend…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #11.1 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 1)”

My son JAYDEN is really the ghost of STAN LEE!

Technically, this isn’t a blog about Star Trek or fan films. So if you’re only here for that, feel free to skip this entry because I’m indulging in the “it’s-my-blog-site-so-I-can-cover-what-I-want” option. And today, it’s a special blog about my son JAYDEN.

The quarantine has been a huge adjustment for kids—going from spending seven hours at school five days week with their teachers and friends to spending all day at home with only two hours a day of virtual classroom time in a Zoom meeting…and the rest of the day doing work independently from home. Many parents have become home-schooling “partners” to their children’s teachers…and that includes yours truly.

One of the highlights of the third grade at Jayden’s school is the annual “Living Museum” project. Many schools do this same assignment in third or fourth grade. Each student reads a biography of a famous person—from King Tut to Steve Jobs, Alexander Hamilton to Elton John, Sacajawea to Sally Ride, Roald Dahl to George Lucas. At the end of the school year, the students prepare a five-paragraph monologue about the life of their famous person. They memorize this monologue over a number of weeks, and during a special assembly at the end of the school year, they each dress up as their famous person and recite their monologue.

Sadly, the Coronavirus put the kibosh on any kind of assembly this year.

But the show must go on, so the third graders still read their biographies and prepared their monologues. However, the culmination of the process morphed from an assembly into a recorded video in costume uploaded by parents to the teachers and then compiled into a presentation to be shown to the entire class via Zoom meeting…parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins invited to attend, as well.

Jayden’s famous person was the legendary Marvel Comics publisher STAN LEE, creator of some of the most well-known superhero and villain characters in history…including Jayden’s favorite: Spider-Man.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stan’s biography with Jayden and helping with chapter summaries. I shared some of my old comic books with Jayden (I’ve got 44,000 of them in the garage!), and I even have a poster signed by Stan “The Man” himself…along with a personalized note from Stan (shown to the right) when my brother’s and my company almost worked with Stan’s company in late 1998 . (Jayden’s jaw dropped when he saw that!)

Stan’s life and the many, many, many characters that he’d created sparked Jayden’s imagination and enthusiasm in a way that most of the other day-to-day assignments during virtual learning didn’t manage to. And so I saw a unique opportunity with the monologue video.

Finding a Stan Lee “costume” is not that hard. Turns out that all you need is a white polo, V-neck sweater, khaki pants, Keds sneakers, sunglasses, and a fake mustache. Take a look…

Continue reading “My son JAYDEN is really the ghost of STAN LEE!”

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…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #9 – We have a RELEASE DATE…and a TRAILER!”

HINDSIGHT: The Unmaking of ALTERNATIVE VICTORY…the 1982 fan film that never was!

Why do I spend so much time and effort showing support for fan films large and small?  Why do I insist on always being positive about these productions…even when it would be so easy to find things to criticize?

The answer lies in this amazingly well-crafted video documentary that I present to you today.  I began watching it on a friend’s recommendation.  Initially, I took one look at the run-time—just over an hour—and thought: “Well, I’ll watch the first few minutes, at least…”

A little over an hour later, I’d watched the whole thing and was truly moved.  THIS is the reason I write Fan Film Factor, folks!

If you’ve never worked on a fan film—even a really amateur one (my first, Voyages of the USS Angeles back in 1999, was pretty, um, humble)—it’s hard to explain what a truly intense and often (hopefully) rewarding and bonding experience it is for those involved.  Whether your tasks on the production are large or small, you feel like part of a team, part of a joint creation and shared accomplishment.  And even if the finished product doesn’t turn out as magnificent or awe-inspiring as you first imagined, no one can take away that time, effort, and camaraderie that you and your friends put into it.

And that’s the story presented in HINDSIGHT: THE UNMAKING OF ALTERNATIVE VICTORY.   Back in the winter of 1982, a number of dedicated Trekkers from northern California came together to make a Star Trek fan film.  Most were in high school or college, and nearly all of them were pretty clueless about filmmaking.  But the thing was: they didn’t know they were clueless!  And so they soldiered on, always imagining the awesomeness of their final production.

This 2013 documentary is a retrospective from 30 years later, featuring the young kids—now all grown up—who tried to make Alternative Victory.  Looking back from the perspective of adults in their 40s and 50s, the documentary isn’t just about the making of this fan film. It’s about the people involved and the effect this shared experience had on all of their lives…even decades later.

I invite you all to share this special journey, this trek, with documentary-filmmaker DAVID HOGGAN and his friends as they look back at a fan film that almost was…

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…”

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…”

My sincere apologies to VANCE MAJOR

I know a lot of people in the fan film community—friends, comrades-in-arms, friendly acquaintances, long-distance buddies—but few of them do I feel closer to than VANCE MAJOR. You might have heard of him…’cause I mention him a lot on this blog!

Last month, I posted an audio interview with Vance when he released 51 new episodes of THE CONSTAR CHRONICLES and 18 special editions of the MINARD saga of fan films. Earlier this month, I posted a blog promoting his new GoFundMe campaign for CONSTAR CONTINUES…which I hope you’ll consider donating to.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be featuring audio interviews with two guys named Greg—GREG TEFT and GREG MITCHELL—both of whom worked on Constar with Vance in significant production roles. Vance requested that I interview them separately to give each fan filmmaker a chance to shine. And I’m happy to do it!

The reason is that I love Vance…I love him like a brother. In fact, he frequently calls me “brother”—although I think that’s just his word for “dude”—but “brother” just shows what a truly warm and loving heart he has for people.

I’ve literally lost sleep because of Vance—not because I worry about him but because he works an overnight shift and our calls frequently start after midnight my time (2am for him in Kansas) and can usually last an hour or even two! We’ve chatted about everything from fan films and fan filmmakers to Star Trek, superhero movies, politics, weather, triumphs, frustrations, and my favorite subject: our boys. Vance is a dad like me—and a damn awesome one!—and since my son is half a decade older than his, I can give him some “heads up” advice and also look back at those days gone by and silently envy Vance getting to live those wonderful moments himself.

Yesterday, I hurt Vance.

Continue reading “My sincere apologies to VANCE MAJOR”

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.