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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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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VIC MIGNOGNA posts a special “thank you” video from the sets of STAR TREK CONTINUES

This past Monday evening, STAR TREK CONTINUES show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA posted a very special video onto the STC Facebook page.  Principal photography was completed last February on the final STC episode, “To Boldly Go.”  Shortly thereafter, Vic walked the corridors of the amazing TOS sets on a rainy day in Kingsland, GA, filming himself using a selfie stick as he discussed his feelings about wrapping up the series after nearly six years.

In the background, you can see how the sets are laid out in the warehouse, what some of the Enterprise “walls” look like from the other side, and how close everything was from the edges of the soundstage itself.  They certainly filled that space.

Some of the TNG set pieces on display at the now-closed Hollywood Entertainment Museum

The video shows a quiet and thoughtful moment for Vic, similar to one I experienced several years ago during my final visit to the Star Trek: TNG sets on display at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum.  For several years, I and friends from a local Trek fan club used to give docent tours in uniform once a month before the museum closed its doors forever.  While I can’t completely equate that experience to Vic’s in terms of time commitment and dedication, I still understand a little of how he felt when he made this video.

Everyone else was gone (or so it appears on Vic’s video), and it was a final chance to take in everything this project had meant to him personally for those many years.  Like Vic, I also did my final “set walk” alone.  I stayed there for about 45 minutes in silence (the museum was now closed to the public and we’d been helping get props organized and stowed—I was the last one there).  I sat in Picard’s chair, walked around Worf’s station, stood in the transporter, and took one last look at all the humorous details Mike Okuda had hidden in Geordi’s engineering cutaway of the Enterprise-D: Nomad, an airplane, the rubber duck.  And for no reason whatsoever, I gave one final tour…to no one.  I went through every part of the docent speech my friends and I used to give for the tourists, as I’d long ago memorized every line.  It was just a special moment with the sets…one last time.

And while Vic obviously still has access to his sets, I can imagine how deeply introspective he must have felt when he made this video—and I’m glad he decided to share it with us…

FAN FILM FACTOR gets 100K visits last month!


From the bottom of my heart, I just wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone who comes to read this blog…whether you’re one of my “regulars” or you just visit every so often or even if you’ve never been here before.  It means more to me than you can know.

Last month, for the first time ever, the total visits to this blog site ticked up over 100,000!  Now, I realize that’s probably just a temporary blip, as the previous two months were closer to 25K (although the month before that was at 85K—it’s a crazy place this Internet!).  And I also understand that some of that traffic is likely web crawling Internet “bots” hitting my blog site for search engine purposes.  But hey, that doesn’t much matter.

I’m just excited that, after nearly two years of writing Fan Film blogs for this site, people are still coming to read them!!!  And quite a few people, at that!  My daily web traffic is between a few hundred and a few thousand.  And that translates into ad dollars that sometimes get as high as $1 or $2 a day!  Yeah, I’m not really doing it for the money, folks.

So why am I doing it?

It’s actually quite a bit of work.  I research, write up, and edit (you only see the typos I don’t catch).  I reach out to fan film producers to conduct interviews, try to keep track of the latest goings on in the Trek fan film community, hunt down little-known Trek fan productions from years ago to write about, and look for active crowd-funding campaigns….and all of this while trying to stay just a few days (or maybe a week if I’m lucky) ahead of publishing deadlines.  I don’t want this blog site to get stale if I can help it!

If you’re curious how Jonathan puts this blog together, here’s an idea of what I’m working on at any given moment…

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My son JAYDEN turns SEVEN today! (personal)

The great thing about doing my own blog is that I get to decide what I write about.  And even though my focus is usually Star Trek fan films, today I’m going to indulge with a different kind of fan project: my son JAYDEN.  He turns seven years old today, and I promised him that I’d feature him on my blog today.

Some of you have already seen me talk about him in blog comments or viewed him in videos like this one I did just before Axanar Productions moved out of Industry Studios.  I’ve been doing my part to raise Jayden as a proper Trekkie (as I hope the photo on the left demonstrates).  Jayden has already been a special guest on his first-ever Star Trek podcast interview, and he enthusiastically watches TOS episodes with me each night while I exercise.

We’re half-way through the animated series at present, and then we’ll hit Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  With proper timing, we can just finish that film by the time I take Jayden to the Los Angeles Comic Con in later October to see the series finale of Star Trek Continues live with some of the cast.  STC‘s final two-parter completes the five-year mission of the USS Enterprise under James Kirk and leads into The Motion Picture.  After that, we’ll re-watch “Space Seed,” then the next five Trek feature films, and on to TNG.  (At least, that’s the plan; we’ll see what Jayden’s tastes are like in a couple more years.)

Today, I’d like to share two special fan films with you.   In this case, it’s me being a fan of my son Jayden.  And if you think that’s too sappy or inappropriate for a Star Trek fan film site, then come back on Friday instead for SEVEN new Trek fan films!

And for anyone who’s still sticking around, here’s a video I made during spring break of 2014 (which was half a lifetime ago for Jayden!) when everyone was making their own versions of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” music video.  I took Jayden around to our favorite places in southern California and edited this together…

And finally, here’s a video that’s been seven years in the making and will probably go for at least another seven or ten years…or whenever Jayden finally decides that enough is enough (or when I finally run out of song).  And yes, that’s the theme to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, a very singable song called “Suspension” sung by Kipp Lennon and written by the awesome STU PHILLIPS (who also composed themes for the original Battlestar Galactica, Airwolf, and Knight Rider).


SPOCK’S ever-growing family!

Hey, folks.  Now that we know that Spock not only had a Vulcan half-brother (that he never talked about) but also an adopted human half-sister (that he also never talked about…the lead character of Michael Burnham from the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery), I thought I’d create a fun little revised Sarek and Amanda “family portrait”…

I just had an AWESOME fan film week! (personal)

My life isn’t usually all that interesting or exciting…at least, not all in one week.  But what a week it was!

(Actually, it was only really exciting if you happen to be a Trekkie interested in fan films.  If you’re my wife, it’s more like, “That’s nice, honey.  I’m glad you had such a good time.  Did you remember to empty the dishwasher?”

And that’s why I’m writing this blog—because I have now emptied the dishwasher, and I really want to tell you guys about the fan film filled week I just had…because you care, right?  (Aw don’t answer that; it’ll just kill my buzz.)

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