AVALON UNIVERSE (re)releases AGENT OF NEW WORLDS…version 2.0! (video interview with JOSHUA IRWIN)

On Halloween, JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner of the the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series, released the team’s latest full-length fan film, AGENTT OF NEW WORLDS. It marked the beginning of a new era for their fan series, introducing multiple new characters and jumping the story forward in time to the next captain and crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur, following the departure of former stars VICTORIA FOX and CHUCK MERÉ from the series earlier this past year.

The new release was a labor of love for all involved…in more ways than one. For some on Team Avalon, it meant dozens of hours of round-trip driving to remote outdoor filling locations…along with trips to the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS in Avalon‘s home state of Arkansas. For Josh himself, the total distance driven surpassed 5,500 miles!!! For an explanation of how that happened, along with a description of one of their most dangerous shoots, take a read through this blog from back in August.

Fast forward to Christmas Day (because, apparently, Josh really likes holiday releases), and Josh surprised the fan film community with a NEW cut of Agent of New Worlds. Apparently, “really good” wasn’t good enough for Josh, as he made about a dozen tweaks and improvements to the film. Take a look at version 2.0…

Amusingly, this wasn’t Josh’s only update of a previously-released fan film. A couple of weeks earlier, after working with me and composer KEVIN CROXTON for about four months, Josh released a third version of INTERLUDE. You can read all about that new edit, what was changed and why, and watch the new version on this blog page.

After watching the new version of Interlude, one of my readers commented that it might be fun to post the previous version and the newest version side-by-side so that fans could compare the two. Perhaps someday. But when it comes to Agent of New Worlds, I can do you one better right now!

Josh and I just finished a special interview that’s a bit different than my usual fare. This video chat focuses on each of the changes that Josh made—showing the “before” and “after” of each shot—followed by Josh explaining how and why he made the adjustment(s).

It’s a really fun and informative interview, especially if you’re interested in film editing. Josh is great at explaining both the philosophical side as well as the technical side without making your eyes glaze over. Also, there’s just a lot of enjoyable banter back and forth between us. I think you’ll really like watching this one…

Oh, and remember that the Avalon GoFundMe campaign is still active, and donations go directly into making really awesome fan films…

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

Psychedelic Trek: LOST & FOUND is a total star trip! (video interview with MATTHEW BLACKBURN)

MATTHEW BLACKBURN isn’t as well known as many fan filmmakers. He doesn’t hang out on the various fan film Facebook groups, he doesn’t release dozens of fan films each year, he doesn’t do crowd-funders or shoot his films on elaborate sets or feature jaw-dropping VFX. He doesn’t cross over with other productions or do a lot of interviews (except with me). And he only ever posts something to Facebook when he’s completed a new fan film.

That said, Matthew has just released his fourth full-length (15-minute) Star Trek fan film in five years and his fifth overall. Matthews’s first fan film, STAR TREK: SURVIVOR, came out back in 2010 and featured the story of a marooned Starfleet officer (played by Matthew) who is nearly dead before being found by a marooned Vulcan agent on a secret mission for the Vulcan High Command. The film was produced by a total of four people, one of them being Matthew’s wife.

Matthew’s second fan film, SURVIVORS, came out seven years later (after the guidelines) and again featured a human and a Vulcan—played by the same actors—but this time they were the captain and his first officer. The production team had grown to six people for this 15-minute film, and I did a 2-part audio interview with Matthew, which you can listen to here if you’d like.

At the very end of 2018, Matthew released a third fan film titled LAST SURVIVOR, again made by just six people but this time featuring an initial landing party of four. The villain in this film was truly terrifying, and this final installment of the Survivor “trilogy” was unquestionably Matthew’s strongest effort yet. I did a two-part text interview with him that you can read here.

Late last year, Matthew released the first of his fan films NOT to have the word “Survivor” in the title. LEFT BEHIND was an action-packed fan film with fights and stunts amid an almost tongue-in-cheek plotline—a very unique offering! That one got a two-part text interview, too.

Although each film stands alone, they can also be watched as a longer storyline. Interestingly, each release is a different TYPE of film: pscho-thriller, buddy adventure, terrifying physical and mental struggle against a more powerful being, and comedic action/adventure survival story.

Matthew’s latest offering once again stands out—both alone and together with the others—as a truly unique genre film. This time, the theme is “mind trip” in a big way, as you never really know which way is up or down, who is who, and what exactly is going on until the very end. Although some fans weren’t crazy about such an odd format, it’s actually a very challenging story structure to edit together and make work. Personally, I think it’s a very strong effort, very ambitious, and definitely worth checking out…

Like Matthew, I decided to switch things up a bit, since we’ve already done text and audio interviews. So this time, we went for a video interview…

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’s “The More Things Change” is their best fan film yet! (video interview with GARY DAVIS, RANDY WRENN, and VICTORIA AVALON)

The folks at DREADNOUGHT DOMINION are still going strong after more than eight years making fan films. They’ve given us long episodes, short vignettes, whimsical stories, serious plots, action, adventure, emotional drama…all delivered with that most important of ingredients: a deep love of Star Trek.

Although I didn’t have a chance to cover the May 1, 2021 release of “The Passenger with Baggage,” their tenth fan film (not counting the three crossover/alternate universe episodes: CHAIN OF COMMAND, COMMAND AND CONQUER, and the more recent CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED), I did discuss “Passenger” briefly in a November video interview with FRANK PARKER, JR., the original show-runner of Dreadnought Dominion.

The last time I covered this fan series was over the summer when they were successfully crowd-funding an Indiegogo campaign that raised $6,250 by offering—among other exciting perks—personalized Star Trek action figures in the likenesses of donors. Seriously, you can read about it here!

That campaign funded a number of things, including the CGI for their next release, which came out on November 6 and was titled “The More Things Change.” I always get excited when a new Dominion episode comes out, not just because I love that starship design and they use the gorgeous TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA, but because they have fun, interesting characters, great stories, and honestly, you never know what you’re going to get with these guys!

That was particularly true with their eleventh episode, which gave us a really engaging story with good acting along with great VFX and a solid selection of TOS background music that made it feel very much like a classic Star Trek episode. Yeah, Dominion is still noticeably a fan production, but at its heart, it’s Star Trek to me. And honestly, I thought this was their best episode yet! Take a look and see if you agree…

One of the things that I find to be most enjoyable about this series is that actors who aren’t the captain or first officer get their chances to shine in episodes that feature their character. This was one such episode, as VICTORIA AVALON, who plays Dr. Farrell, was given many dramatic scenes with generous amounts of dialog allowing her to really perform and stand out.

And speaking of Victoria, I’ve long admired her efforts in a number of different Star Trek fan series, including STARSHIP FARRAGUT (where she started her fan film career) and STARSHIP DEIMOS from POTEMKIN PICTURES (where she writes many of the episodes and stars as Captain Gabriel). Indeed, I’d been wanting to interview her for quite a while…and with this release from Dominion featuring Dr. Farrell is such a prominent role, I had the perfect opportunity.

I also invited sh0w-runners GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN to join in on the Zoom chat, as they are both also essential to the series. So sit back and enjoy as we get to know these three prominent fan filmmakers a bit better…

AXANAR finally has its first film shoot in 20 MONTHS! (video interview with MARK EDWARD LEWIS)

It’s been more than five months since I’ve published a blog regarding AXANAR, ARES STUDIOS, or ALEC PETERS…and that might be some kind of record for Fan Film Factor! The previous blog covered the moving of the U.S.S. Ares bridge set to a new, smaller facility (with lower rent) down the road in Lawrenceville, GA. But since then, there hasn’t been much Axanar news worth covering (I don’t bother with the non-production-related drama anymore).

That said, this past weekend finally featured some Axanar news definitely worth reporting on. For the first time since before the pandemic and lockdown, new footage for the two Axanar sequels was filmed. The shooting location was NOT Ares Studios, however. The bridge set still sits disassembled, awaiting the return of DANA WAGNER (whom I call “the miracle worker” because he’s basically Scotty when it comes to that set and studio) from medical treatment. We all wish Dana the best of outcomes and a speedy recovery…we love you, Dana!

Instead, the shoot took place in a nearby Gwinnett County high school video studio with ample green screen space available. Because Dana’s wife Allison teaches video for the school district and Alec had previously allowed students in the school video program to film on the bridge set at Ares Studios, the school was all too happy to return the favor and allow Axanar to be shot at their campus facility.

Alec reported in a blog on the Axanar website that the shoot was a “HUGE success” (I’m glad my use of ALL CAPS is catching on!). Unlike the first Axanar shoot back in October of 2019 that had 80 people (cast, crew, volunteers) present over three days, last Saturday’s activities were much smaller in scope, lasting for a single day with only about 15-20 people present. The main reason was COVID, which is still a major consideration for all SAG union shoots—so at present, only the most essential personnel are allowed on set…any set.

The scenes being shot this past weekend were of actors J.G. HERTZLER (who flew in from upstate New York), ROBERT HAYES (who recently appeared on The Walking Dead and plays helm officer Deville), and RAJ KALA (an Indian Sikh who plays Commodore Singh). All three of these actors had filmed their lines previously during the first Axanar shoot, but for various reasons, their footage wasn’t usable (which I can personally confirm, having seen it), and in one case, the original footage was completely lost to a damaged memory card.

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Four years in the making, THE FEDERATION FILES’ tenth episode is “DOPPELGANGER” (video interview with DAN REYNOLDS)

I first heard about “Doppelganger” back in early 2017 when I watched this short trailer, released at the same time as this short trailer for “Walking Bear, Running Wolf.” Both didn’t show any filmed footage, but they promised new releases coming from the fan anthology (fanthology?) series THE FEDERATION FILES, which had launched a few months earlier in late 2016 with their debut episode, “His Name Is Mudd.”

Following that initial premiere and those two trailers, The Federation Files released another eight episodes…

And while “Walking Bear, Running Wolf” was completed and released pretty quickly later in 2017, “Doppelganger” was nowhere to be seen…until this past summer, that is. On July 9th, 2021, The Federation Files debuted its TENTH full episode, and fans finally got to see “Doppelganger.”

It also marked the first time in five releases that an episode of The Federation Files featured any of the amazing Star Trek TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS in northern Arkansas. After using the sets in their first four releases, the next five episodes were either filmed on location (both indoors and outdoors) or else on non-TOS sets custom-built for the needs of a particular story.

Of course, that’s the advantage of a fanthology format, as the time period can jump around and not be limited to only 23rd century Star Trek history. But the trend was enough for me to notice and ask co-showrunner GLEN L. WOLFE about the lack of use of the TOS sets in my previous blog about “Mask.” Amusingly, though, before I had a chance to publish that interview, these busy beavers in Arkansas released their newest fan production, “Doppelganger,” which most assuredly makes copious use of the many TOS sets, as you can see here…

That said, Federation Files has once again “lapped” me by already posting an ELEVENTH fan film, “No Good Deed,” before I could cover this tenth release. And I’ll certainly get to that one (hopefully before they release their twelfth episode!).

But “Doppelganger” gives me a chance to interview the “R” in WARP 66 Studios: Mr. DAN REYNOLDS of Wolf/Reynolds Productions. In fact, Glen has sorta been hogging the last four interviews, and I haven’t had Dan in the hot seat since January of 2020!

So let’s remedy that absence with a brand new video interview (lately, I’ve kinda graduated from audio interviews to recorded Zoom calls—let me know what you think)…

Welcome back, Parker! Prodigal fan filmmaker returns with CROSSROADS: THE GEMINI PROJECT (video interview with FRANK PARKER, JR.)

Report two casualties: Commodore Sam Grissom, Actor FRANK PARKER, JR.

Correction: they’re not casualties. They are…list them as “missing.”

That’s the way it seemed back in 2016. Frank Parker, Jr. had become a prominent name in the fan film community. Appearing in THE ROMULAN WARS fan series in 2012, he had gone on to help build sets that were used for both STARSHIP FARRAGUT and STAR TREK CONTINUES. In fact, Frank briefly appeared in the penultimate episode of Farragut, “The Crossing.”

But what Frank was really becoming known for was the debut of a new fan series filmed on the Farragut/STC sets in Kingsland, GA: DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. Frank played Commodore Sam Grissom of the titular starship, as bald as Jean-Luc Picard and plagued by a troubled past. Two episodes, “Haunted” and “Anchors Aweigh,” promised another fine addition to the world of Star Trek fan films with Frank as showrunner. But then, seemingly without any warning, Frank completely disappeared from the fan film community without a trace! POOF!!!

Fortunately, Dreadnought Dominion found a way to carry on without their lead actor and creator. GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN took over the series, releasing nearly a dozen follow-up episodes, including a crossover with STARSHIP VALIANT titled “Chain of Command,” which dealt with the aftermath of Commodore Grissom’s sudden departure.

Fast forward five years to early 2021.

As quickly as he disappeared, Frank reappeared in the Star Trek fan film world, almost as if he’d simply beamed down somewhere and beamed back half a decade later. And although Dreadnought Dominion had moved on, Frank appeared in an episode titled “The Passenger with Baggage” to tie up many loose ends and bring closure for most of the characters, including his.

But Frank’s return didn’t stop there. Frank has since formed an alliance, of sorts, with VANCE MAJOR of the MINARD and CONSTAR saga of fan films, partnering Frank’s FILK FERRET PRODUCTIONS with Vance’s NO BUDGET PRODUCTIONS to create multiple fan films. These have included the following for CONSTAR COMPLETED episodes released between March and June of this year:

Sam Grissom also appeared in a flashback during the alternate 24th century timeline fan film WASTELAND, released this past March. Plus, a Kelvin timeline version of Sam Grissom appeared in the 47-minute long MINARD 2: HEMORRHAGE released in June and the recent Dominion/Constar crossover fan film CALM, COOL, & COLLECTED released in July.

Whew!

If you don’t want to watch all of the above, Frank and Vance compiled a “highlight reel” titled THE STORY SO FAR GRISSOM ADVENTURES. It serves as a user primer…

A primer for what, you ask?

Continue reading “Welcome back, Parker! Prodigal fan filmmaker returns with CROSSROADS: THE GEMINI PROJECT (video interview with FRANK PARKER, JR.)”

From fan film “commercial” to actual fan film: WORD’S WOMEN – THE ESCAPE (video interview with KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS)

I first heard about a fan film called WORD’S WOMEN a few years ago. At the time, I knew KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS as a fellow involved in the now-defunct STARBASE STUDIOS, a group of TOS sets originally located in Oklahoma City, OK.

For over half a decade, those wonderful sets—which included a 360-degree TOS bridge rescued from decay from the fan series STARSHIP EXETER, a transporter room, partial sickbay, corridor, and part of a briefing room—lived rent-free in a “no frills” metal building…without heat, air conditioning, or even a bathroom. But with free rent, who cared??? Countless Star Trek fan films were shot there, including STARSHIP VALIANT, STARSHIP GRISSOM, THE RED SHIRT DIARIES, the FEDERATION FILES, and a whole bunch of MINARD and early CONSTAR CHRONICLES (to name a few!).

But then the generous owner of the building sold it, and the new landlord wasn’t interested in having a bunch of Trekkies use 50% of his new space rent-free. So the TOS sets were forced to be moved…well…somewhere.

Ultimately rushed to find them a new home, the owner of an abandoned amusement park called Dogpatch in northern Arkansas offered some temporary storage space. The sets were safe (at least from the elements), and a few additional fan films were shot at the new location, although electricity issues allowed only one monitor station to be lit at a time.

Meanwhile, there were multiple “owners” of the TOS sets. I put the word in quotation marks because so many people had a hand in rebuilding those sets, supplying labor and materials, and helping to care for them, that the Starbase Studios TOS sets arguably belonged to everyone involved. But four people were ultimately playing a bit of tug-o-war, and “Words” was one of them. Eventually, Words let go of the rope, stepping aside to manage a business that would serve to simply book fan productions on the sets, leaving the other three fellows—GLEN WOLFE, SCOTT, JOHNSON, and GLENN MILLER (now deceased) to argue ownership.

VANCE MAJOR and I tried to help negotiate an agreement by the various parties to figure out how to share the sets, but that ended up being surprisingly more complicated and challenging than either of us ever imagined it would be. However, while those discussions were going on, “Words” decided that Starbase Studios needed a “commercial” to show fans how easy it could be to create a Star Trek fan film using those sets, and he assembled a “who’s who” group of folks who had made frequent use of the sets in the past…including MICHAEL L. KING playing his character of Bishop from Starship Valiant and Vance Major playing (of course) Minard…three Minards, in fact!

But then everything fell apart. The parties went their separate ways, the sets were eventually auctioned off (what was left of them, as they’d been unattended and in need of repair), and it seemed the commercial was now all for naught.

Continue reading “From fan film “commercial” to actual fan film: WORD’S WOMEN – THE ESCAPE (video interview with KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS)”

Shhhh…can you keep a secret? STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE, that is! (audio interview with CRAIG SHEELER)

Back during the summer of 2012, something happened at the annual Creation Entertainment Star Trek convention in Las Vegas that had never happened before and hasn’t happened since: there was a convention table dedicated solely to an unlicensed Star Trek fan film!

This was still four years prior to the publication of the fan film guidelines by CBS, and it was a time when the Star Trek rights holder really had no idea what to do about fan films other than to look the other way, pretend they didn’t exist, and hope that they and all of their legal and licensing ambiguities would someday just fade out of existence.

Creation, as a licensee, was not allowed to provide table space to anyone selling bootlegged Star Trek merchandise or connected in any way to someone promoting anything Trek-related that was unlicensed. At the time, that included fan films. At best, Trek fan films could “sneak in the side door” at licensed cons by unofficially teaming up with acceptable dealers/vendors. For example, SCOTT NAKADA had made props for STAR TREK: RENEGADES, so his prop-making dealer table could promote that fan film.

But to have a table devoted SOLELY to an unlicensed Star Trek fan film at a licensed Star Trek convention (which Creation still was at that point)—that was unheard of! And yet, in 2012, the unreleased STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE would do just that, as you can see from this photo from the con…

Secret Voyage would premiere its first episode, the 39-minute “Whose Birth These Triumphs Are,” on YouTube shortly after the convention, although that release was later taken down and replaced in October of 2012 with another version having improved sound. Two years after that, Secret Voyage continued with a new second episode, the 35-minute “Rise of the Gongdea.” But since 2014, no additional episodes have been released.

Secret Voyage was a unique Trek fan film, featuring the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 from TOS but with an entirely different crew on a secret mission. Shot primarily in a desert area in southern Nevada, the cast and crew featured a mix of trained professionals, semi-professionals, and just plain old Trek fans. Considering the amount of footage and variety of camera angles, it was a very ambitious production. Have a look at the two releases…

During the late summer of 2016, shortly after the released of the guidelines, I interviewed Secret Voyage show-runner CRAIG SHEELER via a recorded phone call. We spoke for nearly three full hours! Back in those early days of this blog, I hadn’t yet started featuring audio interviews (those would debut the following year), and I would usually transcribe those phone conversations into text interview blogs.

The problem with this particular interview, however, was that Craig was just so darn interesting and had so many great stories that a text interview would easily have turned into a five or six-part blog!

Continue reading “Shhhh…can you keep a secret? STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE, that is! (audio interview with CRAIG SHEELER)”

A tale of two CONSTAR Gregs, Part 2: GREG MITCHELL (audio interview)

Last week, I shined the Fan Film Factor on one of the two Gregs who went from being an actor in VANCE MAJOR’s CONSTAR CHRONICLES to being a writer/director/editor of a full episode. This week, we shift over to the other Constar Greg, GREG MITCHELL.

Greg Mitchell, as you’ll see from the audio interview below, had a slightly different journey. He was an editor on various Constar fan films throughout 2019, and like GREG TEFT (the “other” Greg), Vance offered him the opportunity to move beyond editor and “take the con” on Constar.

Greg Mitchell actually wrote and directed two Constar episodes, but one wasn’t really a Constar production. “Splashdown” was a fan film produced by Greg back in 2014, which he directed and co-wrote featuring the crew of the U.S.S. Splashdown journeying to a backwater planet that looks mostly like a house and backyard. But hey, that’s the fun of do-it-yourself fan films! A Constar Chronicles framing sequence was added around the original fan film and unveiled as part of Vance’s 40-episode release last December.

Take a look…

Also included in the mass-release was a brand new Constar Chronicles episode, again directed by Greg Mitchell and co-written by Greg and Vance together. Greg edited it, of course. The fan film is a classic “stranger in the house” scenario with an unexpected twist. Greg stars in this 17-minute production along with MARY JANE BLYSTONE, who does a fabulous job and makes the film very enjoyable to watch…

Again, I had a very nice chat with Greg, discussing his filmmaking history, editing in particular, and his experiences working with both Vance and members of the Constar cast. Have a listen…

And if you listened to the entire interview and are curious to see my cameo at the end of the Constar Chronicles episode “The Phantom,” click here to view it.

A tale of two CONSTAR Gregs, Part 1: GREG TEFT (audio interview)

When you hear the word “Constar”—at least if you’re a member of the Star Trek fan film community—you’ll probably think of VANCE MAJOR. Between his MINARD saga fan films, his CONSTAR CHRONICLES and CONSTAR CONTINUES fan series, and his brand new CONSTAR COMPLETED fan productions, Vance is responsible for rouglyh a hundred different Star Trek fan films!

But Vance isn’t SOLELY responsible for them, and he’ll be the first to tell you that. In fact, shortly after his Constar Chronicles fan series dropped forty new fan films at the end of 2019 and his Constar Continues was about to kick off in early 2020, I asked Vance if he wanted to do a Fan Film Factor interview to discuss his newest series. And that was when Vance suggested, rather than yet another interview where he was the center of attention, why not shift the focus to some of the other important people who help make the U.S.S. Constar fly…both literally and figuratively.

Specifically, he suggested two fellows named Greg: GREG TEFT and GREG MITCHELL. Both of these fellows acted in some of Vance’s productions, but recently, each of them got the opportunity to write, direct, and edit his own episode of Constar Chronicles. The two episodes were very different, as were the circumstances that led to each of these two fans getting to “take the helm,” as it were. So I decided to interview each Greg individually.

First up is Greg Teft, who has appeared, thus far, in a dozen different Vance Major Star Trek fan films—mostly as the character of Timoteo Russo—between 2017 and 2019. And while you can watch all of Vance’s many, many Constar Chronicles fan films here in this playlist and his Constar Continues here in this playlist, we’re going to focus on one Constar Continues in particular: “Shakedown,” the episode that Greg Teft wrote, directed, edited, and starred in. Take a look…

And now, let’s have a chat with Greg…

Next week, the other Greg, Greg Mitchell, gets his turn in the spotlight.