Writer/Director/Actor/Wrestler BILLY SWANSON discusses “A Voice in the Dark” from STARSHIP WEBSTER…

One of my favorite aspects of Star Trek fan films (and fan films in general) is the sheer variety you get from all of the different fan productions. Even from the same group—such as the uber-prolific folks at POTEMKIN PICTURES who have released upwards of seven dozen individual fan films (you can view them all here)—there are still surprises to be had. As DeForest Gump once said, “Fan films are like a box of Spican flame gems…you never know what you’re gonna get.” (Okay, I just made that up.)

Anyway, I had one of those very pleasant surprises when I watched the recently-released second fan film from Potemkin Pictures‘ newest film Creative Group, STARSHIP WEBSTER, under the watchful eye of show-runner RANDY LANDERS, now living in Lexington, Kentucky. The 7-minute vignette is titled “A Voice in the Dark” and features a character alone in his quarters recording a series of log journal entries. That might not seem overly impressive but for one notable thing: the entire fan film, all of the monologue, is delivered in a single take! And the performance is surprisingly solid for a fan film, suggesting a fair amount of acting experience.

Take a look…

Randy explained to me that the script was written by BILLY SWANSON, one of the members of the new Starship Webster Creative Group, and the actor playing the main role of Commander Robert Hawkins. Initially, the producers in the group came up with the idea of doing a series of shorts to introduce the crew, ultimately intended for no-contact filming during the pandemic. Billy created a one-person character-study, wrote an outline of what he wanted to do, practiced it, and recorded it into his phone.

Randy took a watch and loved the vignette; it was a great look at his character’s backstory. The only problem was that it seemed like it was filmed on a cell phone in someone’s bedroom. So Randy asked Billy to come to the studio to film it using Randy’s lighting, green screens, camera, and sound equipment. Randy set up the green screen and a table for the bed, a chair from the bridge set, and a uniform. He set up the camera and the mics, lined Billy up, and turned the equipment on. Then Randy walked 10 feet across the room, sat in their remaining captain’s chair, and watched Billy do his thing.

So Billy was literally the actor, writer, and director. It was one single continuous shot, so there really wasn’t much for Randy to do except adjust the lighting, add the VFX for the officer’s quarters, and make sure it looked good in post. Randy provided the following comment…

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DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’s “We Are Many” features awesome landing party jackets! (interview with GARY DAVIS)

Over the last half-decade, the cast and crew of the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION have served up a steady and consistent meal of ten fan films ranging in length from short vignettes up to full episodes 22 minutes in length. This is particularly impressive considering that the two show-runners, GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN, live in Ohio and North Carolina, respectively, and they film at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, Georgia with many cast and crew members from out of state, as well.

Last month, Dreadnought Dominion released their longest production yet, taking the full half-hour allowed by the fan film guidelines. Titled “We Are Many,” their latest fan film was written by Randy and co-directed by Randy and Gary together. The episode has a very “classic” TOS Star Trek feel to it, complete with red-shirted crew members you’ve never seen before playing a major part in the storyline. But before I spoil it, why don’t you just take a look for yourself…

There’s much to like there, and some definite things I wanted to ask Gary Davis about…specifically those really cool-looking landing party jackets. I totally want one now!

Anyway, I reached out to Gary, and he had a lot to say—and not only about the jackets. Let’s go to the chat…


JONATHAN – Okay, Gary, how can I get one of those amazing landing party jackets???

GARY – Haha! Okay, I’ll share. We’ve got nothing to hide. I actually wracked my brain trying to design a landing party jacket that was functional, looked good, and didn’t break the bank! I made them myself with jackets from Amazon in the colors I needed. Here’s links for those…

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After five years, PACIFIC 201—Part I finally premieres! (audio interview with ERIC HENRY and MARGARET HERBENER)

It’s been an awesome three months for long-awaited Star Trek fan films! Back in September, the hour-long STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER premiered after being in production and post-production for five years. In October, it was time for THE ROMULAN WAR, which started production back in 2017, to finally release the first of its two-part documentary-style fan film.

And now, on November 13, one of the most eagerly-awaited of all Trek fan films (right up there with AXANAR and YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL…the latter of which is scheduled to debut next month), PACIFIC 201 launched the first half of its two-part fan film. Originally crowd-funded with a $26K Kickstarter way back in September of 2015 and a$32K Indiegogo campaign the following year, Pacific 201 was the brainchild of Harrisburg, PA-based showrunner ERIC HENRY.

What makes Pacific 201 so unique and exciting is the time period it covers in Federation history. The year is 2200. It’s four decades after the end of the Romulan War and the founding of the United Federation of Planets, and still more than six decades before the time of Kirk’s five-year-mission. Earth and the Federation are at a crossroads. Those who remember the horrors of the Romulan attacks fear a return to deep space exploration and the risk of provoking new enemies. But a new generation born after the war dreams of returning to a renaissance of exploration and discovery.

This push/pull of paranoia vs. positivity was put on display in one of my all-time favorite fan vignettes, DOWN TO EARTH, which Eric released back in late 2016. In this short film, the first officer of the USS Pacific is grilled by a talk show host who is anything but fair and balanced when it comes to restarting the exploration of space. The following summer, another Pacific 201 short vignette was released, featuring the new captain. (You can watch that here.)

Over the years, Pacific 201 seemed always on the cusp of debuting. Back in 2018, a series of images were released along with a promised premiere date of spring 2019. That didn’t happen. But then earlier this year, a new trailer with some amazing footage promised a release date of August 2020.

Missed it by that much!

But who cares? Part one of Pacific 201 is finally out, and it was totally worth the wait. Take a look…

Pretty awesome, huh?

I set up a phone interview with Eric Henry for a couple of days before the premiere (after getting just a sneak peek of a short 2-minute scene). But when I called, producer and star MARGARET HERBENER was there, as well, finishing up some last minute editing with Eric. She was just about to head out, but I invited her to stay for the interview if she and Eric wanted—and they were both up for it. So two for the price of one, folks!

Take a listen to a FANtastic interview with the writer/director and also with the producer/star of Pacific 201

A surprise trailer for A LONG WAY FROM HOME blows away fans! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

I bet you didn’t see this coming! Well, at least I certainly didn’t. But most fans were taken completely by surprise last week to see a 90-second sneak peek at a fan film that seemingly no one knew about: A LONG WAY FROM HOME. Well, that’s not entirely true. Show-runner SAMUEL COCKINGS, the CGI wind beneath many fan filmmakers’ wings, knew about the project (because it’s his project!) as did the actors from the fan film community who will appear in it. This includes NICK COOK from the long-running fan series INTREPID, as well as NIMRAN SAUND from Samuel’s previous fan film masterpiece TEMPORAL ANOMALY.

Nick and Nimran are also both slated to appear in Samuel’s next “mega” fan production, the five-way fan film crossover event CONVERGENCE. But delays due to various issues (including COVID) have caused the release date to be pushed back quite a bit. So we weren’t really expecting to see anything from Samuel for a while…well, if you don’t count all of the other fan films he’s been working on lately like: STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION: “We Are Many,”THE ROMULAN WAR: Part 1, the AVALON UNIVERSE, YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE: “Endosymbiosis,” and lord knows what else at this point! Oh, TREKYARDS…don’t forget those podcasts!

So, yeah, we weren’t really expecting a brand new, unannounced project from Samuel, let alone one with an actual completed trailer that looked and sounded amazing! See for yourself…

With nearly 2,000 views in the first week, there with 165 likes and only one dislike on YouTube! When have you ever known only a single Trekkie out of thousands to have any complaint with something Star Trek related? (And who the heck is this person???)

Anyway, I had a lot of questions for the British Boy Wonder of CGI. So let’s hear what Samuel had to say…

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Watch POTEMKIN PICTURES’ new STARSHIP WEBSTER “Launch”… (interview with RANDY LANDERS)

Look out, pardner, ’cause there’s a new Trek fan series in town! But don’t you dare call it a “series”—’cause those pesky guidelines don’t like us doing series. So instead, let’s call it what POTEMKIN PICTURES calls it: the STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group.

This newest gang of fan filmmakers takes its place beside the other seven current Potemkin creative groups—including DEIMOS, ALEXANDER, TRISTAN, MARIE CURIE, BATTLECRUISER KUPOK, TRITON, and ENDEAVOUR…releasing (prior to the pandemic) an average of a dozen combined fan films each year going back more than half a decade! (You can access all of the previous Potemkin Pictures releases by clicking here.)

The various Potemkin Pictures productions have seen three bases of operations over the past ten-plus years. Things began in Albany, GA with their first fan series (back when you were allowed to call it that), PROJECT: POTEMKIN. When show-runner RANDY LANDERS moved to Alabama, some of the production team stayed in Georgia while others migrated to Alabama and various new creative groups formed.

Then, last year, Randy and his wife moved again, this time to Lexington, KY. This has allowed a whole new assemblage of fan filmmakers—writers, directors, producers, actors, make-up and costuming people, set builders, etc.—to join in on the fun in a brand new location. But there were certain unanswered questions.

  • Would Randy be able to find enough local fans and actors to support a full creative croup?
  • Would all the sets survive the 425-mile “trek” from Alabama to Kentucky and then be able to be properly rebuilt/reassembled?
  • How long would it take to get their first fan film completed, and what would the new starship be called?
  • What effect would the pandemic have on production?
  • With the sets all located in a new state—6 and a half hours’ drive away from the previous location—would the other creative groups be willing or able to continue making their fan films?

Obviously, it’s time to talk to Randy Landers again! First, though, take a look at the premiere episode from the Starship Webster Creative Group, “Launch”…

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From the creator of the SURVIVOR trilogy – someone is LEFT BEHIND! (interview with MATTHEW BLACKBURN, part 2)

Last week, we started chatting with fan filmmaker MATTHEW BLACKBURN about his latest offering, LEFT BEHIND. Previously, Matthew had produced and released three other Star Trek fan films:

Each of these films focused on a single Starfleet officer or small group of officers down on a planet, facing an alien adversary, and without the help of a starship in orbit. Of course, on a practical level, this allowed Matthew to film at scenic locations near his home in the Mojave Desert near Los Angeles while not having to work with sets or interior locations that would need to look futuristic.

One notable quality to Matthew’s three previous films was his use of physical stunts like fights, falls, climbing, running, and other strenuous activities not typically seen in most fan films, as they are challenging to shoot properly.

Matthew’s latest release, LEFT BEHIND, again focuses on a single Starfleet officer trapped on the surface of a strange (and scenic!) planet, facing off against what appears to be a belligerent adversary. But this time, looks might be deceiving, as you will see…

When we last left off with Matthew, our interview had transitioned into what it was like shooting outdoors and the stunts that were involved…

JONATHAN – What was your most dangerous stunt?

MATTHEW – The most dangerous thing we did was on account of how windy it was. We’re talking 50-60 mph. I had the idea for me and Travis to tumble down a MUCH smaller hill after the first graboid attack, but as we were walking around the location, Travis saw a much larger hill in the distance. We both kind of knew without saying anything. He talked me into it. Katie had to prop herself up on top of another hill to get the shot as Travis and I hiked the mountain. She nearly got toppled over a couple times due to high winds, but she got it, and a few bits we used for the travelogue shots.

The stunt was nothing fancy. We just threw ourselves down the mountain and hoped it came out well. Hopefully it did.

Continue reading “From the creator of the SURVIVOR trilogy – someone is LEFT BEHIND! (interview with MATTHEW BLACKBURN, part 2)”

From the creator of the SURVIVOR trilogy – someone is LEFT BEHIND! (interview with MATTHEW BLACKBURN, part 1)

The name MATTHEW BLACKBURN isn’t the most famous in the fan film community, but Matthew has just released his fourth Star Trek fan film in ten years, and he’s still going strong. The first three each had the word “Survivor” in them and all follow a general “pattern” of featuring nearly all of the action down on a planet where the protagonist(s) is/are separated from any help from the ship.  While down on the surface, they face a threat that usually involves running, climbing, and at least one solid fight scene. And all in all, these fan films are really quite excellent!

Matthew’s first fan film, STAR TREK: SURVIVOR, came out back in 2010 and features 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. A Vulcan survey ship is scheduled to arrive at the planet in three months time, but there isn’t enough food or water to last for that long if two people are consuming it. The importance of the Vulcan’s mission means that, logically, the human Starfleet officer should be left to starve. Pretty interesting, huh? The 10-minute fan film was made with a total of just four people, including Matthew’s wife Katie.

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.

Finally, 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.

But now it seems that Last Survivor wasn’t so “final” after all, as Matthew and his team (still six people but a different six) released a fourth Star Trek fan film back in August, LEFT BEHIND, and it’s another very strong offering. See for yourself…

I reached out once again to Matthew for what will be our third interview. But it’s not just more of the same. Each time, Matthew shares some great stories and insights that he’s gained as a filmmaker. If you want to make fan films, too, consider the following interview required reading. And if you don’t want to make fan films, well, I think you’ll still really enjoy this interview…

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THE ROMULAN WAR premieres at last! (audio interview with MARK NACCARATO)

Back in September, fans were treated to the premiere of the long-awaited STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, in production for five years with a 5-figure (possibly 6-figure) budget. Now, barely seven weeks later, we get our SECOND long-awaited, “top tier” fan film, this one more than three years in production (although the script dates back nearly a decade) and also with a solid 5-figure budget.

The first hints of THE ROMULAN WAR fan film appeared back in 2017. Not to be confused with the fan series THE ROMULAN WARS (plural) from show-runner LEE GARTRELL in Arkansas, this work-in-progress fan film from show-runner MARK NACCARATO in Tennessee is a straight-up two-parter—presented in the same “mockumentary” style as PRELUDE TO AXANAR. Many fans assumed that Mark had been inspired by Prelude to make a fan film in a similar format, but in fact, he’d had the idea and written the first draft of the script three years before Prelude ever premiered. Great minds think alike!

By the time 2018 hit, The Romulan War had most of its scenes filmed and was crowd-funding for mainly post-production costs with a $10K Indiegogo (which ultimately took in more than $13K). With visual FX by the sensei of CGI, Great Britain’s SAMUEL COCKINGS, the trailers and stills from this dynamic fan film created a palpable excitement throughout the community. Frustratingly—but unavoidably—post-production would stretch out another two-plus years. However, unlike other fan films, The Romulan War served fans an almost constant stream of “hors d’oeuvre” vignettes and trailer/prequels and even a couple of short comic book stories.

The two trailer/prequels—PREAMBLE TO WAR and the just-released SHIPS OF THE LINE—serve not only to tease the full fan film but also to expand upon it with footage and story points not included in the final release due to time limitations. So consider the above two vignettes required pre-viewing if you haven’t watched them yet.

Likewise, Mark released six different “enhanced” audio dramas (voice-over performances of actors reading the logs of people who were part of the war, augmented by graphic imagery and short animations, including CGI). These short films, called WAR STORIES, can all be viewed on this playlist. (One of them stars yours truly!) And finally, there are the two short comic book stories INTRUDERS and HOLOCAUST, each of which also ties into the main fan film.

And speaking of which, I bet you’re dying to finally see it. So without further ado, I am proud to present to you The Romulan War, Part 1…

And now that you’ve watched that amazing fan film, let’s get to know the person behind it, Mark Naccarato, and all about his journey getting from there to here…

UNREST is the newest FANdemic film! (interview with DAVID CHENG, MIKE LONGO, and KEN HAYASHIDA)

It’s now the age of the pandemic fan films—or fandemic films, as I like to call them—at least for the time being. And like the coronavirus itself, Star Trek fan films are proving to be quite tenacious and hard to get of…which is a GOOD thing if you like Star Trek fan films (and I certainly do)!

Over the past five months, these fandemic films have been filmed and released totally virtually with the actors who appear in them never actually being together in the same scene at the same time:

The last of these was made by DAVID CHENG and MIKE LONGO (along with FRANK JENKS and JENS DOMBEK) as a “Zoom call” between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy during a difficult period when they could not be with each other…a reflection of the world of 2020 seen through the lens of the 23rd century.

Now, David and Mike have teamed up once again, this time with KEN HAYASHIDA, to present a brand new “Zoom call” adventure…this time featuring Captain Kirk, Captain Sulu, and Admiral Nogura (along with a forth “Away Team Officer”). The 7-minute vignette is from STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTIONS INTERNATIONAL and is very nicely done (especially since all of the actors are cosplayers and have impeccable monster maroon uniforms). Check it out…

I had originally planned to ask show-runner David Cheng for a few words to include with the blog announcement of this new fandemic film. But within a few hours, I’d collected a rather robust 3-way interview with David, Ken Hayashida, and Mike Longo. So let’s jump right in, shall we…?

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INTERLUDE Confidential #13 – So when is your fan film coming out?

“So when is INTERLUDE coming out?”

I’m getting this question more and more often these days. Granted, Interlude isn’t the first fan film to announce a release date and then miss that deadline. I join such notable company as AXANAR (of course), PACIFIC 201, THE ROMULAN WAR, STARSHIP FARRAGUT‘s finale “Homecoming,” YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, and the recently-released STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER (which has been in production for five years).

Fans often wonder what takes so long…especially after everything has been filmed (which is the case for each of the fan films I just listed except for Axanar, which still needs to do their Los Angeles “alien” green screen shoot). But once all of the live-action footage is “in the can” (as they say in Hollywood), isn’t everything else relatively EASY? After all, the only things left are deciding which takes to use, putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle into an edit, finishing the VFX, writing some music, adjusting the sound, and…then you’re done, right? Oh, and remember to include the credits.

Well, it’s not quite that easy…

As I explained back in April, post production is actually a pretty complex processin and of itself—or at least it can be. In the case of Interlude, it was because we wanted to do things as carefully as we could, and because VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN got a lot of coverage of each line of dialogue. Editing alone took us from January through April (actually, slightly into May!). And only after we had a “picture lock” could we pass along the edited film to KEVIN CROXTON to write the score.

So confident was I at that point that we were on the cusp of finishing that I edited together this really cool retro trailer (complete with the theme music to Space: 1999 from the 70s) to proudly and excitedly announce a premiere date of July 25, 2020…

Man, did I get THAT one wrong! By mid-July, I had to humbly write this blog admitting that we were not going to make our deadline. And worse, I had no idea when we were going to be finished. I had learned my lesson about making promises about release dates.

So it’s now two and a half months later, and Interlude still isn’t out yet. So what’s going on?

Part of the reason I decided to make a Star Trek fan film was to document EVERY step along the way for my Fan Film Factor readers—from crowd-funding to pre-production to production to post-production. So if there’s a delay, well, Jonathan’s gonna blog about that, too! Here goes…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #13 – So when is your fan film coming out?”