STARSHIP WEBSTER’s 3rd episode “THE TOMBSTONE” (interview with JERRY WILLIAMS)

Even though POTEMKIN PICTURES has been around for over a decade now, the folks in their STARSHIP WEBSTER Creative Group are definitely the new kids on the fan film block. Their predecessors include PROJECT: POTEMKIN, STARSHIP DEIMOSSTARSHIP ALEXANDERSTARSHIP TRISTANHOSPITAL SHIP MARIE CURIEBATTLECRUISER KUPOKSTARSHIP TRITON, and STARSHIP ENDEAVOUR.

When show-runner RANDY LANDERS and his wife moved from Alabama to Lexington, Kentucky in 2019, it provided an opportunity to find and invite a whole new collective of local Trekkers in the fan film family. And even though the pandemic made things a little more challenging, the new Webster group still managed to release their debut fan film, “LAUNCH,” on October 9, followed quickly by their second offering, “A VOICE IN THE DARK,” just two weeks later. The latter allowed one of their actors, BILLY SWANSON, to take the lead and both write and direct—as well as star in—what was essentially a “one-man show.”

Two months later, released on Christmas day, another member of the team, JERRY WILLIAMS, got to write and appear in an episode…although this time, Randy Landers was the one directing, and the cast consisted of more than one actor (seven, in fact—three in major roles).

I’ve been making it a point to give these fine fan film folks a spotlight here on the blog as both a welcome to the community and also in acknowledgment of their quick embrace of this sub-sub-genre and dedication to getting their first few fan films produced and released.

As such, I asked Randy whom he thought would be the best person to interview for this third release, and he quickly said it should be Jerry Williams himself. “Jerry is quite a local legend,” Randy told me.

So let’s take a look at Jerry’s first Star Trek fan film, “THE TOMBSTONE,” and then we can chat…

And now, heeeeeeerrrrrrrreeeeeee’s Jerry (do my younger readers even get that reference?)…

Continue reading “STARSHIP WEBSTER’s 3rd episode “THE TOMBSTONE” (interview with JERRY WILLIAMS)”

THE ROMULAN WAR presents a new MOTION COMIC Star Trek fan film: HOLOCAUST! (interview with MARK NACCARATO)

One of the biggest challenges right now for fan films (and Hollywood itself) is the global pandemic. And while COVID-19 hasn’t completely stopped production of either fan films or the larger entertainment industry itself, it has made shooting such projects much more challenging, somewhat more limited in scope and flexibility, and in a number of cases, more expensive due to the need to provide PPD and sanitizer and other mitigations for infection among the actors and crew.

So what’s the alternative?

Well, the most obvious answer is to do an audio drama. After all, voice-actors don’t need to be together in one place; they can record their lines at home or in a studio sound booth one at a time. And indeed, there have been Star Trek audio dramas of varying quality for many, many years. But they typically appear on YouTube with either one or a slideshow of still images. They’re meant to be listened to, not watched. So what if you want to create something for fans to see as well as hear during the pandemic?

Beginning in the middle of last year, several resourceful Trekkers began producing what I’ve decided to call “fandemic” films. These were fan films showing characters mainly in single shots, so that the actors would not have to be close to each other. Many (but not all) of these stories featured Starfleet officers talking to each other via subspace—like cosmic Zoom or FaceTime calls—with footage the actors recorded in their own homes.

But now fan filmmaker MARK NACCARATO has come up with a new idea for socially-distanced fan films which he calls a “motion comic.” There have actually been a few “proto” motion comics released prior to this, most notably a series of AXANAR COMICS (like this one) from creator TREY McELWAIN, where still artwork of a comic that he wrote and had an artist illustrate are presented one panel at a time with pans and zooms along with a narrator reading the captions out loud, sound effects, and music.

But Mark has taken things a step further. Although Mark also has voice-over narration (performed by KYLE GEARY) plus sound FX and music, his comic artwork isn’t merely still images with pans and zooms. Mark brought in an animator to actually MOVE the artwork.

Granted, it isn’t full animation like Star Trek: Lower Decks because Mark doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend. So the movement is simple, but still clever enough to provide a visually engaging viewing experience. Take a look…

The “Holocaust” comic book itself (without the animation) was initially published back in April of 2019 as the first of two such comics in Mark’s THE ROMULAN WAR: WAR STORIES anthology of tales with art by YUDHI SURYO and colors by ULULL AZM. You can read the original pure comic version of “Holocaust” here. And you can read the other comic, “Intruders,” here.

Continue reading “THE ROMULAN WAR presents a new MOTION COMIC Star Trek fan film: HOLOCAUST! (interview with MARK NACCARATO)”

The MUST-SEE Czech Trek fan film SQUADRON is complete! (Zoom video interview)

When you think Star Trek, you probably don’t immediately think of the Czech Republic in central Europe (Star Czech maybe, but not Star Trek). But when it comes to Trek fan films, there’s some folks in Prague who have taken things to a whole other level!

I first took notice of the Czechie Trekkies in late 2018 when I saw an amazing-looking 4-part Star Trek fan film called DIPLOMACY. What made it so remarkable was that these folks had built a 360-degree 24th Century-era starship bridge set! While not as elaborate as TNG, DS9, or Voyager, it was still darn impressive…as were the Starfleet uniforms and the make-up (they actually had a Benzite!). I put this on my long-range sensors to cover here on Fan Film Factor, but after a year of being really busy, I hadn’t gotten around to reaching out to them.

However, I needn’t have worried because they contacted to me in late 2019! More specifically,  JAKUB “JIM” HOLÝ reached out. He had been part of Diplomacy, but he said I shouldn’t bother covering that fan film because he and his team had something that was gonna blow away Diplomacy!

Color me intrigued.

Jakub explained that a new, more action-oriented fan film called SQUADRON had already been shot on that amazing bridge set. All of the live-action footage was “in the can,” (as we say in America) and about half of the VFX shots had already been completed or were in progress. But money was needed to properly finish the VFX and the rest of post-production, and they were planning to launch a crowd-funding campaign in early 2020. I was, of course, more than willing to help promote it with blog features like this one that included an audio interview with Jakub.

Although they missed their $16K goal, they still took in nearly $9K of it…despite the fact that, during the February-to-April campaign, the world turned upside down with the COVID pandemic, and donation dollars became scarce. One of the reasons for their success was a flawless and energetic Indiegogo campaign with almost constant promotion (trailers, behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, etc.) by Jakub and the team…most of whom spoke very good English, despite the film itself being entirely in Czech.

The money was used wrap up post-production, which included stunning CGI effects for the second half by the British Bastion of Blazing Battles SAMUEL COCKINGS. Part 1 premiered week ago on February 1 and has already been viewed more than 42,000 times on Youtube! In contrast, Diplomacy, after two and a half years, is barely over a thousand views, and other Czech fan films shot on that bridge and released over the past couple of years are still only in the low-to-mid thousands of views. So this one’s pretty special, folks!

In fact, you can see for yourself, as the concluding Part 2 has just been released. Here’s both parts together (with close-caption English subtitles that I actually helped edit)…

Continue reading “The MUST-SEE Czech Trek fan film SQUADRON is complete! (Zoom video interview)”

Can THE ROMULAN WAR generate $1,000 more in just 36 hours???

It’s been a surprising (and rather inspiring!) Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign for THE ROMULAN WAR, Part 2. Launched in late November with a $10K goal and sixty-day deadline, that target was reached on January 15 with two full weeks left. So showrunner MARK NACCARATO decided on a stretch goal of $14K.

Usually, stretch goals come with some special perk if you reach that higher level in donations, but Mark is trying it straight up with no extra perk. Actually, there is kinda a perk: if Mark reaches $14K, he’ll be able to give fans more film! Here’s what he had to say…

The Stretch Goal would cover another film shoot which allows us to add more alien characters, and it covers Indiegogo’s “platform and processing fees” which cut into our overall fundraising total.

Since announcing the new stretch goal two weeks ago, nearly $3K of additional donations have come in! That’s truly amazing. But the campaign ends at midnight tomorrow (Pacific Time), and the race is on!

One of the reasons the campaign is doing so well is that Mark has proven himself capable of using backers’ donations to deliver a top-tier, MUST SEE fan film with strong acting, fast pacing, and jaw-dropping visual FX. If you haven’t seen Part 1 yet, you totally need to check it out right now…

The other reason for the campaign’s success, I believe, is the opportunity for donors, at the $100 and $500 levels, to actually APPEAR in Part 2 of this cutting-edge fan film. At the $100 “Captain Access” level, you get to record your voice and have it be heard somewhere in the finished production…along with receiving digital downloads of posters, lobby cards, and the soundtrack, access to their members-only “Memory Alpha” site where you get early access to new releases and updates, and of course, your name in the credits.

And at the $500 “Admiral Access” level, you can actually be SEEN in the film (or you have the option to; nobody’s forcing you)! You also get all of the above plus a T-shirt and an Associate Producer credit in the film (which will appear on IMDb). Already, 14 fans have claimed the “Admiral Access” perk and another 16 opted for the “Captain Access” perk…resulting in about two-thirds of the donations made thus far. But the other third is from $25 and $50 backers, and they still get access to Memory Alpha, their names in the credits, and the $50 donors get the digital posters and sound track. And of course, you can give other amounts—higher or lower—if you have the means right now.

And that’s one of the things that surprised me the most about this campaign: that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic with huge economic uncertainties, and yet so many fans have contributed to this campaign. Yes, I know there are other more deserving charities out there, but fans supporting other fans is a very special thing, too…which is why I let folks know about campaigns like this one…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-romulan-war-part-2#

The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 1)

The fan series STARSHIP VALIANT has just released its latest episode, “Animals,” a fan film that got its start a little over three years ago in 2017. But the story of Starship Valiant goes back farther than that and starts with a fellow named MICHAEL L. KING. Michael is considered my many fan filmmakers to be one of the nicest people in our entire community. He’s positive, polite, doesn’t get angry or hold grudges, and he’s always willing to help out other productions. He loves Star Trek fan films and supports all of the many people who make them.

But before we get into Michael and the history of Starship Valiant, let’s take a look at his team’s most recent fan production…

And now, let’s travel backward in time a bit. Michael had loved watching Star Trek fan films, being particularly impressed with the quality of productions like STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES and STARSHIP EXETER, both of which featured TOS set recreations. In fact, the amazing bridge set from Exeter had managed to find its way from Austin, TX to Michael’s backyard of Oklahoma City (read the entire story of the birth of STARBASE STUDIOS here).

A fellow by the name of JOHN HUGHES had found the Exeter‘s bridge set in 2009, decaying in a Texas barn for five years since they’d shot their second episode “The Tressaurian Intersection” in 2004. John’s intention was to restore the bridge (and build other TOS sets), to use in the creation of his own Star Trek fan series, STARSHIP AJAX. By 2013, with RICHARD WELLS and SCOTT JOHNSON leading the construction team, the bridge set was now ready to film on. And so John set himself the task of looking for volunteers to be a part of the new production.

A photo from March of 2013 of what would have been the cast and crew of Starship Ajax. John Hughes is second-from-the-right wearing a black jacket. Michael L. King is standing behind the command chair wearing a blue tunic.

This is where Michael enters the story…

Continue reading “The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 1)”

The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 2)

In Part 1, we met MICHAEL L. KING from Oklahoma, considered by many to be one of the nicest, most agreeable and helpful folks in the fan filmmaking community. Back in 2013, Michael got involved with a group of local fans planning to launch a new fan series called STARSHIP AJAX to be filmed at STARBASE STUDIOS. The folks who ran the facility, originally located in Oklahoma City, had moved the deteriorating remnants of the TOS bridge set that had been used for the second episode of STARSHIP EXETER and then worked to restore and expand them into Trek fandom’s first and only 360-degree TOS bridge set.

Sadly, the Ajax team never really got themselves going, but Michael—who had initially signed up as a volunteer on that project—was able to launch a fan series of his own called STARSHIP VALIANT. His intention was to focus Valiant‘s stories more on the characters than the action. And although the initial script that Michael wrote, “LEGACY,” began with a space battle, the fight quickly ends, leaving the rest of the episode to focus on the aftermath and how some of the main characters try to deal with it.

Joined by director and editor BRADY FOSTER, Michael and his team were able to film “Legacy” in late 2013 and complete the project by the summer of 2014, where it debuted at the central Oklahoma SoonerCon convention before being posted to YouTube just afterwards. This is what was released…

The new fan series was warmly welcomed into the Star Trek fan film community, and the following year in 2015, Michael was contacted by SoonerCon organizer AISLINN BURROWS asking if he’d like to show “Legacy” again during the convention at the end of June. Michael was more than happy to accept the invitation, but then he had a thought. In the almost-year since “Legacy” had debuted, it had gotten many YouTube views, and fans were pretty familiar with it. But imagine their surprise if the version they saw at the convention included brand new footage!

Continue reading “The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 2)”

Are you ready for the return of STARSHIP VALIANT???

Some of my favorite blogs to write are the “History of…” features where I trace the behind-the-scenes stories of long-running Star Trek fan series like STAR TREK CONTINUES, HIDDEN FRONTIER, STARSHIP EXETER, DARK ARMADA, INTREPID, RENEGADES, STARSHIP FARRAGUT, YORKTOWN, and others. These are among the most challenging blogs to write, as they take a great deal of research and (hopefully) include in-depth interviews with the fan filmmakers themselves…resulting in multi-part features that sometimes stretch into short novels!

I don’t usually have time to do more than one or two of these deep dives per year, and it was early 2018 when I got a Facebook message from MICHAEL L. KING, showrunner of STARSHIP VALIANT, noticing that his fan series wasn’t listed anywhere on Fan Film Factor. I assured him that Valiant was definitely on my short-range sensors, but I first needed to finish doing the history of Intrepid, and I had just started working on that with NICK COOK in Scotland. That history ended up taking much longer than I expected it to, delayed by a combination of busy Nick working on his fan films and busy Jonathan working on mine. The Intrepid feature ended up being three parts and not coming out until the end of 2019.

Valiant was next, of course…although things were still really busy in the fan film world (just read my 2020 Year in Review blog!). But as the year went by, Yorktown totally cut in line in front of poor, patient Valiant! My only excuse is that Yorktown was coming out first (or so we all thought!), and I was able to connect with JOHN ATKIN and STAN WOO for a sweeping set of really fascinating Yorktown interviews.

But then I leaned that Starship Valiant‘s first new fan film release since 2017’s “The Ties That Bind“—a new story titled “ANIMALS“— was coming out on January 20. YIKES! I immediately contacted Michael King and asked if he’d be available for an interview before it came out. Michael thanked me for the offer, but he was really busy with the holidays and politely declined. But he was amenable to answering a few short questions if I had any. (Michael is one of the nicest guys in fan films, so even his noes are still almost yeses.)

So I dived into research on Valiant (interviews, updates, videos, etc), and then I shot Michael a few quick questions about a week before Christmas. I expected fairly short answers, but instead, I received a 700-word reply! Michael, my friend, that counts as an interview! Anyway, I kept sending him more questions, and he kept sending me answers. And as December turned into January, I assembled—with the help of Michael and also VANCE MAJOR—a FANtastic 4-part weekly blog series on the history of Starship Valiant from 2013 up till now…with the first part debuting this week along with “Animals.”

In the meantime, Michael King has been counting down to the big premiere with this fun series of daily videos…

Continue reading “Are you ready for the return of STARSHIP VALIANT???”

JAMES CAWLEY releases the unfinished STAR TREK: PHASE II “Origins: The Protracted Man”!

It’s been five years since fans have seen anything new from STAR TREK: PHASE II (a.k.a. STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES). The most recent completed Phase II episode to debut was “The Holiest Thing” in January of 2016. But that changed last week with the unexpected release of a never-completed episode filmed way back in 2010-2011: “Origins: The Protracted Man,” directed by DAVID GERROLD and co-written by him along with Trek novelist DAVE GALANTER.

Phase II founder and show-runner JAMES CAWLEY had announced, shortly before the unveiling of the fan film guidelines by CBS in June of 2016, that Phase II would cease all fan film production. Then two weeks after the guidelines came out, James announced that his TOS sets in Ticonderoga, NY would become a brand new, licensed STAR TREK Original Series SET TOUR.

Fans were certainly excited by the opportunity to walk these amazing TOS set recreations that had previously been reserved only for fan filmmakers and special guests. But what about the episodes of Phase II that had already been filmed (or partially filmed)? Would these be completed and released? There were still three unfinished Phase II projects: “Bread and Savagery” (a sequel to the TOS episode “Bread and Circuses), “Torment of Destiny” (a sequel to “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” and featuring the now-deceased RICHARD HATCH), and “Origins: The Protracted Man.”

The answer seemed to be that these three episodes would forever remain in limbo. None was in any condition to be released (or so we were told), and with Retro Studios in upstate New York now turned into a licensed set tour, James didn’t appear to be in interested in having any of these remaining Phase II projects completed. In fact, in the case of “Bread and Savagery,” the director, MARK BURCHETT, had passed away in 2014. Certain actors were also no longer available, and in some cases, the footage that had been filmed wasn’t shot properly (camera and/or sound issues), and wouldn’t be usable…and reshoots were rather problematic.

And so these three episodes remained hidden away, inaccessible to fans beyond this really exciting trailer for “Torment of Destiny” and this equally exciting trailer for “Origins: The Protracted Man” (along with a couple of scene clips, including one of Kirk’s Koybashi Maru test and another in sickbay).

Jeff Johnson as Finnegan…just as annoying as we imagined!

Fan were desperate to see more, as these two episodes looked amazing. They were also quite special for other reasons. In addition to “Torment of Destiny” featuring the late RICHARD HATCH, “Origins” featured actor COLIN CUNNINGHAM as Christopher Pike (Cunningham’s extensive Hollywood career includes recurring and regular roles in such series as Stargate SG-1, Falling Skies, and Preacher). Also, voice-over actor JEFF JOHNSON turned in such an amazing performance as Cadet Finnegan that you would’ve sworn they’d managed to kidnap original Finnegan actor BRUCE MARS by beaming him through time!

Continue reading “JAMES CAWLEY releases the unfinished STAR TREK: PHASE II “Origins: The Protracted Man”!”

With just 3 weeks left, THE ROMULAN WAR Indiegogo is less than $2K away from its $10K goal!

I’ll be honest with you guys: I didn’t think this would happen. Traditionally, the holiday season is the absolute WORST time to kick off a crowd-funding campaign for Star Trek fan films. Everyone is spending their money on Christmas and Hanukkah presents, holiday travel, and not really paying much attention to social media posts from fan filmmakers asking for money. Plus, this year, the world has been economically (and metabolically) choked by COVID-19, and I doubted there would be much extra money out there that fans would have available for donating.

So when I saw the launch of this Indiegogo campaign to complete Part 2 of THE ROMULAN WAR, I didn’t expect that show-runner MARK NACCARATO would take in more than a few thousand dollars (if that!) of the $10,000 that was his goal before New Years. I even told him that I’d help push his Indiegogo in January and that it was smart of him to set a 60-day active period for the campaign because he’d likely be way short after the first month.

Man, was I wrong!

With three weeks left, Mark has managed to cross the $8,000 threshold with 58 backers (including me). Half of this amount is from 8 donors who gave $500 each for the “Admiral Access” level, which includes an actual role in the film (either on camera or just audio) plus all of the following:

  • “Associate Producer” credit
  • T-Shirt
  • Posters (Digital Download)
  • Your Name in the Credits
  • Access to “Memory Alpha”
  • Script (Digital Download)
  • Lobby Cards (Digital Download)
  • Soundtrack (Digital Download)

Another 14 backers donated $100 each for the “Captain Access” level, which includes a bunch of digital swag but also comes with the option of recording your voice to be heard somewhere in the film (this is the level I donated at, although I was already the voice-over guy for one of Mark’s excellent WAR STORIES enhanced audio dramas). There are also support levels at $50 and $25, and all levels include access to “Memory Alpha” where you can see special features and get an advanced look at all releases.

So why was I so wrong?

Well, it’s possible that, with COVID, many travel plans were canceled and fewer Christmas presents were purchased…so more money was available to donate. It’s also possible that those higher end perks (appearing in Part 2) were just too tempting to pass up!

But frankly, I think the real credit here goes to Mark Naccarato himself for crediting such an awesome Part 1. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out (it’s a MUST SEE fan film that has already been viewed 320K times!)…

In the end, the best motivation for getting people to donate to your next project is to do a really amazing job on your previous project. And Mark did just that!

So if you have a few bucks lying around and aren’t financially precarious right now, please consider donating a little to help push this Indiegogo over the finish line (or at least spreading the following link)…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-romulan-war-part-2#/

AIR AND DARKNESS from the AVALON Universe will blow you away!

It was on Christmas day that LEGACY, the latest vignette glimpse into the parallel AVALON Star Trek Universe, debuted…generating an average of around 500 YouTube views per day and nearly 97.3% thumbs up. And it’s not surprising that there would be so many likes (in fact, one wonders what those 2.7% thumbs down were thinking!), since the two show-runners of the Avalon Universe, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN, are both experienced film industry professionals in Arkansas.

Fast forward to New Years Day, and the Legacy “appetizer” made way for the main course: a brand new 20-minute Avalon fan film titled AIR AND DARKNESS. And what a meal it was! This 20-minute fan film has seen an average of nearly 1.5K YouTube views per day and 98.5% thumbs up. This newest release not only follows the introduction from Legacy, but it also picks up on the mysterious plot points left unresolved in the excellent 2-part Avalon release DEMONS from late 2019.

Josh and Victoria weren’t available for an interview this time out (although there is an informative audio interview about their production on Demons available here). However, there are a few things that are worth paying close attention to when you watch this fan film…

Shot during COVID – while most of the recent “fandemic” films tend to have just one character on the screen at a time, that would have been impossible with this production due to the stunts requiring hand-to-hand combat. So Victoria and Josh can up with a very clever way to work masks into the outdoor fight scenes and simultaneously minimize the need for make-up. It’s also worth noting the skill with which many shots on bridge set were composed to have the minimum number of (maskless) actors in front of the camera simultaneously.

Shot at outside night – You don’t usually see Star Trek fan films with exterior evening or night scenes because it’s challenging to light them well enough for most video cameras to pick up the images. But as I said, Director of Photography (and Co-Writer/Co-Director) Josh Irwin does this professionally and knows his craft.

The stunts – Again, you don’t usually see convincing hand-to-hand fight scens in Star Trek fan films. But when your main star is also an accomplished martial artist and works in the entertainment industry, you’ve got a valuable asset. CHUCK MERÉ, who plays Captain Lance Ramirez, was the fight choreographer and did a fantastic job. He also was one of two FX make-up artists on the production.

Bridge chatter – Last year, I came up with an idea to have folks in the fan film community record “bridge chatter” for use in my fan film INTERLUDE (which Josh and Victoria have both done amazing work on). My goal was always to make those sound clips available for any fan filmmaker, and a number of them were used for Air and Darkness…and they sound AWESOME!

And now you know some of what to look and listen for. So sit back and enjoy…