The curious case of Jonathan’s YouTube channel “SURGE”…

It was recently brought to my attention that a false rumor has begun circulating that I purchased views for my YouTube channel last summer to boost my numbers for some strange reason. (See the above screen cap.)

Of course, this doesn’t address the most obvious question of I why would do this and then never even mention it. I mean, you buy 300,000+ views to…what? Brag? I completely forgot to brag, folks…d’oh!

In fact, I never even noticed it, let alone talked about it. And apparently, it boosted my subscribers by a couple of thousand, as well, and I never mentioned that either until earlier this past week—and even then it was buried deep inside this response (paragraph 3) in the comments under a blog. I mean, if you’re gonna buy that many views, then shout it from the rafters, right?

The other thing I wondered after hearing about this crazy, stupid rumor was: how much exactly do 300,000+ YouTube views cost to buy? I mean, haven’t YOU ever wondered that? Well, you probably haven’t—but I bet you’re curious now, aren’t you? And that’s why I looked it up

Wait…what??

Buying 300K would have cost me more than FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS?!?!?!? Holy second mortgage, Batman! I would be kicked out of the house at warp speed if I did that!

Anyway, I was still kinda curious where this surge came from. I mean, SOMETHING happened last summer! A bump like that doesn’t materialize out of nowhere, and I doubted that anyone else out there liked me enough to drop over a grand and a half buying views for my channel. So where did those views come from?

Turns out the answer was: STONE TREK!

Huh?

Back in 2016, one of my first-year’s blogs was about the hilarious fan series Stone Trek, a brilliant mash-up of Star Trek and The Flintstones. At the time, their episodes appeared on this Angelfire web page using the Adobe Flash player to animate (which is how the episodes were created in the first place).

A couple of years later, a convention organizer from San Diego where I’d be a guest wanted to show Stone Trek along with other shorter fan films as part of a continuous program in one of the smaller panel rooms. So I did a video capture from the Flash player of the five completed Stone Trek episodes and provided them as mp4 files for the convention.

And thank goodness I did!!!

Continue reading “The curious case of Jonathan’s YouTube channel “SURGE”…”

STARFLEET [JOBS] looks at STAR TREK from a fresh, new perspective… (video interview with STEVE SHIVES)

One of the great things about Star Trek fan films is that many of them approach Star Trek from new and fascinating directions…whether it’s a fan series about a crew of Klingons or Romulans on board a warship, a look at classic TOS episodes from the point-of-view of a redshirt ensign sitting in her quarters on deck 7, or a Star Trek parody featuring talking puppets rendered out in 3D.

Oh, the creative possibilities of fan films are nearly endless!

And the latest fresh idea comes from YouTuber and Podcaster STEVE SHIVES, whose channel has nearly 200K subscribers and more than 3,500 videos!!! Most of his videos deal with pop culture, sci-fi, politics, religion, and of course, Star Trek…nothing that anyone would ever get particularly passionate about, right? But the guy is REALLY hilarious and deeply insightful. If you’re a liberal (like me), his political content is totally on the money. And if you’re a conservative, well, stick to the Star Trek stuff (trust me on this).

Anyway, in April of last year, Steven began releasing what he describes as Star Trek “skits” but I’ve decided to classify as Star Trek fan films because, honestly, they totally are. His first one, STARFLEET LAWYER, was a 15-minute “interview” with Commander Richard Tuckman, Esq., an officer and attorney in the Starfleet Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) corps. Steve plays the role with a sardonic, amusingly resentful flair, as an attorney on a starship turns out to be one of the least respected individuals in the crew. It turns out that captains and first officers always seem to think they’d do a better job as lawyers than someone who is actually trained in law (think: “The Measure of a Man”). As the interview goes on, Tuckman gets increasingly drunk, increasingly sardonic, and increasingly hilariously resentful.

Two months later, Steve was back as Chief Petty Officer Jimmy Gruniger, the Chief Custodian aboard the U.S.S. Knoxville. About as different from lawyer Richard Tuckman as you can get, Gruniger loves his job, even though it’s one of the messiest ones on a starship. But this STARFLEET JANITOR is about as lovable as can be, and just as hilarious as his high-brow predecessor from the previous skit. Take a look…

In October, shortly after the Writers Guild strike ended but while the Screen Actors Guild was still striking along with the United Auto Workers, Steve introduced us to Crewman First Class Albie Milano, STARFLEET UNION REP for the enlisted personnel in the Vehicle Maintenance Department. “Wait!” you say. “How is there a union rep if the Federation doesn’t use money in the future?” Steve deals with this question by setting this interview shortly before the launch of NX-01 in the 22nd century. But it isn’t just about the money. It’s about safety initiatives like installing inertial dampeners and gravity nets throughout the entire ship, and a host of other reasonable concerns. And everything is delivered with an Italian flavored Bronx accent by yet another unique and lovable character.

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AXANAR finally WRAPS principal photography!

It’s a moment that many Star Trek fans thought would ever happen. This past weekend, AXANAR finally wrapped filming for ALL 19 actors set to appear in the two upcoming Axanar sequel fan films!

After a seven-year delay from the originally-scheduled start of principal photography back in February of 2016—interrupted by a year-long copyright lawsuit that ultimately settled, a move across country from California to Georgia, the departure of two directors, the passing of cast members RICHARD HATCH and (very recently) GARY GRAHAM, a pandemic lockdown that prevented filming for over a year, a second move to a smaller and less-expensive studio space, an 8-month cancer treatment and recovery by studio manager DANA WAGNER that delayed reassembly of the bridge set, and simply synching the schedules for more than 50 production crew, cast members, and extras —all the necessary filmed footage of the actors for Axanar is now “in the can,” as they say in the business.

This final shoot was intended primarily to film just two actors, one of whom offered to return to redo their lines while the other had been unable to attend the previous full studio shoot at the end of September 2023. That was an all-hands-on-deck, 3-day production weekend filming scenes involving 7 different actors, a number of whom required significant amounts of prosthetic alien makeup. Compared to that, this final shoot was a much smaller affair, with “only” about 20 people there making up the cast and production crew.

Reports from folks in attendance at ARES STUDIO for this past weekend’s shoot said that it went off without a flaw. MARK EDWARD LEWIS (co-director) and GEOFF FAGIEN (director of photography) oversaw the visual aspects of the shoot—lighting, shot framing, camera motion, etc.—while TED BRUNETTI (co-director) coached the actors through their performances. Alec is keeping the identities of these final two actors confidential for the moment, their names to be revealed at the premiere later this year.

There was also time available for Alec himself to do a few pick-up lines as Captain Garth, lines that were shot previously, but it was felt they could be delivered better (which, reportedly, they were). I actually have some behind-the-scenes footage of some of Alec’s time in the command chair, complements of JEFFERSON KELLEY from BEYOND TREK PODCASTS. The video below doesn’t show either of the two “mystery” actors, but it does give a flavor of how Mark and Geoff collaborated behind the camera while Ted worked with the actors. There’s also a quick 30 seconds at the beginning showing the green screen setup…

Continue reading “AXANAR finally WRAPS principal photography!”

The 13-YEAR mission of STARSHIP ANTYLLUS is nearing its end… (interview with GEORGE KAYAIAN, part 2)

In Part 1, I introduced you to GEORGE KAYAIAN, the showrunner behind the long-running (since 2013) fan series STARSHIP ANTYLLUS. But George really needs no introduction, as he’s been making Star Trek fan films almost non-stop for 32 years (since 1992)!!

For George, fan filmmaking has always been a family affair—with his parents and brother William helping him for the first decade and a half, and his daughter Anya helping him with Antyllus starting when she was only four years old and continuing through today. Anya handles script continuity as well as playing multiple characters in the series. She even appears briefly as herself (without makeup or mask) at the end of their most recent release, “Isolation’s Echo,” their twenty-fourth episode overall…

And now, back to our interview with George, already in progress…


JONATHAN – Between your previous fan films and the twenty-four episodes (so far) of Antyllus, you’ve written a staggering amount of content over the decades! What influences you when you write your Antyllus episodes?

GEORGE – It’s totally subconscious. For me, the story writes itself. When I conceived my Antyllus series, I knew the whole story—and where I wanted it to end—from the very beginning. What remained was filling in that story with characters and specific events to make it happen. I’ve been fortunate when it comes to creating my films. The ideas are always there. Obviously, I’m aware of the original Star Trek format, so I would cite that as my major source of inspiration and influence.

JONATHAN – You not only write every episode but you also star in and direct each one. What unique challenges do each of those tasks bring with them for you?

George Kayaian

GEORGE – Each task is unique in importance. The writing is the key foundation—everything that is created from this point hinges on how well it was conceived. One advantage to being the writer, in addition, is how I understand perfectly what needs to be accomplished in the telling of my
tale. Directing is the forming of the ideas into concrete actions. The vision of the concept springs forth and becomes tangible. And acting is the reality and manifestation of the ideas brought to life.

And because I like to give credit where it’s due, DAVE EVERSOLE conceived the majority of Episode 17. I had to do a rewrite on that one to add elements that he wasn’t aware of since he wrote it before my show started filming! And VANCE MAJOR did the heavy lifting on episode twenty—which he really wanted to do—and I simply included elements to tie it back into my show to keep it on track.

JONATHAN – You mentioned earlier in the interview that you’ve done other non-Trek projects, as well as Star Trek fan films. Can you talk briefly about them?

Continue reading “The 13-YEAR mission of STARSHIP ANTYLLUS is nearing its end… (interview with GEORGE KAYAIAN, part 2)”

The 13-YEAR mission of STARSHIP ANTYLLUS is nearing its end… (interview with GEORGE KAYAIAN, part 1)

What defines a Star Trek fan film? There are so many possible answers to this question! But for me, when you strip away everything else—costumes, sets, lighting, acting, directing, VFX, makeup, music, and all the rest—the one thing that unites ALL Trek fan films is passion, determination, and a deep love for Star Trek. (Well, okay, that’s three things, but you get the idea.)

And when I think of those three qualities, I think of GEORGE KAYAIAN. This is a guy who so desperately wanted to make Star Trek fan films that he built elaborate sets, including a starship bridge, essentially out of cardboard in his parents’ basement! And not only is George one of the most dedicated fan filmmakers ever (he’s been making Star Trek fan films almost non-stop since 1992…more than THREE DECADES!), but he’s also one of the nicest guys in the entire community. And that’s not just my opinion. Fan filmmakers far and wide who have worked with or even just casually interacted with George will all agree that he’s a real sweetheart with a sweet heart.

Back in the 1990s, George would make his fan films with the help of his brother William and also his mom and dad, both of whom appeared in his Star Trek productions for nearly 17 years! After that, George began working with his daughter Anya when she was just a wee bairn on a new Trek fan series: STARSHIP ANTYLLUS…that was 2013. Now, a little over a decade later, the Antyllus saga is nearing an end, as George and Anya are starting to wrap up the last episodes of their third and final season.

You can view all the episodes of Antyllus on this YouTube playlist. Their most recent two releases (episodes twenty-three and twenty-four) were released last November and this past January, respectively. Episode twenty-three, “Despite the Fall,” appears below, and I’ll include a link to episode twenty-four in the conclusion of this 2-part interview. Both are definitely worth checking out to get a feel for this very “grass roots” fan series…

As you can see, George manages to do quite a lot with quite a little, which is at the core of what fan filmmakers do best! With the series drawing to a close, I thought this might be a great time to give George the spotlight once again to learn more about him and his efforts with Antyllus

Continue reading “The 13-YEAR mission of STARSHIP ANTYLLUS is nearing its end… (interview with GEORGE KAYAIAN, part 1)”

STUCK ON AN UNKNOWN PLANET shows how one fan filmmaker can help another (interview with KARL FAULKNER and VANCE MAJOR)

“Let me help.” About 5 years or so from now, a famous novelist from a planet orbiting the far left star in Orion’s belt will write a classic using that theme. He’ll recommend those three words even over “I love you.”

A couple of months ago, VANCE MAJOR, one of the most prolific fan filmmakers in Star Trek history, suggested I check out STUCK ON AN UNKNOWN PLANET from fan filmmaker KARL FAULKNER. Karl is from Ely, a cathedral city and civil parish about 14 miles north/northeast of Cambridge and 80 miles north of London in the U.K.

Stuck on an Unknown Planet is 3-part fan series with episodes posted on Vance’s NO BUDGET PRODUCTIONS YouTube Channel. When I went to check them out, I immediately noticed that this was not your typical fan film. It was clearly created from a place of passion for Star Trek at a very grass-roots entry level. And while Stuck on an Unknown Planet is certainly not as polished as some of the higher-end fan films out there, it 100% demonstrates that anyone can make a fan film…and I think that’s absolutely wonderful.

The reason that Stuck on an Unknown Planet appears on Vance’s channel is because Karl asked Vance to assist him in finishing the project…hence, the “Let me help” opening of this blog. Here’s the first episode of the series that was posted on Vance’s YouTube channel after the two fan filmmakers collaborated…

As I said, a very unique fan film! Click here to watch episode two and here to watch episode three. After that, Vance retired from fan films in order to spend more time with his 7-year-old son Royce. But Karl has continued to produce his fan series, and you can watch Karl’s subsequent episode on Karl’s YouTube channel.

Before we talk to Vance about the why’s and how’s of his participation, let’s start off by chatting with Karl…

Continue reading “STUCK ON AN UNKNOWN PLANET shows how one fan filmmaker can help another (interview with KARL FAULKNER and VANCE MAJOR)”

HARRY KIM’S NIGHTMARE inspires a new fan film contest: TREKS IN 90 SECS!

Recently, two things happened totally on a lark. The first was JOSH IRWIN, DAVID CHENG, and VANCE MAJOR teaming up for an ultra-short Star Trek fan film titled HARRY KIM’S NIGHTMARE. It was a fun little idea that Josh came up with, essentially a quick gag scene showing Harry Kim decades after Voyager, wearing a STAR TREK: PICARD-era uniform.

Josh enlisted the participation of David Cheng because he played Captain Harry Kim in last year’s BORG HUNTERS fan film from David’s STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTIONS INTERNATIONAL. David has one of those cool leather/suede jackets from Picard season three that he was able to wear as “future” Harry Kim.

As for Vance, well, he had a fourth season DISCOVERY uniform for the dream/nightmare sequence that he was able to make available to David, and Josh had also asked Vance to appear briefly (this was before Vance retired for the final time). Both David and Vance filmed themselves, David against a green screen and Vance with his son ROYCE in the shot. Then Josh edited the best takes together with some quick VFX by DAN BRELAND. The result is a 44-second fan film with another 24 seconds of closing credits…

The release of this “quickie” prompted a second idea on a lark. In a Facebook chat group where numerous fan filmmakers come together to share resources, someone suggested having a contest where all of the entries had to be a minute or less. Everyone loved the idea but felt that 60 seconds wasn’t enough and suggested at least 90 seconds.

And so ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce the…

The concept is simple: make a complete Star Trek fan film of about 90 seconds in length and post it to YouTube. Then send me the link [ jonathan(at)fanfilmfactor(dot)com ]. The submission deadline will be July 31, 2024. No entry fee.

Then during the first week of August, I’ll post a blog with all of the entries I receive on a single webpage along with a voting widget. Visitors can select their top 1, 2, and 3 choices, and after two weeks of voting, the three videos with the highest totals will be announced as winners.

What’s the prize? Absolutely nothing! No trophy, no online certificate, no spreadable condiment. Just bragging rights. And who doesn’t like to brag, am I right?

So here’s a few minor rules because, well, reasons…

  1. The fan film doesn’t need to be “exactly” 90 seconds. It can be less or even a little more. But if you run over two minutes, it ain’t gettin’ entered.
  2. The fan film needs to be Star Trek related in some way.
  3. The fan film must be a complete “story” (however you want to define that term). If can be funny, dramatic, sad, exciting, all dialogue, no dialogue, whatever you’d like. But what it can’t be is a segment from an existing fan film. It needs to be 100% new.
  4. A maximum of three fan film submissions per entrant.

And that’s it. If any more rules need to be added, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, good luck and have FUN!

A video interview I did with GARY GRAHAM and J.G. HERTZLER back in 2018…

Fans are still reeling from the unexpected passing last week of beloved sci-fi actor GARY GRAHAM, who died of a heart attack at the too-young age of 73. In my tribute eulogy on Tuesday, I briefly mentioned my own personal encounter with Gary at the first AXACON gathering in Georgia back in 2018.

Unbeknownst to yours truly, ALEC PETERS informed me when I arrived that I would be conducting a number of recorded interviews with various Axacon guests as well as and hosting a number of panels that weekend, including interviewing both Gary along with his PRELUDE TO AXANAR co-star J.G. HERTZLER. And I have to admit that, despite having already done countless interviews with fan filmmakers for this blog site, I was feeling quite overwhelmed with being dropped into the deep end interviewing two well-known Star Trek celebrities.

Adding to the challenge for me is that Gary and J.G. were quite jovial and easily distracted themselves with tangents into all sorts of inanity while being interviewed. In other words, they both loved clowning around…especially at my expense as the poor, overwhelmed interviewer!

But ultimately, our recorded session came out really well and was very informative about both actors’ work not only in Axanar but also in other Star Trek fan films over the years like STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN and RENEGADES. They also discussed their stage craft in general along with sharing information about their backgrounds (did you know that Gary Graham got his start in ballet?!?).

As I thought about Gary after his death last Monday, I remembered that interview and contacted Alec, asking if he still had the footage (which was initially intended for a Blu-ray extra but was also released onto the Axanar YouTube channel shortly after the Axacon event). Fortunately, Alec still had access to the interview, and Alec gave me the green-light to edit the best parts together into a single video that could be (re)posted to YouTube so that fans could watch and enjoy it.

For anyone wanting to get to know Gary Graham a little better and see the kind of funny, vivacious, and thoughtful person that he truly was, this video is for you—and him…

R.I.P. – GARY “AMBASSADOR SOVAL” GRAHAM (1950-2024)

I hate writing eulogies. And when it’s the passing of an actor who was a significant part of Star Trek, it hurts even more. But when that actor was also a friend to fan films, that’s a Vulcan neck pinch, a phaser on stun, and a punch to the gut all at the same time.

GARY GRAHAM, who passed away yesterday from a heart attack and subsequent brain bleed at the age of 73, enjoyed a long career in Hollywood, beginning to act professionally way back in the mid-1970s when he was in his twenties. While he was never an “A-lister,” Gary achieved something few actors ever do: he became the lead in a network television series. In this instance, it was Alien Nation, adapted from the movie of the same name, which ran for a single season on the then-fledgeling FOX network and was later named by TV Guide in 2013 as one of 60 shows that were “Cancelled Too Soon.” However, Gary went on to star in five made-for-TV Alien Nation sequel movies that aired throughout the 1990s. Gary played human detective Matthew Sikes.

Although you can see Gary’s full filmography on his IMDb page, Star Trek fans are most familiar with his portrayal of the Vulcan Ambassador Soval on all four seasons of Enterprise. Gary also appeared as an Ocampan in the second season Voyager episode “Cold Fire.” But Soval was the character that fans really embraced, which was one of the reasons that Soval was one of only three non-main characters to appear in all four seasons of Enterprise (along with JEFFREY COMBS’ Andorian Shran and MATT WINSTON’s temporal agent Daniels…and no, VAUGHN ARMSTRONG’s Admiral Forest did not appear in season three).

Soval was so popular that ALEC PETERS brought the character into PRELUDE TO AXANAR back in 2014 and again in THE VULCAN SCENE the following year, and Gary knocked it out of the park both times. His line, “An Andorian acquaintance once said, ‘Don’t push the pink-skins to the thin ice.’ It wasn’t very eloquent, but the Klingons found it to prove quite prophetic…” became a fan favorite quote thanks to Gary’s incredible delivery.

Around the same time, Gary was also doing other Star Trek fan films. His original character of the mercenary Ragnar (nothing like Soval!) debuted in STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN in 2007 and then returned in STAR TREK: RENEGADES in 2015 and then RENEGADES THE SERIES in 2017.

Gary wasn’t just a gifted actor, he was also a talented singer and songwriter, and his band, The Sons of Kirk, would occasionally perform at conventions like the 2016 Creation 50th anniversary of Star Trek con in Las Vegas…

Two years later, fans would donate $21K to help Gary and his band produce their first album. Sadly, the pandemic interrupted the project, and the album was never completed.


I met Gary in person in late 2018 at the first Axacon gathering at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA. And let me tell ya, Gary was a trip and a half…!

Continue reading “R.I.P. – GARY “AMBASSADOR SOVAL” GRAHAM (1950-2024)”

Directors’ commentary for CRISIS ON INFINITE EXCALIBURS from the AVALON Universe… (video interview with JOSHUA IRWIN and TYLER DUNIVAN)

The AVALON UNIVERSE fan series got its start back in 2018 with the production and release of GHOST SHIP. While driving back to northwest Arkansas after a shoot at the TOS sets in Kingsland, Georgia, showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN got an idea for a fan film that would be a crossover of multiple Star Trek realities. And thus was born the fan film that would ultimately become CRISIS ON INFINITE EXCALBURS, which was finally released in December of 2023 after more than two years of production. (You can view all Avalon Universe fan films on this playlist.)

The project required over half a dozen different film shoots that were combined with shoots for two other Avalon productions: the already-released KNIGHTS OF THE VOID and the still-t0-be-completed series finale THE ONCE AND FUTURE CAPTAIN. Indeed, Crisis has turned into one of the most ambitious Star Trek fan film projects to date, with nearly 75 fans involved in its creation, including more than THREE DOZEN actors and extras, many of the actors playing multiple roles (doppelgängers from different realities), and a few of them even appearing alongside themselves in the same shots!

In this way, Crisis is unquestionably one of the most technically challenging Trek fan films to date, tackling not only multiple Star Trek realities like the Mirror Universe and Kevin-verse but also other sci-fi franchises like The Orville, Stargate, Babylon 5, Galaxy Quest, Back to the Future, Battlestar Galactica (both versions!), Star Blazers, Battle of the Planets, Andromeda, Red Dwarf, and even Spaceballs! Heck, it’s even got Elvis!!! Crisis also contains clips from more than two dozen other fan films both past, present, AND future. There literally has never been another fan film quite like Crisis…and very well might never be.

With so many hands of deck, Crisis also holds the distinction of being one of the most cross-collaborative Star Trek fan films since YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, which combined the efforts of fan filmmakers from dozens of different series in multiple countries. Crisis likewise brought together multiple people from numerous fan projects including CONSTAR, THE FEDERATION FILES, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, STARSHIP ANTYLLUS, PROJECT GEMINI: CROSSROADS, TREK SHORTS, INTREPID, and STARSHIP ARMITAGE.

The finished fan film is, to say the least, stunning. Some fans have called it a game-changer. I just call it a heck of a lot of fun to watch and enjoy, which you can do right now…

Such a complex production of this kind of quality requires a great deal of skill and experience in filmmaking to successfully complete. Fortunately, both Josh and Tyler work professionally in the entertainment industry. But a fan film like this also deserves some special attention when doing an interview.

As such, this time I’m going to do something different than usually do. I’ve noticed a growing trend among fan film podcasters lately of watching the release with the creator(s) and having them comment as it plays. And that’s exactly what I’ve done with Josh and Tyler.

Continue reading “Directors’ commentary for CRISIS ON INFINITE EXCALIBURS from the AVALON Universe… (video interview with JOSHUA IRWIN and TYLER DUNIVAN)”