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…?

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

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?”

VANCE MAJOR needs uniforms (again) to complete CONSTAR…new GoFundMe campaign launched!

VANCE MAJOR has produced about a billion Star Trek fan films (or it seems like a billion!)…and he’s not finished yet. With a new batch of about 20 episodes of CONSTAR CONTINUES set for release early next year, Vance still has a bunch more fan films in him! So he’s already planning for his NEXT fan series.

The new project will be titled CONSTAR COMPLETED, and Vance needs some new uniforms to put on his actors. If this sounds kinda déjà vuish to you, you’re not imagining things. Vance has sought out the financial assistance of the fan film community for uniform funding a few times before…and he usually gets there within the first day or two…a week tops! In fact, there’s been a couple of instances when I haven’t even had time to get a blog posted announcing the new Constar crowd-funder before Vance reached his goal.

So this time, I’m rushing as fast as I can to get this blog written and published! Indeed, it’s been less than a day already, and Vance is already nearly a third of the way to his $1,100 goal (including a little sumthin’-sumthin’ from yours truly). That’s the way it goes in this community…even during a pandemic with an economic slowdown.

However, it is still a pandemic with an economic slowdown, so it never hurts to spread the word (rather than the virus!) to fellow fans and friends. So here is the link to Vance Major’s new Constar Completed crowd-funding campaign on GoFundMe:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/constar-completed

If you have a little sumthin’-sumthin’ yourself to give, I guarantee you’ll get a fan film out of it—maybe even one or two DOZEN fan films! And even if you can’t afford to donate at the moment, please help get the word out by sharing the above link. And as always, thanks from both Vance and me.

THE ROMULAN WAR is set to premiere OCTOBER 19 – releases new “SHIPS OF THE LINE” trailer/prequel!

It’s nearly here! After years and years of anticipation, the long and eagerly-awaited fan film THE ROMULAN WAR will officially premiere (at least, Part 1 will officially premiere) on October 19, 2020 on the Romulan War Youtube channel. And leading up to it, sh0w-runner MARK NACCARATO has just released a new trailer/prequel called “SHIPS OF THE LINE.”

What is a “trailer/prequel,” you ask? Shouldn’t it be either one or the other? Well…maybe. In the case of The Romulan War, Mark initially conceived of the project long before the guidelines constrained the runtime of Star Trek fan films to two 15-minute parts. As such, the original script was written to be sixteen “chapters” and would have wound up way over the time limit. Mark shot most of the footage in the summer of 2017, a year after the guidelines were announced. But rather than try to tweak the script down to less than a half hour, he shot what he needed to shoot and figured he would edit the final film down later during post-production.

As such, there is lots of quality footage that sadly needed to be left on the digital cutting room floor. Or did it? “Ships of the Line” and its predecessor trailer/prequel “Preamble to War” fulfill two purposes. They both serve as trailers to drum up excitement, showing scenes from the upcoming fan film(s). But they also include “bonus” footage that won’t appear in The Romulan War 2-parter.

Each trailer/prequel stands alone as an individual fan film with a unique title and story, so it won’t technically violate the guidelines. (That said, both use footage from Star Trek: Enterprise—also a guideline “no-no.” However, CBS didn’t seem to mind it last year when “Preamble to War” came out, and hopefully they won’t care this time either.)

The new 5-minute vignette webisode examines the challenges Starfleet faces in the early months of the war assembling a fighting force that can take on the Romulans. Because of this theme, “Ships of the Line” features, once again, the unrivaled animation skills of the Cézanne of CGI, SAMUEL COCKINGS. Mark said of Samuel’s efforts, “He burnt the midnight oil and put in some major overtime to get all the shots done for SOTL in time. There are some amazing shots in here.”

I agree! You can check it out below…

And if you haven’t seen “Preamble to War” yet, you should watch that, too…

And finally, I heartily recommend all six of Mark’s WAR STORIES enhanced audio dramas (which are primarily log entries read/performed by trained actors—plus one read by me—but augmented by interesting graphic images and animations as the narratives unfold). You can watch these original and engaging offerings on this playlist.

Next stop: October 19 and the premiere of The Romulan War!

This is my ONE THOUSANDTH blog – time for a Fan Film Factor PATREON!

That’s right, folks! I’m finally taking the plunge and launching a PATREON campaign to help fund the expenses of the Fan Film Factor blog. Here’s the link to donate…

https://www.patreon.com/fan_film_factor

I don’t need much. Each year, my expenses to keep this blog site operational run about $400. This includes domain registration for FanFilmFactor.com, web hosting at GoDaddy for a WordPress site (along with hi-end tech support, which is an extra premium but VERY helpful!), my SSL certificate (so that your browser trusts my blog site), and an additional layer of site security to guard against Russian hackers, random bad actors, and angry detractors.

When I first started including Google Ads on the right column of my blog pages, I was getting a bit more traffic because of the Axanar lawsuit, and the ad revenue pretty much covered the cost for the site upkeep. But in the last two years, ad revenue has settled in at a solid $200 annually, which is about half of what I pay to keep the blog’s lights on.

With the pandemic, money is tight, and so I decided to do what a few others in our community have done before—like RAY TESI from Neutral Zone Studios, ALEC PETERS from Ares Studios, and TREY McELWAIN from Mac’s World Creations Studio. (Hmmm, maybe I need to become a “studio”!) If just 18 or 20 folks sign up to give $1/month, then all is good. If I get even more donors, then I’ll be covered if ad revenue goes down…or maybe even be able to stop doing all of this completely for free.

That said, I’ve never been interested in turning blogging into a lucrative career. I do this for LOVE—love of Star Trek and of fan films, as well as respect and admiration for the fine folks who produce these great projects. The stories behind their stories deserve to be told. And between researching, writing, editing, interviewing, sound-editing, and graphics preparation, I average between 10 and 25 hours per week working on this blog site that I love so much. I’ve been doing all this for free for nearly five years now, and sure, it’d be nice to make a few bucks from it. But that’ll never be a deal-breaker for me.

In fact, this blog that you’re reading marks my ONE THOUSANDTH published blog on Fan Film Factor since January of 2016! Just take a look at my WordPress dashboard…

Click to enlarge

Earlier this year, I’d been curious how many blog entries I’d published and saw the total at 928. So I kept in the back of my mind that I should do something special for blog number 1,000. Then, a couple of months ago when I decided to launch a Patreon, it seemed like the perfect time to announce it.

I’ll post reminders from time to time (unless I get tons of patrons all at once, which I don’t expect). But for now, once again, please click below to sign up:

Thanks in advance if you decide to become one of my Patreon supporters!

Screen-used props and costumes from STARSHIP EXETER go up on EBAY!

What I like to call “The Modern Age of Star Trek fan films” was ushered in by three fan series: STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER, STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES, and STARSHIP EXETER. Hidden Frontier was the first fan series to become truly prolific, with multiple episodes in multiple seasons and numerous recurring characters and ongoing plot lines that allowed for very different stories in each unique episode. New Voyages, of course, was the first Trek fan series to build sets of such high quality that they were virtually identical to the sets used on TOS in the 1960s.

And then there was Starship Exeter. Filmed way back in 1997, the completed first episode, “The Savage Empire” (you can read all about it here) wasn’t released until 2002, which was still two years before New Voyages debuted in 2004. But 2004 was also the year the Exeter began filming its second full episode, “The Tressaurian Intersection” (you can read all about it here). This episode pulled out all the stops—including fandom’s first-ever 360-degree TOS bridge set (New Voyages‘ set was only a partial 180-degrees). Six years later, that bridge set would be moved from Austin, TX to Oklahoma City and become STARBASE STUDIOS.

Exeter‘s 52-minute long second episode was released in parts—the trailer first and then acts 1 through 4 as they became ready—the final act being released in 2014…ten years after the scenes were shot and nine years after the release of the teaser! But it was worth the wait, as “The Tressaurian Intersection” remains one of the few fan films rated “MUST SEE+” on my Fan Film Factor LIST OF FAN FILMS.

Now the entire collection of screen used props, costumes, models, wigs, fabrics, set dressing, and materials from the production—more than a hundred different items!—are up for auction on eBay. They are being sold only as a single lot with a buy-it-now price of $3,499.99 (or best offer) plus $250 shipping via FedEx or UPS. Here’s the link to the eBay auction page:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/143757316053?fbclid=IwAR19oa-UCK-XESo7GRkb_FUUmFJBVogFg_0l544kbefm0vztB5Rjdw9-mxM

The proceeds will be used, according to this webpage, to finance the production and shipping of DVD copies of their documentary film STARSHIP EXETER: Behind The Scenes, by JOEL SARCHET. These DVDs were promised as a perk to numerous small donors who helped to crowd-fund Exeter half a decade before Kickstarter or Indiegogo even existed! So for anyone complaining that it took ALEC PETERS way too long to fulfill the perks for AXANAR, the Exeter donors have been waiting more than a decade and a half!!! However, credit where credit is due for remembering their promise after all this time and trying to make good on fulfilling that promise.

Below are photos of all of the merchandise available, all part of fan film history. There are some VERY nice hand-made props in the batch—certainly worth the money for other productions out there doing TOS fan films. Take a look (and click to enlarge)…

Continue reading “Screen-used props and costumes from STARSHIP EXETER go up on EBAY!”

DEEPFAKE Star Trek fan films – cool, scary, or BOTH???

Do you remember that scene in the TOS episode “The Menagerie, Part 1” where Spock sends a message to the Enterprise from Starbase 11 and uses the computer to recreate Captain Kirk’s voice? Seemed pretty cool back then, didn’t it? And it was VERY futuristic…just like when Ben Finney was able to alter the ship’s visual logs in the episode “Court Martial” to show Kirk jettisoning the pod when he actually didn’t. SO futuristic!

Picture a galaxy where anyone can alter voices or recordings to make it look like someone is saying or doing something they never did or said—pretty cool, huh? Well, actually, it’s kinda SCARY to think about! Fortunately, we folks on Earth won’t need to worry about such things for at least two and a half more centuries, right?

Well, maybe not that long…

Like so much of Star Trek‘s “futuristic” technology, computer-reconstructed faces and voices seem to have arrived about 250 years earlier than anyone expected back in the 1960s…or even the 1980s or 1990s! And “deepfake” technology promises (or is that threatens?) to make the world an even more troubling place than it already is…and that’s saying something! Imagine being able to make it look and sound like a celebrity or a politician said something controversial when they never did any such thing.

On the other hand, that same kind of “troubling” technology allowed Disney to bring actor PETER CUSHING “back to life” (with arguably mixed results) in Star Wars: Rogue One…along with providing fans a young Princess Leia at the very end, digitally altered to look “almost” exactly like a young CARRIE FISHER. Fans have debated how much the film’s creators succeeded, but the fact is that the technology is only getting better and better.

And indeed, one of the most recent deepfake videos to hit YouTube on September 6, 2o2o showed how far the technology has come, as the faces of WILLIAM SHATNER, LEONARD NIMOY, DeFOREST KELLEY, and RICARDO MONTALBAN were swapped into scenes from the three J.J. ABRAMS Star Trek reboot movies to make this mind-blowing fan film (at least, I’m calling it a fan film) titled STAR TREK: THE FIRST GENERATION

The creator of this deepfake film, FUTURING MACHINE, has used the ever-improving technology to create a whole series of deepfake videos, including other Star Trek ones along with this inspired reinterpretation of a recent (pre-pandemic) Saturday Night Live sketch…

So just how does this new technology work? It involves a sort of artificial intelligence (A.I.) known as machine learning that, in the case of these new deepfake videos, can turn your home computer into a digital plastic surgeon! Here’s a brief overview of the process (feel free to skip if you don’t care about the technical stuff)…

Continue reading “DEEPFAKE Star Trek fan films – cool, scary, or BOTH???”

AXANAR test vignette “THE DECOMMISSIONING” premieres!

Last Tuesday, fans of AXANAR got a pleasant little surprise when a new short fan film, set in the “Axaverse,” was released by GEOFF FAGIEN, who is the Director of Photography on the two upcoming Axanar sequels.

Geoff’s two-minute vignette, titled “The Decommissioning,” is not part of the official Axanar trilogy (PRELUDE TO AXANAR plus the two sequels). Instead, created by a a separate production company, REACH FILMS, it stands alone as an adjunct to the overall Axanar storyline . Axanar, of course, is a project from AXANAR PRODUCTIONS.

So why a sudden, unexpected Axanar vignette?

It turns out that this little exercise is a “test film” trying out a brand new camera, called the RED Komodo, that hasn’t even been released to the general public yet. Geoff is one of a small number of beta-testers of the new product. They each still have to buy the camera (about $6K-$7K…a fraction of the cost of higher-end cameras), but the company, RED, is looking to actual users to provide them with feedback to help improve and perfect this newest offering. And filmmakers like Geoff are happy to help, since the results they relay back to RED will only serve to make the firmware of the camera that they just bought even better.

One of the things that Geoff wanted to test was the camera’s ability to record video in low light. Lower-end cameras often cannot differentiate among the color values of very dark colors—many times interpreting them as solid blacks. Higher end cameras do a better job. Geoff was interested in seeing what the RED Komodo could do in a low-light production environment…and what better place to test it than on the bridge of the U.S.S. Ares in Lawrenceville, GA (just a short 9-10 drive from Boca Raton, FL where Geoff lives). Geoff has made multiple trips to Ares Studios for the previous shoots for Axanar, most recently back in March just before the pandemic lockdowns started.

In August, Geoff made the trip yet again, wanting to put the RED Komodo through its paces for potential future, non-Axanar projects at Ares Studios. And even though Geoff did a few straight-on tests comparing the Komodo to a Blackmagic pocket 6K camera with the same shots in the same lighting (you can see the surprising differences in this video), he really wanted to see how the Komodo would work in an actual production environment. So in addition to a couple of simple comparison tests, Geoff decided to also shoot a short film.

The idea for the film was simple enough: it’s 10 years after the end of the Four Years War, Memory Alpha is shooting their documentary (including Prelude to Axanar), and the U.S.S. Ares is being decommissioned to be turned into a starship museum. With the lights turned down low, Fleet Captain Garth is taking one final stroll around the bridge, lost in thought…

Continue reading “AXANAR test vignette “THE DECOMMISSIONING” premieres!”

ARES STUDIOS offers the complete set of AXANAR Master Systems Display posters in a new KICKSTARTER!

It’s the third Kickstarter in the last five months from ARES STUDIOS offering exclusive poster prints from the AXANAR universe!

The first Kickstarter ran during the final two weeks in May and brought in $9.7K to help pay expenses for Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA. That Kickstarter offered a super-size (36″ x 24″) Master Systems Display cutaway poster of the U.S.S. Ares plus a smaller schematic poster featuring top, bottom, side, front and rear views of the Ares. And because that campaign blew past two stretch goals, two additional 11″ x 17″ posters were included for all donors: a MSD cutaway poster for the U.S.S. Geronimo class and a Klingon tactical display poster.

The second Kickstarter raised nearly $11K after being active for two weeks in early July. This time, the campaign was for an amazingly detailed 9-sheet set of deck-by-deck blueprints crafted meticulously by ALEXANDER RICHARDSON of Great Britain. Alexander also created the MSD cutaway posters. The stretch goal for the second Kickstarter was a smaller 11″ x 17″ version of the U.S.S. Ares MSD poster from the first Kickstarter…the idea being that, while the larger poster was suitable to put up on the wall, the smaller poster could be stored alongside the same-sized blueprint pages in this Portfolio Presentation folder (available on Amazon).

Now it’s time to complete the set of 11″ x 17″ Master Systems Display posters with the remaining three starship classes from Axanar: the U.S.S. Triton, U.S.S. Magellan, and U.S.S. Korolev. And because the Korelev has the secondary hull BETWEEN the two nacelles, there will be an additional MSD poster of that starship class showing the cutaway view from the top.

But wait, there’s more!

The MSD poster set will also include the two previous starship classes that were stretch goals in the previous two campaigns (since not everyone donated to those and might not have them). So in total, there will be six 11″ x 17″ posters featuring all five Federation starship classes from PRELUDE TO AXANAR and the Axanar sequels.

But wait, there’s even MORE!!

You can get the six MSD posters for a $25 donation (plus shipping), but for an extra $10, you can add on two U.S.S. Ares Monitor Graphics posters (also 11″ x 17″ and designed by DANA WAGENR and ALEXANDER RICHARDSON)…replicas of the graphics used on the incredible bridge set at Ares Studios.

The Kickstarter quickly passed its $2K goal in its first 24 hours, so there’s no chance that this won’t fund. And all of the orders from the first two Kickstarters have already been shipped, so there’s a pretty quick turnaround. In fact, I’ve been meticulously studying my Ares blueprints deck-by-deck for the last week and a half!

Right now, the Kickstarter stands at about $3K after 4 days, with 16 days to go. And if donations top $6K, there’s a special stretch goal for this campaign, as well: a U.S.S. Ares Bridge graphic 11″ x 17″ poster, based on the panel that hangs to the left of the turbo lift opposite the dedication plaque…for FREE.

Click below to visit the Kickstarter page:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aresstudios/axanar-msd-poster-collection

After 5 years, FIRST FRONTIER premieres on the 54th ANNIVERSARY of Star Trek! (audio interview with KENNY SMITH and ZEKE FLATTEN)

September 8, 2020 is the 54th anniversary of the first airing of STAR TREK back in 1966. It is also the five-year anniversary of the beginning of production on STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, the long-awaited fan film from show-runner KENNY SMITH.

Kenny had a dream to create a fan film focussing on the very first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, Robert April, and his first mission commanding that legendary starship. Kenny’s dream was BIG! He wanted real sets and real professional actors and even visual effects with a real, custom-built 11-foot model of the U.S.S. Enterprise…none of this CGI nonsense. Go real or go home!

With a goal of $130K, Kenny launched a Kickstarter in early 2015…and it failed. He closed it down after six weeks with only $30K pledged (which meant he got nothing). But rather than giving up, Kenny simply financed the entire project himself!

The result has literally been a five-year mission in and of itself. Although all of the footage was shot—with Kenny directing—before the fan film guidelines were ever announced in June of 2016, the film has still taken years more to finish. In fact, I first interviewed Kenny back in early 2017 (it’s a FANtastic 3-part interview that you can start reading here), and he planned to have the project completed before the end of the year. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Then in January of 2019, a new trailer promised a release later that year. Kenny actually showed me the nearly-completed fan film, and I suggested that he aim for an April 1st release (because Robert APRIL was the 1st captain of the Enterprise…clever, right?) Kenny loved the idea, and the premiere date was unofficially set.

In preparation for that debut of this major fan production, I did a special audio interview with SCOTT LYTTLE and MATT GREEN, who built both the 11-foot Enterprise, a giant hangar bay, and all of the sets. The interview includes a photo montage with more than 200 pictures of the sets and starship model being constructed, and is itself a must-see. Check it out here.

But unfortunately, the film did not premiere on April 1, 2019. The visual effects were not yet complete. But that’s when “the miracle worker” of CGI, British animator SAMUEL COCKINGS, beamed in like Mary Poppins with a phaser and managed to produce an insane amount of VFX shots at warp speed (still took him months!) and help bring the project to completion. Yes, there are still physical model effects shots in the film, but Sam’s CGI completes the package in a most delightful way!

Continue reading “After 5 years, FIRST FRONTIER premieres on the 54th ANNIVERSARY of Star Trek! (audio interview with KENNY SMITH and ZEKE FLATTEN)”