Reality is not always kind or fair, and sometimes life hands you a Kobayashi Maru. Over the past few days since ALEC PETERS‘ announced the departure of AXANAR PRODUCTIONS from INDUSTRY STUDIOS, there have been discussions, debates, and some knockdown/drag-out arguments. Was money squandered? Should Alec have just rented a studio or filmed the Axanar movie on the New Voyages TOS sets in upstate New York? (Even Alec himself looks back and wishes he’d done that.)
But hindsight is a gift we are usually given way too late to act on it. I should have bought Microsoft and Intel in 1991. Hillary Clinton should have campaigned in Michigan and Wisconsin. NBC should never have canceled Star Trek.
However, all the Monday-morning quarterbacking in the world doesn’t change the fact that there is an unpleasant reality right now for Alec Peters and Axanar Productions that must be dealt with, and it boils down to these four things…
Back in March, the new fan production STARSHIP REPUBLIC tried to raise $16,000 in an Indiegogo campaign. They came up pretty short (like only 15% of the way there).
Crowd-funding campaigns can be a funny thing. Sometimes they catch fire, like the recent Deep Space Nine“What We Left Behind” documentary campaign that has taken in nearly $650K (with an initial goal of “only” $150K). On the other hand, the currently-active Industry Studios campaign, which set a goal of $60K, has barely managed to crack $20K. (Of course, Starship Republic would have loved to have reached $20K…so it’s all relative.)
The late, great, legendary Yogi Berra once famously said (when fan attendance at Yankee Stadium had dwindled): “If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” Such can often be the case with fan films. They try, they fail, they give up. It’s not a happy result, but sometimes the dog just doesn’t hunt.
But there’s no rule against hitting the crowd-funding “reset” button, and Starship Republic show-runner RAY TESI is doing just that! Ray asked me to share the following message with all of you…
The folks at POTEMKIN PICTURES currently have two production teams actively releasing new Star Trek fan films. The DEIMOS production crew has released four episodes so far, ranging from 6 to 15 minutes. And the TRISTAN production crew (based in Pelham, Alabama where show-runner RANDY LANDERS lives) has just released their eighth episode: “The Monsters Are With Us.”
Like the rest of the several dozen films released over the past seven years by Potemkin Pictures, their budgets are meager, their costumes simple, and their sets minimal. Their cast members are recruited from local drama programs at nearby colleges and from community theater actors. But their stories have always been their strength, that this latest offering is no exception. It’s a fun little exploration of first contact gone screwy, with a compelling mystery that doesn’t get resolved until the end. I think that, given the right conditions, a story concept such as this one could have been expanded into the A-story of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Instead, we get a 14-minute, low-budget fan film with lots of heart.
It’s also worth noting that both Potemkin Pictures production teams have recently begun incorporating green screen compositing of actors against static backgrounds. Although this method of placing characters into virtual “sets” has been used extensively in numerous fan films since the first episodes of Star Trek: Hidden Frontier back in 2000, the Potemkin Pictures production teams have relied almost exclusively on practical (physical) sets like a bridge and transporter platform, and on-location filming both indoors and outside. I believe “The Monsters Are With Us” marks Team Tristan’s first foray into green screen, using it this time to create virtual corridors inside the Constellation-class starship Tristan.
Yesterday, as many of you probably already know, ALEC PETERS broke the Internet by making this announcement. Although the INDUSTRY STUDIOS Indiegogo campaign has raised $20,000 and still has 14 days to go, it looks like it will fall far short of the $60,000 goal (or their six-figure stretch goals). And this has necessitated some hard decisions on the part of Alec, his team, and a few key donors.
It’s also led to a flurry of activity, accusation, and antagonism (I love alliteration!) on the part of the Axanar/Alec “detractor brigade”…along with a whole bunch of rumors that I’ve seen spring up like, well, like wildflowers during a California super-bloom!
And speaking of wildflowers, I’ve had a wonderful spring break vacation with my family this past week. We visited Santa Barbara, Solvang, and finally Pismo Beach. And this past Wednesday, while Wendy and Jayden enjoyed a lovely beach day, I took the car and drove 200 miles round trip to Carrizo Plain National Monument…a.k.a. “the middle of nowhere.” Paved roads are a rarity there, but in a good rain year, the wildflowers can be stunning! And this year, the bloom was indescribable…except through photos (and not even then, because you can’t smell photos).
So what do wildflowers and dirt roads have to do with Star Trek fan films and Industry Studios? Absolutely nothing! But unfortunately, the timing of Alec’s announcement corresponded with the final two days of our family vacation along the scenic Central California coast. Today we drive 190 miles down US 101 back to L.A. Then we unpack.
And while I have a lot to say about the breaking Industry Studios news and the crazy rumors (like eviction or that there never really was a landlord—sheesh, really???), I just don’t have the time at the moment…I have to pack up my computer in just a few more minutes! Also, the situation itself is still developing and unfolding, and new details will be coming over the next few days and weeks.
So yes, expect some coverage here on Fan Film Factor with Jonathan’s usual colorful commentary. But for right now—since it’s my blog and there’s no rules about what I can feature—I’d like to invite you to enjoy a different kind of colorful commentary and enjoy a sampling of 45 (out of 600!!!) of the best wildflower photos that I took at Carrizo Plain last Wednesday. Just click on any of the images below…
A day-trip to the middle of nowhere yielded one of my best wildflower picture days ever!
By now, you’re probably aware of how Star Trek: Renegades became RENEGADES: THE SERIES on the day the new fan film guidelines were announced…and how they surgically removed all traces of Star Trek from their Star Trek fan film.
But the show must go on! And filming completed for both Parts 1 and 2 of the first full episode of Renegades, “The Requiem,” after the release of the initial 90-minute pilot.
Starring Walter Koenig as an aging admiral named “Pavel” with a strong Russian accent, Nichelle Nichols as another unnamed admiral, and Tim Russ (who also directed it) as the Confederation Security Chief Kovok—plus a half dozen other Star Trek acting veterans from various series—“The Requiem, Part 1” was already completed and released and can be viewed here.
Now the time has come to finish post-production on Part 2, and that means another round of crowd-funding. Their first round of crowd-funding for “The Requiem” (called episodes 2 and 3 at the time) came via Kickstarter at the end of 2015 and raised more than $378,000! That covered production (sets, costumes, make-up, actors, production crew, equipment, studio, etc.) but not post-production (visual effects, sound, music, color balancing, editing, etc.).
A separate crowd-funding campaign for post-production was held using Indiegogo last August with a goal of $60,000 for “The Requiem, Part 1” and $150,00 for the completion of both episodes. And they nearly made it! A total of $138,580 was raised…allowing them to complete and release “Part 1” and nearly complete Part 2.
So let’s see, doing the math, Renegades needed $150,000 and raised just over $138,000. So that leaves…$80,000??? Yeah, you were probably gonna say $12,000, but this is crowd-funding math!
Aw, I’m just teasing…although Renegades really is asking for another $80,000. But like certain other fan productions (you know the one I’m talking about), when you’ve done successful crowd-funding, there’s always room for scope-creep, and Renegades is promising lots more than originally planned:
We are seeking post-production funding to expand and finish our visual FX work, and to finish up the audio, mixing and color correction. This campaign will also allow us to add many new VFX shots to enhance the story and dramatically increase the visual production value – if you’ve viewed part one, you’ve seen what an amazing job the team has done with the effects! Renegades: the Requiem is so close to public release, and we are eager to offer the dramatic conclusion to the film. Spoiler alert: the Renegades universe will never be the same!
This time out, they’re doing their own internal crowd-funding campaign (no Kickstarter or Indiegogo) with some great perks. And in just two days, they’re already raised more than 10% of their goal! Please consider making a donation if you can.
And if you’re on the fence, this trailer for Part 2 should definitely put you in the mood to open your wallet!
In the genre of Star Trek fan films, the universe (quadrant?) of the series Voyager is a rare setting. But one stalwart fan believes that the indomitable Intrepid-class starship, lost for seven years in the Delta Quadrant, is the perfect subject matter for a Trek fan production.
I interviewed David Whitney of STARFLEET STUDIOS as he was completing post-production on his first VOYAGER CONTINUES project: STAR TREK: RAVEN, which debuted last October as a 32-minute fan film. That film concentrated on events in the Alpha Quadrant during the time that Voyager was missing but ended with a scene on Voyager itself.
Now, half a year later, David just released his second effort, a 9-minute short film titled “Derelict.” This one focuses on two members of the crew—Harry Kim and Seven-of-Nine—on board a, you guessed it, derelict spacecraft. And while Raven used mostly green screen sequences where actors were composited against virtual backgrounds created in CGI, “Derelict” uses practical (physical) sets with consoles that had originally been created for and used by the television series Stargate Atlantis! (Those were provided to David Whitney by Glen L. Wolfe of the Trek fan series The Federation Files.)
“Derelict” a relatively small production, with only two actors who appear on screen along with two brief voice-over sequences. One of the voice-overs is a captain’s log from Kathryn Janeway that will stop you in your tracks wondering if a fan film somehow managed to convince Kate Mulgrew to appear! But in fact, it’s actually the voice of a male actor named Liam Holwarth-Mulgrew (he legally changed his name to add the “Mulgrew”) who does one of the best Janeway impressions you’ve ever heard.
Starfleet Studios is based in Iowa and doesn’t have the resources that some other fan productions do—like elaborate studios and professional or semi-professional actors and production crew. In fact, “Derelict” was filmed almost entirely in a garage! That said, if you celebrate fan films as I do, then you view projects like this for all that they DO accomplish, often with very limited budgets and resources.
Once again, STAR TREK CONTINUES proves itself the undisputed king of the Trek fan film genre. This isn’t meant as a slight against any other fan film or series. It’s simply that STC‘s eight full episodes just get better and better and are all but flawless in their interpretation of classic Star Trek. They tell stories that are both well-written and extraordinarily well-produced and well-directed…with excellent editing, musical scoring, visual effects, costumes, make-up, lighting, and of course, meticulously recreated TOS sets.
“Still Treads the Shadow” was written by Judy Burns, a professional Hollywood screenwriter and producer with a long list of credits. And her very first one was as co-writer for the third season TOS episode “The Tholian Web”…which should be kept in mind as fans watch this latest episode from STC. (No spoilers!) Also of note is a guest appearance by Battlestar Galactica series regular Rekha Sharma (one of the final five “sleeper” Cylons), who has an extensive list of Hollywood television roles. The episode was directed be Julian Higgins, who also directed the sixth episode of Star Trek Continues, “Come Not Between the Dragons.” Both episodes were magnificently directed.
In the finest traditions of Star Trek, this latest episode provides wonderful literary themes that serve to richly enhance the viewing experience. The title, “Still Treads the Shadow,” is taken from poetic masterpiece The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A passage from that epic poem is quoted during the episode, and I highly recommend that you click that link I just provided and (re)read that classic work (especially if you skipped reading it in high school!). It will provide some interesting insights into the symbolic “ancient mariner” who appears in this episode.
So now the question is: what will CBS and Paramount do…if anything? STC has now finished production on its final four episodes (this being the first of them) and plans to release all of them over the next several months. And although the $200,000 in crowd-funding was completed shortly before the new fan film guidelines went into effect, the run-time of this episode is 54 minutes (longer thsn 15 minute), it’s part of a continuing fan series, it features paid professionals including alumni of studio-based Star Trek productions (including writer Judy Burns and star/executive producer Vic Mignogna himself, who worked on Star Trek Online), and of course, it has the words “Star Trek” in the title.
The STC folks hope that they’ll be permitted to complete their run, having told me in a conversation last August that the guidelines don’t say that a production WILL be sued if it fails to follow all of the guidelines, only that it WON’T be sued if it does follow all of the guidelines. Fingers crossed that they’re correct!
In the meantime, “Still Treads the Shadow” premiered yesterday at the Fan Expo Dallas convention with a sneak preview for donors. But now it’s available for everyone. Enjoy…
You might recall back in February that I posted that RENEGADES: THE SERIES (formerly known as Star Trek: Renegades) had released the first part of its two-part debut episode “The Requiem”…but only to donors at a minimum $35 contribution level.
Having been a donor myself, I was able to watch and enjoy the 25-minute long, professionally-made fan production (no, that is NOT an oxymoron!) that starred Walter Koenig as an admiral named “Pavel” and Nichelle Nichols as another unnamed admiral of the “Confederation of Planets.” The episode also featured a number of other veteran Star Trek actors, including Tim Russ (who also directed the episodes), Cirroc “Jake Sisko” Lofton, Aron “Nog” Eisenberg, Terry “Jadzia” Farrell, Robert “Chakotay” Beltran, and Gary “Soval” Graham.
The new fan film guidelines forced the production to surgically remove all references to the Star Trek universe, but if you go into it with the right mindset, you can kinda mentally edit those changed elements back into a Star Trek narrative. Or you can try to watch it as an original creative reality unto itself. Your choice.
Of course, that required one to actually watch it, which was not possible for non-donors…until today. The ATOMIC NETWORK, which is distributing Renegades, is now offering “The Requiem, Part 1” for FREE exclusively on their website:
There’s just one catch: you have to first sign up for their newsletter by providing your e-mail and SMS (mobile) phone number. There’s no other commitment, though, and it’s not like you’re signing up for something you’re completely not interested in. According to their website:
Atomic Network is a premium on-demand streaming service catering to techies, early adapters and sci-fi, fantasy, horror and pop culture enthusiasts. We offer a wide variety of pay-per-view scripted series and advertiser-supported non-fiction programs. At Atomic, there’s always something new for our audience of techies, Trekkies, geeks and gamers — our kind of peeps!
Hey, this could be the start of something big! In fact, one of their other upcoming sci-fi series, Cozmo’s (starring Voyager‘s Ethan Philips with a cameo by Robert Picardo), is worth checking out the trailer for on this web page.
In the meantime, “The Requiemm, Part 1” has been released to the general public just in time for a new crowd-funding campaign to complete the final bit of work on Part 2. According to a recent announcement:
Part two is shot, edited and in post production. We are so close! But we need to raise a little more to finance the final mixing, color correction and VFX.
This final crowd-funding campaign will launch on April 5, and if successful, the producers promise a completed Part 2 within 60 days of reaching their funding goal. Exciting!
Last time (and the time before that), we began chatting KENNY SMITH, the passionate Star Trek fan who is self-funding his own fan film. But it’s not just any Star Trek fan film! STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER is getting fans excited in ways that few other fan films have recently, and there’s several reasons for that.
First, it’s one of the few fan productions recently to build elaborate sets of professional studio quality. Second, Kenny has hired professional SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Hollywood actors to portray his characters. Third, Kenny has brought in industry professionals to handle production, construction, and visual effects. Fourth, he’s going where no fan film has gone before: to the launch of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 under the commander of its first captain, Robert April, who is married to the ship’s Chief Medical Officer (a fact established in April’s only canonized appearance in the animated episode “The Counter-Clock Incident”). And finally, Kenny and his construction team built an incredible 11-foot model of the starship Enterprise in its earlier pre-Kirk iteration…a model which is being used to shoot visual FX the old-fashioned way.
Although Kenny tried to do a Kickstarter to raise $130K, he only got to $30K and then canceled it entirely—leaving him with zero in crowd-funding. Instead, Kenny decided to pay for everything himself. So I just had to ask him…
JONATHAN – If you funded this whole project yourself, Kenny, how much has it ended up costing you in total?
Last week, I invited folks to vote on just one of the fan film guidelines that they thought the SMALL ACCESS group should focus our energies on trying to convince the studios to revise.
Initially, we set out to encourage multiple changes simultaneously from CBS and Paramount and pretty much got nowhere. And while we still have a veeeerrrrry steep mountain to climb, we might end up with a better chance of success asking for just one change rather than many.
And so we set up a survey over on the Small Access Facebook Group, and so far, we’ve had just under a hundred votes. Two-thirds favor a focus on the second half of the first guideline: “…With no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.” And with about a quarter of the vote, the notorious 15-minute limit is currently in second place.
But there’s still time to vote because, to be honest, I haven’t had a chance to work on the next entry of my “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check” blog series yet. And since I’m on vacation next week (heading up the California coast with the family and my camera), there might be a solid two weeks left to vote.
Here’s the link for the poll if you haven’t voted yet or want to encourage others to:
And in the meantime, if you want to help me write the next entry in the blog series, how do YOU think we should proceed from here? We’ve got 1,300 in the Small Access group…92 of which are bothering to vote. We’re not exactly a “movement,” but we’re not entirely invisible either. A full-on boycott with just 1,300 people is pretty meaningless, though. And I doubt we’re going to convince every fan filmmaker out there to simply ignore the guidelines and risk getting sued. So what else is there?
I have a few ideas, but I’m curious first to see what other people think. Feel free to comment on this page or, if you’re a member of SMALL ACCESS (and if you aren’t–why not???) on that Facebook group page.