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”!”

DISCOVERY’s third season finale was like watching STAR TREK 2009 with speed bumps! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST AN UNAVOIDABLE FACT OF LIFE

Last week, I truly LOVED the second-to-last episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s third season, “There Is a Tide.” With so much happening going into the final episode, my hopes were high. Tilly and the bridge crew, along with the DOT-bot “army” still had to retake the ship from Oysraa. Michael had just been captured by Zareh while Book was already a hostage on the bridge. Osyraa was cornered, outnumbered by Starfleet vessels that could blow Discovery out of the sky (well, space) but holding the most valuable bargaining chip: the spore drive. But she couldn’t jump away because Stamets (against his will) was ejected from the ship by Michael…setting up lord-knows-how-many future fireworks between the two! Meanwhile, Saru, Culber, and Adira were stuck on the dilithium planet with the Kelpien equivalent of Black Bolt, trying to save the galaxy before dying of radiation poisoning. The clock was ticking!!!

With a set-up like that, what could possibly go wrong with the finale?

It’s hard to know where to start…or stop…or start…or stop again. I say it that way because that’s kinda how I felt as I watched the full 60-minute episode (the longest of the season). Have you ever ridden with a teen just learning to drive a car and they speed up and slow down and speed up and slow down over and over so much that it’s all you can do to hold down your last meal? The finale was kinda like that.

There was ample action—AMPLE!!!—lots of running and shooting and explosions and fighting and kicking people out of elevators and crew members suffocating and people running out of time and gosh darn it…things just moved at maximum warp.

And then there was Su’Kal. Gotta keep that kid calm lest he scream and destroy the galaxy again! So everything in the holo-chamber on the dilithium planet was super serene and slow, with lots of empathy and understanding from Saru and the others. Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s third season finale was like watching STAR TREK 2009 with speed bumps! (editorial review)”

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…

DISCOVERY’s penultimate episode “There Is a Tide” is the series’ BEST YET! (editorial review)

NEW YEAR, NEW SPOILERS

I know that some of you out there read my editorial reviews either before or instead of watching STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. This time, please take my word for it: don’t. Watch the episode first. And if you don’t usually watch Discovery or gave up on it (and if you have access), just watch this one episode. You don’t need to have watched the rest of the series or even the third season. This episode provides enough exposition along the way that you won’t feel lost.

It’s just a damn fine, exciting, fast-paced, engaging, well-crafted, and most of all highly entertaining piece of television that is loaded with surprises and the unexpected. So just watch it…trust me.

In fact, “unexpected” serves a very appropriate way to begin this blog because, even though I usually try hard to go into each new episode of Discovery open to anything and with no preconceived expectations, this time I was sooooo sure I knew what was coming! This would be Discovery‘s version of the TNG episode “Starship Mine.” Tilly, reeling from her dismal failure during her first command, would need all the help and hugs her bridge crew friends could give her as she proved herself by leading a successful plan to retake the ship. I was even thinking of titling this blog “How Tilly Got Her Groove Back”—that is, until I actually saw the episode.

From the first moment, the episode had me hooked with things I didn’t see coming. Using Discovery as a Trojan Horse to get inside Starfleet’s defense shield by “coming in hot,” being fired on by Osyraa’s dreadnought, communications jammed…brilliantly simple and simply brilliant! But then, as Book and Michael crashed into the hangar bay in the nick of time, I thought: “Wait, what about Discovery‘s shields? They were being fired on, why wouldn’t the shields be up?” So then I thought I’d write another nitpicking blog…those are always popular on Facebook! (Actually, I’m being sarcastic. My Guardian of Forever “Time Error” blog was royally bashed on Facebook.)

But then we came back after the opening credits to see this little nugget…

Award a point to the writers for addressing my gripe so quickly!

Okay, with my nitpicking nullified, I decided to just sit back, enjoy the episode, and write the blog later—and so I did. This was the seventh episode of the series and third this season directed by JONATHAN FRAKES, and I must say, the man knows what he’s doing. The episode was written by co-executive producer KENNETH LIN. Interestingly, Lin wrote and Frakes directed the 8th episode of the season, “Sanctuary,” where the crew goes back to Book’s home planet. Most fans found that episode somewhat mediocre (including me), but this episode was much the opposite, demonstrating that you can’t just an episode simply by the writer and director. Sometimes magic just happens.

Let’s look at how…

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s penultimate episode “There Is a Tide” is the series’ BEST YET! (editorial review)”

PACIFIC 201, Part 2 debuts just hours before the new year!

Happy New Year, everyone! For a little while, it was looking like I was going to have to cover TWO major Star Trek fan film releases on the same day…as both PACIFIC 201, PART 2 and YORKTOWN were both scheduled for release on December 31, 2020. But at the last minute, JOHN ATKIN made the following announcement about Yorktown

It’s been 36 years, what’s another month?! Yorktown: A Time to Heal will be released in 2021. I regret posting this message, but more important to me is to get this right, and that means a bit more time on the sound design. I am expecting to release it in late January once the sound design is completed. Not the news I wanted to give you all today, but I promise the wait will be worth it. With very best wishes for the new year.

That leaves fan filmmaker ERIC HENRY in sole possession of the New Year’s release of a highly anticipated Star Trek fan film. Pacific 201 has been in production since 2015, and now Eric’s long, five-year mission is finally complete. Part 1 was released in mid-November, and you can read my blog about that premiere along with listening to an audio interview with Eric and his producer/star MARGARET HERBENER.

I asked Eric what elements of Part 2 that he’s been working on for the past month and a half, and how much work it’s been. “Essentially just completing VFX sequences and perfecting the edit,” he answered. “Some last-minute changes we made to part 1 affected certain elements of part 2, requiring some new VFX. Overall, we’ve got a stronger film for it, but it essentially guaranteed an all-hands-on-deck schedule for the entirety of December.”

I also asked Eric how he feels now that the full film is finally completed and posted. “I’m satisfied with the final product. In fact, it’s quite a bit higher-quality than I could have predicted back in 2015, even if the direction changed somewhat over the years. Overall, it’s really just a huge relief to be done. I’ve never undertaken a five-year project before, and it’s hard to even imagine what life after Pacific will be like. But I’m really excited to finally get to work on a huge backlog of projects.”

And of course, WE’RE really excited to see the conclusion of this meticulously crafter fan production. Just in case anyone didn’t see the first part, I’ll include both Part 1 and Part 2 for your viewing pleasure below…