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…

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GARY GRAHAM leaves the AXANAR project!

The following message from actor GARY GRAHAM was posted to Facebook on Wednesday afternoon:

An hour or so later, when asked what happened, Gary added this brief explanation:

This obviously comes as a blow to AXANAR fans who looked forward to once again seeing Vulcan Ambassador Soval in the two 15-minute sequel fan films. Gary had already played the venerated character to near universal praise in PRELUDE TO AXANAR and then a year later in the 3-minute “Vulcan Scene.” In the years since the lawsuit that shut down production on Axanar in 2016, Gary had been an ardent supporter of both the project itself and of show-runner ALEC PETERS. Gary traveled from California to Georgia to appear at AXACON in 2018, saying positive things about Alec and the original production in interviews like this one (skip to 14:40).

Gary’s announcement came without any warning. And in the last 36 hours, I’ve seen unconfirmed reports of “irreconcilable differences,” that Gary is hoping to land a role on the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds series and worried that an association with Axanar Productions would hurt his chances, and even political friction (Gary and Alec are on opposite sides regarding Donald Trump).

With so many unconfirmed rumors spreading on social media, I reached out to both Alec and Gary for comment. Gary has not yet responded to my request, but Alec confirmed that the first he knew that Gary was leaving the project came on Wednesday, and Alec provided me with the following statement (which has also been posted to the Axanar website)…


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ALEC PETERS tests positive for COVID-19!

ALEC PETERS has logged a lot of “firsts” in the Star Trek fan film community. He was the first to raise more than a million dollars in crowd-funding for a Trek fan film project, he was the first to get sued by the studios, the first to survive such a lawsuit and reach a settlement agreement, and the first to set up an online store to sell merchandise based on original aspects of a fan film.

And now he’s the first well-known Star Trek fan filmmaker to test positive for COVID-19.

At this point, this is kinda “old” news. Alec first told me that he thought he’d caught the virus back on Sunday, July 5th. He’d had a 101-degree fever for two straight days and was feeling sicker than he’d ever felt before (although he never lost his sense of smell or taste). Alec explained that he’s generally healthy, and when he gets sick, symptoms typically don’t get too bad and pass pretty quickly. This felt different. And since it wasn’t flu season, Alec suspected by Sunday evening that he might have contracted the Novel Coronavirus.

It’s not that Alec hadn’t been careful. He wore a mask everywhere, washed his hands often, and social distanced. But Georgia is a pandemic hot-spot, currently 4th in the nation of 50 states in active COVID-19 cases with an average of 3,500 new cases per day for the month of July.

On Sunday evening, as Alec began to suspect that he’d contracted the highly infectious virus, he went to the CVS website to schedule a test and discovered that the earliest appointment they had available wasn’t until Wednesday. (What’s wrong with this picture, folks?) He booked it.

Meanwhile, Alec’s girlfriend CRYSSTAL HUBBARD, kept her distance from Alec while he isolated himself upstairs in his room. Fortunately, they have a five-bedroom house, so separation wasn’t difficult on a practical level. Going to work wasn’t an issue for Crysstal, as her job is at a night club, and those establishments were closed down at the time Alec got sick. In fact, Crysstal was furloughed for about 2-3 months total.

Although Alec announced through social media that he was “95% certain” that he had coronavirus (shortly before taking the test), I decided to hold off reporting it here on Fan Film Factor until the results were in. Alec was told to expect the results in about 6 days. (Again, what is wrong with this picture??? )

There was, of course, an outpouring of sympathy and well wishes from across fandom. And then, sadly, there were also Facebook posts like these…

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INTERLUDE clip gets 7.8K views (and 1K likes) in 15 HOURS!

Wow…what a difference a successful YouTube Channel makes!

I posted a link to the 48-second “sneak peak” clip from INTERLUDE last week as part of a blog explaining why we were going to miss our announced premiere date of July 25, 2020. Long story short, the music isn’t done yet. But I wanted to give folks a taste of how the music sounded. So I cut a short clip and posted it. The video got 363 views over six days.

Last night, ALEC PETERS debuted the same video clip on the AXANAR YouTube channel. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is…

I woke up this morning to see that the clip has now had over 7.8K views and 1K thumbs up (versus only 35 thumbs down)…so YAY! Of course, the channel has 89K subscribers—no wonder it got so many views so quickly. But hey, I’m not complaining!

I also read though the comments, and there were a number of questions and topics that came up repeatedly. So I thought I’d respond to them here if anyone is interested and/or curious:

1. When is Interlude coming out?

Soon. As I explained in last week’s blog, KEVIN CROXTON is about halfway done with the music, then MARK EDWARD LEWIS will add in the final sound effects and balance the sound levels. We’re also awaiting one final VFX sequence from LEWIS ANDERSON. Then we’re pretty much D-O-N-E.

2. The music is too loud/voices are too low.

Yep. As I said, the sound-mixing gets done last (since you need all the music before you can balance the levels). This clip was simply to give folks a taste of the music, and it’s a work-in-progress.

One of the most FUN things about making this fan film is showing you folks the behind-the-scenes steps of making a fan film. I didn’t want this clip to be polished and perfect…yet. It’s more interesting to hear the music raw before sound-mixing and then compare it to the finished product in order to get an appreciation for what sound mixing can do.

3. We waited ten years for 48 seconds???

Sigh. First of all, Interlude isn’t Axanar. We only started crowd-funding a year ago. And for the record, Axanar had its first crowd-funding campaign in 2014…six years ago, not ten. (Why people keep saying “ten years” is beyond me. Counting to six isn’t hard…you don’t need to round to the nearest ten!) And remember that Axanar was sued for a year, had to move across the country, then finish the bridge, raise money to replace the funds that were lost during the lawsuit while filming couldn’t happen, and then had to go through the many and complex steps of actually producing a fan film.

Axanar has now had multiple shoots, and only one 2-day shoot remains…a shoot that can’t happen while the international pandemic is still shutting down union productions everywhere. And if you’d like to donate to Axanar so that it can be finished, please click on the link below…

https://aresdigital.axanar.com

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USS ARES blueprints Kickstarter finishes up with $10,887 from 217 backers!

Yesterday, with less than 5 hours to go in the 16-day Kickstarter for deck plans of the USS Ares-class assault cruiser, the total raised was still about a thousand dollars below the $10K needed to reach their stretch goal. The campaign had already surpassed its initial $3K goal in the first few hours, but if it passed $10K, each donor would ALSO get a free 11″ x 17″ version of the USS Ares Master Display Poster along with the blueprints.

Then, with four hours to go, an e-mail went out to the Ares Studios mailing list reminding supporters that the blueprints were still available, but not for long! An hour later, the Kickstarter total crossed $10K…and when the dust settled at 9pm Eastern Time, 217 backers had pledged $10,887 to the campaign.

The money (after the cost of printing and packing materials) will go toward funding the ongoing expenses for Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA, home to the extraordinary USS Ares bridge and captains quarters sets plus the Pike-era sets that were used on the upcoming FIRST FRONTIER fan film. Additional donations are coming in monthly to Ares Studios through an ongoing Patreon campaign.

Note that Ares Studios is a separate legal entity from Axanar Productions, which fundraises privately to finance the completion if the two AXANAR sequel fan films. That campaign is currently at $23,305 out of $35,000 needed for the final filming weekend plus the beginning of post-production. To donate to Axanar, click the link below and follow the instructions provided…

https://aresdigital.axanar.com

LAST DAY to order USS Ares BLUEPRINTS!

As Kermit the Frog once said, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” Nowhere is that more apparent at the moment than Kickstarter where the full set of deck plans for the USS ARES-class assault cruiser are available for pre-order until 9:00 pm Eastern Time on Sunday night.

Like the previous Kickstarter for the USS Ares Master Display Poster, this current Kickstarter has been a quick 16-day campaign with a modest goal of only $3,000. And also like the previous campaign, the goal was easily reached within hours. The previous poster campaign took in donations totaling $9,690 from 258 AXANAR fans and supporters. This surpassed two stretch goal amounts, resulting in supporters getting two additional posters.

As I type this, the Blueprints campaign sits at $8,742 from 181 backers. If the total passes $10K, then each of us backers also gets a special stretch goal extra item: an 11″ x 17″ mini-poster version fo the USS Ares Master Display cutaway (the original was a massive 24″ x 36″ size)…

Both the cutaway poster and the blueprints were meticulously crafted by Axanar graphic designer extraordinaire ALEXANDER RICHARDSON, who spent an average of 5-10 hours per deck and then another 3 hours laying them out on the individual pages (plus extra time making alterations along the way).

Although the blueprints will eventually be available later on in the Ares Studio OnlineStore, the price will, most likely, be higher than the $30 plus shipping on the Kickstarter page. And remember that, if the campaign can generate just $1,258 more, each donor will receive a stretch goal prize, as well, for no additional cost.

Like the Ares Studios Patreon campaign (which generates about $2.5K per month from about 250+ patrons), the net proceeds from these two Kickstarters go toward the expenses of Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA…not to the production of Axanar fan film sequels. Those donations can be made through the private fundraising campaign on Ares Digital (currently about $8.7K short of funding the final Axanar film shoot).

In the meantime, the clock is ticking off the final hours to order your USS Ares Blueprint set. Just click on the link below…

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aresstudios/uss-ares-blueprints

AXANAR schedules shoots in AUGUST and OCTOBER!

AXANAR needs only two more shooting days and the production phase will be complete. Just…two…more…days.

Seems so simple, and yet, because of COVID-19, it’s proven to be just out of reach. And it’s not just Axanar that’s been stopped dead in its tracks. Because of concerns from the various Hollywood trade unions, television and motion picture production has been brought to a standstill throughout the entertainment industry. Don’t binge-watch too much too fast because your favorite shows aren’t coming back in September…and probably not even this year!

But there is finally a ray of hope.

Actors, directors, writers, camera people, hair & make-up, grips, gaffers, and pretty much everyone in the film industry are dying to get back to work. They just don’t want to be dying BECAUSE they went back to work (man, that sounded morbid!). As such, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers recently formed a task force to put together this 21-page white paper providing guidelines for “safely” restarting production. I put “safely” in quotation marks because it’s hard to be 100% safe when actors often have to be up close to other actors and not wearing face coverings, and lighting and camera and sound people have to lean in close to each other, and hair and make-up people can’t do their jobs if they’re 6 feet away from the actors and aren’t able to powder noses and put on lipstick because of face masks and…you get the idea.

But the white paper does its best to provide a reasonable “cover-your-asses” approach to restarting film production…and both the unions and the studios are on board with it. After all, people need to get back to work! And the recommendations are pretty obvious, all things considered:

  • Crews should consist of as few people as possible.
  • Have production meetings virtually or at least with social distancing.
  • Everyone wears PPEs on set except for actors when they’re filming.
  • Wash hands frequently; clean every piece of shared equipment as often as is practical.
  • Regular, periodic testing of the cast and crew; social distance as much as possible on set.
  • Use electronic scripts and call sheets on personal handheld devices (or if you need print things out, make sure no paper is shared).

And the list goes on and on. But the idea is to minimize the risk factors on production sets as much as possible.

Because Axanar is a union project, no new filming could be done until a set of guidelines was issued that Axanar Productions could follow. But now that the white paper is available and being slowly adopted throughout the industry, the Axanar project can begin moving forward again, albeit tentatively at first.

Here’s the plan as it stands right now…

Continue reading “AXANAR schedules shoots in AUGUST and OCTOBER!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #11.2 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 2)

INTERLUDE is nearly complete, and this is likely my final “Interlude Confidential” before the release. Last week, I began reminiscing about the big two-day shoot last November at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA. For me, it was truly the culmination of the filmmaking experience…even though there would still be another eight months of intense work. But the shoot itself—that was pure magic.

Nearly 50 people came together that weekend with a single goal in mind: to produce a top-quality Star Trek fan film. They weren’t making gobs of money; they simply wanted to be a part of something fun, creative, exciting and dynamic.

A lot of things had the potential to go wrong. The most effective teams work and train together for weeks, months, or even years to maximize their effectiveness. Our team, with a few exceptions, was mostly strangers who had only met for the first time that weekend. Would they mesh together like a well-oiled machine, or would there be friction? Would one or more people with egos grate against the others, show an attitude, or be uncooperative? I’ve been told it can (and often does) happen, and even one bad apple can cripple a production.

And last but not least—in addition to the thousand other things that could could go wrong—there was me. I’d never been a producer before! It was my job to take care of a seemingly endless list of items to ensure the set would be ready for VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN to film on: everything from making sure all the actors, extras, and production team knew where and when to show up to getting measurements for uniforms to the seamstress to ordering the rental camera equipment to finding the caterer and making sure there were tables and chairs for the food plus a hundred other little details. I needed to make sure everything was prepared so my directors and production crew could focus on making an awesome fan film.

Was I up to the task?

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #11.2 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 2)”

USS Ares BLUEPRINTS now available in a new Kickstarter for ARES STUDIOS!

Hurry, hurry! Get ’em while they’re hot…and available! (Well, at least get them while they’re still only $30 plus shipping.)

Last month, ALEC PETERS raised nearly $10K for ARES STUDIOS in a Kickstarter that offered a special Master Systems Display cutaway poster of the USS Ares, the fan-favorite Starfleet assault cruiser depicted in PRELUDE TO AXANAR, the soon-to-be released INTERLUDE fan film, and the upcoming AXANAR sequels. The campaign ended up passing two stretch goals, adding two additional free posters to the orders for all donors: a cutaway of the Geronimo-class and a D7 tactical display.

That campaign, it turns out, was just a warm-up to the main event: a new Kickstarter offering a full set of USS ARES BLUEPRINTS! In total, it will be eight 11″ x 17″ blueprint sheets that show every deck and part of the Ares-Class Assault Cruiser.

The campaign launched at 9:30am Eastern Time with a goal of $3,000 (the same as the first campaign) and a 16-day duration. That means, according to Kickstarter rules, that Ares Studios has only half a month to reach that goal or else they get zero. No worries, though, as the campaign surpassed that goal in HALF A DAY (closer to just seven hours) and is currently at $4,906 from 100 backers as I write this. There’s actually a stretch goal of $10K that, if reached, will result in every donor being sent a free 11″ x 17″ version of the USS Ares Master System Display poster from the first campaign.

Naturally, I ordered mine as soon as got to my computer this morning. Ever since I first got ahold of the original Franz Joseph blueprints for the USS Enterprise back in 1975, I have LOVED deck-by-deck renderings of starships. There haven’t been many full sets done over the years, but the few that have been published remain some of the jewels of my collection.

When I heard that Axanar graphic designer ALEXANDER RICHARDSON was creating deck-by-deck blueprints of the USS Ares-class, I got very excited. And when I first saw some of his initial layouts, excitement quickly turned to elation. Each time he completed and shared another deck, I marveled at the careful attention to detail, thought, and quality that went into every line.

Alexander used Adobe Illustrator to create the blueprints, spending an average of 5-10 hours per deck and then another 3 hours laying them out on the individual pages (plus extra time making alterations along the way). Alexander told me, “I based the aesthetics on Rick Sternbach’s Enterprise-D blueprints, a copy of which has been hanging on my walls for reference for some time.”

Just take a look at some of these samples…

Continue reading “USS Ares BLUEPRINTS now available in a new Kickstarter for ARES STUDIOS!”

I met an AXANAR fan at the supermarket … and he reads my blog!

There are about 4 million people living in Los Angeles, 40 million in California, 330 million in the United States, and 7.6 billion in the world. Of those, a few hundred to a few thousand read this blog each day. (I can happily live with that.)

Over the years, I’ve met people at Star Trek-related events who have seen my blog…or at least folks who know about fan films. But yesterday I had that experience in, of all places, my local supermarket!

I was wearing my custom-designed AXANAR T-shirt (shown in the photo above) while doing grocery shopping, and a fellow standing near me in produce said, “I like the design on your shirt!”

I looked down—having forgotten what I was wearing(!!!)—and said, “Oh, thanks. Are you familiar with Axanar?”

He was, and I didn’t feel that surprised. PRELUDE TO AXANAR has nearly 4.5 million views on YouTube, and it got a lot of coverage in the press during 2015-2016. ALEC PETERS talks about how he occasionally gets recognized in public, and I’ve actually been with him once when it happened…so I’ve seen in it action.

“Do you know if that fan film is going to be finished?” the man asked me. (I get that question a lot.)

“Absolutely,” I said. “In fact, I talked to the show-runner just yesterday, and there’s a shoot tentatively scheduled for next month. Most of the two sequels have already been filmed at this point, and some post-production has started.”

“Oh?” he said, sounding impressed that I knew so much. “Are you involved with the project?”

“Kinda,” I said. “I write a blog about Star Trek fan films called Fan Film Factor.

“I read that blog!” he said. Now, before I allowed myself to feel completely shocked, I will admit to being temporarily dubious…after all, maybe he was just being polite and had never heard of my blog in his life. But then he added, “In fact, I saw it was down this past weekend. Is it back up now?”

HOLY FRACK! He really does read my blog! I thought.

Continue reading “I met an AXANAR fan at the supermarket … and he reads my blog!”