INTERLUDE Confidential #1: Jonathan, the Executive Producer…

It was the best of times, it was…aw, heck! IT WAS FRICKIN’ AWESOME!!!

I’m referring, of course, to the main shoot of my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE that took place about a week ago as I write this. It’s taken me this long just to process the amazing, kaleidoscopic experience I had.

With so much to tell you all about what happened, I wondered how best to do it. A single blog about the weekend would read like War and Peace and still barely scratch the surface. So instead, I’m going to break it down into smaller chunks, and each will end with a series of on-set photos. (I’m still editing through everything…and there’s gonna be at least a few hundred pictures!)

I’ve decided to call this blog series Interlude Confidential. (Not quite sure what made me think of that title…maybe ALEC PETERS can tell me.) Anyway, if you don’t want to read that much, then feel free just to look at the photos and enjoy the captions. But if you’re curious what the experience of being a first-time Executive Producer on a Star Trek fan film felt like, then these blogs will be my “Vulcan mind-meld” with you.

And speaking of executive producing, that’s a really good topic for the first blog about this fan film production. What exactly did Jonathan do?

Many months ago when I first kicked off the Interlude GoFundMe campaign (still accepting donations, by the way!), a few folks in a certain Facebook group complained that I was doing little to make my own fan film besides simply raising money for it (which is quite a chore in and of itself, y’know!). And truth to tell, I initially thought that was the extent of it.

Sure, I also wrote the script, was designing the insignia, and getting uniforms and patches made. But my Directors VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN are the experienced industry professionals. I’m just a guy who likes fan films and blogs about them obsessively. So I figured that, once I raised the money, I’d hand the steering wheel over to them, climb into the back seat, and take a well-deserved nap for the rest of the trip.

Yeah…that totally did NOT happen!!!

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The TWO missions of the INTERLUDE fan project…

We all know the primary mission of the USS Enterprise: to explore strange, new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man/one has gone before.

But if you think about it, any decent science vessel could do that job just as easily. The Enterprise was different, though. While its primary mission was one of exploration and discovery, the crew had many, many more responsibilities: peacekeeper, diplomacy, war ship, search and rescue, medical transport, resupply, and even (in a couple of cases) espionage.

The starship Enterprise carried out many kinds of missions, and in the same way, so will my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. Unquestionably, the primary mission (aside from having fun…always a must for fan productions!) is to make a slick, kick-ass fan film for you all to enjoy. But like our favorite TOS and TNG starship, Interlude had some additional tasks to accomplish…among them showing how Ares Studios is a viable resource for other fan films beyond just AXANAR (Vance Major gets his chance in a few more months) and demonstrating that it’s still possible to crowd-fund a Star Trek fan film into the five-figure range even post-guidelines…while dutifully following those guidelines.

But there’s one other mission for Interlude which, to me at least, is the most important: I did it for the blog.

More specifically, I did it for the majority of my readers who might never have an actual opportunity to walk onto a fan film set or be a show-runner. Perhaps a few of you want to be an executive producer or director yourself someday. Or maybe you just want to get a ringside seat on all the action.

Either way, I’ve done (and will continue to do) something with Interlude that I’m pretty sure has never been done before with any other fan film. I’m documenting nearly everything that’s gone into making it—from budgeting to building the team to all of the strategies I’ve used to crowd-fund to pre-production design to casting and costuming details. (No Land’s End shirts!) Thanks to these many blogs, my readers are getting to “look over my shoulder” at nearly every detail…assuming they’re interested in such things. To me, that’s actually one of the most exciting aspects of this whole process: not only do I get to watch and be a part of it all, but I can SHARE the experience with all of you!

And this past weekend’s shoot was no exception.

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And that’s a WRAP for the first (main) shoot of INTERLUDE!

I don’t have much time to blog this morning ’cause it’s still going to be a very busy day! But I did just send the following update to the donors for my GoFundMe campaign who made all of this possible. And I wanted to share the message here, as well…


Oh, man!

I am still processing what I can only describe as a kaleidoscopic weekend of amazingness shooting the main scenes of INTERLUDE at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, Georgia. It’s gonna take a LOT of blogs to fully convey the experience of the past 3 days. But first, I need to record some lines on audio this morning, get to the airport, and fly back to Los Angeles.

All I have time to tell you right now is that your donations were not only well-spent, they were MASTERFULLY spent by a team whose talent and ability astounded me. I think we came pretty close to NOT going over budget, but I’ll need to crunch the numbers when I get home. I might need to beg for a few hundred dollars more. Maybe not. At one point, there was so much happening on set that I just handed my credit card over to someone (I don’t even remember who!) along with a laundry list of everything we needed locally and where to get it–from gaffer’s tape to extra snacks and Gatorade. It was a little surreal. (Thank heavens I got my credit card back!)

But let me assure you folks: this fan film will not only be awesome, it will be a visual work of art. Josh Irwin’s mastery of lighting and color gave his shots a cinematic feel reminiscent of the stunning palette of first season TOS on a bridge so similar yet uniquely different. And Victoria drew out some amazing on-screen performances from both trained actors and a few untrained fans (’cause we’re still a FAN film, folks!).

Anyway, more fun and fantastic details, videos, pictures (SO many photos!), interviews, and stories to come…as soon as I have time to go through more than 900 photos and about 10 hours of behind-the-scenes footage. Stay tuned…and THANK YOU ALL again for making this dream possible.

‘Twas the night before INTERLUDE shoots…

So far, so good. Although my directors are still on the road as I write this, they’re within a state or two of getting here. The weather this weekend will be awesome (30-40 degrees less than it was for Axanar four weeks ago); we’ll be in the 58-60 degree range with no rain in sight.

The studio is ready, the Assistant Director has the call sheets. The costumes are ready (thanks to the amazing work of KAREN SHUEY and her son STEPHEN). Alec’s house is full, including myself, TREY McELWAIN, and his wife NICOLE as guests. Others are in nearby hotels or will be driving to Lawrenceville in the next day or two.

And tonight, we gathered at Alec’s for the weekly Axanar Confidential livecast focused on INTERLUDE. I invited anyone who wanted to be on camera to take part, and we had a BLAST! There’s not much time (or energy left in my body) right now to blog—or probably for the rest of the weekend—so have fun watching the gang (or at least six of us) talk about everything that’s been going on…

TEAM INTERLUDE expands – we film THIS SATURDAY!!! (part 1)

Holy temporal distortion!

Back when I started the GoFundMe for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE back in early June, it felt like November 2-3 was a million months away. Now I’ll be getting on a plane for Atlanta this Friday, and I’m feeling a dozen different emotions all at once: excitement, anticipation, dread, abject terror…it runs the gamut, folks!

Y’see, I watched all of those livecasts from the first AXANAR shoot four weeks ago, saw all of those moving parts—the 80-plus volunteers, the costumes, the sound and computer-monitoring equipment, the lights, the cameras, the action, the caterers—and I got totally overwhelmed. That’s a tough act to follow!

Granted, Interlude isn’t nearly that big of a shoot—we’re expecting about 30 people a day, not 80-plus. But make no mistake: there are still a LOT of moving parts to my project, too…and I’m smack in the middle of most of them!

I naively thought that, after the crowd-funder reached its $19.5K goal, that I’d just be able to slide into the proverbial back seat and let my Directors, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN do the driving the rest of the way. Oh, sure, as Executive Producer, I’d pay the bills for things like patches, plaques, equipment rental, wardrobe, travel expenses, catering, etc. And I’d be supervising my friend LEWIS ANDERSON on the CGI effects. But aside from that and showing up at the shoot, running a few errands, and taking lots of photos and videos for the blog, I figured that I was essentially done.

Boy, was I wrong!

You might have noticed a slowdown in my blog coverage of fan films over the past several weeks. This is mainly because I’ve been doing a boatload of work on Interlude! This doesn’t mean that Victoria and Josh have’t been working their butts off, too. But they haven’t let me sneak into the back seat yet. I am still VERY much in the thick of things!

If you’re a fan filmmaker or, more precisely, are thinking of becoming one, then this blog is for you. I’d like to share my journey, my “trek,” with folks who might be curious to see all of the things a complete novice like me is doing and learning along the way…

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TEAM INTERLUDE expands – we film THIS SATURDAY!!! (part 2)

As I mentioned in Part 1, these two blogs are intended primarily for those folks interested in fan filmmaking, whether they’re already making fan films or if they’re thinking of taking the plunge for the first time…as I’m doing right now.

Granted, fan films range from super-cheap where there’s only a handful of people (or even as few as two or one) to the super-large productions like STAR TREK CONTINUES and AXANAR where 50 to 100 people might end up being a part of the production. If I had to place our INTERLUDE project on this sliding scale from, let’s call it, one to ten, I’d say we’re a solid seven.

So this blog might not apply directly to every fan project. But if you’re smaller, it might help with a step up to a more ambitious level. And if you’re bigger, then you’d probably just be amused at all the stuff the “newbie” is going through. I’ll simply say that I wish I’d been able to read a blog like this before I started tackling Interlude!

Okay, let’s get back to discussing our rapidly-expanding team who will all be descending on Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA this coming weekend. (EEEEP!)

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AXANAR debuts its first TEASER-TRAILER!

It’s been less than two weeks since the first shoot for AXANAR wrapped, and ALEC PETERS just released the first teaser-trailer for what will be called THE GATHERING STORM. PRELUDE TO AXANAR was episode III of “The “Four Year War” multi-part documentary series from the 23rd century. The first two episodes will need to remain left up to fans’ imagination. But the two Axanar sequels will be episodes IV and V, completing the series. It has not yet been revealed what the title of the final episode will be.

The 1-minute YouTube video quickly went viral, with thousands of views in the first hour alone. You can check it out below…

Prior to the release of the above video, nearly 1,400 Axanar supporters gathered for a live premiere party at 9:00pm Eastern time. Then they waited about 5 minutes while Alec dealt with a technical glitch. But once the clip debuted, the reactions were very positive…judging by the 841 likes and only a handful of dislikes (less than 10 while it was still live). The only complaint was that fan wanted more-more-MORE!

Indeed, the actual amount of Axanar footage was only 25 seconds, but it was enough to give a tantalizing first taste of the quality of the video production, lighting, camera tracking, make-up, costumes, VFX, and look and feel of the sets and actors. Alec assured everyone that more and longer trailers would be coming soon.

Believe it or not, this was actually a lot of footage considering that editor BING BAILEY has a day job that exploded with a crisis this past week and took up most of his time. Remember, folks, that the Axanar team is made up of volunteers with real-life commitments along with their love of Star Trek and fan films (one fan film in particular!).

A question that came up was whether the superchat donations that came in during the livestream could be considered public crowd-funding (a no-no under the legal settlement with CBS and Paramount). Alec assured all viewers that any money collected through YouTube would be applied to Ares Studios (a separate legal entity) and NOT to Axanar Productions in any way.

Speaking of crowd-funding, Alec and his girlfriend CRYSSTAL HUBBARD were very careful during the 75-minute discussion following the premiere NOT to discuss Axanar crowd-funding in any way. The closest they got was suggesting that people sign up for the Axanar newsletter or go to Ares Digital…which is not the same as soliciting donations. Alec and Crysstal made certain not to say, “If you want to help crowd-fund, then go to Ares Digital where you can make a donation.”

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AXANAR raises $15.7K in first ten days of private crowd-funding!

The big news in the fan film world a week and a half ago was, of course, the wildly successful first shooting weekend for AXANAR. If you haven’t already, you can take a look at the many, MANY online streamed videos of the exciting shoot here, here, and here.

A week later, the biggest news is how much ALEC PETERS has managed to raise in just ten days of private crowd-funding for the production of the two Axanar sequel fan films. As of the publication of this blog, that number stands at nearly $15,800!

And what’s most amazing about that total is that those donations are almost exclusively from existing donors…with no public marketing or advertising of the campaign thus far. (In contrast, my GoFundMe for INTERLUDE took six times that long to raise that amount.)

You might be wondering why Alec is trying to raise money AFTER the shoot rather than before it. The answer is simple. Alec paid for the first shoot entirely out of his own pocket…about $75,000, according to him. This brings the total money that Alec has personally put into funding Axanar over the last five years well over a quarter of a million dollars.

“While I don’t mind fronting money for the remaining production,” Alec told me, “and I’ve certainly been doing quite a lot of that, Axanar was never intended to be funded by just one person. And honestly, I no longer have anything left to put into this project…much as I’d love to.

“So now we have to go back to our existing donors as we return to our roots of being a crowd-funded fan film. And that means we need $70,000 right now to fund the costs for our first two shoots. That’ll cover some of the expenses I already paid, although not all. Considering that our second shoot is going to cost another $20,000, even when we reach the full goal amount, I’ll probably still be left having put about $25,000 of my own money into these first two shoots. I don’t mind that, but I simply can’t afford $70,000 or more.

“So that’s where our existing donors need to step up. And they’re already starting to—which is fantastic!”

The next question I had for Alec is one that many people are asking right now: is Alec actually allowed to crowd-fund Axanar anymore? What does his legal settlement with CBS and Paramount let him do and not do when it comes to fundraising? Does he have to abide by the $50,000 limit imposed by the guidelines, or does he get a special waiver to exceed that limit (just as Alec has a special exemption allowing him to use professional Star Trek veteran actors like J.G. HERTZELR and GARY GRAHAM)?

Alec answered my questions for this blog with a blog of his own that he just posted on the Axanar website. You can read it below…

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INTERLUDE update: How do you solve a problem like Ramirez?

The whole reason INTERLUDE exists (will exist) is because ALEC PETERS wanted to explain why Admiral Ramirez won’t be appearing in the Axanar sequels. In reality, actor TONY TODD left the production and declined to play Ramirez again. Actors J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, and the late RICHARD HATCH, on the other hand, decided to stick with Alec and see it through.

And while the loss of Richard hit us all very hard, it turned out that losing Tony Todd, even though he is an amazing actor, wasn’t as devastating a set-back for the Axanar script as was the loss of Kharn. In other words, it was fairly easy to write out Ramirez and replace him with a different Starfleet commanding admiral. In Alec’s original draft, Ramirez gets wounded while being escorted back on a convoy from a secret meeting. His injuries are serious enough that he has to sit out the rest of the war, turning over his duties to Admiral Threl of Androria.

My Interlude script took that quick “oh, by the way…” bit of exposition and expanded it into a 10-12 minute fan film (or so I hope!). The only problem is: now I need to show Ramirez!

Granted, he only needs to be wounded, so he won’t have any spoken lines. In the comic book version, it was easy to show him—as the artwork in the panel above illustrates him lying in the Ares sickbay covered in blood. But what about the fan film?

Of course, I could simply take the easy way out and just not show Ramirez in Sickbay at all…and instead have the doctor call up to the bridge, “Captain, Admiral Ramirez is in critical condition down here!” But that would have been such a cop out.

Also, I was kinda looking forward to filming a scene somewhere other than on the Ares Studios bridge set. Granted, it’s a AWESOME set, but I really wanted one or two other locations for the action, as well. Initially, that Sickbay scene was going to be filmed at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA on the TOS sets previously used for Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut. But that offer was rescinded. Fortunately, GLEN WOLFE stepped up and volunteered his WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas for the Sickbay scene.

Now we just needed to find someone to play Admiral Ramirez…!

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AXANAR completes its first shoot – WHY IT MATTERS…!

It's nothing to do with what we got today.  That's great.  It's the next piece...and the piece after that...until we finish the work.  And at that point, we can be judged on our finished piece of work.  That's how it works.  So we had a great time; we did some really great stuff.  The trick is to finish it, not to start it.

- PAUL JENKINS, Axanar Director

For the past almost-four years, I’ve been asked the same question over and over again: “Why do you stick with ALEC PETERS?” The reasons they give for me turning my back on him are numerous: he’s a con-man, he’s incompetent, he’s not a nice person, no one will work with him, he’ll stab you in the back, he’ll never make AXANAR, you’re wasting your time on this loser…the list goes on and on.

Earlier this summer, someone even offered me actual money to walk away from Alec (and pretty decent money at that!) in the form of an “investment” to help take Fan Film Factor to the next level. All I had to do was stop defending Alec Peters, make Interlude without him, and stop providing coverage of Axanar on my blog. It was a serious offer from someone with the funds to make good on it, and sincerely proffered. I refused. (And no, I won’t tell you who made the offer, so don’t ask.)

When you believe in something—a person, a thing, a dream—and someone else doesn’t, it’s hard to connect with them to convey just how important it is to you…how deeply you love it and are committed to it. It happens all the time with religion and politics…and with me, it happened with Star Trek, with fan films, and most deeply with Axanar.

I fell in love with Axanar, with the pocket universe within Star Trek that it created. It didn’t matter whether or not it was “canon”; it was canon to me. And I wanted to see more. CBS and Paramount almost took that away from me and from other Axanar supporters, but we never lost hope. We believed—we KNEW—this weekend would someday arrive. And now that it did, everything has changed.

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