Hmmmm, let’s see…should I show you the new INTERLUDE trailer first and then talk about it—or talk about it first and then show it? Aw heck, I know you all really wanna see the new trailer…!
Pretty cool, huh? For those of you unfamiliar with the 1970s sci-fi TV series Space 1999, that trailer is an homage to the way they used to start their episodes (take a look at this video to see an example). The opening credits for that series would include rapid-fire quick cuts from various scenes of “this episode” followed by a slower musical bridge where they would show some of the names behind the production. Then the date would flash: September 13th, 1999—the day the moon supposedly would have been blasted out of earth’s orbit to begin its odyssey through deep space.
Cheesy? Yeah…it was 1975, for gosh sakes! But back then, with Star Trek and Lost in Space in reruns, Doctor Who hidden on weird channels at weird times, and Star Wars still two years away, Space 1999 was one of the only first-run sci-fi games in town. And let’s face it, those eagle transport spacecraft were friggin’ cool! I loved that show, and I loved the opening credits sequences.
So what does any of this have to do with my Axanar Universe fan film Interlude, you ask? Well, technically nothing. That’s not even the actual music I’ll be using (composer KEVIN CROXTON is creating an original score for Interlude).
Okay, so a lot happened over the past few days in Lawrenceville, GA…the home of ARES STUDIOS. If you read yesterday’s blog, you know that the AXANAR project got a jaw-dropping $10,000 donation last Thursday from a very generous and supportive donor…bringing the total for the current private crowd-funding campaign above $20K. The goal was also adjusted upwards from $30K to $35K to bring in a little money to start work on post production while production (filming) is on hold due to the pandemic.
And while I was writing all of that up in a blog, ALEC PETERS was also launching a brand new Kickstarter to fund production of the first in a series of “Master Systems Display” Posters…the first one (pictured above) featuring a beautiful side cutaway view of the USS Ares. The artwork was lovingly and meticulously created by graphic designer extraordinaire ALEXANDER RICHARDSON of Great Britain. He’s actually created a whole bunch of these images based on the various ships from PRELUDE TO AXANAR. And if the first Kickstarter is successful, additional posters will be offered to fans with the proceeds going to help Ares Studios live long and prosper.
Actually, there’s no need to say “if” the first Kickstarter is successful. With a 15-day duration, the campaign reached the $1,200 goal in less than an hour, and within the first few hours had crossed the first stretch goal threshold of $3,000 (which unlocked a second poster—the USS Geronimo class—which will be sent free to all donors). After 24 hours, the campaign had added another thousand and was now closing in on the second stretch goal of $5,000 (which unlocks a mystery poster).
Not entirely unexpectedly, some less-than-supportive fans caught wind of the Kickstarter and mistakenly assumed that Alec was violating the legal settlement that he had signed with CBS and Paramount in January 2017, ending the infringement lawsuit and allowing Alec to complete two Axanar sequel films (15 minutes each) as long as he did not publicly fund the project using services like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
Since Alec was using Kickstarter for these posters, they surmised, he must be breaking the settlement agreement and would quickly see a cease and desist letter (or worse!) from the lawyers at Loeb & Loeb on behalf of the corporation now known as ViacomCBS.
There are multiple reasons that these folks are wrong, of course. After all, Alec Peters isn’t stupid and did graduate from law school and pass the bar. He’d never risk the Axanar project and potentially his own livelihood just to print up a few hundred posters.
So, yes, this is all on the up and up. But just in case anyone is still dubious, let’s briefly discuss the biggest reasons that Alec is NOT running afoul of his settlement agreement…
ARES STUDIOS IS A SEPARATE LEGAL ENTITY FROM AXANAR PRODUCTIONS
This is, of course, the biggest elephant in the living room. The settlement was signed by Alec Peters on behalf of Axanar Productions. That means that only those two entities can be in breach of that agreement if, in fact, a breach ever happens.
Ares Studios did not exist until seven months after the settlement had been signed and Alec moved himself and the sets from California to Georgia. Therefore, there is no way (barring time travel) for Ares Studios to be considered a signatory of the settlement agreement that was signed before Ares Studios ever existed.
ARES STUDIOS IS NOT ALEC PETERS
Ares Studios is a not-for-profit corporation based in Lawrenceville, GA. Alec Peters is a corporate officer of Ares Studios (one of several) but not considered the corporation itself. Sometimes the Axanar detractors dream of CBS’s lawyers someday “piercing the corporate veil” to determine that Ares Studios is just Alec Peters in disguise or some such. It doesn’t work that way in the real world, however. Don’t take my word for it. Click that link I just provided or just read the following quotation from that article:
“…generally courts have a strong presumption against piercing the corporate veil, and will only do so if there has been serious misconduct.”
Printing a bunch of posters is not “serious misconduct,” folks.
Alec Peters has started a number of small businesses in his time. The legal settlement applies to only ONE of those businesses: Axanar Productions. All other ventures Alec engages in are his business (literally and figuratively).
A STUDIO IS NOT THE SAME AS A FILM
The legal settlement applied only to the production of a fan film called Axanar, the sequel to a previous fan film called Prelude to Axanar. That’s it. It didn’t apply to sets or lights or cameras or green screens or costumes or props or anything other than a finished fan film production.
Ares Studios is a film studio. It’s not nearly as big or impressive as, say, Pinewood Studios an hour’s drive southwest in Fayetteville, GA, but perhaps that’s still a good example to bring up. You see, since it opened in 2013, Pinewood Studios has played host to the filming of eight Marvel blockbusters including Civil War, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the last two Avengers movies. But Pinewood Studios has no ownership in any of those films. They’re all Disney. The Walking Dead is also filmed at Pinewood, but the production company is AMC Studios. Pinewood is just a place they use to film.
The same is true for Axanar and Ares Studios. Ares Studios is just the facility where Axanar is being filmed. Several other productions have also filmed at the studio, including my own production INTERLUDE, a parody sci-fi project from PUAL JENKINS, and a number of student films. After the pandemic, Alec is planning to film even more productions there…and none of them are Axanar.
The legal settlement only forbids Alec from publicly crowd-funding Axanar itself, not from crowd-funding the rent of a studio used for multiple productions besides Axanar.
THE TWO FINANCIALS ARE COMPLETELY SEPARATE
This probably goes without saying, but money given to the Kickstarter for the posters goes to Ares Studiosonly (minus the cost of printing, packing, and shipping). The money for Axanar is being collected privately via the Ares Digital 3.0 firewall, not using Kickstarter or any other public service. Alec has been careful not to promote the Axanar fundraiser publicly, and so he is abiding in good faith to the specifics of the settlement.
HALF A YEAR WITH NO COMPLAINTS FROM THE STUDIOS
Late last year, Alec received two Notice of Breach letters over a two-month period from David Grossman, one of the attorneys from Loeb & Loeb, CBS’s outside law firm. Alec had actually received about 8 or 9 of these letters since the settlement in 2017, and Alec has always responded, addressing any issues raised and making corrections to his practices when needed. And when the issues raised were either misunderstandings or incorrect, Alec would clarify that the thing(s) they had a problem with weren’t really a problem, explain why…and that would be the end of it. There has never been any follow up by CBS or Loeb & Loeb about any unresolved issue.
This time, though, Alec felt particularly aggrieved by the letters, especially after the first letter got leaked to a detractor in an attempt to sabotage the first Axanar shoot in October. In the process of looking into this leak, Alec discovered to his shock that Mr. Grossman had contacted him (Alec) on behalf of CBS without informing CBS that he (Mr. Grossman) was doing so.
So Alec sent a copy of his second response directly to executives at CBS letting them know what their lawyer was up to and pointing out that, with Star Trek: Picard about to launch, it might not be the best time for stories to start appearing in the media about CBS continuing to harass their fans with legal intimidation after resolving a year-long lawsuit amicably.
And to be fair, Alec has been a good Star Trek citizen. He is never overly critical of CBS on his live streams and podcasts, he loves Picard, and is excited about the new Pike series Strange New Worlds.
Although I can’t read the minds of the folks at what is now ViacomCBS, my guess is that they don’t think that a guy raising money in the tens of thousands of dollars (no longer over a million) to produce a 30-minute fan film is worth the public relations hassle at such a critical time for All Access. And they certainly wouldn’t care about a bunch of posters and a $1,200 Kickstarter.
In the past six months, Alec hasn’t received a single communication from anyone at either Loeb & Loeb or ViacomCBS…and this despite having a Patreon for Ares Studios taking in $2,600/ month and an online store selling patches, mugs, T-shirts, stickers, hats, messenger bags, and a whole bunch of other “swag.” Long story short, if CBS had a problem with Alec publicly funding Ares Studios while privately funding Axanar, I suspect he would have heard more than crickets over the past six months.
THERE’S NO STAR TREK INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN ANYTHING ALEC IS SELLING
Even if ViacomCBS did have some kind of problem with Alec selling swag, it’s hard for them to do anything about it. As I pointed out above, Ares Studios never signed a legal settlement with the studios. And if it’s a case of pulling the infringement alarm again, take a close look at what’s being sold. There’s nothing on any product that says “Star Trek,” nothing that uses any of ViacomCBS’s licensed trademarks, and no intellectual property unique to Star Trek and only Star Trek. Words like “phaser,” “transporter,” and “warp” are too generic to ever be granted copyright protection. And you won’t find unique words like “Klingon” or established starship designs like the USS Enterprise on any Axanar merchandise.
In short, everything that Alec and Ares Studios are selling is 100% original intellectual property that Alec owns the rights to. Anyone arguing differently isn’t looking carefully at the products themselves. This is all completely legit.
So if you think the stuff is cool and worth owning, and you have the money to spare, then shop (or donate) with a clear conscience, my friends…
Earlier this week, the private fundraising total was at $10,795…although the number hadn’t moved much recently. The global economic uncertainty from the pandemic is understandably slowing crowd-funding donations down to a veritable standstill. Sure, the Axanar total still moves a little, but over the past three weeks, only $795 had come in since it crossed the $10K mark on April 22.
So imagine my surprise when I refreshed the tab on Thursday and saw the total was at $20,795!
For the first few seconds, my mind didn’t process it. I’d just checked it a couple of days before, and it was at $10,795…so my brain first looked at the “795” part and thought: Oh, well…hasn’t moved. Then it started sinking in—did I see a “2” at the beginning of the number? I checked again. Holy frack! This was either some system glitch with Ares Digital 3.0 or else someone had just given ALEC PETERS ten grand!
It was about 3am for Alec in Atlanta (midnight for me in L.A.), so the answer to my question would need to wait until morning. But first thing, I texted Alec. Yep, it really was a $10,000 donation…and Alec had been just as surprised as I was when he’d found out the day before.
The donor hasn’t given me permission to share his identity, but Alec confirmed that he had given $1,000 to the previous Axanar campaign that had raised money for the second Georgia shoot in March. Apparently, this fellow has been so impressed by the organization and progress of Axanar over the recent months that he decided to provide a second, jaw-droppingly generous donation. The donor called Alec on Thursday explaining how truly enthusiastic he was about the project, and how he had decided to give some more. “Check your account,” he told Alec over the phone—and when he did, Alec was almost speechless…except for a wave of sincere gratitude flowing out to let this donor how much his support meant to the project and to Alec personally.
In the meantime, there have been a few major changes to the Axanar production and post-production game-plan recently, so I might as well catch you up…
When our Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE is released in a few months and the credits roll, two names will appear prominently: JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX. And it’s because of them that Interlude will not only be an awesome Star Trek fan film but also a visual work of art.
A year and a half ago, when I first suggested to Josh the idea of shooting a fan film on the Ares bridge set, I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations other than, “It’ll be SOOOOO cool!” Y’see, the Ares Studios bridge set is just so darn awesome-looking that I figured any fan film shot on it would have to look amazing. And when Josh started talking about all of the ways he planned to light it, the angles he’d shoot it from, types of lenses he’d use, etc.—it all just zoomed completely over my head. I simply figured that my fan film was in good hands, and it was gonna be such a blast flying to Georgia and getting to watch someone shoot on those sets.
A couple of months later when I discovered that Victoria usually collaborated with Josh on their amazing AVALON UNIVERSE fan films, I invited her to come on board the project, as well…and after some discussion, she accepted. At the time, I naively thought I understood how things worked with the two of them: Josh would set up the lights and cameras (cinematography) while Victoria would work with the actors. The perfect team, splitting the tasks right down the middle.
Back in January, I wrote a blog discussing how we were transitioning from the production phase into post-production on my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. Over the past three months, JOSHUA IRWIN, VICTORIA FOX, and I have been working hard on the editing. As of this past weekend, we officially have picture lock.
“What’s the heck is a picture lock??” you ask.
Editing is kinda fun. You move a shot here, you trim a shot there, maybe you add an extra reaction shot in another spot. As you assemble the “puzzle pieces,” you can experiment and shift things around, tweaking and refining to your heart’s content. But there comes a point when you have to stop and hand the edit off to your composer.
Music is kinda unforgiving. If a scene lasts for 57 seconds, then you need 57 seconds of music underneath it. So that’s what your composer gives you. If the director or editor later decides to insert a 5-second clip in the middle of the scene or trim out 12 seconds, then the music will no longer match the scene length, and the composer will have to re-do all of the music for that scene from scratch. And eventually, if this happens too much, he or she will likely quit, often accompanied by a long series of expletives.
So achieving picture lock is a “speak now or forever hold your peace” moment. Once you hand the edit off to your composer, nothing changes that affects the timing. Nothing. Period.
Picture lock doesn’t mean the edit is all done except for the music, however. In fact, there is still a LOT left to do! For Interlude, LEWIS ANDERSON still needs to deliver two more VFX shots. “Wait,” you say, “doesn’t adding in VFX shots affect the timing and length of the film?” Not in this case. For one of the shots, Lewis has already provided us a low-resolution previsualization animatic to insert as a placeholder. His final high-resolution VFX shot will be the exact same length. In the other shot, he’s creating the digital background of Admiral Slater’s office at Starfleet Academy. We shot Slater (STEVEN JEPSON) against a green screen, and those video sequences are completed. So adding in the background doesn’t change the scene length.
Joshua is also still working on finishing touches here and there like shakes and flashes and sparks. But none of those things will affect the timing. We’re also adding in the background “bridge chatter” sounds, which doesn’t change timing either.
On Saturday, our composer KEVIN CROXTON began composing our score. Once he’s done, the edit goes to MARK EDWARD LEWIS for post-production sound-mixing. He’ll add sound effects, adjust the levels of everyone’s voices, clean up stray sounds from the set, and balance the music with the dialogue and other sounds so nothing is drowning out anything else. At this point, we’re still a month or two away from being finished.
A lot was happening in the world of AXANAR just three short weeks ago. After raising $50K to cover 2/3 of the cost of the first two shoots at Ares Studios (ALEC PETERS covered the rest personally), an additional $5K was raised in a new private crowdfunding campaign in February. That allowed a third one-day shoot to happen on March 15, just as fears of the pandemic were beginning to take hold in many states.
This led Alec to announce via Axanar Confidential that the fourth shoot, a major two-day green screen excursion to Los Angeles to film nearly half a dozen aliens in full prosthetics and makeup, would be delayed and no longer happen in April as planned. And the premiere of Axanar itself would likely no longer occur at San Diego Comic Con, as it was possible that the huge gathering of hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans might itself be canceled.
This didn’t stop Axanar completely, however. The first full trailer was released online the night of March 15, and you can see it here if you haven’t already…
This followed the release a few weeks earlier of some rough cut footage of actor JAMIE RENELL doing some background ad-lib for his on-screen interview as USS Ares Chief Engineer Alexei Leonov…
And of course, on March 15 Axanar also launched its third private fundraiser on Ares Digital, this one with a goal of $30K to cover the major “alien shoot” in L.A. Some people asked if this was an appropriate time to raise money for a Star Trek fan film with people being furloughed and losing their jobs and the economy in a tailspin. Alec answered that question in a blog on the Axanar.com website. At the time, the campaign had already taken in about 25% of its goal in less than a week. In the two weeks since then, donations have slowed considerably, although they’re still trickling in steadily…
If you’re interested in donating (and are able to), you can do so by clicking here:
The full trailer for AXANAR is finally here! Four months ago, after the first October shoot at Ares Studios, a brief teaser was released with about 30 seconds of actual footage—a combination of a couple of brief VFX sequences and a bunch of quick-cut live-action shots filmed on the USS Ares bridge set. Since then, however, fans and donors have been patiently (and not-so-patiently) waiting to see more.
And now that time has come. Over a thousand people watched the live premiere of the trailer live on Sunday evening. So many people wanted to donate to the Axanar fundraiser that it temporarily crashed Ares Digital and the Axanar.com websites! Both problems were fixed within the hour, but in the meantime, over $1,000 was donated to Ares Studios through superchats during the live podcast.
Here’s the new Axanar trailer…
Pretty impressive huh?
The just-launched fundraiser is attempting to raise $30K to pay the costs for a fourth and final shoot in a green screen studio in Los Angeles, travel and lodging, equipment rental, and most of all for the make-up and prosthetics for two Vulcans (including GARY GRAHAM as Soval), two Andorians, one Klingon plus two humans. (Will one of them be KATE VERNON as Sonya Alexander? No confirmation yet!)
The trailer does have a few visual glitches, so the plan is to re-edit it, possibly adding in some additional footage, and then re-release a new version in a week or so. And when that happens, I’ll be sure to let you all know.
Of course, the question on many people’s minds is why did it take until now (March 15) for the trailer to be released? After all, the first shoot was back in October and the second shoot in December. It’s now the middle of March. I spoke to ALEC PETERS and asked about the apparent delay. Here was his answer…
Post-production work on INTERLUDE is continuing, with our third rough cut edit currently being worked on. I love seeing it all take shape, and I adore watching actor WARREN HAWK playing USS ArtemisCaptain Imari Jakande. I can’t wait for you all to see him on screen!
Warren was the final actor we cast, and it happened only four days before before our November shoot! I was biting my fingernails down to the nubs, but VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN assured me that everything would work out. Sometimes actors are cast very late in the process; it’s just the nature of the industry. Turns out they were right.
Casting the rest of Interlude, by comparison, was relatively simple. Our other main character, Fleet Captain Kelvar Garth, would be played by ALEC PETERS (of course!). The rest of the speaking parts were pretty minor. Two of the actors who played bridge officers on the USS Ares for the AXANAR shoot in October—AARON ROMANO as Comm Officer Caine and ROBERT HAYES as PilotDeville—returned to play those same roles for Interlude‘s November shoot. Also on the Ares bridge was Science Officer Franklin, and Joshua got one of his friends, JAY PLYBURN (who lives in the area) for that part. Jay is also a trained actor, and Josh has directed him in the past.
Admiral Slater will appear at the end of Interlude, and STEVEN JEPSON agreed to play him. The two remaining on-camera speaking roles are the Ares doctor, a role which Victoria is filling, and the Artemis chief engineer, being played by an actor whose name we’re keeping secret for the moment (but it’s a person with some fan film experience). Then there’s two voice-over roles, plus all of the background actors who won’t be speaking.
After raising more than $50,000 to cover the costs for the first two AXANAR shoots back in October and December, ALEC PETERS just reached out to donors on the Axanar mailing list with a request for $3,400 for the third shoot.
Initially, Alec had announced that “Phase 2” of the private crowd-funding would try to raise another $30,000 to cover BOTH the upcoming third shoot at Ares Studios in mid-March as well as the planned fourth shoot in Los Angeles, which would include GARY GRAHAM as Soval along with other aliens requiring a skilled make-up team.
So why separate the fundraisers for the two campaigns?
I’ve been told that there are some specific expenses for the third shoot that need to be paid immediately up front. Alec, along with director PAUL JENKINS and producer SCOTT CONLEY, have streamlined the budget for the March shoot. They’re not doing all the bells and whistles that they did during the first two shoots. But they still have to do things like feed people on set, pay for transportation and lodging for key people traveling from out of state, rent equipment, pay for production insurance, etc.
Last time, Alec paid most of those outlays personally before raising the $50K. This time, Alec doesn’t have the funds to do that again, and there are expenses that need to be covered in the next two weeks. So there is a small campaign right now to raise $3,400, and then another campaign will launch in a couple of weeks to cover the more complex shoot #4.
To generate excitement, Alec just posted the following video of actor JAMIE RENELL “getting into” his character of Chief Engineer Alexei Leonov of the USS Ares. Rather that just having Jamie recite his lines from the script, Paul Jenkins did a little off-script improv with Jamie first, chatting with him as an “old friend” and having Jamie respond in character as Leonov (Russian accent and all). None of what you’re about to see is scripted, and the majority will likely not be included in the two Axanar sequels (except in the “extras”). But it’s still a really fun video…
For those waiting (im)patiently for the eagerly anticipated full Axanar trailer, I have good news! I’m told that you’ll see it within the next two weeks, timed to coincide with the launch of the fundraiser for shoot #4.
In the meantime, the Axanar fundraiser is—as required by the settlement with CBS and Paramount—behind a firewall and accessible only through the Ares Digital portal to fans who have signed up for an account. You can get there be clicking the following link…
When you get to the donate page, you’ll notice the goal is listed as only $2,300 and not $3,400. That is because one supporter already generously donated $1,100 directly. Already in the first few hours, nearly $800 more has come in…meaning that shoot #3 is only about $1,500 away from being fully funded!
For the fourth week in a row, I’ve got some AXANAR news that’s significant enough to warrant its own blog. And for anyone thinking, “Oh, you talk about Axanar all the time!”—my last Axanar blog prior to mid-January was three months earlier in mid-October.
Anyway, today’s new is actually VERY big, as it deals with Axanar‘s crowd-funding. As many of you are already aware, the legal settlement that ALEC PETERS signed with CBS and Paramount permitting him to produce and release Axanar as two 15-minute fan films does, in fact, allow him to crowd-fund them…and exceed the $50K guideline limit. But Alec isn’t permitted to use a public service like Kickstarter or Indiegogo; he must crowd-fund privately behind a firewall…which can be accessed at the following link:
Alec also cannot publicly solicit donations (although others are allowed to), meaning that Axanar cannot take out advertisements or post the above link on social media, and Alec can’t ask for donations in YouTube videos or during interviews. It’s a challenging constraint, to be certain, but Alec has been diligent to abide by that requirement of the settlement agreement.
And indeed, even being limited to requesting donations only via e-mails to Axanar‘s existing donor list, it’s even more impressive that Alec and his team have been able to raise more than double what even the most successful post-guidelines Star Trek fan films have been able to generate even using public crowd-funding sites and being allowed to solicit donations on social media and elsewhere.
Last Thursday, the Axanar Phase One crowd-funding campaign finally crossed its $50K goal threshold, effectively paying for the first two of the four scheduled shoots—which happened in October and December of last year. The remaining two shoots, currently scheduled for March (previously February) at Ares Studios and April in Los Angeles, will complete all of the live-action scenes necessary to finish the two Axanar sequels. (A potential fifth shoot at a special Los Angeles location is still up in the air at the moment.)
The Ares Studio shoot is fairly minor, just some green screen interviews of Garth and his first officer Tanaka. But the April shoot is major, involving GARY GRAHAM as Soval plus a few other aliens and some humans (KATE VERNON?—no public confirmation on that yet). There will be some significant costs associated with that shoot, including green screen studio rental in L.A. plus prosthetics and make-up.
The estimated budget for these two shoots is around $30K (not yet finalized), and Alec will be launching a Phase Two campaign for that in March, along with debuting the first full Axanar trailer!