The second panel from AXACON 2019 is now available for viewing!

Watch the opening act credits for any Next Gen, Ds9, Voyager, Enterprise, or Discovery episode…and what do you see? There’s a seemingly endless parade of producers: executive producers, co-producers, associate producers, line producers, supervising producers, consulting producers, co-executive producers, and just plain producers.

What’s the difference?

Most of us can probably guess that the executive producer is likely the one in charge. Gene Roddenberry was executive producer on TOS. Rick Berman was the executive producer on the later Paramount Trek series. But what about all of the rest of those titles? What do they mean? What do these various people do? And why do most television shows and movies need so many producers? Does your fan film need all of these different producers, too (assuming you have a fan film)?

As I mentioned last week when the first of the four panels from AXACON 2019 was released—the director’s panel—AXANAR offers fans, supporters, and fan filmmakers a unique perspective into the creation of a top-tier fan film. Sure, not every fan film is going to have the production value and scope of an Axanar, but there’s still much to be learned from this project…and ALEC PETERS and the folks on the Axanar production team are happy to explain.

Today’s “lesson” is from the second panel—the producers’ panel—and it features Director PAUL JENKINS interviewing four different producers on the project, each with a different title: Line Producer SCOTT CONLEY, Co-Producer CRYSSTAL HUBBARD, Associate Producer DALE SIMPSON, and Executive Producer Alec himself. What did all of these people do for the production? Why does Axanar even need four different producers? (Actually, there were more, but Producer CHRIS MILLS and a few other producers weren’t able to make it for the panel.)

Just like last week, I think that this is a MUST-SEE panel…whether or not you are an Axa-fan. This isn’t a self-congratulatory “why we all love Axanar so much” panel (none of them are, to be honest). Instead, it’s a very informative panel for the lay-person to understand the producer’s role…and why there are so gosh-darn many of them!

But before I present the producers’ panel video, and since I’ve spent my last couple of blogs talking about crowd-funding campaigns, let me include brief updates on both the Ares Studios and Axanar campaigns (two separate crowd-funders).

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The first panel from AXACON 2019 is now available for viewing!

Say what you will about AXANAR. But the one inescapable fact is that, perhaps more than any other Star Trek fan film (maybe any fan film period), Axanar is teaching fans a LOT about the process filmmaking. Sure, some cynics will say, “Yeah, it taught us all not to piss off the copyright owners!” But it’s also provided fans, fan filmmakers, and those wishing to become fan filmmakers an unparalleled up-front view into the entire production process.

Granted, most fan projects aren’t nearly as elaborate or ambitious as Axanar. The majority of fan producers just make their film and put the finished product up on YouTube. A few take behind-the-scenes photos or videos while they build sets or do make-up or have their shoots, but Axanar takes all that to an entirely other level.

Through countless Axanar Podcasts and updates on Axanar Confidential, we’ve watched this production walk through the fire of the lawsuit, emerge on the other side, pick itself up, dust itself off, and get back up to speed again with a move across country, a completed bridge set, and two shoots so far (soon to be three!). Along the way, there’s been a parade of features on countless aspects of filmmaking—from VFX to set-building, make-up, costume design, budgeting, writing, pre-production, production, and post-production…and just about everything in between.

But the one thing Axanar hasn’t really done a deep-dive into yet is directing. There was some commentary from PRELUDE TO AXANAR director CHRISTIAN GOSSETT on one of the behind-the-scenes features on the Prelude Blu-ray, but not much in-depth coverage of the full process. And ROBERT MEYER BURNETT left the project before getting the chance to sink his teeth into directing actual production.

However, now that Axanar has started shooting, director and co-writer PAUL JENKINS had some very, very interesting insights to share during AXACON 2019. Unlike the first Axacon in 2018, the second Axacon didn’t take place in a hotel with convention rooms and dealers tables and membership badges. This time, “attendance” was FREE to anyone on YouTube and included four panels broadcast live from the bridge set at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA.

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Really HUGE news for ARES STUDIOS and AXANAR!

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A super-fan dreamed of making a fan film covering an era of Star Trek history previously unexplored: approximately twenty years before Kirk’s first five-year mission. This was a couple of years before Discovery was even announced, of course.

With a six-figure budget, a cast of trained Hollywood actors, a professional crew, costumes, props, make-up, and all the trimmings, the original goal was to release this 90-minute feature-length Star Trek fan film in 2016. But that didn’t happen. Although footage was shot back in 2015, it’s now 2020, and the darn thing still isn’t out yet…despite a few teasers/trailers and lots of coverage here on Fan Film Factor. Fans have been patient, of course, but we really are dying to see the finished production at some point—hopefully this year!

A number of very nice sets, including a starship bridge, were built for this fan film—and for the last few years, these sets have been kept in a facility near Atlanta, GA. But the cost of storing these sets has been a financial burden of tens of thousands of dollars. But now that expense is finally ending.

I’ve been referring, of course, to the fan film project STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, created by KENNY SMITH, that will feature the launch of the brand new USS Enterprise NCC-1701 under the command of its first captain, Robert April. The “Cage” era TOS sets were constructed in 2015 and used for filming later that year and then put into public storage in Marietta, GA (about a half hour north of Atlanta), where Kenny has been paying about $7,000/year to house them.

The FIRST FRONTIER bridge set in all its glory

But truth be told, the sets would probably never have been used again. Indeed, they weren’t even really built to last (unlike the AXANAR sets). But Kenny didn’t have the heart to toss them into the dumpster.

Enter: ALEC PETERS. The same person who built many of these First Frontier sets—SCOTT LYTTLE—is currently working as a volunteer on Axanar (and also helped out with Interlude) doing set construction. (Check out the first five minutes of this video to hear Scott discussing construction of the First Frontier set pieces.) As it turned out, Alec had wanted to shoot some footage for Axanar on the USS Enterprise bridge, and Scott suggested they use Kenny’s old sets…which were just sitting in storage anyway. Long story short, Kenny just donated the sets in their entirety yo Alec, and now their new home is Ares Studios.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Axanews today…!

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GREEN SCREEN crowd-funded in SIX DAYS…Paul Jenkins reimbursed!

By now, most of you know about the mishap during the INTERLUDE shoot at Ares Studios in November and how, when AXANAR director PAUL JENKINS arrived in December, he found his 100-foot-long custom green screen ruined. It was an accident, but the responsibility lay squarely (or rectangularly) on the shoulders of the Interlude production team.

No one individual was singled out as being “the idiot responsible” because no one on my team was an idiot. In fact, most of them are amazingly talented, competent, and dedicated craftsmen (and women) and hard-working volunteers…from directors JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX, who knocked it out of the park that weekend, to the good folks who vacuumed the bridge set. As far as I am concerned, everyone is to be praised and commended, and no one will be thrown under the bus!

Anyway, I asked my donors and other supporters of Interlude (and fan films in general) to please help raise enough money to reimburse Paul the $4,760 cost for replacing the ruined green screen. I kicked off the donations with $500 of my own money, and three of my biggest donors each matched my amount…leaving another $2,760 to raise from other contributors. Honestly, I thought I was going to be crowd-funding this until February or March, if not longer.

And then a fan film Christmas miracle happened. We reached our goal for reimbursing Paul in less than a week!!!

Usually, the holiday season is the worst time of year to do fan film crowd-funding (other than anytime near tax day in April). But I reached out to folks anyway, asking for only $10 per donor. Altogether, 112 donors graciously answered the call, chipping in anywhere from $10 to $100 each (one put in $300). It was, for me at least, a heartwarming reminder of what I know is so precious about this fan film community.

I sent Paul the full funds via PayPal last Friday, while we were still a few hundred dollars short of our goal. But I had faith it wouldn’t be long until we got there. And then, on Sunday evening—less than six days after I made my first appeal, we reach the goal. If fact, later that evening, two additional donations brought us $35 over that goal. I’ve let the supporters know that they no longer have to donate anything more. Interlude is covered.

I’ve said it probably a thousand times already, but you can never say THANK YOU enough in my book! So my sincere gratitude to everyone who has supported Interlude…whether you gave to replace the green screen or simply donated along the way to help me and my team make a really awesome fan film.

You are truly the best of Star Trek fandom.

Follow-up: A GREEN SCREEN Christmas miracle!

Wow…with a capital WOW!

This, my friends, is what Star Trek fandom is all about.  Yesterday, I published a blog asking for fans’ assistance in replacing PAUL JENKINS’ custom green screen (at a cost of $4,700), which had accidentally been damaged beyond repair during the INTERLUDE shoot at Ares Studios in November.

I ended the blog with a reference to the TOS episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” when Kirk tells Edith Keeler how a famous author in the future will write a classic recommending the three words “Let me help…” even over “I love you…”

“Let me help…” brings people together.  “Let me help…” can accomplish the most amazing things.  And yesterday, “Let me help…” resulted in 85 donations and a total raised so far of $3,900 (including the $2,000 from three of our biggest donors and myself plus many, many donations of just $10 or $15 or $20).  This leaves us, after only a single day, within $800 of being able to replace Paul’s ruined green screen.

I can’t thank everyone enough for coming through this quickly.  I was deeply touched by this amazing fan response, especially after the emotional punch in the gut last Friday when Paul first told me how much this accident would cost to fix. $4,700 is a lot of money!

But what was most uplifting to me were the literally dozens and dozens of message full of support, understanding, and inspiration that I received on Facebook and from donors themselves.  Here’s just a small sample…

I donated because all Star Trek fans should support each other.
- Judy Reed
In today's world, it is becoming increasingly rare to see someone take responsibility for their own actions let alone for the actions of their crew. That type of integrity and honor deserves acknowledgement. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
- Lawrence Wagner
Jonathan, I'm happy to help with your Christmas miracle.  Hey, accidents happen, and it is the mark of a true gentleman when you suck it up and say, 'The buck stops with me.'  You're right, no one intended to ruin the fabric.  They didn't even realize that what they were doing would mess it up.  However, I admire how you handled it.  THAT is the kind of character that people respect, and you sir, have my respect.  So Merry Christmas...and keep on Trekkin'.
- Troy Light
I wasn't able to donate during the original fundraising effort, so I'm happy to be able to help a little now.
- David Goldsberry
Everyone messes up sometimes (and I've certainly replaced school equipment that the kids have ruined in the past!).
-  Catherine McClarey
Sorry to hear this and I'm happy to help. The only people who never make mistakes are those who never actually do anything. So never mind,  that's life, we'll sort it.
- Alastair Miles

As far as I’m concerned, this is what makes the Star Trek fan film community so AWESOME.  I thank everyone who donated…from the bottom of my heart.

We’re nearly there, folks. If you’d like to help us get to the finish line, please click on the link below to donate a little something…

https://www.gofundme.com/interlude

INTERLUDE Confidential #2: This is really, really BAD…and I’m going to need some MAJOR HELP!

I need a Christmas miracle.

My heart sank last Friday morning when I got the call from Axanar director PAUL JENKINS. I immediately wished I could shift the blame to someone else and cover my ass in some way.

But no, that’s not what Star Trek taught me. Kirk always took responsibility for the actions of his crew, whether or not the captain himself had personally been the one at fault And as executive producer on INTERLUDE, the buck stops with me…or rather, the 4,700 bucks stop with me.

That’s what it’s going to cost to replace Paul’s 100 ft. x 20 ft. professional-quality, custom-made green screen that was accidentally ruined during the November INTERLUDE film shoot at Ares Studios.

Paul owns a production company, META Studios, and the giant portable green screen belongs to him (not to Alec Peters or Ares Studios). Paul brought the green screen to Ares Studios to use for the October AXAANR shoot and left it there to use again in December for last weekend’s shoot.

In November when we filmed the scenes for Interlude on the Ares bridge, we wanted to be able to shoot toward the view screen and composite in shots later using a green screen. It would (and probably still will) look really cool. But we needed a green screen to do it.

Fortunately, there was one on site, and we assumed it was okay to use it (Paul wasn’t there at the time; he visited the following day). And by “we,” I mean my Interlude team. And as a team, I am not singling anyone out for having screwed up. It was my team, and as such, I’m responsible for what happened next…

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AXACON 2019 happens THIS SUNDAY at NOON eastern time…online!

The first AXACON took place during at the beginning of November in 2018 and “piggybacked” an existing mini-convention in Atlanta called SphinxCon. Fans got to walk around the newly-unveiled USS Ares bridge set on Friday and then attend a series of live convention panels on Saturday and Sunday with folks like GARY GRAHAM, J.G. HERTZLER, DAVID GERROLD, PAUL JENKINS, and of course, ALEC PETERS. Most of those panels are now available for viewing online.

The Axacon 2018 weekend of events and panels ended up costing Alec about $5,000 out of his own pocket. But the goal was always to launch a new wave of crowd-funding…first to cover the monthly rent and expenses to house the bridge set in Ares Studios (through a Patreon campaign), and later to generate excitement and enthusiasm to encourage private donations to help fund the two AXANAR sequels (click here and then follow the instructions if you’d like to contribute…they’ve raised more than $41,000 so far!).

This year, Alec has already fronted the $75,000 cost of the first Axanar shoot at the beginning of October and the second shoot going on this weekend. So funds are tight, all monies are going into production, and holding another Axacon this year would be out of the question, right?

Well, as it turns out…

Axacon 2019 won’t be the same as Axacon 2018. There won’t be a public tour of the studio or a physical convention. But there will be live panels with guests…AND it’ll be free to attend! How is Alec Peters managing this? Simple: it’ll all be live-streaming on YouTube!

Axacon 2019 will take place beginning at noon Eastern Time on Sunday, December 8, lasting for four hours. All of the panels will be hosted live on the Ares Studios bridge set and available for viewing on the Axanar Youtube Channel.

The four-hour online event is capping off a weekend that will also feature the second Axanar film shoot. Significantly smaller in scope than the first 3-day shoot in October, this one will feature two Garth scenes: one a short clip of Garth on the bridge and one in his quarters looking at casualty reports. Sunday will include multiple behind-the-scenes interviews in the morning, leaving ample time for the panels during the afternoon.

The following is a schedule of the panels, their topics, and the guests…

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Why do PATREON donations always “DIP” at the beginning of each month?

Every…single…month…

It’s like clockwork! I call it “PMS”—the Patreon Monthly Slide—although others simply call it “the Dip.” And yeah, it’s a thing. At the beginning of every month, most Patreon campaigns with a decent number of backers suddenly and inexplicably drop by 2%, 3%, or even 5%…only to recover some or most of the loss over the next few days.

It’s happened to both the Ares Studios Patreon as well as the Neutral Zone Studios Patreon (two of the largest current Trek fan film-related campaigns)…over and over again. And when “the dip” hits Ares Studios, you’ll usually see something like this posted over on Axamonitor…

Of course, looking at only a short snapshot of a single month misses the big picture entirely. And if you were to zoom out, you’d see the long-term trend is actually pretty solid (with a noticeable uptick in the weeks since AXANAR successfully completed its first film shoot at the beginning of October)…

So yeah, if you cherry pick a specific short downtick from the nearly year-long graph, you can try to sell the argument that four months of progress have essentially been “erased.” But overall, long-term, Ares Studio is a very strong and steady campaign, consistently taking in more than $2,000/month from over 200 donors, not dropping significantly from that level, and even showing a slight (and later, more pronounced) up-slope. And it’s been providing ALEC PETERS upwards of $25,000 per year to help with the rent and utilities for the studio.

But what’s also obvious from that long-term graph is that, yes, at the start of every month, there’s a mysterious “dip.” It’s there every time. The total number of donors and amount of monthly contributions drops like a brick…only to recover within a few days as though nothing ever happened!

And it got me to wondering…why?

Now, the tempting answer from some out there is to claim that people forgot they were still being charged regularly and, when reminded with a monthly receipt from Patreon showing the charge to their credit card, suddenly “came to their senses” and canceled the automatic renewal.

But that doesn’t explain the rapid recovery that nearly always follows the “dip.” Are all of these disillusioned donors just as quickly and inexplicably replaced in the days immediately following? Do they all suddenly change their minds back? And why do only a tiny few donors go through this “epiphany” each month—and then always seem to quickly get over it?

But something happened to me last month that solved the mystery…

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The latest AXANAR news! (audio interview with ALEC PETERS)

Despite all of the major AXANAR-related events lately—including the exciting October film shoot at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA and the launch of the Ares Digital fundraiser—I haven’t actually sat down for an ALEC PETERS interview for more than two months. This week, I decided to remedy that…and fortunately, this time, no dogs needed to be rescued, so the call happened right on time.

Before we jump into the interview itself, just a quick reminder that Axanar IS currently crowd-funding…it’s just not doing so publicly using Kickstarter or Indiegogo. But if you want to donate, you can! Just click here, sign into your Ares Digital account (or create one if you don’t already have one), and then click “Donate Now!” to log in again.

Wait a second…you have to log in AGAIN???

Yeah, it’s kind of a feature, not a bug. Ares Digital is behind a firewall, but the donation widget requires logging into WordPress, as well. But in this way, donors’ payment information is processed without anyone at Axanar ever seeing it…an extra layer of identity protection. And it’s a pretty easy extra strep, as you can log in the second time with one click using your Facebook or Google account…or your e-mail you you’d prefer.

And then, once you’re in, you’ll see this…

Axanar is currently knocking on the door of $40,000—two-thirds of the way to the $60,000 goal to fund the first two film shoots.

But hasn’t the first shoot already happened? And isn’t the second shoot coming up in a couple of weeks? What if Alec doesn’t make the $60K goal in time? Does the second shoot have to be canceled or postponed? And what about the third shoot and beyond (aren’t there supposed to be five total)? When is that shoot getting funded…and what happens if Alec can’t raise enough in time? Will Axanar itself have to be delayed and the summer 2020 deadline missed?

So many questions!

Looks like Alec and I have a LOT to talk about this time out. Take a listen…

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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