Georgia students create films on the BRIDGE set at ARES STUDIOS! (interview with PASHA SOUVORIN, part 2)

Last time, I began chatting with PASHA SOUVORIN, the Video Pathway Lead Teacher for Gwinnett County Public Schools. Pasha is one of the teachers whose students have been coming to ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA to film on the amazing bridge set that was built using funds raised from fan donations. The bridge is now nearly complete, and soon the two Axanar sequel fan films will begin shooting. But in the meantime, this impressive bridge set has been giving local students the opportunity to create scenes and short videos, the likes of which they would never get to do anywhere else.

And these aren’t simply kids with camera phones filming each other playing around. This short time-lapse video posted by the students on their Facebook page shows the amount of care and effort that goes into setting up even a single scene…

In part one, Pasha shared four videos that students had completed so far, each of them impressive considering that these are high schoolers learning the basics of the craft:

And more are planned in the future.

When last we left off, Pasha and I were discussing how the state of Georgia is encouraging its students to take elective classes in video production. After three years of classes, state enrolled students can earn a special seal on their diploma indicating that they specialized in video production. Georgia will also pay for those students who complete the technical video path to take the Adobe Certified Associate test in Premiere Pro.

Things certainly have changed a lot since I was going to high school! And that’s where we pick up our enlightening conversation, already in progress…

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Georgia students create films on the BRIDGE set at ARES STUDIOS! (interview with PASHA SOUVORIN, part 1)

Although no Star Trek fan films have shot on the ARES STUDIOS sets yet, that doesn’t mean the USS Ares bridge hasn’t been getting some serious screen time! It’s simply that the filmmakers are mainly teenagers, students in the local Gwinnett County Public Schools District located just northeast of Atlanta, GA.

The primary force behind most of the student films that have been filmed there is PASHA SOUVORIN, the Video Pathway Lead Teacher for Gwinnett County Public Schools and a video production teacher at Phoenix High School, which is near the Ares Studio facility. Pasha met ALEC PETERS through a mutual friend, Sherry Fowler, who works with Alec and is also a teacher at Pasha’s school.

These students are getting an amazing opportunity as they write, direct, light, score, edit, and produce their own films using a full 360-degree custom sci-fi set. They don’t necessarily see it as Star Trek (most of them were born AFTER Enterprise premiered!—don’t you feel old now???) but rather as whatever their young minds imagine this bridge to be.

Here’s a short snippet of what a student film shoot looks like…

Pretty professional-looking, right? Granted, these aren’t Academy Award level productions, but remember that these students are only just getting started, learning about the craft of filmmaking. These early efforts are invaluable educations experiences for what may very well be the cutting-edge filmmakers of the future!

Currently, Ares Studios is being funded through monthly Patreon donations from fans like you and me (click here to sign up as a backer). The crowd-funding campaign is just over half-way to covering the $4,000/month rent and utilities. The remainder is being paid out-of-pocket by Alec Peters himself. At present, there is no money coming in from the school district, and the schools are not being charged anything to use the facility or the sets.

Recently, I had a very lively and enlightening discussion with Pasha Souvorin about his teaching background, his students, the history of the school district’s video program, and what Ares Studios has meant to him and the kids who get to film there…

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ARES ASSEMBLE! – AXANAR volunteers put together GARTH’S QUARTERS in Ares Studios! (interview with ALEC PETERS)

When ALEC PETERS reluctantly shut down Industry Studios in Valencia, CA and moved to the current ARES STUDIOS location in Lawrenceville, GA, he took with him as much as he could fit into the trucks. This included the various pieces of the amazing USS Ares bridge set, costumes, props, equipment, patches, and a second set designed and constructed by DEAN NEWBURY: Captain Garth’s Quarters. Initially intended to be used for certain scenes in the full 90-minute AXANAR fan film (which will, sadly, never be completed and released), the Captain’s Quarters was disassembled for transport, and the “flats” (pieces of the set) were stored in the new facility.

While the Ares Bridge set has taken center stage (rather literally) over the past almost-year as it neared completion, the pieces of the Captain’s Quarters sat humbly off in the corner, waiting for someone to come along and put them back together.

That finally happened this past weekend when Alec and a small number of volunteers got together to reassemble the pieces for the first time since they sat in Industry Studios in California. The initiative was led by and JOHN “Stoggy” STREKIS , who has been producing the many, many videos that have been posted to the Axanar YouTube Channel (if you haven’t been watching those videos, you really should check out a few). John was visiting Georgia from new Jersey, saw the bridge pieces sitting there unused, and suggested (rather strongly) that they finally be reassembled so Ares Studios would have more sets to offer filmmakers wanting to shoot at the facility.

Joining Alec and John were volunteers DAN WAGNER and DALE SIMPSON, who are local and have already been taking point on completing the Ares Bridge, plus CHRIS WEUVE, a guest who was also down in Georgia visiting the sets. Together they worked for a couple of hours trying to figure out how to arrange the various flats (they weren’t marked, and they weren’t necessarily laid out in a four-wall square…more of an angled “W”) before Dana took a screwdriver and locked the pieces together.

I thought this might be a good time to interview Alec and get an update on all things Axanar (well, most things)…

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Latest AXANAR Production Update video gets 4K views in fifteen hours!

Some folks ask why I give so much coverage to ALEC PETERS and AXANAR. The answer is simple: because there’s so much to cover! And trust me, if there were any news out of other major “in development” fan projects like Pacific 201 or Starship Farragut, I’d be covering them, too! In fact, last week I had a FANtastic interview with the production designers helping to put the finishing touches on the soon-to-be-released First Frontier.

Anyway, even though full production on the two remaining Axanar fan films hasn’t begun yet, Alec and the team are doing anything BUT resting resting on their laurels. Those who claim Axanar will never be made obviously haven’t been paying attention to how much time and effort are going into getting everything ready to launch this project. If the fan film is never going to be made, someone needs to tell all those hard-working folks in Lawrenceville, GA!

And Alec himself continues to be one of the hardest workers, now doing two regular livecasts on YouTube each week to generate donations to Ares Studios. Along with the Patreon (which is currently up to 198 donors giving $1,811/month…or nearly $22,000/year) the YouTube channel, with over 77K subscribers, is upping the total to more than $3,000 a month in contributions and revenue to help pay rent and utilities on the studio.

Alec posted his latest Production Update late Tuesday night, and it’s already been watched by more than 4,000 people. Among the items covered are how the Ares bridge is nearing completion and now will DEFINITELY appear in the Axanar films, how Ares Digital 3.0 is nearly complete (I’m one of the beta testers) and patch perks will ship soon, and plans now call for shooting to begin this summer. Alec’s and his team’s enthusiasm are clearly evident on the update video. Check it out…

Also, if you haven’t visited the Axanar YouTube Channel, now vould be a good time (as Chekov would say)! It’s up to more than 40 videos in categories including trailers, VFX sequences, donor updates, studio updates, production updates, convention appearances, and of course the weekly REEL TREK and AXANAR CONFIDENTIAL podcasts which usually have really interesting guests (including me at one point!).

There’s also a new playlist called “Fan Film Focus” which includes some exclusive behind-the-scenes content about other Trek fan productions. Like the rest of the channel, content for that section will expand over time.

ARES STUDIOS launches new PATREON! (interview with ALEC PETERS, part 2)

Yesterday, I began speaking to ALEC PETERS about his new PATREON campaign for ARES STUDIOS. Officially launched last Friday evening, in less than a week, with 95 patrons as of this evening, it’s already nearly 25% of the way to its goal of generating $4,000/month in donations to help pay rent and utilities for the studio in Lawrenceville, GA.

Alec explained that Ares Studios is an entirely separate business entity from Axanar Productions, which will be producing the final two Axanar fan films. So crowd-funding through Patreon is allowed because the legal settlement with CBS and Paramount only covers the production of the two 15-minute Axanar sequel fan films.

And speaking of those two films, let’s return to our interview with Alec as he tells us why he hasn’t started filming Axanar yet (’cause we all REALLY want to know!)…

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ARES STUDIOS launches new PATREON! (interview with ALEC PETERS, part 1)

It’s been hinted about for the past few weeks, but on Friday night, it became official. ARES STUDIOS (formerly OWC Studios) in Lawrenceville, GA—home to the amazing USS Ares bridge set—has launched a new PATREON campaign to help cover the monthly costs of rent and utilities (about $4000/month).

For those of you unfamiliar with what a “Patreon” campaign is, it’s somewhat different than crowd-funding using Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or GoFundMe. In the case of those three, backers pledge a one-time donation of $25 or $100 or $500 or whatever amount, and they’re done. With a Patreon, donation amounts are much smaller, but they are MONTHLY and ongoing. That’s why, if you look at the Ares Studios Patreon, you’ll see perks listed for levels of only $2, $5, $10, and $20. By the end of the year, those amounts would total the equivalent of a one-time donation to a Kickstarter.

The new campaign was announced on Friday night during the first episode of what ALEC PETERS intends to be a regular YouTube livestream broadcast called REEL TREK, produced by Ares Studios to discuss all things Star Trek live with fan viewers. During the broadcast, fans donated about $120 as they posted their comments, but that was just the beginning. Toward the end of the program, Alec announced the new Patreon to about 200 live viewers, and a few folks started signing up to the campaign.

Only 24 hours later, however, the views of the archived live discussion had jumped to 4000, and Patreon sign-ups grew to more than 60 pledging about $535 per month ($6,420 per year)…meaning that the campaign passed 1/8 of the way there in just a day, with little fanfare or marketing so far.

Some detractors have predicted (hoped) that this initial surge would quickly fade to a trickle, with Carlos Pedraza reminding people that a crowd-funding campaign back in 2017 tried to raise $200,000 to keep Ares (Industry) Studios in California and only made it to $22,000. On the other hand, if the Patreon can get to that same number, it covers half the monthly expenses…and Paatreons don’t come with ending dates.

Anyway, this sounded like a good time for an interview with Alec about not only the Patreon but also those two 15-minute fan films he’s supposed to be working on…

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Update on THE CONSTAR CHRONICLES (interview with VANCE MAJOR, part 2)

Last week, I began chatting with VANCE MAJOR, the “Where’s Waldo of Star Trek fan films.” After completing nearly three dozen fan films featuring the (long) career of the character of Erick Minard, Vance briefly stepped away from producing Trek fan films. Briefly.

He returned to the fold early last year, announcing the launch of production on THE CONSTAR CHRONICLES. While these new fan films would also feature Vance playing Minard, they would now focus on various members of his crew, once again weaving a complex tapestry of stories that could be viewed individually or as one long saga. In this way, Vance skirts the “no ongoing series” guideline (kinda) because these will be individual, self-contained stories and not an ongoing series. In fact, The Constar Chronicles isn’t even the official name of the production. Ultimately, it will simply be a number of separate fan films which feature some of the same characters serving on the same starship(s).

Last month, Vance released the following trailer…

In Part 1, Vance talked about the filmmaking process so far on Constar. But then we left off with a most intriguing question…

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Update on the AXANAR attempted hacking…

Earlier today, I reported that an attempt had been made to hack into the AXANAR YouTube channel…pointing out that the prime suspect(s) was/were most likely one or more detractors.

Very quickly, one of my readers, JOE DIAZ, forwarded me the following tweet from one of the people managing the channel…

Other comments on my previous blog entry were now pointing to this tweet as proof that there was no hacking attempt. Naturally, if I’ve misreported something, I need to issue a retraction. But I first needed to verify that I had, in fact, misreported it. So I contacted ALEC PETERS and the aforementioned THE REAL STOGGY to ask what happened.

Here, as far as I can piece together, is the order in which things happened…

December – After uploading a series of quick “Axanar -Live” update videos shot with a cell phone over the previous months, Alec began posting higher-quality Axanar updates to YouTube, generating tens of thousands of views. One update from December 27 is currently up to 96K views.

January 5 – With the videos being so popular, Alec decided to create two YouTube channels: Axanar and Ares Studios. Actually, there had already been an Axanar YouTube channel, but it had been mostly dormant for a long while. Last night, three volunteers were given Manager status (Alec remained the channel owner), and began adding videos to the channel. There was a LOT of activity.

January 6, 8:43am EST – The two channels were suddenly shut down by YouTube. The only manage working on them at the time was the aforementioned Stoggy, who had pulled an all-nighter, and panicked when he was suddenly locked out. Here’s what he told me…

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Attempted HACK of the AXANAR YouTube Channel!

Earlier today, the AXANAR YouTube Channel was temporarily “terminated” (according to messaging displayed when users visited the web page). Numerous recent video updates with tens of thousands of views each were suddenly gone and inaccessible…along with Prelude to Axanar, the Vulcan scene, and numerous behind-the-scenes videos.

There was immediate conjecture that some kind of violation of the YouTube community guidelines or terms of service led the the termination of the channel. Needless to say, the fan film community exploded with activity as Axanar detractors salivated at the possibilities for happy dances and supporters panicked among uncertainty and confusion.

And then, less then three hours later, the Axanar YouTube channel was back up and running as though nothing had happened.

So what did happen?

All of this kerfuffle occurred while ALEC PETERS was at the gym on Sunday morning. When he got home—amid countless emergency IMs and e-mails from concerned supporters and team-members—he logged into his YouTube (Google) account, and all was restored instantly. Alec never received any notice or warning from YouTube or Google about violations. However, he did receive the following message (e-mail address redacted)…


In addition to the Axanar YouTube channel, the new Ares Studios YouTube channel was also deactivated and then reactivated with Alec’s sign-in. Most members of the fan community weren’t even aware that there was an Ares Studios YouTube channel (it’s still being set up), and so didn’t realize the extent of the hacking.

Although not confirmed, it seems that YouTube’s takedown was pre-emptive in avoiding the potential damages of a more serious, successful hack. Once the account was secured by the user (Alec), the channels were reactivated.

Naturally, the prime suspect(s) is/are one or more of the detractors, although there is currently no proof who specifically is behind the hacking. Obviously, Alec has changed his password and will continue to do so regularly.

But if I may speak freely for a moment, my friends…

Continue reading “Attempted HACK of the AXANAR YouTube Channel!”