AXANAR gets a $10,000 donation and adjusts plans due to the pandemic…

I always leave a tab open on my browser to monitor donation totals when I’m promoting crowd-funding campaigns,. For the past couple of months, I’ve kept a tab for the current AXANAR campaign to fund the major “alien” green screen shoot.

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…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #8 – lights, camera, acting!

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.

Man, was I wrong…!

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INTERLUDE Confidential #7 – we have PICTURE LOCK!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a locked edit!

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.

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The future of AXANAR! (audio interview with ALEC PETERS & PAUL JENKINS)

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:

https://aresdigital.axanar.com

Continue reading “The future of AXANAR! (audio interview with ALEC PETERS & PAUL JENKINS)”

AXANAR releases the FULL TRAILER…kicks off fund-raiser for SHOOT #4!

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…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #6 – meet WARREN HAWK, Captain Jakande of the USS Artemis…

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 Artemis Captain 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 Pilot Deville—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.

And that left Jakande…

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AXANAR launches new “tiny” fundraiser for SHOOT #3 with test footage of Chief Engineer LEONOV!

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…

https://aresdigital.axanar.com

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!

AXANAR tops its $50K phase one crowd-funding goal…and announces phase two in MARCH!

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:

https://aresdigital.axanar.com/

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!

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PAUL JENKINS discusses directing the AXANAR sequels, working with ALEC PETERS, and MUCH MORE! (audio interview)

I love PAUL JENKINS. I just do. Over the past few months, he has become one of my favorite people on the planet…and when you listen to my interview with him, I think you’ll understand why (or at least, I hope you will).

When it comes to AXANAR, it always seems to be ALEC PETERS this and ALEC PETERS that—here an Alec, there an Alec, everywhere an Alec, Alec. But as Alec himself would be the first to tell you, Axanar is a TEAM effort, and the team is made up of some very talented and dedicated individuals…and few more so than Axanar co-writer and director, Paul Jenkins.

When Alec first announced that Paul was joining the project back in 2017, replacing ROBERT MEYER BURNETT as director as well as helping to co-write the two-part, 30-minute fan film allowed by the settlement with CBS and Paramount, a number of fans were initially scratching their heads. And I’ll admit, I was one of them.

After all, I really only knew Paul from the days when I was reading twenty comic books a month, and his name was on many of them. Paul is widely considered as the person who helped save Marvel Comics from chapter 11 bankruptcy in the late 1990s with the development of the Marvel Knights imprint. Later, he went on to write the ground-breaking Wolverine: Origin (which was later turned into a motion picture). In fact, Paul has worked for various comic book publishers—including DC, Mirage, and Tundra. He developed video games, too. So yeah, Paul can obviously write.

But could he direct?

It turns out, the answer is yes. In fact, Paul co-founded META Studios in Atlanta, has been directing for about 20 years, and was even asked in 2015 by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to assemble and chair an advisory committee to educate the Georgia General Assembly on the evolution of digital and interactive technologies. So yep, Paul’s a pretty big deal…but you’d never know it by speaking with him. The man is as humble and soft-spoken as they come.

I learned this firsthand during the shoot for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. Paul popped by Ares Studios on that Sunday to say hi and see how things were going. He stayed off to the side, just happily watching, and even volunteered to stand behind the turbolift and flick the console lights on and off during a torpedo “hit.” The guy who saved Marvel Comics was flicking lights on my fan film??? You bet!

Later, during a break, Paul chatted with me for a good 45 minutes, sharing some stories, some insights, and just shooting the breeze. He even hung out with Interlude directors VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN during some quiet moments when they weren’t both doing a thousand things. He was a true gentleman and a lot of fun to talk to.

So when I had the opportunity to chat with him some more and record the call, I jumped at the chance! Take a listen…

Continue reading “PAUL JENKINS discusses directing the AXANAR sequels, working with ALEC PETERS, and MUCH MORE! (audio interview)”

INTERLUDE Confidential #4 – putting the post-production puzzle pieces in place!

A little more than a decade before his untimely death in 1997, John Denver trained with NASA and became a finalist for the first citizen’s trip to space in 1986. When asked why a singer/songwriter should be chosen to go to space, John Denver replied by asking who better to communicate the inspirational experience of spaceflight to the masses than someone used to putting sights, sounds, and feelings into words and music?

These “INTERLUDE Confidential” blogs I write are intended to do something similar. I realize that many of my readers will never produce or even work on a fan film. And most fan filmmakers are too busymaking fan films to blog about the experience in depth and try to communicate the nuances of all that they do.

So I want to give you folks a window into the process of creating a fan film from the point of view of someone who has never done this sort of thing before and is still blown away by the entire process. And today, I’d to talk about where Interlude stands right now.

There are three main phases to creating a film. Pre-production is planning everything: determining budgets, raising money, hiring (or in my case, begging for) actors and crew, setting up filming dates, getting costumes ready, and about a thousand other things from renting equipment to scheduling a caterer. The script is worked on and re-worked, the director(s) plan out a shot list…it’s like everything NASA does before a rocket is cleared for lift off.

Then production happens. This is when the various elements that will go into the film are actually produced. This can mean filming scenes or getting voice-overs or having your CGI friend create your visual effects. Every item that gets produced (filmed, recorded, rendered, etc.) becomes a piece of the overall puzzle that will become your final fan film.

Right now, Interlude is still in production. At the same time, we’re also in post-production. How is that possible?

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