INTERLUDE Confidential #19: Watching ARES STUDIOS come alive…

INTERLUDE is knocking on the door of a combined 75,000 views for “version 2.0.” You can watch it on the AXANAR YouTube channel or the AVALON UNIVERSE YouTube channel…or both!

A few weeks ago, I published a blog looking at three scenes from Interlude that wound up on the digital “cutting room floor.” But one of the most talked about aspects of that blog was a clip that I included showing 18 minutes of the actual shoot itself…filming the stunning opening scene looking down from above onto the bridge with all sorts of activity going on. Fans of Axanar and ARES STUDIOS loved getting a glimpse into all of the action happening on that set.

Well, folks, there’s a LOT more where that came from…and I’m going to share it with you starting today!

As producer on Interlude, most of my job was done by the time we got to the weekend of our two-day shoot at Ares Studios on November 2-3, 2019. In addition to writing the script, I was in charge of budgeting, crowd-funding, paying for things that needed to be paid for (everything from chest emblem patches to camera and lens and light rental to hair and make-up supplies to renting chairs and tables to the caterer himself…plus about a hundred other little and not-so-little things!).

Another part of my job was to make sure we had the right people at the studio on the right days—actors, extras, production crew, even an on-site medic—that they knew where to be and when and that their gas, travel, food and lodging was paid for if/when necessary. My efforts were designed to make it possible for VICTORIA FOX, JOSHUA IRWIN, and the entire amazing Interlude production team to shoot the scenes of our fan film over two 10-hour days with everything they needed ready and waiting for them.

In short, I was the guy setting up the buffet table so all of the guests could have a good time at the party. So once the party got started, what was left for me to do?

Well, there were still some minor fires that needed putting our during those two days—figuring out where to put the hair and make-up people, handing my credit card to people I hardly knew to go make emergency runs to Home Depot or Target or wherever. But for the most part, the producer wasn’t really needed on set.

But that provided me with a very unique and special opportunity…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #19: Watching ARES STUDIOS come alive…”

INTERLUDE Confidential #18: The “McFly Edit”

Ready for some fan film FUN???

The RE-launch of INTERLUDE last Friday with new cast member TYLER DUNIVAN went amazingly smoothly. Already, after just four and a half days, there’s a total of nearly 48K views on YouTube (more than 40K on the AXANAR Channel and 7.5K on the AVALON UNIVERSE Channel—take your pick of which one you’d like to watch…again).

Fan reaction to Tyler’s performance as the chief engineer of the ill-fated U.S.S. Artemis is getting rave reviews. Personally, I’m really happy with this new version, and 97.5% of viewers are giving it a thumbs up! Who are the other 2.5%? Well, remember how 4 out of 5 dentists recommended sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum? Ever wonder about the fifth dentist? Obviously, you can’t please all the Trekkies all the time, but we sure are pleasing nearly all of ’em!

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you a quick video that will hopefully make you laugh. Y’see, Tyler Dunivan isn’t simply a great actor who takes his craft very seriously. Tyler is also a professional MICHAEL J. FOX impersonator…especially playing the character of Marty McFly from the Back to the Future movies. In fact, Tyler had the starring role in the absolute BEST Back to the Future fan film ever! (Check in out here.)

So when Tyler and JOSHUA IRWIN drove down to ARES STUDIOS in Georgia a couple of weeks ago to reshoot the engineering scenes for Interlude, I asked the guys if Tyler could do a “Marty McFly” version of the take…just for fun (because fan films are FUN films!). I didn’t know if we’d ever use it, but at least we’d have it, right?

Well, folks, it came out even better than I expected. There’s not much, but I cut together this 30-second vignette for your viewing pleasure. Thank you, Tyler!

Prepare to party like it’s 1985…

(Re) Presenting: INTERLUDE…the big premiere, TAKE TWO!

I’ve been writing a series of blogs about all of the typical things that happen with fan films, things that I’ve been encountering during the development of INTERLUDE. But now it’s time for something that I don’t think has ever happened on any Star Trek fan film!

Someone in our cast has asked (demanded, actually) for his shots to be completely REMOVED from the Interlude fan film…forcing us to re-shoot specific scenes using a different actor and to re-edit those scenes back into a new version.

The actor in question is PAUL JENKINS. I won’t go into details on this other than to say what is already known publicly: that Paul and ALEC PETERS are involved in litigation following Paul’s parting of ways from the AXANAR sequels in the early summer of last year. As I understand it, Paul is concerned that his appearance in a fan film that features Alec Peters in a leading role within the Axanar continuity could imply some kind of endorsement by Paul of Alec, Axanar, Ares Studios, and/or Axanar Productions.

Paul’s request/demand for all footage of him be removed from Interlude came first via a Facebook message sent to me barely 24 hours before the big premiere on April 5. Obviously, that was not enough time for us to make such significant changes, and we weren’t about to delay the release on such short notice. I’d already told the entire fan film community plus my friends and family about it. Heck, my parents had told all of their friends about it!

So as planned, we premiered the version of Interlude (with Paul in it) that we’d worked so hard to complete, but on the request/demand of Paul and his CEO at META Studios, a disclaimer was pinned as the top comment of the YouTube video page making clear that “META Studios and its employees, including Founder and Chief Creative Officer Paul Jenkins, DO NOT endorse the use of the Axanar logo and the solicitation of funds for the purpose of creating fan films associated with CBS intellectual property. “

So yeah, that happened.

We also agreed to their imposed constraint that Interlude could only be posted to the AVALON UNIVERSE YouTube channel and not to the Axanar YouTube channel, probably costing us a few hundred thousand views during our opening week. The video still crossed 50K views in 12 days with more than a 97% thumbs-up/thumbs-down ratio, so I didn’t really lose any sleep over it.

Meanwhile, our director of photography/editor JOSHUA IRWIN jumped into action to act on to Paul’s main request.demand to be removed entirely from Interlude, and two weeks later, Josh has come through with flying colors.

This was no small feat, folks…!

Continue reading “(Re) Presenting: INTERLUDE…the big premiere, TAKE TWO!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #17: On the cutting room floor…

Christy Price Pagano deserves the top image because she wound up on the cutting room floor!

INTERLUDE is finally released, and it’s already up to 42K views on YouTube! Did you see it? (If not, click here.) Did you like it? Is it everything you hoped it would be? Personally, I’m extremely happy with the way Interlude turned out. So many people put SO much work into making an awesome fan film.

But I feel really bad about CHRISTY PRICE PAGANO (pictured above) because her ONE shot in Interlude wound up on the cutting room floor.

Christy showed up on our second day of filming Interlude at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA (on Sunday, November 3, 2019) along with her good friend LISA BURGESS (pictured below). The two moms live nearby in the suburbs north of Atlanta, and they were told about the shoot and our need for extras by one of our actors, JAY PLYBURN, who played the U.S.S. Ares science officer with the cool 70’s-era mustache.

Lisa Burgess

If you watched Interlude, you might have noticed that there’s really only one very brief shot of the U.S.S. Ares where we see most of the extras on the bridge…

There are some other close-ups and medium shots, but this was the only shot that featured nearly all of our Ares crew members at once. Only two officers aren’t in the shot: the aforementioned Jay Plyburn and Christy Pagano, who was actually about to come out of the turbolift. But we cut away before the turbolift doors ever have a chance to open.

This is what the full sequence would have looked like had the decision to cut away not been made (note that there are no sound effects or music in following clip)…

That’s Christy coming out of the turbolift. And though we barely get to see them, the wounded engineer is JOSE CEPEDA from the fan series STAR TREK: NATURES HUNGER, and the person carrying him off is CRYSTAL RAMOS, who was so excited to be a part of this production. And now, we don’t even get to see their faces! But I’m going to fix that right now (at least on this blog page, since we can’t reshoot the scene without it costing a lot of time and money)…

Crystal Ramos and Jose Cepeda

Anyway, back to the wide shot. As you can see from the full 11-second clip, there was a lot going on! The ship was shaking, panels were flickering, Garth was giving an order, people were moving across the bridge with some getting up from seats and others sitting down, the turbolift doors had to open AND close, and not only did Crystal have to make it look like she was carrying Jose into the lift, but Christy had to rush out of the turbolift without bumping into either Crystal or Jose and then squeeze past the communications chair without looking as though she was squeezing (’cause it is a very tight fit!).

And that’s just what was happening ON camera!

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #17: On the cutting room floor…”

INTERLUDE Confidential #16: Shields up! Time for the reviews…

INTERLUDE is finally out, and the reviews are coming in fast and furious! On YouTube, the video has racked up 15K views in three days, with 97% thumbs up. If you haven’t seen it yet, to quote Chekov, “Now vould be a good time…”

The praise and kudos have been great and are very rewarding to everyone on the team. And of course, the criticisms are out there, too. It’s inevitable that you’re not going to please all the Trekkies all the time. The trick to surviving the bad reviews is to focus on the good ones. If you give too much weight to the critics, the negativity will drag you down like an anchor. It’s the positive, supportive comments that bring up back up for air. If you want to keep breathing, use them as a helpful floatation device.

Or you can just do what I do and respond to the negative YouTube comments with: “Look, I’m really, really sorry that so many people disagree with you.”

Some people thought that Interlude was too short (is that criticism or praise?) or that the Ares and Artemis should have been firing back. Just for the record, the Klingons knocked out both ships’ weapons systems—listen closely to some of the background bridge chatter—and as you’ll discover in the AXANAR sequels, the new D7’s were nearly invulnerable to phasers and photon torpedoes.

Some folks thought ALEC PETERS’ acting was better in the first half, and some thought he was better in the second half. Some thought he couldn’t act at all, but hey, most fans couldn’t do much better and would probably have been a lot worse. It takes a lot of confidence to place yourself in front of the camera for the main role in any fan film…let alone one that’ll likely have hundreds of thousands of views. Alec put in ten long hours of tightly-focused work the day we filmed and another few hours getting the epilogue interview done. I was never expecting Laurence Olivier or Tom Hanks, and I was very happy with Alec’s performance.

Oh, and for anyone complaining about Alec’s “bulging Gowron eyes,” you might want to take another look at the TOS episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” I see the Garth glare as more of a feature than a bug…

On the other hand, praise was nearly universal for fan film newcomer and fellow sci-fi geek WARREN HAWK. Everyone love-love-loved Warren as Captain Jakande—as well they should have! Warren gave an awesome and passionate performance…and I love that deep, velvet voice of his.

(And consider this: in the Avalon Universe, Captain Jakande might not have died. So start saving your crowd-funding dollars, folks, ’cause you might just be able to help bring him back to fan films in a few months!)

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #16: Shields up! Time for the reviews…”

Presenting INTERLUDE – a Star Trek fan film in the AXANAR Universe!

(I know you wanna see INTERLUDE! Feel free to scroll down to the bottom of this web page, then come back to read the full blog entry.)


I was a fan of AXANAR even before the launch of their first Kickstarter campaign back in early 2014. And when PRELUDE TO AXANAR was released that summer, I was ecstatic. There had never been any fan film like this one, and it FELT like the Star Trek I had grown up with…something I couldn’t say about the newest Trek movie releases from Paramount and (later) television releases from CBS.

Later that summer, I jumped at the chance to volunteer to help pack and ship perks to donors (of which I was one, of course), and I got to know ALEC PETERS, DIANA KINGSBURY, ROBERT MEYER BURNETT, and a bunch of other folks involved with the production. Heck, I even joined the gang along with RICHARD HATCH (may he rest in peace) at a P.F. Chang’s in Long Beach after a convention for an awesome dinner experience.

By 2015, I was writing weekly “Fan Film Friday” blogs for the Axanar website about other Trek fan films…something that led to the creation of Fan Film Factor half a year later. Fan films in general, and Axanar in particular, had quickly become a major part of my life as a Trek fan.

Interlude was born in stages, but I can trace its initial origin back to June of 2017 when I was reading Alec’s new 2-part Axanar script. The legal settlement with CBS and Paramount forced him to trim the full-length movie script down to two 15-minute segments that would be filmed in the same mock documentary style as Prelude.

By this point, the amazing half-completed bridge set was being packed up and moved cross-country from southern California to Georgia, and I was looking forward to seeing how bridge scenes would be incorporated into the “mockumentary” format. But to my shock and horror, there were NO bridge scenes in Alec’s new script…only the same “talking heads” dialog and VFX as there was in Prelude. Huh?

What I didn’t know at the time was that Alec had purposefully left out any bridge scenes because he wasn’t certain whether he’d be able to raise the funds to complete the set. However, not knowing why there weren’t any bridge scenes, I mistakenly assumed Alec just felt like he couldn’t squeeze them in and still tell the story properly. So as a way of demonstrating that it was possible to have bridge scenes, I wrote a new version of the script…what I call my “alt-Axanar” script. Alec won’t be using it (he’s fine with his own version), but someday after the two Axanar sequels are released, I’ll publish it here on the blog just for fun.

Continue reading “Presenting INTERLUDE – a Star Trek fan film in the AXANAR Universe!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #15: After putting out fires, INTERLUDE will finally premiere on MONDAY, APRIL 5!

I can finally and proudly announce a release date for my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE:

MONDAY, APRIL 5, 2021 (Star Trek ‘s “First Contact Day”).

Well be premiering it during a special Axanar Confidential livecast this Monday night at 10:00 pm Eastern Time when I and a bunch of members of Team Interlude will be appearing with Fleet Captain Garth himself, ALEC PETERS. You can find the livecast on the Axanar YouTube Channel.

Let me tell ya, folks, for the last week or so, I wasn’t quite sure we were gonna make that deadline! While there’s no one holding a phaser to our heads to release Interlude on April 5th, “First Contact Day” is a coveted spot among Star Trek fan filmmakers if they can hit it. But I checked around, and this year, no one I spoke to was claiming that day (and if they had, I would have let them have it and just chosen a different date a week or two later). So with the coast clear, I started mentally preparing myself for April 5th.

Although we’ve been REALLY close to completing Interlude for the past few weeks, I wasn’t feeling comfortable enough to make an announcement until today. After all, we’ve been having a series of really crazy things happen along the way that have delayed or at least impacted pre-production, production, and post-production. Among these: rivers flooding, wild tornadoes, freak polar blast ice storms, trapped woodpeckers, and stray dogs on the road. Read more about them here, here, and here.

And now we can add FIRE to the list!

This past Monday, I couldn’t reach MARK EDWARD LEWIS, our post-production sound designer, for most of the day. That in and of itself isn’t unusual; Mark has a pretty busy life, and I don’t expect the entire team to be “on call” 24/7. (You need to actually pay people—and pay them a lot!—for that kind of service.)

But Monday was an important day. With just seven days left until my still-unannounced but highly desired deadline, we’d had an e-mail glitch. Two days earlier, I’d sent Mark a compilation of final notes on the latest sound mix from myself, our director VICTORIA FOX, our editor JOSH IRWIN, and our composer KEVIN CROXTON. But it was now Monday, the clock was ticking, and no one had heard back from Mark. So I messaged him on Monday morning my time (about noon for Mark in rural Tennessee) just checking that he’d be able to get those final fixes done in the next day or two and send the final audio mix over to Josh.

“I’m still waiting for a response from my last e-mail,” he replied.

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #15: After putting out fires, INTERLUDE will finally premiere on MONDAY, APRIL 5!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #14: Ample post-production patience and perseverance!

“Production hell” (or “development hell”) is a real thing in Hollywood…so much so that it has its own Wikipedia page. But did you know there’s also post-production hell? Or at least, there SHOULD be!

The three phases of film creation are typically pre-production (planning, budgeting, financing, hiring, scheduling, location scouting, construction, costume and prop preparation, etc.), then production (actually shooting footage), and finally post-production (editing, picture level and color adjustment, visual effects, sound effects, music, sound-mixing, etc.). It’s understandable that the first phase would take a while, and of course, you might spend weeks or months (or more) filming everything that you need. And of course, sometimes these phases overlap a little with each other. But you’d think that, once all the raw footage is “in the can” as they say in the industry, that post-production would go pretty quickly…even on a big-budget project. In fact, especially on a big-budget project, as you can afford to pay people to focus on finishing YOUR production rather than splitting up their time.

Yeah, you’d think post-production would be nice and fast. And maybe it is for some projects…but sadly, not for me and my debut fan film INTERLUDE.

I’m actually not alone in having an unexpectedly extended period of post-production for my project. Some of the most ambitious Star Trek fan films shot the majority of their footage years or even as much as half a decade(!!!) before finally releasing their finished products: STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, PACIFIC 201, STARSHIP EXETER, THE ROMULAN WAR, STAR TREK: TEMPORAL ANOMALY, many episodes of INTREPID…just to name a few. Heck, the series finale of STARSHIP FARRAGUT, “Homecoming,” was crowd-funded back in 2015, shot in 2016, and still isn’t out yet. And of course, fans have been waiting for YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL for what feels like forever. The most recently-announced release dates were this past Christmas day and then the end of January. (A major illness of one of JOHN ATKIN’s family members has delayed the release a bit longer.)

And then there’s Interlude.

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #14: Ample post-production patience and perseverance!”

AXANAR test vignette “THE DECOMMISSIONING” premieres!

Last Tuesday, fans of AXANAR got a pleasant little surprise when a new short fan film, set in the “Axaverse,” was released by GEOFF FAGIEN, who is the Director of Photography on the two upcoming Axanar sequels.

Geoff’s two-minute vignette, titled “The Decommissioning,” is not part of the official Axanar trilogy (PRELUDE TO AXANAR plus the two sequels). Instead, created by a a separate production company, REACH FILMS, it stands alone as an adjunct to the overall Axanar storyline . Axanar, of course, is a project from AXANAR PRODUCTIONS.

So why a sudden, unexpected Axanar vignette?

It turns out that this little exercise is a “test film” trying out a brand new camera, called the RED Komodo, that hasn’t even been released to the general public yet. Geoff is one of a small number of beta-testers of the new product. They each still have to buy the camera (about $6K-$7K…a fraction of the cost of higher-end cameras), but the company, RED, is looking to actual users to provide them with feedback to help improve and perfect this newest offering. And filmmakers like Geoff are happy to help, since the results they relay back to RED will only serve to make the firmware of the camera that they just bought even better.

One of the things that Geoff wanted to test was the camera’s ability to record video in low light. Lower-end cameras often cannot differentiate among the color values of very dark colors—many times interpreting them as solid blacks. Higher end cameras do a better job. Geoff was interested in seeing what the RED Komodo could do in a low-light production environment…and what better place to test it than on the bridge of the U.S.S. Ares in Lawrenceville, GA (just a short 9-10 drive from Boca Raton, FL where Geoff lives). Geoff has made multiple trips to Ares Studios for the previous shoots for Axanar, most recently back in March just before the pandemic lockdowns started.

In August, Geoff made the trip yet again, wanting to put the RED Komodo through its paces for potential future, non-Axanar projects at Ares Studios. And even though Geoff did a few straight-on tests comparing the Komodo to a Blackmagic pocket 6K camera with the same shots in the same lighting (you can see the surprising differences in this video), he really wanted to see how the Komodo would work in an actual production environment. So in addition to a couple of simple comparison tests, Geoff decided to also shoot a short film.

The idea for the film was simple enough: it’s 10 years after the end of the Four Years War, Memory Alpha is shooting their documentary (including Prelude to Axanar), and the U.S.S. Ares is being decommissioned to be turned into a starship museum. With the lights turned down low, Fleet Captain Garth is taking one final stroll around the bridge, lost in thought…

Continue reading “AXANAR test vignette “THE DECOMMISSIONING” premieres!”

ARES STUDIOS offers the complete set of AXANAR Master Systems Display posters in a new KICKSTARTER!

It’s the third Kickstarter in the last five months from ARES STUDIOS offering exclusive poster prints from the AXANAR universe!

The first Kickstarter ran during the final two weeks in May and brought in $9.7K to help pay expenses for Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA. That Kickstarter offered a super-size (36″ x 24″) Master Systems Display cutaway poster of the U.S.S. Ares plus a smaller schematic poster featuring top, bottom, side, front and rear views of the Ares. And because that campaign blew past two stretch goals, two additional 11″ x 17″ posters were included for all donors: a MSD cutaway poster for the U.S.S. Geronimo class and a Klingon tactical display poster.

The second Kickstarter raised nearly $11K after being active for two weeks in early July. This time, the campaign was for an amazingly detailed 9-sheet set of deck-by-deck blueprints crafted meticulously by ALEXANDER RICHARDSON of Great Britain. Alexander also created the MSD cutaway posters. The stretch goal for the second Kickstarter was a smaller 11″ x 17″ version of the U.S.S. Ares MSD poster from the first Kickstarter…the idea being that, while the larger poster was suitable to put up on the wall, the smaller poster could be stored alongside the same-sized blueprint pages in this Portfolio Presentation folder (available on Amazon).

Now it’s time to complete the set of 11″ x 17″ Master Systems Display posters with the remaining three starship classes from Axanar: the U.S.S. Triton, U.S.S. Magellan, and U.S.S. Korolev. And because the Korelev has the secondary hull BETWEEN the two nacelles, there will be an additional MSD poster of that starship class showing the cutaway view from the top.

But wait, there’s more!

The MSD poster set will also include the two previous starship classes that were stretch goals in the previous two campaigns (since not everyone donated to those and might not have them). So in total, there will be six 11″ x 17″ posters featuring all five Federation starship classes from PRELUDE TO AXANAR and the Axanar sequels.

But wait, there’s even MORE!!

You can get the six MSD posters for a $25 donation (plus shipping), but for an extra $10, you can add on two U.S.S. Ares Monitor Graphics posters (also 11″ x 17″ and designed by DANA WAGENR and ALEXANDER RICHARDSON)…replicas of the graphics used on the incredible bridge set at Ares Studios.

The Kickstarter quickly passed its $2K goal in its first 24 hours, so there’s no chance that this won’t fund. And all of the orders from the first two Kickstarters have already been shipped, so there’s a pretty quick turnaround. In fact, I’ve been meticulously studying my Ares blueprints deck-by-deck for the last week and a half!

Right now, the Kickstarter stands at about $3K after 4 days, with 16 days to go. And if donations top $6K, there’s a special stretch goal for this campaign, as well: a U.S.S. Ares Bridge graphic 11″ x 17″ poster, based on the panel that hangs to the left of the turbo lift opposite the dedication plaque…for FREE.

Click below to visit the Kickstarter page:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aresstudios/axanar-msd-poster-collection