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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DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’s latest release: “THE HEIST”

Last week on Halloween day, two brand new Star Trek fan films debuted on YouTube. I haven’t had a chance yet to cover either because I was overseeing a Halloween carnival at my son’s school last Thursday and then flying to Georgia over the weekend to make a fan film. But during this past week, one of those two fan films, the Avalon Universe episode DEMONS (Segment One) has already attracted over 26K views on YouTube as I write this. (And Segment Two has over a thousand views in just seven hours.)

The other Halloween release last week was the latest episode of the long-running DREADNOUGHT DOMINION: “The Heist.” Since debuting, the Youtube view count for this fan film is currently a whopping…356. And that, my friends, is the main reason why I am covering Dominion first here on Fan Film Factor…well, that and the fact that I still need to interview the Demons directors—who are also MY fan film’s directors—and they are both VERY sleep deprived from an incredible weekend of fan filming along with two 12-hour one-way drives between Arkansas and Georgia!

There’s really no direct comparison between these two productions beyond the fact that some of the flashbacks in Demons were filmed at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA…which is also where Dominion films. (Avalon now shoots at WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas.) But in terms of acting, lighting, sound, and a slew of other technical elements, Demons is clearly the superior production. However, if that is the only reason you’re watching Star Trek fan films, you’re missing a big part of what this community is all about!

Both of these projects have HEART. In fact, Dreadnought Dominion is one of those fan series that, I believe, epitomizes the very core of what makes fan films so special: FANS. They don’t do this necessarily to dazzle you with their acting or filmmaking prowess. They’re not looking to win awards or get millions of views on Youtube. Folks like Dreadnought Dominion, Potemkin Pictures, VANCE MAJOR’s Minard and Constar Chronicles—plus a host of others—do this because it’s an itch they have to scratch. They want to tell their Star Trek stories, and they want to have fun along the way. They’re not afraid or embarrassed to put themselves out there for all to see…nor should they be!

So I ask you all who are reading this blog today to give this latest episode of Dominion a watch. Let’s up their view count a bit. Fans with heart, who love Star Trek just as much as you do, deserve our support and encouragement. Then, after you watch, take a minute or two to read the following short interview with show-runner GARY DAVIS further down this blog page…

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The TWO missions of the INTERLUDE fan project…

We all know the primary mission of the USS Enterprise: to explore strange, new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man/one has gone before.

But if you think about it, any decent science vessel could do that job just as easily. The Enterprise was different, though. While its primary mission was one of exploration and discovery, the crew had many, many more responsibilities: peacekeeper, diplomacy, war ship, search and rescue, medical transport, resupply, and even (in a couple of cases) espionage.

The starship Enterprise carried out many kinds of missions, and in the same way, so will my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. Unquestionably, the primary mission (aside from having fun…always a must for fan productions!) is to make a slick, kick-ass fan film for you all to enjoy. But like our favorite TOS and TNG starship, Interlude had some additional tasks to accomplish…among them showing how Ares Studios is a viable resource for other fan films beyond just AXANAR (Vance Major gets his chance in a few more months) and demonstrating that it’s still possible to crowd-fund a Star Trek fan film into the five-figure range even post-guidelines…while dutifully following those guidelines.

But there’s one other mission for Interlude which, to me at least, is the most important: I did it for the blog.

More specifically, I did it for the majority of my readers who might never have an actual opportunity to walk onto a fan film set or be a show-runner. Perhaps a few of you want to be an executive producer or director yourself someday. Or maybe you just want to get a ringside seat on all the action.

Either way, I’ve done (and will continue to do) something with Interlude that I’m pretty sure has never been done before with any other fan film. I’m documenting nearly everything that’s gone into making it—from budgeting to building the team to all of the strategies I’ve used to crowd-fund to pre-production design to casting and costuming details. (No Land’s End shirts!) Thanks to these many blogs, my readers are getting to “look over my shoulder” at nearly every detail…assuming they’re interested in such things. To me, that’s actually one of the most exciting aspects of this whole process: not only do I get to watch and be a part of it all, but I can SHARE the experience with all of you!

And this past weekend’s shoot was no exception.

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And that’s a WRAP for the first (main) shoot of INTERLUDE!

I don’t have much time to blog this morning ’cause it’s still going to be a very busy day! But I did just send the following update to the donors for my GoFundMe campaign who made all of this possible. And I wanted to share the message here, as well…


Oh, man!

I am still processing what I can only describe as a kaleidoscopic weekend of amazingness shooting the main scenes of INTERLUDE at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, Georgia. It’s gonna take a LOT of blogs to fully convey the experience of the past 3 days. But first, I need to record some lines on audio this morning, get to the airport, and fly back to Los Angeles.

All I have time to tell you right now is that your donations were not only well-spent, they were MASTERFULLY spent by a team whose talent and ability astounded me. I think we came pretty close to NOT going over budget, but I’ll need to crunch the numbers when I get home. I might need to beg for a few hundred dollars more. Maybe not. At one point, there was so much happening on set that I just handed my credit card over to someone (I don’t even remember who!) along with a laundry list of everything we needed locally and where to get it–from gaffer’s tape to extra snacks and Gatorade. It was a little surreal. (Thank heavens I got my credit card back!)

But let me assure you folks: this fan film will not only be awesome, it will be a visual work of art. Josh Irwin’s mastery of lighting and color gave his shots a cinematic feel reminiscent of the stunning palette of first season TOS on a bridge so similar yet uniquely different. And Victoria drew out some amazing on-screen performances from both trained actors and a few untrained fans (’cause we’re still a FAN film, folks!).

Anyway, more fun and fantastic details, videos, pictures (SO many photos!), interviews, and stories to come…as soon as I have time to go through more than 900 photos and about 10 hours of behind-the-scenes footage. Stay tuned…and THANK YOU ALL again for making this dream possible.

AXANAR raises $15.7K in first ten days of private crowd-funding!

The big news in the fan film world a week and a half ago was, of course, the wildly successful first shooting weekend for AXANAR. If you haven’t already, you can take a look at the many, MANY online streamed videos of the exciting shoot here, here, and here.

A week later, the biggest news is how much ALEC PETERS has managed to raise in just ten days of private crowd-funding for the production of the two Axanar sequel fan films. As of the publication of this blog, that number stands at nearly $15,800!

And what’s most amazing about that total is that those donations are almost exclusively from existing donors…with no public marketing or advertising of the campaign thus far. (In contrast, my GoFundMe for INTERLUDE took six times that long to raise that amount.)

You might be wondering why Alec is trying to raise money AFTER the shoot rather than before it. The answer is simple. Alec paid for the first shoot entirely out of his own pocket…about $75,000, according to him. This brings the total money that Alec has personally put into funding Axanar over the last five years well over a quarter of a million dollars.

“While I don’t mind fronting money for the remaining production,” Alec told me, “and I’ve certainly been doing quite a lot of that, Axanar was never intended to be funded by just one person. And honestly, I no longer have anything left to put into this project…much as I’d love to.

“So now we have to go back to our existing donors as we return to our roots of being a crowd-funded fan film. And that means we need $70,000 right now to fund the costs for our first two shoots. That’ll cover some of the expenses I already paid, although not all. Considering that our second shoot is going to cost another $20,000, even when we reach the full goal amount, I’ll probably still be left having put about $25,000 of my own money into these first two shoots. I don’t mind that, but I simply can’t afford $70,000 or more.

“So that’s where our existing donors need to step up. And they’re already starting to—which is fantastic!”

The next question I had for Alec is one that many people are asking right now: is Alec actually allowed to crowd-fund Axanar anymore? What does his legal settlement with CBS and Paramount let him do and not do when it comes to fundraising? Does he have to abide by the $50,000 limit imposed by the guidelines, or does he get a special waiver to exceed that limit (just as Alec has a special exemption allowing him to use professional Star Trek veteran actors like J.G. HERTZELR and GARY GRAHAM)?

Alec answered my questions for this blog with a blog of his own that he just posted on the Axanar website. You can read it below…

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INTERLUDE update: How do you solve a problem like Ramirez?

The whole reason INTERLUDE exists (will exist) is because ALEC PETERS wanted to explain why Admiral Ramirez won’t be appearing in the Axanar sequels. In reality, actor TONY TODD left the production and declined to play Ramirez again. Actors J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, and the late RICHARD HATCH, on the other hand, decided to stick with Alec and see it through.

And while the loss of Richard hit us all very hard, it turned out that losing Tony Todd, even though he is an amazing actor, wasn’t as devastating a set-back for the Axanar script as was the loss of Kharn. In other words, it was fairly easy to write out Ramirez and replace him with a different Starfleet commanding admiral. In Alec’s original draft, Ramirez gets wounded while being escorted back on a convoy from a secret meeting. His injuries are serious enough that he has to sit out the rest of the war, turning over his duties to Admiral Threl of Androria.

My Interlude script took that quick “oh, by the way…” bit of exposition and expanded it into a 10-12 minute fan film (or so I hope!). The only problem is: now I need to show Ramirez!

Granted, he only needs to be wounded, so he won’t have any spoken lines. In the comic book version, it was easy to show him—as the artwork in the panel above illustrates him lying in the Ares sickbay covered in blood. But what about the fan film?

Of course, I could simply take the easy way out and just not show Ramirez in Sickbay at all…and instead have the doctor call up to the bridge, “Captain, Admiral Ramirez is in critical condition down here!” But that would have been such a cop out.

Also, I was kinda looking forward to filming a scene somewhere other than on the Ares Studios bridge set. Granted, it’s a AWESOME set, but I really wanted one or two other locations for the action, as well. Initially, that Sickbay scene was going to be filmed at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA on the TOS sets previously used for Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut. But that offer was rescinded. Fortunately, GLEN WOLFE stepped up and volunteered his WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas for the Sickbay scene.

Now we just needed to find someone to play Admiral Ramirez…!

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INTERLUDE update: logos and patches and plaques, oh my!

It’s time for another look behind the INTERLUDE curtain, my friends! Last week, I showed you the secret origin of the photo of the Golden Gate Bridge that will appear behind Admiral Slater for about 20 seconds at the end of the fan film. This week, I’m going to shine the spotlight on how we came up with the ship’s logo for the USS Artemis. The process was much more involved than I thought it would be!

Our story begins over a year ago before Interlude was ever going to be a fan FILM and was simply going to be a fan COMIC BOOK. It was time for my illustrator, the amazingly talented DANIEL FU, to draw Captain Imari Jakande of the USS Artemis for the first time, and he needed to know what kind of insignia to put on his chest.

Hmmm…

By this point, three of the Ares-class starships had logos designed for them: Ajax, Ares, and Hercules:

They each featured some kind of weapon (I consider a lightning bolt thrown by a super-strong demi-god to be a weapon). So what kind of weapon was Artemis known for? Well, as goddess of the hunt, she was often depicted with a bow and arrow. The problem was, bows and arrows are very thin and don’t typically have enough room to fit a command star symbol in the center…let alone a sciences planet or an engineering comet.

But Daniel did a little research to discover that Artemis was also the goddess of the moon. Sure, the moon isn’t a weapon (usually), but it’s still a nice celestial outer space thingie. So I gave Daniel a green light to do a moonish insignia. Here’s what he came up with:

As I said, this was long before Interlude the fan film became a possibility. But once it did, I realized that we were going to need an insignia for the USS Artemis tunics in the film…and suddenly there was a problem again. (Isn’t there always in these blogs?)

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How I spent my first crowd-funded $12 on INTERLUDE…

As filming dates rapidly approach, things are getting really exciting for both AXANAR and INTERLUDE! And while ALEC PETERS updates everyone on the progress of his fan film, I’m going to write a series of blogs about the happenings on the Interlude side of the fence…since it’s a really fascinating journey we’re on. I want to share that journey with all of you as much as I can; that’s what blogging is all about!

I’m not planning to write a blog whenever I pay for something for my fan film. But your first time is always special, and I wanted to tell you about it.

But first, I’d like to share a another special moment that came at 12:16am on June 23, 2019—12 days after I’d launched my crowd-funding campaign for Interlude. I received what was to be the first of nearly 100 daily e-mails from GoFundMe…

Wow. Just…wow.

It’d taken me a couple of weeks to get my bank account properly linked to my GoFundMe account. But truth to tell, I hadn’t realized that GoFundMe gives you the money each night just after midnight for any donations your campaign receives that day. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how they did it, but getting money transferred each night at midnight felt like having elves or leprechauns visit and leave money behind! Some days, I’d receive less than $10 while other days would see deposits into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars! For for three months, those “Your money is on the way” e-mails appeared almost every night. It was soooo weird.

Anyway, I let that money accrue, and the balance in my bank account just kept growing. As of the beginning of September, my account balance was over $19,000. (This is a separate bank account set up for the campaign, not our main joint account.)

But then came the moment that I knew was inevitable. After watching the money only go INTO the account for three months, I was finally going to have to make my first payment FROM that account. And even though, as executive producer, I’ve always known I was going to have to one day start spending those crowd-funded dollars, it still felt weird…and a little scary! After all, once money is spent, it doesn’t come back without more crowd-funding. And I gave donors a very specific budget.

To make things even more scary, my first expense was completely unplanned for and unbudgeted. (See? I toldja we’d forget something! That’s why we need contingency.) Fortunately, the unexpected expense was (this first time) was only twelve bucks…

So what cost us just $12? Glad you asked…

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Major AXANAR update! (audio interview with ALEC PETERS)

Believe it or not, it’s been nearly three months since my last blog update on the status of the AXANAR sequels. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a TON of stuff going on!

For those folks who have been watching the regular updates by ALEC PETERS on the (usually) weekly “Axanar Confidential” YouTube podcast, you know a lot of the exciting things that have been happening lately…including the fact that the first official shoot for the two Axanar sequels is scheduled for October 4-6! This will include J.G. HERTZLER flying down to Georgia to appear as Sam Travis. Scenes will be filmed on the USS Ares bridge set along with green screen scenes and recording the audio drama version of the full Axanar script.

But for all of those recent updates, I still had a few unanswered questions for Alec—things like…

  • If this production is going to cost $150K-$200K (as Alec has estimated previously), then when is he planning to start raising private donations from backers…and who has been paying for things up till now?
  • Is KATE VERNON going to appear in the Axanar sequels?
  • Who else has been brought onto the project and in what roles (both actors and production crew)?
  • How close is the bridge to being finished—and will it be ready in time for October’s shoot?
  • How many other shoots are planned, and where and when will they be happening?

So with these and other questions floating around in my head, I decided this might be a good time to interview Alec. We set up a phone call for last Friday evening, but naturally, he was late because he had to rescue a dog. And so we had to reschedule. (Yes, I’m serious.) So we chatted a couple days later, and I’ve just finished editing the sound file…which—I am certain will not surprise anyone—includes the sound of dog barks in the background.

So please enjoy the latest Axanar update with Alec Peters (woof!)…

INTERLUDE hits its goal of $19,500 on STAR TREK’s anniversary!

I feel overwhelmed right now, deeply touched, humbled, and just a little bit verklempt.

A few hours ago, during the 53rd anniversary of the debut of Star Trek on NBC, the GoFundMe campaign for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE reached its goal of $19,500. It was an amazing feeling…especially as the donation that got us there was for an incredibly-generous $500. Earlier in the day, another donor had brought us to exactly $19,000 with a $28 donation. That kind of support and belief in our team and me means more than I can put into words.

The backer who pushed us into the end zone was SHANE FREUND, an Axanar supporter who had also donated to Interlude a few weeks previously. Along with yesterday’s donation came this message:

On the anniversary of Star Trek, I wanted to help you reach your goal because having the courage to take a risk is what Star Trek is all about.

I thought about that statement for a few minutes. In my mind, Star Trek is about a lot of things: tolerance, empathy, inclusiveness, loyalty, duty, honesty, a desire to explore and discover, hope for the future, and a willingness to help others to make things better. And yes, Star Trek is also about taking chances and believing in yourself, in the abilities of your friends and crew, and even believing in luck and your ability to beat the odds.

I grew up in the 1970s watching scenes like this over and over in reruns…

And when you think about it, taking a chance and beating the odds is also what crowd-funding is all about. You put yourself out there and hope that your friends (and crew…and a bunch of strangers) will come through and help you out.

Of course, successfully crowd-funding a project (or a dream) does require a lot of work . Campaigns don’t just fund themselves. But it all comes down to one game-changing word: CAN. “I can.” “You can.” “We can.” Those are among the most powerful sentences in the English language.

And do you know what the other most powerful sentences are? “I can’t.” “We can’t.” “You can’t.”

I mention this because I’ve spent this entire GoFundMe campaign these past three months trying my darnedest to ignore the almost constant drip-drop of negativity from many, many members of the Axamonitor Facebook group. Even when some fair-minded folks over there tried to be supportive of me and my project, others would make comments like this…

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