NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS Patreon is ON FIRE!

Man, I hope nobody misread that headline as “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is ON FIRE!” No, no, no…that is NOT what’s happening!

But what is happening is that donations are coming into their Patreon campaign at an awesome pace! It was barely three weeks ago that I published a blog marveling at a single donor committing to pay more than $800/month(!!!) to help keep the rent, utilities, maintenance, and insurance paid on the building housing the amazing TOS sets that had first been used for both Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues.

After purchasing the sets from VIC MIGNOGNA in late 2017, uber-fan RAY TESI decided to open up the renamed NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA to any fan filmmaker wanting to shoot there (cost is $300/day). Already, Dreadnought Dominion, Ghost Ship, and the upcoming Constar Chronicles have all shot there…with more projects scheduled soon, including an appearance by NICHELLE NICHOLS for the proposed documentary about her amazing life and career.

The sets were also opened up to the general public for a weekend last October and will be opened up again this coming weekend for Fan Appreciation Weekend 2. (It’s free to attend, and you can still sign up here.)

But while they say the best things in life are free, in this case, someone has definitely been paying for the “free”—Ray Tesi himself. Considered by many (including me) to be one of the nicest guys in our fan film community, Ray has been paying the costs for this studio out of his retirement savings for the last year and a half. That’s about $3,500/month or $42,000/year.

Think about that number for a second. Ray isn’t a Kardashian (or even a Cardassian). He’s just a nice guy with a modest income and some decent savings wanting to keep these unbelievably beautiful and important sets out of the dumpster.

Continue reading “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS Patreon is ON FIRE!”

JONATHAN LANE’s fan film will take place in…the AXANAR UNIVERSE!

What…you didn’t see that coming?

I thought about keeping this little nugget of information secret for a few weeks longer, doing a “big reveal” just before launching my crowd-funding campaign next month. But I just can’t help myself! I want you all to know about INTERLUDE: A Star Trek Fan Film set in the AXANAR Universe.

Wait, Jonathan’s doing what now?

Okay, set your Guardian of Forever or Burnham-built Time-Suit to June of 2017 when ALEC PETERS sent me a script to review and provide him feedback. It was his first attempt to shorten the 90-minute Axanar feature film into two 15-minute episodes of “The Four Years War” (in a similar mockumentary style to PRELUDE TO AXANAR).

I was kind of a “unique” reader for Alec, as I’d purposefully avoided reading his full-length script up until that point. So I had no idea what Alec was taking out and keeping in. But when I finished reading it, I was left feeling a little confused. Despite some very exciting sequences in and around the epic Battle of Axanar, I noticed that there were no scenes that took place on that incredible USS Ares bridge! WTF???

I figured that Alec was worried that he didn’t have enough screen time available with just 30 minutes to include dramatic sequences on the bridge. But I felt that, if handled carefully, a few parts could be trimmed here and there to make room for some cool (albeit short) bridge scenes. To illustrate what I was trying to explain, I wrote out one of these scenes, taking a quick line of Garth’s dialogue that explained why Admiral Ramirez wouldn’t be in these next two movies (actor TONY TODD isn’t returning for the sequels) and turned it into a brief sequence set on the bridges of two Ares-class starships.

I ended up “catching a muse” and just kept writing…and writing…and writing. By 5 a.m., I’d created a full 15-minute Axanar script similar to Alec’s but littered with exciting bridge scenes. After a few hours of sleep, I began working on the other 15-minute script, finishing that one by 3 p.m. With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I shared my new script versions with Alec…

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NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS nearly doubles its Patreon total with an unexpected $800/MONTH donor!

As you might remember from my recent blog, NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingland, GA (where Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut) has a Patreon campaign currently trying to raise $3,500/month to cover rent, utilities, insurance, and maintenance. Right now, those expenses are being paid primarily by RAY TESI, the super-fan who purchased the iconic TOS set recreations from STC show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA. Ray has generously opened up his sets to fan filmmakers and also to the general public during periodic Fan Appreciation Weekends (the next of which is coming up on May 24-26).

The challenge for Ray is that these monthly expenses are ongoing…which is not the case for his retirement savings, which is what is funding the dream at the moment. So Ray has asked the fan community to chip in in the form of small monthly contributions made via Patreon.

The campaign kicked off last July and kinda went nowhere for seven months. By February, Ray was up to only 17 patrons donating $176/month (of which Patreon takes a small percentage), leaving Ray with annual expenses that were still topping $40,000…YIKES!!!

But then things began to look up, as a renewed outreach effort on social media saw totals nearly triple by the end of February to 41 patrons and $566/month. Ray was down to having to cover “only” $35,000/year. Sure, still a long way to go…but definitely headed in the right direction.

The following two months saw reliably steady growth, reaching 74 patrons and $872/month by the time I checked the campaign before heading to bed on April 22. Ray was now taking in about $10,000/year, covering about 25% of his expenses.

When I sat down at my computer the next morning, Ray’s Patreon page was still on the screen, so I did a refresh just out of curiosity. I didn’t expect the total to change, but ya never know. That said, it took me a few moments to fully process what I was seeing…

At some point while I slept, Ray’s Patreon total had jumped from $872/month to $1,696/month—almost DOUBLING overnight! Surely this was some kind of glitch at Patreon. No one donates $824/month…do they????

I messaged Ray.

Continue reading “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS nearly doubles its Patreon total with an unexpected $800/MONTH donor!”

BIG NEWS: Jonathan Lane is going to make a STAR TREK fan film!

Did you know that I’ve now been involved with Star Trek fan films for TWENTY YEARS??? It seems amazing to me!

Although I’ve only been blogging about fan productions since 2015, I appeared in my first Star Trek fan film way back in 1999 when I made out in the turbolift with my then real-life girlfriend in VOYAGES OF THE USS ANGELES: “The Price of Duty.” That short-lived fan series that grew out of our local Star Trek fan group evolved into STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER, and I’d drop by the occasional shoot in Pasadena every now and then to help out behind-the-scenes. If you don’t blink, you can see me as an extra (an Elosian guard) in the fifth episode of the HF spin-off series STAR TREK: ODYSSEY, “Keepers of the Wind” (2008).

Since I began blogging about Trek fan films four years ago, I’ve dabbled a bit in a few more of them. In 2016, during the early days of the CBS/Paramount lawsuit against Axanar, I co-wrote and co-produced with MARK LARGENT a hilarious parody of both the AXANAR fan film and the lawsuit called STALLED TREK: PRELUDE TO AX’D-WE ARE. I also provided the voices for four of the animated puppet characters, including the fan-favorite Vulcanine Ambassador Snowball (“My ears are still bleeding…”).

I did voice-over again in the recent ROMULAN WAR: WAR STORIES vignette “Final Flight,” portraying the character of Lt. Geoffrey Christopher, the engineer/test pilot responsible for developing the Warp 7 engine that helped Starfleet defeat the Romulans. I was also featured in a brief cameo during Vance Major‘s Minard saga episode “Change” as one of Erick Minard’s “network” (which also included other prominent members of the real-world fan film community who were friends of Vance).

But in all of this time, the fan films I was involved with were always somebody else’s (even Ax’d-We-Are, which was part of Mark Largent’s Stalled Trek puppet parody series).

Now, however, I’m finally doing a fan film that comes from my head, where I am the show-runner (executive producer), and if it falls off a cliff, I’m the one responsible!

Hopefully, it won’t fall off a cliff…

Continue reading “BIG NEWS: Jonathan Lane is going to make a STAR TREK fan film!”

Now crowd-funding: “TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE” – a unique fan film from a unique fan! (interview with LARRY FLEMING)

Okay, now that you guys have stepped up to help fund the Avalon Universe fan film “Demons,” as well as Neutral Zone Studios and Ares Studios…guess what? Yep, another fan project needs your help!

This time, it’s a very unique production from a very unique fan. LARRY FLEMING has been working in the world of Star Trek fan films for nearly a decade, having begun back in 2010 with an early episode of the long-running fan series Star Trek: Natures Hunger. Since then, he’s produced, done set decoration for, done stunts for, and acted in numerous fan productions including Starship Farragut, Trek Isolation, Exeter Trek, Starship Republic, Minard, Dreadnought Dominion, Melbourne, and various releases from Potemkin Pictures. Now it’s time for Larry to write, direct, produce, and star in his own fan film!

What’s so unique about his latest project, TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE? Glad you asked. While many details remain unknown, the general plot-line appears to merge our own Trekker/Trekkie fan reality with the universe of Star Trek in a new and creative way. The following is from his current Indiegogo campaign page:

Prepare to go where no fan production has gone before!

Fan films are dreams come true, wish-fulfillment fantasies realized through the miracle of video production.  But what if it all happened for REAL? What if you were suddenly on board the USS Enterprise and Captain Kirk and his crew needed YOUR help?  Would you know what to do? After all, you’re the ultimate Trekkie, right? But this isn’t just a show anymore, and those Klingons are really shooting at you!

Meet Peter Warren, a “get-a-life” Star Trek fanatic who wakes up on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in his Captain Kirk pajamas…only to discover the ship is empty, the crew displaced in time, and an unstoppable foe from the future has a plan that is futile to resist.  Can a Trekkie in his pajamas possibly save the Federation all by himself?

Cross the threshold between reality and fantasy as the two become one in the upcoming fan film “To Have Boldly Gone.”  With your generous donations, you can help turn this fantasy into a wonderful reality for fans everywhere to watch and enjoy!

Sounds pretty cool, huh? Well, that’s only half the story. Y’see, the fan behind this film have been a Savior on The Walking Dead and will appear in Avengers: Endgame (if they don’t cut his scene). In fact, he’s been in numerous movies and TV shows, but his true love is fan films.

Let’s meet him…

Continue reading “Now crowd-funding: “TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE” – a unique fan film from a unique fan! (interview with LARRY FLEMING)”

Can the Klingons help AVALON get $500 in donations in 4 days???

Currently, the Indiegogo campaign for the third AVALON UNIVERSE fan film, “Demons,” stands at $5,500 from 86 backers (64% of the way to their $8,500 goal). Actually, there’s an additional $500 donation that came in that didn’t get recorded (read more about that glitch here), so they’re really 70% of the way there!

Last week, show-runners JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX extended their campaign for 8 more days, trying to attract a few extra dollars, if possible. So far, it’s worked to get them to where they are, but there’s still a way to go. It’d be great to reach their goal, but if that’s not possible by Monday, Josh and Victoria are hoping for at least another $500, which will make a really big difference for the production.

So I’m doing my part in sharing the following three videos they’ve released showing the quality of the visual effects being done by the wizard of speed and time, SAMUEL COCKINGS. These are only pre-visualizations (rough animations to establish motion), but they show what some of the Klingon ships will look like in the Avalon Universe, which is similar to the prime universe but also slightly different in fun and fascinating ways. It gives the producers a bit more creative freedom than fan films that hew more closely to Trek canon usually get with ship and costume design.

Anyway, take a look at these three short videos, because they’re really cool…

Excited? Well, the live action scenes are just as well-produced, as Joshua and Victoria are both industry professionals in their “real” lives. You can listen to a great interview I recently did with them here…

$500 in 4 days…and you can help make it happen! Or if you can’t, maybe a fan friend of yours can. So please share the link and, if you’re feeling generous, help these fan producers make more Star Trek for the rest of us to enjoy…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/demons-a-star-trek-fan-film–2

Major CONTROVERSY for NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA – the bad, ugly, and the good…

Over this past weekend, two fan films that were scheduled to shoot on the TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA (formerly used by Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut), made major announcements based on some unexpected new pricing policies implemented by the studio at the last minute. It wasn’t pretty.

Previously, Neutral Zone Studios, purchased last year by RAY TESI, had followed the lead of the now-defunct Starbase Studios in Oklahoma and (later) Arkansas of charging fans only for the cost of electricity and utilities but otherwise allowing the use the sets for free for any fan production to film on. Of course, nothing is really “free,” and the costs for rent and upkeep had to be paid by someone…and in this case, it’s been Ray Tesi.

Just this past month alone, Ray had to write $6,000 in checks for rent, utilities and his annual insurance on the facility and sets. In a typical year, Ray’s out-of-pocket costs—just to keep the sets from winding up in the dumpster—is about $42,000!

To try to help with expenses, Ray launched a Patreon campaign almost a year ago seeking small monthly donations from fans. While it’s doing modestly well—currently taking in about $800 a month from 64 backers—that still leaves Ray with nearly $33,000 in annual expenses. For a guy who is paying for this venture out of his retirement fund , this is a significant commitment. And frankly, I personally think more fans need to step forward and help Ray cover his costs…because if Ray runs out of money, these sets really will wind up in a dumpster.

But more on that in a moment. First, let me tell you about what happened this past weekend—both the bad, the ugly, and the good…

Continue reading “Major CONTROVERSY for NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA – the bad, ugly, and the good…”

Mysterious INDIEGOGO glitch almost cost the AVALON fan filmmakers a $500 donation!

If you donated to the AVALON Indiegogo, please read this blog

First of all, you’ve got until THIS SUNDAY to donate to the Indiegogo campaign for the third AVALON UNIVERSE fan film: “Demons”…so hurry up and click on the link below (or at least share it with friends):

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/demons-a-star-trek-fan-film–2

Currently, the total shows the campaign at $4,615 from 70 backers, about 54% of the way to their $8,500 goal. But as it turns out, there’s a $500 donation MISSING (more on that in a moment), meaning the total is really up to $5,115, or about 60% of the goal.

So how did a $500 get lost? No one knows exactly—not even Indiegogo. But here’s what we do know…

Continue reading “Mysterious INDIEGOGO glitch almost cost the AVALON fan filmmakers a $500 donation!”

2018-in-review: The return of the Trek fan film CROWD-FUNDER!

Remember the good, old days? Back in 2015 and before, Star Trek fan film crowd-funders were as common as lens flares on a JJ Abrams movie set! They’d easily take in thousands, tens of thousands, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of enthusiastically-donated fan contributions.

We all know what happened. Axanar was sued. Six weeks later, Tommy Kraft was told by CBS to take down his $250K Kickstarter for Federation Rising. And then in June 2016, the fan film guidelines came out. And while they didn’t forbid crowd-funding, they did put a $50K cap on it and severely curtailed what kinds of perks could be offered.

Fans (including me) predicted the complete demise of Star Trek fan films. It turned out that we were wrong. Fan films found a way to not only live on but also to prosper, working within the guidelines (mostly) while still being pretty decent—in some cases even quite excellent.

Ah, but crowd-funding…therein lied the rub! While the days of the six-figure Kickstarters and Indiegogos for Trek fan films were obviously gone, maybe fans would still donate five-figures or even just four-figures. Maybe? For a while, it wasn’t looking good.

For the remainder of 2016, only Renegades (with Star Trek surgically removed) attempted a crowd-funding campaign for “The Requiem” (reaching $146K). And Starbase Studios raised $3,500 for a move from Oklahoma to Arkansas for their TOS sets. But beyond that, the only crowd-funding even peripherally connected to Star Trek fan films was a $19K successful Kickstarter by Star Trek: Horizon creator Tommy Kraft to fund his NON-Star Trek fan film Runaway.

Would 2017 fare any better for Trek crowd funders? Well, not so much…

Continue reading “2018-in-review: The return of the Trek fan film CROWD-FUNDER!”

It’s gonna be a NAIL-BITER for SKY FIGHTER!!!

I have to be honest with you guys: I didn’t think it was gonna happen.  With many recent crowd-funding campaigns for Trek fan films clawing their way to $10K (if that!), how was a NON-Star Trek fan film by a first-time director gonna possibly take in $25,000???  And beyond that, SKY FIGHTER‘s writer/director LUKAS KENDALL had selected the all-or-nothing “Fixed Goal” option on Indiegogo, where if you don’t reach your goal, you get NOTHING (just like on Kickstarter).

I mean, who does that????  If you’re gonna use Indiegogo, at least choose the “Flex Goal” option and keep whatever you raise, regardless of how much or how little.  But as Lukas told me in this interview, he was going all in…$25K or bust!!!

I was also curious about Lukas’ somewhat unorthodox approach, including posting his complete script for the Sky Fighter short film for anyone to read, using a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor to describe himself and his project, and including among his perks certain ones that seemed a bit (purposefully) outrageous.

Would this work?  Could this work?

The answer may just turn out to be YES, but it’s gonna be SUPER-CLOSE!  With just two days left (the campaign ends this Thursday at midnight Pacific Time), the Sky Fighter Indiegogo is nearly 90% of the way to its $25,000 goal.. at $22,248 as I type this.

Lukas, who gained a following producing CD collections of popular science fiction TV and movie scores, has been relying on those same followers for a lot of his donor support, and it’s certainly been working.  Among his most popular perks are the “Best of Both Worlds” signed CD ($20 + shipping), the Return to Tomorrow – Making of ST:TMP book ($35 + shipping), and especially the Star Trek TOS CD box set & 50th Anniversary 4 CD set ($199, free shipping). That latter bundle saves people around $100.

There is eve a weekend on Martha’s Vinyard for $1,000 where you get to spend a Friday-Sunday in August with Lukas Kendall’s MOTHER!  She’ll even take you out for dinner on Saturday night.  (I told you there were some outrageous perks.)    Donate $1,000 and you get to go through Lukas’ crap in the basement!

C’mon, folks!  Let’s get this Indiegogo campaign across the finish line…

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!