Could the new LOWER DECKS be the STAR TREK series fans have been waiting for?

Get ready for an, ahem, animated discussion…and probably a whole bunch of really angry response comments!

These days, if a new Star Trek series from CBS All Access debuts to universal or near-universal acclaim, then it’s probably premiering in a different universe! In THIS universe, Trek fans are an infamously hard-to-please/easy-to-piss-off mob with social media pitchforks and YouTube podcast torches.

I know; I’ve been one of them…kinda.

Granted, I’ve probably kept more of an open mind than many, and with the exception of the last two episodes of the first season of PICARD, I actually really enjoyed that series. But you guys know how critical I was of DISCOVERY‘s first season—and season two, while significantly better, didn’t completely escape my blogs of shame!

And so, like many fans, I reacted to details about the new STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS series (debuting next month) with some serious trepidation…although still trying very hard to keep an open mind. It hasn’t been easy. The very concept of the new series scared the crap out of me!

I mean…an animated comedy???

Star Trek has survived being animated before. The 22 episodes from Filmation in 1973-74 had a few true gems (“Yesteryear” and “The Slaver Weapon”) and some major klunkers (“The Infinite Vulcan”). But it was generally a well-executed series. As for comedy Trek, episodes like “The Trouble with Tribbles,” “A Piece of the Action,” and movies like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home showed that you could certainly add a bit of comedic flair to Trek and get a pretty decent result.

Don’t say that Star Trek can’t be funny!

But could an animated series designed purposefully for non-stop gags and punchlines still work as Star Trek? Would fans accept such a tongue-in-cheek approach to a universe that we’ve dearly cherished and believed in for all these decades?

Well, CBS (now VCBS, I guess) and ALEX KURTZMAN have decided to find out—and I suppose we will, too, on August 6…and more likely on August 7 when the fannish mob once again takes to social media to make their opinions known (probably quite loudly).

But I am going to go out on a limb and say that, in my gut, we fans might just be getting the Star Trek we’ve been demanding for so long now from both CBS and Paramount!

Before diving into my reasons for that bold prediction, however, if you haven’t seen the latest trailer yet (released on July 12), then please have a look…

Also, a short scene from the first episode was just released yesterday…

And now, let’s cry “Havoc” and let those dogs of war slip a little…

Continue reading “Could the new LOWER DECKS be the STAR TREK series fans have been waiting for?”

INTERLUDE clip gets 7.8K views (and 1K likes) in 15 HOURS!

Wow…what a difference a successful YouTube Channel makes!

I posted a link to the 48-second “sneak peak” clip from INTERLUDE last week as part of a blog explaining why we were going to miss our announced premiere date of July 25, 2020. Long story short, the music isn’t done yet. But I wanted to give folks a taste of how the music sounded. So I cut a short clip and posted it. The video got 363 views over six days.

Last night, ALEC PETERS debuted the same video clip on the AXANAR YouTube channel. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is…

I woke up this morning to see that the clip has now had over 7.8K views and 1K thumbs up (versus only 35 thumbs down)…so YAY! Of course, the channel has 89K subscribers—no wonder it got so many views so quickly. But hey, I’m not complaining!

I also read though the comments, and there were a number of questions and topics that came up repeatedly. So I thought I’d respond to them here if anyone is interested and/or curious:

1. When is Interlude coming out?

Soon. As I explained in last week’s blog, KEVIN CROXTON is about halfway done with the music, then MARK EDWARD LEWIS will add in the final sound effects and balance the sound levels. We’re also awaiting one final VFX sequence from LEWIS ANDERSON. Then we’re pretty much D-O-N-E.

2. The music is too loud/voices are too low.

Yep. As I said, the sound-mixing gets done last (since you need all the music before you can balance the levels). This clip was simply to give folks a taste of the music, and it’s a work-in-progress.

One of the most FUN things about making this fan film is showing you folks the behind-the-scenes steps of making a fan film. I didn’t want this clip to be polished and perfect…yet. It’s more interesting to hear the music raw before sound-mixing and then compare it to the finished product in order to get an appreciation for what sound mixing can do.

3. We waited ten years for 48 seconds???

Sigh. First of all, Interlude isn’t Axanar. We only started crowd-funding a year ago. And for the record, Axanar had its first crowd-funding campaign in 2014…six years ago, not ten. (Why people keep saying “ten years” is beyond me. Counting to six isn’t hard…you don’t need to round to the nearest ten!) And remember that Axanar was sued for a year, had to move across the country, then finish the bridge, raise money to replace the funds that were lost during the lawsuit while filming couldn’t happen, and then had to go through the many and complex steps of actually producing a fan film.

Axanar has now had multiple shoots, and only one 2-day shoot remains…a shoot that can’t happen while the international pandemic is still shutting down union productions everywhere. And if you’d like to donate to Axanar so that it can be finished, please click on the link below…

https://aresdigital.axanar.com

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INTERLUDE Confidential #12 – The best laid plans of fans and filmmakers…

Um, about that July 25th release date…

As I’ve said before ,when I first set out to make INTERLUDE, my goal wasn’t simply to make a Star Trek fan film. I wanted to EXPERIENCE making a Star Trek fan film and then share that experience with with all of you through these blogs.

But there was one fan filmmaker moment that I hadn’t experienced yet—until now, that is. Over the decades-long history of Star Trek fan films, many projects have announced their premiere dates…only to miss them. For some fan films, multiple premiere dates were missed.

Well, you can now add Interlude (and me) to that list. After announcing my premiere date in this really cool trailer that I edited together…

…I can now confirm that Interlude will NOT be coming to YouTube on July 25th after all. And I sincerely apologize. It won’t be delayed too much—and I can say that because I know what still needs to be done (more on that shortly).

To quote The Talking Heads, “You may ask yourself: ‘Well, how did I get here?'” The answer isn’t as simple as “letting the days go by.” Lots of people have been working really hard on post-production. But since these blogs are meant to assist other and future fan filmmakers by sharing my experiences (both good and bad), here’s what happened…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #11.2 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 2)

INTERLUDE is nearly complete, and this is likely my final “Interlude Confidential” before the release. Last week, I began reminiscing about the big two-day shoot last November at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA. For me, it was truly the culmination of the filmmaking experience…even though there would still be another eight months of intense work. But the shoot itself—that was pure magic.

Nearly 50 people came together that weekend with a single goal in mind: to produce a top-quality Star Trek fan film. They weren’t making gobs of money; they simply wanted to be a part of something fun, creative, exciting and dynamic.

A lot of things had the potential to go wrong. The most effective teams work and train together for weeks, months, or even years to maximize their effectiveness. Our team, with a few exceptions, was mostly strangers who had only met for the first time that weekend. Would they mesh together like a well-oiled machine, or would there be friction? Would one or more people with egos grate against the others, show an attitude, or be uncooperative? I’ve been told it can (and often does) happen, and even one bad apple can cripple a production.

And last but not least—in addition to the thousand other things that could could go wrong—there was me. I’d never been a producer before! It was my job to take care of a seemingly endless list of items to ensure the set would be ready for VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN to film on: everything from making sure all the actors, extras, and production team knew where and when to show up to getting measurements for uniforms to the seamstress to ordering the rental camera equipment to finding the caterer and making sure there were tables and chairs for the food plus a hundred other little details. I needed to make sure everything was prepared so my directors and production crew could focus on making an awesome fan film.

Was I up to the task?

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #11.2 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 2)”

INTERLUDE Confidential #11.1 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 1)

With INTERLUDE in the final month or so of post-production, my goal of making a Star Trek fan film is nearly complete. The trailer came out last month and seems to have been very well received by most people who didn’t mind the Space: 1999 music. (For those who did mind…well, the world didn’t end, did it?)

Back in November of 2018, my idea of making a fan film was just a crazy suggestion that I’d made to JOSHUA IRWIN, curious to see what a filmmaker of his abilities could do with the nearly-finished USS Ares bridge set to shoot on.

The next twelve months became a rollercoaster ride—starting off slowly and then accelerating as I began to crowd-fund and work through pre-production with Josh and VICTORIA FOX, our director. By the time we reached November of 2019, one year later, I silently prayed that we’d crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” because we had two full days of shooting planned, fifty people coming to the studio that weekend, and thousands and thousands of dollars had already been spent without the ability to afford a “do over” if we screwed anything up.

In this 2-part blog—likely the last “Interlude Confidential” until the premiere on July 25, 2020—I would like to share with all of you some of my most cherished memories of the November shoot. It was, unquestionably, the highlight of the entire filmmaking experience because that was when nearly everyone came together at one time.

During pre-production, by comparison, almost everyone worked either individually or in small groups, getting things ready for production. And after the footage was shot, things shifted to the director, editor, sound-mixer, composer, VFX person, and of course, the producer overseeing it all. But by that point, most of the time, much of the work was being done individually or, at most, in small groups holding production meetings via conference calls.

But it was at the film shoot(s) when all of the excitement happened and all hands—or most all of the hands—were on deck. So here are some of what were the biggest highlights for me personally during that magical weekend…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #11.1 – Jonathan’s favorite memories from the November shoot (part 1)”

INTERLUDE Confidential #10 – I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling…

You can’t please all the Trekkies all the time.

I wrote that sentence at the beginning of yesterday’s blog featuring the new YouTube music video from GARY DAVIS of DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. In it, Gary featured a compilation of many of the viewer comments that have come in through social media over the past five years both praising and scorching their fan film efforts.

The video—set to the popular song “I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again” (the actual title is “Tubthumping” by the band Chumbawamba)—reflects Gary and his team’s positive and “bring it on” attitude about their hobby. They know they aren’t the giants of fan films, but they’re having FUN…and that’s really all that matters.

After writing that blog yesterday, I began thinking about the fan reaction to the trailer I released last Wednesday for my own fan film INTERLUDE. Man, did that one light a match! And it all came from a fun and silly little idea I had to do an homage to the opening credits of one of my favorite sci-fi series from the mid-1970s, Space: 1999. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, or you’d like to check it out again, here it is…

Actually, lots of people liked it. It’s had about 2.1K views so far on YouTube, with 85% of the reactions being thumbs up. Of the 15% that were thumbs down, the main complaint seemed to be my choice of music—likened by some to 70’s porn, and called by one Facebook poster “ear-raping” (whatever that means…although I’m guessing it’s not a good thing).

Others didn’t like the quick cuts, the over-use of the CGI shots, and one fellow thought I had too many clips of people spinning around in their chairs! ALEC PETERS said he liked the trailer but added that it’s not what he would have done. One of my oldest friends, ADAM “MOJO” LEBOWITZ, took time from his busy schedule to write on my Facebook post: “That’s the kind of trailer a fan makes after the movie came out. A mash up. It was cute and cool but I know nothing about your movie other than battle CGI.” Heck, even one of the members of my Interlude production team told me didn’t like the trailer. (Hey, at least he was honest.)

Such a fuss over a 1-minute trailer that I threw together in iMovie on a lark! Honestly, folks, I didn’t make the trailer for Alec or Mojo or for ear-raping guy. I made it for me…as a way to provide a sneak peek to supporters and friends and family members of what this fan film that they’ve been hearing about for a year was going to look like. It was fun to edit together, and I like the way it came out. Sure some people didn’t like it. So what? The world didn’t end (at least, not because of one Star Trek fan trailer).

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INTERLUDE Confidential #9 – We have a RELEASE DATE…and a TRAILER!

Hmmmm, let’s see…should I show you the new INTERLUDE trailer first and then talk about it—or talk about it first and then show it? Aw heck, I know you all really wanna see the new trailer…!

Pretty cool, huh? For those of you unfamiliar with the 1970s sci-fi TV series Space 1999, that trailer is an homage to the way they used to start their episodes (take a look at this video to see an example). The opening credits for that series would include rapid-fire quick cuts from various scenes of “this episode” followed by a slower musical bridge where they would show some of the names behind the production. Then the date would flash: September 13th, 1999—the day the moon supposedly would have been blasted out of earth’s orbit to begin its odyssey through deep space.

Cheesy? Yeah…it was 1975, for gosh sakes! But back then, with Star Trek and Lost in Space in reruns, Doctor Who hidden on weird channels at weird times, and Star Wars still two years away, Space 1999 was one of the only first-run sci-fi games in town. And let’s face it, those eagle transport spacecraft were friggin’ cool! I loved that show, and I loved the opening credits sequences.

So what does any of this have to do with my Axanar Universe fan film Interlude, you ask? Well, technically nothing. That’s not even the actual music I’ll be using (composer KEVIN CROXTON is creating an original score for Interlude).

But I did have this dream a few weeks ago…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #9 – We have a RELEASE DATE…and a TRAILER!”

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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SQUADRON campaign reaches $8K with the help of AXANAR and INTERLUDE donors!

Lately, it seems like every morning we wake up with a choice to make: optimism or pessimism? Either the world is collapsing around our ears or else we’re gonna make it through this pandemic and everything will be fine again. Sometimes it feels like we’re faced with this decision multiple times each day!

And that brings us to the topic of crowd-funding campaigns. At the moment, with the global economy teetering on the edge of a second Great Depression, there aren’t any new Kickstarters or Indiegogo’s or GoFundMe’s starting up for Star Trek fan films. The odds are simply too long on reaching one’s goal. But what about those campaigns that launched BEFORE the pandemic (or just as quarantining was beginning)?

In the case of Neutral Zone Studios, owner RAY TESI reports that he’s suspended (not canceled) plans to move his TOS sets to Orlando and start up an Escape Room business. Their WeFunder campaign kicked off in late February with a goal of $100K and stalled at $30K. Ray suggests that they’ll have to see when things start getting back to normal. “No change in plan, only time,” he says.

But another February campaign that was caught by surprise was the Indiegogo for SQUADRON from the Czech Republic. These hardworking and humble folks put everything they had into their campaign. But with two weeks left in their two-month campaign, they were barely 23% of the way to their $15,000 goal, and donations had essentially flatlined. Squadron show-runner JAKUB HOLÝ was hopeful that they could make it at least to 50% ($7.5K) of their goal in order to afford all of the VFX shots they needed to tell their story properly. As a battle tale set during the Dominion War, CGI effects shots would be super-important.

But with seven weeks gone and only 13 days left—and during an international health crisis and economic collapse—how could Squadron possibly manage to double their total when it had barely budged for nearly a month?

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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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