Reason #3 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: THE TEAM!

Fan films are like weddings. (Ha, got your attention!)

Think about it. Weddings can be as cheap and simple as a trip to City Hall or a few friends in the backyard. Or they can be expensive galas with hundreds of guests and all the trimmings. Or they can be anywhere in between.

And so it is with fan films. We get everything from cardboard sets and scenes shot with cell phones to professional-looking productions with trained actors, meticulous sets and costumes, top-quality recording equipment, and budgets into the five-figure range and sometimes even beyond that.

In general, the larger and more ambitious the wedding, the more critical it is that a team of planners and managers be involved to make sure everything goes smoothly. You get one chance at the actual ceremony, and it’s all that the behind-the-scenes planning that can determine if the wedding is a triumph or a disaster.

The AVALON UNIVERSE fan films aren’t exactly Kardashian weddings (thank goodness!), but they are still pretty impressive, with production quality a few steps above the majority of Star Trek fan films out there. This is not meant to diminish those other fan films. All fan filmmakers deserve support and encouragement. But when you donate to an Avalon Universe crowd-funding campaign, you know your money will be well-spent, and the finished product will look and sound and be amazing.

Oh, and speaking of donating, Avalon has a crowd-funding campaign going on right now, if you’d like to back it…

https://www.gofundme.com/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

Like a successful wedding, a well-run fan production requires careful planning and preparation, and that means having the right people in the right jobs…not just during the shoots but in the months and weeks leading up to the director yelling “Action!” for the first time.

As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t initially planning to be part of “Team Avalon,” even though I consider Avalon Universe director/showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN to be a close friend. (Josh was my Director of Photography and Editor on INTERLUDE.) What I did offer to do was to advise Josh and his producer, PIXI NEREID, on strategies for crowd-funding…advice I’ve also offered to other fan filmmakers over the years.

But before I knew it, Pixi had jumped into action, adding me to the production crew’s Facebook chat, giving me access to their Slack productivity app account where the cast and crew keep all of their online resources, and inviting me onto the kick-off production meeting Zoom call. So that’s how I became a part of “Team Avalon,” and it’s given me a fascinating look into who these fine folks are and all that they’re doing to make the wedding…er, fan film extra spectacular and go off without a hitch.

Let me tell you about the team…

Continue reading “Reason #3 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: THE TEAM!”

Reason #2 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: DO IT FOR PIXI…!

If you’ve never been part of the making of a fan film, it’s kinda hard to explain. But there’s a bug that bites ya, and then there’s an itch that you just need to scratch. It’s difficult to say when exactly that fan film bug bites—I guess it’s different for everyone; like the moment someone realizes they’re a Trekkie/Trekker—but when it does, everything can change in a heartbeat.

Or not. Some people make a fan film or participate in a production or two and they’re done. And that’s fine. But for many others, fan films get into your blood—sometimes into your very DNA—and then there’s just no stoppin’ it!

Which brings us to PIXI NEREID.

That’s actually her stage name. Pixi’s real name is ILIA McNEIL…and yes, the “Ilia” is actually inspired by the bald Deltan navigation officer from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as her parents were TOS fans. And Ilia is a hardcore fan herself. But all of her friends call her Pixi, and so do I because Pixi has (almost overnight!) become a friend.

And honestly, it’s hard not to absorb all of the positivity, fun, and optimism that radiates from her—so much so that you almost need to call her Pixi. And if you’re wondering where that name comes from, Pixi has a side gig (along with a small number of other women in the Fayetteville, Arkansas area) performing as a mermaid at children’s parties. So I suppose that Pixi Nereid isn’t her “stage” name so much as her “pool” name, but whatever you call it, she’s totally a Pixi!

We got no troubles…life is the bubbles…under the sea!

JOSHUA IRWIN, who will be directing the new AVALON UNIVERSE fan films that are crowd-funding now (click here to donate), first met Pixi on the set of the soon-to-be-released COSMIC STREAM while filming at WARP 66 STUDIOS in northeastern Arkansas. Pixi was told about the shoot by one of her fellow mermaids, who had a role in the fan film. But Pixi didn’t come to appear on camera, she just wanted to help out. In fact, she arrived and immediately told Josh that she’d be happy to be a grip for the day (a grip is someone someone who moves the lights around…not very glamorous but super-important).

It’s a 108-mile drive each way from Fayetteville to the studio, so the people who volunteer for these fan film shoots at WARP 66 have to be pretty committed. After the shoot in mid-March, Josh posted the following photo and comment to Facebook…

Continue reading “Reason #2 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: DO IT FOR PIXI…!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #20: Editing from ROUGH CUT to PICTURE LOCK…

I didn’t create INTERLUDE simply to make an AXANAR Universe fan film. Sure, that was one of the goals, but it wasn’t the MAIN goal. As a blogger focussing on numerous Star Trek fan productions, I wanted to better understand how these projects came together. But more than that, I wanted to SHARE my experiences with my readers—especially those interested in creating fan films of their own—to “pull back the curtain” on every aspect of development from writing a script to budgeting, crowd-funding, pre-production, production, and ultimately post-production.

Of course, the post-production blogs needed to wait until AFTER Interlude was released (didn’t want it spoiled!). But it’s now been out for more than two months (and closing in on 100K views on YouTube for the final version…watch it here), and so I can finally start talking about what went into the last phase of development…

…starting with EDITING!

In many ways, editing a film is one of, if not the most important part of the entire filmmaking process. Don’t just take my word for it! Countless articles on the Internet like this one highlight the critical role proper editing plays in the creation of a successful film project. Quoting the article…

What most people not in the film or video industry don’t realize is that film and video editing is an art form. Editing is arguably the most important element of film or video production. It is in the editing, the art of arranging pictures and dialog and sounds, that a finished film product is able to communicate a story first envisioned by its writer, and subsequently by a director and producer to its intended audience. Days, weeks, even months of shots captured on film or video must be studied, interpreted, analyzed, and finally distilled into a story lasting a fraction of the time it took to capture it all.

People outside the film making industry have little or no idea about “post production” and the crucial part it plays in the production of a film or video work. It is because of the significant importance of this phase of film and video production that the process takes an extended amount of time to complete.

Indeed! And in fact, it took JOSHUA IRWIN (our editor), VICTORIA FOX (our director), and me (the producer) four full months of working together to get Interlude from its first rough cut to its final picture lock version that was sent along to music composer KEVIN CROXTON for scoring. Those four months were filled with intense hard work, painstaking attention to detail, and some passionate “discussions,” as three very creative and talented people didn’t always agree 100% of the time.

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #20: Editing from ROUGH CUT to PICTURE LOCK…”

Reason #1 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: JAKANDE LIVES!!!

Over the next 21 days, I’m planning to provide one excellent reason each week to donate to the just-launched GoFundMe for the AVALON UNIVERSE‘s new series of Star Trek fan films, a multi-episode saga that will be titled “Crisis on Infinite Excaliburs.” The campaign had a soft launch last week and has already taken in over $1,200 in donations before most fans even knew it was happening! But today marks the official kick-off, and with it, my series of blogs.

Of course, if you don’t want to wait for me to convince you, feel free to click on over and donate something right now (and watch the “ask” video; it’s awesome!)…

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

I know, I know. It seems like lately there’s been a new Star Trek fan film crowd-funding campaign every month. And yep, there has! Back in May, CGI sensei SAMUEL COCKINGS raised more than $13K for his series of six (or is it seven?) anthology fan films under the canopy title of TREK SHORTS. Then in June, it was DREADNOUGHT DOMINION‘s turn, as GARY DAVIS successfully topped their $5K goal for two Dominion episodes plus the debut episode of their new PROJECT RUNABOUT fan series.

And as July begins, we go for the “hat trick” as JOSHUA IRWIN has just launched the most ambitious of these back-to-back-to-back campaigns, endeavoring to raise $20K for a new series of fan films set in the Avalon Universe.

There have already been six Avalon Universe fan films: GHOST SHIP, AVALON LOST, DEMONS, LEGACY, AIR AND DARKNESS, and NEW ORDERS…nearly two hours of super-high quality Star Trek fan films with a combined hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. And a seventh film, COSMIC STREAM, is set to premiere later this month…with an eighth film, AGENT OF NEW WORLDS, already in production!

Believe it or not, Josh has only ever held ONE Avalon crowd-funding campaign before now…back in early 2019, he raised $6,500. All the rest of the production costs for Avalon—literally tens of thousands of dollars—have been paid for out of Josh’s pocket…and this guy ain’t exactly living the lifestyle of the rich and famous!

Joshua Irwin…spent his last pennies in the Avalon Universe!

Understandably, most fan filmmakers can only self-fund for so long before they need to ask for a little help from their friends…which is why many Star Trek fan productions seek support through crowd-funding. And indeed, that’s why I’m writing this blog (and the three weekly blogs that will follow): because Josh is my friend—along with being my Director of Photography and Editor on INTERLUDE. I’m also writing these blogs because I love the quality of Josh’s work, I love the Avalon Universe, and oh…

…BECAUSE JOSH IS BRINGING BACK CAPTAIN JAKANDE!!!

Yep, that’s the big Reason #1 to donate to this campaign!

Continue reading “Reason #1 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: JAKANDE LIVES!!!”

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION just had a FANtastic crowd-funding weekend!

Color me shocked and excited!

It was Sunday afternoon, and I was having a call with JOSHUA IRWIN of the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series (Josh was also my director of photography and editor on INTERLUDE). Josh has been deep in planning for his next crowd-funding campaign for not one but TWO new Avalon fan films, both of which will feature the return WARREN HAWK as the Captain Jakande of the Avalon Universe…along with introducing two other really interesting new characters.

Josh and I were discussing strategies and timing, since there’s been a lot of “traffic” in the crowd-funding highway of late. Last month, SAMUEL COCKINGS raised a very impressive $13.7K for his six-film project TREK SHORTS Indiegogo campaign. And although I didn’t cover it, MARC SCOTT ZICREE just took in $86K in the Kickstarter for the conclusion of the “Forgiveness” 2-parter of SPACE COMMAND. That’s a LOT of funds raised during a month that included the delayed Tax Day for those of us in the United States!

This month, it’s GARY DAVIS and DREADNOUGHT DOMINION‘s turn to try to reach $5K in their latest Indiegogo campaign to fund three fan films (two episodes of Dominion plus one of the new fan series PROJECT RUNABOUT).

Now, you folks probably don’t know about what I’m about to tell you, but these three show-runners—Sam Cockings, Gary Davis, and Josh Irwin—have been trying very hard not to step on each other’s toes when it comes to their campaigns. When it looked like Samuel might not make it to his goal for Trek Shorts within the 30-day deadline, I suggested he might take advantage of Indiegogo’s “extension” option to give him an extra 30 days to meet his goal. But Sam was adamant that his campaign had to be over by the time Dominion‘s began on June 1st, as Sam didn’t want to compete for donor dollars (or pounds, in Sam’s case).

The same was true when I spoke to Gary, asking if he’d be willing to extend his deadline if it looked like he’d be coming up short by the end of June. Again, no…Gary did not want to compete with Josh, whose Avalon Universe crowd-funder would be up next.

But as I discussed things with Josh on Sunday, there emerged a small wrinkle. Y’see, one of the first pieces of advice I give to fan filmmakers when they set up a crowd-funder is: “Your campaign launch should NEVER be a surprise!” Always tease the kick-off of the new campaign with at least a few weeks of lead-up—posts on social media, videos, interviews, etc.—building excitement and anticipation.

BUT!!!

Continue reading “DREADNOUGHT DOMINION just had a FANtastic crowd-funding weekend!”

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…”