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…

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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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INTERLUDE Confidential #6 – meet WARREN HAWK, Captain Jakande of the USS Artemis…

Post-production work on INTERLUDE is continuing, with our third rough cut edit currently being worked on. I love seeing it all take shape, and I adore watching actor WARREN HAWK playing USS Artemis Captain Imari Jakande. I can’t wait for you all to see him on screen!

Warren was the final actor we cast, and it happened only four days before before our November shoot! I was biting my fingernails down to the nubs, but VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN assured me that everything would work out. Sometimes actors are cast very late in the process; it’s just the nature of the industry. Turns out they were right.

Casting the rest of Interlude, by comparison, was relatively simple. Our other main character, Fleet Captain Kelvar Garth, would be played by ALEC PETERS (of course!). The rest of the speaking parts were pretty minor. Two of the actors who played bridge officers on the USS Ares for the AXANAR shoot in October—AARON ROMANO as Comm Officer Caine and ROBERT HAYES as Pilot Deville—returned to play those same roles for Interlude‘s November shoot. Also on the Ares bridge was Science Officer Franklin, and Joshua got one of his friends, JAY PLYBURN (who lives in the area) for that part. Jay is also a trained actor, and Josh has directed him in the past.

Admiral Slater will appear at the end of Interlude, and STEVEN JEPSON agreed to play him. The two remaining on-camera speaking roles are the Ares doctor, a role which Victoria is filling, and the Artemis chief engineer, being played by an actor whose name we’re keeping secret for the moment (but it’s a person with some fan film experience). Then there’s two voice-over roles, plus all of the background actors who won’t be speaking.

And that left Jakande…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #5 – the latest CHATTER!

Now, THIS is a cool idea…just till you hear it!!!

But first, I need to update you on where my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE stands at the moment. As I mentioned in my previous Interlude Confidential, we’re nearly finished with principal photography (shooting the live action scenes) plus creating the VFX shots and voice-overs…and have recently started assembling the “puzzle pieces” into a rough cut.

JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX warned me not to expect too much “excitement” from the initial rough cut. It’s also known as a “wide” cut because the takes are purposefully cut to be a little longer (meaning they have a bit more at the beginning and end of the lines). Later on, the wide cut is “tightened” into shorter takes as the timing and pacing of the scenes are refined.

Also, there’s a lot missing from a rough cut. The music isn’t there, for one thing, and that will eventually add a lot of excitement and richness. But right now, it’s all just people speaking their lines on an otherwise quiet set—no red alert klaxon, no explosion sounds, not even the pressing of buttons and the beeps they make. As they said, don’t expect much yet…and I didn’t.

Instead, I used my imagination to fill in what was missing. As I watched the rough cut, I mentally added in the explosions, the red alert, the music, and the camera shake. And in my head, it was MUCH more exciting! But even in my mind’s eye (or rather, ear), it felt like something was still missing.

And almost immediately I knew exactly what it was!

When I started telling Victoria and Josh about my suggestion during our next production meeting, it turned out that Victoria had the exact same idea! And since they’re both actual industry professionals, if I think of something that they’ve thought of, too, then I know we’re in good shape.

So what’s this great idea already??? You’ve been so patient, let me tell you…

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AXANAR tops its $50K phase one crowd-funding goal…and announces phase two in MARCH!

For the fourth week in a row, I’ve got some AXANAR news that’s significant enough to warrant its own blog. And for anyone thinking, “Oh, you talk about Axanar all the time!”—my last Axanar blog prior to mid-January was three months earlier in mid-October.

Anyway, today’s new is actually VERY big, as it deals with Axanar‘s crowd-funding. As many of you are already aware, the legal settlement that ALEC PETERS signed with CBS and Paramount permitting him to produce and release Axanar as two 15-minute fan films does, in fact, allow him to crowd-fund them…and exceed the $50K guideline limit. But Alec isn’t permitted to use a public service like Kickstarter or Indiegogo; he must crowd-fund privately behind a firewall…which can be accessed at the following link:

https://aresdigital.axanar.com/

Alec also cannot publicly solicit donations (although others are allowed to), meaning that Axanar cannot take out advertisements or post the above link on social media, and Alec can’t ask for donations in YouTube videos or during interviews. It’s a challenging constraint, to be certain, but Alec has been diligent to abide by that requirement of the settlement agreement.

And indeed, even being limited to requesting donations only via e-mails to Axanar‘s existing donor list, it’s even more impressive that Alec and his team have been able to raise more than double what even the most successful post-guidelines Star Trek fan films have been able to generate even using public crowd-funding sites and being allowed to solicit donations on social media and elsewhere.

Last Thursday, the Axanar Phase One crowd-funding campaign finally crossed its $50K goal threshold, effectively paying for the first two of the four scheduled shoots—which happened in October and December of last year. The remaining two shoots, currently scheduled for March (previously February) at Ares Studios and April in Los Angeles, will complete all of the live-action scenes necessary to finish the two Axanar sequels. (A potential fifth shoot at a special Los Angeles location is still up in the air at the moment.)

The Ares Studio shoot is fairly minor, just some green screen interviews of Garth and his first officer Tanaka. But the April shoot is major, involving GARY GRAHAM as Soval plus a few other aliens and some humans (KATE VERNON?—no public confirmation on that yet). There will be some significant costs associated with that shoot, including green screen studio rental in L.A. plus prosthetics and make-up.

The estimated budget for these two shoots is around $30K (not yet finalized), and Alec will be launching a Phase Two campaign for that in March, along with debuting the first full Axanar trailer!

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PAUL JENKINS discusses directing the AXANAR sequels, working with ALEC PETERS, and MUCH MORE! (audio interview)

I love PAUL JENKINS. I just do. Over the past few months, he has become one of my favorite people on the planet…and when you listen to my interview with him, I think you’ll understand why (or at least, I hope you will).

When it comes to AXANAR, it always seems to be ALEC PETERS this and ALEC PETERS that—here an Alec, there an Alec, everywhere an Alec, Alec. But as Alec himself would be the first to tell you, Axanar is a TEAM effort, and the team is made up of some very talented and dedicated individuals…and few more so than Axanar co-writer and director, Paul Jenkins.

When Alec first announced that Paul was joining the project back in 2017, replacing ROBERT MEYER BURNETT as director as well as helping to co-write the two-part, 30-minute fan film allowed by the settlement with CBS and Paramount, a number of fans were initially scratching their heads. And I’ll admit, I was one of them.

After all, I really only knew Paul from the days when I was reading twenty comic books a month, and his name was on many of them. Paul is widely considered as the person who helped save Marvel Comics from chapter 11 bankruptcy in the late 1990s with the development of the Marvel Knights imprint. Later, he went on to write the ground-breaking Wolverine: Origin (which was later turned into a motion picture). In fact, Paul has worked for various comic book publishers—including DC, Mirage, and Tundra. He developed video games, too. So yeah, Paul can obviously write.

But could he direct?

It turns out, the answer is yes. In fact, Paul co-founded META Studios in Atlanta, has been directing for about 20 years, and was even asked in 2015 by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to assemble and chair an advisory committee to educate the Georgia General Assembly on the evolution of digital and interactive technologies. So yep, Paul’s a pretty big deal…but you’d never know it by speaking with him. The man is as humble and soft-spoken as they come.

I learned this firsthand during the shoot for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. Paul popped by Ares Studios on that Sunday to say hi and see how things were going. He stayed off to the side, just happily watching, and even volunteered to stand behind the turbolift and flick the console lights on and off during a torpedo “hit.” The guy who saved Marvel Comics was flicking lights on my fan film??? You bet!

Later, during a break, Paul chatted with me for a good 45 minutes, sharing some stories, some insights, and just shooting the breeze. He even hung out with Interlude directors VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN during some quiet moments when they weren’t both doing a thousand things. He was a true gentleman and a lot of fun to talk to.

So when I had the opportunity to chat with him some more and record the call, I jumped at the chance! Take a listen…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #4 – putting the post-production puzzle pieces in place!

A little more than a decade before his untimely death in 1997, John Denver trained with NASA and became a finalist for the first citizen’s trip to space in 1986. When asked why a singer/songwriter should be chosen to go to space, John Denver replied by asking who better to communicate the inspirational experience of spaceflight to the masses than someone used to putting sights, sounds, and feelings into words and music?

These “INTERLUDE Confidential” blogs I write are intended to do something similar. I realize that many of my readers will never produce or even work on a fan film. And most fan filmmakers are too busymaking fan films to blog about the experience in depth and try to communicate the nuances of all that they do.

So I want to give you folks a window into the process of creating a fan film from the point of view of someone who has never done this sort of thing before and is still blown away by the entire process. And today, I’d to talk about where Interlude stands right now.

There are three main phases to creating a film. Pre-production is planning everything: determining budgets, raising money, hiring (or in my case, begging for) actors and crew, setting up filming dates, getting costumes ready, and about a thousand other things from renting equipment to scheduling a caterer. The script is worked on and re-worked, the director(s) plan out a shot list…it’s like everything NASA does before a rocket is cleared for lift off.

Then production happens. This is when the various elements that will go into the film are actually produced. This can mean filming scenes or getting voice-overs or having your CGI friend create your visual effects. Every item that gets produced (filmed, recorded, rendered, etc.) becomes a piece of the overall puzzle that will become your final fan film.

Right now, Interlude is still in production. At the same time, we’re also in post-production. How is that possible?

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INTERLUDE Confidential #3: neither RAIN nor SNOW nor TORNADOES will stop these filmmakers!

VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN didn’t think it was necessary that I write this blog. “We do this sort of thing all the time,” they told me. “It’s part of our job.” Well, maybe for work where they’re being paid professionally, but this is a FLIPPIN’ FAN FILM. And what they did this weekend meant a lot to me personally, and I want to tell you folks about it.

First though, I need to ask: what is it about INTERLUDE that invites acts of God, fate, or just Murphy? Do you remember last May when the Arkansas River flooded and trapped my composer KEVIN CROXTON on one side for days? Or the stray dog that delayed my GoFundMe rollout? Or the woodpecker trapped in the chimney? If you’ve forgotten, here’s the blog that listed everything that went wrong leading up to the launch of the Interlude crowd-funder.

Knowing our track record, I had a Star Wars-like “bad feeling” in the pit of my stomach when we scheduled the Sickbay shoot at WARP 66 Studios for the second weekend in January. It wasn’t that I was worried about bad weather in Arkansas. It’s a southern state, and at most, it’ll get four or five inches of snow over an entire winter season. And as for tornadoes, while there have been some during the winter months, those mostly come in the springtime there.

No, I was worried about Cleveland.

The fellow who is playing the wounded Admiral Ramirez in Interlude, DAVID BUTLER-AGRINSONIS (read more about him here), lives in Cleveland, OH. And when I booked his flight to Fayetteville, I had visions of a huge Noreaster or Polar Vortex hitting the northeast and upper midwest and grounding his plane. I purposefully looked for connecting flights to Fayetteville through Raleigh, NC rather than Chicago just to try to minimize the risk of winter storms screwing up our January shoot.

DAVID BUTLER-AGRINSONIS will be playing a wounded Admiral Ramirez in INTERLUDE.

Turns out that I should have been more worried about snow and tornadoes in Arkansas…

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #3: neither RAIN nor SNOW nor TORNADOES will stop these filmmakers!”