FAN FILM FACTOR is now LESS than a YEAR BEHIND!

The more proficient one is at procrastination, the less proficient one need be at all else.

This was one of the “corollaries” to the famous Murphy’s Law of “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” I loved the above procrastination quote back in high school in the 1980’s because it so perfectly described my philosophy about doing homework.

Little did I know that it would still apply to me three and a half decades later with my blog!

It’t not that I’m procrastinating from writing blogs. I typically publish between two and five new blogs a week. (You knew that!) But working on all those blogs has allowed me a convenient excuse for not updating my LIST pages.

Did you even know I had LIST pages? Chances are, you probably didn’t notice; many people don’t. But the lists are there…right in the middle of that navigation bar at the top of each page of Fan Film Factor. “LIST OF FAN FILMS” it says.

Actually, it’s not just one list, it’s THREE! Just hover above the link at the top of the page and you’ll see that those lists are arranged in custom orders depending on how you’d like to view them…

I’m really proud of those list pages, as they remind me just how far this blog has come since I started it back in 2016. I’ve done deep dives into nearly 75 different fan films!!! And that doesn’t include all the “short” blogs where I briefly cover a new release or trailer or update with a quick quote from the show-runner.

Instead, the list pages are for the major blogs that feature in-depth histories of individual fan films and/or series, or text or audio interviews with their creators. Those blogs are the main reason Fan Film Factor exists—to tell as many “getting from there to here” stories of fan film productions in order to honor the dedicated fans who make them.

And for a few years, I was really good about keeping those list pages up to date. But then I started slacking…

Continue reading “FAN FILM FACTOR is now LESS than a YEAR BEHIND!”

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)”

I met an AXANAR fan at the supermarket … and he reads my blog!

There are about 4 million people living in Los Angeles, 40 million in California, 330 million in the United States, and 7.6 billion in the world. Of those, a few hundred to a few thousand read this blog each day. (I can happily live with that.)

Over the years, I’ve met people at Star Trek-related events who have seen my blog…or at least folks who know about fan films. But yesterday I had that experience in, of all places, my local supermarket!

I was wearing my custom-designed AXANAR T-shirt (shown in the photo above) while doing grocery shopping, and a fellow standing near me in produce said, “I like the design on your shirt!”

I looked down—having forgotten what I was wearing(!!!)—and said, “Oh, thanks. Are you familiar with Axanar?”

He was, and I didn’t feel that surprised. PRELUDE TO AXANAR has nearly 4.5 million views on YouTube, and it got a lot of coverage in the press during 2015-2016. ALEC PETERS talks about how he occasionally gets recognized in public, and I’ve actually been with him once when it happened…so I’ve seen in it action.

“Do you know if that fan film is going to be finished?” the man asked me. (I get that question a lot.)

“Absolutely,” I said. “In fact, I talked to the show-runner just yesterday, and there’s a shoot tentatively scheduled for next month. Most of the two sequels have already been filmed at this point, and some post-production has started.”

“Oh?” he said, sounding impressed that I knew so much. “Are you involved with the project?”

“Kinda,” I said. “I write a blog about Star Trek fan films called Fan Film Factor.

“I read that blog!” he said. Now, before I allowed myself to feel completely shocked, I will admit to being temporarily dubious…after all, maybe he was just being polite and had never heard of my blog in his life. But then he added, “In fact, I saw it was down this past weekend. Is it back up now?”

HOLY FRACK! He really does read my blog! I thought.

Continue reading “I met an AXANAR fan at the supermarket … and he reads my blog!”

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)”

My son JAYDEN is really the ghost of STAN LEE!

Technically, this isn’t a blog about Star Trek or fan films. So if you’re only here for that, feel free to skip this entry because I’m indulging in the “it’s-my-blog-site-so-I-can-cover-what-I-want” option. And today, it’s a special blog about my son JAYDEN.

The quarantine has been a huge adjustment for kids—going from spending seven hours at school five days week with their teachers and friends to spending all day at home with only two hours a day of virtual classroom time in a Zoom meeting…and the rest of the day doing work independently from home. Many parents have become home-schooling “partners” to their children’s teachers…and that includes yours truly.

One of the highlights of the third grade at Jayden’s school is the annual “Living Museum” project. Many schools do this same assignment in third or fourth grade. Each student reads a biography of a famous person—from King Tut to Steve Jobs, Alexander Hamilton to Elton John, Sacajawea to Sally Ride, Roald Dahl to George Lucas. At the end of the school year, the students prepare a five-paragraph monologue about the life of their famous person. They memorize this monologue over a number of weeks, and during a special assembly at the end of the school year, they each dress up as their famous person and recite their monologue.

Sadly, the Coronavirus put the kibosh on any kind of assembly this year.

But the show must go on, so the third graders still read their biographies and prepared their monologues. However, the culmination of the process morphed from an assembly into a recorded video in costume uploaded by parents to the teachers and then compiled into a presentation to be shown to the entire class via Zoom meeting…parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins invited to attend, as well.

Jayden’s famous person was the legendary Marvel Comics publisher STAN LEE, creator of some of the most well-known superhero and villain characters in history…including Jayden’s favorite: Spider-Man.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stan’s biography with Jayden and helping with chapter summaries. I shared some of my old comic books with Jayden (I’ve got 44,000 of them in the garage!), and I even have a poster signed by Stan “The Man” himself…along with a personalized note from Stan (shown to the right) when my brother’s and my company almost worked with Stan’s company in late 1998 . (Jayden’s jaw dropped when he saw that!)

Stan’s life and the many, many, many characters that he’d created sparked Jayden’s imagination and enthusiasm in a way that most of the other day-to-day assignments during virtual learning didn’t manage to. And so I saw a unique opportunity with the monologue video.

Finding a Stan Lee “costume” is not that hard. Turns out that all you need is a white polo, V-neck sweater, khaki pants, Keds sneakers, sunglasses, and a fake mustache. Take a look…

Continue reading “My son JAYDEN is really the ghost of STAN LEE!”

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).

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #10 – I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling…”

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?

Continue reading “SQUADRON campaign reaches $8K with the help of AXANAR and INTERLUDE donors!”

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.

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #7 – we have PICTURE LOCK!”