R.I.P – NICHELLE NICHOLS, our elegant Lady of Communications – 1932 to 2022

We all loved her. We all admired her. And we all knew this day would come.

NICHELLE NICHOLS, the amazing actor and person who helped raise women and people of color to new heights of recognition and self-confidence at a critical time in American history, has passed away at the age of 89 from natural causes.

As happens with many people as they approach their tenth decade of life, Nichelle had grown frail and was losing her memory. Her voice was no longer able to serenade us with the melodies of the stars as it did for most of her career. She had recently completed her “farewell tour” of conventions and public appearances with her fans and was living her final years with her son and his family in New Mexico.

But we still loved her.

And it was a love that had been there, for many of us, over the course of decades. She was always Lieutenant (and later Commander and, in fan films like OF GODS AND MEN and RENEGADES, Captain and even Admiral) Nyota Uhura.

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura through the years: in TOS, in the Trek movies, and in the fan films STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN and RENEGADES: THE REQUIEM.

In the TOS episode “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” it is revealed that the name Uhura means “freedom.” Indeed, it is the Swahili word “Uhuru” that means freedom, and according to Nichelle’s 1994 autobiographical Beyond Uhura, she was carrying the 1962 book Uhuru by Robert Ruark when she read for the part in Star Trek. Later, producer ROBERT JUSTMAN reportedly told GENE RODDENBERRY what Uhuru meant, and Gene decided to name his African communications officer Uhura right then and there.

The character’s first name, Nyota, came years later in 1982, following the release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Author WILLIAM ROSTLER was writing the licensed paperback Star Trek II: Biographies telling the personal histories of the seven main TOS characters, including Uhura. Rostler contacted Gene and Nichelle directly asking both for permission to give Uhura the first name Nyota, which means “star” in Swahili. They both approved, and since it was a licensed book, Nyota became as official as anything not shown on film. Indeed, a few years later, the 1985 Star Trek novel Uhura’s Song by JANET KAGAN (still one of the best!), became the second licensed product to use that first name for Uhura. However, it wouldn’t be until 2009 and the release of the first rebooted Star Trek film with ZOE SALDANA taking on the iconic role, that Nyota officially became “canon” when Spock calls Uhura by her first name during the movie.

I remember seeing Nichelle during countless conventions, always talking about how moved and excited she was to learn that Nyota meant “star” and that Nyota Uhura meant “Freedom Star” or “Star of Freedom,” guiding those suffering under prejudice, discrimination, and persecution to a brighter future. And goodness knows, Nichelle did just that!

Continue reading “R.I.P – NICHELLE NICHOLS, our elegant Lady of Communications – 1932 to 2022”

Let’s look inside the SHOWRUNNER Awards and other fan film competitions (Part 2)

In Part 1, we took a look “under the hood” at the engines running three of the most significant and well-known of the annual awards competitions for Star Trek fan films: the BJO AWARDS, the DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS, and the SHOWRUNNER AWARDS. Of course, only one of these three is technically “annual” at this point, as the latter two competitions only got their start in January of this year while the Bjos have been running each year since 2015.

Why this deep-dive into the inner workings of three different awards shows? Why not? Most fans see only the end results of these competitions…who were the finalists, who were the runners up, and which films and filmmakers ultimately won. But what happens behind the scenes?

Last time, we looked first at the challenge of finding judges, and how ERIC L. WATTS of the Bjo Awards sets himself the Herculean task each year of finding people “…who have a professional credit in the Star Trek franchise or are Star Trek fans working in the television and film industry, are not in any way personally associated with any past or present Star Trek fan film.” Add to that these people must be willing to watch hours and hours of Star Trek fan films for no money and little more than a thank you for their efforts.

DAN REYNOLDS and GLEN WOLFE went in a different direction for the Directors Choice Awards, opting to require the directors of the films entered to cast ballots for the winners in all categories in order for their own films to quality (and of course, a director could not vote for their own fan film). And finally, I assembled a panel of twelve Star Trek fan film and fan series showrunners (including myself) to judge the Showrunner Awards.

In all three cases, the judging panel was made up up ten or more judges, all publicly identified for the contest. This is, of course, by no means a requirement when holding a fan film contest, although it does inspire more confidence in the results knowing the the people judging the entries have a practical and experiential knowledge of the categories they are judging.

The next thing we looked at was the method each awards show used to gather and organize information on the entries. Eric would determine the submissions based on the Star Trek fan films released in a calendar year that met the eligibility requirements and then type in all of the names of the nominees himself.

Dan and Glen and I, instead, allowed the filmmakers themselves to fill out online forms, changing a nominal $10 entry fee for each fan film entered. The Showrunners then tacked on an extra $1 per each category entered, while the Directors Choice simply limited the number of categories per entry to no more than five. And in the end, all three contests rely heavily on Excel spreadsheets to record the immense amount of submission information.

So what’s left…?

Continue reading “Let’s look inside the SHOWRUNNER Awards and other fan film competitions (Part 2)”

Let’s look inside the SHOWRUNNER Awards and other fan film competitions (Part 1)

So you say you want to create a fan film awards competition! Actually, unless you want to work really, really hard, you probably DON’T want to create one…at least, if you want to do it right. And when I say “do it right,” there isn’t only one correct way to organize and run a film contest. In fact, there’s several different approaches, all of them totally valid.

The challenge is to set everything up so that the process runs smoothly and inspires confidence in both the process and the results. That’s what I mean by “do it right,” and it takes a surprisingly sizable amount of work. DAN REYNOLDS, who along with GLEN WOLFE, ran the recently-completed DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS, said, “The sheer enormity of organizing was difficult. There was a lot of checking, double checking and triple checking. I don’t think we knew just how much work it really would be to pull something like this off.” Glen said that he mostly concentrated on “…getting ballots returned in a timely manner, getting the presenters to turn their videos in in a timely manner, and then getting the whole award ceremony edited while juggling real life.”

ERIC L. WATTS lists off an even longer “to do” list for the annual BJO AWARDS, including…

  • Recruiting top-level, high-calibre judges;
  • Finding eligible fan films for consideration (filmmakers don’t actively enter the Bjo Awars—Eric includes all qualifying Star Trek fan films released in a calendar year);
  • Researching release dates, runtimes, cast and crew credits, and creating a spreadsheet that sorts and organizes that data; and
  • Spending hours and hours and hours creating the actual ballot.

And of course, none of this includes marketing the awards show and announcing its winners, answering questions from the fan community, and of course, nagging the judges to get their ballots in on time! Plus, there’s a whole host of other efforts involved.

One of the biggest challenges is logistics. And like the duck gliding gently across the smooth surface of the lake, most fans never get to see all of the intense paddling that goes on just beneath the surface to make these fan film competitions run like well-oiled machines.

So if you’re interested in “peeking under the hood,” today’s blog is for YOU…

Continue reading “Let’s look inside the SHOWRUNNER Awards and other fan film competitions (Part 1)”

A FATHERS DAY blog as my 11-year-old son JAYDEN discovers STAR TREK fan films…

In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to share something special and Trekkish that recently happened with me and my son.

Jayden is reaching the age where he’s developing his own interests that are completely separate from Daddy’s. He’s playing Roblox and Terraria and a bunch of other games on his computer that I’ve never heard of. He watches YouTubers with names like Mr. Beast, Flamingo, and Merg. He codes, builds robots, and does karate. And now that summer has started, hours will go by where I’ll only see him when he comes down from his room for a quick snack (and it’s all I can do to make him eat a nutritious lunch!).

Ah, being the father of an almost-teen…

I am so proud of my not-so-little boy!

But there is one thing that we do almost every day, and that’s watch Star Trek together after dinner. I give the food a little while to digest, and then we’ll head off to my office where I’ll do 25-30 minutes of cardio on the bike while we watch (most of) an episode of Star Trek. It’s been our “thing” since Jayden was 5. We’re going in release order. We began with TOS, then TAS, then back to TOS because Jayden was really young when he first watched them, and I wanted him to remember. Then on to the first four movies, then TNG…with DS9 added as we hit season six of TNG. And of course, we watched Trek V and Trek VI when those came up in the chronological release order.

We’ve also watched LOWER DECKS, PRODIGY, and STRANGE NEW WORLDS—but not DISCOVERY or PICARD. In the case of Discovery, too much @$&%ing swearing, and in the case of Picard…SPOILERS!

Anyway, Jayden has become quite the little Trekkie (thank heaven!) and sci-fi nerd. The other day at the comic book store, he begged me to buy him a stuffed xenomorph from Alien(s)—which he’s seen, of course—with a zipper for a mouth and a second mouth-tongue inside. (We named him Zipley.)

Jayden holds the newest addition to the family: ZIPLEY!

Most recently, we’ve made it to the end of TNG. We only have “All Good Things” left to watch, but it’s time to switch back over to DS9 and complete season two. We’re two episodes away from watching “Crossover,” the first episode of any Trek to feature the Mirror Universe since TOS’s “Mirror, Mirror.”

Not certain whether Jayden would remember that early episode, I fished out the ol’ remastered Blu-rays to watch that as a special “extra” before heading back to DS9. I’d done the same thing earlier in season two when we did a detour to watch “Errand of Mercy” then “The Trouble with Tribbles” and finally “Day of the Dove.” Those three were all in anticipation of DS9‘s “Blood Oath,” which featured the return of Klingons Kor, Koloth, and Kang from those episodes. So as you can see, I am doing all of this VERY methodically!

Last week, we viewed “Mirror, Mirror” and, as I watched the following scene, I got a crazy idea…

Continue reading “A FATHERS DAY blog as my 11-year-old son JAYDEN discovers STAR TREK fan films…”

What should I do when another blogger CRIBS off my homework? (editorial)

Okay, I am totally stymied about what to do about this—MATT MILLER is now cribbing off my blog!

It all happened yesterday (Tuesday for me) shortly after I published this blog about this past weekend’s shoot in Arkansas for the upcoming AVALON UNIVERSE fan film THE NEEDS OF THE ONE and also the long-delayed CONVERGENCE marathon of filming in Bedfordshire, U.K. JOSHUA IRWIN and his team had shared so many amazing photos and clips on the Avalon chat group of their martial arts fight choreography, and SAMUEL COCKINGS was posting lots exciting updates about his 4-day shoot with all of the Convergence cast. And I thought it would be fun to do a two-in-one blog update on both major fan projects.

So I reached out to both Josh and Sam for short quotes. Sam, exhausted and about to pass out at what was about 2:15 a.m. for him, managed to write me up something surprisingly coherent and send me a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos that no one in the community had seen yet. Josh, also exhausted after the first day at his new job (congratulations, Josh!) dictated some quotes to me over the phone as I typed his comments as quickly as I could. Then he sent me a short video clip of the the awesome fight scene that, like Sam’s BTS photos, hadn’t been shared publicly yet.

In other words, folks, I did the prep work required and then wrote and published the blog, just as I usually do. End of story, right?

Well, not quite…

I got a call Tuesday afternoon from Josh asking me if I’d seen Matt Miller’s post. “Nope,” I said, “I don’t follow Matt’s Facebook posts anymore.” Well, apparently Matt had taken my blog from the morning, split it into two blogs, re-worded it slightly, and posted what was essentially the same content to his TrekZone website. According to the time-stamp, Matt published his pair of blogs roughly five hours after mine went live.

You can access the blogs here and here to compare the content. Or just in case Matt pulls them down for some reason, here’s the screen caps…

Continue reading “What should I do when another blogger CRIBS off my homework? (editorial)”

This is one of the coolest aspects of the Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS…

First, here’s the link to submit your Star Trek fan film to the first annual Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS (deadline to enter is May 31):

https://www.cognitoforms.com/JonathanLane1/_2022StarTrekFanFilmSHOWRUNNERAWARDS


It’s funny how, over the past week and a half since I announced the first annual Star Trek Fan Film Showrunner Awards, several folks in the Axamonitor group have been up in arms (up in arms, I tells ya!) about this simple little fan film competition. This seemed pretty bizarre, since most of them have never even made a Star Trek fan film and won’t be competing.

At first, it appeared as though their issue was that the Showrunner Awards are charging a $10 entry fee (plus $1 per additional category like best director or best music). And thus I saw several posts like this…

Of course, submission fees are the industry standard. Just look on Film Freeway (where nearly all independent film festivals list their competitions), and you’ll see that submission fees range from $25 up to $100 per film. Even the recent fan film DIIRECTORS CHOICE Awards charged $10 per submission. Entry fees keep film competitions from being innundated with too many free entries.

When I pointed this out in one of the fan film Facebook groups, suddenly the issue “transformed” into from simply charging an entry fee to using those fees to help defray the ongoing annual hosting and site security costs for Fan Film Factor. The aforementioned JUSTIN BURTON suddenly switched to saying he was “fine” with the $10 fee itself, but not with what it would be used for…

And that’s when I realized: this is a complaint in search of a problem! (Imagine that!!!) I was actually tempted to reply, “Okay, so I won’t use the money raised for Fan Film Factor, and instead I’ll just go out and have a sushi dinner.” But I decided against it.

I probably don’t need to point out that fan filmmakers hold crowd-funders all the time looking for donations to help finance their “hobby.” And of course, I’ve covered hosting and security costs for Fan Film Factor mainly out of pocket for more than six years.

But hey, whether this blog site is a “hobby,” a pastime, a ridiculous time-suck, or a crazy obsession, Fan Film Factor serves our community in a very unique and important way. It honors and celebrates fan filmmakers and their creations, gives their projects extra exposure and web views, helps in their crowd-funding, and provides independent media coverage when these fan filmmakers opt to list themselves on IMDb.

Amusing, though, the negative nellies seemed to be even MORE incensed (if such a thing is possible) with the decision of our 12-member judging panel to open the competition to fan films released over MULTIPLE years—in the case of this first awards show, any fan film released from January 2017 through December 2021.

Continue reading “This is one of the coolest aspects of the Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS…”

The 2022 SHOWRUNNER AWARDS are now open to any STAR TREK FAN FILM released in the last FIVE YEARS!

The 2022 Star Trek Fan Film SHOWRUNNER AWARDS are now accepting submissions! Entries can be submitted until the end of the day on May 31, 2022. Winners will be announced on September 8, 2022. Here is the entry form:

https://www.cognitoforms.com/JonathanLane1/2022StarTrekFanFilmSHOWRUNNERAWARDS

The Showrrunner Awards are the newest annual competition exclusively for Star Trek fan films and will be unique in a couple of very significant ways. The first is that the window of eligibility is not just a release within the previous calendar year but any Star Trek fan film released with in the last FIVE years (January 2017 – December 2021)! Once a fan film wins a Showrunner Award in a specific category, it is no longer eligible to win in that category again.

The other unique feature of the Showrunner Awards is that there will be THREE winners in each category: ADMIRAL, CAPTAIN, and COMMANDER level…each with a digital certificate (sorry, there’s no way I can afford physical plaques).

Following the example of most industry film festivals, the Showrunner Awards will require a small entry fee ($10) for each fan film submission, which allows a qualifying entry to be considered in the main category of Best Star Trek Fan Film. Each additional category will cost an extra $1, plus there is a small processing fee. To keep operational costs down, payments will be accepted only by credit card only (no check, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, or Crypto at the moment) and are processed by the third party service STRIPE.

The money raised will help me cover the annual expenses for FAN FILM FACTOR (domain hosting, support, site security, etc.). While I truly appreciate the monthly contributions from my 8 patrons, the money from my Patreon falls well short of my ongoing costs for keeping this blog site going.

Here is a list of categories for the Showrunner Awards:

  • Best Fan Film
  • Best Director
  • Best Writer
  • Best Lead Actor (submitter may enter up to three actors)
  • Best Lead Actress (submitter may enter up to three actresses)
  • Best Supporting Actor (submitter may enter up to three actors)
  • Best Supporting Actress (submitter may enter up to three actresses)
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound Design/Mixing
  • Best Visual Effects (CGI)
  • Best Special Effects (non-CGI)
  • Best Musical Score
  • Best Costuming
  • Best Hair & Makeup
  • Best Original Character
  • Best Scene (up to 2 minutes)
  • Best Micro-Budget Fan Film (total production cost $1,000 or less, not including set construction)

The last three categories are really intriguing to me and were suggested by members of our twelve-member panel made up of Star Trek fan film showrunners…

Continue reading “The 2022 SHOWRUNNER AWARDS are now open to any STAR TREK FAN FILM released in the last FIVE YEARS!”

Announcing TWO new FAN FILM AWARD SHOWS coming in 2022!

File this under: “Great minds think alike…” or perhaps under, “This is what you get for missing staff meetings, Doctor.” Either way, GLEN WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS of THE FEDERATION FILES and I had the same idea at the same time, and now there are going to be TWO new fan film awards shows coming your way in 2022!

In my case, the idea of hosting an annual awards show for Star Trek fan films has been percolating in the back of my mind for a few years…not as a way of competing with the annual BJO AWARDS but as simply an additional opportunity for Star Trek fan filmmakers and their productions to shine.

As the new year dawned a few days ago, I was able to finally enjoy a break from the blogging “sprint” that took up much of my December. And I decided that, if I was really serious about creating some Fan Film Factor awards show, now might be a good time to do some thinkin’…

At first, I tried to come up with a name—and you know how much I like things that abbreviate to “FFF.” The Fan Film Festival Awards? Nah. Fan Film Faves? Cheesy. Fan Film Friends? Family? Flamingos? Jeez, I had nothing decent!

Okay, time to try a different approach vector…

So I shifted to thinking about judging. I mean, I suppose it could just be me deciding the winners and losers, but no one fan should possess such power! And, sheesh, what a way to completely piss off almost all of my friends, right? Nope, I needed a panel, but whom? When I finally answered that question, the name for the awards show fell easily into place: THE SHOWRUNNER AWARDS.

I’ve always felt there should be a fan film awards competition where members of the community judge each other’s work…and who knows more about what it takes to make a fan film than a showrunner? But I didn’t want too many judges, so I decided to limit my invitations to showrunners who had successfully released at least four or five completed Star Trek fan films.

Of course, the next concern was making sure there weren’t too many entries. Goodness knows that VANCE MAJOR alone (one of the judges) could enter dozens—maybe hundreds!—of fan films all by himself! So I decided that, unlike the Bjo Awards, the Showrunner Awards will feature a nominal entry fee (maybe $10) plus an additional $1 for each special category like Best VFX, Best Music, Best Film Editing, etc. As I’m learning from entering my fan film INTERLUDE in various film festivals, this is how most of them work with application fees.

Speaking of Vance, or any of the judges, how do we make certain that all of them don’t simply vote for their own fan film, and we wind up with a 6-way or 10-way tie each year? Glad you asked…

Continue reading “Announcing TWO new FAN FILM AWARD SHOWS coming in 2022!”

Please VOTE for INTERLUDE in the 5th Annual IndieBOOM! Film + Music Festival!

It was late 2017 when the IndieBOOM! Film Festival debuted with a category exclusively for “FAN FILMS”—one of the first major film competitions to do so. Created by the team at the award-winning Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, IndieBOOM! offers categories for filmmakers, musicians, and screenwriters working in all short-form formats and genres. In addition to Fan Films, their other categories include Comedy, Drama, Documentary, Horror/Sci-Fi, Experimental, Eusic Videos and Musicals, Animation, Series, Commercials, Dance, and Songs.

In 2019, the winner in the Fan Film category (and also the Sci-Fi category) was “Walking Bear, Running Wolf” from THE FEDERATION FILES. In 2020, the winning fan film was BATMAN: THE SCHEME IS SOUND, which (even though it wasn’t Star Trek) was written, directed, and produced by the man who composed the music for my fan film INTERLUDE: KEVIN CROXTON. And at the beginning of 2021, the announced winner in the category was a Star Wars fan film from Mexico titled JUNDLAND: NO MAN’S LAND.

Now, that we’re in 2022, I think it might be time for a Star Trek fan film to win again. What do you think?

This year’s official selections in the IndieBOOM! Fan Film category include two live-action Star Wars films (one from Australia and one from the USA), an animated Ghostbusters short from the USA, a live-action Jurassic Park fan film from the UK, a James Bond fan film from the USA with kids playing all the role, and two live-action Star Trek fan films from the USA. One of those is my fan film Interlude, and the other is an amalgamation of two fan films from The Federation Files (USA) released over the past two years.

Obviously, I’d like you to please vote for Interlude, although the choice is certainly up to you!

Voting is done by watching on Vimeo, and every view counts as one vote. So watch early, watch often! (Actually, if Vimeo works like YouTube, then each computer browser can log only one vote…so no cheating, I guess!)

Voting runs continuously from today through January 16. Here is the link to view and vote for Interlude

https://www.indieboomff.com/interlude-star-trek.html

And maybe give it a like while you’re there, just so I know there’s someone out there watching Interlude.

The first prize for the most viewed film over all of the various categories wins $500. If Interlude wins (fingers crossed!), I intend to donate the prize money to the AVALON UNIVERSE GoFundMe so my DP and Film Editor on Interlude, JOSHUA IRWIN, can produce even more awesome Star Trek fan films. I fully expect to see him winning IndieBOOM! next year!

I encourage you all to check out each of the wonderful films selected as finalists. And if you do choose to vote for Interlude, I thank you.

2021 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!

Well, it’s been another year, and the CBS guidelines still haven’t killed Star Trek fan films! In fact, even focusing on just the highlights, this is still gonna be a loooooong blog. But that’s a GOOD thing…unless you’re the guy who has to write it up. But I don’t mind. In fact, I’ve actually written 108 blogs this year…94 of them about Star Trek fan films and the others a mix of editorials, reviews of new CBS Star Trek episodes and series, tracking the now-settled Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up lawsuit, and sadly a few eulogies).

It’s always a challenge how to organize these year in review blogs, but this time, I think I’ll just go chronologically, highlighting the biggest releases for each month. However, before I do that, I’d like to acknowledge a few key people who go beyond simply making fan films and actually give of themselves to the greater fan film community in significant ways…

VANCE MAJOR – The creator of the fan-favorite character of Erick Minard, Vance has produced nearly 150 Star Trek fan films in total…including 30 this year alone covering both the CONSTAR series as well as other fan films released under the NO BUDGET PRODUCTIONS banner. (Because he’s released so many, I’ll be leaving most of Vance’s films off of this year’s highlight list…lest this blog becomes longer than War and Peace!) Vance has also been helping some of his actors make the transition to producers. In previous years, this included GREG TEFT and GREG MITCHELL. This year, PAUL JACQUES and SEAN REIMER joined that expanding group. And in addition to providing these wonderful opportunities, Vance is also spotlighting fan filmmakers regularly on his PIZZA ROLL DIARIES and CRITICAL, NOT CYNICAL video podcasts.


DAN REYNOLDS and GLEN WOLF – In addition to producing the Star Trek anthology series THE FEDERATION FILES, Glen and Dan also maintain TOS set replicas in their WARP 66 STUDIOS facilities, allowing those sets in northern Arkansas to be used by other fan filmmakers, as well.


RAY TESI – Another fan who owns TOS set replicas, Ray bought the STAR TREK CONTINUES/STARSHIP FARRAGUT sets from VIC MIGNOGNA and now allows them to be used by fan filmmakers at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland,GA.


SAMUEL COCKINGS – If you see amazing CGI visual effects in a Star Trek fan film, there’s a good chance that the British “Royal of Rendering” created them. Indeed, at this point, it’s almost shorter to list the fan films that Sam Cockings hasn’t done the VFX for! While top-level CGI isn’t a requirement for a good fan film, it can add a professionally polished look. Sam spends an unbelievable amount of his time doing this for his fellow fan filmmakers, and it makes such a big difference for so many.

Continue reading “2021 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!”