DEMONS – The latest AVALON UNIVERSE fan film triumph! (audio interview with VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN)

The AVALON UNIVERSE made its unexpected debut in our universe on Halloween of 2018…which was somewhat appropriate, considering the storyline of the debut episode (the 2-part GHOST SHIP) was kinda a “Star-Trek-meets-The Walking Dead” mash-up. Exactly one year later, on Halloween 2019, the latest Avalon Universe fan film, DEMONS (the third story so far), premiered the first of its two segments, with part 2 coming out a week later. In between was the one-part AVALON LOST, which came out in February of 2019.

All three stories were something quite different than most other fan films…and I don’t mean just the unusual meshing of Kelvin-verse uniforms with TOS-style sets…along with nacelles and shuttlecraft which looked slightly different than the familiar Prime Universe technology. No, what fans noticed almost immediately was a quality level—of acting, directing, lighting, camera angles and lens selection, sound mixing, film editing, pacing—that was a step or three above the vast majority of other Star Trek fan films.

This is by no means meant to diminish the achievements of those other fan filmmakers…some of whom have used the same TOS sets (initially the former Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues sets in Kingsland, GA and—later—the TOS sets at WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas). But when it came to the Avalon Universe, fans just knew this was something extra special.

That quality came primarily from the two show-runners: VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN, two die-hard Trekkers who work professionally in the film industry in Arkansas. With training in acting and film production, Victoria and Josh brought a level of craft not typically seen in most fan films…and fans watched these releases on YouTube in the tens and even hundreds of thousands.

Demons was the first of the three Avalon Universe fan films to be crowd-funded, raising just over $6,500 from 102 backers (including $45 from me!) on Indiegogo back in March of this year. And even though that was 25% short of their $8,500 goal, the completed fan film still looks mighty impressive.

I present below the two parts of Demons (there are links in the first paragraph of this blog to features on the earlier Avalon releases—along with additional audio interviews with Victoria and Josh). When you watch Demons, look for cameo appearances from two well-known Trek fan filmmakers: VANCE MAJOR and GLEN WOLFE. After that, I invite you all to share my latest fascinating interview with Victoria and Josh. But first, take a look at this

and this

Pretty impressive, huh? Wanna learn more about how a project like this came together? Have a listen as I interview director/co-writer/lead actor/producer Victoria Fox and co-writer/DP/production designer/executive producer/lots-of-other-things Joshua Irwin about their latest fan film masterpiece…

INTERLUDE Confidential #1: Jonathan, the Executive Producer…

It was the best of times, it was…aw, heck! IT WAS FRICKIN’ AWESOME!!!

I’m referring, of course, to the main shoot of my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE that took place about a week ago as I write this. It’s taken me this long just to process the amazing, kaleidoscopic experience I had.

With so much to tell you all about what happened, I wondered how best to do it. A single blog about the weekend would read like War and Peace and still barely scratch the surface. So instead, I’m going to break it down into smaller chunks, and each will end with a series of on-set photos. (I’m still editing through everything…and there’s gonna be at least a few hundred pictures!)

I’ve decided to call this blog series Interlude Confidential. (Not quite sure what made me think of that title…maybe ALEC PETERS can tell me.) Anyway, if you don’t want to read that much, then feel free just to look at the photos and enjoy the captions. But if you’re curious what the experience of being a first-time Executive Producer on a Star Trek fan film felt like, then these blogs will be my “Vulcan mind-meld” with you.

And speaking of executive producing, that’s a really good topic for the first blog about this fan film production. What exactly did Jonathan do?

Many months ago when I first kicked off the Interlude GoFundMe campaign (still accepting donations, by the way!), a few folks in a certain Facebook group complained that I was doing little to make my own fan film besides simply raising money for it (which is quite a chore in and of itself, y’know!). And truth to tell, I initially thought that was the extent of it.

Sure, I also wrote the script, was designing the insignia, and getting uniforms and patches made. But my Directors VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN are the experienced industry professionals. I’m just a guy who likes fan films and blogs about them obsessively. So I figured that, once I raised the money, I’d hand the steering wheel over to them, climb into the back seat, and take a well-deserved nap for the rest of the trip.

Yeah…that totally did NOT happen!!!

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The TWO missions of the INTERLUDE fan project…

We all know the primary mission of the USS Enterprise: to explore strange, new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man/one has gone before.

But if you think about it, any decent science vessel could do that job just as easily. The Enterprise was different, though. While its primary mission was one of exploration and discovery, the crew had many, many more responsibilities: peacekeeper, diplomacy, war ship, search and rescue, medical transport, resupply, and even (in a couple of cases) espionage.

The starship Enterprise carried out many kinds of missions, and in the same way, so will my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. Unquestionably, the primary mission (aside from having fun…always a must for fan productions!) is to make a slick, kick-ass fan film for you all to enjoy. But like our favorite TOS and TNG starship, Interlude had some additional tasks to accomplish…among them showing how Ares Studios is a viable resource for other fan films beyond just AXANAR (Vance Major gets his chance in a few more months) and demonstrating that it’s still possible to crowd-fund a Star Trek fan film into the five-figure range even post-guidelines…while dutifully following those guidelines.

But there’s one other mission for Interlude which, to me at least, is the most important: I did it for the blog.

More specifically, I did it for the majority of my readers who might never have an actual opportunity to walk onto a fan film set or be a show-runner. Perhaps a few of you want to be an executive producer or director yourself someday. Or maybe you just want to get a ringside seat on all the action.

Either way, I’ve done (and will continue to do) something with Interlude that I’m pretty sure has never been done before with any other fan film. I’m documenting nearly everything that’s gone into making it—from budgeting to building the team to all of the strategies I’ve used to crowd-fund to pre-production design to casting and costuming details. (No Land’s End shirts!) Thanks to these many blogs, my readers are getting to “look over my shoulder” at nearly every detail…assuming they’re interested in such things. To me, that’s actually one of the most exciting aspects of this whole process: not only do I get to watch and be a part of it all, but I can SHARE the experience with all of you!

And this past weekend’s shoot was no exception.

Continue reading “The TWO missions of the INTERLUDE fan project…”

And that’s a WRAP for the first (main) shoot of INTERLUDE!

I don’t have much time to blog this morning ’cause it’s still going to be a very busy day! But I did just send the following update to the donors for my GoFundMe campaign who made all of this possible. And I wanted to share the message here, as well…


Oh, man!

I am still processing what I can only describe as a kaleidoscopic weekend of amazingness shooting the main scenes of INTERLUDE at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, Georgia. It’s gonna take a LOT of blogs to fully convey the experience of the past 3 days. But first, I need to record some lines on audio this morning, get to the airport, and fly back to Los Angeles.

All I have time to tell you right now is that your donations were not only well-spent, they were MASTERFULLY spent by a team whose talent and ability astounded me. I think we came pretty close to NOT going over budget, but I’ll need to crunch the numbers when I get home. I might need to beg for a few hundred dollars more. Maybe not. At one point, there was so much happening on set that I just handed my credit card over to someone (I don’t even remember who!) along with a laundry list of everything we needed locally and where to get it–from gaffer’s tape to extra snacks and Gatorade. It was a little surreal. (Thank heavens I got my credit card back!)

But let me assure you folks: this fan film will not only be awesome, it will be a visual work of art. Josh Irwin’s mastery of lighting and color gave his shots a cinematic feel reminiscent of the stunning palette of first season TOS on a bridge so similar yet uniquely different. And Victoria drew out some amazing on-screen performances from both trained actors and a few untrained fans (’cause we’re still a FAN film, folks!).

Anyway, more fun and fantastic details, videos, pictures (SO many photos!), interviews, and stories to come…as soon as I have time to go through more than 900 photos and about 10 hours of behind-the-scenes footage. Stay tuned…and THANK YOU ALL again for making this dream possible.

TEAM INTERLUDE expands – we film THIS SATURDAY!!! (part 1)

Holy temporal distortion!

Back when I started the GoFundMe for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE back in early June, it felt like November 2-3 was a million months away. Now I’ll be getting on a plane for Atlanta this Friday, and I’m feeling a dozen different emotions all at once: excitement, anticipation, dread, abject terror…it runs the gamut, folks!

Y’see, I watched all of those livecasts from the first AXANAR shoot four weeks ago, saw all of those moving parts—the 80-plus volunteers, the costumes, the sound and computer-monitoring equipment, the lights, the cameras, the action, the caterers—and I got totally overwhelmed. That’s a tough act to follow!

Granted, Interlude isn’t nearly that big of a shoot—we’re expecting about 30 people a day, not 80-plus. But make no mistake: there are still a LOT of moving parts to my project, too…and I’m smack in the middle of most of them!

I naively thought that, after the crowd-funder reached its $19.5K goal, that I’d just be able to slide into the proverbial back seat and let my Directors, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN do the driving the rest of the way. Oh, sure, as Executive Producer, I’d pay the bills for things like patches, plaques, equipment rental, wardrobe, travel expenses, catering, etc. And I’d be supervising my friend LEWIS ANDERSON on the CGI effects. But aside from that and showing up at the shoot, running a few errands, and taking lots of photos and videos for the blog, I figured that I was essentially done.

Boy, was I wrong!

You might have noticed a slowdown in my blog coverage of fan films over the past several weeks. This is mainly because I’ve been doing a boatload of work on Interlude! This doesn’t mean that Victoria and Josh have’t been working their butts off, too. But they haven’t let me sneak into the back seat yet. I am still VERY much in the thick of things!

If you’re a fan filmmaker or, more precisely, are thinking of becoming one, then this blog is for you. I’d like to share my journey, my “trek,” with folks who might be curious to see all of the things a complete novice like me is doing and learning along the way…

Continue reading “TEAM INTERLUDE expands – we film THIS SATURDAY!!! (part 1)”

TEAM INTERLUDE expands – we film THIS SATURDAY!!! (part 2)

As I mentioned in Part 1, these two blogs are intended primarily for those folks interested in fan filmmaking, whether they’re already making fan films or if they’re thinking of taking the plunge for the first time…as I’m doing right now.

Granted, fan films range from super-cheap where there’s only a handful of people (or even as few as two or one) to the super-large productions like STAR TREK CONTINUES and AXANAR where 50 to 100 people might end up being a part of the production. If I had to place our INTERLUDE project on this sliding scale from, let’s call it, one to ten, I’d say we’re a solid seven.

So this blog might not apply directly to every fan project. But if you’re smaller, it might help with a step up to a more ambitious level. And if you’re bigger, then you’d probably just be amused at all the stuff the “newbie” is going through. I’ll simply say that I wish I’d been able to read a blog like this before I started tackling Interlude!

Okay, let’s get back to discussing our rapidly-expanding team who will all be descending on Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA this coming weekend. (EEEEP!)

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INTERLUDE update: How do you solve a problem like Ramirez?

The whole reason INTERLUDE exists (will exist) is because ALEC PETERS wanted to explain why Admiral Ramirez won’t be appearing in the Axanar sequels. In reality, actor TONY TODD left the production and declined to play Ramirez again. Actors J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, and the late RICHARD HATCH, on the other hand, decided to stick with Alec and see it through.

And while the loss of Richard hit us all very hard, it turned out that losing Tony Todd, even though he is an amazing actor, wasn’t as devastating a set-back for the Axanar script as was the loss of Kharn. In other words, it was fairly easy to write out Ramirez and replace him with a different Starfleet commanding admiral. In Alec’s original draft, Ramirez gets wounded while being escorted back on a convoy from a secret meeting. His injuries are serious enough that he has to sit out the rest of the war, turning over his duties to Admiral Threl of Androria.

My Interlude script took that quick “oh, by the way…” bit of exposition and expanded it into a 10-12 minute fan film (or so I hope!). The only problem is: now I need to show Ramirez!

Granted, he only needs to be wounded, so he won’t have any spoken lines. In the comic book version, it was easy to show him—as the artwork in the panel above illustrates him lying in the Ares sickbay covered in blood. But what about the fan film?

Of course, I could simply take the easy way out and just not show Ramirez in Sickbay at all…and instead have the doctor call up to the bridge, “Captain, Admiral Ramirez is in critical condition down here!” But that would have been such a cop out.

Also, I was kinda looking forward to filming a scene somewhere other than on the Ares Studios bridge set. Granted, it’s a AWESOME set, but I really wanted one or two other locations for the action, as well. Initially, that Sickbay scene was going to be filmed at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA on the TOS sets previously used for Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut. But that offer was rescinded. Fortunately, GLEN WOLFE stepped up and volunteered his WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas for the Sickbay scene.

Now we just needed to find someone to play Admiral Ramirez…!

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INTERLUDE update: logos and patches and plaques, oh my!

It’s time for another look behind the INTERLUDE curtain, my friends! Last week, I showed you the secret origin of the photo of the Golden Gate Bridge that will appear behind Admiral Slater for about 20 seconds at the end of the fan film. This week, I’m going to shine the spotlight on how we came up with the ship’s logo for the USS Artemis. The process was much more involved than I thought it would be!

Our story begins over a year ago before Interlude was ever going to be a fan FILM and was simply going to be a fan COMIC BOOK. It was time for my illustrator, the amazingly talented DANIEL FU, to draw Captain Imari Jakande of the USS Artemis for the first time, and he needed to know what kind of insignia to put on his chest.

Hmmm…

By this point, three of the Ares-class starships had logos designed for them: Ajax, Ares, and Hercules:

They each featured some kind of weapon (I consider a lightning bolt thrown by a super-strong demi-god to be a weapon). So what kind of weapon was Artemis known for? Well, as goddess of the hunt, she was often depicted with a bow and arrow. The problem was, bows and arrows are very thin and don’t typically have enough room to fit a command star symbol in the center…let alone a sciences planet or an engineering comet.

But Daniel did a little research to discover that Artemis was also the goddess of the moon. Sure, the moon isn’t a weapon (usually), but it’s still a nice celestial outer space thingie. So I gave Daniel a green light to do a moonish insignia. Here’s what he came up with:

As I said, this was long before Interlude the fan film became a possibility. But once it did, I realized that we were going to need an insignia for the USS Artemis tunics in the film…and suddenly there was a problem again. (Isn’t there always in these blogs?)

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How I spent my first crowd-funded $12 on INTERLUDE…

As filming dates rapidly approach, things are getting really exciting for both AXANAR and INTERLUDE! And while ALEC PETERS updates everyone on the progress of his fan film, I’m going to write a series of blogs about the happenings on the Interlude side of the fence…since it’s a really fascinating journey we’re on. I want to share that journey with all of you as much as I can; that’s what blogging is all about!

I’m not planning to write a blog whenever I pay for something for my fan film. But your first time is always special, and I wanted to tell you about it.

But first, I’d like to share a another special moment that came at 12:16am on June 23, 2019—12 days after I’d launched my crowd-funding campaign for Interlude. I received what was to be the first of nearly 100 daily e-mails from GoFundMe…

Wow. Just…wow.

It’d taken me a couple of weeks to get my bank account properly linked to my GoFundMe account. But truth to tell, I hadn’t realized that GoFundMe gives you the money each night just after midnight for any donations your campaign receives that day. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how they did it, but getting money transferred each night at midnight felt like having elves or leprechauns visit and leave money behind! Some days, I’d receive less than $10 while other days would see deposits into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars! For for three months, those “Your money is on the way” e-mails appeared almost every night. It was soooo weird.

Anyway, I let that money accrue, and the balance in my bank account just kept growing. As of the beginning of September, my account balance was over $19,000. (This is a separate bank account set up for the campaign, not our main joint account.)

But then came the moment that I knew was inevitable. After watching the money only go INTO the account for three months, I was finally going to have to make my first payment FROM that account. And even though, as executive producer, I’ve always known I was going to have to one day start spending those crowd-funded dollars, it still felt weird…and a little scary! After all, once money is spent, it doesn’t come back without more crowd-funding. And I gave donors a very specific budget.

To make things even more scary, my first expense was completely unplanned for and unbudgeted. (See? I toldja we’d forget something! That’s why we need contingency.) Fortunately, the unexpected expense was (this first time) was only twelve bucks…

So what cost us just $12? Glad you asked…

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INTERLUDE hits its goal of $19,500 on STAR TREK’s anniversary!

I feel overwhelmed right now, deeply touched, humbled, and just a little bit verklempt.

A few hours ago, during the 53rd anniversary of the debut of Star Trek on NBC, the GoFundMe campaign for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE reached its goal of $19,500. It was an amazing feeling…especially as the donation that got us there was for an incredibly-generous $500. Earlier in the day, another donor had brought us to exactly $19,000 with a $28 donation. That kind of support and belief in our team and me means more than I can put into words.

The backer who pushed us into the end zone was SHANE FREUND, an Axanar supporter who had also donated to Interlude a few weeks previously. Along with yesterday’s donation came this message:

On the anniversary of Star Trek, I wanted to help you reach your goal because having the courage to take a risk is what Star Trek is all about.

I thought about that statement for a few minutes. In my mind, Star Trek is about a lot of things: tolerance, empathy, inclusiveness, loyalty, duty, honesty, a desire to explore and discover, hope for the future, and a willingness to help others to make things better. And yes, Star Trek is also about taking chances and believing in yourself, in the abilities of your friends and crew, and even believing in luck and your ability to beat the odds.

I grew up in the 1970s watching scenes like this over and over in reruns…

And when you think about it, taking a chance and beating the odds is also what crowd-funding is all about. You put yourself out there and hope that your friends (and crew…and a bunch of strangers) will come through and help you out.

Of course, successfully crowd-funding a project (or a dream) does require a lot of work . Campaigns don’t just fund themselves. But it all comes down to one game-changing word: CAN. “I can.” “You can.” “We can.” Those are among the most powerful sentences in the English language.

And do you know what the other most powerful sentences are? “I can’t.” “We can’t.” “You can’t.”

I mention this because I’ve spent this entire GoFundMe campaign these past three months trying my darnedest to ignore the almost constant drip-drop of negativity from many, many members of the Axamonitor Facebook group. Even when some fair-minded folks over there tried to be supportive of me and my project, others would make comments like this…

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