AVALON UNIVERSE takes on Pon Farr in THE NEEDS OF THE ONE… (part 1: video interview with ALEXANDRA REXFORD)

THE AVALON UNIVERSE first emerged onto the Star Trek fan film scene back in 2018 with the release of GHOST SHIP, one of the only fan films to ever infest a starship with zombies! This new fan series featured both TOS Prime and Kelvin-timeline uniforms shot on TOS sets (originally at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Georgia and later at WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas). Having their own alternate universe to “play” in allowed showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN and his team tell stories with a distinct Star Trek “feel” while not locking themselves into five decades of existing canon.

Since that premiere less than four years ago, Avalon Universe has been a veritable fan production machine, releasing what has now reached ten completed films (you can view them all on this play list)—seven major projects ranging from 15 to just over 30 minutes each plus three shorter vignettes. That’s two and a half fan films per year, folks…with more on the way!

Speaking of which, this latest release includes a bumper at the beginning announcing the launch of a new Indiegogo campaign, attempting to raise $8K to crowd-fund their most ambitious production to date, CRISIS ON INFINITE EXCALIBURS. If you’re able to donate, there’s some really nice perks (some of which I designed for the team). Here’s the link…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/crisis-on-infinite-excaliburs-a-star-trek-fan-film

One of the things that sets Avalon apart from many other fan series is the level of quality of the lighting, sound, music, overall cinematography, VFX, make-up, editing, and of course, the acting in each new release. Much of this can be traced back to Josh Irwin himself and the fans he manages to get on his team. Josh works professionally in the film industry in Arkansas, as do many of his cast and crew. This allows Avalon fan films to achieve a polished look and feel beyond what your typical Star Trek fan film.

Their latest release, THE NEEDS OF THE ONE, has a runtime of just under a half-hour and tells the story of a female Vulcan crew member undergoing pon farr while on board. And while we’ve certainly seen that before in both TOS and Enterprise, this tale tackles the concept in a new and unique way (not easy to do with nearly 1,000 hours of filmed Star Trek episodes and movies out there!). Along the way, The Needs of the One introduces fans to a bunch of fascinating and engaging new characters along with recasting the role of first officer Mikaela Allenby, played in the previous release, AGENT OF NEW WORLDS, by ILLIA “PIXI” NEREID and in this new film by ALEXANDRA REXFORD.

The Needs of the One had already generated over 1,100 views on YouTube in the first six hours. Check it out here…

Pretty impressive, huh?

Continue reading “AVALON UNIVERSE takes on Pon Farr in THE NEEDS OF THE ONE… (part 1: video interview with ALEXANDRA REXFORD)”

Production assistant on THE FEDERATION FILES makes an awesome BEHIND-THE-SCENES video about the experience!

CHALEN (pronounced SHAY-len) EVERTS was taking community college classes at North Arkansas College in Harrison when she heard from one of her friends about someone nearby looking for people to help out on, of all things, a Star Trek fan film!

“I’d never seen Star Trek all the way through,” says Chalen. “I still haven’t. Actually I am a Star Wars fan…lol. But I was very interested in acting in film, and it was the closest opportunity to me.” So she decided to take up the offer to help out. The only problem was that she had no idea how to get in touch with showrunner GLEN WOLFE!

“At the time, I didn’t have Facebook,” Chalen continues, “so I created an account just to get in contact with someone I didn’t know. So now it’s a running joke that I got on Facebook just to talk to Glen Wolfe.”

Glen has nothing but praise for Chalen: “She’s been with us since VOICES FROM THE PAST and fit in perfectly from day one. She volunteered to do ‘anything we needed,’ and we took her up on it. She has helped me in every facet of producing all of the subsequent episodes.”

Even though it’s over an hour’s drive each way for her to get to the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS, Chalen has become an essential part of THE FEDERATION FILES fanthology series…on both sides of the camera! She played one of the three Vulcans on the moon base in NO GOOD DEED. And for their latest episode, MUDD’S MISSION (premiering next month), Chalen actually brought four of her friends (all the way from Wisconsin, where she’s originally from) to be extras!

She also worked with JOSHUA IRWIN on the AVALON UNIVERSE fan film AGENT OF NEW WORLDS. According to Josh, Chalen came through for him in creating the cave interior set when Glen was sick and couldn’t do the build. “She saved our shoot!” recalls Josh. “Normally, I call Glen the superhero of the fan film world. But Chalen was the superhero for us that day.”

“From my point of view,” says Glen’s filmmaking partner DAN REYNOLDS, “Chalen has been a steady rock as a production assistant for several Federation Files episodes. She shirks at no menial tasks that we ask of her and is ready at a moment’s notice to help with anything we need.”

Bright and cheery, Chalen posted a video last week of footage she shot behind-the-scenes during two of the filming days for Mudd’s Mission. I already reported on one of those shooting days, as a late June heat-wave turned one of the non-air-conditioned WARP 66 studio buildings into a veritable oven baking both cast and crew. Chalen was there, doing her usual production assistant tasks, but also shooting a bit of her own footage of what was going on both on set and off (and even in her car!).

Continue reading “Production assistant on THE FEDERATION FILES makes an awesome BEHIND-THE-SCENES video about the experience!”

AVALON UNIVERSE releases a trailer for THE NEEDS OF THE ONE…just THREE DAYS before the premiere!

The AVALON UNIVERSE is a very unique Star Trek fan series. Some viewers see the uniforms and mistakenly think these stories take place in the Kelvin timeline. They don’t. But they don’t take place in the Prime timeline either. The Avalon Universe has its own continuity and mythos. Yes, many (not all) of the uniforms are from JJ Trek, but the sets are all straight TOS (shot at both WARP 66 STUDIOS in northern Arkansas and NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA). And the U.S.S. Excalibur looks mostly like TOS but with some intriguing upgrades and refinements.

Having your own alternate universe to play around in has given showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN intriguing opportunities to tell stories that retain the heart of Star Trek without being “trapped” by 56 years of canon. It’s led to the release of nine superb fan films since 2018 (you can view them all here) with a tenth, THE NEEDS OF THE ONE, debuting this Thursday at 7pm Central Time.

In anticipation of that premiere, earlier today Josh posted a 60-second trailer for the new episode…

I asked Josh what fans can expect from this latest film (beyond what’s shown in the trailer)…

“We’re going to get to know more characters on the Excalibur, all while following Commander Allenby’s journey. She’s just become first officer, and Commodore Jakande is giving her a chance to prove herself under really difficult circumstances. But that’s what commanding a starship is all about, right? How she handles the challenges in this film will take her out of her comfort zone. ALEXANDRA REXFORD, who just joined our cast, has added so many incredible layers to this wonderful character. Fans are definitely going to want to see more of Alex in future films.”

Josh also discussed another new addition to the cast, CORA WILSON…

“Speaking of characters fans are going to want to see again, Cora just knocks it out of the park as Nurse T’Prin! She was originally going to be just a one-off character for this specific story of a Vulcan female going through pon farr and watching what it does to her both physically and emotionally. Playing a Vulcan is challenging enough, but playing one trying to maintain control and failing is really hard. LEONARD NIMOY did it the best, of course, but Cora’s performance is amazing. I can’t wait for people to see it!

“Anyway, now that this episode is completed, I can’t imagine not revisiting this character in a future story or two, and I suspect the fans will want to see her again, as well.”

Continue reading “AVALON UNIVERSE releases a trailer for THE NEEDS OF THE ONE…just THREE DAYS before the premiere!”

Neutral Zone Studios’ THE TEST OF TIME Indiegogo gets over ONE-THIRD of the way to its goal in just SIX DAYS!

Granted, as they say in stock investing, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” And I could well be jinxing the whole endeavor just by writing this blog! But there’s many ways for a new crowd-funding campaign to launch, ranging from very strong down to don’t-get-your-hopes-up. And the new Indiegogo for THE TEST OF TIME from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is definitely on the “good” side of that bell curve with $2,295 of their $6,000 goal raised in less than a week from 18 backers.

I reported on the launch of this Indiegogo last Friday, mentioning that for a donation of $150, you can get a decent quality TOS-era tunic (any standard size) as a perk. As I write this, 6 of the original 10 available at that donation level are gone, while 11 others are still available at higher donation levels. T-shirts are available at the $75 level, and a set of TOS data disks and console button prop replicas happen at $50. Even at $25 and lower, there are decent digital perks available.

Situated in Kinglsand, GA, Neutral Zone Studios was, of course, the shooting location for the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT and, later on, STAR TREK CONTINUES. Sold by VIC MIGNOGNA to Florida resident RAY TESI in 2018, Ray opened up the expansive TOS sets to many other fan productions, including DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, CONSTAR CHRONICLES, and the AVALON UNIVERSE…among others.

The sets have also been used for TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, a “fanthology” series focusing on different TOS-era starships and their various crews.  THE LOOKING GLASS (released in June of 2019) and ENDOSYMBIOSIS (February 2021) were recently joined by their third release, the very successful DOOMSDAY, which is currently nearing 90K views on YouTube after just two months.

JOSHUA IRWIN directed Doomsday and also provided his services as director of photography for The Test of Time, most of which has already been filmed, with only a few pick-up shots remaining. The majority of the funds raised from this Indiegogo, in addition to covering expenses that have already been paid for things like food, travel and lodging, wardrobe, etc., will be applied to what are certain to be jaw-dropping CGI effects that will include what I believe will be the first Federation timeship ever seen in a fan film.

In addition to the timeship, VFX starchild SAMUEL COCKINGS has also created a variant of the U.S.S. Stargazer bridge seen in the second season of STAR TREK: PICARD to be used as a virtual background behind green screen actors.

All in all, this looks like a very exciting fan project with a fairly reasonable price tag, considering what’s in it. And while still $3.7K short of their goal, nothing succeeds like success, and this campaign is off to a very encouraging start in its first week!

If you’d like to toss a few shekels into the collection plate, here’s the link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-test-of-time-a-star-trek-fan-film-production

Neutral Zone’s THE TEST OF TIME Indiegogo launches…offering over 20 TOS UNIFORMS for donors!

These days, it’ll cost you $50-100 just to get a decent TOS tunic from the Internet. But now you can get one (with chest patch and rank braids included…any size) and feel good about donating to the latest crowd-funder from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS—all for as little as $150.

Or if you don’t have that kind of cash available, maybe you’d like a T-shirt for $75…or maybe a set of TOS data disks and console button replicas. Still too much? $25 gets you two digital prints and a 1080p digital download of the final film. And heck, even $10 gets you your name in the credits! (Actually, any donation of $10 or more gets your name into the credits.)

Here’s the link to the campaign…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-test-of-time-a-star-trek-fan-film-production

Neutral Zone Studios scored a major hit on April 5 of this year with the release of the TOS-era fan film DOOMSDAY, which is currently nearing 90K views on YouTube after just two months. That production was directed by JOSHUA IRWIN (of AVALON UNIVERSE fame, who will be launching an Avalon crowd-funder of his own in a few weeks) and looked amazing! Josh has returned for this new fan film, THE TEST OF TIME, as director of photography, so you can be certain it will look just as good.

Actually, a majority of this new project has already been filmed, with some pick-up shots still needing to be filmed. Most of the work remaining is VFX by the Q of the CGI Continuum, the omnipotent SAMUEL COCKINGS, who will be rendering starships from multiple centuries plus incorporating green screen actor footage against a modified virtual background inspired by the U.S.S. Stargazer from season two of STAR TREK: PICARD

Plus there’s post-production editing, music, and sound still to do. Indeed, the funds raised from the current Indiegogo will be going to a mix of covering the upcoming post-production costs as well as offsetting expenses that were already paid upfront by showrunner and Neutral Zone Studios owner RAY TESI, who uses his own money to pay most of the rent on the studio.

The $6,000 goal of the campaign isn’t particularly ambitious, and already five donors (including me) have taken the total up to 19% of the money needed. Granted, four of those TOS tunics are now gone, but nearly twenty still remain for the fleet of finger!

Meanwhile, speaking of Ray Tesi, I asked him why he’s willing to risk his own money shooting The Test of Time BEFORE successfully crowd-funding it? After all, if they fall short of their goal, Ray’s on the hook for potentially thousands of dollars.

“I believe in the fans, and I believe in what we’re doing,” he answered. “Star Trek enables creative people to express themselves, to tel their stories. And that’s how I feel…that we have become a benefit to the fan film community. Right now, I’m confident that our fans and supporters will come through for us.”

And again, if you’d like to be one of those supporters, here’s the link to donate…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-test-of-time-a-star-trek-fan-film-production

The shoots must go on – filming MUDD baking in an OVEN!

You’ve probably heard it on the news—or maybe you’re experiencing it yourself. There is a massive “dome of heat” sitting across much of America right now with temperature records being broken left and right. Even in the higher elevation Ozark Mountain area, the mercury on the thermometer outside read 95 degrees last Saturday. And it wasn’t just any kind of hot. It was the southeastern U.S. in June…meaning sticky, humid heat that melts you into a puddle of sweat even if you’re standing in the shade!

But inside WARP 66 STUDIOS in the town of Flippin, Arkansas, well, it was even HOTTER!!! Actually, I should specify that inside one of the WARP 66 Studios, it was even hotter. That’s because their TOS sets occupy two different locations. The bridge and shuttlecraft sets live in a nice, air-conditioned building owned by DAN REYNOLDS in Harrison, AR, and even though the lights and warm bodies can heat things up a bit, those two sets remain pretty comfortable.

However, things are much different in Flippin! GLEN L. WOLFE constructed a metal building on his property that currently houses the transporter room, briefing room, sickbay, corridors, and a swing set area. The building has no insulation, and only one small room inside for the actors to prep has a small A/C unit. The rest of the building is “cooled” by running small fans to move the air around. But when it’s 95 and humid outside, those poor fans are fighting a losing battle, and with the hot lights and bodies inside, you may as well be filming inside of an oven!

“It was dead air inside and hotter,” said Dan Reynolds, who served as director of photography for this oppressively sweltering Saturday shoot. “Thank goodness Glen built it with extremely high ceilings.”

Interestingly, not one but TWO different fan films shot simultaneously on those super-hot sets. The first and more significant of the two (in terms of total footage filmed) was for the next episode from Glen and Dan’s “fanthology” series THE FEDERATION FILES. Titled “MUDD’S MISSION,” this new production brings back two colorful characters from the series’ very first release back n 2016, “HIS NAME IS MUDD“: Captain Charles McCann of the U.S.S. Constitution, played by JIM VON DOLTEREN, and the irredeemable Harcourt Fenton Mudd played with flair by DAVID WHITNEY.

DAVID WHITNEY as Harry Mudd with DAN REYNOLDS (left) and JOSHUA IRWIN (right)

David, who lives in Iowa, actually filmed his scenes a couple of weeks ago during a much more pleasant weekend. “Up until June,” said JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner for the AVALON UNIVERSE, who was also there this past weekend filming pick-up shots for that team’s upcoming release THE NEEDS OF THE ONE, “the weather in Flippin can be pretty mild. In fact, late spring this year has been cloudy and rainy, even into May. But June is about the farthest you can do it. July and August are out for shooting there, and we don’t typically schedule anything until September again.”

So why not simply cancel the hot shoot and come back some cooler day?

Continue reading “The shoots must go on – filming MUDD baking in an OVEN!”

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)”

Two MAJOR fan film shoots on TWO CONTINENTS in one weekend!

I’m not sure what MOST of you did this past weekend, but I do know what a FEW of you were doing…and believe me, it was exciting!

In the mythical land of northwestern Arkansas, JOSHUA IRWIN was making movie magic with the cast and crew from the AVALON UNIVERSE. But this time, he was not shooting on the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS. No, instead, Josh and the team were inside of a martial arts gym filming what looks to be an amazing fight scene. Despite many such fights in TOS (Kirk punched almost as often as he kissed!), fan films usually shy away from dangerous stunt fighting because, well…it’s dangerous! But this fight scene is using real black belts and trained martial arts fighters.

Meanwhile, in the equally mythical land of England, across the pond known as the Atlantic Ocean, the Great CGI Wizard of Star Trek SAMUEL COCKINGS finally had all of the actors necessary—after nearly 4-years!—to shoot the raw green screen footage for the mega-crossover fan film extravaganza CONVERGENCE. Crowd-funded in late 2018, Convergence seemed to be cursed by delays in getting actors to England all at the same time and then by COVID. Indeed, in the meantime, Sam has shot the footage for and released many of the TREK SHORTS fan films that he crowd-funded in 2021! But Sam finally assembled the Convergence “Avengers” for a grueling and ambitious—but still fun!—four-day shoot near his home in Bedfordshire, U.K.

The two fan film shoots that took place over this past weekend couldn’t have been more different…and I don’t just mean the actors’ accents! One was shot in a practical location with physical stunts. The other was limited to the front of a green screen, constraining most exaggerated movement by the characters. One was set in the 23rd century the other in the 24th. And one was filled mainly with actors who have previous experience in fan films. The other featured mostly cast members for whom this will be their first fan film!

As a change of pace, I’m going to do a two-for-one blog, spotlighting both of these shoots on different continents by letting each of their showrunners say a few words…

Continue reading “Two MAJOR fan film shoots on TWO CONTINENTS in one weekend!”

DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 2)

Last week in Part 1, we learned how, in March of 2021, RAY TESI from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS had asked JOSHUA IRWIN from THE AVALON UNIVERSE to make the half-day drive from northeastern Arkansas to southeastern Georgia to be the director of photography for the newest TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE fanthology film “DOOMSDAY.” Josh was happy to help out, and the completed production has quickly become the most watched of all three of the Neutral Zone releases, nearly doubling the views of the previous two offerings, THE LOOKING GLASS (released in June of 2019) and ENDOSYMBIOSIS (February 2021) in only a couple of weeks.

Take a look…

We had just learned that, after arriving at the studio on the day of shooting, Ray had gotten buried under other studio-related tasks he needed to do. And so he asked Josh if he would mind taking over as director in addition to being director of photography (two VERY different jobs). Josh is used to dealing with the unexpected on film sets, working in the film industry himself professionally, and so he agreed to the challenge.

Of course, this gave Josh essentially no time to prepare as director, and so I asked him the following question…

Continue reading “DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 2)”

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’S “MOM” debuts on Mother’s Day…of course! (interview with GARY DAVIS)

Ya just gotta love the folks at DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. Well, you don’t have to love them, but it’s hard not to! They spread such fun and joy through their fan films.

You would think that a fan series set on board a three-nacelled dreadnought-class starship would involve lots of battles and intense, serious action. And you would be wrong. Out of all of the most active ongoing Star Trek fan series, Dominion is one of the ones that takes themselves the LEAST seriously. Although they have had a handful of dramatic releases, they’ve also had a whole bunch of good, wholesome, fun-for-the-whole-family style episodes that just make you want to laugh and smile.

And what could be more wholesome than the captain’s mother visiting her son on the bridge of his starship? And what could be more family-friendly than releasing an episode titled “MOM” on Mother’s Day? Are you ready for something adorable…?

Seriously, how cute was that??!

Yeah, I know. Nothing like that would REALLY happen on a Federation dreadnought starship …or any starship, most likely. And the repercussions of a cloaked Klingon scout ship deep within Federation space could lead to interstellar war. And to that I say: “Stop complaining and go call your mother and tell her that you love her!” (My apologies to any out there who have lost their mothers, but if you know any mothers in your life, send them a link to this wonderful vignette and put a smile on their face.)

Speaking of smiles, I just couldn’t wait to ask GARY DAVIS, longtime Dominion showrunner and Captain Jason Brousseau himself, some things about this precious piece of production positivity…

Continue reading “DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’S “MOM” debuts on Mother’s Day…of course! (interview with GARY DAVIS)”