The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 1)

The fan series STARSHIP VALIANT has just released its latest episode, “Animals,” a fan film that got its start a little over three years ago in 2017. But the story of Starship Valiant goes back farther than that and starts with a fellow named MICHAEL L. KING. Michael is considered my many fan filmmakers to be one of the nicest people in our entire community. He’s positive, polite, doesn’t get angry or hold grudges, and he’s always willing to help out other productions. He loves Star Trek fan films and supports all of the many people who make them.

But before we get into Michael and the history of Starship Valiant, let’s take a look at his team’s most recent fan production…

And now, let’s travel backward in time a bit. Michael had loved watching Star Trek fan films, being particularly impressed with the quality of productions like STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES and STARSHIP EXETER, both of which featured TOS set recreations. In fact, the amazing bridge set from Exeter had managed to find its way from Austin, TX to Michael’s backyard of Oklahoma City (read the entire story of the birth of STARBASE STUDIOS here).

A fellow by the name of JOHN HUGHES had found the Exeter‘s bridge set in 2009, decaying in a Texas barn for five years since they’d shot their second episode “The Tressaurian Intersection” in 2004. John’s intention was to restore the bridge (and build other TOS sets), to use in the creation of his own Star Trek fan series, STARSHIP AJAX. By 2013, with RICHARD WELLS and SCOTT JOHNSON leading the construction team, the bridge set was now ready to film on. And so John set himself the task of looking for volunteers to be a part of the new production.

A photo from March of 2013 of what would have been the cast and crew of Starship Ajax. John Hughes is second-from-the-right wearing a black jacket. Michael L. King is standing behind the command chair wearing a blue tunic.

This is where Michael enters the story…

Continue reading “The history of STARSHIP VALIANT! (Part 1)”

AIR AND DARKNESS from the AVALON Universe will blow you away!

It was on Christmas day that LEGACY, the latest vignette glimpse into the parallel AVALON Star Trek Universe, debuted…generating an average of around 500 YouTube views per day and nearly 97.3% thumbs up. And it’s not surprising that there would be so many likes (in fact, one wonders what those 2.7% thumbs down were thinking!), since the two show-runners of the Avalon Universe, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN, are both experienced film industry professionals in Arkansas.

Fast forward to New Years Day, and the Legacy “appetizer” made way for the main course: a brand new 20-minute Avalon fan film titled AIR AND DARKNESS. And what a meal it was! This 20-minute fan film has seen an average of nearly 1.5K YouTube views per day and 98.5% thumbs up. This newest release not only follows the introduction from Legacy, but it also picks up on the mysterious plot points left unresolved in the excellent 2-part Avalon release DEMONS from late 2019.

Josh and Victoria weren’t available for an interview this time out (although there is an informative audio interview about their production on Demons available here). However, there are a few things that are worth paying close attention to when you watch this fan film…

Shot during COVID – while most of the recent “fandemic” films tend to have just one character on the screen at a time, that would have been impossible with this production due to the stunts requiring hand-to-hand combat. So Victoria and Josh can up with a very clever way to work masks into the outdoor fight scenes and simultaneously minimize the need for make-up. It’s also worth noting the skill with which many shots on bridge set were composed to have the minimum number of (maskless) actors in front of the camera simultaneously.

Shot at outside night – You don’t usually see Star Trek fan films with exterior evening or night scenes because it’s challenging to light them well enough for most video cameras to pick up the images. But as I said, Director of Photography (and Co-Writer/Co-Director) Josh Irwin does this professionally and knows his craft.

The stunts – Again, you don’t usually see convincing hand-to-hand fight scens in Star Trek fan films. But when your main star is also an accomplished martial artist and works in the entertainment industry, you’ve got a valuable asset. CHUCK MERÉ, who plays Captain Lance Ramirez, was the fight choreographer and did a fantastic job. He also was one of two FX make-up artists on the production.

Bridge chatter – Last year, I came up with an idea to have folks in the fan film community record “bridge chatter” for use in my fan film INTERLUDE (which Josh and Victoria have both done amazing work on). My goal was always to make those sound clips available for any fan filmmaker, and a number of them were used for Air and Darkness…and they sound AWESOME!

And now you know some of what to look and listen for. So sit back and enjoy…

The AVALON UNIVERSE’s fourth film, LEGACY, has just been released!

Fans got their first taste of what JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX were capable of producing on Halloween in 2018 with the release of GHOST SHIP, the first of what would become multiple Star Trek fan films set in the “Avalon Universe.” This similar-yet-slightly-different Starfleet features a mix of uniforms from TOS and the Kelvin timeline with starships that look nearly the same as TOS but are a teensy bit different. It’s an intriguingly fresh take on Trek.

The production quality of their first Star Trek fan film, shot on the TOS sets at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA, towered over most Trek fan films primarily because Victoria and Josh are themselves both professionals in the filmmaking industry in Arkansas. The following year, Victoria and Josh released two more films in their Avalon Universe: AVALON LOST and DEMONS, each even more impressive than the previous one.

And now in 2020, just five days before the end of the year, they’ve released their fourth Avalon fan film, LEGACY, a short vignette that will lead into their major fifth release, AIR AND DARKNESS. Filming on that project just completed a few weeks ago at WARP 66 STUDIOS in Mountain Home, Arkansas.

And speaking of WARP 66 Studios, Legacy was also shot there on GLEN WOLFE’s TOS bridge set. But as you’ll see from the fan film, the bridge underwent some noticeable modifications to mimic the look of the U.S.S. Ares bridge set in Lawrenceville, GA. And indeed, an Ares-class starship, the U.S.S. Athena, is the setting for this vignette, with visual FX done by his lordship—or is it shiplord?—SAMUEL COCKINGS. The music was composed by ADAM MULLEN, who has been scoring scores of VANCE MAJOR’s many MINARD and CONSTAR fan films and has recently begun scoring for DAVID CHENG’s many cosplay fan films that have come out this year. Adam is a busy guy!

This latest vignette was started back in January. You might not think that 3 minutes worth of fan film (plus another minute or so of credits) with only two VFX shots would take nearly a year to complete. Well, I need to take at least some of the blame for that, as Legacy writer/director Victoria and DP/editor Joshua were often pulled away from their busy lives to work on another little fan project called INTERLUDE for a very demanding executive producer named Jonathan. That fan film is nearly completed, just inches from the finish line. And I truly appreciate them splitting their spare fan filmmaking time between Legacy and Interlude.

But crossing the finish line first (only slightly) is Legacy, and I invite you now to check it out…