Over this past weekend, two fan films that were scheduled to shoot on the TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA (formerly used by Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut), made major announcements based on some unexpected new pricing policies implemented by the studio at the last minute. It wasn’t pretty.
Previously, Neutral Zone Studios, purchased last year by RAY TESI, had followed the lead of the now-defunct Starbase Studios in Oklahoma and (later) Arkansas of charging fans only for the cost of electricity and utilities but otherwise allowing the use the sets for free for any fan production to film on. Of course, nothing is really “free,” and the costs for rent and upkeep had to be paid by someone…and in this case, it’s been Ray Tesi.
Just this past month alone, Ray had to write $6,000 in checks for rent, utilities and his annual insurance on the facility and sets. In a typical year, Ray’s out-of-pocket costs—just to keep the sets from winding up in the dumpster—is about $42,000!
To try to help with expenses, Ray launched a Patreon campaign almost a year ago seeking small monthly donations from fans. While it’s doing modestly well—currently taking in about $800 a month from 64 backers—that still leaves Ray with nearly $33,000 in annual expenses. For a guy who is paying for this venture out of his retirement fund , this is a significant commitment. And frankly, I personally think more fans need to step forward and help Ray cover his costs…because if Ray runs out of money, these sets really will wind up in a dumpster.
But more on that in a moment. First, let me tell you about what happened this past weekend—both the bad, the ugly, and the good…
Back in April of 2017, I interviewed VANCE MAJOR about his newest fan film release, MELBOURNE. The previous month, Vance and his long-time friend JEREMY MINARD (yes, Minard…like the character from Vance’s other fan films) had just released their first Melbourne fan film, the 11-minute “Storm Front, Part 1.” Unlike Vance’s other prolific fan project, the Minard saga—consisting of more than 30 individual fan films about the life and career of Engineer (and later Captain) Erick Minard—Melbourne would focus on an entirely different set of characters on board the USS Melbourne.
The scenes for both parts of “Storm Front” were filmed entirely on the Starbase Studios TOS sets when they were still in Oklahoma in 2016. In fact, Melbourne was one of the final two fan projects to film there before the sets were moved to Arkansas at the beginning of 2017.
With all of the footage “in the can,” as they say, it didn’t seem like it would be long until “Storm Front, Part 2” was released to complete the story. In fact, in Vance’s April 2017 interview, I asked him when he thought the conclusion might be available, and he answered:
Definitely this summer. I’m just waiting on my special effects guy, Craig Fray, to finish up with our CGI. Right now, he’s working hard on Valiant‘s next episode, “The Ties That Bind.” As soon as he’s done with them, he shifts over to us.
But instead of the summer of 2017, part two wasn’t released until the summer of 2018, about ten days ago. You can view it here…
So why the delay? I asked Vance that question a few days ago…
Last time, we took a closer look at the new fan series MELBOURNE, shot at STARBASE STUDIOS and produced by VANCE MAJOR. This low-budget production has guest cameos from and shout-outs to SEVEN other fan films and series, tying a fair portion of the fan film community together with some shared continuity.
In Part 1 of our interview, Vance talked a bit about his own background as a fan and a filmmaker, and how his experiences with other fan productions led him to create his own. In the conclusion, we discuss more about the Melbourne project itself—its cast, production and post-production, and plans for the future.
At the end of March, a new Star Trek fan production titled MELBOURNE (just that, no “Starship” in front of the name) posted its debut fan film: “Storm Front, Part 1.” One of several fan series shot on the sets of STARBASE STUDIOS (while they were still in their previous Oklahoma City location), Melbourne initially released two ultra-short vignettes, “Pen Pals” and “Pen Pals 2”.) But fans were really waiting for their first full episode to see what this new fan production would be all about.
Most successful Star Trek fan projects have a driving force behind the production, and in the case of Melbourne, that driving force is show-runner/producer/writer VANCE MAJOR (his friends call him “Vman”), who lives in Kansas with his wife of 17 years and his newborn son, Royce. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Vance for a very friendly interview. In fact, “friendly” is one of the best adjectives I could use to describe this warm and humble film producer from the Sunflower State. Since having our interview, we’ve actually become good friends, have spent hours on the phone talking Trek and swapping “Daddy” stories, and he’s invited me to appear on camera in an upcoming episode of Melbourne anytime I can get myself over to Arkansas (the new home of Starbase Studios).
The last two short fan films were also teasers for the latest production made at STARBASE STUDIOS…a new fan film (possibly series) called MELBORNE. And no, the word “Starship” is not in the title—unlike many other projects.
Melbourne is the brainchild of VANCE MAJOR, a filmmaker from Kansas who also plays Chief Engineer Minard on Starship Valiant. From its debut episode, it looks as though Melbourne is set somewhere between the end of Kirk’s five-year mission and the beginning of Star Trek: The Motion Picture…featuring starship and uniform elements from both (apparently in a very purposeful way).
I’ll be featuring a full interview with Vance in a few weeks. But for now, please enjoy Part 1 of Melbourne‘s first full episode debut, “Storm Front”…