In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, we watched how the fan series STARSHIP VALIANT grew from the aborted STARSHIP AJAX fan project, utilizing the 360-degree TOS bridge set at STARBASE STUDIOS in Oklahoma City. The brainchild of local resident MICHAEL L. KING, who would play the main character of Jackson Bishop, Valiant was the first completed fan production to film at Starbase Studios back in late 2013. They released their debut fan film, “LEGACY,” the following summer at SoonerCon 2014. Then in 2015, they released a special edition of “Legacy” with a freshly-added scene that introduced new characters on screen that hadn’t been seen in the original version, including VANCE MAJOR as Chief Engineer Erick Minard and DAVID COX as Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roger Floyd.
The StarshipValiant team headed into 2016 with plans to produce a much more ambitious second project, a 90-minute fan film titled “THE TIES THAT BIND,” and they were able to shoot the first ten minutes during the summer of that year. (You can view that segment here.) But just as they were filming those scenes, CBS announced new fan film guidelines that effectively killed any possibility for a single episode longer than 30 minutes. For a few months, plans for further work on “Ties” were put on hold.
However, at the same time, Vance Major decided to expand upon his character of Erick Minard in a new series of fan films, and some of these projects also featured Michael King as Captain Bishop. This included MINARD, THE VALHALLA STONE, a new fan series called MELBOURNE: “Storm Front”, and a crossover with fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION called CHAIN OF COMMAND. Each of those included footage shot at Starbase Studios in 2016 and were released in either 2016 or 2017.
In the meantime, Michael made a decision to move forward with Starship Valiant and continue filming “The Ties that Bind.” But because director BRADY FOSTER had picked up some professional production work outside of the country, shooting had to be scheduled for after he returned in November. But that wasn’t much of a problem—the Starbase Studios sets weren’t going anywhere.
In Part 1 and Part 2, we saw the birth of the fan series STARSHIP VALIANT, the brainchild of MICHAEL L. KING from Oklahoma. Utilizing the bridge set rescued from STARSHIP EXETER that was restored and expanded at STARBASE STUDIOS in Oklahoma City, the first episode of StarshipValiant, “Legacy,” began filming in late 2013 and debuted the following June at SoonerCon.
In 2015, Michael, with the help of Valiant director BRADY FOSTER, filmed a brand new scene that was shot on the just-completed sickbay set constructed at Starbase Studios for use by their “sister” fan series, STARSHIP GRISSOM. The 3-minute scene featured, for the first time on camera, VANCE MAJOR as Chief Engineer Erick Minard. It also showed the death of Captain Jeffrey Clark, an event that leads directly into the rest of the episode. The “Legacy – Special Edition” debuted at SoonerCon 2015 and was posted to Facebook shortly thereafter.
Michael sums up the Valiant pilot episode like this: “‘Legacy‘ has always been about the consequences of one’s actions. The story is a cautionary tale that tells us that, for every action we make, there is a reaction, either good or bad. It tells us that, sure, we are going to make mistakes and feel badly about them but to stick to our guns and fix them. It tells us that it’s okay to cry for the ones that we love and that those people’s actions are a result of how we have decided to live our lives. Bottom line: we are responsible for those who look up to us for guidance and love, and if we fail them, it’s never too late to make amends or to make it as right as we can.”
In Part 1, we met MICHAEL L. KING from Oklahoma, considered by many to be one of the nicest, most agreeable and helpful folks in the fan filmmaking community. Back in 2013, Michael got involved with a group of local fans planning to launch a new fan series called STARSHIP AJAX to be filmed at STARBASE STUDIOS. The folks who ran the facility, originally located in Oklahoma City, had moved the deteriorating remnants of the TOS bridge set that had been used for the second episode of STARSHIP EXETER and then worked to restore and expand them into Trek fandom’s first and only 360-degree TOS bridge set.
Sadly, the Ajax team never really got themselves going, but Michael—who had initially signed up as a volunteer on that project—was able to launch a fan series of his own called STARSHIP VALIANT. His intention was to focus Valiant‘s stories more on the characters than the action. And although the initial script that Michael wrote, “LEGACY,” began with a space battle, the fight quickly ends, leaving the rest of the episode to focus on the aftermath and how some of the main characters try to deal with it.
Joined by director and editor BRADY FOSTER, Michael and his team were able to film “Legacy” in late 2013 and complete the project by the summer of 2014, where it debuted at the central Oklahoma SoonerCon convention before being posted to YouTube just afterwards. This is what was released…
The new fan series was warmly welcomed into the Star Trek fan film community, and the following year in 2015, Michael was contacted by SoonerCon organizer AISLINN BURROWS asking if he’d like to show “Legacy” again during the convention at the end of June. Michael was more than happy to accept the invitation, but then he had a thought. In the almost-year since “Legacy” had debuted, it had gotten many YouTube views, and fans were pretty familiar with it. But imagine their surprise if the version they saw at the convention included brand new footage!
VANCE MAJOR has produced about a billion Star Trek fan films (or it seems like a billion!)…and he’s not finished yet. With a new batch of about 20 episodes of CONSTAR CONTINUES set for release early next year, Vance still has a bunch more fan films in him! So he’s already planning for his NEXT fan series.
The new project will be titled CONSTAR COMPLETED, and Vance needs some new uniforms to put on his actors. If this sounds kinda déjà vuish to you, you’re not imagining things. Vance has sought out the financial assistance of the fan film community for uniform funding a few times before…and he usually gets there within the first day or two…a week tops! In fact, there’s been a couple of instances when I haven’t even had time to get a blog posted announcing the new Constar crowd-funder before Vance reached his goal.
So this time, I’m rushing as fast as I can to get this blog written and published! Indeed, it’s been less than a day already, and Vance is already nearly a third of the way to his $1,100 goal (including a little sumthin’-sumthin’ from yours truly). That’s the way it goes in this community…even during a pandemic with an economic slowdown.
However, it is still a pandemic with an economic slowdown, so it never hurts to spread the word (rather than the virus!) to fellow fans and friends. So here is the link to Vance Major’s new Constar Completed crowd-funding campaign on GoFundMe:
If you have a little sumthin’-sumthin’ yourself to give, I guarantee you’ll get a fan film out of it—maybe even one or two DOZEN fan films! And even if you can’t afford to donate at the moment, please help get the word out by sharing the above link. And as always, thanks from both Vance and me.
At least temporarily, most fan film production has entered a new phase following social distancing. New releases have not been quite so prolific, and most that have been produced since the beginning of the global pandemic have reflected the need to keep actors mainly isolated from each and from camera crews. For fan films, the show must go on…even if the show must be produced in careful and creative ways.
I’ve coined the phrase “FANdemic” film to categorize these releases. Some recent examples include:
HORREUR POST ATOMIQUE from France, told the story of three survivors of World War III living in bunkers, just before first contact with the Vulcans.
I AM SPOCK featured JENS DOMBEK, “The German Spock,” doing a somber and introspective one-man (well, one-Vulcan) short fan film.
“THE GREEN MANIFESTO” from THE FEDERATION FILES showed the nefarious Colonel Green from the TOS episode “The Savage Curtain” (still with the rank of major) engineering a global super-virus that threatened to wipe out millions worldwide.
And then there’s CONSTAR CONTINUES…from that fan filmmaking machine VANCE MAJOR! Vance’s many, many, many fan films—which cover the Minard Saga, Constar Chronicles, and the latest Constar Continues series—are actually tailor-made for the pandemic…at least some of them. Although the scores of episodes that he’s done have included scenes with multiple characters on the screen at the same time, Vance has also made a good number of episodes featuring two-person “calls” via subspace. These are easy enough to shoot and edit together during a global quarantine, and so, as one might expect, a fandemic Constar production was bound to show up sooner or later.
I know a lot of people in the fan film community—friends, comrades-in-arms, friendly acquaintances, long-distance buddies—but few of them do I feel closer to than VANCE MAJOR. You might have heard of him…’cause I mention him a lot on this blog!
Last month, I posted an audio interview with Vance when he released 51 new episodes of THE CONSTAR CHRONICLES and 18 special editions of the MINARD saga of fan films. Earlier this month, I posted a blog promoting his new GoFundMe campaign for CONSTAR CONTINUES…which I hope you’ll consider donating to.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be featuring audio interviews with two guys named Greg—GREG TEFT and GREG MITCHELL—both of whom worked on Constar with Vance in significant production roles. Vance requested that I interview them separately to give each fan filmmaker a chance to shine. And I’m happy to do it!
The reason is that I love Vance…I love him like a brother. In fact, he frequently calls me “brother”—although I think that’s just his word for “dude”—but “brother” just shows what a truly warm and loving heart he has for people.
I’ve literally lost sleep because of Vance—not because I worry about him but because he works an overnight shift and our calls frequently start after midnight my time (2am for him in Kansas) and can usually last an hour or even two! We’ve chatted about everything from fan films and fan filmmakers to Star Trek, superhero movies, politics, weather, triumphs, frustrations, and my favorite subject: our boys. Vance is a dad like me—and a damn awesome one!—and since my son is half a decade older than his, I can give him some “heads up” advice and also look back at those days gone by and silently envy Vance getting to live those wonderful moments himself.
January is a bad month for crowd-funding…or so I thought.
I usually advise people who ask (and advise them strongly) to avoid scheduling their fan film crowd-funding campaigns in December and January. Both months compete with the holidays. In December, people aren’t really paying much attention to requests to donate to fan projects. And by the time you reach January, many people’s wallets and bank accounts are recovering from holiday expenses like gifts and vacations. So if you can, wait until mid-February to launch your crowd-funder.
A good example of this was VANCE MAJOR, who kicked off his latest GoFundMe for CONSTAR CONTINUES in December. With previous Constar campaigns trying for a $500 goal, Vance had been able to cross the finish line within days. But that was in March. This time, with a goal of $1,175 for costumes and props, Vance took in just a few hundred dollars over the first few weeks, and even now, more than a month later, is only up to $675 from 17 backers (including me). He’s getting there, but it’s definitely slower this time out. Was I right about December and January?
I thought I was…which is why I scratched my head when I saw NICK COOK launch an Indiegogo campaign for STARSHIP INTREPID‘s next fan film, “Echoes.” The long-running fan series out of Dundee, Scotland is trying to raise $2,600 for:
Room hire (location rental)
Food for the actors
Props and costumes
Associated consumables (such as batteries)
With a goal more than double what Vance was asking for, I contacted Nick Cook and suggested we hold off doing a crowd-funding feature/interview here on Fan Film Factor until February—expecting that he (like Vance) wouldn’t get too far over the next few weeks.
It’s only three days later, and Intrepid‘s campaign is already nearly 40% of the say to their goal with $1,036 from 28 backers (including me). Boy, was I wrong! But why was I wrong?
The instant message came in about 7:00 pm a week ago Sunday night. VANCE MAJOR, currently planning an early December release of about FORTY fan films running over ten hours total(!!!), needed a favor from me.
He first asked if I had an early DS9/Voyager-era Starfleet uniform. Of course I do! What kind of a nerdy Trekkie does he think I am??? Then he asked if I had a black turtleneck that I could wear under it instead of the usual blue-gray shirt. A little trickier, of course, but it turns out I also own a TNG 5th season Picard jacket with the shirt he wears under it…and that shirt has a high black turtleneck collar. So yes, I had exactly what Vance wanted.
Turns out Vance needed a quick scene for one of his upcoming CONSTAR CHRONICLES episodes. A friend of his had offered to film himself for the scene and send it to Vance a few weeks ago, but the friend didn’t come through, and Vance was running out of time. In fact, he asked if I could record the scene in the next day or two.
There wasn’t much dialog. Vance IM’d me the full scene…
(Camera is very shakey cam and in your face)
Captain! Hiding all the quadlithium in the Romulan star had the exact effect you said it would. Multiple spacial rifts opening everywhere.... the chain reaction....This will be a Galactic extinction level event. The shockwaves are destroying everything in their path. Nothing will survive.
(Puts his free hand over heart like mirror universe does)
For the Phantom.
The idea was to have me dressed as a Mirror Universe commander, sending my final message to the evil Erick Minard (in the Mirror Universe, they pronounce it “MY-nard”) about his evil plan. In Vance’s films, the low-budget way to do 24th century Mirror Universe is to wear black turtlenecks under Voyager-era uniforms.
There’s just something about VANCE MAJOR that makes fans want to give him money! Maybe it’s his adorable son Royce, Maybe it’s the three dozen Minard fan films he’s made. Maybe it’s the photos from his shoots that he posts almost daily to the Fan Film Forum Facebook group. And maybe it’s because he knows you can see the cord in the doorway of his scene and he just doesn’t care because he’s more interested in having fun and telling a good story.
Whatever the reason, Vance has won the hearts and minds of scores of fans, and his crowd-funding campaigns quickly reach their goals. Granted, these goals are usually in the mid-hundreds of dollars and not difficult to achieve. But whenever Vance launches a campaign, it’s always completely funded before I even have a chance to mention it here on Fan Film Factor.
Not this time, though!
I’m in Colorado this week and next visiting my family…while the rest of fandom is in Las Vegas enjoying Star Trek celebrities and the eighth plague suffered by the Egyptians in the Old Testament’s book of Exodus. But that means a brief pause in fan film blogs till I get back. So I have the opportunity to slot in this quick shout-out to tell you all about Vance’s new campaign before it gets fully funded in a few more hours (or less!).
Vance isn’t offering any perks, and his CONSTAR CHRONICLES fan series won’t premiere until December (read more here). But he already wants to shoot additional episodes in 2020, and he needs to buy more uniform tunics and props. The goal this time is $1,100 (his first foray into four-figure funding), and in the first 19 hours, he’s already halfway there.
So if you want to be part of this Major movement, part of Vance’s victorious vision for Constar contributions, just click over to the following link and make a donation…
VANCE MAJOR has become a legend of sorts in the fan film community. He has unapologetically released over thirty different Star Trek fan films…all on his terms. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say he chooses quantity over quality—he and his teams work very hard on each individual project—it’s fair to say that Vance’s films aren’t the most “polished” you will find out there.
So why watch them…and for that matter, why make them?
The answer lies at the very heart of what fan films are. And “heart” is the reason Vance continues to play in this small corner of the Star Trek sandbox. He LOVES making fan films. And he loves the people who love making fan films with him. He loves writing the stories and bringing his actors and production crews together. He loves visiting fan-made TOS sets or going out on location wearing Starfleet tunics. And he loves seeing the ideas that start in his head slowly take form and materialize into complete fan films that he can share with others.
Who cares if there’s a cord in the door…or the uniforms don’t fit right…or you can see where the bridge set ends and the wooden wall panel starts? Who cares if the wind is blowing too loud into the microphone or a scene is filmed in Vance’s living room? If you want $8 million episodes, watch Discovery. If you want $50,000 episodes, watch Star Trek Continues. But if you want to see what a Star Trek fan can create with the cash in his wallet, the loose change he finds in the sofa, a handful of fan donations, and sheer optimism and willpower, then Vance is your man!
As I said, Vance has already completed thirty-something separate Trek fan films in what I’ve chosen to call the Minard Saga. They all feature his character, Erick Minard, who—thanks to the mysterious Valhalla Stone—has lived from the pre-TOS era to the DS9-era of Star Trek. And not only has Minard appeared in Vance’s fan films, but he’s also appeared in cameos in many other fan series. You can see every appearance of Minard in this dedicated YouTube playlist!)
You might think that after writing, directing, producing, and appearing in so many Star Trek fan films that Vance would choose to take a break for a while. And he almost did. But the siren call was too much for him, and Vance returned for one or two more films.
Oh, heck…who am I kidding??? He’s planning to release another THREE DOZEN fan films!!!