One TREK crowd-funder reaches their GOAL while another needs our HELP!

As one door successfully closes, another door optimistically opens…

On Sunday evening, the Indieogo campaign for THE TEST OF TIME, the next release coming soon from RAY TESI and TALES FROM THE EUTRAL ZONE, finished up at 124% of its $6K goal…reaching a very impressive $$7,452 in just 30 days! It’s still active, as Indiegogo offers an “In Demand” status where people can continue donating, and another $400 came in after the official deadline, bringing the total to $7,867 from 65 backers!

Among the fan filmmakers involved with The Test of Time is their dynamic director of photography, JOSHUA IRWIN, who also directed their wildly popular previous release, DOOMSDAY, already up to 90K views on YouTube since its release on April 5.

However, Josh is more widely known in this sector of the galaxy as the showrunner for the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series, and his just-released THE NEEDS OF THE ONE is also racking up the YouTube views as it nears 10K after just two weeks!

At the same time that The Needs of the One premiered, Josh also launched a brand new Indiegogo campaign of his own to fund the production of the ambitious multiverse-crossover fan film CRISIS ON INFINITE EXCALIBURS. With a total duration of 60 days to reach their goal, the new campaign has started out decently (but not strongly)…having gotten only 11% of the way to the $8K they need.

I partially blame myself for this somewhat slow start, as I haven’t been giving Josh as much early support here on Fan Film Factor as I did for Ray. And I intend to rectify that starting now!

The first thing I’m going to do is share with you Josh’s excellent new “ask” video…

And the second thing I’m going to do is provide the following link as I ask you to please consider donating something—if you can afford to—because Josh’s Avalon fan films are really something special (and if you can’t afford to, please share the following link)…

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

And the third thing I’m going to do is provide more promotional support for Josh and Team Avalon over the coming weeks. I’m currently editing the second of my video interviews with the cast of The Needs of the One (with more still coming). You can watch the first interview with ALEX REXFORD (the new actress playing U.S.S. Excalibur first officer Mikaela Allenby) on this blog page. The next video interview will feature fan films’ CUTEST Vulcan/human couple: CORA WILSON (who plays Nurse T’Prin) and WADE KING (who plays Security Officer Williams). And trust me, they are just as adorable in real life as they are in the Avalon Universe…AND they can kick your ass if you step out of line!

And finally, I’m preparing a blog for next week spotlighting the unique perks being offered with this campaign (like a smart-phone case), some of which were designed by yours truly! That’s gonna be a really fun blog to read…once I finish writing it, that is!

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

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)”

DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 1)

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA is the only place on the planet where fans can shoot TOS-era Star Trek fan films on a full range of TOS-era sets including the bridge, engineering, sickbay, briefing room, transporter room, auxiliary control, captain’s quarters, turbolift, and a full range of corridors. WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas has some, but not all, of these sets for fans to film on. And while JAMES CAWLEY’s TOS sets in upstate New York feature all of the rooms listed above, his sets are now an official licensed tour and are no longer available for shooting fan films.

Originally, STARSHIP FARRAGUT and STAR TREK CONTINUES were shot on these sets in Kingsland. After STC wrapped in 2018, VIC MIGNOGNA sold the sets to RAY TESI, who then opened them up to any fan film or series that wished to use them—including DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, the AVALON UNIVERSE, CONSTAR, LET OLD WRINKLES COME, TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE, and a bunch of others.

But Ray Tesi and Neutral Zone Studios also have their own fanthology series called TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE. Their first episode, THE LOOKING GLASS, was released in June of 2019 and has had about 28K views on YouTube so far. Their second episode, ENDOSYMBIOSIS, was hit YouTube in February 2021 and is currently over 15K views.

Their third release, DOOMSDAY, premiered just last month on April 5 (“First Contact Day”) and is already up to a staggering 81K views!!! Why the immediate popularity? Well, it could have something to do with the telling of the long-speculated tale of how Commodore Matt Decker and the crew of the U.S.S. Constellation first encountered the Planet Killer device and wound up the way Kirk and the Enterprise crew found them at the beginning of the TOS episode “The Doomsday Machine.” Take a look…

No too shabby, huh?

One of the most intriguing aspects of this fan film isn’t simply what went on in front of the camera but also who was standing behind it. Fan filmmaker JOSHUA MCHAEL IRWIN (who is also a professional filmmaker) is based in Arkansas and typically shoots his Avalon Universe productions at WARP 66 Studios. He did film Avalon‘s first release, GHOST SHIP, at Neutral Zone, and he later shot their 2021 release COSMIC STREAM there, as well. And although Josh was the director of photography for INTERLUDE (filmed at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA), nobody in the fan film world ever associated Josh with Tales From the Neutral Zone.

Until now, that is.

Josh served as director, DP, and film editor for Doomsday while Ray served as executive producer. Apparently, that was a winning combination, as the film has proved extremely popular on YouTube.

So how did this pairing happen? And what went into the production of this new fan film? I decided to interview both Ray and Josh together…

Continue reading “DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 1)”

2020 BJO AWARD winners!

Up until the world turned upside down and we started sheltering in place, the annual BJO AWARDS were awarded live at the TREKLANTA convention in Atlanta, GA. Last year, however, Treklanta was virtual, and the Bjo Awards didn’t happen. This left the 2020 Bjo Awards for eligible Star Trek fan films released in 2019 in a kind of limbo.

But Treklanta Chairman ERIC L. WATTS made the decision to still have the 2020 Bjo Awards…even if they happened a year late. And so, in the latter half of this year, eleven judges watched a total of 27 qualifying Star Trek fan films with a total run-time for all the films combined of 9 hours, 54 minutes, and 19 seconds. That’s a LOT of fan film binge-watching!

Although Treklanta was virtual once again this year (back in August), the winners were still announced live, but this time it was on the evening of December 11 at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS (home to the amazing STARSHIP FARRAGUT/STAR TREK CONTINUES TOS sets) during their fan appreciation weekend.

Although I typically don’t review Star Trek fan films, I do rate them here on a scale from DECENT EFFORT to PRETTY GOOD to HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to MUST SEE. This year, of the many, many Bjo Awards finalists, five fan films from 2019 made it to my highest MUST SEE level. Of those, three pretty much swept every category in this year’s Bjos—so the judges weren’t crazy (unless I’m crazy, too…a possibility that can’t be completely ruled out, of course).

As it happened, three individual fan filmmakers—British CGI Sensei SAMUEL COCKINGS, the fan film Wonder from Down Under AARON VANDERKLEY, and Arkansas Avalon Admin JOSH IRWIN were all “in attendance” to accept awards either on behalf of themselves or members of their team who weren’t there. In the case of the latter, Josh had driven down with Team Avalon members NEAL BILBE and PIXI NEREID (the latter co-hosting the awards with Eric Watts—see photo above). Sam and Aaron joined in via Zoom from their respective continents.

Continue reading “2020 BJO AWARD winners!”

STARSHIP FARRAGUT finally releases series finale “HOMECOMING” (interview with JOHN BROUGHTON, PAUL R. SIEBER, and STEVE SEMMEL – part 2)

Last time in Part 1, we celebrated the highly-anticipated release of “Homecoming,” the finale of the long-running Trek fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT, by interviewing show-runner JOHN BROUGHTON, writer PAUL R. SIEBER, and post-production supervisor and composer STEVE SEMMEL. We found out which elements delayed the completion of the film, what it was like shooting scenes with the legendary STAN LEE, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m not going to bother to recap because we’ve still got so much great interview left!

But before we dive into the conclusion, I’d like to recommend (if you’re interested in Starship Farragut) that you check out this 3-part blog covering the fascinating history of this venerated fan series from 2004 – 2016. And definitely watch the finale “Homecoming” if you haven’t already…

For anyone interested in the new sequel series, FARRAGUT FORWARD, I’ll be covering that soon with John and his director in an upcoming blog. But for now, let’s continue to celebrate this wonderful fan series with a question that goes back to the very beginning…


JONATHAN – I’ve always wondered: what made you choose the U.S.S. Farragut rather than one of the other major starships like Potemkin or Lexington or Republic?

JOHN – When I first started working on this project, it was going to be called Starship Excalibur. But then I learned that JOE KEREZMAN was doing his own fan film called STAR TREK: EXCALIBUR. And he reached out and said, “If you change your name to any of the other ships, I’ll make you—gratis for life—all the chest patches that you need.” And I said okay. I wasn’t that married to it.

John Broughton as Captain Jack Carter

So I looked at all of the patch designs that Joe had created, and the Farragut, which has an oval patch design—I thought that will be easy to sew, since I was making all the costumes myself—coupled with the Navy tie-in because I’m a veteran of the U.S. Navy, opted with the Farragut. Joe supplied me with one batch of patches, and that was it. But it was enough for what we needed, until we had our own embroiderer doing the patches for our project.  All in all, I’m glad we went with the Farragut.

JONATHAN – So once you’d decided that you wanted to make a fan film, what did you do next?

John Broughton, Sr.

JOHN – Initially when I started, I pulled in my dad, JOHN BROUGHTON, SR., and other friends, and then it just kinda grew as time went on. We were able to get professionals involved in the project, then we got our first studio in St. Marys, GA…which was much smaller than the Kingsland, GA space that the sets are now in. A lot of the initial sets were built by my father, then we had other volunteers that came on board and helped out.

Continue reading “STARSHIP FARRAGUT finally releases series finale “HOMECOMING” (interview with JOHN BROUGHTON, PAUL R. SIEBER, and STEVE SEMMEL – part 2)”

STARSHIP FARRAGUT finally releases series finale “HOMECOMING” (interview with JOHN BROUGHTON, PAUL R. SIEBER, and STEVE SEMMEL – part 1)

The history of the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT stretches all the way back to 2004 and spans a total of 6 full-length fan films, 3 shorter vignettes, and 2 animated-style fan films (one of them featuring the voices of TIM “Tuvok” RUSS and CHASE “Leeta” MASTERSON). Farragut Films was responsible for the majority of the construction of amazing TOS sets that were also utilized for STAR TREK CONTINUES and DREADNOUGHT DOMINION and are still available for use by fan filmmakers at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA. Farragut also spawned a short-lived spinoff series called TREK ISOLATION that released three vignettes. And coming in 2022, a sequel series titled FARRAGUT FORWARD will move some of the Starship Farragut characters into the Wrath of Khan movie era Trek.

Since we have so much material for today’s interview, I’ll keep the background introduction fairly brief. But if you’d like to read the full backstory of this proud fan series, here’s Part 1 of a 3-part deep-dive into the full history of Starship Farrugut. Well, ALMOST full. The final part of that blog feature came out in early 2016, a month before the release of their penultimate episode, “The Crossing,” and a few months before reshoots wrapped on their announced series finale, “Homecoming.” Crowd-funded with about $15K in late 2015, fans expected to see a completed fan film later in 2016 or maybe 2017. That didn’t happen.

Instead, it wasn’t until mid-2020 that STEVE SEMMEL announced that he was taking over as post-production supervisor, having started off simply doing the music for the episode. I interviewed Steve in June of last year, and he promised a delivery date in the second half of 2021 “most definitely.” And indeed, that’s exactly what happened, as “Homecoming” was released on October 1. Take a look…

I reached out to three people to discuss “Homecoming”: show-runner and lead actor JOHN BROUGHTON and writer PAUL R. SIEBER (both of whom have been with Starship Farragut since the very beginning), and of course, Steve Semmel (who came on board in 2018). We covered so much great behind-the-scenes information about both the finale episode and also going back to the earliest days of the series back in 2004.

I received so many awesome answers that I’ve decided to divide this interview into two parts. Let’s get started…

Continue reading “STARSHIP FARRAGUT finally releases series finale “HOMECOMING” (interview with JOHN BROUGHTON, PAUL R. SIEBER, and STEVE SEMMEL – part 1)”

‘Tis the season for GIVING…to FAN FILMS!

When folks come to me for advice on crowd-funding their fan projects, I always tell them the same thing: DON’T LAUNCH YOUR CAMPAIGN DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON!!! Ever since 2015, I’ve noticed that fan film crowd-funders that try to raise donations in November and December often struggle to reach their goals or even fail outright. The holiday season seems to be a “donation desert” for fan films.

It makes total sense. Nearly everyone is buying Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanza or Festivus) gifts for friends and family. And before COVID, people used to take expensive vacations during the holidays to visit family or just get away—remember when that used to happen? Charities, of course, usually choose this time to appeal to that ol’ spirit of giving and approach (hopefully) generous donors to give a little sumthin’. And soon Christmas bonus checks are spent before they even get cashed, and bank account balances do their impression of the Titanic.

I get that…not the time for fan films to ask for money.

But this past Monday, I received a bunch of e-mails from various places informing me that “Giving Tuesday” was here. So now we apparently have Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and…Giving Tuesday? When did that become a thing? Actually it started in 2012 at New York City’s famous 92rd Street Y (where I went to summer camp back in 1981) and has grown into an international movement to encourage a little healthy philanthropy among the manic bargain-hunting.

I wasn’t able to write a blog in time for this year’s Giving Tuesday because I just had cataract surgery early this week, and it took away my ability to see the text on my computer screen for a couple of days. Today is the first day I’ve got reliable sight back enough to compose a blog.

I’d actually been meaning to post something reminding folks about the ongoing Fan Film Factor Patreon to cover my annual expenses for keeping this blog site running. Currently, I’m taking in enough in monthly donations to cover the costs of domain registration and hosting, technical support, and security services.

But last month, I added a new annual expense: a $160/year Pro Account for Zoom. You might have noticed that I’ve been doing more video interviews with fan filmmakers lately. Zoom is an easy way to reach multiple people and record the interview calls. And Zoom is free as long as your call is less than 45 minutes or has only one other person on it. But my interviews go 60-90 minutes, and I often have multiple people on at the same time.

So with “Giving Tuesday” happening, even though we’re in the middle of the “fan film donation desert,” as I call it, I thought this might be a good time to post a little reminder about my Patreon

I’m looking for monthly contributions of $1, $2, whatever folks can spare to help cover the annual expenses of Fan Film Factor

PATREON link: https://www.patreon.com/fan_film_factor

Continue reading “‘Tis the season for GIVING…to FAN FILMS!”