There’s something NEW to view at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview with RAY TESI)

The amazing TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA got their start back in 2008 when the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT began building some of their own sets. They didn’t want to have to continue borrowing JAMES CAWLEY’s sets in upstate New York (where they’d filmed scenes for their second episode “For Want of a Nail”). By 2009, they had an awesome shuttlecraft set interior plus a transporter room, turbolift, captain’s quarters, and a corridor…and they were about to start work on a bridge set!

The original location for these sets was a small building in the lovely city of St. Marys, GA (the second oldest city in America) just north of the border between Georgia and Florida. The facility was dubbed “Studio One” and hosted the first-ever fan series “open house” on April 17, 2009. At the time, this is what those sets looked like…

By the time of their second “open house” on December 4, 2010, the bridge set looked like this…

A year later, two big announcements came. The first was that VIC MIGNOGNA (who had joined the Farragut Films team to direct their third full-length episode “The Price of Anything,”) was going to be taking over creative direction and film crew operations not only for Starship Farragut but also for a new fan series starring Vic as Captain Kirk to be titled STAR TREK CONTINUES. The second announcement was that the sets were going to be moved to a new facility 10 miles away in nearby Kingsland, GA with nearly four times the square footage. There, in the newly-dubbed “Studio Two,” the TOS sets would be expanded. And by 2013, nearly all of the original Star Trek sets that existed back in the 1960s at Paramount Studios had been recreated…with the notable exception of Engineering.

But that set addition would happen in 2015 after a very successful second STC Kickstarter (what they called a “Kirkstarter”) brought in $215K, which was enough to fund the construction of most of Engineering plus a buy-out of the sets from Farragut Films (the two fan productions officially parted ways later in the year), pay the next year’s rent, and produce two new episodes in 2015.

STC finished their run in 2017 with the release of their tenth and eleventh episodes. But Vic Mignogna was still covering the $4,000/month rent to house these beautiful sets that he and this fan series no longer needed. Vic couldn’t continue paying this expense indefinitely, but thanks to super-fan RAY TESI, Vic’s problem was solved.

In February of 2018, Ray bought the sets from Vic, took over the monthly rent from his retirement savings, and opened up the sets to all fan films to use for a nominal daily fee. The sets were renamed Stage 9 Studios, a name that was subsequently changed to Neutral Zone Studios the following February after a virtual reality group in the UK calling itself “Stage 9” was shut down by CBS for trying to create an unlicensed VR walkthrough of the Enterprise NCC-1701-D.

And that’s the story so far…

Continue reading “There’s something NEW to view at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview with RAY TESI)”

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’s “We Are Many” features awesome landing party jackets! (interview with GARY DAVIS)

Over the last half-decade, the cast and crew of the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION have served up a steady and consistent meal of ten fan films ranging in length from short vignettes up to full episodes 22 minutes in length. This is particularly impressive considering that the two show-runners, GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN, live in Ohio and North Carolina, respectively, and they film at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, Georgia with many cast and crew members from out of state, as well.

Last month, Dreadnought Dominion released their longest production yet, taking the full half-hour allowed by the fan film guidelines. Titled “We Are Many,” their latest fan film was written by Randy and co-directed by Randy and Gary together. The episode has a very “classic” TOS Star Trek feel to it, complete with red-shirted crew members you’ve never seen before playing a major part in the storyline. But before I spoil it, why don’t you just take a look for yourself…

There’s much to like there, and some definite things I wanted to ask Gary Davis about…specifically those really cool-looking landing party jackets. I totally want one now!

Anyway, I reached out to Gary, and he had a lot to say—and not only about the jackets. Let’s go to the chat…


JONATHAN – Okay, Gary, how can I get one of those amazing landing party jackets???

GARY – Haha! Okay, I’ll share. We’ve got nothing to hide. I actually wracked my brain trying to design a landing party jacket that was functional, looked good, and didn’t break the bank! I made them myself with jackets from Amazon in the colors I needed. Here’s links for those…

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Get a virtual tour of NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS from VIC MIGNOGNA today at 7:30pm Eastern Time!

One of the wonders of the fan film world is the incredibly detailed TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA. For the past two years, owner RAY TESI has been offering open house fan appreciation weekends when Trekkers from all over the globe could come to tour the facility. Right now, however, the pandemic prevents that from happening. In fact, it prevents any in-person convention from happening.

But not virtual online ones.

Since Wednesday, VIRTUAL TREK CON has been appearing on a computer or smart device near you! And already, thousands of people have tuned in to see and ask questions of celebrity guests from all eras and series of Star Trek…everyone from actors like TIM RUSS, ARMIN SHIMERMAN, MICHELLE HURD, GARY GRAHAM, DOUG JONES and over a dozen others to behind-the-camera folks like IRA BEHR, ROBERT HEWITT WOLFE, and DOUG DREXLER. The full guest list is 34 people! And it’s all absolutely free…you don’t even have to sign up for a mailing list!

Today (Sunday) at 7:30pm Eastern Time, Neutral Zone Studios will be taking its turn as a Virtual Trek Con event with a special live tour of all the sets hosted by STAR TREK CONTINUES show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA, who will be taking family friendly, respectful questions submitted by viewers (so no questions about you-know-what) . Fans are encouraged to submit questions that may be answered live on air in the comments of the live broadcast chat.

Vic will share stories about the fan films that have been made at that studio and (according to the Virtual Trek Con website) have special guests joining to tell their stories and lend their expertise and advice on filmmaking.

The hour-long online event will also celebrate STC‘s Mr. Sulu, actor GRANT IMAHARA, who passed away unexpectedly last Monday. Vic will spotlight Grant’s achievements and the special contributions he made to both the Trek community and the sci-fi community as a whole. 

You can access the live virtual event on Sunday July 19th, 2020 at 7:30pm Eastern Time at the following link:

www.facebook.com/events/s/neutral-zone-studios-live-at-v


There will also be a special message from actress NICHELLE NICHOLS (“Uhura” on TOS) to her fans immediately before the Neutral Zone Studios event at 7:15pm Eastern Time on Sunday.

The folks over at the Atomic Network (creators of RENEGADES) recorded Nichelle and were going to release the video to the public, and the timing was right to have it done during Virtual Trek Con. So you can watch this announcement from our inspirational lady of communications at either of the following links before it goes out to the rest of the public:

The Aron Eisenberg Stage: https://youtu.be/6VIQk_MDShE
The Rene Auberjonois Stage: https://youtu.be/hGTi8mY94Nc

JOHN SIMS makes an impression as [Q]uincy in DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’s latest vignette! (interview with GARY DAVIS)

Let face it, most (not all) Star Trek fan films take themselves seriously. And why not? Many are crowd-funded, and most require weeks or months or even years of planning and hard work to complete successfully. So Star Trek fan films have every right to take themselves seriously.

But one fan series in particular, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, has bucked that trend. Granted, over the past half-decade of releasing fan films, not everything from Dominion has been a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek romp. In fact, their first couple of episodes were completely serious, as was the recent “Redemption at Red Medusa.” But mixed in with those offerings were a series of humorous vignettes like “Reality Check” (which broke the 4th wall) and “Technical Difficulties.” Both of these short fan films featured actor JOHN SIMS playing a crewman named Quincy…who turned out to be a member of the Q Continuum. The character is mysterious and compelling—and quite a bit mischievous—all at the same time.

Quincy makes is third and most significant appearance in the latest Dominion vignette, “A Barrel Full of Quincys,” and it’s quite a hoot! John Sims gets to show off his range of celebrity impersonations in a short film with rather impressive production values. Check it out…

I asked John what his impression of the episode was (get it?), and he typed back in a very British accent (he’s actually from Worcester, Massachusetts and currently lives in Florida, but he’s a self-declared Anglophile):

I enjoyed the opportunity that Gary and Randy gave me. They are alright blokes with great sense of humour!

Indeed they are! GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN are the show-runners for the Dominion fan series, and I spoke to Gary recently about what went into creating this latest vignette. Turns out a LOT more work went into crafting this little short film than you’d suspect…!

Continue reading “JOHN SIMS makes an impression as [Q]uincy in DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’s latest vignette! (interview with GARY DAVIS)”

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is becoming an ESCAPE ROOM???

I bet you didn’t see THIS coming! Neither did I, and my reaction quickly went from surprise to overwhelming curiosity…which I’m sure must be true for a number of you folks, as well.

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS, which houses the TOS sets originally built by STARSHIP FARRAGUT and STAR TREK CONTINUES and is now offered to any Star Trek fan film that wants to use them by current owner RAY TESI, will be moving from Kingsland, GA about 180 miles south to Orlando, FL in late April. (Man, that was a long sentence!) Once relocated, the TOS sets will be repurposed into two sci-fi themed “Escape Room” attractions with video hints recorded by sci-fi celebrities, including NICHELLE NICHOLS, WALTER KOENIG, MARINA SIRTIS, and/or TIM RUSS.

The TOS sets will be divided into two scenarios with three rooms each plus a newly-created bridge control room where players will start their adventure. Customer participants will then experience an hour-long, immersive sci-fi “mission” with puzzles and mysteries to solve. This new business venture will be called GALACTIC ADVENTURES and is set to open on July 1, 2020.

Later on, joining the TOS sets from Kingsland will be the alien bar sets originally constructed in Los Angeles for STAR TREK: RENEGADES and later used for the crowd-funded independent sci-fi comedy COZMO’S from the ATOMIC NETWORK. At some point in the near future, those sets will form a third Escape Room scenario.

(You’re going “WTF” right now, aren’t you?)

To find out some specifics, I went to the source and asked Ray Tesi himself, who told me…

We will not be using the bridge in the escape and instead will keep it in pristine condition. We will be constructing a new bridge with a different look and feel for the escape. We’ll also be re-purposing some of the other sets for the escape and introducing some new sets that are remnants of other productions. Our Escape Room isn’t the Enterprise and instead will feature missions on a new starship (we are creating original stories) because we don’t want it to look like Star Trek.

I can understand why they’d want to change the look, as CBS might not appreciate an unlicensed Star Trek-themed Escape Room…even if the words “Star Trek” don’t appear anywhere.

But where does that leave Neutral Zone Studios and the many fan films that rely on it? Will fan productions still be able to film there? And even though the bridge won’t be a part of the Escape Room scenario, will the rest of the sets still look enough like TOS to be recognizable? Ray responded…

We want it to look like our own starship, but it can change back for fan films. The studio will remain available for fan film productions, and if and when that happens, we will close the Escape Room during filming. But we have a long way to go before any of that happens.

A long way indeed! But they’re off to an impressive start…

Continue reading “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is becoming an ESCAPE ROOM???”

Things that go IndieBOOM! – three Trek fan filmmakers win big!

The winners of the third annual IndieBOOM! film festival awards have just been announced, and three Star Trek fan filmmakers did really well. The first, GLEN L. WOLFE (along with DAN and KELLY REYNOLDS) took the FAN FAVORITE overall grand prize of $500 for their recent fan film THE EQUINOX EFFECT, filmed at WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas. You can listen to an interview with the three of them here. As a side note, Glen also won for best FAN FILM in the first IndieBOOM! film festival in 2017 with HIS NAME IS MUDD…the first of THE FEDERATION FILES anthology fan series.

The second Star Trek fan filmmaker didn’t win for a Trek fan film—even though he had one entered, as well—but he did take first place in the FAN FILM category with a 1960s BATMAN musical fan film titled THE SCHEME IS SOUND. This fellow is Emmy Award winner KEVIN CROXTON, who teaches music at Parkview Elementary School in Arkansas, and each year his 4th and 5th grade music club students produce a musical fan film in a specific genre. In 2018, it was Star Trek (THE BUNNY INCIDENT—which was also a finalist this year). Right now, Kevin and the kids are working on a JAMES BOND themed fan film for 2020.

The third Star Trek fan film to take a first place award was THE LOOKING GLASS from Neutral Zone Studios (directed by MIEK HEATH). However, even though it was entered in the FAN FILM category, The Looking Glass actually took the first place award in the SCI-FI category, in which it was also entered.

Rounding out the eight finalists in the FAN FILM category were two films from the UK (one a Dark Knight theme and the other XBox vs. Playstation), one Halloween themed fan film from Canada, and a Lost Boys sequel from the USA. The annual IndieBOOM! film festival is one of the only competitions to offer a category open specifically to fan films.

On a personal note, I couldn’t be happier with the results. While I certainly support and celebrate ALL Star Trek fan filmmakers, Glen Wolfe and Kevin Croxton are both part of the team for my Axanar Universe fan film INTERLUDE. They’re also both residents of the state of Arkansas, along with my directors JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX…so a lot of Star Trek being made down there in Arkansas, folks!

A few people asked me why The Equinox Effect didn’t win the FAN FILM category as well as the overall prize. According to the rules, the film with the most views per category wins first place in that category, and the film with the most views overall wins the grand prize of $500. So if Equinox won overall, wouldn’t it have also won its category?

Continue reading “Things that go IndieBOOM! – three Trek fan filmmakers win big!”

LET OLD WRINKLES COME – a childhood dream come true! (interview with BENNY HALL, part 2)

Last time, we began chatting with BENNY HALL, who seemed to have come out of nowhere to release a $50,000 Star Trek fan film shot at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA, as well as at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Southern California. That money was NOT crowd-funded, by the way. Benny paid it out of pocket…and thereby was he able to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. And isn’t that what fan films are all about: living our dreams?

Benny was accompanied on his journey—his trek, if you will—by some veterans of the much-loved fan series STAR TREK CONTINUES, including VIC MIGNOGNA, LISA HANSELL, TIM VITTETOE, and ADRIENNE WILKINSON…as well as some friends, volunteers, and a few industry professionals (and one very convincing Mugato!).

The result was an impressive production made even more so by the fact that Benny had not previously been involved with the creation of any Star Trek fan film before…

When the film was completed, and before it was released onto YouTube, Benny held a private screening at a theater in Los Angeles, inviting cast and crew and special guests to view the film on a big screen. (And yes, the fan film guidelines don’t forbid that…as long as no admission fee is charged.) He is already working hard to crowd-fund his second $50,000 Star Trek project (this time he is asking for donations), but more on that later.

When last we left off, Benny was discussing filming the Mugato scenes at Vasquez Rocks. And that led to the following question from me…

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LET OLD WRINKLES COME – a childhood dream come true! (interview with BENNY HALL, part 1)

As Willy Wonka’s great glass Wonkavator soared over the countryside, the candy-maker looked into the face of the boy who would be inheriting his amazing factory. “But Charlie,” he said with great seriousness, “don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted…”

“What happened?” Charlie asked.

Willy smiled, “He lived happily ever after.”

That scene played out in my mind as I read over the answers that brand new Star Trek fan filmmaker BENNY HALL sent back to me. When everything else is stripped away, fan films are the chance we adults get to live out the fantasies we had as children. We are the music makers. We are the dreamers of dreams. And Benny Hall is the very epitome of what fan films are all about. You’ll discover that as you read the heartfelt and uplifting interview below.

But first, a little about LET OLD WRINKLES COME, a 16-minute fan film shot both at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA as well as at the iconic Vasquez Rocks Park north of Los Angeles where Kirk fought the Gorn and Vulcan was destroyed by Nero. But this time, Kirk isn’t fighting a Gorn—he’s fighting a Mugato! Take a look…

The fan film has a real flavor of the 1960s TOS Star Trek, right down to Kirk putting the moves on a female crew member. I mention this because, what seemed totally normal five decades ago as Kirk regularly hit on crew women like Yeoman Rand, Dr. Helen Noel, and Lt. Marlena Moreau has been supplanted by the #MeToo movement. And while Let Old Wrinkles Comes has generally been getting very positive feedback, Kirk’s romantic overtures toward a female crew member in this fan film are stirring up a bit of controversy.

Another notable item is that Let Old Wrinkles Come marks the return of VIC MIGNOGNA to the credits of a Trek fan film for the first time since STAR TREK CONTINUES ended its 11-episode run in late 2017. And it wasn’t only Vic who returned. STC alumni LISA HANSELL and TIM VITTETOE (make-up) and Ralph Miller (sound-mixing) signed aboard, as well. So did ADRIENNE WILKINSON, who played Lexxa Singh in STAR TREK: RENEGADES as well as Edith Keeler in the fourth episode of STC, “The White Iris.”

Just before being posted to YouTube, Benny hosted a red carpet premiere of the film at a Los Angeles theater for the cast and crew and selected guests. And yes, there’s nothing in the fan film guidelines preventing that (as long as it’s a free screening). However, that’s still rare treatment for a Star Trek fan film, so I made certain to ask Benny about that later in the interview.

One last thing, Benny is currently crowd-funding his second fan film, TEARS OF J’KAH. His goal is an ambitious $50,000, but he’s already near $6,000. If you’d like to donate, please click below…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/funding-for-tears-of-j-kah-a-star-trek-fan-film#/

And now, let’s chat with Benny Hall…

Continue reading “LET OLD WRINKLES COME – a childhood dream come true! (interview with BENNY HALL, part 1)”

VOTE NOW as 3 STAR TREK FAN FILMS are selections for this year’s IndieBOOM! Awards for a $500 CASH prize…

Christmas is over, New Years is still a few days away, and you’ve got some extra time. So what do you do now?

How about helping your favorite Star Trek fan filmmaker win $500 cash?

The IndieBOOM! Film Festival was among the first to offer a category exclusively for FAN FILMS…along with many other categories (comedy, drama, documentary, animation, scifi/thriller, music video…you can view the entire list here). It’s a real film festival, now in its third year of presenting awards to both aspiring and accomplished independent filmmakers…including fan filmmakers!

In the first year of IndieBOOM!, Star Wars fan film from Mexico won in the category. And last year, a Star Trek fan film, THE FEDERATION FILES: “Walking Bear, Running Wolf” took first place as best fan film against two Star Wars, one Blade, one Superman, and one Stranger Things fan film competitor finalists.

A panel of judges choose the films that make it as finalists. Those, in turn, get posted online and to IndieBOOM!‘s ROKU channel for viewing. The film that gets the most views on their website and ROKU app in each category receives “Winning Laurels” (first prize) in that category. Also, the panel of judges will choose their favorite selection among all finalists, which will receive the Jury Prize Laurels. And finally, the overall most-viewed film of the festival will receive Fan Favorite Laurels and a cash prize of $500!

This year, THREE Star Trek fan films have been selected as finalists. In order to “vote” for them, you have to actually watch them through (no loading and reloading the page). Viewing is free and can be done at the following links. Here’s the Star Trek finalists from the Fan Film category (in the order released). Scroll down the linked page to view…

Continue reading “VOTE NOW as 3 STAR TREK FAN FILMS are selections for this year’s IndieBOOM! Awards for a $500 CASH prize…”

TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE…that dweam within a dweam! (audio interview with LARRY FLEMING)

I think it was Deforest Gump who once said, “Star Trek fan films are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get…” Or did I dream that?

Speaking of dreaming and never knowing what you’re gonna get, I recently experienced the brand new 2-part Star Trek fan film TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE, written and directed by (and starring) LARRY FLEMING…and it was quite a head trip, lemme tellya!

And then I interviewed Larry, and things got even more unexpected. While we talked about his recent fan film (of course!), we also discussed NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS, the fan film guidelines, how to avoid the most common mistakes in fan filmmaking, Screen Actors Guild union regulations, emaciated zombies in body suits, Chinese philosophers, brains in glass jars, cats with bells on their collars, unforgettable pizza deliveries, why you need to give coffee to older people, Nero Wolfe, and what to say if you ever meet William Shatner.

All of this is to say that Larry is a VERY interesting guy! And his involvement in Star Trek fan films is expansive—from Starship Farragut and their spin-off Trek Isolation to Dreadnought Dominion, Potemkin Pictures, the Minard saga, Melbourne, and the new Tales from the Neutral Zone. But that’s not all! Larry has also worked on a variety of Hollywood movies and TV shows including The Resident, MacGyver, Legacies, Dynasty (the new one) and many others. He’s been on The Walking Dead as a Savior, and he’s had Robert Downey Jr. tell him to cut his beard off on the set of Captain America: Civil War.

To Have Boldly Gone is the first time Larry has been a show-runner on his own Trek fan production…and the film is a pretty wild ride! Is it a parody? A dream sequence? Theater of the absurd? Take a look at this 2-parter and decide for yourself…

To Have Boldly Gone was crowd-funded back in April with an Indiegogo campaign that brought in $4,220. Filmed at Neutral Zone Studios, THBG joins a growing list of fan films shot on th0se amazing TOS sets since Star Trek Continues ended its run…fan productions including Dreadnought Dominion, Ghost Ship, and the recently-released Looking Glass. Here’s the link to donate to the Patreon for Neutral Zone Studios:

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

My audio interview with Larry is definitely worth a listen…