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!”

BJO AWARDS announces FINALISTS for 2020…

Wait…did I say “2020”? Yep. As I explained in a blog last month, the BJO AWARDS (the annual awards presented exclusively to Star Trek fan films) was forced to skip the awards for last year due to the pandemic. Since the awards’ debut back in 2015, winners were announced live and in person at the annual TREKLANTA convention, with plaques being handed out to winners who were in attendance. But last year’s Treklanta was virtual, and the awards were skipped for 2020.

Well, perhaps “skipped” isn’t the right word. “Delayed” is more like it.

Each year’s awards are presented to qualifying Star Trek fan films that were released in the previous calendar year—meaning that this year’s Bjo Awards for 2021 should have been presented to fan films released in 2020. But that would mean those fan films from 2019 would never be recognized (a “skipped” year). Of course, one possible idea was to combine the releases from 2019 and 2020 into a single awards show, but it didn’t seem fair to double the nominees while keeping the number of winners the same.

So Treklanta Chairman ERIC L. WATTS decided to hold the 2020 Bjo Awards in 2021, and then hold the 2021 Bjo Awards early in 2022…hopefully leaving enough time left to also hold the 2022 Bjo Awards later in 2022 and get everything back on schedule.

You got all that?

Anyway, my previous blog from October listed all of the qualifying fan films from 2019—32 in all, although 10 of them were two-parters that were combined on the ballot into single entries, leaving a total of 27 qualifying Star Trek fan films. According to Eric Watts, the total runtime for all the films combined was 9 hours, 54 minutes, and 19 seconds (gotta love Eric’s Vulcan precision!)…ranging from just under 3 minutes (STAR TREK: UNITY‘s “Tabula Rasa”) to just over 51 minutes (TEMPORAL ANOMALY “Part 1” and “Part 2” combined). The average run time was 22 minutes.

Eric is particularly appreciative of the eleven judges who watched through every entry and took their job very seriously. In order to qualify to be a judge, a person had to have “…an established professional credit in the Star Trek franchise (actor, author, artist, writer, director, designer, producer, makeup artist, stunt double… pretty much anything)” or be “…a Star Trek fan currently working in the television/motion picture industry [without] any known association with any previous or current fan film.” With criteria like that, finding a panel of willing judges was NOT going to be easy!

“Yes, recruiting this year’s panel was a huge challenge,” says Eric, “and I’m proud of the calibre of judges that made this commitment. The Bjos are NOT a popularity contest, but rather, a juried competition of professionals who are impartial and know what Star Trek is… and should be. I want to give them all the recognition I possibly can.”

Continue reading “BJO AWARDS announces FINALISTS for 2020…”

Wanna see NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS turned into a live STAGE PLAY???

Now, THIS is something really cool!

On Saturday, November 6, a truly unique (and busy!) event happened at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA. Star Trek fans from around the world, sitting at their computers or watching from their smart devices, got to experience the amazing TOS sets while cosplayers played the roles of crewmen in what was a combination guided walk-though plus live performance.

Originally constructed for the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT and later STAR TREK CONTINUES, the contents of what is now known as Neutral Zone Studios were sold by VIC MIGNOGNA to Florida resident RAY TESI in 2018. Since then, Ray has opened up the sets to any fan filmmaker who wants to shoot there, and they’ve been used by DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, AVALON UNIVERSE, as well as others, including a series of fan films from Ray himself under the banner of TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE.

Because JAMES CAWLEY in Ticonderoga, NY has the license from CBS to host the exclusive STAR TREK Original Series Set Tour, Ray has to limit himself to fan film productions and free fan appreciation weekend events. And if Ray does provide a guided walk-through, then it must be completely free of charge to not compete directly with James’ commercial license.

The fan appreciation weekends have been a blast for visitors…or so I’m told, as I haven’t been able to make the trip yet (to either Kingsland or Ticonderoga). And indeed, that has been a reason for many a Trekker to feel frustrated. But what about getting a set walk-through without ever leaving your house? It’s now possible thanks to a relatively new website called Heygo.com.

Heygo was founded in May 2020 by LIAM GARRISON and JOHN TERTAN, two world travelers who met at Oxford University about ten years ago. As the global pandemic wore on and tourist travel became a distant memory, Liam and John realized how much not only they but the world as a whole was losing by no longer being able to connect with people in exotic lands with fascinating cultures. So they started a website—originally called VirtualTrips.io—to offer live virtual tours, 24/7, to destinations all over the planet. Tour guides would be English-speaking locals who knew the landmarks and histories and other fascinating aspects of the people and their customs. Their guided tours would be livestreamed to small groups of people who could sign up for free through the website.

Wait…free? Why would anyone spend their time giving tours to virtual strangers for no money??? The answer in that the site runs on “tips,” which are optional. But giving $5 to a tour guide in Slovenia or Egypt or Vietnam could help someone feed their family for a week. Indeed, one formerly homeless man in Edinburgh, Scotland has been using the Heygo service to help other homeless people get off the streets by training them to give virtual tours for tips!

So what does any of this have to do with Star Trek???

Continue reading “Wanna see NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS turned into a live STAGE PLAY???”

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…

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

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!”