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!

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)”

‘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!”

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)”

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???”

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…”