Less than a month after RAY TESI announced that the STAGE 9 STUDIOS Star Trek sets were open for fan filmmakers to shoot on, the long-running fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION released the six-and-a-half minute fan film “Reality Check.”
The TOS-era sets, originally constructed for the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT and STAR TREK CONTINUES, were purchased by Ray Tesi (show-runner for STARSHIP REPUBLIC) late last year from STC‘s VIC MIGNOGNA. After checking with CBS Legal and receiving guidance, Ray has opened up the Kingsland. GA sets to any Star Trek fan film project that agrees to follow the fan film guidelines and first submits their script for review and approval.
Although I’ve published a couple of recent interviews with Ray Tesi, things do seem to be moving quite quickly forward with this amazing fan film resource. So I had yet another brief chat with Ray, mainly curious about how Dreadnought Dominion got their project scheduled and filmed so quickly and how things are progressing with other fan productions at Stage 9.
Please note, I’ll also have an upcoming interview with GARY DAVIS and RANDY WREN of Dreadnought Dominion about “Reality Check” as well as other planned projects.
And speaking of “Reality Check,” before we start our brief interview today with Ray, I invite you to take a look at this unique, tongue-in-cheek fan film that cracks through the “fourth wall” and has some important things about why fans make these films in the first place…
And now, let’s hear what Ray has got to say today (yay!)…
Back in February, the fan film community was ecstatic to hear that RAY TESI of Florida had purchased the TOS sets that had been previously used by the fan series STAR TREK CONTINUES and STARSHIP FARRAGUT.
Prior to that, fans had been very worried since these incredible sets—used for nearly two dozen fan productions—were costing VIC MIGNOGNA a reported $5,000/month in rent to house and maintain. Nobody wanted the sets tossed into a dumpster, but with a price-tag of $60K per year and no way to monetize them because there’s already a licensed Star Trek Set Tour in upstate New York, it was unrealistically expensive to keep these sets around.
Enter Ray Tesi, who had funded and produced a fan film vignette called STARSHIP REPUBLIC “Serpent of Yesterday“back in 2017. Ray bought the sets, and will be using his retirement savings to pay the rent (Ray tells the behind-the-scenes story in this audio interview). Keeping the name STAGE 9 STUDIOS (previously used by Star Trek Continues for the Kingsland, GA facility), Ray has announced his intention to open the sets up to other fan filmmakers in much the same way that STARBASE STUDIOS had been doing since 2011.
There were, however, a couple of big unknowns. The first was a reaction by JAMES CAWLEY reported on Trekzone Spotlight (at the 18:10 mark) that James was concerned that Ray’s offering the Stage 9 TOS sets for fan use would compete with James’ exclusive set tour license. The second unknown was how CBS would react. They are okay with Star Trek fan films as long as they follow the guidelines. And so far, CBS has been okay with Starbase Studios offering their TOS sets in exchange for fan productions paying only for the electricity they use while shooting there. But would CBS continue to look the other way for a second studio full of TOS sets? Ray didn’t want to take a chance, so he contacted CBS directly.
This weekend, Ray has taken a few of the set pieces to MegaCon in Orlando, FL to display publicly and announce that Stage 9 Studios is now open to fan projects. So what did CBS say? And what are the logistics for fan films to use these sets going forward?
Time for another Fan Film Factor interview with Ray…!
Fans gave a sigh of relief in early February when it was announced that the STAR TREK CONTINUES sets in Kingsland, Georgia had been purchased by a fan filmmaker who intended to make the sets available to other fan filmmakers to create their Trek fan productions. The new owner is a fellow by the name of RAY TESI, and his own fan project was STARSHIP REPUBLIC, which had released the 9-minute “Serpent of Yesterday“ vignette in February of last year.
But I was curious about something: how was Ray affording all this?
Y’see, after releasing his fan film vignette, Ray launched an Indiegogo campaign to try to raise $16,000 to continue the production of his fan series. That campaign only made it to $2,351, and the project was shelved indefinitely.
Now, I didn’t know whether Ray had purchased the sets from VIC MIGNOGNA of Star Trek Continues or had gotten them for free (turns out Ray bought them). But I did know that the rent for the warehouse where the sets reside is tens of thousands of dollars per year!
So how is a guy who needed $16,000 in crowd-funding a year ago suddenly able to afford thousands of dollars a month in rent? Did he win the lottery? Rob a bank? Blackmail a rich politician?
It turns out, fortunately(!), that it was none of the above. In fact, when you hear the actual story behind Ray’s purchase of the STC sets, I think that you—like me—will gain a new respect for Ray Tesi and feel truly inspired and positive about the future of this wonderful fan resource.
Here’s the interview…
And for anyone wanting to see how awesome these sets are, here’s a walkthrough from a few years ago (before they added Engineering, which makes it all even MORE awesome!)…
Ever since STAR TREK CONTINUES released its 11th and final episode last November, fans have been asking, “What will happen to those amazing TOS sets???” They can’t be turned into a Star Trek set tour because there’s already one of those in upstate New York, and James Cawley’s license with CBS is exclusive. And despite some fans suggesting the sets just be sold/donated to a museum or to CBS itself, there are use too many set pieces to make relocating them anywhere near practical or cost effective.
The challenge for VIC MIGNOGNA, the showrunner for STC, is that the sets are currently housed in a building in Kingsland, GA that costs about $5,000 a month in rent (according to their 501(c)(3) non-profit filing from 2015). As much as Vic wants to keep the sets open and intact, $60K per year is a LOT to ask any Trekker to pay to keep those sets open.
Enter: RAY TESI. Ray will be the new owner of the TOS sets that were used by STC. Ray is the executive producer behind STARSHIP REPUBLIC, which released its first fan film vignette, the 9-minute “Serpent of Yesterday” almost one full year ago. I interviewed Ray here on Fan Film Factor when he was trying to generate funds through an Indiegogo campaign to complete their first episode. The plans were to shoot the scenes on the Starbase Studios sets in Arkansas. But with the current uncertainty regarding those sets, Ray wasn’t certain he’d be able to rely on Starbase to film his fan project. Now he’ll film in Georgia instead.
Ray has decided to keep the name STAGE 9 STUDIOS, which is what STC decided to call their facility (named after the location of the original TOS sets on the Paramount lot back in the late 1960s).
Obviously, there’s more news to come on this (including plans to restart Starship Republic later this year). I’ve requested an interview with Ray, but right now, here’s the press release that wasjust circulated by Star Trek Continues…
Back in March, the new fan production STARSHIP REPUBLIC tried to raise $16,000 in an Indiegogo campaign. They came up pretty short (like only 15% of the way there).
Crowd-funding campaigns can be a funny thing. Sometimes they catch fire, like the recent Deep Space Nine“What We Left Behind” documentary campaign that has taken in nearly $650K (with an initial goal of “only” $150K). On the other hand, the currently-active Industry Studios campaign, which set a goal of $60K, has barely managed to crack $20K. (Of course, Starship Republic would have loved to have reached $20K…so it’s all relative.)
The late, great, legendary Yogi Berra once famously said (when fan attendance at Yankee Stadium had dwindled): “If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” Such can often be the case with fan films. They try, they fail, they give up. It’s not a happy result, but sometimes the dog just doesn’t hunt.
But there’s no rule against hitting the crowd-funding “reset” button, and Starship Republic show-runner RAY TESI is doing just that! Ray asked me to share the following message with all of you…
As reported here last month, STARSHIP REPUBLIC, one of the newest fan series to come out of STARBASE STUDIOS, was trying to raise $16,000 in an Indiegogo campaign.
They didn’t make it. They took in only 15% of their goal, leaving the future of the project in doubt.
Yesterday, an update went out to donors announcing plans for a second crowd-funding campaign, but this time, the production would be sharing more details about its story line to try to increase interest.
It’s actually an intriguing move for a fan film. Most fan filmmakers wrestle with how much of their story to reveal and how much to keep “secret” to avoid spoilers and ruining surprises for the viewers. Most fan producers, when they crowd-fund, share only the barest details, despite potential donors requiring specifics before they contribute because they want to know exactly what they’re supporting. (Not all donors are so demanding, but I know of several producers who have told me of receiving messages from potential donors saying they refused to give anything unless they were told more about the plot and story.)
What makes the decision by Starship Republic‘s show-runner Ray Tesi to unveil “secrets” to donors so intriguing is the fact that the plot going forward to SO much more expansive than anything that was hinted at in their first 9-minute vignette release “Serpent of Yesterday.” Although set in the TOS era, upcoming plans for the project incorporate flashback elements from the Star Trek: Enterprise era as well as scenes which will take place in the movie-era time frame.
I actually knew most of this from my interview with Ray Tesi, but he asked me not to reveal anything, despite the details being quite exciting. However, now the Kzinti is very much out of the bag, and Ray is the one who released it. Here’s what he said…
Last time, we chatted with Ray Tesi about one of the newest fan projects, Starship Republic. Filmed at Starbase Studios before it recently moved from Oklahoma City to Arkansas, the fan production just released a short vignette and launched an Indiegogo campaign with a $16,000 goal.
One of the most intriguing things about Starship Republic is the fact that show-runner Ray Tesi actually reached out to John Van Citters of CBS Licensing to review their crowd-funding campaign and give feedback on whether or not there was any problem with them distributing unlicensed perks…both physical and digital. And so far, CBS sees no issues with Republic doing just that.
We also learned a little about what will make Starship Republic unique…specifically aiming for a look and feel that reflects more modern cinematic techniques rather than trying to faithfully recreate the style of the 1960’s era original series episodes.
And now it’s time to conclude our interview with Ray as we learn more about how the production came to be, how they found their cast, what it was like to actually produce the project, and what’s in store for the future…
Now, this is intriguing! If you look about half-way down the fan film guidelines to the second-to-last point under #6, you find the following:
No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.
That seems pretty straightforward. If you want to give away any perks, they have to be licensed Star Trek merchandise. You can’t give any patches or T-shirts or signed scripts or posters or anything related to your fan production in exchange for donations…at least if you want to make sure you aren’t sued or sent a cease and desist letter by CBS and Paramount.
So how was it that STARSHIP REPUBLIC, the newest fan film to launch a crowd-funding campaign (and the first to do so since the Axanar settlement), was offering a whole set of perks? Sure, most perks were digital, but there were also physical posters in the mix (like the two images shown above).
Well, it turns out that they simply asked CBS for permission–and they got it! Well, kinda…