Reason #3 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: THE TEAM!

Fan films are like weddings. (Ha, got your attention!)

Think about it. Weddings can be as cheap and simple as a trip to City Hall or a few friends in the backyard. Or they can be expensive galas with hundreds of guests and all the trimmings. Or they can be anywhere in between.

And so it is with fan films. We get everything from cardboard sets and scenes shot with cell phones to professional-looking productions with trained actors, meticulous sets and costumes, top-quality recording equipment, and budgets into the five-figure range and sometimes even beyond that.

In general, the larger and more ambitious the wedding, the more critical it is that a team of planners and managers be involved to make sure everything goes smoothly. You get one chance at the actual ceremony, and it’s all that the behind-the-scenes planning that can determine if the wedding is a triumph or a disaster.

The AVALON UNIVERSE fan films aren’t exactly Kardashian weddings (thank goodness!), but they are still pretty impressive, with production quality a few steps above the majority of Star Trek fan films out there. This is not meant to diminish those other fan films. All fan filmmakers deserve support and encouragement. But when you donate to an Avalon Universe crowd-funding campaign, you know your money will be well-spent, and the finished product will look and sound and be amazing.

Oh, and speaking of donating, Avalon has a crowd-funding campaign going on right now, if you’d like to back it…

https://www.gofundme.com/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

Like a successful wedding, a well-run fan production requires careful planning and preparation, and that means having the right people in the right jobs…not just during the shoots but in the months and weeks leading up to the director yelling “Action!” for the first time.

As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t initially planning to be part of “Team Avalon,” even though I consider Avalon Universe director/showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN to be a close friend. (Josh was my Director of Photography and Editor on INTERLUDE.) What I did offer to do was to advise Josh and his producer, PIXI NEREID, on strategies for crowd-funding…advice I’ve also offered to other fan filmmakers over the years.

But before I knew it, Pixi had jumped into action, adding me to the production crew’s Facebook chat, giving me access to their Slack productivity app account where the cast and crew keep all of their online resources, and inviting me onto the kick-off production meeting Zoom call. So that’s how I became a part of “Team Avalon,” and it’s given me a fascinating look into who these fine folks are and all that they’re doing to make the wedding…er, fan film extra spectacular and go off without a hitch.

Let me tell you about the team…

Continue reading “Reason #3 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: THE TEAM!”

TREK SHORTS actress gets COVID-19…leading to a BONUS fan film! Huh???

Okay, this is a totally wild story (or rather, series of stories)! But first, if you haven’t donated yet to SAMUEL COCKINGS’ Indiegogo for his TREK SHORTS project, you have just a few short days left, and he’s only about $2K short of his goal! Two new small donation perks have just been added, so please try to help him cross the $10.5K finish line before March 31…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

At the beginning of this month, Sam—fan film’s answer to Scotty, Geordi, Miles, B’Elanna, and Trip all rolled into one Brit—released the first of his Trek Shorts: A LONG WAY FROM HOME, starring NIMRAD SAUND, NICK and LUCITA COOK from the INTREPID fan series out of Scotland, with a cameo by MICHELE SPECHT form  STAR TREK CONTINUES. The 19-minute film looked amazing, with jaw-dropping VFX, strong acting, and FANtastic virtual 3D backgrounds.

The Indiegogo, if successful, will fund an additional FIVE Trek Shorts fan films starring notables from such fan series as the AVALON UNIVERSEDREADNOUGHT DOMINIONDARK ARMADA, and Sam’s previous project TEMPORAL ANOMALY. It’s a really exciting and ambitious project, and the campaign got off to a strong start in its first week.

But by the second week, things were slowing down a bit. So Sam decided to quickly put together a teaser-trailer for Trek Short #3, “Hours to Doomsday,” which would star MARCUS CHURCHILL, reprising his role of Ensign Sam Harriman from Temporal Anomaly, along with Nimrad Saund as Lieutenant Keeley. Sam scheduled them both to shoot some footage for the fan film at his home studio on Thursday, May 13…and all was set. Sam had cleared his schedule for the next two and a half weeks to work on nothing else in order to release the teaser shortly before the campaign ended.

And then Sam’s phone rang. It was Nim.

Continue reading “TREK SHORTS actress gets COVID-19…leading to a BONUS fan film! Huh???”

A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a great way to crowd-fund! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, part 2)

In Part 1, we began discussing the new TREK SHORTS fan film A LONG WAY FROM HOME. And whoever said that the CBS guidelines “killed off” all Star Trek fan films obviously forgot to inform SAMUEL COCKINGS!

With the talent and ingenuity of Willy Wonka and the uncanny productivity of a factory full of Oompa Loompas, Samuel has lent his considerable VFX skills to more than TWO DOZEN different Star Trek fan projects in five different countries on three different continents! In his “spare” time, Sam is also the co-host of the long-running and prolific TREKYARDS video podcast series. And in his “other” spare time, Sam also created the ambitious fan film TEMPORAL ANOMALY, six years in the making!

In late 2018, Sam successfully crowd-funded $7,385 from 114 backers for another ambitious fan project, this time a crossover bringing together characters and storylines from five different Star Trek fan series. Called CONVERGENCE, part 1 was filmed in 2019 prior to the pandemic. But part 2, requiring travel of cast members to England from the United States, Holland, and Scotland, was indefinitely delayed due the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent quarantine orders.

This didn’t stop Sam, though. Wanting to release something that could be produced during the pandemic, Sam came up with the concept of Short Treks, high-quality Star Trek fan films produced on shoestring budgets utilizing Sam’s prodigious CGI skills for exterior starship VFX combined with actors filmed remotely both on location and in front of green screens with super-realistic digital backgrounds composited behind them.

Samuel Cockings on location

But Sam wasn’t content to just make one fan film; he got it in his head to create SIX separate stories, each set in different periods of Starfleet history with different characters and starships. And so Sam launched an Indiegogo with a $10,000 goal. And with 10 days left, Sam is about two-thirds of the way there with more than 100 backers. If you haven’t donated yet and have a few bucks to spare, the perks are pretty cool. Here’s the link (pass it around to your friends, too):

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

But Sam couldn’t wait for the campaign to fund before releasing the first of the six Trek Shorts fan films: A Long Way from Home. It stars NIMRAD SAUND (from Temporal Anomaly) and NICK and LUCITA COOK (from the fan series INTREPID), as well as featuring MICHELE SPECHT (from STAR TREK CONTINUES). It’s a really well done production, having already generated more than 27K views on YouTube in just three weeks. Check it out…

Other Trek Shorts will feature ships and actors from DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, AVALON UNIVERSE, DARK ARMADA, and a couple of other characters from Temporal Anomaly in addition to Nimrad’s Lt. Keeley.

Continue reading “A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a great way to crowd-fund! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, part 2)”

A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a great way to crowd-fund! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, part 1)

SAMUEL COCKINGS is the distilled essence of the truest of Star Trek fans—gifted with an amazing talent that he enthusiastically shares with other Trekkies in the form of stunning CGI animations which appear in an endless parade of fan films. Indeed, it’d probably take less time to list the major fan films that Sam DIDN’T work on than those he did! (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but if you want the complete list of every Trek fan film that Sam has turned into CGI gold with his digital Midas touch, just check out Sam’s IMDb page.)

In addition to providing VFX animations for innumerable Star Trek fan productions, Sam is also the co-host of the amazing and engaging TREKYARDS series of podcasts. And if you don’t know what that is and you’re a Trekker, you are totally missing out!

But beyond just helping out other productions, Sam has also been trying his hand at creating some fan films of his own. Back in 2013, he began work on what he was calling STAR TREK: TEMPORAL ANOMALY. It took him 6 years to complete it, and thanks to a call from CBS’s lawyers, he had to remove the words “Star Trek” and a few other things (click here to find out more and to view the finished fan film). But Temporal Anomaly was nevertheless a groundbreaking project, taking virtual backgrounds to an entirely new level for fan films.

In late 2018, Sam launched an Indiegogo for an ambitious new fan film to be titled CONVERGENCE and featuring a crossover of FIVE different Star Trek fan production. It ended up raising $7,385 from 114 backers and was supposed to be completed by now. Of course, it was funded before the world turned upside-down and had to shut down amidst a global pandemic.

With Convergence still paused in the middle of production, Sam surprised the fan film community at the beginning of May by launching yet another Indiegogo campaign, but this time, it wasn’t funding just one fan film but SIX!!! The series of unrelated anthology stories will be set in different time periods of Trek from TOS to the Wrath of Khan era to the Dominion War to the Enterprise-E encountering another “Doomsday Machine” planet-killer. Calling the anthology series TREK SHORTS, Sam announced participants from various other Trek fan series including: INTREPID, AVALON UNIVERSE, STAR TREK CONTINUES, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, DARK ARMADA, and of course Temporal Anomaly.

After just two weeks, the campaign is already about 40% of the way to its $10,000 goal with more than 60 backers. And if you’d like to be one of them (I am!), the perks are cool, and the project is really exciting. Here’s the link to donate…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

In fact, the project is SO exciting that Sam couldn’t even wait for it to fund before releasing the competed first of the six Trek Shorts: A LONG WAY FROM HOME. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look:

And now, let’s chat with Sam…

Continue reading “A LONG WAY FROM HOME is a great way to crowd-fund! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS, part 1)”

OOOPSIE! The Indiegogo for TREK SHORTS didn’t include the PITCH VIDEO…and it’s a MUST-SEE!

Let this be a lesson to all of you crowd-funders and would-be crowd-funders out there: ALWAYS check your campaign pages…not just once but often!

When SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Sensei of CGI, launched his new Indiegogo for his ambitious SIX-episode TREK SHORTS project (six fan films for the price of one!), he included an absolutely amazing and snazzy pitch video. I mean, it’s a totally MUST-SEE pitch video, with the kind of jaw-dropping CGI that’ll leave you drooling plus clips of cast members spanning Trek fan films from four different countries on two different continents. There’s catchy music, exciting behind-the-scenes details, and even a hilarious ending.

Just one small problem: the Indiegogo campaign page lost the link to the video!

Had the video been linked, fans would have seen this…

Sam has no idea how it happened. The video was up there when he first launched it. But I visited the page and donated just a few hours later, and I didn’t see it. I just assumed there wasn’t a pitch video. After all, they’re not required.

Even without the pitch video, the campaign still managed to raise about a third of the $10,000 goal in just 10 days, which is certainly impressive. But I kinda wondered why it wasn’t doing better. However, there were still three weeks left, and I was prepping a two-part interview with Sam to help promote the campaign.

By the way (before I forget!), if you want to donate, here is the link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

Fast forward to Monday, and I was preparing the Sam interview for later on this week (you will definitely want to read this two-parter, trust me!). While questions and answers were going back and forth across the Atlantic, Sam typed the following…

SAMUEL – I’m particularly pleased with the Norway bridge as seen in the Indiegogo pitch video.

And then the following exchange happened…

JONATHAN – What video?

SAMUEL – The video on the Indiegogo page. It’s in the part where Jakub says we have made it in 3D.

JONATHAN – Um….

JONATHAN – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

JONATHAN – Watch the video. I’ll wait.

SAMUEL – It’s there in the video. I know it is.

JONATHAN – Seriously, click on the link. Watch the video.

SAMUEL – Why is the video not showing up? It was there when I launched it.

JONATHAN – Dude!!!

SAMUEL – I know because I watched it. Wonder when that glitched out.

JONATHAN – It was never there for me, but I’m sure it was awesome.

SAMUEL – Well, that explains why there were fewer views on the pitch video then I’dd like. But you did see the pitch video, right? I did send that to you, didn’t I?

JONATHAN – Nope and nope.

SAMUEL – Some journalist you are, not even looking for the pitch video. 😛

JONATHAN – I didn’t know there was one! I think you’re confusing me with Q.

SAMUEL – When the f*ck did it de-link? What bollocks. 😛

JONATHAN – You’re welcome. 😛

SAMUEL – Yeah seriously. Well…go take a look now. lol

And again, here’s that link to donate, folks:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans#

If ever there was a MUST-DONATE crowd-funding campaign, TREK SHORTS is certainly it!

Okay, I usually say things like “If you can afford to give a little something…” or “At least please share the link with your friends…” And yeah, consider me having said those things.

But seriously, get out your wallet! Go here and donate something:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/trek-shorts-2021-by-fans-for-fans

Why am I so pumped about this new Indiegogo campaign from TREKYARDS‘ SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Brit who doesn’t quit when it comes to CGI animation? Well, first of all, it’s Sam Cockings! What he can’t do with a 3D starship just isn’t worth doing, people! But here’s the real reason you need to donate to this project:

IT’S NOT JUST ONE FAN FILM…IT’S SIX!!! AND ALL FOR JUST $10K!

How can Sam afford to produce SIX different fan films for just $10K (or whatever the heck that is in British pounds)? Well, actually, one of these films is already finished as a proof of concept. So you’re really just paying for five new fan films and reimbursing the costs for the sixth. But take a look at the incredible quality of the one that was just released:

You’ll probably recognize the four main actors in this fan film. There’s NICK COOK and his real-world wife LUCITA COOK on board the U.S.S. Intrepid from the long-running Scottish fan series of the same name. There’s NIMRAN SAUND, who did an amazing job back in 2013 filming scenes for TEMPORAL ANOMALY (which was released in 2019). And finally, making her triumphant return to fan films, the much beloved MICHELE SPECHT from STAR TREK CONTINUES plays a brand new character.

And that’s just ONE fan film!

Honestly, I don’t know why Sam is calling them “short.” The first one is pretty much pushing the 15-minute time limit imposed by the fan film guidelines. But I suppose if ViacomCBS can call their 15-minute mini-episodes Short Treks, Sam can make his just as long and call them Trek Shorts.

Anyway, to answer the question of how Sam can afford to make multiple releases for the price that some fan filmmakers raise for just ONE project, the answer is simple: virtual sets. But not just any virtual sets. Over the years, Sam has been collecting and developing some of the highest quality and most realistic virtual set models anywhere, which you can see from the above video. In fact, that’s where most of the funds raised will be going: 3D models of backgrounds and starships (which do cost money to create, as they are very time-consuming). Once Sam has them, he can animate and composite green screen footage of the actors. But paying 3D modelers is like paying for props or costumes…the time-consuming labor is not free.

Samuel Cockimgs (front) uses subtle blurring to create depth of field for the virtual Intrepid-class bridge.

The rest of the money raised will be used for the aforementioned props and costumes, studio equipment, cast expenses like travel, and catering…all done “on the cheap,” as it were.

So what will the other five fan films be about? Glad you asked…!

Continue reading “If ever there was a MUST-DONATE crowd-funding campaign, TREK SHORTS is certainly it!”

My MUSIC VIDEO tribute to the SQUADRON fan film…

Sometimes you get a crazy idea in your head and you just have to do it. This was one of those times…

On February 1, a bunch of talented and enthusiastic Trekkers from the Czech Republic (with the help of one CGI bloke from the U.K.) released Part 1 of their amazing Dominion War-era fan film, SQUADRON. Six days later, they released Part 2. In the 2-3 weeks since, the two parts (both separately and combined into one) have garnered more than 100K Youtube views—an amazing feat, considering that the entire film is spoken in Czech and requires those not familiar with the language to watch with subtitles turned on in order to follow the plot. But even without a translation, the film looks completely amazing.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look…

I’ve been closely following the efforts of these Czechie Trekkies since they started planning to launch their Indiegogo campaign about a year ago. And so I was really excited to record an international interview with them for Fan Film Factor. And to make this even more of an event, I had a whopping SIX Czech fan filmmakers on one Zoom call! Indeed, it was my first-ever Zoom interview for this blog (I mainly do audio or text-based interviews). So I wanted to make it extra awesome!

The creators of Squadron gave me a great 90 minutes, but I wanted to spice it up even more. Since it would be a true video interview, I wanted it to be more visually interesting than watching seven “Brady Bunch”-style talking heads for an hour and a half. So I began to look for clips of footage from the stunning 2-part fan film to include as cutaways from the Zoom screen. You can watch the full interview here to see how it turned out…

Anyway, because the “search for scenes” doesn’t require actually listening to the fan film (and I don’t speak Czech anyway), I had some music playing in the background while I was looking through the footage for clips. More specifically, I was perusing the iTunes catalog (as I often do) looking for lesser-known songs from hit recording artists to purchase. In fact, I was up to the R’s, having just had an awesome (and somewhat expensive!) retrospective of the decades-long career of the late Ray Charles, and was now sampling the greatest hits of Ray Parker, Jr. (yep, the guy who recorded the famous Ghostbusters them song). Ray actually had a few other chart-topping hits like “You Can’t Change That” and “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do).”

Continue reading “My MUSIC VIDEO tribute to the SQUADRON fan film…”

A surprise trailer for A LONG WAY FROM HOME blows away fans! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

I bet you didn’t see this coming! Well, at least I certainly didn’t. But most fans were taken completely by surprise last week to see a 90-second sneak peek at a fan film that seemingly no one knew about: A LONG WAY FROM HOME. Well, that’s not entirely true. Show-runner SAMUEL COCKINGS, the CGI wind beneath many fan filmmakers’ wings, knew about the project (because it’s his project!) as did the actors from the fan film community who will appear in it. This includes NICK COOK from the long-running fan series INTREPID, as well as NIMRAN SAUND from Samuel’s previous fan film masterpiece TEMPORAL ANOMALY.

Nick and Nimran are also both slated to appear in Samuel’s next “mega” fan production, the five-way fan film crossover event CONVERGENCE. But delays due to various issues (including COVID) have caused the release date to be pushed back quite a bit. So we weren’t really expecting to see anything from Samuel for a while…well, if you don’t count all of the other fan films he’s been working on lately like: STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION: “We Are Many,”THE ROMULAN WAR: Part 1, the AVALON UNIVERSE, YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE: “Endosymbiosis,” and lord knows what else at this point! Oh, TREKYARDS…don’t forget those podcasts!

So, yeah, we weren’t really expecting a brand new, unannounced project from Samuel, let alone one with an actual completed trailer that looked and sounded amazing! See for yourself…

With nearly 2,000 views in the first week, there with 165 likes and only one dislike on YouTube! When have you ever known only a single Trekkie out of thousands to have any complaint with something Star Trek related? (And who the heck is this person???)

Anyway, I had a lot of questions for the British Boy Wonder of CGI. So let’s hear what Samuel had to say…

Continue reading “A surprise trailer for A LONG WAY FROM HOME blows away fans! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)”

THE ROMULAN WAR premieres at last! (audio interview with MARK NACCARATO)

Back in September, fans were treated to the premiere of the long-awaited STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, in production for five years with a 5-figure (possibly 6-figure) budget. Now, barely seven weeks later, we get our SECOND long-awaited, “top tier” fan film, this one more than three years in production (although the script dates back nearly a decade) and also with a solid 5-figure budget.

The first hints of THE ROMULAN WAR fan film appeared back in 2017. Not to be confused with the fan series THE ROMULAN WARS (plural) from show-runner LEE GARTRELL in Arkansas, this work-in-progress fan film from show-runner MARK NACCARATO in Tennessee is a straight-up two-parter—presented in the same “mockumentary” style as PRELUDE TO AXANAR. Many fans assumed that Mark had been inspired by Prelude to make a fan film in a similar format, but in fact, he’d had the idea and written the first draft of the script three years before Prelude ever premiered. Great minds think alike!

By the time 2018 hit, The Romulan War had most of its scenes filmed and was crowd-funding for mainly post-production costs with a $10K Indiegogo (which ultimately took in more than $13K). With visual FX by the sensei of CGI, Great Britain’s SAMUEL COCKINGS, the trailers and stills from this dynamic fan film created a palpable excitement throughout the community. Frustratingly—but unavoidably—post-production would stretch out another two-plus years. However, unlike other fan films, The Romulan War served fans an almost constant stream of “hors d’oeuvre” vignettes and trailer/prequels and even a couple of short comic book stories.

The two trailer/prequels—PREAMBLE TO WAR and the just-released SHIPS OF THE LINE—serve not only to tease the full fan film but also to expand upon it with footage and story points not included in the final release due to time limitations. So consider the above two vignettes required pre-viewing if you haven’t watched them yet.

Likewise, Mark released six different “enhanced” audio dramas (voice-over performances of actors reading the logs of people who were part of the war, augmented by graphic imagery and short animations, including CGI). These short films, called WAR STORIES, can all be viewed on this playlist. (One of them stars yours truly!) And finally, there are the two short comic book stories INTRUDERS and HOLOCAUST, each of which also ties into the main fan film.

And speaking of which, I bet you’re dying to finally see it. So without further ado, I am proud to present to you The Romulan War, Part 1…

And now that you’ve watched that amazing fan film, let’s get to know the person behind it, Mark Naccarato, and all about his journey getting from there to here…

Surprising NEW CAST MEMBER added to CONVERGENCE! (audio interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

If you think of fan films without visual effects as being like plain chocolate bars, then there’s one person in our community who is definitely nuts!

Yes, folks, it’s time to check in once again with the elf who cobbles the CGI shoes, the beaver that builds the digital dam, Great Britain’s own SAMUEL COCKINGS. I like to joke that it’s quicker to list the fan films and series that Sam hasn’t worked on than those he has. And while that’s certainly a bit of an exaggeration, the fact is that in 2019 alone, Sam did the VFX for two episodes of DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, two episodes from the AVALON UNIVERSE, LINE OF DUTY from Aaron Vanderkley in Australia, THE FEDERATION FILES: “THE EQUINOX EFFECT”, WAR STORIES from the upcoming THE ROMULAN WAR fan film (which he’s also working on), plus his own mega fan film TEMPORAL ANOMALY. In addition to all of this, Sam releases regular weekly episodes of TREKYARDS (click here for the YouTube playlist) with STUART FOLEY plus reviews, interviews, and other special Trek and scifi features.

Considering how busy he is, it’s a wonder Sam has the time to make yet ANOTHER Star Trek fan film, but back in 2018, he crowd-funded through an Indiegogo campaign $7,385 from 114 backers for CONVERGENCE (surpassing two stretch goals)! The fan film itself is a crossover of characters, aliens, ships, and/or actors from five different fan films: INTREPID, DARK ARMADA, RENEGADES, STARSHIP REPUBLIC, and Sam’s own TEMPORAL ANOMALY.

Although one green screen shooting weekend had already brought together four of the cast members (the European ones), the Indiegogo would fund a second green screen shoot, this time also flying in actor JIM VON DOLTEREN from America to Britain. The idea was to schedule the shoot for mid-2019 and release the completed film before the end of the year.

But that didn’t happen.

So what did happen? Well, why don’t I just let Sam tell you that himself…?

Hmmmm…a lot to unpack there. With so much news about the project, Sam and I had an informative one-on-one chat to go a little deeper into the significant casting change, the last year of production, progress on the visual effects, and the timing for production in 2020 and release in early 2021. Take a look…