What should I do when another blogger CRIBS off my homework? (editorial)

Okay, I am totally stymied about what to do about this—MATT MILLER is now cribbing off my blog!

It all happened yesterday (Tuesday for me) shortly after I published this blog about this past weekend’s shoot in Arkansas for the upcoming AVALON UNIVERSE fan film THE NEEDS OF THE ONE and also the long-delayed CONVERGENCE marathon of filming in Bedfordshire, U.K. JOSHUA IRWIN and his team had shared so many amazing photos and clips on the Avalon chat group of their martial arts fight choreography, and SAMUEL COCKINGS was posting lots exciting updates about his 4-day shoot with all of the Convergence cast. And I thought it would be fun to do a two-in-one blog update on both major fan projects.

So I reached out to both Josh and Sam for short quotes. Sam, exhausted and about to pass out at what was about 2:15 a.m. for him, managed to write me up something surprisingly coherent and send me a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos that no one in the community had seen yet. Josh, also exhausted after the first day at his new job (congratulations, Josh!) dictated some quotes to me over the phone as I typed his comments as quickly as I could. Then he sent me a short video clip of the the awesome fight scene that, like Sam’s BTS photos, hadn’t been shared publicly yet.

In other words, folks, I did the prep work required and then wrote and published the blog, just as I usually do. End of story, right?

Well, not quite…

I got a call Tuesday afternoon from Josh asking me if I’d seen Matt Miller’s post. “Nope,” I said, “I don’t follow Matt’s Facebook posts anymore.” Well, apparently Matt had taken my blog from the morning, split it into two blogs, re-worded it slightly, and posted what was essentially the same content to his TrekZone website. According to the time-stamp, Matt published his pair of blogs roughly five hours after mine went live.

You can access the blogs here and here to compare the content. Or just in case Matt pulls them down for some reason, here’s the screen caps…

Continue reading “What should I do when another blogger CRIBS off my homework? (editorial)”

Two MAJOR fan film shoots on TWO CONTINENTS in one weekend!

I’m not sure what MOST of you did this past weekend, but I do know what a FEW of you were doing…and believe me, it was exciting!

In the mythical land of northwestern Arkansas, JOSHUA IRWIN was making movie magic with the cast and crew from the AVALON UNIVERSE. But this time, he was not shooting on the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS. No, instead, Josh and the team were inside of a martial arts gym filming what looks to be an amazing fight scene. Despite many such fights in TOS (Kirk punched almost as often as he kissed!), fan films usually shy away from dangerous stunt fighting because, well…it’s dangerous! But this fight scene is using real black belts and trained martial arts fighters.

Meanwhile, in the equally mythical land of England, across the pond known as the Atlantic Ocean, the Great CGI Wizard of Star Trek SAMUEL COCKINGS finally had all of the actors necessary—after nearly 4-years!—to shoot the raw green screen footage for the mega-crossover fan film extravaganza CONVERGENCE. Crowd-funded in late 2018, Convergence seemed to be cursed by delays in getting actors to England all at the same time and then by COVID. Indeed, in the meantime, Sam has shot the footage for and released many of the TREK SHORTS fan films that he crowd-funded in 2021! But Sam finally assembled the Convergence “Avengers” for a grueling and ambitious—but still fun!—four-day shoot near his home in Bedfordshire, U.K.

The two fan film shoots that took place over this past weekend couldn’t have been more different…and I don’t just mean the actors’ accents! One was shot in a practical location with physical stunts. The other was limited to the front of a green screen, constraining most exaggerated movement by the characters. One was set in the 23rd century the other in the 24th. And one was filled mainly with actors who have previous experience in fan films. The other featured mostly cast members for whom this will be their first fan film!

As a change of pace, I’m going to do a two-for-one blog, spotlighting both of these shoots on different continents by letting each of their showrunners say a few words…

Continue reading “Two MAJOR fan film shoots on TWO CONTINENTS in one weekend!”

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’S “MOM” debuts on Mother’s Day…of course! (interview with GARY DAVIS)

Ya just gotta love the folks at DREADNOUGHT DOMINION. Well, you don’t have to love them, but it’s hard not to! They spread such fun and joy through their fan films.

You would think that a fan series set on board a three-nacelled dreadnought-class starship would involve lots of battles and intense, serious action. And you would be wrong. Out of all of the most active ongoing Star Trek fan series, Dominion is one of the ones that takes themselves the LEAST seriously. Although they have had a handful of dramatic releases, they’ve also had a whole bunch of good, wholesome, fun-for-the-whole-family style episodes that just make you want to laugh and smile.

And what could be more wholesome than the captain’s mother visiting her son on the bridge of his starship? And what could be more family-friendly than releasing an episode titled “MOM” on Mother’s Day? Are you ready for something adorable…?

Seriously, how cute was that??!

Yeah, I know. Nothing like that would REALLY happen on a Federation dreadnought starship …or any starship, most likely. And the repercussions of a cloaked Klingon scout ship deep within Federation space could lead to interstellar war. And to that I say: “Stop complaining and go call your mother and tell her that you love her!” (My apologies to any out there who have lost their mothers, but if you know any mothers in your life, send them a link to this wonderful vignette and put a smile on their face.)

Speaking of smiles, I just couldn’t wait to ask GARY DAVIS, longtime Dominion showrunner and Captain Jason Brousseau himself, some things about this precious piece of production positivity…

Continue reading “DREADNOUGHT DOMINION’S “MOM” debuts on Mother’s Day…of course! (interview with GARY DAVIS)”

INTREPID’s “Pursuit of a Dream” brings DE-AGING tech to Star Trek fan films! (video interview with NICK COOK and SAMUEL COCKINGS)

PURSUIT OF A DREAM is a really great fan film! I almost said “surprisingly” great, but it really wasn’t a surprise because of the two blokes behind it. I call them blokes because NICK COOK and SAMUEL COCKINGS both live on the quaint little isle of Britannia.

Just in case you’re new to Star Trek fan films, here’s a quick primer. Nick Cook of Dundee, Scotland has been the showrunner on the Scottish Star Trek fan series INTREPID since they began work shooting their first fan film waaaaay back in 2003 (and released four years later). You can read the complete history of Intrepid starting with this blog.

Meanwhile, 422 miles south of Dundee, in the city of Bedford, England, SAMUEL COCKINGS has made a name for himself as the prestidigitator of all things animational when it comes to CGI for Star Trek fan films. I often joke that it takes less time to list the Star Trek fan projects that Sam HASN’T done the VFX for than the ones he has…but I’m not entirely convinced it’s actually a joke.

Among the fan series that Sam has worked on is—you guessed it!—Intrepid. Nick has also appeared in a number of Sam’s TREK SHORTS videos, including the first one (released last year), A LONG WAY FROM HOME. Nick will also be one of the primary stars of Sam’s upcoming mega-crossover fan film event CONVERGENCE.

So these two fan filmmakers are frequent collaborators. However, Sam usually runs his fan films and Nick just appears in them. Meanwhile, Nick runs Intrepid fan films and typically uses Sam on the back end for post production CGI effects. But Pursuit of a Dream is the first time Sam has come aboard Intrepid as a director!

In a story co-written by the two of them, Sam brings his eye for camera composition along with his amazing skills in both CGI animation as well as his ever-improving expertise with compositing green screen footage against jaw-dropping virtual 3D backgrounds to create a visually stunning fan film. Nick, meanwhile, brilliantly portrays his popular Intrepid character of Daniel Hunter at different times in his career. And because this film spans so many years, Sam sneaked in a little de-aging sorcery to make Nick look subtly younger in certain scenes. You really need to see it to believe it…

There’s also a bevy of guest star appearances by actors who have appeared in previous fan films from both Sam and Nick—including NIMRAN SAUND as Anna Keeley, MARCUS CHURCHILL as Sam Harriman, and a surprising cameo by RISHA DENNEY playing the character of Elizabeth Shelby for the first time since STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER!


There is SOOOO much to talk about! So I’m glad I was able to schedule two of my favorite Brits together at the same time during what was lunch for me in Los Angeles and just after dinner for them in the U.K. Are you ready for the British invasion of Fan Film Factor…???

ONE SMALL STEP is one giant leap for DS9 fan films! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)

We don’t see much Deep Space Nine in Star Trek fan films. Sure, we get the occasional reference to the Dominion War, as in the Czech fan film SQUADRON, but we typically don’t get to see the U.S.S. Defiant or Deep Space Nine itself. Part of the reason is that it would be nearly impossible for fans on a tight budget to recreate those massive Promenade and Ops sets on the station, or even the smaller bridge of the Defiant. And up until now, there hasn’t really been a decent virtual option to show a CGI background behind an actor filmed against a green screen.

You did notice that I said, “up until now,” right?

CGI Master of the Universe SAMUEL COCKINGS has already become legendary in our community for supplying industry quality visual effects at ridiculously affordable prices for countless Star Trek fan productions (way too many to list, so don’t ask…just look on his IMDb page). Now Sam is becoming just as well known for compositing green screen footage of actors against elaborately realistic 3D backgrounds of familiar starship and shuttlecraft interiors…and his latest interior is the bridge of the Defiant.

Sam pioneered and refined this skill in time collision Star Trek fan film TEMPORAL ANOMALY. He then crowd-funded a crossover film, CONVERGENCE, combining characters and story elements from five different Star Trek fan productions. Unfortunately, repeated COVID quarantines in the U.K. and Europe have prevented all of the actors from getting together in the same place at the same time for filming, and that project remains still in production.

However, that didn’t stop Sam from crowd-funding a second project…or rather, a set of projects. TREK SHORTS would be a series of vignette fan films, shot with smaller casts featuring only one or two actors on screen at once. The successful Indiegogo campaign took in $12.7K intended for the production of SIX separate short fan films. One of those films, the 19-minute A LONG WAY FROM HOME (did I say “short”?), premiered during the campaign and featured four actors, none of whom appeared on screen at the same time…making this technically a “fandemic” film.

But even isolating the actors from each other didn’t solve all of Sam’s COVID problems. On multiple occasions, an actor would test positive, and plans needed to change…often a the last second. This resulting in two “bonus” Trek Shorts releases, HOURS AT WARP and STARGATE SG-1: NEW MISSION (a prequel to a Trek Shorts universe crossover fan film).

Most recently, Sam released yet ANOTHER “bonus” Trek Shorts episode, not previously announced in the Ingiegogo campaign. It features scenes on the U.S.S. Defiant bridge plus a shot of Deep Space Nine at the end, a true rarity in fan films. Take a look…

Continue reading “ONE SMALL STEP is one giant leap for DS9 fan films! (interview with SAMUEL COCKINGS)”

“The very BEST of Star Trek FAN FILMS” is now available for viewing!

For the past two and a half years, I’ve been quietly working on a “secret” project for Star Trek fan films. I mean, it wasn’t purposefully a secret. I just never bothered to mention it to anybody…

…until now, that is.

The idea behind this 75-minute montage was to collect what I considered to be the “best” scenes and sequences from the many, many, MANY Star Trek fan films that have been released during the last two decades or so.

It wasn’t easy choosing!

First of all, what does “the best” even mean??? The best…what? Acting? Directing? Story? Visual Effects? Make-up? Costumes? Sound quality? Music? Editing? Well, yes to all of the above! But few Star Trek fan films actually check ALL of those boxes. So once again, I was left the challenge of deciding what “the best” actually means.

I ultimately created two criteria for inclusion in the video. The clips needed to (in my determination):

  1. Make an average viewer who wasn’t really familiar with this sub-sub-sub genre of ours react with something akin to, “Wait, this is a FAN film???”
  2. Leave the person watching the clip wanting to see more of that particular fan film or series.

Once I knew what I was looking for, I needed to do a LOT of looking! That’s one of the reasons this project has taken as long as it has to complete. But I did discover something important early on. Really short clips (on the whole) don’t work. You need at least a minute or two—and sometimes even three minutes or more—to convey the power and impact of a sequence. Otherwise, you just get disjointed VFX sequences and isolated snippets of dialog that don’t really pack much of a punch. You have to give the viewer a chance to get the “flavor” of a sequence and a grasp of what is going on.

Ultimately, I ended up selecting about three dozen clips and sequences from fan films spanning the last decade and a half…for a total run-time of 75 minutes (an average of two minutes per segment). Sadly, I couldn’t include content from many of my closest friends in the fan film community. (I didn’t want this video to go on forever!) And so I sincerely apologize to anyone who didn’t make it into the final selections. It wasn’t personal, and I love you all and the wonderful work you and your teams bring to us.

Continue reading ““The very BEST of Star Trek FAN FILMS” is now available for viewing!”

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)”