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…