NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS Patreon is ON FIRE!

Man, I hope nobody misread that headline as “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is ON FIRE!” No, no, no…that is NOT what’s happening!

But what is happening is that donations are coming into their Patreon campaign at an awesome pace! It was barely three weeks ago that I published a blog marveling at a single donor committing to pay more than $800/month(!!!) to help keep the rent, utilities, maintenance, and insurance paid on the building housing the amazing TOS sets that had first been used for both Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues.

After purchasing the sets from VIC MIGNOGNA in late 2017, uber-fan RAY TESI decided to open up the renamed NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA to any fan filmmaker wanting to shoot there (cost is $300/day). Already, Dreadnought Dominion, Ghost Ship, and the upcoming Constar Chronicles have all shot there…with more projects scheduled soon, including an appearance by NICHELLE NICHOLS for the proposed documentary about her amazing life and career.

The sets were also opened up to the general public for a weekend last October and will be opened up again this coming weekend for Fan Appreciation Weekend 2. (It’s free to attend, and you can still sign up here.)

But while they say the best things in life are free, in this case, someone has definitely been paying for the “free”—Ray Tesi himself. Considered by many (including me) to be one of the nicest guys in our fan film community, Ray has been paying the costs for this studio out of his retirement savings for the last year and a half. That’s about $3,500/month or $42,000/year.

Think about that number for a second. Ray isn’t a Kardashian (or even a Cardassian). He’s just a nice guy with a modest income and some decent savings wanting to keep these unbelievably beautiful and important sets out of the dumpster.

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NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS nearly doubles its Patreon total with an unexpected $800/MONTH donor!

As you might remember from my recent blog, NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingland, GA (where Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut) has a Patreon campaign currently trying to raise $3,500/month to cover rent, utilities, insurance, and maintenance. Right now, those expenses are being paid primarily by RAY TESI, the super-fan who purchased the iconic TOS set recreations from STC show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA. Ray has generously opened up his sets to fan filmmakers and also to the general public during periodic Fan Appreciation Weekends (the next of which is coming up on May 24-26).

The challenge for Ray is that these monthly expenses are ongoing…which is not the case for his retirement savings, which is what is funding the dream at the moment. So Ray has asked the fan community to chip in in the form of small monthly contributions made via Patreon.

The campaign kicked off last July and kinda went nowhere for seven months. By February, Ray was up to only 17 patrons donating $176/month (of which Patreon takes a small percentage), leaving Ray with annual expenses that were still topping $40,000…YIKES!!!

But then things began to look up, as a renewed outreach effort on social media saw totals nearly triple by the end of February to 41 patrons and $566/month. Ray was down to having to cover “only” $35,000/year. Sure, still a long way to go…but definitely headed in the right direction.

The following two months saw reliably steady growth, reaching 74 patrons and $872/month by the time I checked the campaign before heading to bed on April 22. Ray was now taking in about $10,000/year, covering about 25% of his expenses.

When I sat down at my computer the next morning, Ray’s Patreon page was still on the screen, so I did a refresh just out of curiosity. I didn’t expect the total to change, but ya never know. That said, it took me a few moments to fully process what I was seeing…

At some point while I slept, Ray’s Patreon total had jumped from $872/month to $1,696/month—almost DOUBLING overnight! Surely this was some kind of glitch at Patreon. No one donates $824/month…do they????

I messaged Ray.

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STAGE 9 STUDIOS is now THE NEUTRAL ZONE…and its PATREON has hit WARP SPEED!

After STAR TREK CONTINUES completed its run of eleven amazing fan films shot on an awesome array of TOS sets, those sets sat unused in an industrial space in Kingsland, GA for many months. The sets were subsequently purchased by avid Trekker (and really nice guy!) RAY TESI, who renamed the facility STAGE 9 STUDIOS. Ray also took over paying the rent, utilities, and maintenance. Thanks to comparison sites that offer the likes of Business Gas package rates and other utilities, Ray isn’t spending an obscene amount to keep the studio up and running.

Ray opened up the sets to fans to come see and film on. Already, numerous fan projects have been shot there, including multiple episodes of Dreadnought Dominion, the upcoming Constar Chronicles, the wildly popular Ghost Ship which premiered last Halloween, and even a few others. The sets are being offered FREE to fan filmmakers as long as they pay for the electricity used during filming. It’s a great deal!

Unfortunately for Ray, though, what’s “free” for fans is still costing him money each month, which is coming out of his retirement savings. Granted, Ray is happy to spend his own money to keep the dream alive, but he is also asking for help from fans out there like you and me.

Last June, Ray launched a Patreon campaign to raise donations—given monthly by supporters in increments as low as $1/month or as high as $100/month (the average is about $15/month per donor). After an initial spike, the next six months of the Patreon were fairly flat in the range of about $150/month (approximately 5% of the monthly rent).

Last week, however, everything changed!

First of all, Stage 9 Studios was renamed THE NEUTRAL ZONE (for reasons that will be explained below). At the same time, Ray used the name change to start promoting the campaign much more robustly. The result, as you can see below, has produced eye-popping results in just 7 days! The number of patrons has nearly doubled while the amount donated per month has nearly tripled to almost $500…!

This brings Ray about 15% of the way to covering his monthly rent, so there is still a ways to go. Bu if YOU would like to help keep fandom’s TOS dream alive, please click the link below (or at least share it with others)…

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

In the meantime, Ray has some other news to share with fans. Take it away, Ray…

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Fan-filmed before a live studio audience at STAGE 9 STUDIOS…but not without a little controversy!

An estimated 1,300 fans came to STAGE 9 STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA on October 19-21 to visit the amazing TOS sets and meet STAR TREK CONTINUES cast and crew members, including VIC MIGNOGNA, CHRIS DOOHAN, LISA HANSELL, and many others.  (Here’s a complete list.)  Dubbed “Fan Appreciation Weekend,” the event was free of charge and admitted anyone who showed up on Friday from 2-10pm, Saturday from 9am-7pm, and Sunday from 9am-6pm.  That’s 27 hours of open set visit time over a three-day period!

Not just a simple “tour” (like what is offered in Ticonderoga, NY by James Cawley), this event included the opportunity for fans to watch and even participate in the FILMING of episodes for two different fan productions.  Both DREADNOUGHT DOMINION and the upcoming  CONSTAR CHRONICLES shot scenes on the bridge on Friday night and in engineering on Saturday as fans looked on.

Visitors would be escorted in groups through the sets by none other than STC star and show-runner Vic Mignogna, who would discuss the fan filmmaking process, point out certain details of the sets, share a few “secrets” (like how they filmed a scene from a camera angle when a permanent wall was in the way—answer: they put a hidden hole in the wall to film from behind!), and answered questions.  Other groups were escorted by Stage 9 owner RAY TESI, who purchased the sets from Vic last year and decided to make them available to any fan film that wanted to shoot there.  (Listen to Ray’s interview here.)

Vance Major live in front of a studio audience

The groups traveled in cycles through all of the sets—sickbay, auxiliary control, transporter room, captain’s quarters, briefing room, etc.—finally emerging on the bridge and/or engineering to watch rehearsal, set-up, or actual filming during certain scheduled times.  Each group spent about 5-10 minutes with the film crews before moving on and letting in the next bunch.  The fan filmmakers would talk to the audience, answer questions, and in some cases, even offer a few lucky fans the chance to throw on a tunic and be filmed as extras on the bridge or in engineering!  How cool is that???

The event was not without some controversy, though.

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VIC MIGNOGNA of Star Trek Continues plays ANOTHER famous CAPTAIN in a new DEADPOOL fan music video!

VIC MIGNOGNA is known in the fan film community for playing Captain Kirk in Star Trek Continues.  But now he’s going to be known for playing another famous captain: Captain America (and providing the voice of the X-men’s Beast)…in one of the funniest, most ambitious, and most entertaining fan film mash-ups ever produced.

I know I usually focus on Star Trek fan films, not superheroes, but in this case, there’s a number of veterans of Star Trek Continues involved, including make-up artist LISA HANSELL…and heck, even ROD RODDENBERRY is listed in the credits as an associate producer!

Thank goodness for parodies, though, because they’re protected by Fair Use.  Otherwise, DEADPOOL THE MUSICAL 2 would likely be sued in short order by Marvel, Disney (well, Disney owns Marvel now), Fox, AND Sony.  Or maybe not…as some Hollywood studios actually appreciate fan films.  (You know who I’m takin’ ’bout…right, Paramount and CBS?)

Anyway, get yourself mentally prepared for one of the best-crafted fan films you’re likely to see all year.  Oh, and ask the kids and religious zealots to go play in the yard for the next twelve and a half minutes…’cause this fan parody is just as R-rated as the two Deadpool movies that inspired it!

Ready…?

Set…?

I know, right!?

I mean, there are just no words…well, yes there are, but I can’t type most of them on my blog ’cause I’m such a prude!

But hey, did you know that this amazing fan film would NEVER have happened if it weren’t for Star Trek Continues?  Cross my heart and hope to have Wolverine give me a prostate exam!

Okay, enough of that!  Let’s find out how these two fan film phenomena are linked in the hip area…

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STAGE 9 STUDIOS opens up the STAR TREK CONTINUES sets to fans…FOR FREE! (October 19-21)

For years, if you wanted to see the Kingsland, Georgia sets being used to film the legendary fan series STAR TREK CONTINUES, you needed to either be working on the production itself or else a very special VIP.  But now STC has wrapped filming, and the sets have been purchased by super-fan RAY TESI.  And Ray is opening the Stage 9 Studios sets for the first time ever to the fans to come, look at, take pictures of, and even talk to some of the cast and production crew of STC itself!

The event is happening in a week and a half, and is open to any fan.  No tickets are needed, and admission is FREE!  You can get a behind-the-scenes look at Stage 9 Studios‘ starship sets, walk through the corridors, visit engineering, the transporter room, sickbay, the captain’s quarters, the iconic bridge, and more!

The guests include

  • VIC MIGNOGNA – STC‘s Captain Kirk
  • CHRIS DOOHAN – STC‘s Scotty (and son of actor James Doohan)
  • LISA HANSELL – STC producer and make-up supervisor
  • GINGER HOLLEY – STC costumer and designer
  • SARAI DUENAS – The actress who played Miramanee’s child in STC‘s episode “The White Iris”
  • JOE HALDEMAN – Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author
  • ROBERT MASON – Vietnam War veteran and author of several books including the sci-fi novels “Weapon” and “Solo”
  • KAVITA MAHARAJ – Artist best known for her acrylic medium Spock paintings
  • SAMUEL COCKINGS – “Trekyards” co-host, VFX artist, and fan filmmaker

The studio will be open for three days at the following times:

FRIDAY, OCT 19 – 2:00 PM-7:00 PM
SATURDAY, OCT 20 – 9:00 AM-7:00 PM
SUNDAY, OCT 21 – 9:00 AM-6:00 PM

There will be activities and ample opportunity to take photos…including sitting in the captain’s chair (a must!).  Here’s what’s in store:

  • Fan Film Production Q&A
  • Panel Discussions
  • Workshops
  • Special Effects Makeup Demos
  • Prop and Costume Displays
  • Trek Trivia Game Shows
  • Fan Art Demo
  • Vendor Tables
  • Fan Film Audience Participation
  • Fan Film Mania

Also, the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION will be filming there on Friday afternoon for anyone who wants to watch the magic happen.  (They might even need a few extras!)

Check out all the details at: https://www.stage9studios.com/visit

Stage 9 Studios

is located at:

516 W William Ave
Kingsland, GA  31548
(just minutes off I-95)

Life after STAR TREK CONTINUES – cast members REUNITE for WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS!

When STAR TREK CONTINUES completed its 11-episode run of superb Trek fan films, fans of the series wondered, “What’s next?”  It seemed a shame that such a talented group of actors, writers, directors, and production crew would simply go their separate ways.  Alas, that is all too often the case in show business.  But not this time…at least, not for everyone.

Although many members of the STC team did, in fact, move on to other endeavors, a small number reunited for a special independent short film project titled WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS.  The cast included STC alumni VIC MIGNOGNA (Captain Kirk) along with veteran Trek actors JOHN “Q” DeLANCIE, REKHA SHARMA (from Star Trek: Discovery and the new Battlestar Galactica), and MICHAEL FOREST (who played Apollo both in the original series episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and also in the first full-length STC episode “Pilgrim of Eternity“).  STC cast member (and writer) KIPLEIGH BROWN was initially slated to appear in Train… but had to pull out at the last moment due to a family emergency.  She was replaced by Rekha Sharma.

Also boarding the Train… cast were STC alumna ÉMIE MORISETTE, who appeared in the final two-part episode of STC, along with voice-over actor DARREN JACOBS, whose vocals were part of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Dunkirk, and Papillon.  Directing Train… was STC director/writer/producer extraordinaire JAMES KERWIN, and STC‘s make-up supervisor and producer, LISA HANSELL, served as producer for Train…

An Indiegogo last November reached its $43,000 goal with just eight hours to spare, allowing the campaign to extend indefinitely as “In Demand” status.  Since then, their donation total has grown to more than $51,000…allowing them to not only film all the scenes but also to wrap up post production and release a completed film, which happened in mid-September in a special early release perk for certain donors.  The rest of the donors (like me) got to view it as a private download early this past week.  And let me tell you, it was EXCELLENT!  The 20-minute film was expertly crafted with an engaging story that provides a wonderful Twilight Zone twist at the end.  It’s definitely worthy of viewing.

So when can YOU see it?

Continue reading “Life after STAR TREK CONTINUES – cast members REUNITE for WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS!”

STAGE 9 STUDIOS announces a new PATREON, OPEN HOUSE, and an awesome WALK-THROUGH VIDEO!

Would you pay $1, $5, $10, or $25/month to keep the lights on for the only full TOS sets to be completely open to the fan film community?  Right now, 11 people are already doing that, giving STAGE 9 STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA a combined $100/month (or thereabouts) in guaranteed financial assistance to pay for rent, electricity, and maintenance.

With rent estimated at about $3,000/month, a hundred bucks a month might not seem like much.  But Stage 9 Studio only just recently launched their new Patreon, and owner RAY TESI is currently paying all expenses out of his own pocket from retirement savings.  So donating even as little as a dollar a month will be a welcome help.

For those not familiar with Patreon, it’s similar to Kickstarter and Indiegogo in that anyone can set up a campaign, anyone can contribute, and there can be perks.  The difference is that, while the latter two are designed for a one-time contribution, Patreon is set up so that supporters (patrons) donate monthly, a recurring contribution charged to their credit card or transferred from their bank account until the donor says otherwise.  Patreon is designed for ongoing endeavors rather than one-time projects, so it’s perfect for something like Stage 9 Studios where the expenses from rent, utilities, and maintenance are ongoing.

And what happens if the Patreon generates more per month than it costs to “keep the lights on.”  (What a great problem to have, right!?!)  Simple.  Additional funds will be used to improve the studio (like adding air conditioning, perhaps?) and maybe even to build more sets.  As the Patreon page clearly states:

STAGE 9 STUDIOS is NOT a money-making enterprise, but an opportunity to share the passion that millions of STAR TREK fans have for the series!

But that’s not all that’s happening with Stage 9 Studios.  Would YOU like to see these amazing sets in person…for FREE???

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TREKYARDS and VIC MIGNOGNA go behind-the-scenes of STAR TREK CONTINUES!

TREKYARDS is a force of nature in Star Trek fandom.  So is STAR TREK CONTINUES.  Put the two of them together, and there’s something really special in store for Trekkers!

Trekyards, for those who don’t know, is the brainchild of STUART FOLEY and SAMUEL COCKINGS.  Together, these two uber-fans have produced more than 500 webshow videos spotlighting ships from Trek and other sci-fi franchises, interviewing actors and production people from Star Trek, doing video podcasts, and filling the Internet with enough smart, funny, and fascinating content to eat up as much of your free time as you desire!

Star Trek Continues, as you undoubtedly know, was a cutting edge fan series that presented the final two years of the USS Enterprise‘s 5-year mission under James T. Kirk.  Using professional actors and technical crew, featuring noted sci-fi celebrities as guest stars, and displaying industry-level production quality on exact recreations of the TOS sets, STC set a standard of excellence seldom if ever matched in the realm of Trek fan films.

Although STC has completed its 11-episode run, fans still cherish this labor of love and the careful attention to detail that went into it.  And while STC has released a few special features here and there focussing on things like the music scoring, editing, and VFX—and Fan Film Factor published this exhaustively-researched complete history of STC—there hasn’t been a real “deep dive” into all of the  behind-the-scenes production secrets of this amazing series.

Until now, that is!

Trekyards is introducing a new webshow series spotlighting Star Trek Continues, hoping to cover EVERY fascinating detail of this beloved fan project with insight from those who produced it.  Up first, in a 20-minute interview about their first episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity,” Captain Kirk himself, VIC MIGNOGANA, talks about finding and convincing retired actor Michael Forest to reprise his role of Apollo, Vic’s feelings about other Trek fan series, and what gravity has to do with the color of the walls on the set!

Here’s the first installment of this new MUST-SEE Trekyards series…

I spoke to Trekyards co-host and editor Samuel Cockings about this new offering and learned some very interesting things—including why fans really need to tune in and support it…

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The former STAR TREK CONTINUES sets are now OPEN for FAN FILMING!

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…!

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