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!”

JAMES CAWLEY releases the unfinished STAR TREK: PHASE II “Origins: The Protracted Man”!

It’s been five years since fans have seen anything new from STAR TREK: PHASE II (a.k.a. STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES). The most recent completed Phase II episode to debut was “The Holiest Thing” in January of 2016. But that changed last week with the unexpected release of a never-completed episode filmed way back in 2010-2011: “Origins: The Protracted Man,” directed by DAVID GERROLD and co-written by him along with Trek novelist DAVE GALANTER.

Phase II founder and show-runner JAMES CAWLEY had announced, shortly before the unveiling of the fan film guidelines by CBS in June of 2016, that Phase II would cease all fan film production. Then two weeks after the guidelines came out, James announced that his TOS sets in Ticonderoga, NY would become a brand new, licensed STAR TREK Original Series SET TOUR.

Fans were certainly excited by the opportunity to walk these amazing TOS set recreations that had previously been reserved only for fan filmmakers and special guests. But what about the episodes of Phase II that had already been filmed (or partially filmed)? Would these be completed and released? There were still three unfinished Phase II projects: “Bread and Savagery” (a sequel to the TOS episode “Bread and Circuses), “Torment of Destiny” (a sequel to “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” and featuring the now-deceased RICHARD HATCH), and “Origins: The Protracted Man.”

The answer seemed to be that these three episodes would forever remain in limbo. None was in any condition to be released (or so we were told), and with Retro Studios in upstate New York now turned into a licensed set tour, James didn’t appear to be in interested in having any of these remaining Phase II projects completed. In fact, in the case of “Bread and Savagery,” the director, MARK BURCHETT, had passed away in 2014. Certain actors were also no longer available, and in some cases, the footage that had been filmed wasn’t shot properly (camera and/or sound issues), and wouldn’t be usable…and reshoots were rather problematic.

And so these three episodes remained hidden away, inaccessible to fans beyond this really exciting trailer for “Torment of Destiny” and this equally exciting trailer for “Origins: The Protracted Man” (along with a couple of scene clips, including one of Kirk’s Koybashi Maru test and another in sickbay).

Jeff Johnson as Finnegan…just as annoying as we imagined!

Fan were desperate to see more, as these two episodes looked amazing. They were also quite special for other reasons. In addition to “Torment of Destiny” featuring the late RICHARD HATCH, “Origins” featured actor COLIN CUNNINGHAM as Christopher Pike (Cunningham’s extensive Hollywood career includes recurring and regular roles in such series as Stargate SG-1, Falling Skies, and Preacher). Also, voice-over actor JEFF JOHNSON turned in such an amazing performance as Cadet Finnegan that you would’ve sworn they’d managed to kidnap original Finnegan actor BRUCE MARS by beaming him through time!

Continue reading “JAMES CAWLEY releases the unfinished STAR TREK: PHASE II “Origins: The Protracted Man”!”

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.

Continue reading “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS Patreon is ON FIRE!”

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.

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

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.

At this point, many people in Ray’s position would have turned to a fundraising platform like GoFundMe. Not only is it possible to crowdfund using the platform, there is also lots of help and advice for people who are in a position where they need to raise funds. For example, there is evertyhing you need to know about helping to pay rent and other utilities at https://www.gofundme.com/c/blog/emergency-rental-assistance. Ray, on the other hand, had a different idea.

Last June, he 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…

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

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.

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

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…

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