Neutral Zone Studios’ THE TEST OF TIME Indiegogo gets over ONE-THIRD of the way to its goal in just SIX DAYS!

Granted, as they say in stock investing, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” And I could well be jinxing the whole endeavor just by writing this blog! But there’s many ways for a new crowd-funding campaign to launch, ranging from very strong down to don’t-get-your-hopes-up. And the new Indiegogo for THE TEST OF TIME from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is definitely on the “good” side of that bell curve with $2,295 of their $6,000 goal raised in less than a week from 18 backers.

I reported on the launch of this Indiegogo last Friday, mentioning that for a donation of $150, you can get a decent quality TOS-era tunic (any standard size) as a perk. As I write this, 6 of the original 10 available at that donation level are gone, while 11 others are still available at higher donation levels. T-shirts are available at the $75 level, and a set of TOS data disks and console button prop replicas happen at $50. Even at $25 and lower, there are decent digital perks available.

Situated in Kinglsand, GA, Neutral Zone Studios was, of course, the shooting location for the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT and, later on, STAR TREK CONTINUES. Sold by VIC MIGNOGNA to Florida resident RAY TESI in 2018, Ray opened up the expansive TOS sets to many other fan productions, including DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, CONSTAR CHRONICLES, and the AVALON UNIVERSE…among others.

The sets have also been used for TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE, a “fanthology” series focusing on different TOS-era starships and their various crews.  THE LOOKING GLASS (released in June of 2019) and ENDOSYMBIOSIS (February 2021) were recently joined by their third release, the very successful DOOMSDAY, which is currently nearing 90K views on YouTube after just two months.

JOSHUA IRWIN directed Doomsday and also provided his services as director of photography for The Test of Time, most of which has already been filmed, with only a few pick-up shots remaining. The majority of the funds raised from this Indiegogo, in addition to covering expenses that have already been paid for things like food, travel and lodging, wardrobe, etc., will be applied to what are certain to be jaw-dropping CGI effects that will include what I believe will be the first Federation timeship ever seen in a fan film.

In addition to the timeship, VFX starchild SAMUEL COCKINGS has also created a variant of the U.S.S. Stargazer bridge seen in the second season of STAR TREK: PICARD to be used as a virtual background behind green screen actors.

All in all, this looks like a very exciting fan project with a fairly reasonable price tag, considering what’s in it. And while still $3.7K short of their goal, nothing succeeds like success, and this campaign is off to a very encouraging start in its first week!

If you’d like to toss a few shekels into the collection plate, here’s the link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-test-of-time-a-star-trek-fan-film-production

Neutral Zone’s THE TEST OF TIME Indiegogo launches…offering over 20 TOS UNIFORMS for donors!

These days, it’ll cost you $50-100 just to get a decent TOS tunic from the Internet. But now you can get one (with chest patch and rank braids included…any size) and feel good about donating to the latest crowd-funder from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS—all for as little as $150.

Or if you don’t have that kind of cash available, maybe you’d like a T-shirt for $75…or maybe a set of TOS data disks and console button replicas. Still too much? $25 gets you two digital prints and a 1080p digital download of the final film. And heck, even $10 gets you your name in the credits! (Actually, any donation of $10 or more gets your name into the credits.)

Here’s the link to the campaign…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-test-of-time-a-star-trek-fan-film-production

Neutral Zone Studios scored a major hit on April 5 of this year with the release of the TOS-era fan film DOOMSDAY, which is currently nearing 90K views on YouTube after just two months. That production was directed by JOSHUA IRWIN (of AVALON UNIVERSE fame, who will be launching an Avalon crowd-funder of his own in a few weeks) and looked amazing! Josh has returned for this new fan film, THE TEST OF TIME, as director of photography, so you can be certain it will look just as good.

Actually, a majority of this new project has already been filmed, with some pick-up shots still needing to be filmed. Most of the work remaining is VFX by the Q of the CGI Continuum, the omnipotent SAMUEL COCKINGS, who will be rendering starships from multiple centuries plus incorporating green screen actor footage against a modified virtual background inspired by the U.S.S. Stargazer from season two of STAR TREK: PICARD

Plus there’s post-production editing, music, and sound still to do. Indeed, the funds raised from the current Indiegogo will be going to a mix of covering the upcoming post-production costs as well as offsetting expenses that were already paid upfront by showrunner and Neutral Zone Studios owner RAY TESI, who uses his own money to pay most of the rent on the studio.

The $6,000 goal of the campaign isn’t particularly ambitious, and already five donors (including me) have taken the total up to 19% of the money needed. Granted, four of those TOS tunics are now gone, but nearly twenty still remain for the fleet of finger!

Meanwhile, speaking of Ray Tesi, I asked him why he’s willing to risk his own money shooting The Test of Time BEFORE successfully crowd-funding it? After all, if they fall short of their goal, Ray’s on the hook for potentially thousands of dollars.

“I believe in the fans, and I believe in what we’re doing,” he answered. “Star Trek enables creative people to express themselves, to tel their stories. And that’s how I feel…that we have become a benefit to the fan film community. Right now, I’m confident that our fans and supporters will come through for us.”

And again, if you’d like to be one of those supporters, here’s the link to donate…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-test-of-time-a-star-trek-fan-film-production

DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 2)

Last week in Part 1, we learned how, in March of 2021, RAY TESI from NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS had asked JOSHUA IRWIN from THE AVALON UNIVERSE to make the half-day drive from northeastern Arkansas to southeastern Georgia to be the director of photography for the newest TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE fanthology film “DOOMSDAY.” Josh was happy to help out, and the completed production has quickly become the most watched of all three of the Neutral Zone releases, nearly doubling the views of the previous two offerings, THE LOOKING GLASS (released in June of 2019) and ENDOSYMBIOSIS (February 2021) in only a couple of weeks.

Take a look…

We had just learned that, after arriving at the studio on the day of shooting, Ray had gotten buried under other studio-related tasks he needed to do. And so he asked Josh if he would mind taking over as director in addition to being director of photography (two VERY different jobs). Josh is used to dealing with the unexpected on film sets, working in the film industry himself professionally, and so he agreed to the challenge.

Of course, this gave Josh essentially no time to prepare as director, and so I asked him the following question…

Continue reading “DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 2)”

DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 1)

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA is the only place on the planet where fans can shoot TOS-era Star Trek fan films on a full range of TOS-era sets including the bridge, engineering, sickbay, briefing room, transporter room, auxiliary control, captain’s quarters, turbolift, and a full range of corridors. WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas has some, but not all, of these sets for fans to film on. And while JAMES CAWLEY’s TOS sets in upstate New York feature all of the rooms listed above, his sets are now an official licensed tour and are no longer available for shooting fan films.

Originally, STARSHIP FARRAGUT and STAR TREK CONTINUES were shot on these sets in Kingsland. After STC wrapped in 2018, VIC MIGNOGNA sold the sets to RAY TESI, who then opened them up to any fan film or series that wished to use them—including DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, the AVALON UNIVERSE, CONSTAR, LET OLD WRINKLES COME, TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE, and a bunch of others.

But Ray Tesi and Neutral Zone Studios also have their own fanthology series called TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE. Their first episode, THE LOOKING GLASS, was released in June of 2019 and has had about 28K views on YouTube so far. Their second episode, ENDOSYMBIOSIS, was hit YouTube in February 2021 and is currently over 15K views.

Their third release, DOOMSDAY, premiered just last month on April 5 (“First Contact Day”) and is already up to a staggering 81K views!!! Why the immediate popularity? Well, it could have something to do with the telling of the long-speculated tale of how Commodore Matt Decker and the crew of the U.S.S. Constellation first encountered the Planet Killer device and wound up the way Kirk and the Enterprise crew found them at the beginning of the TOS episode “The Doomsday Machine.” Take a look…

No too shabby, huh?

One of the most intriguing aspects of this fan film isn’t simply what went on in front of the camera but also who was standing behind it. Fan filmmaker JOSHUA MCHAEL IRWIN (who is also a professional filmmaker) is based in Arkansas and typically shoots his Avalon Universe productions at WARP 66 Studios. He did film Avalon‘s first release, GHOST SHIP, at Neutral Zone, and he later shot their 2021 release COSMIC STREAM there, as well. And although Josh was the director of photography for INTERLUDE (filmed at ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA), nobody in the fan film world ever associated Josh with Tales From the Neutral Zone.

Until now, that is.

Josh served as director, DP, and film editor for Doomsday while Ray served as executive producer. Apparently, that was a winning combination, as the film has proved extremely popular on YouTube.

So how did this pairing happen? And what went into the production of this new fan film? I decided to interview both Ray and Josh together…

Continue reading “DOOMSDAY quickly becomes the most popular TALE FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE! (interview with RAY TESI and JOSH IRWIN, part 1)”

Wanna see NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS turned into a live STAGE PLAY???

Now, THIS is something really cool!

On Saturday, November 6, a truly unique (and busy!) event happened at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA. Star Trek fans from around the world, sitting at their computers or watching from their smart devices, got to experience the amazing TOS sets while cosplayers played the roles of crewmen in what was a combination guided walk-though plus live performance.

Originally constructed for the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT and later STAR TREK CONTINUES, the contents of what is now known as Neutral Zone Studios were sold by VIC MIGNOGNA to Florida resident RAY TESI in 2018. Since then, Ray has opened up the sets to any fan filmmaker who wants to shoot there, and they’ve been used by DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, AVALON UNIVERSE, as well as others, including a series of fan films from Ray himself under the banner of TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE.

Because JAMES CAWLEY in Ticonderoga, NY has the license from CBS to host the exclusive STAR TREK Original Series Set Tour, Ray has to limit himself to fan film productions and free fan appreciation weekend events. And if Ray does provide a guided walk-through, then it must be completely free of charge to not compete directly with James’ commercial license.

The fan appreciation weekends have been a blast for visitors…or so I’m told, as I haven’t been able to make the trip yet (to either Kingsland or Ticonderoga). And indeed, that has been a reason for many a Trekker to feel frustrated. But what about getting a set walk-through without ever leaving your house? It’s now possible thanks to a relatively new website called Heygo.com.

Heygo was founded in May 2020 by LIAM GARRISON and JOHN TERTAN, two world travelers who met at Oxford University about ten years ago. As the global pandemic wore on and tourist travel became a distant memory, Liam and John realized how much not only they but the world as a whole was losing by no longer being able to connect with people in exotic lands with fascinating cultures. So they started a website—originally called VirtualTrips.io—to offer live virtual tours, 24/7, to destinations all over the planet. Tour guides would be English-speaking locals who knew the landmarks and histories and other fascinating aspects of the people and their customs. Their guided tours would be livestreamed to small groups of people who could sign up for free through the website.

Wait…free? Why would anyone spend their time giving tours to virtual strangers for no money??? The answer in that the site runs on “tips,” which are optional. But giving $5 to a tour guide in Slovenia or Egypt or Vietnam could help someone feed their family for a week. Indeed, one formerly homeless man in Edinburgh, Scotland has been using the Heygo service to help other homeless people get off the streets by training them to give virtual tours for tips!

So what does any of this have to do with Star Trek???

Continue reading “Wanna see NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS turned into a live STAGE PLAY???”

There’s something NEW to view at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview with RAY TESI)

The amazing TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA got their start back in 2008 when the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT began building some of their own sets. They didn’t want to have to continue borrowing JAMES CAWLEY’s sets in upstate New York (where they’d filmed scenes for their second episode “For Want of a Nail”). By 2009, they had an awesome shuttlecraft set interior plus a transporter room, turbolift, captain’s quarters, and a corridor…and they were about to start work on a bridge set!

The original location for these sets was a small building in the lovely city of St. Marys, GA (the second oldest city in America) just north of the border between Georgia and Florida. The facility was dubbed “Studio One” and hosted the first-ever fan series “open house” on April 17, 2009. At the time, this is what those sets looked like…

By the time of their second “open house” on December 4, 2010, the bridge set looked like this…

A year later, two big announcements came. The first was that VIC MIGNOGNA (who had joined the Farragut Films team to direct their third full-length episode “The Price of Anything,”) was going to be taking over creative direction and film crew operations not only for Starship Farragut but also for a new fan series starring Vic as Captain Kirk to be titled STAR TREK CONTINUES. The second announcement was that the sets were going to be moved to a new facility 10 miles away in nearby Kingsland, GA with nearly four times the square footage. There, in the newly-dubbed “Studio Two,” the TOS sets would be expanded. And by 2013, nearly all of the original Star Trek sets that existed back in the 1960s at Paramount Studios had been recreated…with the notable exception of Engineering.

But that set addition would happen in 2015 after a very successful second STC Kickstarter (what they called a “Kirkstarter”) brought in $215K, which was enough to fund the construction of most of Engineering plus a buy-out of the sets from Farragut Films (the two fan productions officially parted ways later in the year), pay the next year’s rent, and produce two new episodes in 2015.

STC finished their run in 2017 with the release of their tenth and eleventh episodes. But Vic Mignogna was still covering the $4,000/month rent to house these beautiful sets that he and this fan series no longer needed. Vic couldn’t continue paying this expense indefinitely, but thanks to super-fan RAY TESI, Vic’s problem was solved.

In February of 2018, Ray bought the sets from Vic, took over the monthly rent from his retirement savings, and opened up the sets to all fan films to use for a nominal daily fee. The sets were renamed Stage 9 Studios, a name that was subsequently changed to Neutral Zone Studios the following February after a virtual reality group in the UK calling itself “Stage 9” was shut down by CBS for trying to create an unlicensed VR walkthrough of the Enterprise NCC-1701-D.

And that’s the story so far…

Continue reading “There’s something NEW to view at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS! (interview with RAY TESI)”

Why I am NOT “neutral” about NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS…

I need to clear the air regarding myself and NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS, the TOS sets in Kingsland, GA that were originally used for STARSHIP FARRAGUT, later used for STAR TREK CONTINUES, and were recently purchased by RAY TESI and opened up to any fan filmmaker who wanted to use them, was able to pay $300/day, and was willing to follow the fan film guidelines.

I want to state for the record that I wholeheartedly SUPPORT Neutral Zone Studios and encourage anyone who is a fan of Star Trek fan films to support them, as well, through their Patreon campaign:

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

As many of you know, I was originally scheduled to film two of my scenes for my fan film INTERLUDE there. Ray Tesi was 100% on board. In fact, when I was considering bringing my son Jayden to Georgia watch the shoots, Ray told me that he’d make sure the entire studio was lit up (all the lights and buttons) before we arrived so that when Jayden walked in, the first thing he’d see would be the USS Enterprise in all of its glory. Ray was even going to see if he could manage to drive up for the day from Florida to finally meet me in person and watch the shoot.

But over Memorial Day weekend at Neutral Zone Studios‘ Fan Appreciation Weekend 2, Ray informed my directors, JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX (who were there shooting interviews with VIC MIGNOGNA, MICHELLE SPECHT, and CHRIS DOOHAN to help promote the studio’s Patreon campaign) that Interlude was no longer welcome to use the sets.

Although ALEC PETERS, who was similarly banned, accused Vic of being the reason for Ray’s sudden change of heart, Star Trek Continues make-up artist, LISA HANSELL, posted this comment on Facebook the Monday after the event…

Now, all things considered, I should probably feel angry, hurt, insulted, frustrated…and to be honest, I did feel those emotions quite deeply for a short time. But I moved past it.

However, something happened this past weekend that has left me wondering if others haven’t let this go as I have. And I now feel that it’s important to state publicly that I have forgiven Ray and Lisa and (if he was involved in the decision) Vic…and anyone else who pressured Ray Tesi into changing his mind about letting my production film at NZS.

So what happened this past weekend?

Continue reading “Why I am NOT “neutral” about NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS…”