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???

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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…”