Your mission: find an actress—young, positive attitude, who lives in Oklahoma—willing to appear in a volunteer Star Trek fan film. Oh, and she needs to be of Native American ethnicity.
You have two days.
When you donate to the AVALON UNIVERSEStar Trek fan production, you’re paying for a get-it-done attitude and a proven track record. Over the past few weeks, I’ve provided three solid reasons to lend your financial support to this hard-working fan production crew: Jakande Lives, Do It for Pixi, and The Team. This week, I’ve saved the best for last—the most compelling reason to donate to their GoFundMe campaign, which just happens to be located at this link:
These folks never give up…ever! No matter what obstacles God, the gods, fate, the Universe, and/or or the Flying Spaghetti Monster throw their way, showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN and his team will always find a way to get their fan film(s) finished.
Avalon Universe has already released SEVEN high-quality fan films (two of which were two-parters of 30-plus minute length) in less than three years. And even as they try to crowd-fund another three productions, they’re already hard at work on a fourth fan film: AGENT OF NEW WORLDS.
Fan films are like weddings. (Ha, got your attention!)
Think about it. Weddings can be as cheap and simple as a trip to City Hall or a few friends in the backyard. Or they can be expensive galas with hundreds of guests and all the trimmings. Or they can be anywhere in between.
And so it is with fan films. We get everything from cardboard sets and scenes shot with cell phones to professional-looking productions with trained actors, meticulous sets and costumes, top-quality recording equipment, and budgets into the five-figure range and sometimes even beyond that.
In general, the larger and more ambitious the wedding, the more critical it is that a team of planners and managers be involved to make sure everything goes smoothly. You get one chance at the actual ceremony, and it’s all that the behind-the-scenes planning that can determine if the wedding is a triumph or a disaster.
The AVALON UNIVERSE fan films aren’t exactly Kardashian weddings (thank goodness!), but they are still pretty impressive, with production quality a few steps above the majority of Star Trek fan films out there. This is not meant to diminish those other fan films. All fan filmmakers deserve support and encouragement. But when you donate to an Avalon Universe crowd-funding campaign, you know your money will be well-spent, and the finished product will look and sound and be amazing.
Oh, and speaking of donating, Avalon has a crowd-funding campaign going on right now, if you’d like to back it…
Like a successful wedding, a well-run fan production requires careful planning and preparation, and that means having the right people in the right jobs…not just during the shoots but in the months and weeks leading up to the director yelling “Action!” for the first time.
As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t initially planning to be part of “Team Avalon,” even though I consider Avalon Universe director/showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN to be a close friend. (Josh was my Director of Photography and Editor on INTERLUDE.) What I did offer to do was to advise Josh and his producer, PIXI NEREID, on strategies for crowd-funding…advice I’ve also offered to other fan filmmakers over the years.
But before I knew it, Pixi had jumped into action, adding me to the production crew’s Facebook chat, giving me access to their Slack productivity app account where the cast and crew keep all of their online resources, and inviting me onto the kick-off production meeting Zoom call. So that’s how I became a part of “Team Avalon,” and it’s given me a fascinating look into who these fine folks are and all that they’re doing to make the wedding…er, fan film extra spectacular and go off without a hitch.
I’m extremely troubled about something that happened last week on Facebook, and I’m not sure what to do about it other than bringing it to the attention of my readers.
As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been putting in a fair bit of effort over the past few weeks trying to help encourage donations to the current GoFundMe campaign for the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series. They’re doing pretty well so far, about 18% ($3.6K) of the way to to their $20K goal. If you’d like to give a little sumthin’, by the way, here’s the link:
Now, helping fan productions get the word out for their campaigns is nothing new for me. Over the past three months, I’ve written multiple blogs about SAMUEL COCKINGS’ TREK SHORTS crowd-funder back in May and GARY DAVIS’ campaign for DREADNOUGHT DOMINION in June. Naturally, I’d also want to help out JOSHUA IRWIN with his Avalon GoFundMe…not only because he’s a Star Trek fan filmmaker but because he did an awesome job as DP and editor on my fan film INTERLUDE and because he’s a good friend.
So last week when I posted to Facebook a “progress” graphic like the one at the top of this blog, I shared it with the usual collection of Star Trek and fan film groups on Facebook that I’m a member of. I do this with all Fan Film Factor and related posts to increase visibility, and invariably, I either see an immediate “Your post has been shared with your group” message or, within a few minutes to a few hours, “An admin has approved your post.”
What I don’t usually see is a DECLINE notice like this one…
Now, two things immediately struck me as odd about the note from the admin at the bottom. The first was that a Facebook group called “Star Trek Fan Films & Audio Dramas” was restricting anything related to JJ Trek. There’s almost no Star Trek fan films set in that universe anyway, but why exclude the few that are? I mean, even if you loathe J.J. ABRAMS and the motorcycle he rode in on, why should the “sins of the producer” also be an albatross worn around the neck of a fan filmmaker? (What a wonderful mix of metaphors!)
So I looked at the rules of the group, just to be sure. And lo and behold…
7) No Kelvin universe fan films will be permitted. Nor will discovery based fan films
The AVALON UNIVERSE isn’t the Prime Star Trek universe, and it’s not the Kelvin timeline either. It’s not the Mirror universe or the Axanar universe or any other Star Trek or Marvel or DC or sci-fi universe you’ve ever seen before…unless, of course, you’ve watched the previous six Avalon fan films releases.
Instead, the Avalon Universe is simply a place where show-runner JOSHUA IRWIN (from Fayetteville, Arkansas) can play around with Star Trek stories without worrying about tripping over existing canon or angering this or that Trekkie because such-and-such never happened or this-or-that did happen so what you’ve just shown us doesn’t work. It works in the Avalon Universe, and that’s all you need to know.
The Avalon fan series got its start on Halloween 2018 with the release of the creepily comedic (or was that comedically creepy?) GHOST SHIP, which can best be described as “Star Trek meets The Walking Dead.” It was fun and surprisingly professional-looking. The reason for the latter is because Josh and many members of his team do actually work in the film industry and know how to shoot a proper film…fan or otherwise.
Ghost Ship introduced the new crew of the recently-repaired U.S.S. Excalibur, including VICTORIA FOX as First Officer Amanda Beck, VICTORIA ARCHER as Engineer Jamie Archer (yep, same last name as the character), and TYLER DUNIVAN as Captain Derek Mason. But no sooner had Mason been introduced than we saw the character die a noble death in the second Avalon episode AVALON LOST.
The third Avalon episode, DEMONS, released a year after Ghost Ship and eight months after Avalon Lost, showed fans how Commander Beck and new commanding officer, Captain Lance Ramirez (played by CHUCK MERÉ) dealt with the loss of their close friend and colleague. LEGACY and NEW ORDERS were both short vignettes, while AIR AND DARKNESS was an ambitious full-length episode with night shots, stunts, great VFX, and lots of Klingons!
Earlier this month, “Team Avalon” launched a brand new GoFundMe campaign trying to raise $20K to continue their saga, hoping to finance as much of their next multi-episode chapter “Crisis on Infinite Excaliburs” as possible. Barely a week and a half in, the campaign is doing strongly with 55 backers and nearly $3K in donations so far—about 15% of the way to their goal. But more support is sorely needed to generate the remaining 85%, so please consider making a donation, even if it’s a small one, by clicking here…
While the team waits for more backers, they have been doing anything BUT resting on their laurels! In fact, Josh has already released a number of interviews with the team and other special features, and today they’ve just premiered their seventh fan film, COSMIS STREAM. Take a look…
Is that Tyler Dunivan’s character of Derek Mason, back from the dead??? Or is he in heaven, purgatory, another universe, another dimension, or is it just a dream? Fortunately, I was able to interview both Tyler and Josh and discover the answer.
If you’ve never been part of the making of a fan film, it’s kinda hard to explain. But there’s a bug that bites ya, and then there’s an itch that you just need to scratch. It’s difficult to say when exactly that fan film bug bites—I guess it’s different for everyone; like the moment someone realizes they’re a Trekkie/Trekker—but when it does, everything can change in a heartbeat.
Or not. Some people make a fan film or participate in a production or two and they’re done. And that’s fine. But for many others, fan films get into your blood—sometimes into your very DNA—and then there’s just no stoppin’ it!
Which brings us to PIXI NEREID.
That’s actually her stage name. Pixi’s real name is ILIA McNEIL…and yes, the “Ilia” is actually inspired by the bald Deltan navigation officer from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as her parents were TOS fans. And Ilia is a hardcore fan herself. But all of her friends call her Pixi, and so do I because Pixi has (almost overnight!) become a friend.
And honestly, it’s hard not to absorb all of the positivity, fun, and optimism that radiates from her—so much so that you almost need to call her Pixi. And if you’re wondering where that name comes from, Pixi has a side gig (along with a small number of other women in the Fayetteville, Arkansas area) performing as a mermaid at children’s parties. So I suppose that Pixi Nereid isn’t her “stage” name so much as her “pool” name, but whatever you call it, she’s totally a Pixi!
JOSHUA IRWIN, who will be directing the new AVALON UNIVERSE fan films that are crowd-funding now (click here to donate), first met Pixi on the set of the soon-to-be-released COSMIC STREAM while filming at WARP 66 STUDIOS in northeastern Arkansas. Pixi was told about the shoot by one of her fellow mermaids, who had a role in the fan film. But Pixi didn’t come to appear on camera, she just wanted to help out. In fact, she arrived and immediately told Josh that she’d be happy to be a grip for the day (a grip is someone someone who moves the lights around…not very glamorous but super-important).
It’s a 108-mile drive each way from Fayetteville to the studio, so the people who volunteer for these fan film shoots at WARP 66 have to be pretty committed. After the shoot in mid-March, Josh posted the following photo and comment to Facebook…
Over the next 21 days, I’m planning to provide one excellent reason each week to donate to the just-launched GoFundMe for the AVALON UNIVERSE‘s new series of Star Trek fan films, a multi-episode saga that will be titled “Crisis on Infinite Excaliburs.” The campaign had a soft launch last week and has already taken in over $1,200 in donations before most fans even knew it was happening! But today marks the official kick-off, and with it, my series of blogs.
Of course, if you don’t want to wait for me to convince you, feel free to click on over and donate something right now (and watch the “ask” video; it’s awesome!)…
I know, I know. It seems like lately there’s been a new Star Trek fan film crowd-funding campaign every month. And yep, there has! Back in May, CGI sensei SAMUEL COCKINGS raised more than $13K for his series of six (or is it seven?) anthology fan films under the canopy title of TREK SHORTS. Then in June, it was DREADNOUGHT DOMINION‘s turn, as GARY DAVIS successfully topped their $5K goal for two Dominion episodes plus the debut episode of their new PROJECT RUNABOUT fan series.
And as July begins, we go for the “hat trick” as JOSHUA IRWIN has just launched the most ambitious of these back-to-back-to-back campaigns, endeavoring to raise $20K for a new series of fan films set in the Avalon Universe.
There have already been six Avalon Universe fan films: GHOST SHIP, AVALON LOST, DEMONS, LEGACY, AIR AND DARKNESS, and NEW ORDERS…nearly two hours of super-high quality Star Trek fan films with a combined hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. And a seventh film, COSMIC STREAM, is set to premiere later this month…with an eighth film, AGENT OF NEW WORLDS, already in production!
Believe it or not, Josh has only ever held ONE Avalon crowd-funding campaign before now…back in early 2019, he raised $6,500. All the rest of the production costs for Avalon—literally tens of thousands of dollars—have been paid for out of Josh’s pocket…and this guy ain’t exactly living the lifestyle of the rich and famous!
Understandably, most fan filmmakers can only self-fund for so long before they need to ask for a little help from their friends…which is why many Star Trek fan productions seek support through crowd-funding. And indeed, that’s why I’m writing this blog (and the three weekly blogs that will follow): because Josh is my friend—along with being my Director of Photography and Editor on INTERLUDE. I’m also writing these blogs because I love the quality of Josh’s work, I love the Avalon Universe, and oh…
…BECAUSE JOSH IS BRINGING BACK CAPTAIN JAKANDE!!!
Yep, that’s the big Reason #1 to donate to this campaign!
It was Sunday afternoon, and I was having a call with JOSHUA IRWIN of the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series (Josh was also my director of photography and editor on INTERLUDE). Josh has been deep in planning for his next crowd-funding campaign for not one but TWO new Avalon fan films, both of which will feature the return WARREN HAWK as the Captain Jakande of the Avalon Universe…along with introducing two other really interesting new characters.
Josh and I were discussing strategies and timing, since there’s been a lot of “traffic” in the crowd-funding highway of late. Last month, SAMUEL COCKINGS raised a very impressive $13.7K for his six-film project TREK SHORTSIndiegogo campaign. And although I didn’t cover it, MARC SCOTT ZICREE just took in $86K in the Kickstarter for the conclusion of the “Forgiveness” 2-parter of SPACE COMMAND. That’s a LOT of funds raised during a month that included the delayed Tax Day for those of us in the United States!
This month, it’s GARY DAVIS and DREADNOUGHT DOMINION‘s turn to try to reach $5K in their latest Indiegogo campaign to fund three fan films (two episodes of Dominion plus one of the new fan series PROJECT RUNABOUT).
Now, you folks probably don’t know about what I’m about to tell you, but these three show-runners—Sam Cockings, Gary Davis, and Josh Irwin—have been trying very hard not to step on each other’s toes when it comes to their campaigns. When it looked like Samuel might not make it to his goal for Trek Shorts within the 30-day deadline, I suggested he might take advantage of Indiegogo’s “extension” option to give him an extra 30 days to meet his goal. But Sam was adamant that his campaign had to be over by the time Dominion‘s began on June 1st, as Sam didn’t want to compete for donor dollars (or pounds, in Sam’s case).
The same was true when I spoke to Gary, asking if he’d be willing to extend his deadline if it looked like he’d be coming up short by the end of June. Again, no…Gary did not want to compete with Josh, whose Avalon Universe crowd-funder would be up next.
But as I discussed things with Josh on Sunday, there emerged a small wrinkle. Y’see, one of the first pieces of advice I give to fan filmmakers when they set up a crowd-funder is: “Your campaign launch should NEVER be a surprise!” Always tease the kick-off of the new campaign with at least a few weeks of lead-up—posts on social media, videos, interviews, etc.—building excitement and anticipation.
There’s a lot of love and camaraderie in the fan film community. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy creating and maintaining this blog. Oh, sure, there’s also some trolls and drama and silly “feuds,” but honestly, I don’t really pay much attention to all of that anymore because it’s pretty meaningless.
What is meaningful—with the emphasis on the FULL part—is all the positivity that Star Trek fan films bring…because when it comes right down to it, we’re FANS. It’s what got me involved in the world of Star Trek to begin with, knowing there was this group of people who loved something that I loved, too, that we could share and bond over…no matter our backgrounds or location or anything else that might separate us. Star Trek brought us TOGETHER!
And that’s why I cheered when I saw this new vignette from the AVALON UNIVERSE…
NEW ORDERS might not seem like much. There’s minimal VFX, and only two characters are talking to each other via subspace for most of it, with a third popping up at the very end. But for me, it was so much more—it was a chance for me to watch two dear friends come together to make a fan film.
JOSHUA IRWIN and VANCE MAJOR have worked together before this. Josh (as well as his Avalon Universe collaborator VICTORIA FOX) has appeared in some of Vance’s CONSTAR productions, like “SHAKEDOWN.” And Vance made a very brief cameo in the Avalon Universe episode DEMONS. But this time felt different. New Orders wasn’t simply one of them appearing briefly in the other’s film. It was two fan filmmakers who have become “legends” in our small-but-close-knit community, coming together as equals, and teasing the arrival of an awesome fan-favorite character into a fresh, new universe.
The fun thing about the Avalon Universe is that it’s Star Trek–ish but without five decades of canon weighing it down…kinda like what Star Trek: Discovery coulda/shoulda been had they just told us from the beginning that it was a parallel Trek universe (then most of us would have forgiven the different-looking Klingons and shiny uniforms and super-advanced tech). So characters from “standard” Star Trek fan films can pop up in the Avalon Universe in completely new ways. In fact, Captain Jakande, who died in my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE, will be making an appearance in an upcoming Avalon fan film, alive and healthy and played by actor WARREN HAWK.
As most of you probably know, Josh and Victoria were my directors on Interlude, and I consider both to be good friends. We often spend hours on the phone. The same is true for Vance, for whom a “short” call between the two of us is defined as anything under an hour!
So when I saw Josh and Vance having their own subspace “call” in New Orders, I decided to ask them both to say a few words about this new project…
I’ve been writing a series of blogs about all of the typical things that happen with fan films, things that I’ve been encountering during the development of INTERLUDE. But now it’s time for something that I don’t think has ever happened on any Star Trek fan film!
Someone in our cast has asked (demanded, actually) for his shots to be completely REMOVED from the Interlude fan film…forcing us to re-shoot specific scenes using a different actor and to re-edit those scenes back into a new version.
The actor in question is PAUL JENKINS. I won’t go into details on this other than to say what is already known publicly: that Paul and ALEC PETERS are involved in litigation following Paul’s parting of ways from the AXANAR sequels in the early summer of last year. As I understand it, Paul is concerned that his appearance in a fan film that features Alec Peters in a leading role within the Axanar continuity could imply some kind of endorsement by Paul of Alec, Axanar, Ares Studios, and/or Axanar Productions.
Paul’s request/demand for all footage of him be removed from Interlude came first via a Facebook message sent to me barely 24 hours before the big premiere on April 5. Obviously, that was not enough time for us to make such significant changes, and we weren’t about to delay the release on such short notice. I’d already told the entire fan film community plus my friends and family about it. Heck, my parents had told all of their friends about it!
So as planned, we premiered the version of Interlude (with Paul in it) that we’d worked so hard to complete, but on the request/demand of Paul and his CEO at META Studios, a disclaimer was pinned as the top comment of the YouTube video page making clear that “META Studios and its employees, including Founder and Chief Creative Officer Paul Jenkins, DO NOT endorse the use of the Axanar logo and the solicitation of funds for the purpose of creating fan films associated with CBS intellectual property. “
So yeah, that happened.
We also agreed to their imposed constraint that Interlude could only be posted to the AVALON UNIVERSE YouTube channel and not to the Axanar YouTube channel, probably costing us a few hundred thousand views during our opening week. The video still crossed 50K views in 12 days with more than a 97% thumbs-up/thumbs-down ratio, so I didn’t really lose any sleep over it.
Meanwhile, our director of photography/editor JOSHUA IRWIN jumped into action to act on to Paul’s main request.demand to be removed entirely from Interlude, and two weeks later, Josh has come through with flying colors.
It was on Christmas day that LEGACY, the latest vignette glimpse into the parallel AVALONStar Trek Universe, debuted…generating an average of around 500 YouTube views per day and nearly 97.3% thumbs up. And it’s not surprising that there would be so many likes (in fact, one wonders what those 2.7% thumbs down were thinking!), since the two show-runners of the Avalon Universe, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN, are both experienced film industry professionals in Arkansas.
Fast forward to New Years Day, and the Legacy “appetizer” made way for the main course: a brand new 20-minute Avalon fan film titled AIR AND DARKNESS. And what a meal it was! This 20-minute fan film has seen an average of nearly 1.5K YouTube views per day and 98.5% thumbs up. This newest release not only follows the introduction from Legacy, but it also picks up on the mysterious plot points left unresolved in the excellent 2-part Avalon release DEMONS from late 2019.
Shot during COVID – while most of the recent “fandemic” films tend to have just one character on the screen at a time, that would have been impossible with this production due to the stunts requiring hand-to-hand combat. So Victoria and Josh came up with a very clever way to work masks into the outdoor fight scenes and simultaneously minimize the need for make-up. It’s also worth noting the skill with which many shots on bridge set were composed to have the minimum number of (maskless) actors in front of the camera simultaneously.
Shot at outside night – You don’t usually see Star Trek fan films with exterior evening or night scenes because it’s challenging to light them well enough for most video cameras to pick up the images. But as I said, Director of Photography (and Co-Writer/Co-Director) Josh Irwin does this professionally and knows his craft.
The stunts – Again, you don’t usually see convincing hand-to-hand fight scenes in Star Trek fan films. But when your main star is also an accomplished martial artist and works in the entertainment industry, you’ve got a valuable asset. CHUCK MERÉ, who plays Captain Lance Ramirez, was the fight choreographer and did a fantastic job. He also was one of two FX make-up artists on the production.
Bridge chatter – Last year, I came up with an idea to have folks in the fan film community record “bridge chatter” for use in my fan film INTERLUDE (which Josh and Victoria have both done amazing work on). My goal was always to make those sound clips available for any fan filmmaker, and a number of them were used for Air and Darkness…and they sound AWESOME!
And now you know some of what to look and listen for. So sit back and enjoy…