AVALON UNIVERSE takes on Pon Farr in THE NEEDS OF THE ONE… (part 1: video interview with ALEXANDRA REXFORD)

THE AVALON UNIVERSE first emerged onto the Star Trek fan film scene back in 2018 with the release of GHOST SHIP, one of the only fan films to ever infest a starship with zombies! This new fan series featured both TOS Prime and Kelvin-timeline uniforms shot on TOS sets (originally at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Georgia and later at WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas). Having their own alternate universe to “play” in allowed showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN and his team tell stories with a distinct Star Trek “feel” while not locking themselves into five decades of existing canon.

Since that premiere less than four years ago, Avalon Universe has been a veritable fan production machine, releasing what has now reached ten completed films (you can view them all on this play list)—seven major projects ranging from 15 to just over 30 minutes each plus three shorter vignettes. That’s two and a half fan films per year, folks…with more on the way!

Speaking of which, this latest release includes a bumper at the beginning announcing the launch of a new Indiegogo campaign, attempting to raise $8K to crowd-fund their most ambitious production to date, CRISIS ON INFINITE EXCALIBURS. If you’re able to donate, there’s some really nice perks (some of which I designed for the team). Here’s the link…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/crisis-on-infinite-excaliburs-a-star-trek-fan-film

One of the things that sets Avalon apart from many other fan series is the level of quality of the lighting, sound, music, overall cinematography, VFX, make-up, editing, and of course, the acting in each new release. Much of this can be traced back to Josh Irwin himself and the fans he manages to get on his team. Josh works professionally in the film industry in Arkansas, as do many of his cast and crew. This allows Avalon fan films to achieve a polished look and feel beyond what your typical Star Trek fan film.

Their latest release, THE NEEDS OF THE ONE, has a runtime of just under a half-hour and tells the story of a female Vulcan crew member undergoing pon farr while on board. And while we’ve certainly seen that before in both TOS and Enterprise, this tale tackles the concept in a new and unique way (not easy to do with nearly 1,000 hours of filmed Star Trek episodes and movies out there!). Along the way, The Needs of the One introduces fans to a bunch of fascinating and engaging new characters along with recasting the role of first officer Mikaela Allenby, played in the previous release, AGENT OF NEW WORLDS, by ILLIA “PIXI” NEREID and in this new film by ALEXANDRA REXFORD.

The Needs of the One had already generated over 1,100 views on YouTube in the first six hours. Check it out here…

Pretty impressive, huh?

Continue reading “AVALON UNIVERSE takes on Pon Farr in THE NEEDS OF THE ONE… (part 1: video interview with ALEXANDRA REXFORD)”

Production assistant on THE FEDERATION FILES makes an awesome BEHIND-THE-SCENES video about the experience!

CHALEN (pronounced SHAY-len) EVERTS was taking community college classes at North Arkansas College in Harrison when she heard from one of her friends about someone nearby looking for people to help out on, of all things, a Star Trek fan film!

“I’d never seen Star Trek all the way through,” says Chalen. “I still haven’t. Actually I am a Star Wars fan…lol. But I was very interested in acting in film, and it was the closest opportunity to me.” So she decided to take up the offer to help out. The only problem was that she had no idea how to get in touch with showrunner GLEN WOLFE!

“At the time, I didn’t have Facebook,” Chalen continues, “so I created an account just to get in contact with someone I didn’t know. So now it’s a running joke that I got on Facebook just to talk to Glen Wolfe.”

Glen has nothing but praise for Chalen: “She’s been with us since VOICES FROM THE PAST and fit in perfectly from day one. She volunteered to do ‘anything we needed,’ and we took her up on it. She has helped me in every facet of producing all of the subsequent episodes.”

Even though it’s over an hour’s drive each way for her to get to the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS, Chalen has become an essential part of THE FEDERATION FILES fanthology series…on both sides of the camera! She played one of the three Vulcans on the moon base in NO GOOD DEED. And for their latest episode, MUDD’S MISSION (premiering next month), Chalen actually brought four of her friends (all the way from Wisconsin, where she’s originally from) to be extras!

She also worked with JOSHUA IRWIN on the AVALON UNIVERSE fan film AGENT OF NEW WORLDS. According to Josh, Chalen came through for him in creating the cave interior set when Glen was sick and couldn’t do the build. “She saved our shoot!” recalls Josh. “Normally, I call Glen the superhero of the fan film world. But Chalen was the superhero for us that day.”

“From my point of view,” says Glen’s filmmaking partner DAN REYNOLDS, “Chalen has been a steady rock as a production assistant for several Federation Files episodes. She shirks at no menial tasks that we ask of her and is ready at a moment’s notice to help with anything we need.”

Bright and cheery, Chalen posted a video last week of footage she shot behind-the-scenes during two of the filming days for Mudd’s Mission. I already reported on one of those shooting days, as a late June heat-wave turned one of the non-air-conditioned WARP 66 studio buildings into a veritable oven baking both cast and crew. Chalen was there, doing her usual production assistant tasks, but also shooting a bit of her own footage of what was going on both on set and off (and even in her car!).

Continue reading “Production assistant on THE FEDERATION FILES makes an awesome BEHIND-THE-SCENES video about the experience!”

AVALON UNIVERSE releases a trailer for THE NEEDS OF THE ONE…just THREE DAYS before the premiere!

The AVALON UNIVERSE is a very unique Star Trek fan series. Some viewers see the uniforms and mistakenly think these stories take place in the Kelvin timeline. They don’t. But they don’t take place in the Prime timeline either. The Avalon Universe has its own continuity and mythos. Yes, many (not all) of the uniforms are from JJ Trek, but the sets are all straight TOS (shot at both WARP 66 STUDIOS in northern Arkansas and NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA). And the U.S.S. Excalibur looks mostly like TOS but with some intriguing upgrades and refinements.

Having your own alternate universe to play around in has given showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN intriguing opportunities to tell stories that retain the heart of Star Trek without being “trapped” by 56 years of canon. It’s led to the release of nine superb fan films since 2018 (you can view them all here) with a tenth, THE NEEDS OF THE ONE, debuting this Thursday at 7pm Central Time.

In anticipation of that premiere, earlier today Josh posted a 60-second trailer for the new episode…

I asked Josh what fans can expect from this latest film (beyond what’s shown in the trailer)…

“We’re going to get to know more characters on the Excalibur, all while following Commander Allenby’s journey. She’s just become first officer, and Commodore Jakande is giving her a chance to prove herself under really difficult circumstances. But that’s what commanding a starship is all about, right? How she handles the challenges in this film will take her out of her comfort zone. ALEXANDRA REXFORD, who just joined our cast, has added so many incredible layers to this wonderful character. Fans are definitely going to want to see more of Alex in future films.”

Josh also discussed another new addition to the cast, CORA WILSON…

“Speaking of characters fans are going to want to see again, Cora just knocks it out of the park as Nurse T’Prin! She was originally going to be just a one-off character for this specific story of a Vulcan female going through pon farr and watching what it does to her both physically and emotionally. Playing a Vulcan is challenging enough, but playing one trying to maintain control and failing is really hard. LEONARD NIMOY did it the best, of course, but Cora’s performance is amazing. I can’t wait for people to see it!

“Anyway, now that this episode is completed, I can’t imagine not revisiting this character in a future story or two, and I suspect the fans will want to see her again, as well.”

Continue reading “AVALON UNIVERSE releases a trailer for THE NEEDS OF THE ONE…just THREE DAYS before the premiere!”

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

The shoots must go on – filming MUDD baking in an OVEN!

You’ve probably heard it on the news—or maybe you’re experiencing it yourself. There is a massive “dome of heat” sitting across much of America right now with temperature records being broken left and right. Even in the higher elevation Ozark Mountain area, the mercury on the thermometer outside read 95 degrees last Saturday. And it wasn’t just any kind of hot. It was the southeastern U.S. in June…meaning sticky, humid heat that melts you into a puddle of sweat even if you’re standing in the shade!

But inside WARP 66 STUDIOS in the town of Flippin, Arkansas, well, it was even HOTTER!!! Actually, I should specify that inside one of the WARP 66 Studios, it was even hotter. That’s because their TOS sets occupy two different locations. The bridge and shuttlecraft sets live in a nice, air-conditioned building owned by DAN REYNOLDS in Harrison, AR, and even though the lights and warm bodies can heat things up a bit, those two sets remain pretty comfortable.

However, things are much different in Flippin! GLEN L. WOLFE constructed a metal building on his property that currently houses the transporter room, briefing room, sickbay, corridors, and a swing set area. The building has no insulation, and only one small room inside for the actors to prep has a small A/C unit. The rest of the building is “cooled” by running small fans to move the air around. But when it’s 95 and humid outside, those poor fans are fighting a losing battle, and with the hot lights and bodies inside, you may as well be filming inside of an oven!

“It was dead air inside and hotter,” said Dan Reynolds, who served as director of photography for this oppressively sweltering Saturday shoot. “Thank goodness Glen built it with extremely high ceilings.”

Interestingly, not one but TWO different fan films shot simultaneously on those super-hot sets. The first and more significant of the two (in terms of total footage filmed) was for the next episode from Glen and Dan’s “fanthology” series THE FEDERATION FILES. Titled “MUDD’S MISSION,” this new production brings back two colorful characters from the series’ very first release back n 2016, “HIS NAME IS MUDD“: Captain Charles McCann of the U.S.S. Constitution, played by JIM VON DOLTEREN, and the irredeemable Harcourt Fenton Mudd played with flair by DAVID WHITNEY.

DAVID WHITNEY as Harry Mudd with DAN REYNOLDS (left) and JOSHUA IRWIN (right)

David, who lives in Iowa, actually filmed his scenes a couple of weeks ago during a much more pleasant weekend. “Up until June,” said JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner for the AVALON UNIVERSE, who was also there this past weekend filming pick-up shots for that team’s upcoming release THE NEEDS OF THE ONE, “the weather in Flippin can be pretty mild. In fact, late spring this year has been cloudy and rainy, even into May. But June is about the farthest you can do it. July and August are out for shooting there, and we don’t typically schedule anything until September again.”

So why not simply cancel the hot shoot and come back some cooler day?

Continue reading “The shoots must go on – filming MUDD baking in an OVEN!”

Two MAJOR fan film shoots on TWO CONTINENTS in one weekend!

I’m not sure what MOST of you did this past weekend, but I do know what a FEW of you were doing…and believe me, it was exciting!

In the mythical land of northwestern Arkansas, JOSHUA IRWIN was making movie magic with the cast and crew from the AVALON UNIVERSE. But this time, he was not shooting on the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS. No, instead, Josh and the team were inside of a martial arts gym filming what looks to be an amazing fight scene. Despite many such fights in TOS (Kirk punched almost as often as he kissed!), fan films usually shy away from dangerous stunt fighting because, well…it’s dangerous! But this fight scene is using real black belts and trained martial arts fighters.

Meanwhile, in the equally mythical land of England, across the pond known as the Atlantic Ocean, the Great CGI Wizard of Star Trek SAMUEL COCKINGS finally had all of the actors necessary—after nearly 4-years!—to shoot the raw green screen footage for the mega-crossover fan film extravaganza CONVERGENCE. Crowd-funded in late 2018, Convergence seemed to be cursed by delays in getting actors to England all at the same time and then by COVID. Indeed, in the meantime, Sam has shot the footage for and released many of the TREK SHORTS fan films that he crowd-funded in 2021! But Sam finally assembled the Convergence “Avengers” for a grueling and ambitious—but still fun!—four-day shoot near his home in Bedfordshire, U.K.

The two fan film shoots that took place over this past weekend couldn’t have been more different…and I don’t just mean the actors’ accents! One was shot in a practical location with physical stunts. The other was limited to the front of a green screen, constraining most exaggerated movement by the characters. One was set in the 23rd century the other in the 24th. And one was filled mainly with actors who have previous experience in fan films. The other featured mostly cast members for whom this will be their first fan film!

As a change of pace, I’m going to do a two-for-one blog, spotlighting both of these shoots on different continents by letting each of their showrunners say a few words…

Continue reading “Two MAJOR fan film shoots on TWO CONTINENTS in one weekend!”

Three positive COVID-19 tests among AVALON UNIVERSE cast and crew delay film shoot!

In a video interview that we did during the end of December, JOSHUA IRWIN of the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series was excited for a film shoot they had scheduled for early January. That shoot was supposed to be this weekend, but three significant members of the cast and crew have each, separately, been diagnosed with COVID-19 this past week, necessitating the delay of the shoot at least until February.

This was a major shoot for their next fan project, “The Needs of the One.” The story deals with a Vulcan crew member going through pon farr, similar to the beginning of the TOS episode episode “Amok Time.” But the similarities end there, as this crew member doesn’t simply accept the ancient traditions of the Vulcan culture where Vulcan females are “promised” to males as children. This episode turns all of that on its ear…or so I’m told.

This isn’t the first time a fan film has needed to delay a shoot due to COVID. Indeed, an earlier release from Avalon, AIR AND DARKNESS, had a COVID delay in late 2020, just as the pandemic seemed to potentially be receding a little (yeah, that didn’t happen).

Interestingly, it isn’t just Avalon that had to cancel a Star Trek-related film shoot this week. On Thursday, production on STAR TREK: PICARD season three had to be suspended when more than 50 members of the production crew (out of a total of 450) returned from the holiday break testing positive for COVID. SIR PATRICK STEWART was, thankfully, not among those reported to be sick. Filming restarted on Friday with COVID-negative replacements.

And it’s not just here in America where COVID is interfering with production. British Earl of CGI, SAMUEL COCKINGS, has already lost three shooting days for TREK SHORTS due to last-minute COVID infections. Sam has tried to make lemons from lemonade, though. During shoots when a single actor has had to cancel because of a positive COVID test or exposure to someone with COVID, Sam used the opportunity to either shoot scenes for alternate films or else write entirely new shorts with the actor or actors who did show up. You can read about one of those incidents in this blog about the origin of the bonus fan film HOURS AT WARP.

Three additional shooting days for Sam were affected by non-COVID illnesses (bloke can’t catch a break!) But because of costs to bring the actors in, travel and lodging, plus having to set up new shoots to replace the impacted ones, Sam no longer has the funds remaining to complete everything he promised donors. So Sam plans to launch an additional crowd-funding campaign. “There will be a LOT of new stuff to show,” Sam told me, “both to reveal what we actually did in 2021 but also all the new things we need help with finishing in 2022 and 2023!”

Continue reading “Three positive COVID-19 tests among AVALON UNIVERSE cast and crew delay film shoot!”

Please VOTE for INTERLUDE in the 5th Annual IndieBOOM! Film + Music Festival!

It was late 2017 when the IndieBOOM! Film Festival debuted with a category exclusively for “FAN FILMS”—one of the first major film competitions to do so. Created by the team at the award-winning Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, IndieBOOM! offers categories for filmmakers, musicians, and screenwriters working in all short-form formats and genres. In addition to Fan Films, their other categories include Comedy, Drama, Documentary, Horror/Sci-Fi, Experimental, Eusic Videos and Musicals, Animation, Series, Commercials, Dance, and Songs.

In 2019, the winner in the Fan Film category (and also the Sci-Fi category) was “Walking Bear, Running Wolf” from THE FEDERATION FILES. In 2020, the winning fan film was BATMAN: THE SCHEME IS SOUND, which (even though it wasn’t Star Trek) was written, directed, and produced by the man who composed the music for my fan film INTERLUDE: KEVIN CROXTON. And at the beginning of 2021, the announced winner in the category was a Star Wars fan film from Mexico titled JUNDLAND: NO MAN’S LAND.

Now, that we’re in 2022, I think it might be time for a Star Trek fan film to win again. What do you think?

This year’s official selections in the IndieBOOM! Fan Film category include two live-action Star Wars films (one from Australia and one from the USA), an animated Ghostbusters short from the USA, a live-action Jurassic Park fan film from the UK, a James Bond fan film from the USA with kids playing all the role, and two live-action Star Trek fan films from the USA. One of those is my fan film Interlude, and the other is an amalgamation of two fan films from The Federation Files (USA) released over the past two years.

Obviously, I’d like you to please vote for Interlude, although the choice is certainly up to you!

Voting is done by watching on Vimeo, and every view counts as one vote. So watch early, watch often! (Actually, if Vimeo works like YouTube, then each computer browser can log only one vote…so no cheating, I guess!)

Voting runs continuously from today through January 16. Here is the link to view and vote for Interlude

https://www.indieboomff.com/interlude-star-trek.html

And maybe give it a like while you’re there, just so I know there’s someone out there watching Interlude.

The first prize for the most viewed film over all of the various categories wins $500. If Interlude wins (fingers crossed!), I intend to donate the prize money to the AVALON UNIVERSE GoFundMe so my DP and Film Editor on Interlude, JOSHUA IRWIN, can produce even more awesome Star Trek fan films. I fully expect to see him winning IndieBOOM! next year!

I encourage you all to check out each of the wonderful films selected as finalists. And if you do choose to vote for Interlude, I thank you.

AVALON UNIVERSE (re)releases AGENT OF NEW WORLDS…version 2.0! (video interview with JOSHUA IRWIN)

On Halloween, JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner of the the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series, released the team’s latest full-length fan film, AGENTT OF NEW WORLDS. It marked the beginning of a new era for their fan series, introducing multiple new characters and jumping the story forward in time to the next captain and crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur, following the departure of former stars VICTORIA FOX and CHUCK MERÉ from the series earlier this past year.

The new release was a labor of love for all involved…in more ways than one. For some on Team Avalon, it meant dozens of hours of round-trip driving to remote outdoor filling locations…along with trips to the TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS in Avalon‘s home state of Arkansas. For Josh himself, the total distance driven surpassed 5,500 miles!!! For an explanation of how that happened, along with a description of one of their most dangerous shoots, take a read through this blog from back in August.

Fast forward to Christmas Day (because, apparently, Josh really likes holiday releases), and Josh surprised the fan film community with a NEW cut of Agent of New Worlds. Apparently, “really good” wasn’t good enough for Josh, as he made about a dozen tweaks and improvements to the film. Take a look at version 2.0…

Amusingly, this wasn’t Josh’s only update of a previously-released fan film. A couple of weeks earlier, after working with me and composer KEVIN CROXTON for about four months, Josh released a third version of INTERLUDE. You can read all about that new edit, what was changed and why, and watch the new version on this blog page.

After watching the new version of Interlude, one of my readers commented that it might be fun to post the previous version and the newest version side-by-side so that fans could compare the two. Perhaps someday. But when it comes to Agent of New Worlds, I can do you one better right now!

Josh and I just finished a special interview that’s a bit different than my usual fare. This video chat focuses on each of the changes that Josh made—showing the “before” and “after” of each shot—followed by Josh explaining how and why he made the adjustment(s).

It’s a really fun and informative interview, especially if you’re interested in film editing. Josh is great at explaining both the philosophical side as well as the technical side without making your eyes glaze over. Also, there’s just a lot of enjoyable banter back and forth between us. I think you’ll really like watching this one…

Oh, and remember that the Avalon GoFundMe campaign is still active, and donations go directly into making really awesome fan films…

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

‘Tis the season for GIVING…to FAN FILMS!

When folks come to me for advice on crowd-funding their fan projects, I always tell them the same thing: DON’T LAUNCH YOUR CAMPAIGN DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON!!! Ever since 2015, I’ve noticed that fan film crowd-funders that try to raise donations in November and December often struggle to reach their goals or even fail outright. The holiday season seems to be a “donation desert” for fan films.

It makes total sense. Nearly everyone is buying Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanza or Festivus) gifts for friends and family. And before COVID, people used to take expensive vacations during the holidays to visit family or just get away—remember when that used to happen? Charities, of course, usually choose this time to appeal to that ol’ spirit of giving and approach (hopefully) generous donors to give a little sumthin’. And soon Christmas bonus checks are spent before they even get cashed, and bank account balances do their impression of the Titanic.

I get that…not the time for fan films to ask for money.

But this past Monday, I received a bunch of e-mails from various places informing me that “Giving Tuesday” was here. So now we apparently have Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and…Giving Tuesday? When did that become a thing? Actually it started in 2012 at New York City’s famous 92rd Street Y (where I went to summer camp back in 1981) and has grown into an international movement to encourage a little healthy philanthropy among the manic bargain-hunting.

I wasn’t able to write a blog in time for this year’s Giving Tuesday because I just had cataract surgery early this week, and it took away my ability to see the text on my computer screen for a couple of days. Today is the first day I’ve got reliable sight back enough to compose a blog.

I’d actually been meaning to post something reminding folks about the ongoing Fan Film Factor Patreon to cover my annual expenses for keeping this blog site running. Currently, I’m taking in enough in monthly donations to cover the costs of domain registration and hosting, technical support, and security services.

But last month, I added a new annual expense: a $160/year Pro Account for Zoom. You might have noticed that I’ve been doing more video interviews with fan filmmakers lately. Zoom is an easy way to reach multiple people and record the interview calls. And Zoom is free as long as your call is less than 45 minutes or has only one other person on it. But my interviews go 60-90 minutes, and I often have multiple people on at the same time.

So with “Giving Tuesday” happening, even though we’re in the middle of the “fan film donation desert,” as I call it, I thought this might be a good time to post a little reminder about my Patreon

I’m looking for monthly contributions of $1, $2, whatever folks can spare to help cover the annual expenses of Fan Film Factor

PATREON link: https://www.patreon.com/fan_film_factor

Continue reading “‘Tis the season for GIVING…to FAN FILMS!”