Last week, I began chatting with VANCE MAJOR, the “Where’s Waldo of Star Trek fan films.” After completing nearly three dozen fan films featuring the (long) career of the character of Erick Minard, Vance briefly stepped away from producing Trek fan films. Briefly.
He returned to the fold early last year, announcing the launch of production onTHE CONSTAR CHRONICLES. While these new fan films would also feature Vance playing Minard, they would now focus on various members of his crew, once again weaving a complex tapestry of stories that could be viewed individually or as one long saga. In this way, Vance skirts the “no ongoing series” guideline (kinda) because these will be individual, self-contained stories and not an ongoing series. In fact, The Constar Chronicles isn’t even the official name of the production. Ultimately, it will simply be a number of separate fan films which feature some of the same characters serving on the same starship(s).
Last month, Vance released the following trailer…
In Part 1, Vance talked about the filmmaking process so far on Constar. But then we left off with a most intriguing question…
I’ve affectionately referred to VANCE MAJOR as the “Where’s Waldo of Star Trek fan films.” Between his appearances in episodes of Starship Valiant, Melbourne, The Lexington Adventures, Dreadnought Dominion, The Romulan Wars, and Outlaws…and his own Minard series of nearly three dozen fan films (check them all out here)…plus his involvement in helping to schedule fan film shoots on Ray Tesi’s TOS sets in Kingsland, GA…well, Vance is pretty much everywhere in front of and behind the fan camera these days!
Vance is a prolific, low-budget fan filmmaker who doesn’t care if his characters are a little hefty for Starfleet or wear glasses or sneakers with their uniforms. He’s in it to have fun and tell his stories. If you like what he makes, great. If not, then don’t watch.
After wrapping up the Minard saga in February of 2018, Vance announced with 100% certainly that he was done producing Star Trek fan films. He had said all he needed to say, he was worn out and exhausted, and it was time to move onto other things in his life.
Well, that New Year’s resolution lasted only a few months…!
Early last year, Vance announced that he would be producing a new fan series, loosely titled THE CONSTAR CHRONICLES. I say “loosely” because the fan guidelines don’t allow for ongoing fan series. But while these will all deal with the same crew on the same starship(s), each will be a self-contained tale focused on a different character. Vance explained his decision to return to making fan films—and what would be different this time—in an audio interview in a blog back in August.
That was five months ago. But last month, Vance released the first trailer for Constar…
…and I figured now might be a good time to check in with him on how things are going.
The vast majority of the fan film community had no idea that GHOST SHIP was coming (including me)! But just a few weeks ago, on Halloween, the newest full-length Star Trek fan production from JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX debuted on YouTube.
Although shot mainly on the STAGE 9 STUDIOS starship sets previously used for Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut, I learned from interviewing Josh and Victoria that some scenes were also filmed at the Arkansas sets originally known as Starbase Studios. Their visual FX were done by Trekyards’ CGI genie SAMUEL COCKINGS, who will soon be releasing Temporal Anomaly and Convergence. Even VANCE MAJOR makes a cameo as the character Erick Minard. So these guys definitely got around the fan film world to make their project.
And what an impressive production it is! A “Star Trek meets The Walking Dead” mash-up, of sorts, the film combines spooky zombie horror tropes with comedic moments and fun characters to create a wonderfully enjoyable space adventure. And it follows the guidelines completely, including dividing the fan film into two less-than-15-minute segments. The cast is made up of trained actors along with a crew of experienced film producers. The result looks great, sounds great, and is written, directed, and edited at a noticeably high level.
That might be one of the reasons that the views for Ghost Ship have exploded on Youtube. When I conducted our interview on Wednesday of last week, Josh and Victoria were excited to see their total views had climbed over 8,000. Well, guess what? As I write this 8 days later, they’ve gone viral with more than 105,000 views!
Before I get to the fan and interview, let me take a moment to mention that GHOST SHIP and a growing number of other Trek fan films would not be possible without the generosity of RAY TESI, present owner of the TOS sets in of Kingsland, GA. Ray makes these sets available for free (well, the cost of electricity used during the shoot) to any fan filmmaker following the guidelines. But the $3,000/month rent is paid out of Ray’s own pocket.
Currently, there is an opportunity for fans to contribute a little bit each month (even a dollar makes a difference) through a PATREON. Right now, fans are donating $163 of that $3,000 monthly expense, but there’s always room for more help from our community. To donate, go to:
Pretty good fan film, huh? Want to learn more about how it was made, how long it took to complete, and where to go to find a dozen convincing zombies in southern Georgia? Take a listen to this really fun interview with writer/director Joshua Irwin and producer Victoria Fox…
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.)
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.
I like to call VANCE MAJOR the “Where’s Waldo of Star Trek fan films.” He seems to be all over the place, listed in the credits of Starship Valiant, Melbourne, The Lexington Adventures, Dreadnought Dominion, The Romulan Wars, and Outlaws. He’s also one of the two people running Starbase Studios, LLC at the moment, helping Trek fan filmmakers find resources and sets to shoot on.
And of course, Vance has played the character of Erick Minard in nearly three dozen fan films, including Starship Valiant, Melbourne, Chain of Command, Command and Conquer, and about 30 fan films in the MINARD saga spanning multiple eras of Star Trek.
Those Minard films came to a conclusion his past February. And in multiple interviews, Vance confirmed over and over again that this was it for him making fan films! He was willing to step in and help behind the scenes if asked, but he was done making his own fan films.
Well, that New Years resolution didn’t even make it past summer…
A couple of months ago, Vance announced that he would be returning to fan films with a new series titled CONSTAR CHRONICLES, about the heavy cruiser class starship that Minard commanded in the later part of his long career. The debut episode of that new series just premiered a few weeks ago as a 5-minute crossover with Dreadnought Dominion featuring Vance’s friend GARY DAVIS playing Captain Jason Brousseau. It’s a fun little vignette, and I must say that it’s about time! You’ll get that joke after you watch it…
Of course, the big question on my mind for Vance was: “What part of ‘I’m done with making fan films!’ isn’t he understanding???” But seriously, I was really curious what made Vance change his mind so quickly…and what his plans are for this new fan series. Will it go another 30 episodes like the Minard saga? How will it be different than what we’ve seen before? How soon until we see more episodes?
I asked Vance these questions and more in yet another audio interview (below). It feels like I have this guy as a guest on my blog almost monthly! (Maybe I should just rent him my guest bedroom…)
Starting in 2010, when Trek fans heard the words STARBASE STUDIOS, they thought of the 360-degree TOS bridge set (originally used for the second Starship Exeter fan film), rescued from a barn in Texas, brought to Oklahoma City, and restored for fans to use essentially for free. Over the years, countless fan films were shot on that bridge and, later, on the transporter, sickbay, briefing room, and other sets added into that small Oklahoma warehouse.
In 2017, however, everything changed…and not necessarily for the better. Forced to relocated when their free-rent warehouse was sold to a new owner, the sets were moved to Arkansas. An ownership struggle ensued that eventually gave way to a lawsuit and many months of discussions. When the dust settled, an agreement was signed between GLEN WOLFE (50% ownership) and SCOTT JOHNSON and GLENN MILLER (25% ownership each).
A previous owner, KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS, divested himself of any ownership of the sets but continued to operate a business entity known as Starbase Studios, LLC. Kent brought on VANCE MAJOR to help run the company, which was (and is) now acting to help fan filmmakers find resources to produce their projects…including sources of props, costumes, equipment, production team members, and sets to shoot on.
No longer limiting themselves simply to the TOS sets in Arkansas, Starbase Studios, LLC now works with a number of different set owners, including RAY TESI who owns the Stage 9 Studios TOS sets (formerly used by Star Trek Continues) in Georgia and RANDY LANDERS who built modified movie-era sets for Potemkin Pictures in Alabama.
Starbase Studios, LLC had fully intended to keep working with the owners of the Arkansas TOS sets…even shooting a commercial for their services there a back in May. However, last month, “Words” and Vance announced that they would no longer be referring fan filmmakers to the Arkansas sets.
Naturally, with such a major (and troubling) development, I reached out to “Words” and Vance and asked if they would care to go on the record to explain what had happened to trigger this significant decision on their part. You can listen to our 3-way discussion below…
Back in April of 2017, I interviewed VANCE MAJOR about his newest fan film release, MELBOURNE. The previous month, Vance and his long-time friend JEREMY MINARD (yes, Minard…like the character from Vance’s other fan films) had just released their first Melbourne fan film, the 11-minute “Storm Front, Part 1.” Unlike Vance’s other prolific fan project, the Minard saga—consisting of more than 30 individual fan films about the life and career of Engineer (and later Captain) Erick Minard—Melbourne would focus on an entirely different set of characters on board the USS Melbourne.
The scenes for both parts of “Storm Front” were filmed entirely on the Starbase Studios TOS sets when they were still in Oklahoma in 2016. In fact, Melbourne was one of the final two fan projects to film there before the sets were moved to Arkansas at the beginning of 2017.
With all of the footage “in the can,” as they say, it didn’t seem like it would be long until “Storm Front, Part 2” was released to complete the story. In fact, in Vance’s April 2017 interview, I asked him when he thought the conclusion might be available, and he answered:
Definitely this summer. I’m just waiting on my special effects guy, Craig Fray, to finish up with our CGI. Right now, he’s working hard on Valiant‘s next episode, “The Ties That Bind.” As soon as he’s done with them, he shifts over to us.
But instead of the summer of 2017, part two wasn’t released until the summer of 2018, about ten days ago. You can view it here…
So why the delay? I asked Vance that question a few days ago…
Last week, we took a look at the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, which debuted in early 2015 and returned in late 2016 and 2017 with two additional episodes that crossed over with STARSHIP VALIANT and Vance Major’s MINARD saga. Now Dominion is set for yet another return, and has launched a brand new GoFundMe campaign attempting to raise $1,500 for a full-length (two 15-minute episodes) fan film.
In the first part of my interview with show-runners GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN, we discussed the crowd-funder, the guidelines, and the two recent vignettes that were released. But were very outside-of-the box fan films. The first, “Reality Check,” debuted last month and features jumps between the Star Trek fan film universe and the “real” world where their production is actually being filmed. You can watch it here…
The second vignette, “Silent Acknowledgement,” focused on an intriguing concept: a communications officer who is deaf. Played by Gary’s wife TRACEY DAVIS, who is actually deaf and has cochlear implants, Lt. Paula Tomkins’ “disability” is no more a hindrance in the 23rd century than Geordi LsForge’s blindness was in the 24th century. For hearing impaired watchers of fan films, this is (I believe) the first totally deaf character to be featured in any fan production or series. You can watch the vignette below…
One of the most distinctive things about Dreadnought Dominion (in addition to the deaf communications officer and the use of a tri-nacelled Federation-class dreadnought design from the Franz Joseph Starfleet Technical Manual from the 1970s) is where the series has been filmed. The first two episodes and the most recent two vignettes were each filmed on the TOS sets in Kingsland, GA, previously used exclusively for the fan series Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues. No other fan production was ever allowed to film there. But Dominion filmed there years earlier and was also the first fan production to film on those sets just as the new owner, RAY TESI of STARSHIP REPUBLIC, was opening them up to other fan productions. How did they manage that…?
Yep, it’s another crowd-funder, folks! But this one’s only trying to reach $1,350…and they’re already about a third of the way there ($420) in just one week! So congratulations to THE LEXINGTON ADVENTURES! If you want to make a donation yourself, here’s the link. It’s a GoFundMe campaign, meaning there’s no perks. But there’s also no time limit and no requirement to meet a goal in order to collect the money raised.
This year actually didn’t start out so well on the fan film funding front. A Kickstarter back in March for The Holy Core failed to get even halfway to their $12K goal, despite being run by the same folks who wrote and directed the highly popularChance Encounter fan film. Fortunately, an angel donor can through and funded the entire production, so The Holy Core will be made, after all. Yay!
Things were still looking sluggish in April when a $10K Indiegogo for The Romulan War stalled about halfway to its goal. But after extending the campaign out an additional thirty days, The Romulan War not only fully funded but surpassed the goal with nearly $12K, allowing them to cover the overhead cost of using Indiegogo in the first place.
Also wrapping up last week and going over their Indiegogo goal was the non-Trek fan film (but edited by Axanar and Free Enterprise‘s own Robert Meyer Burnett) Sky Fighter, which blew past its $25K goal to finish at $31,284.
So things seem to be looking up for fan film crowd-funding…at least for now. Can The Lexington Adventures continue this trend and reach THEIR goal, as well? To do that, they need support from fans like you. Is Lexington worth your donation dollar?
For the answer to this question, I went right to the source: show-runner JOSEPH “JOEY” BONICE and VANCE MAJOR, who will be a producer on this fan film. Joey works for the U.S. government and is currently stationed in Germany. But he’ll be moving back to the U.S. soon and and will be diving right into working on The Lexington Adventures, currently scheduled for filming during the third week of September. Vance is known to most fans as the face of Erick Minard of Starship Valiant and about 30 other fan films that Vance wrote and directed.
It was quiet…too quiet. At least, that’s the way it’s seemed lately when it came to STARBASE STUDIOS in Arkansas…an amazing fan film resource of TOS sets including the Trek community’s only 360-degree USS Enterprise bridge. Since 2011, Starbase Studios has been used to shoot scenes for literally dozens of various Star Trek fan projects.
Starbase Studios has had a rather turbulent nine months, beginning last August when a significant number of props and set pieces were removed from the warehouse where the sets were being stored. This was followed by a lawsuit where one of the owners, GLEN WOLFE, sued the other owners, SCOTT JOHNSON and KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS, for ownership and monetary compensation. Fan filming there all but screeched to a halt for several months while both sides tried to negotiate a compromise.
With some outside assistance, a settlement agreement was signed earlier this year, and the sets are now owned by Glen Wolfe (50%), Scott Johnson (25%), and GLENN MILLER (25%)…although many of the items removed have not yet been returned. With the exception of a one-day video shoot with Parkview Elementary School students this past January (which had been reserved six months earlier), no filming has happened on the Starbase Studios sets since the new year began.
That changed this past weekend when a “who’s who” of Starbase Studios personnel got together in Marble Falls, Arkansas for a very special video shoot. Among the participants were Glen Wolfe and Scott Johnson, seeing each other in person for only the second time since the lawsuit was settled. Would they find a way to get along? Would that old feeling of camaraderie from fan filming Star Trek rekindle their friendship? Or had things been pushed too far for healing to happen?
Needless to say, I was dying to find out! And fortunately, Kent “Words” Edwards, who organized the weekend production, was nice enough to call me from the road and do a quick audio interview.
So let’s check in on Starbase Studios and see what’s up and what went down this past weekend…