CONSTAR CHRONICLES premieres in a crossover with Dreadnought Dominion: “TIME’S ECHO”

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…)

VANCE MAJOR (front) and the crew of the USS Constar

Some troubling news from STARBASE STUDIOS (audio interview with KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS and VANCE MAJOR)

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…

Vance Major and Kent “Words” Edwards of Starbase Studios, LLC

MELBOURNE’s “Storm Front, Part 2” fan film is finally released!

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…

Continue reading “MELBOURNE’s “Storm Front, Part 2” fan film is finally released!”

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION launches new GOFUNDME with two vignettes! (interview, part 2)

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…?

Continue reading “DREADNOUGHT DOMINION launches new GOFUNDME with two vignettes! (interview, part 2)”

Time to GO FUND the new fan film THE LEXINGTON ADVENTURES! (interview with JOSEPH BONICE and VANCE MAJOR)

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 popular Chance 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.

Let’s see what the guys had to say…

Continue reading “Time to GO FUND the new fan film THE LEXINGTON ADVENTURES! (interview with JOSEPH BONICE and VANCE MAJOR)”

Filming RESUMES at STARBASE STUDIOS (audio interview with KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS)

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…

Continuing drama for STARBASE STUDIOS…and my departure

Sometimes no good deed goes unpunished.  When last I reported on STARBASE STUDIOS, things looked like they would finally work out.  An agreement that had been in negotiation for three arduous months had finally been agreed to and signed by all parties. The Starbase Studios lawsuit filed by Glen Wolfe was dropped, and it seemed like things could return to normal.

The new owners of the sets would be GLEN WOLFE (50%), SCOTT JOHNSON (25%), and GLENN MILLER (25%).  KENT EDWARDS would no longer own any part of the sets but would continue to be involved with Starbase Studios, LLC, and working with fan filmmakers.

Although the sets would remain in their current location in Marble Falls, Arkansas until the end of this year, after that, plans were that they would be moved into a fantastic new building with heat, A/C, electrical, and best of all, bathrooms!  Free rent would be provided by the building’s owners, Glen Wolfe and his wife, and fan productions going through Starbase Studios would be able to continue using the sets essentially for free.  It was looking like Starbase Studios had gotten through the rough waters and emerged safely on the other side of the river.

Yeah, well, don’t get out of the boat just yet, folks…

Continue reading “Continuing drama for STARBASE STUDIOS…and my departure”

The first-ever ORVILLE fan film!

Yeah, I know I concentrate mainly on Star Trek fan films here, but seeing how this ORVILLE fan film was the work of VANCE MAJOR, I can make an exception.

As you’ll remember from previous blogs, Vance wrote, produced, appeared in, and in many cases directed nearly THREE DOZEN Trek fan films following the life and adventures of Starfleet officer Erick Minard.  And although Vance is stepping away from Trek fan films after having completed the multi-episodic Minard saga, he still apparently had one more fan project left in him…this time in The Orville universe.

The challenge with doing an Orville fan film, of course, is that the Planetary Union uniforms are twice as expensive (about $100-150) as the cheaper Halloween costumes available for Star Trek TOS and TNG/DS9/VOY-era uniforms.  And sets from the Orville are also very elaborate and not easily constructed.

Vance “solved” both of these problems.  For the uniforms, he simply didn’t bother.  He created a story in which the main character (Derek Minard…yeah, cute idea) is communicating from his quarters, apparently while off-duty and dressed in more leisurely wear.  As for the sets, a little green screen compositing can go a long way to making something look like it’s taking place on a futuristic spacecraft.  Throw in some original music by Vance’s close friend Dan T. Hawkins, and you’ve got yourself a short fan film.

The total run time is under nine minutes, even though Fox has no  guidelines limiting the length of a fan film the way CBS does.  Vance simply needed nine minutes to tell the story he wanted to.

And so the first Orville fan film “flag” is planted, and Vance Major now gets to be a footnote in Orville history.  Will other Orville fan films follow?  I hope so—although good luck on that Bortus make-up!  And will Fox decide to issue guidelines of their own?  Considering that Disney just acquired Fox, and the only fan film guidelines issued for Star Wars (which Disney also now owns) are simply for eligibility in their annual fan film awards competition, one would highly doubt it.  Also, Orville creator Seth MacFarlane is not exactly a stranger to fan films himself!

Anyway, enjoy the first-ever Orville fan film: THE MARIANA’S TRENCH, compliments of the now-legendary Vance Major…

VANCE MAJOR completes the MINARD Saga! (interview, part 2)

Yesterday, we began discussing the many fan films of MINARD saga with their creator, VANCE MAJOR.  Nearly three dozen different episodes make up this rich and expansive tapestry telling the story of Chief Engineer Erick Minard of the USS Valiant, who goes on to live a life that spans over 100 years of Star Trek time.  During that life, Minard serves under Captain Christopher Pike, marries, suffers loss, gets a command of his own, fights the Borg, meets his counterpart from the Kelvin timeline, and even battles his Mirror Universe doppelgänger.

And it all happens in series of short fan films made for little to no budget, purposefully told out of chronological order and thereby creating a viewing experience unlike anything else in the world of Trek fan films.  The Minard saga isn’t for everyone, but for fans who appreciate the storyline and the effort and dedication that went into producing it, a very rewarding journey (or should I say trek?) has just been completed with the release of Vance’s final 2-part, 25-minute episode The Best Things.

You can view ALL of the Minard episodes here in their order of release.

Later in this interview (below), Vance will introduce each of his final seven episode, and I’ll link to them from here.  But right now, let’s pick up with the conclusion of this great interview…

Continue reading “VANCE MAJOR completes the MINARD Saga! (interview, part 2)”

VANCE MAJOR completes the MINARD Saga! (interview, part 1)

Even the best things must come to an end…and so it is for the MINARD saga.  Depending on which films you count officially as part of this tapestry, the character of Erick Minard has appeared or been referenced in about THREE DOZEN different fan films!

More than thirty of these were written and produced by VANCE MAJOR (who plays the character of Erick Minard along with his mirror and Kelvin-verse alter-egos).  Minard has also appeared  in multiple episodes of Starship Valiant and Dreadnought Dominion.

Vance Major’s Minard films have ranged in length from 30-second parody vignettes to the full 15 minutes allowed by the fan film guidelines. His last episode, The Best Things, premieres today as a 2-part 25-minute finale.

With only a shoestring budget, Vance has done action, romance, comedy, suspense, quiet introspection, and even surreal dream sequences. He’s produced episodes featuring full casts of ten or more characters and other episodes with just two actors or even just one.  At one point, Vance released SEVEN Minard fan films in just SEVEN DAYS!  A couple of months later, Vance released another SIX Minard episodes in a SINGLE MONTH!

Vance’s Minard films range from Trek eras pre-Kirk to post-DS9…and they were NOT released chronologically.  This allowed viewers to jump around the century-long life of Erick Minard, experiencing a tapestry of moments that ultimately come together like puzzle pieces into a finished image.

You can view ALL of the Minard episodes here in their order of release.

Fan films can be the great equalizer when all one wants to do is simply tell his or her story without all the dazzle.  And that’s exactly what Vance Major has done…in a truly remarkable way.

I did an audio interview with Vance last summer (which is worth a listen), but he’s released nearly TWO DOZEN more fan films since then!  So to celebrate the successful conclusion of this ambitious fan series project, I decided to bring back Vance for a final 2-part print interview…

Continue reading “VANCE MAJOR completes the MINARD Saga! (interview, part 1)”