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…

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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…

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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…

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STARBASE STUDIOS settlement reached!!! (amen!)

When last we left STARBASE STUDIOS…aw heck, just read the blog, folks!  But long story short, VANCE MAJOR and I had worked tirelessly (and I mean that) for months trying everything we could to get these two parties—GLEN L. WOLFE on one side and SCOTT JOHNSON and KENT “WORDS” EDWARDS on the other—to compromise and reach a place where they could reasonably settle their lawsuit over the ownership of the Starbase Studios sets.

It was like pulling teeth…from a Klingon targ!

Every time we thought we had a settlement ready to sign, another problem seemed to crop up.  But then, by the middle of January, we finally had an agreement that everyone could live with.  Glen was taking it to his lawyer to review, but he was planning to sign it, send it along to Scott and Kent, and finally Starbase Studios could heal and move forward, once again becoming a place where fans could create amateur Star Trek film projects on professional-looking TOS sets.

That agreement was never signed.

So why the headline saying that a settlement has finally been reached?  Well, folks, it’s been an…interesting…three weeks!

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THIS is what happens when you ask JONATHAN LANE for a FAN FILM FAVOR!

On December 8th, I received an instant message on Facebook from VANCE MAJOR, the creator of the MINARD Saga of fan films.  Vance needed a favor from me.

Vance and I have become pretty good friends over the past year or so…divided only by the distance between southern California and Kansas, but united by our love for fan films and Star Trek, as well as our shared experiences as fathers to wonderful little boys.

Oh, and we’re both fan filmmakers.

Granted, Vance has done waaaaaaay more in that genre than I ever have, and I truly respect his work.  And that’s why I happily agreed to the favor he asked me.

For a few of his final productions, Vance wanted to include brief video clips of some of his closest friends from the fan film community.  One of these was a fan film titled Change (which was released last Friday).  All I needed for the short headshot clip was to look into the camera and say something like, “Comm secure, standing by…” or “Channel encrypted, go ahead…” and then stare at the screen for the next 15-20 seconds.  Then I would upload the video file to Vance who would do the rest, editing the various clips he received from folks into his final production.

Vance said he preferred a late 24th century uniform (final seasons of DS9), but if I didn’t have that style of uniform, I could just wear a black T-shirt and he’d composite my head onto a proper uniform.

Do I have a late-season DS9 uniform!?  Is the Pope Catholic???

(Actually that particular uniform was custom made for me about 15 years ago by none other than GABE KOERNER—yep, the same guy who does VFX for The Orville and just declared that he no longer thinks Alec Peters is a willful criminal.  Hi, Gabe.)

So I went out and bought a blue-colored matte board to serve as a makeshift blue screen background, came home, put on the uniform, set up some lamps, stuck my camera on a tripod, and recorded Vance’s 20 seconds of footage.

I also recorded something else for him—something that, um, well…

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Elementary school kids have a blast filming at STARBASE STUDIOS…and all hell breaks loose in fandom! (part 2)

Read Part 1 of this blog entry if you haven’t already.  Did you do it?  Good.

So it was now a few weeks before Christmas, and VANCE MAJOR was ready to tag out and I was ready to tag in to try to get this compromise settlement for STARBASE STUDIOS to the finish line.  Vance was exhausted, but he got the runners 90% of the way there.  Just a few teensy details left to work out…or so I thought.

Keep in mind, neither Vance nor I is a lawyer.  Instead, we were just trying, as friends, to help SCOTT JOHNSON and KENT EDWARDS work out a way where GLEN L. WOLFE would drop his lawsuit against them, and Starbase Studios could continue without fan filmmakers having to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to use the Starbase Studios TOS sets.

By the time I tagged in, there was a full legal settlement agreement already written up by Glen’s lawyer, ready for Scott and Kent to sign.  But they still had some issues with it.  One of the biggest was that Scott decided that he didn’t want Glen to own 100% of the Starbase sets.  But he was willing to split them 50/50.  Would Glen agree?  Scott didn’t think so.  And frankly, neither did Vance.

“Look,” I said to Vance, “Maybe he’ll say no, and we’ll be back to square one.  But if Glen says yes, then we’re there!  It’s worth it to at least ask him.”

Vance agreed to make the call.  Five minutes later, I had Glen’s answer…

Continue reading “Elementary school kids have a blast filming at STARBASE STUDIOS…and all hell breaks loose in fandom! (part 2)”

Elementary school kids have a blast filming at STARBASE STUDIOS…and all hell breaks loose in fandom! (part 1)

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at STARBASE STUDIOS recently, and I’ll get to that in a moment.  But first, you might want to read up on the current situation if you don’t already know about the lawsuit and all of the other drama going on of late.

All right, strap in.  Let’s start with this past weekend when a group of 5th and 6th graders from Parkview Elementary School Music Club got a chance to film a music video project on the amazing TOS sets of Starbase Studios, currently located in Marble Falls, Arkansas.

The field trip was set up by their teacher, KEVIN CROXTON, who had composed the music for THE FEDERATION FILES’ second episode Walking Bear, Running Wolf last summer.  In exchange, Kevin had asked show-runner GLEN L. WOLFE for the opportunity to bring Kevin’s music students (they’re local) to the sets to film a video project.  So this past weekend’s excursion has been planned for nearly 7 months.

And, really, isn’t this what Starbase Studios is all about?  Sets by the fans, for the fans…and even attracting a whole new (next!) generation of young fans.  So what could possibly be wrong with that?

Well…

Continue reading “Elementary school kids have a blast filming at STARBASE STUDIOS…and all hell breaks loose in fandom! (part 1)”

Another SIX fan films in the MINARD saga from VANCE MAJOR…all in just 30 DAYS!

Back in September, I reported on how VANCE MAJOR (whom I affectionately refer to as the “Where’s Waldo of Star Trek Fan Films”) had released SEVEN Trek fan films in just SEVEN DAYS.

And now Vance has done it again!

This time, Vance wasn’t quite as prolific, but he did manage to debut SIX fan films in less than 30 days, from November 3 to December 1.  All of the films continue to saga of Erick Minard, chief engineer of the Starship Valiant and the captain of the USS Constar nearly a century later.  How is Minard alive to serve under Captain Christopher Pike and still around in the 24th century to fight the Borg and talk to Lt. Commander Data and Dr. Crusher?  The only way to find out is to watch the episodes as they are released.

Some fans have criticized the production quality (or the lack thereof), and even Vance himself acknowledges the low-budget look of the finished product.  The uniforms often don’t always fit properly, the spoken lines in outdoor scenes can be overwhelmed by a mild gust of wind, and certain characters look like they could use a few extra workouts on the ship’s treadmill.  (I’m one to talk!)  Even Vance’s own production company vanity plate at the end acknowledges, “I’m the guy with a cord in the doorway” (a glitch which actually happened about 50 seconds into this fan film).

But those who criticize Vance’s work, in my opinion, aren’t getting what fan films are all about.  Not everyone can make a Star Trek Continues, Renegades, or Prelude to Axanar.  And they don’t have to!  Fan films are the great equalizer.  We all create our projects to the best of our abilities and our budgets.  Even the worst fan film still requires a great deal of work—writing a script, pre-production prep, getting the actors together, directing scenes both technically and dramatically, VFX (if you have any), sound, music, editing—fan films don’t make themselves!  And if you don’t like the end result, then don’t watch.  Or watch anyway because most fan films these days (including Vance’s) are pretty short.

Here’s what I think makes  Vance’s stuff so unique and special among fan films…

Continue reading “Another SIX fan films in the MINARD saga from VANCE MAJOR…all in just 30 DAYS!”