Why I am NOT “neutral” about NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS…

I need to clear the air regarding myself and NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS, the TOS sets in Kingsland, GA that were originally used for STARSHIP FARRAGUT, later used for STAR TREK CONTINUES, and were recently purchased by RAY TESI and opened up to any fan filmmaker who wanted to use them, was able to pay $300/day, and was willing to follow the fan film guidelines.

I want to state for the record that I wholeheartedly SUPPORT Neutral Zone Studios and encourage anyone who is a fan of Star Trek fan films to support them, as well, through their Patreon campaign:

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

As many of you know, I was originally scheduled to film two of my scenes for my fan film INTERLUDE there. Ray Tesi was 100% on board. In fact, when I was considering bringing my son Jayden to Georgia watch the shoots, Ray told me that he’d make sure the entire studio was lit up (all the lights and buttons) before we arrived so that when Jayden walked in, the first thing he’d see would be the USS Enterprise in all of its glory. Ray was even going to see if he could manage to drive up for the day from Florida to finally meet me in person and watch the shoot.

But over Memorial Day weekend at Neutral Zone Studios‘ Fan Appreciation Weekend 2, Ray informed my directors, JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX (who were there shooting interviews with VIC MIGNOGNA, MICHELLE SPECHT, and CHRIS DOOHAN to help promote the studio’s Patreon campaign) that Interlude was no longer welcome to use the sets.

Although ALEC PETERS, who was similarly banned, accused Vic of being the reason for Ray’s sudden change of heart, Star Trek Continues make-up artist, LISA HANSELL, posted this comment on Facebook the Monday after the event…

Now, all things considered, I should probably feel angry, hurt, insulted, frustrated…and to be honest, I did feel those emotions quite deeply for a short time. But I moved past it.

However, something happened this past weekend that has left me wondering if others haven’t let this go as I have. And I now feel that it’s important to state publicly that I have forgiven Ray and Lisa and (if he was involved in the decision) Vic…and anyone else who pressured Ray Tesi into changing his mind about letting my production film at NZS.

So what happened this past weekend?

Continue reading “Why I am NOT “neutral” about NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS…”

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS Patreon is ON FIRE!

Man, I hope nobody misread that headline as “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS is ON FIRE!” No, no, no…that is NOT what’s happening!

But what is happening is that donations are coming into their Patreon campaign at an awesome pace! It was barely three weeks ago that I published a blog marveling at a single donor committing to pay more than $800/month(!!!) to help keep the rent, utilities, maintenance, and insurance paid on the building housing the amazing TOS sets that had first been used for both Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues.

After purchasing the sets from VIC MIGNOGNA in late 2017, uber-fan RAY TESI decided to open up the renamed NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA to any fan filmmaker wanting to shoot there (cost is $300/day). Already, Dreadnought Dominion, Ghost Ship, and the upcoming Constar Chronicles have all shot there…with more projects scheduled soon, including an appearance by NICHELLE NICHOLS for the proposed documentary about her amazing life and career.

The sets were also opened up to the general public for a weekend last October and will be opened up again this coming weekend for Fan Appreciation Weekend 2. (It’s free to attend, and you can still sign up here.)

But while they say the best things in life are free, in this case, someone has definitely been paying for the “free”—Ray Tesi himself. Considered by many (including me) to be one of the nicest guys in our fan film community, Ray has been paying the costs for this studio out of his retirement savings for the last year and a half. That’s about $3,500/month or $42,000/year.

Think about that number for a second. Ray isn’t a Kardashian (or even a Cardassian). He’s just a nice guy with a modest income and some decent savings wanting to keep these unbelievably beautiful and important sets out of the dumpster.

Continue reading “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS Patreon is ON FIRE!”

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS nearly doubles its Patreon total with an unexpected $800/MONTH donor!

As you might remember from my recent blog, NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingland, GA (where Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut) has a Patreon campaign currently trying to raise $3,500/month to cover rent, utilities, insurance, and maintenance. Right now, those expenses are being paid primarily by RAY TESI, the super-fan who purchased the iconic TOS set recreations from STC show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA. Ray has generously opened up his sets to fan filmmakers and also to the general public during periodic Fan Appreciation Weekends (the next of which is coming up on May 24-26).

The challenge for Ray is that these monthly expenses are ongoing…which is not the case for his retirement savings, which is what is funding the dream at the moment. So Ray has asked the fan community to chip in in the form of small monthly contributions made via Patreon.

The campaign kicked off last July and kinda went nowhere for seven months. By February, Ray was up to only 17 patrons donating $176/month (of which Patreon takes a small percentage), leaving Ray with annual expenses that were still topping $40,000…YIKES!!!

But then things began to look up, as a renewed outreach effort on social media saw totals nearly triple by the end of February to 41 patrons and $566/month. Ray was down to having to cover “only” $35,000/year. Sure, still a long way to go…but definitely headed in the right direction.

The following two months saw reliably steady growth, reaching 74 patrons and $872/month by the time I checked the campaign before heading to bed on April 22. Ray was now taking in about $10,000/year, covering about 25% of his expenses.

When I sat down at my computer the next morning, Ray’s Patreon page was still on the screen, so I did a refresh just out of curiosity. I didn’t expect the total to change, but ya never know. That said, it took me a few moments to fully process what I was seeing…

At some point while I slept, Ray’s Patreon total had jumped from $872/month to $1,696/month—almost DOUBLING overnight! Surely this was some kind of glitch at Patreon. No one donates $824/month…do they????

I messaged Ray.

Continue reading “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS nearly doubles its Patreon total with an unexpected $800/MONTH donor!”

NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS once again opens their TOS sets to the public for FAN APPRECIATION WEEKEND 2!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, watching Star Trek each weeknight at 6:00pm, I used to dream of one day building my own Enterprise bridge. I’d have it on the second floor of my house, in a circular area, with a turbolift elevator that would go up to it, doors whooshing open to shock and impress my friends.

Sadly (at least for me, not sad for my wife), that didn’t happen.

But miraculously, I can still walk onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. I can sit in the captain’s chair, stand in the transporter, walk through the corridors, visit sickbay and engineering, wander into the briefing room and Captain Kirk’s quarters. And I can even do it in two different locations!

The first place I can go is the officially licensed Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, NY. For $22.50/person (less for seniors, military, and kids), I can walk around meticulous, museum-quality recreations of the original 1960s sets that were used to film Star Trek. The sets in upstate New York were used to make the fan series Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase 2, and now are available throughout the year for personal and group tours.

Further south in Kingsland, GA are the sets that were originally used for the fan series Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues. A little over a year ago, those sets were sold by VIC MIGNOGNA to RAY TESI, who has opened them up for free filming (just pay the electricity costs) to any fan production that follows the CBS guidelines. Originally called Stage 9 Studios, the sets were recently renamed NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS to avoid confusion with the Virtual 3D walkthrough of the Enterprise-D that was shut down by CBS.

Last October, Ray Tesi opened his Georgia sets to the general public for a FAN APPRECIATION WEEKEND. It featured tours, photo opportunities, some fan film celebrity guests, and even two different fan productions shooting scenes in front of a live, studio audience.

However, there was also some controversy

Continue reading “NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS once again opens their TOS sets to the public for FAN APPRECIATION WEEKEND 2!”

Fan-filmed before a live studio audience at STAGE 9 STUDIOS…but not without a little controversy!

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.)

Vance Major live in front of a studio audience

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.

Continue reading “Fan-filmed before a live studio audience at STAGE 9 STUDIOS…but not without a little controversy!”

VIC MIGNOGNA of Star Trek Continues plays ANOTHER famous CAPTAIN in a new DEADPOOL fan music video!

VIC MIGNOGNA is known in the fan film community for playing Captain Kirk in Star Trek Continues.  But now he’s going to be known for playing another famous captain: Captain America (and providing the voice of the X-men’s Beast)…in one of the funniest, most ambitious, and most entertaining fan film mash-ups ever produced.

I know I usually focus on Star Trek fan films, not superheroes, but in this case, there’s a number of veterans of Star Trek Continues involved, including make-up artist LISA HANSELL…and heck, even ROD RODDENBERRY is listed in the credits as an associate producer!

Thank goodness for parodies, though, because they’re protected by Fair Use.  Otherwise, DEADPOOL THE MUSICAL 2 would likely be sued in short order by Marvel, Disney (well, Disney owns Marvel now), Fox, AND Sony.  Or maybe not…as some Hollywood studios actually appreciate fan films.  (You know who I’m takin’ ’bout…right, Paramount and CBS?)

Anyway, get yourself mentally prepared for one of the best-crafted fan films you’re likely to see all year.  Oh, and ask the kids and religious zealots to go play in the yard for the next twelve and a half minutes…’cause this fan parody is just as R-rated as the two Deadpool movies that inspired it!

Ready…?

Set…?

I know, right!?

I mean, there are just no words…well, yes there are, but I can’t type most of them on my blog ’cause I’m such a prude!

But hey, did you know that this amazing fan film would NEVER have happened if it weren’t for Star Trek Continues?  Cross my heart and hope to have Wolverine give me a prostate exam!

Okay, enough of that!  Let’s find out how these two fan film phenomena are linked in the hip area…

Continue reading “VIC MIGNOGNA of Star Trek Continues plays ANOTHER famous CAPTAIN in a new DEADPOOL fan music video!”

STAGE 9 STUDIOS opens up the STAR TREK CONTINUES sets to fans…FOR FREE! (October 19-21)

For years, if you wanted to see the Kingsland, Georgia sets being used to film the legendary fan series STAR TREK CONTINUES, you needed to either be working on the production itself or else a very special VIP.  But now STC has wrapped filming, and the sets have been purchased by super-fan RAY TESI.  And Ray is opening the Stage 9 Studios sets for the first time ever to the fans to come, look at, take pictures of, and even talk to some of the cast and production crew of STC itself!

The event is happening in a week and a half, and is open to any fan.  No tickets are needed, and admission is FREE!  You can get a behind-the-scenes look at Stage 9 Studios‘ starship sets, walk through the corridors, visit engineering, the transporter room, sickbay, the captain’s quarters, the iconic bridge, and more!

The guests include

  • VIC MIGNOGNA – STC‘s Captain Kirk
  • CHRIS DOOHAN – STC‘s Scotty (and son of actor James Doohan)
  • LISA HANSELL – STC producer and make-up supervisor
  • GINGER HOLLEY – STC costumer and designer
  • SARAI DUENAS – The actress who played Miramanee’s child in STC‘s episode “The White Iris”
  • JOE HALDEMAN – Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author
  • ROBERT MASON – Vietnam War veteran and author of several books including the sci-fi novels “Weapon” and “Solo”
  • KAVITA MAHARAJ – Artist best known for her acrylic medium Spock paintings
  • SAMUEL COCKINGS – “Trekyards” co-host, VFX artist, and fan filmmaker

The studio will be open for three days at the following times:

FRIDAY, OCT 19 – 2:00 PM-7:00 PM
SATURDAY, OCT 20 – 9:00 AM-7:00 PM
SUNDAY, OCT 21 – 9:00 AM-6:00 PM

There will be activities and ample opportunity to take photos…including sitting in the captain’s chair (a must!).  Here’s what’s in store:

  • Fan Film Production Q&A
  • Panel Discussions
  • Workshops
  • Special Effects Makeup Demos
  • Prop and Costume Displays
  • Trek Trivia Game Shows
  • Fan Art Demo
  • Vendor Tables
  • Fan Film Audience Participation
  • Fan Film Mania

Also, the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION will be filming there on Friday afternoon for anyone who wants to watch the magic happen.  (They might even need a few extras!)

Check out all the details at: https://www.stage9studios.com/visit

Stage 9 Studios

is located at:

516 W William Ave
Kingsland, GA  31548
(just minutes off I-95)

Life after STAR TREK CONTINUES – cast members REUNITE for WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS!

When STAR TREK CONTINUES completed its 11-episode run of superb Trek fan films, fans of the series wondered, “What’s next?”  It seemed a shame that such a talented group of actors, writers, directors, and production crew would simply go their separate ways.  Alas, that is all too often the case in show business.  But not this time…at least, not for everyone.

Although many members of the STC team did, in fact, move on to other endeavors, a small number reunited for a special independent short film project titled WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS.  The cast included STC alumni VIC MIGNOGNA (Captain Kirk) along with veteran Trek actors JOHN “Q” DeLANCIE, REKHA SHARMA (from Star Trek: Discovery and the new Battlestar Galactica), and MICHAEL FOREST (who played Apollo both in the original series episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and also in the first full-length STC episode “Pilgrim of Eternity“).  STC cast member (and writer) KIPLEIGH BROWN was initially slated to appear in Train… but had to pull out at the last moment due to a family emergency.  She was replaced by Rekha Sharma.

Also boarding the Train… cast were STC alumna ÉMIE MORISETTE, who appeared in the final two-part episode of STC, along with voice-over actor DARREN JACOBS, whose vocals were part of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Dunkirk, and Papillon.  Directing Train… was STC director/writer/producer extraordinaire JAMES KERWIN, and STC‘s make-up supervisor and producer, LISA HANSELL, served as producer for Train…

An Indiegogo last November reached its $43,000 goal with just eight hours to spare, allowing the campaign to extend indefinitely as “In Demand” status.  Since then, their donation total has grown to more than $51,000…allowing them to not only film all the scenes but also to wrap up post production and release a completed film, which happened in mid-September in a special early release perk for certain donors.  The rest of the donors (like me) got to view it as a private download early this past week.  And let me tell you, it was EXCELLENT!  The 20-minute film was expertly crafted with an engaging story that provides a wonderful Twilight Zone twist at the end.  It’s definitely worthy of viewing.

So when can YOU see it?

Continue reading “Life after STAR TREK CONTINUES – cast members REUNITE for WHEN THE TRAIN STOPS!”

STAGE 9 STUDIOS announces a new PATREON, OPEN HOUSE, and an awesome WALK-THROUGH VIDEO!

Would you pay $1, $5, $10, or $25/month to keep the lights on for the only full TOS sets to be completely open to the fan film community?  Right now, 11 people are already doing that, giving STAGE 9 STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA a combined $100/month (or thereabouts) in guaranteed financial assistance to pay for rent, electricity, and maintenance.

With rent estimated at about $3,000/month, a hundred bucks a month might not seem like much.  But Stage 9 Studio only just recently launched their new Patreon, and owner RAY TESI is currently paying all expenses out of his own pocket from retirement savings.  So donating even as little as a dollar a month will be a welcome help.

For those not familiar with Patreon, it’s similar to Kickstarter and Indiegogo in that anyone can set up a campaign, anyone can contribute, and there can be perks.  The difference is that, while the latter two are designed for a one-time contribution, Patreon is set up so that supporters (patrons) donate monthly, a recurring contribution charged to their credit card or transferred from their bank account until the donor says otherwise.  Patreon is designed for ongoing endeavors rather than one-time projects, so it’s perfect for something like Stage 9 Studios where the expenses from rent, utilities, and maintenance are ongoing.

And what happens if the Patreon generates more per month than it costs to “keep the lights on.”  (What a great problem to have, right!?!)  Simple.  Additional funds will be used to improve the studio (like adding air conditioning, perhaps?) and maybe even to build more sets.  As the Patreon page clearly states:

STAGE 9 STUDIOS is NOT a money-making enterprise, but an opportunity to share the passion that millions of STAR TREK fans have for the series!

But that’s not all that’s happening with Stage 9 Studios.  Would YOU like to see these amazing sets in person…for FREE???

Continue reading “STAGE 9 STUDIOS announces a new PATREON, OPEN HOUSE, and an awesome WALK-THROUGH VIDEO!”

TREKYARDS and VIC MIGNOGNA go behind-the-scenes of STAR TREK CONTINUES!

TREKYARDS is a force of nature in Star Trek fandom.  So is STAR TREK CONTINUES.  Put the two of them together, and there’s something really special in store for Trekkers!

Trekyards, for those who don’t know, is the brainchild of STUART FOLEY and SAMUEL COCKINGS.  Together, these two uber-fans have produced more than 500 webshow videos spotlighting ships from Trek and other sci-fi franchises, interviewing actors and production people from Star Trek, doing video podcasts, and filling the Internet with enough smart, funny, and fascinating content to eat up as much of your free time as you desire!

Star Trek Continues, as you undoubtedly know, was a cutting edge fan series that presented the final two years of the USS Enterprise‘s 5-year mission under James T. Kirk.  Using professional actors and technical crew, featuring noted sci-fi celebrities as guest stars, and displaying industry-level production quality on exact recreations of the TOS sets, STC set a standard of excellence seldom if ever matched in the realm of Trek fan films.

Although STC has completed its 11-episode run, fans still cherish this labor of love and the careful attention to detail that went into it.  And while STC has released a few special features here and there focussing on things like the music scoring, editing, and VFX—and Fan Film Factor published this exhaustively-researched complete history of STC—there hasn’t been a real “deep dive” into all of the  behind-the-scenes production secrets of this amazing series.

Until now, that is!

Trekyards is introducing a new webshow series spotlighting Star Trek Continues, hoping to cover EVERY fascinating detail of this beloved fan project with insight from those who produced it.  Up first, in a 20-minute interview about their first episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity,” Captain Kirk himself, VIC MIGNOGANA, talks about finding and convincing retired actor Michael Forest to reprise his role of Apollo, Vic’s feelings about other Trek fan series, and what gravity has to do with the color of the walls on the set!

Here’s the first installment of this new MUST-SEE Trekyards series…

I spoke to Trekyards co-host and editor Samuel Cockings about this new offering and learned some very interesting things—including why fans really need to tune in and support it…

Continue reading “TREKYARDS and VIC MIGNOGNA go behind-the-scenes of STAR TREK CONTINUES!”