MINARD joins the AVALON UNIVERSE in “NEW ORDERS” (interview with VANCE MAJOR and JOSH IRWIN)

There’s a lot of love and camaraderie in the fan film community. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy creating and maintaining this blog. Oh, sure, there’s also some trolls and drama and silly “feuds,” but honestly, I don’t really pay much attention to all of that anymore because it’s pretty meaningless.

What is meaningful—with the emphasis on the FULL part—is all the positivity that Star Trek fan films bring…because when it comes right down to it, we’re FANS. It’s what got me involved in the world of Star Trek to begin with, knowing there was this group of people who loved something that I loved, too, that we could share and bond over…no matter our backgrounds or location or anything else that might separate us. Star Trek brought us TOGETHER!

And that’s why I cheered when I saw this new vignette from the AVALON UNIVERSE

NEW ORDERS might not seem like much. There’s minimal VFX, and only two characters are talking to each other via subspace for most of it, with a third popping up at the very end. But for me, it was so much more—it was a chance for me to watch two dear friends come together to make a fan film.

JOSHUA IRWIN and VANCE MAJOR have worked together before this. Josh (as well as his Avalon Universe collaborator VICTORIA FOX) has appeared in some of Vance’s CONSTAR productions, like “SHAKEDOWN.” And Vance made a very brief cameo in the Avalon Universe episode DEMONS. But this time felt different. New Orders wasn’t simply one of them appearing briefly in the other’s film. It was two fan filmmakers who have become “legends” in our small-but-close-knit community, coming together as equals, and teasing the arrival of an awesome fan-favorite character into a fresh, new universe.

The fun thing about the Avalon Universe is that it’s Star Trekish but without five decades of canon weighing it down…kinda like what Star Trek: Discovery coulda/shoulda been had they just told us from the beginning that it was a parallel Trek universe (then most of us would have forgiven the different-looking Klingons and shiny uniforms and super-advanced tech). So characters from “standard” Star Trek fan films can pop up in the Avalon Universe in completely new ways. In fact, Captain Jakande, who died in my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE, will be making an appearance in an upcoming Avalon fan film, alive and healthy and played by actor WARREN HAWK.

As most of you probably know, Josh and Victoria were my directors on Interlude, and I consider both to be good friends. We often spend hours on the phone. The same is true for Vance, for whom a “short” call between the two of us is defined as anything under an hour!

So when I saw Josh and Vance having their own subspace “call” in New Orders, I decided to ask them both to say a few words about this new project…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #19: Watching ARES STUDIOS come alive…

INTERLUDE is knocking on the door of a combined 75,000 views for “version 2.0.” You can watch it on the AXANAR YouTube channel or the AVALON UNIVERSE YouTube channel…or both!

A few weeks ago, I published a blog looking at three scenes from Interlude that wound up on the digital “cutting room floor.” But one of the most talked about aspects of that blog was a clip that I included showing 18 minutes of the actual shoot itself…filming the stunning opening scene looking down from above onto the bridge with all sorts of activity going on. Fans of Axanar and ARES STUDIOS loved getting a glimpse into all of the action happening on that set.

Well, folks, there’s a LOT more where that came from…and I’m going to share it with you starting today!

As producer on Interlude, most of my job was done by the time we got to the weekend of our two-day shoot at Ares Studios on November 2-3, 2019. In addition to writing the script, I was in charge of budgeting, crowd-funding, paying for things that needed to be paid for (everything from chest emblem patches to camera and lens and light rental to hair and make-up supplies to renting chairs and tables to the caterer himself…plus about a hundred other little and not-so-little things!).

Another part of my job was to make sure we had the right people at the studio on the right days—actors, extras, production crew, even an on-site medic—that they knew where to be and when and that their gas, travel, food and lodging was paid for if/when necessary. My efforts were designed to make it possible for VICTORIA FOX, JOSHUA IRWIN, and the entire amazing Interlude production team to shoot the scenes of our fan film over two 10-hour days with everything they needed ready and waiting for them.

In short, I was the guy setting up the buffet table so all of the guests could have a good time at the party. So once the party got started, what was left for me to do?

Well, there were still some minor fires that needed putting our during those two days—figuring out where to put the hair and make-up people, handing my credit card to people I hardly knew to go make emergency runs to Home Depot or Target or wherever. But for the most part, the producer wasn’t really needed on set.

But that provided me with a very unique and special opportunity…

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INTERLUDE Confidential #17: On the cutting room floor…

Christy Price Pagano deserves the top image because she wound up on the cutting room floor!

INTERLUDE is finally released, and it’s already up to 42K views on YouTube! Did you see it? (If not, click here.) Did you like it? Is it everything you hoped it would be? Personally, I’m extremely happy with the way Interlude turned out. So many people put SO much work into making an awesome fan film.

But I feel really bad about CHRISTY PRICE PAGANO (pictured above) because her ONE shot in Interlude wound up on the cutting room floor.

Christy showed up on our second day of filming Interlude at Ares Studios in Lawrenceville, GA (on Sunday, November 3, 2019) along with her good friend LISA BURGESS (pictured below). The two moms live nearby in the suburbs north of Atlanta, and they were told about the shoot and our need for extras by one of our actors, JAY PLYBURN, who played the U.S.S. Ares science officer with the cool 70’s-era mustache.

Lisa Burgess

If you watched Interlude, you might have noticed that there’s really only one very brief shot of the U.S.S. Ares where we see most of the extras on the bridge…

There are some other close-ups and medium shots, but this was the only shot that featured nearly all of our Ares crew members at once. Only two officers aren’t in the shot: the aforementioned Jay Plyburn and Christy Pagano, who was actually about to come out of the turbolift. But we cut away before the turbolift doors ever have a chance to open.

This is what the full sequence would have looked like had the decision to cut away not been made (note that there are no sound effects or music in following clip)…

That’s Christy coming out of the turbolift. And though we barely get to see them, the wounded engineer is JOSE CEPEDA from the fan series STAR TREK: NATURES HUNGER, and the person carrying him off is CRYSTAL RAMOS, who was so excited to be a part of this production. And now, we don’t even get to see their faces! But I’m going to fix that right now (at least on this blog page, since we can’t reshoot the scene without it costing a lot of time and money)…

Crystal Ramos and Jose Cepeda

Anyway, back to the wide shot. As you can see from the full 11-second clip, there was a lot going on! The ship was shaking, panels were flickering, Garth was giving an order, people were moving across the bridge with some getting up from seats and others sitting down, the turbolift doors had to open AND close, and not only did Crystal have to make it look like she was carrying Jose into the lift, but Christy had to rush out of the turbolift without bumping into either Crystal or Jose and then squeeze past the communications chair without looking as though she was squeezing (’cause it is a very tight fit!).

And that’s just what was happening ON camera!

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #17: On the cutting room floor…”

INTERLUDE Confidential #16: Shields up! Time for the reviews…

INTERLUDE is finally out, and the reviews are coming in fast and furious! On YouTube, the video has racked up 15K views in three days, with 97% thumbs up. If you haven’t seen it yet, to quote Chekov, “Now vould be a good time…”

The praise and kudos have been great and are very rewarding to everyone on the team. And of course, the criticisms are out there, too. It’s inevitable that you’re not going to please all the Trekkies all the time. The trick to surviving the bad reviews is to focus on the good ones. If you give too much weight to the critics, the negativity will drag you down like an anchor. It’s the positive, supportive comments that bring up back up for air. If you want to keep breathing, use them as a helpful floatation device.

Or you can just do what I do and respond to the negative YouTube comments with: “Look, I’m really, really sorry that so many people disagree with you.”

Some people thought that Interlude was too short (is that criticism or praise?) or that the Ares and Artemis should have been firing back. Just for the record, the Klingons knocked out both ships’ weapons systems—listen closely to some of the background bridge chatter—and as you’ll discover in the AXANAR sequels, the new D7’s were nearly invulnerable to phasers and photon torpedoes.

Some folks thought ALEC PETERS’ acting was better in the first half, and some thought he was better in the second half. Some thought he couldn’t act at all, but hey, most fans couldn’t do much better and would probably have been a lot worse. It takes a lot of confidence to place yourself in front of the camera for the main role in any fan film…let alone one that’ll likely have hundreds of thousands of views. Alec put in ten long hours of tightly-focused work the day we filmed and another few hours getting the epilogue interview done. I was never expecting Laurence Olivier or Tom Hanks, and I was very happy with Alec’s performance.

Oh, and for anyone complaining about Alec’s “bulging Gowron eyes,” you might want to take another look at the TOS episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” I see the Garth glare as more of a feature than a bug…

On the other hand, praise was nearly universal for fan film newcomer and fellow sci-fi geek WARREN HAWK. Everyone love-love-loved Warren as Captain Jakande—as well they should have! Warren gave an awesome and passionate performance…and I love that deep, velvet voice of his.

(And consider this: in the Avalon Universe, Captain Jakande might not have died. So start saving your crowd-funding dollars, folks, ’cause you might just be able to help bring him back to fan films in a few months!)

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #16: Shields up! Time for the reviews…”

Presenting INTERLUDE – a Star Trek fan film in the AXANAR Universe!

(I know you wanna see INTERLUDE! Feel free to scroll down to the bottom of this web page, then come back to read the full blog entry.)


I was a fan of AXANAR even before the launch of their first Kickstarter campaign back in early 2014. And when PRELUDE TO AXANAR was released that summer, I was ecstatic. There had never been any fan film like this one, and it FELT like the Star Trek I had grown up with…something I couldn’t say about the newest Trek movie releases from Paramount and (later) television releases from CBS.

Later that summer, I jumped at the chance to volunteer to help pack and ship perks to donors (of which I was one, of course), and I got to know ALEC PETERS, DIANA KINGSBURY, ROBERT MEYER BURNETT, and a bunch of other folks involved with the production. Heck, I even joined the gang along with RICHARD HATCH (may he rest in peace) at a P.F. Chang’s in Long Beach after a convention for an awesome dinner experience.

By 2015, I was writing weekly “Fan Film Friday” blogs for the Axanar website about other Trek fan films…something that led to the creation of Fan Film Factor half a year later. Fan films in general, and Axanar in particular, had quickly become a major part of my life as a Trek fan.

Interlude was born in stages, but I can trace its initial origin back to June of 2017 when I was reading Alec’s new 2-part Axanar script. The legal settlement with CBS and Paramount forced him to trim the full-length movie script down to two 15-minute segments that would be filmed in the same mock documentary style as Prelude.

By this point, the amazing half-completed bridge set was being packed up and moved cross-country from southern California to Georgia, and I was looking forward to seeing how bridge scenes would be incorporated into the “mockumentary” format. But to my shock and horror, there were NO bridge scenes in Alec’s new script…only the same “talking heads” dialog and VFX as there was in Prelude. Huh?

What I didn’t know at the time was that Alec had purposefully left out any bridge scenes because he wasn’t certain whether he’d be able to raise the funds to complete the set. However, not knowing why there weren’t any bridge scenes, I mistakenly assumed Alec just felt like he couldn’t squeeze them in and still tell the story properly. So as a way of demonstrating that it was possible to have bridge scenes, I wrote a new version of the script…what I call my “alt-Axanar” script. Alec won’t be using it (he’s fine with his own version), but someday after the two Axanar sequels are released, I’ll publish it here on the blog just for fun.

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INTERLUDE Confidential #15: After putting out fires, INTERLUDE will finally premiere on MONDAY, APRIL 5!

I can finally and proudly announce a release date for my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE:

MONDAY, APRIL 5, 2021 (Star Trek ‘s “First Contact Day”).

Well be premiering it during a special Axanar Confidential livecast this Monday night at 10:00 pm Eastern Time when I and a bunch of members of Team Interlude will be appearing with Fleet Captain Garth himself, ALEC PETERS. You can find the livecast on the Axanar YouTube Channel.

Let me tell ya, folks, for the last week or so, I wasn’t quite sure we were gonna make that deadline! While there’s no one holding a phaser to our heads to release Interlude on April 5th, “First Contact Day” is a coveted spot among Star Trek fan filmmakers if they can hit it. But I checked around, and this year, no one I spoke to was claiming that day (and if they had, I would have let them have it and just chosen a different date a week or two later). So with the coast clear, I started mentally preparing myself for April 5th.

Although we’ve been REALLY close to completing Interlude for the past few weeks, I wasn’t feeling comfortable enough to make an announcement until today. After all, we’ve been having a series of really crazy things happen along the way that have delayed or at least impacted pre-production, production, and post-production. Among these: rivers flooding, wild tornadoes, freak polar blast ice storms, trapped woodpeckers, and stray dogs on the road. Read more about them here, here, and here.

And now we can add FIRE to the list!

This past Monday, I couldn’t reach MARK EDWARD LEWIS, our post-production sound designer, for most of the day. That in and of itself isn’t unusual; Mark has a pretty busy life, and I don’t expect the entire team to be “on call” 24/7. (You need to actually pay people—and pay them a lot!—for that kind of service.)

But Monday was an important day. With just seven days left until my still-unannounced but highly desired deadline, we’d had an e-mail glitch. Two days earlier, I’d sent Mark a compilation of final notes on the latest sound mix from myself, our director VICTORIA FOX, our editor JOSH IRWIN, and our composer KEVIN CROXTON. But it was now Monday, the clock was ticking, and no one had heard back from Mark. So I messaged him on Monday morning my time (about noon for Mark in rural Tennessee) just checking that he’d be able to get those final fixes done in the next day or two and send the final audio mix over to Josh.

“I’m still waiting for a response from my last e-mail,” he replied.

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #15: After putting out fires, INTERLUDE will finally premiere on MONDAY, APRIL 5!”

INTERLUDE Confidential #14: Ample post-production patience and perseverance!

“Production hell” (or “development hell”) is a real thing in Hollywood…so much so that it has its own Wikipedia page. But did you know there’s also post-production hell? Or at least, there SHOULD be!

The three phases of film creation are typically pre-production (planning, budgeting, financing, hiring, scheduling, location scouting, construction, costume and prop preparation, etc.), then production (actually shooting footage), and finally post-production (editing, picture level and color adjustment, visual effects, sound effects, music, sound-mixing, etc.). It’s understandable that the first phase would take a while, and of course, you might spend weeks or months (or more) filming everything that you need. And of course, sometimes these phases overlap a little with each other. But you’d think that, once all the raw footage is “in the can” as they say in the industry, that post-production would go pretty quickly…even on a big-budget project. In fact, especially on a big-budget project, as you can afford to pay people to focus on finishing YOUR production rather than splitting up their time.

Yeah, you’d think post-production would be nice and fast. And maybe it is for some projects…but sadly, not for me and my debut fan film INTERLUDE.

I’m actually not alone in having an unexpectedly extended period of post-production for my project. Some of the most ambitious Star Trek fan films shot the majority of their footage years or even as much as half a decade(!!!) before finally releasing their finished products: STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER, PACIFIC 201, STARSHIP EXETER, THE ROMULAN WAR, STAR TREK: TEMPORAL ANOMALY, many episodes of INTREPID…just to name a few. Heck, the series finale of STARSHIP FARRAGUT, “Homecoming,” was crowd-funded back in 2015, shot in 2016, and still isn’t out yet. And of course, fans have been waiting for YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL for what feels like forever. The most recently-announced release dates were this past Christmas day and then the end of January. (A major illness of one of JOHN ATKIN’s family members has delayed the release a bit longer.)

And then there’s Interlude.

Continue reading “INTERLUDE Confidential #14: Ample post-production patience and perseverance!”

AIR AND DARKNESS from the AVALON Universe will blow you away!

It was on Christmas day that LEGACY, the latest vignette glimpse into the parallel AVALON Star Trek Universe, debuted…generating an average of around 500 YouTube views per day and nearly 97.3% thumbs up. And it’s not surprising that there would be so many likes (in fact, one wonders what those 2.7% thumbs down were thinking!), since the two show-runners of the Avalon Universe, VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN, are both experienced film industry professionals in Arkansas.

Fast forward to New Years Day, and the Legacy “appetizer” made way for the main course: a brand new 20-minute Avalon fan film titled AIR AND DARKNESS. And what a meal it was! This 20-minute fan film has seen an average of nearly 1.5K YouTube views per day and 98.5% thumbs up. This newest release not only follows the introduction from Legacy, but it also picks up on the mysterious plot points left unresolved in the excellent 2-part Avalon release DEMONS from late 2019.

Josh and Victoria weren’t available for an interview this time out (although there is an informative audio interview about their production on Demons available here). However, there are a few things that are worth paying close attention to when you watch this fan film…

Shot during COVID – while most of the recent “fandemic” films tend to have just one character on the screen at a time, that would have been impossible with this production due to the stunts requiring hand-to-hand combat. So Victoria and Josh came up with a very clever way to work masks into the outdoor fight scenes and simultaneously minimize the need for make-up. It’s also worth noting the skill with which many shots on bridge set were composed to have the minimum number of (maskless) actors in front of the camera simultaneously.

Shot at outside night – You don’t usually see Star Trek fan films with exterior evening or night scenes because it’s challenging to light them well enough for most video cameras to pick up the images. But as I said, Director of Photography (and Co-Writer/Co-Director) Josh Irwin does this professionally and knows his craft.

The stunts – Again, you don’t usually see convincing hand-to-hand fight scenes in Star Trek fan films. But when your main star is also an accomplished martial artist and works in the entertainment industry, you’ve got a valuable asset. CHUCK MERÉ, who plays Captain Lance Ramirez, was the fight choreographer and did a fantastic job. He also was one of two FX make-up artists on the production.

Bridge chatter – Last year, I came up with an idea to have folks in the fan film community record “bridge chatter” for use in my fan film INTERLUDE (which Josh and Victoria have both done amazing work on). My goal was always to make those sound clips available for any fan filmmaker, and a number of them were used for Air and Darkness…and they sound AWESOME!

And now you know some of what to look and listen for. So sit back and enjoy…

The AVALON UNIVERSE’s fourth film, LEGACY, has just been released!

Fans got their first taste of what JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX were capable of producing on Halloween in 2018 with the release of GHOST SHIP, the first of what would become multiple Star Trek fan films set in the “Avalon Universe.” This similar-yet-slightly-different Starfleet features a mix of uniforms from TOS and the Kelvin timeline with starships that look nearly the same as TOS but are a teensy bit different. It’s an intriguingly fresh take on Trek.

The production quality of their first Star Trek fan film, shot on the TOS sets at Neutral Zone Studios in Kingsland, GA, towered over most Trek fan films primarily because Victoria and Josh are themselves both professionals in the filmmaking industry in Arkansas. The following year, Victoria and Josh released two more films in their Avalon Universe: AVALON LOST and DEMONS, each even more impressive than the previous one.

And now in 2020, just five days before the end of the year, they’ve released their fourth Avalon fan film, LEGACY, a short vignette that will lead into their major fifth release, AIR AND DARKNESS. Filming on that project just completed a few weeks ago at WARP 66 STUDIOS in Mountain Home, Arkansas.

And speaking of WARP 66 Studios, Legacy was also shot there on GLEN WOLFE’s TOS bridge set. But as you’ll see from the fan film, the bridge underwent some noticeable modifications to mimic the look of the U.S.S. Ares bridge set in Lawrenceville, GA. And indeed, an Ares-class starship, the U.S.S. Athena, is the setting for this vignette, with visual FX done by his lordship—or is it shiplord?—SAMUEL COCKINGS. The music was composed by ADAM MULLEN, who has been scoring scores of VANCE MAJOR’s many MINARD and CONSTAR fan films and has recently begun scoring for DAVID CHENG’s many cosplay fan films that have come out this year. Adam is a busy guy!

This latest vignette was started back in January. You might not think that 3 minutes worth of fan film (plus another minute or so of credits) with only two VFX shots would take nearly a year to complete. Well, I need to take at least some of the blame for that, as Legacy writer/director Victoria and DP/editor Joshua were often pulled away from their busy lives to work on another little fan project called INTERLUDE for a very demanding executive producer named Jonathan. That fan film is nearly completed, just inches from the finish line. And I truly appreciate them splitting their spare fan filmmaking time between Legacy and Interlude.

But crossing the finish line first (only slightly) is Legacy, and I invite you now to check it out…

INTERLUDE Confidential #13 – So when is your fan film coming out?

“So when is INTERLUDE coming out?”

I’m getting this question more and more often these days. Granted, Interlude isn’t the first fan film to announce a release date and then miss that deadline. I join such notable company as AXANAR (of course), PACIFIC 201, THE ROMULAN WAR, STARSHIP FARRAGUT‘s finale “Homecoming,” YORKTOWN: A TIME TO HEAL, and the recently-released STAR TREK: FIRST FRONTIER (which has been in production for five years).

Fans often wonder what takes so long…especially after everything has been filmed (which is the case for each of the fan films I just listed except for Axanar, which still needs to do their Los Angeles “alien” green screen shoot). But once all of the live-action footage is “in the can” (as they say in Hollywood), isn’t everything else relatively EASY? After all, the only things left are deciding which takes to use, putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle into an edit, finishing the VFX, writing some music, adjusting the sound, and…then you’re done, right? Oh, and remember to include the credits.

Well, it’s not quite that easy…

As I explained back in April, post production is actually a pretty complex processin and of itself—or at least it can be. In the case of Interlude, it was because we wanted to do things as carefully as we could, and because VICTORIA FOX and JOSHUA IRWIN got a lot of coverage of each line of dialogue. Editing alone took us from January through April (actually, slightly into May!). And only after we had a “picture lock” could we pass along the edited film to KEVIN CROXTON to write the score.

So confident was I at that point that we were on the cusp of finishing that I edited together this really cool retro trailer (complete with the theme music to Space: 1999 from the 70s) to proudly and excitedly announce a premiere date of July 25, 2020…

Man, did I get THAT one wrong! By mid-July, I had to humbly write this blog admitting that we were not going to make our deadline. And worse, I had no idea when we were going to be finished. I had learned my lesson about making promises about release dates.

So it’s now two and a half months later, and Interlude still isn’t out yet. So what’s going on?

Part of the reason I decided to make a Star Trek fan film was to document EVERY step along the way for my Fan Film Factor readers—from crowd-funding to pre-production to production to post-production. So if there’s a delay, well, Jonathan’s gonna blog about that, too! Here goes…

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