Last week, I revealed that I’m going to need to raise $18,800 (possibly more if I end up getting production insurance) in order to make my fan film INTERLUDE, which takes place in what I’ve decided to call the “Axanar Universe.” Now, $18.8K is pretty ambitious in the post-guidelines fan film world. So how am I going to get there?
Over the years that I’ve published the Fan Film Factor blog, I’ve seen a LOT of crowd-funding campaigns—some more successful than others—and I’ve noticed some things that work and some that don’t. I’ve shared this “acquired wisdom” with many folks along the way, but now it’s time to see if I can practice what I’ve been preaching!
They say that a magician should never reveal how they do their tricks, but today I am going to do just that. I’m gonna tell you all exactly what I’m planning to try to make this a successful crowd-funding campaign. And hey, if you’ve got any additional ideas that I haven’t thought of (and don’t require me to “break bad”), please feel free to share them in the comments.
Sure, CARLOS PEDRAZA and I have seldom seen eye-to-eye on most things (although we both think the Tardigrade lawsuit is ridiculous and should be thrown out of court…but I digress). However, good advice can come in many sizes, shapes, and packages. And after I published my projected $18,800 budget last week for my fan film INTERLUDE, Carlos posted the following comment:
You, Josh and Victoria appear to have neglected to include production insurance, which you will definitely need, especially if you plan on having minors working as crew. And your liability is likely to be complicated because your cast and crew are all volunteers rather than employees. Insurance could cost you upwards of $2,000.
Now, I’m sure there’s some suspicious minds out there wondering what Carlos’ angle is on posting such a comment here to Fan Film Factor. After all, he’s never mentioned production insurance for any other Star Trek fan project before (not even Axanar). Is Carlos trying to make it harder for me to make it to my goal by driving it up to nearly $21K? Is he trying to make me reconsider inviting locals students to help out on set? Does he not believe I’ll play by the guidelines and pay my crew instead of requiring them to all be unpaid volunteers?
I’ll be honest, many of these cynical thoughts (and others) went through my own head. And unfortunately for me, my directors (JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX) were both shooting their own fan film this past weekend, and I didn’t want to bother them until they returned back home. So I had ample time to fret over this new wrinkle.
While I waited for a chance to talk to Josh and Victoria, I read up on film production insurance on this website, and it doesn’t seem to be the scary boogey man I feared. And hey, they even allow for productions to have volunteers and interns. It’s not “complicated” after all, since many productions do the same thing. So yay!
On Monday, I finally touched base with Josh and Victoria and had a very enlightening conversation with them. Keep in mind that I’m a total novice at this whole filmmaking process. While I’ve worked on a few fan films over the years (decades now), I’ve never been a show-runner. I never had to worry about all of the details and deal with questions like “What is production insurance and do I need it?” Josh and Victoria, on the other hand, do all of this professionally, and they have been wonderfully patient with me. So on Monday, I shared Carlos’ message with them…
It’s kinda mind-blowing, I know, considering that my fan film, INTERLUDE, is shooting on two existing sets (Ares Studios and Neutral Zone Studios), the guidelines don’t allow me to pay people, and we’re only planning to film for three days. On the other hand, my goal is to do a top-quality fan film…a worthy sequel to Prelude to Axanar. And apparently, even keeping things really tight budget-wise, doing this thing right is gonna cost some bucks.
At the risk of invoking 1980s rock-and-roll wisdom, I may ask myself: “Well, how did I get here?” (And more to the point: “My God, what have I done???”) Let me take you through it.
Now, before I get started diving into the nitty gritty, let me warn you that this is going to be a looooooong blog. If you don’t care, then by all means, please skip it. I won’t take it personally. And some people (including one with the initials A.P.) told me not to even bother explaining that high number. “It’s gotta be Axanar quality,” he said. “It costs what it costs. People will accept that.”
Maybe. But if even I was shocked by that high number, then I just know others are gonna wonder if I’m just trying come up with some sushi and tire money…and believe me, nothing could be farther from the truth! So I want to be as forthcoming and up front with all of you as I can be. And when someone says to me later, “Hey, I know you don’t need that much money for such-and-such,” I’ll just answer, “Yes, I do—check out paragraph 27 of my blog!”
Also, as a blogger who devotes his waking moments to bringing fans closer to fan filmmakers and their processes, discussing my budget in detail provides a unique opportunity for a deep-dive into what I consider to be one of the most fascinating aspects of production: figuring out what everything is gonna cost.
So if you haven’t bailed on the blog yet, let’s all boldly go into Jonathan’s budget for Interlude…
That sentence has become a true Hollywood cliche, spoken by actors, writers, producers, editors, gaffers, grips, VFX guys, sound FX guys, accountants, caterers, Uber drivers, and Starbaucks baristas. In this town, it seems like everybody “really wants to direct.”
Not me, though.
I don’t know the first thing about directing—not even when to shout “Action!” and “Cut!” And I don’t pretend to know. Of course, I applaud those countless fan filmmakers who have taught themselves to direct through creating their own fan productions. More power to ’em! But I know my limits…and I don’t want my fan film to suffer just because I haven’t got the slightest idea what the frack I’m doing.
Fortunately, the fan film community is full of folks who DO know what they’re doing…including directors. Now, you might be thinking that I first decided to make my fan film and then went out to find a director. In fact, the exact opposite happened—and not only did I find one director, I found TWO!
Currently, the Indiegogo campaign for the third AVALON UNIVERSE fan film, “Demons,” stands at $5,500 from 86 backers (64% of the way to their $8,500 goal). Actually, there’s an additional $500 donation that came in that didn’t get recorded (read more about that glitch here), so they’re really 70% of the way there!
Last week, show-runners JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX extended their campaign for 8 more days, trying to attract a few extra dollars, if possible. So far, it’s worked to get them to where they are, but there’s still a way to go. It’d be great to reach their goal, but if that’s not possible by Monday, Josh and Victoria are hoping for at least another $500, which will make a really big difference for the production.
So I’m doing my part in sharing the following three videos they’ve released showing the quality of the visual effects being done by the wizard of speed and time, SAMUEL COCKINGS. These are only pre-visualizations (rough animations to establish motion), but they show what some of the Klingon ships will look like in the Avalon Universe, which is similar to the prime universe but also slightly different in fun and fascinating ways. It gives the producers a bit more creative freedom than fan films that hew more closely to Trek canon usually get with ship and costume design.
Anyway, take a look at these three short videos, because they’re really cool…
Excited? Well, the live action scenes are just as well-produced, as Joshua and Victoria are both industry professionals in their “real” lives. You can listen to a great interview I recently did with them here…
$500 in 4 days…and you can help make it happen! Or if you can’t, maybe a fan friend of yours can. So please share the link and, if you’re feeling generous, help these fan producers make more Star Trek for the rest of us to enjoy…
Over this past weekend, two fan films that were scheduled to shoot on the TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA (formerly used by Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut), made major announcements based on some unexpected new pricing policies implemented by the studio at the last minute. It wasn’t pretty.
Previously, Neutral Zone Studios, purchased last year by RAY TESI, had followed the lead of the now-defunct Starbase Studios in Oklahoma and (later) Arkansas of charging fans only for the cost of electricity and utilities but otherwise allowing the use the sets for free for any fan production to film on. Of course, nothing is really “free,” and the costs for rent and upkeep had to be paid by someone…and in this case, it’s been Ray Tesi.
Just this past month alone, Ray had to write $6,000 in checks for rent, utilities and his annual insurance on the facility and sets. In a typical year, Ray’s out-of-pocket costs—just to keep the sets from winding up in the dumpster—is about $42,000!
To try to help with expenses, Ray launched a Patreon campaign almost a year ago seeking small monthly donations from fans. While it’s doing modestly well—currently taking in about $800 a month from 64 backers—that still leaves Ray with nearly $33,000 in annual expenses. For a guy who is paying for this venture out of his retirement fund , this is a significant commitment. And frankly, I personally think more fans need to step forward and help Ray cover his costs…because if Ray runs out of money, these sets really will wind up in a dumpster.
But more on that in a moment. First, let me tell you about what happened this past weekend—both the bad, the ugly, and the good…
If you donated to the AVALON Indiegogo, please read this blog
First of all, you’ve got until THIS SUNDAY to donate to the Indiegogo campaign for the third AVALON UNIVERSE fan film: “Demons”…so hurry up and click on the link below (or at least share it with friends):
Currently, the total shows the campaign at $4,615 from 70 backers, about 54% of the way to their $8,500 goal. But as it turns out, there’s a $500 donation MISSING (more on that in a moment), meaning the total is really up to $5,115, or about 60% of the goal.
So how did a $500 get lost? No one knows exactly—not even Indiegogo. But here’s what we do know…
It’s here! The first new 2019 Indiegogo campaign for a Star Trek fan film is now live and taking donations. Why should YOU donate? Lemme tellya…
THE AVALON UNIVERSE kicked off its debut last Halloween with a complete surprise for most fans: the 2-part GHOST SHIP, a sort of “Star Trek meets The Walking Dead” hybrid fan film that quickly went viral and now has a combined 280K views on YouTube!
Filmed both in Kingsland, GA on the old Star Trek Continues TOS sets and also in the new WARP 66 Studios in Arkansas, Ghost Ship looked amazing. Lighting, make-up, directing, editing, music, VFX, acting…everything came together flawlessly to present fans with one of the most polished-looking set-based fan films in a long time.
The only thing fans found a little odd were the uniforms worn by the Starfleet crew: a mix of the first two Kelvin-verse styles with Star Trek Beyond and TOS uniforms, all in a classic TOS setting. Even the USS Excalibur looked somewhat strange with a blue glow on the nacelles.
But then fans discovered that this was yet another alternate universe, the Avalon Universe, where things are a little different. (Avalon was the island on which King Arthur’s sword Excalibur was forged.) Fair enough; Trekkers are used to alternate universes by now.
Then, on February 2, the second Avalon Universe fan film, AVALON LOST, premiered., and it’s already up to nearly 35K views! This time, it was a one-parter with a very unexpected ending. Before you listen to my audio interview with the two Avalon show-runners at the end of this blog, I invite you to watch their most recent offering because there WILL BE SPOILERS in there interview…
Pretty awesome, right? I love that shuttlecraft! Anyway, I chatted with Josh and Victoria about their latest fan film, their new Indiegogo campaign, and their plans for future episodes from the Avalon Universe. Enjoy…
JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX burst onto the Star Trek fan film stage this past Halloween with the unexpected release of GHOST SHIP. Shot using real actors and high production design on the TOS sets in Kingsland, GA and on the new WARP 66 Studios’ bridge sets in Arkansas, Ghost Ship was fun a “Star Trek meets The Walking Dead” fan film that took the community by storm. Part 1 already has more than 167K views on YouTube, and Part 2 over 70K. (You can listen to a great audio interview with both producers here.)
One of the things that got fans’ attention was the Kelvin-verse Starfleet uniforms juxtaposed with TOS sets and warp nacelles for a Constitution-class starship that glowed blue. What universe was this???
Well, now we know, as there is a new trailer for upcoming fan films from Josh and Victoria in what they are calling the AVALON UNIVERSE…
There is also a new Facebook pagefor the Avalon Universe (featuring the crew of the USS Excalibur). On Facebook, there’s the following posting:
The second fan film taking place in our "Avalon Universe" has begun filming. We'll meet new characters, and see interesting new design elements including visfx, LCARS readouts, uniforms and even unique divergent Starship and shuttle designs, and a new starbase dry dock design all from the amazingly talented Samuel Cockings and his crew of CG artists. The story is co-written and directed by Victoria Fox! Look for it soon along with information on our crowd funding campaign, which will bring you more stories from this interesting alternate reality.
Filming for their second episode wrapped yesterday in front of a green screen in Arkansas. Plans currently call for the second episode to debut on February 1…along with a crowd-funding campaign for episodes 3 and 4.
Although I plan to do another interview with Josh and Victoria next month, I did ask Josh if he had any other details about what fans could expect from theAvalon Universe going forward…
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…