The shoots must go on – filming MUDD baking in an OVEN!

You’ve probably heard it on the news—or maybe you’re experiencing it yourself. There is a massive “dome of heat” sitting across much of America right now with temperature records being broken left and right. Even in the higher elevation Ozark Mountain area, the mercury on the thermometer outside read 95 degrees last Saturday. And it wasn’t just any kind of hot. It was the southeastern U.S. in June…meaning sticky, humid heat that melts you into a puddle of sweat even if you’re standing in the shade!

But inside WARP 66 STUDIOS in the town of Flippin, Arkansas, well, it was even HOTTER!!! Actually, I should specify that inside one of the WARP 66 Studios, it was even hotter. That’s because their TOS sets occupy two different locations. The bridge and shuttlecraft sets live in a nice, air-conditioned building owned by DAN REYNOLDS in Harrison, AR, and even though the lights and warm bodies can heat things up a bit, those two sets remain pretty comfortable.

However, things are much different in Flippin! GLEN L. WOLFE constructed a metal building on his property that currently houses the transporter room, briefing room, sickbay, corridors, and a swing set area. The building has no insulation, and only one small room inside for the actors to prep has a small A/C unit. The rest of the building is “cooled” by running small fans to move the air around. But when it’s 95 and humid outside, those poor fans are fighting a losing battle, and with the hot lights and bodies inside, you may as well be filming inside of an oven!

“It was dead air inside and hotter,” said Dan Reynolds, who served as director of photography for this oppressively sweltering Saturday shoot. “Thank goodness Glen built it with extremely high ceilings.”

Interestingly, not one but TWO different fan films shot simultaneously on those super-hot sets. The first and more significant of the two (in terms of total footage filmed) was for the next episode from Glen and Dan’s “fanthology” series THE FEDERATION FILES. Titled “MUDD’S MISSION,” this new production brings back two colorful characters from the series’ very first release back n 2016, “HIS NAME IS MUDD“: Captain Charles McCann of the U.S.S. Constitution, played by JIM VON DOLTEREN, and the irredeemable Harcourt Fenton Mudd played with flair by DAVID WHITNEY.

DAVID WHITNEY as Harry Mudd with DAN REYNOLDS (left) and JOSHUA IRWIN (right)

David, who lives in Iowa, actually filmed his scenes a couple of weeks ago during a much more pleasant weekend. “Up until June,” said JOSHUA IRWIN, showrunner for the AVALON UNIVERSE, who was also there this past weekend filming pick-up shots for that team’s upcoming release THE NEEDS OF THE ONE, “the weather in Flippin can be pretty mild. In fact, late spring this year has been cloudy and rainy, even into May. But June is about the farthest you can do it. July and August are out for shooting there, and we don’t typically schedule anything until September again.”

So why not simply cancel the hot shoot and come back some cooler day?

Continue reading “The shoots must go on – filming MUDD baking in an OVEN!”

Announcing the WINNERS of the first annual 2021 DIRECTORS CHOICE fan film awards!

Up until now, fan films (specifically Star Trek fan films) had only one annual awards competition devoted exclusively to their sub-genre, and those were the BJO AWARDS. Now there are three. The SHOWRUNNER AWARDS will begin taking submissions next week for Star Trek fan films, with winners announced on September 8, 2022. But yesterday, the Fan Film DIRECTORS CHOICE AWARDS announced their winners and honorable mentions.

Launched by fan filmmakers DAN REYNOLDS and GLEN L. WOLFE of WARP 66 STUDIOS in Arkansas, creators of the fan series THE FEDERATION FILES, the Directors Choice Awards were open to fan films of any genre (not just Star Trek) released during calendar year 2021. The judges were the directors of those submitted films. In order to take part, a director had to cast votes in each category for a fan film other than their own or be disqualified from winning.

Submissions were accepted during the month of February, and Dan Reynolds had this to say about their early trepidations: “We weren’t really sure how the initial response to our inaugural launch of the Fan Film Directors Choice Awards was going to turn out, but we soon realized that we struck a nerve with the fan film community. We knew we were on the right track, and within a few short weeks after our announcement, we received over 30 entries.”

Glen Wolfe echoed Dan’s sentiments: “From its inception, we wanted to fairly honor those hardworking fan film producers with recognition directly from their peers. This experience has been extremely positive, and I think that the films entered and those winning awards should show that the Fan Film Directors Choice Awards was a success and has encouraged us to continue it indefinitely.”

Dan concluded: “I’m very happy with the diversity of fan films that were included this year. We had Star Trek, Star Wars, James Bond, Harry Potter, and Indiana Jones fan films entered this year, and we hope that expands in the coming years. I was also very happy that the winners were from all the represented genres.”

And speaking of winners, that’s the perfect segue into presenting the results of the very first annual Fan Film Directors Choice Awards

Continue reading “Announcing the WINNERS of the first annual 2021 DIRECTORS CHOICE fan film awards!”

THE FEDERATION FILES shows fans the S.S. BOTANY BAY in “No Good Deed” (video interview with GLEN L. WOLFE)

THE FEDERATION FILES fanthology series is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. That’s because GLEN L. WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS of WARP 66 STUDIOS in northern Arkansas have decided that no era of Star Trek history is out of bounds for them to explore. This has included everything from the 1950s through today into the 23rd century and beyond to the 24th century. It’s a really fun fan series to follow.

Most recently, in what is their overall eleventh completed fan film since their first release (“His Name Is Mudd” back in 2016), The Federation Files takes us both into the Trek movie era and also back to 1996 when the SS Botany Bay was launched following the Eugenics Wars. (You remember that, right? It was only a quarter century ago.)

But for those two eras, Glen managed to construct two unbelievably believable sets for a fan-produced film (plus a Vulcan moon base command center set). The first unbelievably believable set was was a recreation of Kirk’s San Francisco apartment from Star Trek II and III. The other was the interior of the aforementioned Botany Bay in a sequence that looked like it could have been built at Paramount Studios back in 1967!

Granted, as I said, these were fan-produced sets, so they’re not precisely identical. But they’re close enough that a viewer can squint a little and accept that, yes, Saavik has walked into Kirk’s apartment and a Vulcan wearing a space suit has entered the sleeper ship containing Khan Noonien Singh and the genetically-engineered supermen.

Take a look at “NO GOOD DEED”…

This fan film was released way back in early November, and I had wanted to interview Glen months earlier than this. But in December, Glen became seriously ill—as in “had-to-be-hospitalized-and-nearly-died” kinda ill. Rumors flew that he had caught the more deadly delta variant of COVID. Others said he had pneumonia…or both! Either way, it took Glen months to recover, but I am pleased to report that he is now on the mend.

In the following video, we discuss what happened to put Glen into the hospital, along with discussing these impressive set recreations, production of this latest episode, Glen’s experiences being involved with other fan films and series, and all sorts of other things that come up when two Star Trek fan film-o-philes get together and geek out. Oh, and at the 42 second mark, you even get to hear me sing (oy vey!)…

Three positive COVID-19 tests among AVALON UNIVERSE cast and crew delay film shoot!

In a video interview that we did during the end of December, JOSHUA IRWIN of the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series was excited for a film shoot they had scheduled for early January. That shoot was supposed to be this weekend, but three significant members of the cast and crew have each, separately, been diagnosed with COVID-19 this past week, necessitating the delay of the shoot at least until February.

This was a major shoot for their next fan project, “The Needs of the One.” The story deals with a Vulcan crew member going through pon farr, similar to the beginning of the TOS episode episode “Amok Time.” But the similarities end there, as this crew member doesn’t simply accept the ancient traditions of the Vulcan culture where Vulcan females are “promised” to males as children. This episode turns all of that on its ear…or so I’m told.

This isn’t the first time a fan film has needed to delay a shoot due to COVID. Indeed, an earlier release from Avalon, AIR AND DARKNESS, had a COVID delay in late 2020, just as the pandemic seemed to potentially be receding a little (yeah, that didn’t happen).

Interestingly, it isn’t just Avalon that had to cancel a Star Trek-related film shoot this week. On Thursday, production on STAR TREK: PICARD season three had to be suspended when more than 50 members of the production crew (out of a total of 450) returned from the holiday break testing positive for COVID. SIR PATRICK STEWART was, thankfully, not among those reported to be sick. Filming restarted on Friday with COVID-negative replacements.

And it’s not just here in America where COVID is interfering with production. British Earl of CGI, SAMUEL COCKINGS, has already lost three shooting days for TREK SHORTS due to last-minute COVID infections. Sam has tried to make lemons from lemonade, though. During shoots when a single actor has had to cancel because of a positive COVID test or exposure to someone with COVID, Sam used the opportunity to either shoot scenes for alternate films or else write entirely new shorts with the actor or actors who did show up. You can read about one of those incidents in this blog about the origin of the bonus fan film HOURS AT WARP.

Three additional shooting days for Sam were affected by non-COVID illnesses (bloke can’t catch a break!) But because of costs to bring the actors in, travel and lodging, plus having to set up new shoots to replace the impacted ones, Sam no longer has the funds remaining to complete everything he promised donors. So Sam plans to launch an additional crowd-funding campaign. “There will be a LOT of new stuff to show,” Sam told me, “both to reveal what we actually did in 2021 but also all the new things we need help with finishing in 2022 and 2023!”

Continue reading “Three positive COVID-19 tests among AVALON UNIVERSE cast and crew delay film shoot!”

Four years in the making, THE FEDERATION FILES’ tenth episode is “DOPPELGANGER” (video interview with DAN REYNOLDS)

I first heard about “Doppelganger” back in early 2017 when I watched this short trailer, released at the same time as this short trailer for “Walking Bear, Running Wolf.” Both didn’t show any filmed footage, but they promised new releases coming from the fan anthology (fanthology?) series THE FEDERATION FILES, which had launched a few months earlier in late 2016 with their debut episode, “His Name Is Mudd.”

Following that initial premiere and those two trailers, The Federation Files released another eight episodes…

And while “Walking Bear, Running Wolf” was completed and released pretty quickly later in 2017, “Doppelganger” was nowhere to be seen…until this past summer, that is. On July 9th, 2021, The Federation Files debuted its TENTH full episode, and fans finally got to see “Doppelganger.”

It also marked the first time in five releases that an episode of The Federation Files featured any of the amazing Star Trek TOS sets at WARP 66 STUDIOS in northern Arkansas. After using the sets in their first four releases, the next five episodes were either filmed on location (both indoors and outdoors) or else on non-TOS sets custom-built for the needs of a particular story.

Of course, that’s the advantage of a fanthology format, as the time period can jump around and not be limited to only 23rd century Star Trek history. But the trend was enough for me to notice and ask co-showrunner GLEN L. WOLFE about the lack of use of the TOS sets in my previous blog about “Mask.” Amusingly, though, before I had a chance to publish that interview, these busy beavers in Arkansas released their newest fan production, “Doppelganger,” which most assuredly makes copious use of the many TOS sets, as you can see here…

That said, Federation Files has once again “lapped” me by already posting an ELEVENTH fan film, “No Good Deed,” before I could cover this tenth release. And I’ll certainly get to that one (hopefully before they release their twelfth episode!).

But “Doppelganger” gives me a chance to interview the “R” in WARP 66 Studios: Mr. DAN REYNOLDS of Wolf/Reynolds Productions. In fact, Glen has sorta been hogging the last four interviews, and I haven’t had Dan in the hot seat since January of 2020!

So let’s remedy that absence with a brand new video interview (lately, I’ve kinda graduated from audio interviews to recorded Zoom calls—let me know what you think)…

How to be a SHOWRUNNER in the AVALON UNIVERSE…

We are now exactly one week out from the announced premiere of the latest fan film from THE AVALON UNIVERSE: AGENT OF NEW WORLDS. Fans are really looking forward to this one, for a number of reasons…

  1. The showrunner, writer, and director, JOSHUA IRWIN, is a film industry professional in Arkansas and a skilled craftsman. Avalon releases are among the best-looking, best-sounding, and best-edited Star Trek fan films being produced right now.
  2. This is a brand new era for Avalon. With the departure of director/writer/actor VICTORIA FOX from the series as well as lead actor CHUCK MERÉ (along with the characters they played: first officer Amanda Beck and Captain Lance Ramirez, respectively), a new cast and crew is coming aboard the U.S.S. Excalibur. This includes the ever-perky PIXI NEREID, who has already captured the hearts of fan film aficionados with a music video and interviews like this one. It also includes actor WARREN HAWK from my AXANAR Universe fan film INTERLUDE (now with 118K views!) who played fan-favorite character Captain Imari Jakande of the U.S.S. Artemis. Although Jakande died in the Axanar Universe, he’s alive and well in the Avalon Universe and is the new commanding officer of the U.S.S. Excalibur.
  3. The film looks like it’ll be visually stunning. This is because Josh and members of his team traveled all the way from Arkansas to Arizona to film parts of this on location in a desert outside of Phoenix along with driving and hiking to two different scenic locations in western Oklahoma…all to create the feeling of being stranded on an alien world.
An overhead drone shot from the upcoming AGENT OF NEW WORLDS

And of course, I’ve been talking up this latest fan film for the past few months as I’ve endeavored to help Team Avalon raise crowd-funding for this production—as well as other upcoming projects. Speaking of which, they’re currently 60% of the way to their $20,000 goal, and if you haven’t tossed a few pennies (or preferably dollars) into the collection plate yet, this would be a great time to do so at this link…

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

Have you ever wondered what goes on a week before the release of a fan film? Of course, there’s all sorts of different scenarios. Sometimes a film is finished weeks or months early, pretty much ready to go, and maybe there’s a few minor tweaks as things head for an announced deadline. Sometimes there’s no announced deadline and a fan filmmaker just releases the finished product whenever it’s ready. And sometimes a deadline is announced and then has to be extended because things aren’t ready yet. I’ve seen ’em all.

But then there’s Josh Irwin. Josh doesn’t miss deadlines, no matter how many hours he has to work or go without sleep. It’s a matter of professional pride. And in the case of Agent of New Worlds, the announced release date of October 31 is significant because it marks exactly three years from the 2018 premiere of Avalon’s debut fan film GHOST SHIP.

So with the clock ticking down, what is life like for Josh right now…?

Continue reading “How to be a SHOWRUNNER in the AVALON UNIVERSE…”

“MASK” marks FIVE releases in a row from THE FEDERATION FILES without a TOS set in sight! (interview with GLEN L. WOLFE)

I want you to imagine something. You and your best friend have built a bunch of super-accurate Star Trek TOS sets near your homes. You’ve got a partial bridge set, sickbay, transporter room, briefing room, corridor, and even the inside of a shuttlecraft. You can go there anytime you want, stay as long as you like, invite friends, etc.

You might even…I don’t know…shoot a Star Trek fan film??? C’mon, you know you would!

And starting in late 2017, that’s what GLEN WOLFE and DAN REYNOLDS began to do. Actually, they had both been involved in fan filmmaking for years previously, working on both other people’s projects as well as their own. The Federation Files released the first of its many, many Star Trek anthology-style productions back in 2016. Titled “His Name Is Mudd,” much of the episode was shot at the now-dearly-departed STARBASE STUDIOS while it was still in Oklahoma. Their second episode, “Walking Bear, Running Wolf,” and part of their third episode, “Extraction” were filmed at Starbase Studios after the sets were moved to Arkansas.

But “Extraction,” released in late 2017, also marked the first time Dan and Glen shot on their own set…in this case a shuttlecraft cockpit made of some elements donated from JAMES CAWLEY of STAR TREK: PHASE II after being used in their episode “The Holiest Thing” and completed in a TV studio building that Dan owns near his home in northern Arkansas.

Likewise, their fourth episode, “Galaxy Hopper,” included scenes shot in the briefing room, transporter room, and corridor sets at Starbase Studios early in 2018. But the episode featured, for the first time ever, scenes filmed on a brand new partial bridge set constructed by Glen and Dan at another of Dan’s studio facilities. With both a shuttlecraft cockpit and a bridge set, and with more sets planned, the two fan filmmakers officially christened their production location WARP 66 STUDIOS (“WARP” standing for Wolf And Reynolds Productions and “66” being the year that Star Trek debuted).

Amusingly, their fifth episode, “The Equinox Effect,” shot in 2019, utilized almost none of the TOS sets that Glen and Dan had constructed. The TOS sets that appear in that fan film were actually the ones located in upstate New York, rented out by James Cawley back in 2015 to the producers of the never-completed STAR TREK: EQUINOX – “The Night of Time,” footage which Glen Wolfe “rescued” to include in this original episode of The Federation Files. Meanwhile, Glen was building out a sickbay, transporter, briefing room, and corridor set to add to WARP 66.

Why this elaborate history lesson, you ask? It all goes back to the question I asked above: if you had complete and total access to high-end TOS set recreations, wouldn’t you want to shoot some cool fan films on them?

Continue reading ““MASK” marks FIVE releases in a row from THE FEDERATION FILES without a TOS set in sight! (interview with GLEN L. WOLFE)”

Reason #4 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!

Your mission: find an actress—young, positive attitude, who lives in Oklahoma—willing to appear in a volunteer Star Trek fan film. Oh, and she needs to be of Native American ethnicity.

You have two days.

When you donate to the AVALON UNIVERSE Star Trek fan production, you’re paying for a get-it-done attitude and a proven track record. Over the past few weeks, I’ve provided three solid reasons to lend your financial support to this hard-working fan production crew: Jakande Lives, Do It for Pixi, and The Team. This week, I’ve saved the best for last—the most compelling reason to donate to their GoFundMe campaign, which just happens to be located at this link:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

These folks never give up…ever! No matter what obstacles God, the gods, fate, the Universe, and/or or the Flying Spaghetti Monster throw their way, showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN and his team will always find a way to get their fan film(s) finished.

Avalon Universe has already released SEVEN high-quality fan films (two of which were two-parters of 30-plus minute length) in less than three years. And even as they try to crowd-fund another three productions, they’re already hard at work on a fourth fan film: AGENT OF NEW WORLDS.

And therein lies a tale…

Continue reading “Reason #4 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!”

Reason #3 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: THE TEAM!

Fan films are like weddings. (Ha, got your attention!)

Think about it. Weddings can be as cheap and simple as a trip to City Hall or a few friends in the backyard. Or they can be expensive galas with hundreds of guests and all the trimmings. Or they can be anywhere in between.

And so it is with fan films. We get everything from cardboard sets and scenes shot with cell phones to professional-looking productions with trained actors, meticulous sets and costumes, top-quality recording equipment, and budgets into the five-figure range and sometimes even beyond that.

In general, the larger and more ambitious the wedding, the more critical it is that a team of planners and managers be involved to make sure everything goes smoothly. You get one chance at the actual ceremony, and it’s all that the behind-the-scenes planning that can determine if the wedding is a triumph or a disaster.

The AVALON UNIVERSE fan films aren’t exactly Kardashian weddings (thank goodness!), but they are still pretty impressive, with production quality a few steps above the majority of Star Trek fan films out there. This is not meant to diminish those other fan films. All fan filmmakers deserve support and encouragement. But when you donate to an Avalon Universe crowd-funding campaign, you know your money will be well-spent, and the finished product will look and sound and be amazing.

Oh, and speaking of donating, Avalon has a crowd-funding campaign going on right now, if you’d like to back it…

https://www.gofundme.com/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

Like a successful wedding, a well-run fan production requires careful planning and preparation, and that means having the right people in the right jobs…not just during the shoots but in the months and weeks leading up to the director yelling “Action!” for the first time.

As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t initially planning to be part of “Team Avalon,” even though I consider Avalon Universe director/showrunner JOSHUA IRWIN to be a close friend. (Josh was my Director of Photography and Editor on INTERLUDE.) What I did offer to do was to advise Josh and his producer, PIXI NEREID, on strategies for crowd-funding…advice I’ve also offered to other fan filmmakers over the years.

But before I knew it, Pixi had jumped into action, adding me to the production crew’s Facebook chat, giving me access to their Slack productivity app account where the cast and crew keep all of their online resources, and inviting me onto the kick-off production meeting Zoom call. So that’s how I became a part of “Team Avalon,” and it’s given me a fascinating look into who these fine folks are and all that they’re doing to make the wedding…er, fan film extra spectacular and go off without a hitch.

Let me tell you about the team…

Continue reading “Reason #3 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: THE TEAM!”

Reason #2 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: DO IT FOR PIXI…!

If you’ve never been part of the making of a fan film, it’s kinda hard to explain. But there’s a bug that bites ya, and then there’s an itch that you just need to scratch. It’s difficult to say when exactly that fan film bug bites—I guess it’s different for everyone; like the moment someone realizes they’re a Trekkie/Trekker—but when it does, everything can change in a heartbeat.

Or not. Some people make a fan film or participate in a production or two and they’re done. And that’s fine. But for many others, fan films get into your blood—sometimes into your very DNA—and then there’s just no stoppin’ it!

Which brings us to PIXI NEREID.

That’s actually her stage name. Pixi’s real name is ILIA McNEIL…and yes, the “Ilia” is actually inspired by the bald Deltan navigation officer from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as her parents were TOS fans. And Ilia is a hardcore fan herself. But all of her friends call her Pixi, and so do I because Pixi has (almost overnight!) become a friend.

And honestly, it’s hard not to absorb all of the positivity, fun, and optimism that radiates from her—so much so that you almost need to call her Pixi. And if you’re wondering where that name comes from, Pixi has a side gig (along with a small number of other women in the Fayetteville, Arkansas area) performing as a mermaid at children’s parties. So I suppose that Pixi Nereid isn’t her “stage” name so much as her “pool” name, but whatever you call it, she’s totally a Pixi!

We got no troubles…life is the bubbles…under the sea!

JOSHUA IRWIN, who will be directing the new AVALON UNIVERSE fan films that are crowd-funding now (click here to donate), first met Pixi on the set of the soon-to-be-released COSMIC STREAM while filming at WARP 66 STUDIOS in northeastern Arkansas. Pixi was told about the shoot by one of her fellow mermaids, who had a role in the fan film. But Pixi didn’t come to appear on camera, she just wanted to help out. In fact, she arrived and immediately told Josh that she’d be happy to be a grip for the day (a grip is someone someone who moves the lights around…not very glamorous but super-important).

It’s a 108-mile drive each way from Fayetteville to the studio, so the people who volunteer for these fan film shoots at WARP 66 have to be pretty committed. After the shoot in mid-March, Josh posted the following photo and comment to Facebook…

Continue reading “Reason #2 to donate to the AVALON GoFundMe: DO IT FOR PIXI…!”