An Interview with Alec Peters
By Vice Admiral Jon Lane
There have been two Kickstarters so far for Team Axanar. The first, which took place in March of 2014, generated $101,000 in fan donations…the proceeds of which went almost entirely into the filming of the Prelude to Axanar short film. Prelude to Axanar served as a proof-of-concept to help build excitement and enthusiasm, along with encouraging donations for Axanar’s second Kickstarter, which took place last summer and was intended to fund (or at least start to fund) the full-length Axanar feature film. That Kickstarter was a huge success, taking in more than $600,000 in donations in just 30 days!
Now Team Axanar is planning to hold a third Kickstarter to (hopefully) complete the funding for their feature film. But fans and donors have been asking a number of hard-hitting questions about production costs, spending priorities, and even perk fulfillment. Executive Producer Alec Peters has promised full transparency on this entire project, and he has responded elsewhere to the tough questions. But now it’s STARFLEET’s turn to ask some upfront questions of our own, since many of our members have donated to the first two Kickstarters and want to know where our money is going.
Q: Alec, your Kickstarter last summer took in an amazing $638,000 in donations. But when all was said and done, you didn’t actually receive all that money, did you?
A: No. By the time we paid for all the costs of the Kickstarter itself, we had about $446,000 left over.
Q: What do you mean by “all the costs of the Kickstarter”?
A: Well, the folks at Kickstarter have a business model where they get 5% of the money you raise as a commission. So, about $32,000 of the money we raised went immediately to Kickstarter. Another 5% (approximately) went to Amazon for payment processing fees. So subtract another $32,000 for that.
But it doesn’t end there. We learned during our first Kickstarter (which allowed us to make our short film, Prelude to Axanar) that producing perks for the donors is not cheap! Even things as seemingly small and simple as patches, posters, and t-shirts can really add up. And then there are shipping costs, which have really skyrocketed over the past couple of years. When all is said and done, then, you can tack on an additional 20% for perk production and fulfillment/shipping.
So, by the time we got around to spending our Kickstarter money on what we’d planned to spend it on, nearly a third was already gone! Not that we’re complaining, mind you; it’s just the cost of doing business if you’re crowd-sourcing. And we’re so happy to provide the donors with great perks because they’re so supportive of us in the first place. Perks also help us spread the word about Axanar and build excitement about the project, and that’s very important for Axanar’s ultimate success.
Q: Speaking of perks, many donors haven’t received their items yet, and it’s been nearly a year since the previous Kickstarter. Why the delay?
A: There are two reasons why fulfillment has taken longer than we planned. First, we decided to delay our international Prelude to Axanar shipments until we had all the items in a kit available to mail together. This was because sending multiple packages—which to foreign countries is super-expensive—would have taken money away from the project. So while it has been frustrating to some overseas donors to have to wait a year to receive their items, we literally saved ourselves (are our donors) tens of thousands of dollars in shipping costs by holding everything until all the items were ready to ship in one package.
The second reason for the delay is because we’ve had to wait until the last of the Prelude items–the soundtrack CDs and the DVDs/Blu-rays–were finished. Both of these projects were considerably more involved–and thus, took more time–than we could’ve imagined! The amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing a high-quality disk–not just the content, but also the design, cover art, captioning, formatting, etc.–is incredible. In addition, most of the people working on the disks had other professional commitments that had to take priority, so they were only able to give their time to our projects when they had time to do so.
But I’m happy to say that both the soundtrack CD and the DVD/Blu-ray are finally both completed and being printed as I answer this question right now. The copies should arrive here in our offices within the next couple of weeks, and as soon as we receive them, we’ll start packing up more than 10,000 shipments to finally get all of our donors what they’ve been patiently waiting for.
I’m happy to say, though, that both the CD and the DVD/Blu-ray are finished, and being printed as we speak. They should arrive in our offices within the next couple of weeks, and once we receive them, we’ll begin the process of packing up all those remaining Prelude to Axanar shipments to get them out to happy donors!
Q: I’ve noticed that, in discussing perk fulfillment, you’ve been careful to say Prelude to Axanar, which was your first Kickstarter back in March of 2014, and it had about 2,600 donors. But last summer you held your second Kickstarter that made $638,000, and that had more than 8,500 donors. When will they get their perks?
What we learned with our first Kickstarter for Prelude to Axanar last March was how much work it is to fulfill all those perks AND how expensive it is to ship them. So we decided a couple of things before we even began the first Axanar Kickstarter last summer: 1) we would only ship out donor packages when the perks for each kit were complete for everyone (regardless of whether they were domestic or international), and 2) that we would also most likely hold off on shipping the perks kits from our first Axanar Kickstarter until after we’d held a second one, so that—when the perks were eventually all ready—we could ship out kits from both together (to all the donors who donated to both campaigns).
Keep in mind that one of the main perks from the Axanar Kickstarters last summer and this summer is, of course, the DVD/Blu-ray of the finished movie. So we’ve got to make the movie first, right? Since this major perk can’t be produced until after we have the finished movie, we can save a lot of money—money that can be put to use making the movie, instead—by combining the perks shipments for both Axanar summer Kickstarters.
Q: In your previous Kickstarter last summer, you said the 90-minute feature film would cost between $650,000 and $750,000 in total. And it seems like you’re already two-thirds of the way there. You’ve said you want this next Kickstarter to generate $250,000 on the first day and wind up with a total far above the last Kickstarter. Doesn’t that put you far over your projected feature film cost from last year? Why does Axanar need so much money?
A: When we held our Kickstarter last summer, we made sure in the executive summary on the Kickstarter page to be very clear and upfront about two things:
1) We didn’t have a good budget estimate because there still were a lot of unknowns, and we wouldn’t know the final budget until we could hire on an experienced line producer to run a budget for us. In fact, in the top section of the Kickstarter page, I even said the $650-750,000 estimate would likely climb, and it did. It is now $850,000 – $950,000 after we had our line producer, Mike DeMerrit (who worked on Star Trek for 11 years), break down the script.
2) The Kickstarter last summer explained that we were raising money for the studio first. We listed those expense estimates: $125,000 for rent (it wound up being $ 182,000), $50,000 for renovations (we have already spent $70,000 and haven’t even finished yet!), $100,000 for set construction (it will wind up being more than that), and $50,000 for pre-production costs.
So the building of Ares Studio is what the first Kickstarter really focused on, and we have done a pretty good job with that. But everything cost more than we thought, which isn’t unheard of in Hollywood (Star Trek: The Motion Picture actually ended up costing more than TWICE as much as it was initially budgeted for). Once you begin the process of retrofitting a huge, empty warehouse to be a functional soundstage (think: floors, walls, soundproofing, electrical, and HVAC, for starters), the costs just keep adding up! But I think a lot of people are very impressed at what we have done, and we are setting the stage for not just Axanar, but more Star Trek and science fiction projects in the future.
Plus, remember the Kickstarter math above: of the $ 638,000 we raised last year, we only have $446,000 for production after expenses.
We’re doing everything the RIGHT WAY, though. Getting all the necessary permits and licenses takes both time and money, but it’s how we’re making sure Ares Studios will be a professional environment where we can produce great things, now and in the future!
Q: So what are some of the things that you’re planning to do differently and/or better for this newest Kickstarter that you didn’t do last time?
A: The biggest change is we have been developing the best Kickstarter fulfillment program in the country. With Diana Kingsbury working full time helming fulfillment and donor relations, and Chief Technology Officer Terry McIntosh developing cutting edge technology in Ares Digital, our digital fulfillment platform, we are making sure we can deliver donor perks more efficiently than ever. Even Kickstarter has expressed how impressed they are with the process we have created.
Plus, for the next Kickstarter, we want to get the whole Axanar fan community involved with promoting and supporting the new campaign! Launch parties, local events, contests…we have some really great things in the works that we think will be a LOT of fun. By the time this Kickstarter ends, we want every Star Trek fan to know about Axanar!
Q: What does the future hold for Axanar? When will filming begin, and when will the final feature film be finished? And what happens after the Axanar film is finished?
A: We are looking at a shoot during the final quarter of 2015, hopefully October/November. After that, of course, we’ll go into post-production, so a spring 2016 debut of the finished Axanar is our goal. Since 2016 also happens to be the monumentally important 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, we think our timing couldn’t be better.
Once we’ve finished Axanar, it will be on to other projects. One fun thing is our plan to host a Sci-Fi Film School at Ares Studios, where fans will be able to learn from industry professionals for a few days and then use our sets to film their own student projects. Of course, we’re looking at creating more Axanar pieces to further expand upon this era of Trek history. And there are also some other really interesting and exciting sci-fi stories out there that we can’t wait to tell!
NOTE: In the two months since this interview was conducted in May, Team Axanar has decided to host their next fundraiser on Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter. They have also announced that patches will be mailed out to donors from last summer’s campaign immediately rather than waiting until the full Axanar movie is completed.
If you haven’t heard Pharrell Williams’ Oscar-nominated song “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” yet, you might be living on another planet. The music video for thus chart-topping song features a series of 3-to-5-second clips of different people dancing, clapping, smiling, and just looking happy. One clip just cuts into the next, with folks on the street, inside schools and churches, over bridges, on the beach, and even in a bowling alley…just about anywhere they can dance. You can view the video here:
Such a simple idea for a music video has inspired countless versions posted by people from around the world—from Croatia to Singapore. There was even a version filmed in the ruin of the Tatooine filming location in Tunisia featuring fans dressed as various “Star Wars” characters. However, at the time of this writing, I can’t find any “Star Trek” version of the “Happy” music video posted anywhere.
Let’s fix that.
As part of our 40th Anniversary celebration, STARFLEET is going to make and post the first-ever “Star Trek” version of the “Happy” music video (or if not the first, then certainly the best!). After all, we’re one big, happy fleet—and here’s our chance to show it!
It’s a fun project that can literally feature every chapter, since the video clips will all be less than 5 seconds. And it’s easy for any member or chapter to participate. Just get someone to film you and/or your crew in uniform and/or make-up and/or in some kind of Trek costume dancing or clapping. The dancing doesn’t even have to be good! (Let’s face it, we’re Trekkies…no one’s expecting much.)
Send in your video before July 15, and I’ll edit together the footage we receive. The finished video will debut at IC 2014 in Rockford, Illinois and then be put onto our website and YouTube. With luck, we’ll go viral and get some decent exposure to potential new members. But even if we don’t become an Internet sensation, the music video will still be a great addition to feature on sfi.org and just a lot of fun to put together.
Guidelines for submissions appear below. I happily and enthusiastically encourage everyone to participate! It’s not hard to do, and it can be a real blast for you and your chapter to be part of. The more video clips we get, the better the finished product will look. I’ll try to post periodic work-in-progress versions of the edited video as more clips arrive.
If you have any questions, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project Happy Submission Guidelines
Deadline – All submissions are due no later than July 15, 2014 (in order to edit together the final version by IC 2014).
How To Submit – E-mail your video files to email@example.com or upload larger files at this special web page: http://happy.sfi.org
File Format – Pretty much any video format is fine (MOV, AVI, WMV, MPEG, M4V, MKV, etc.). If I have any problems processing it, I’ll contact you.
Video Orientation – Horizontal (not vertical)! In other words, please-please-please hold the smart phone SIDEWAYS so we don’t have those awkward letterboxed strips with black boxes on the left and right.
Video Size And Quality – The better the quality we get to put in, the better the finished product. But don’t worry if all you have is a cheap smart phone. Your video submission is still welcome. If you can film in high definition (HD), great. If not standard definition (SD) is fine, too.
Video Duration – To make this easy for members and chapters, the minimum you need to film is about five or ten seconds of a person or persons looking Trekkish dancing and clapping while smiling (gotta look happy—except Klingons, Vulcans, and Borg…no need for them to smile). If you want to submit longer and more elaborate footage, it’s more than welcome. Just understand that we might get more footage than we can fit, so please don’t take it personally if some of what you submit doesn’t make it in.
Move The Camera (if possible) – The original music video and most of the fan versions have tried to have scenes where the camera was moving slightly through the scene—either stepping backwards while the dancers danced forwards or else panning to the left or the right. It’s not mandatory that the camera is always moving in every shot, but the more motion we have, the more dynamic the finished product. Just please try not to shake the camera. Smooth motion: good. Jerky earthquake motion: bad.
Lip Synching – If you want to lip synch, play the song while you film yourself and try to, at minimum, film at least the entire chorus. You can also film yourself singing and dancing along to the entire song. Just please don’t film just a short snippet of lip-synched verse because, if more than one person does the same snippet, someone will end up on the cutting room floor.
What To Wear – If all you have is an “I Grok Spock” T-shirt, wear it. But Trek-related uniforms, costumes and/or make-up are strongly recommended. Your uniform or costume doesn’t need to be the super-expensive, perfectly accurate kind. You just need to be identifiable as a Starfleet Officer or Marine (any erea), Klingon, Romulan, Vulcan, Ferengi, Andorian, Tellarite, Trill, Orion, Brog, Gorn, Tholian, or even Horta. Pets in uniforms would be great, too. And props! Bring your phasers and tricorders and bat-leths! The more Trekkish we look, the more chance we’ll go viral.
Where To Film – Anywhere is fine, as long as it’s legal (don’t get yourselves arrested, folks!). If you live somewhere near a recognizable landmark like the Golden Gate Bridge, St. Louis Arch, Lincoln Memorial, or Freedom Tower, it would be fantastic to get it in the background. If not, feel free to film in a park, on a playground, walking down a street, in a parking lot, on a tennis court, or just in someone’s living room.
International Members – Our non-U.S. members are key to showing a impressive global presence for our club. As such, the more you can show your national pride, the better. Got a familiar landmark like Tower Bridge or the Sidney Opera House? Film there! If not, see if you can get your hands on a flag for your country. International members are an essential part of STARFLEET.
Keep It Clean – Remember that it’s likely some kids will watch this video, as will their parents. And if we’re showing sexually suggestive content, blood and gore, or anything that wouldn’t make it onto network TV in the 8 o’clock hour, then we’re just asking for trouble. Please use your best judgment, but if in doubt, contact me first.
Sun Behind The Camera – If you’re shooting outdoors and the sun is shining, please don’t have the sun behind the dancers or else they’ll likely just be dark shadows on the video. If the sun is in their eyes and everyone’s squinting, try moving the camera person so everyone is looking just to the left or the right of the sun. The important thing is to avoid dark silhouettes caused by the sun being behind the dancers.
Disclaimer – By appearing in submitted videos, STARFLEET members and their friends and families agree for their likeness in the video to be used and posted online by our organization. If possible, try not to have anyone who isn’t associated with us (or isn’t aware of what we’re filming) to be recognizable in the video clip(s) you film. In other words, if someone you don’t know is walking past the dancing members and is visible and recognizable in the shot, wait a few seconds until they pass by before you start filming.
Have Fun – This is the most important thing, folks! Look happy and smile the entire time you’re dancing. Have a fun or funny idea? Try it out! If this video can make people laugh, so much the better. Remember that we’re trying to attract new members, and the more fun we’re having, the more likely others will want to sign up.
CONtraflow returned to the city of New Orleans for the second year nearly a full month earlier and at a new, larger hotel. What is significant about this event? It is the first major science fiction convention to make a regular appearance since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
CONtraflow is also important in regards to the USS New Orleans. The chapter was officially launched at the first CONtraflow and now it, too, returned to celebrate its home convention. As part of the festivities the chapter decided it would go all-out. There would be a fan table manned by volunteers from the newly launched USS Neptune from Biloxi, Mississippi; a video room whose volunteers were led by Second Officer LT Keith Rombach; and finally, the chapter as a whole contributed to the overall programming of the convention.
It seemed that unless one looked at the fan tables or the video room the crew of the New Orleans were nowhere in sight. However the chapter was there in force. Tactical Specialist CPO James Butler III was head of the video arcade where fans old and new could try their hands at a variety of video games. There were tournaments on both the Classic Tron Arcade Game and the Doctor Who Pinball Machine. The winner of the Pinball Machine Tournament fell to CDT CRMN Lucy Ferry, who wiped out all comers
WO1 Cheri Cerio and LTJG Renee Suttles used the convention as the place to launch the 2013 calendar of the new charity Geek Girls with Guns. The charity, which addresses the needs of children with special needs such as Down’s syndrome and autism, hopes to use its calendars of local women in fandom to raise funds to assist those families with medical and other expenses that have been affected by local and state cuts.
WO1 Charles “Ken” Bradley stepped in by assisting at registration and helping convention attendees to get into CONtraflow. ENS Rob Cerio, who was billed as one of the many author guests at the convention, took time out his busy schedule to assist the convention and chapter as needed. CAPT Robert Suttles acted as chapter photographer and documented the chapter and convention at work while at the same time worked on reaching out to the local Krewe of the Enterprise.
CONtraflow was not all fun and games for the crew. The convention also serves to raise funds for its own charity, the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library which gone under a major facelift since Hurricane Katrina ravaged many of its older locations. As a result there was a campaign to not only rebuild the libraries but to update them.
On the final day of the Convention the USS New Orleans hosted one of the last panels. It was decided early on that this last panel was to expose attendees to what STARFLEET is about. Members of both the USS New Orleans and the USS Neptune were present as LT Raymond Boudreau was recognized for achieving his first Boothby Award (Bronze Star) and his STARFLEET Chaplain’s Certification. During that time questions were asked and answered about STARFLEET and its various divisions.
At the end of the panel, the USS New Orleans had one more bittersweet task to perform.
On September 29, the division known as Project Neptune had ceased to exist and was replaced with USS Neptune. In recognition for that achievement, the crew of the USS New Orleans bade their former chapter-mates “fair winds and following seas” and handed them a bottle of champagne to be used in the next year when they have commissioned.
After that, CONtraflow started to wind down and began the process of ending for the year. However, the USS New Orleans and USS Neptune were already looking toward their next mission: New Orleans Comic Con 2012.
Here are items for sale from the USS Tiberius Quartermaster. All items are produced by the USS Tiberius and sold to members of STARFLEET at a discounted price. Shipping and handling prices are a flat plus tracking $4.40 for as many items as you like. Select “Shipping” and add it to your shopping cart. However, if you wish to pick these items up at a meeting or from the Commanding Officer then there is no charge for shipping.
The Star Trek franchise has always lured the exceptionally literate with its use of language, complex story lines, intricate depth of characters, and philosophical arcs that run throughout each series. And Star Trek: The Next Generation is no exception to this rule, in fact, it’s a favorite of mine due mainly to Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, and more importantly, Sir Patrick Stewart’s interpretation of the Enterprise’s commanding officer.
Picard always has an air of scholastic piousness that heightens every piece of dialogue, which is unlike the bombastic Captain Kirk or frigidly noble Janeway (note that this entry is not a discussion about the “best” Captain–we can table that unending argument for another day). Book-smarts are all but inherent to Jean-Luc’s personality. Recently, I came across a reading list of fictional characters (http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/70588066.html#cutid1), which touched briefly on the literature habits of Captain Picard and was led down the Trek-rabbit-hole of Jean-Luc’s telling library.
Throughout ST:TNG, at least once in each of the seven seasons, Picard is reading the Globe Illustrated Shakespeare, which he keeps in his ready room. Each appearance of this book is typically open to a different play and page with illustration. As I am sure all crew members know, Stewart was a highly respected Shakespearean actor prior to ST:TNG, so the connection here is nothing if not a nod to Stewart’s first love–the stage. Apropos to our USS Loma Prieta late-80s namesake, the specific year of Captain Picard’s Globe Shakespeare is from 1986 and has been notoriously difficult to find.
Fascinatingly, Picard’s volume of Shakespeare’s work appears prominently in the episodes that feature the licentious character of Q, which is in some way the most Shakespearean relationship throughout the entire series: vindictive deities, moral struggles, absurd humor, human toil, etc. It’s a fitting prop amongst the constant intellectual dueling between the Captain and his most compelling nemesis (again, this is merely the opinion of your humble Yeoman).
The other books mentioned in the series in Picard’s arsenal are the lengthy modernist novel Ulysses by James Joyce and Ving Kuda’s Ethics, Sophistry and the Alternate Universe. The latter being a fictitious piece used to emphasize Riker’s joke that Picard takes some “light reading” on his vacation to Risa in “Captain’s Holiday” (season 3, episode 19), but that I deeply wish was a real volume of text for you know… beach reading, or whatever.