Did you ever wonder why we use the term “PAYING a compliment”? After all, compliments have no monetary value. You can’t use a compliment to put gas in you tank or cover your rent. And it certainly doesn’t cost anything to “pay” someone a compliment. Compliments are 100% free! And yet, compliments do have value, especially in today’s world when so many of us often feel unacknowledged and taken for granted.
The Star Trek fan film guidelines state that the people working on fan productions can’t be professional. Since many professionals in the entertainment industry do work on fan films—including JOSHUA IRWIN, the force behind the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series—most showrunners interpret that rule as meaning you can’t pay people to work on your fan film (other than covering gas, lodging, meals, and/or traveling costs). So if you can’t pay your cast and crew in money, how about at least paying them in compliments?
Many showrunners do praise their teams in interviews that I feature here on Fan Film Factor, often calling out individuals by name for their contributions. But recently, Josh Irwin took the concept one step further. After a series of grueling shoots for multiple fan films, including one during the cold-snap in January where the mercury dropped to 25 degrees inside the WARP 66 studio facility(!!!), Josh decided to thank each member of his team one-by-one in personalized Facebook posts accompanied with some very cool images.
Josh wrote a number of very nice things about each one of them, and as I read those posts, I thought that they were special enough to deserve a little “extra” coverage here on the blog. Credit where it’s due, right? Actually, Josh said it best in this quote he asked me to include with the blog: “No one wants to work really hard on a project and feel like what they did wasn’t noticed or appreciated. Films are made by the efforts of A LOT of people, and everyone has an important part to play. To me, it’s personal—they’re helping me make a dream come true, and I’m never not going to express my gratitude.”
In addition to writing all these complimentary posts, Josh also included a selection of still frames from the three upcoming Avalon Universe films plus some behind-the-scenes photos. So while I certainly hope you folks will take the time to read what Josh wrote (as his team really does deserve to have others know more about them and their efforts), at the very least, you’ll have a chance to scan through these amazing images to get a good idea of how awesome these new three episodes will look!
So as not to play favorites, I’ll present Josh’s posts (both text and images) in alphabetical order…
VICTORIA ARCHER – Actress (Engineer Jamie Archer)
She was with us from the beginning and has seen it through to the end. When I met her, she was an energetic young adult just starting the adventure. She didn’t hesitate to volunteer to climb a ladder and do the fake rain gag. Or spend a full hour saying the same line of dialogue over and over (on someone else’s film). She was a warrior! Anyone who could endure what she did on the film set we met on has some serious strength and character!
She’s gone through so much on this journey. Said more technobabble than is reasonable for any human being, shot a film 8 months pregnant, and was the most consistent cast member in the production. Strong female characters are so important these days. But I wanted Jamie Archer to be more than that, I wanted her to be brilliant, and fearless. Victoria did the work to make the character just that!
These days, she’s a wife, a mom, and an entrepreneur. She didn’t have to come back. But she did. It does and will ALWAYS mean the world to me.
Thank you, Victoria!
NEAL BILBE – Director of Photography
I don’t know that I can accurately express what it meant to me to have Neal Bilbe back on set as Director of Photography for Avalon Universe this past weekend. He’s been my most consistent and my best friend for 30 years. That means something. And the work he did this weekend was gorgeous!
TYLER DUNIVAN (Director/Actor – Captain Derek Mason)
Tyler Dunivan shows up for shoots even on the days when he’s not on camera. Needless to say, I have a LOT to do on our Avalon Universe shoot days. Tyler helps me in so many ways. For one, he’s helping me co-direct all 3 films. He conducts rehearsals with the actors while I bounce back and forth between the rehearsals and the tech setups.
He script supervises while we shoot the scenes, gives notes, and comes up with some fantastic improv! He entertains everyone with his jokes and impressions. But the biggest thing he does is put up with my BS constantly. He deserves a fan film award just for that!
But our fans know him as the heroic Captain Derek Mason…whose greatest triumphs are yet to come!
VU HA and BRANDI HUFFORD (Extras)
So I talked to this guy on the phone that I’ve never met before and ask him to drive 2 1/2 hours and wear a miniskirt in 30-degree temperatures to film a TNG call back shot for “Crisis on Infinite Excaliburs.” And for some reason, he actually did it! We only got to hang out for one day, but this really says a lot about his character. Vu, you’re a cool guy in my book!
Then there’s Brandi, who came out just to be “Crazy hairdo lady.” Acting is kind of a serious thing for her, yet she did this for us…haha. But I was really glad that we got to have her on camera for Avalon, even if it was just for one shot!
Thank you to both of you for helping to bring this scene to life for me! You made my dreams come true!
WARREN HAWK (Actor – Commodore Imari Jakande)
I can’t tag him on social media because he’s not on it. But that’s not going to stop me from bragging on him, too. On screen, he may be the fearless war hero captain, but behind the scenes, he’s the life of the party!
Warren has one of the most positive attitudes I’ve ever seen in an actor! He works hard, and he’s easygoing. And he’s always there for us when we need him! My son Austin doesn’t know his real name; Warren walks into my house and Austin is like, “Hey Jakande’s here again! Yay!!!”
Warren’s favorite thing is when everyone’s having a fun time on set making a film. And he makes it fun. He’s also the source of many bloopers! Warren always has a story and a smile on his face.
Than you, Warren, for all that you bring to make the production more fun and the story better!
VANCE MAJOR (Actor – Chief Engineer Minard)
There simply wouldn’t be an Avalon Universe without Vance. He was the person who inspired me to do take this journey. He is an honest and true friend. He was ready to take a break, but he made the journey anyway from Kansas to Arkansas to film with us.
To me, he is a hero. And I view his character as a heroic Star Trek captain that I see in the same light as Kirk or Picard.
GREG MITCHELL (Camera Operator/Actor)
Greg Mitchell is one hard working guy! He drove in from Jonesboro this weekend and was our camera operator. And it can’t be easy when the Director comes from a DP background…haha! But he did an amazing job! He also found time to do several on camera roles, worked hard moving and loading the gear, and he even vacuumed the floor!
Filmmaking is hard! But it’s a lot easier when good people help! Thank you, Greg!
RAY MYERS (Actor/Executive Producer)
What a guy! What a friend! I met Ray on INTERLUDE, and since then, he’s become Avalon‘s biggest supporter and cheerleader! We finally got the chance last weekend to bring him in to be a part of what we were doing.
And after all that’s done, all he has done for us, well, for some reason, he wanted to do more! He picked up Warren Hawk from the airport, ran errands, you name it!
A few weeks ago he gave me a ride to the Austin Indie Film Fest in his Tesla! He’s a guy with a big heart who loves Star Trek, fan films, and pours his heart and soul into helping us out.
Ray lives life to the fullest, and I’m proud to call him a friend. Thank you for all you’ve done for us, Ray!!!
DWIGHT PFEFFER (Craft Services)
When my friend Dwight Pfeffer learned that Alex Rex lived with severe food allergies, he came to the rescue!
Dwight has been in the catering business for a long time. He got with Alex and found a food selection that everyone could eat. He’s helped us out both in front of and behind the camera for two projects now. The FOOD is a an important part of a film set. And we’re glad to have someone like Dwight who steps up to make busy days a lot easier!
JESSICA PILLER (Actress – Lt. Commander Shruvh)
When you sign up to do a Star Trek fan film, you might just be signing up to do some silly stuff like paint yourself blue and wear really bad wigs. Jessica did all that and made if fun! And she manages to steal the show in every scene she’s in! Jessic plays Lt. Commander Shruvh, 2nd officer of the USS Excalibur. I call her “Shruvh Sherbet” on set. She manages to get all those convoluted technobabbley exposition lines. It’s always a mouthful! Yet Jessica takes it in stride and puts the work in to delver those lines perfectly!
She’s one of those people who always seems to be in a good mood and manages to make the film set a fun place to be. My only regret with Jessica is that she isn’t in more scenes!
Thank you, Jessica!
DAN REYNOLDS (Producer)
One of the things that has blown me away over the past year is the 3D printing skills of Dan Reynolds! We found out the hard way that if you purchase Orville costumes, they don’t come with shoulder rank insignia. So Dan made a set. And I have to say, when I held them in my hand, I was speechless! They were so beautiful! It’s that kind of detail that really makes the difference in a film. Last year, he designed and created our Avalon Universe specific Starfleet badges. I loved them so much that we started using them right away! Dan even painted everything for us.
It’s people like Dan who make fan films happen! And he’s not only doing it for us but for a lot of other projects in fandom, as well! How cool is that??
MICHELE JEWELL REYNOLDS (Key Makeup and Hair)
Michele Jewell Reynolds is the KEY Makeup Artist for Avalon Universe. She came to set just days after having surgery. I don’t know how she did it, but she was there!
She helped us with Romulans, interesting hairstyles, and Ahyoka’s signature Phoenix tattoo! She’s a person who fought through the pain because she wanted to be on set. And she directly made what we shot so much better.
Michele, truly, THANK YOU!
ALEX REX (Actress – Commander Mikaela Allenby)
The character of Mikaela Allenby is named for my 12-year-old daughter. It’s my way of telling her that she can be anything in life, that’s there’s no mountain too high for her to climb.
A tall order for an actress to walk into. Alex did that and more. She SAVED Avalon Universe when she took up the mantle of the role. Alex is on time and off book with her dialogue when she arrives on set. She’s got a way of being polite, professional, and hardworking all in perfect balance. She’s funny and makes the set a brighter place whenever she is there!
The biggest challenge she faced was portraying 7 different versions of the same character! Somehow, she found a way to give each version not only a different personality but also a unique look with makeup and hair.
She’s spent DAYS in the cold at Warp 66 Studios doing and redoing the different looks in between shots. This kind of dedication is what is going to bring to life this film I’ve dreamed about for nearly 5 years!
Alex, Truly, THANK YOU!
CORA WILSON (Actress – Nurse T’Prin)
I wish I were half as cool as Cora Wilson! Actor, Business Owner, Yoga Instructor, Martial Artist! All of that, and she still found the time to come and be a part of Avalon Universe!
NEEDS OF THE ONE was a film I had wanted to do for a long time. And not just anyone could pull it off! Cora came in and crushed it from the first take! She was truly amazing!
It was an absolute joy to watch her bring to life a character that we could bring back over and over. There’s definitely more T’Prin coming!
Thank you, Cora!
GLEN L. WOLFE (Producer)
“You see, I’ve spoiled him.” Those were Glen’s words after the umpteenth time that I came to him and was like, “Hey, Glen, do you have a ____ that we could use in this scene?” Of course he has it.
Glen Wolfe is a one-man Art Department. The kind of guy who can build an Iconian portal chamber from a dog water bowl or a Romulan engine room using a wet floor cone. If you need a Klingon disruptor, a Kelvin Universe badge, or a random wig…he’s got it. Ask him to build a custom set, no problem. In Star Trek terms, he’s a miracle worker!
Dan and Glen have done fan films an immeasurable service by creating Warp 66 Studios! But the most valuable part to me is the friendships I’ve forged with these two guys! They’re both a lot of fun to hang out with and have a great sense of humor! And they have both worked incredibly hard to bring Avalon Universe to life on both sides of the camera.
And as for Glen, he really is the “Where’s Waldo” of fan films. And I have tons of fun finding ways to work him in, even though I think I’ve killed him on screen more than once.
CHUCK MERÉ (Actor – Captain Lance Ramirez)
He never wanted to be the hero. He never wanted to be the star. He only wanted to help. I will always respect him for that. He went above and beyond creating props, choreographing fight scenes, assisting with editing, and helping out in whatever way he could. When Chuck left the project, I respected his decision, because it’s exactly what I would have done in his place. He is a good, kind, and gentle man. The world needs more people like him.
VICTORIA FOX (Actress – Commander Amanda Beck)
She did the work. She’s creative and smart. And she deserves the credit and praise she received while working on the project. There will always be a part of Avalon Universe that is her creation. Though we had creative and personal differences regarding the direction of the project and her role in it, I respect her as an artist and a person. I know that she will be successful in whatever she does. She has my best wishes.