(Valencia, CA) – Garth of Izar and Kharn the Undying continued to make their way where no fan-funded Star Trek film has gone before when AXANAR’s latest crowdfunding campaign son IndieGoGo surpassed a half million dollars on Tuesday, August 25th. “We’re extremely gratified at the support we’ve received from thousands of Star Trek fans around the world who want to see AXANAR come to life,” announced Alec Peters, Executive Producer of AXANAR and the head of Axanar Productions, the group making the indie film.
The crowd-funding effort, the third such campaign run by the filmmakers, achieved its initial funding goal just hours after launch and when it ended on August, 10, had raised over $470k from its supporters . The IndieGoGo campaign remains open through the Indigogo “InDemand” system, allowing fans to continue to donate. All told, Axanar Productions has raised in excess of $1.1 million to fund its studio and filmmaking.
“It’s a little misleading to think all that money is going into just one production,” cautioned Peters, a businessman-turned-filmmaker. As a former Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” winner, Peters has experience reading a balance sheet, setting budgets and operating accordingly. “From the start, we’ve always seen this venture rolling out in a series of steps or phases. The first phase was to fund, produce and share a piece that proved we could tell a compelling story in a way that no other fan-funded project had been able to achieve. We wanted everything to be first-rate, from the story to the acting to the make-up to the effects.”
What fans received after they funded that first Kickstarter campaign was PRELUDE TO AXANAR a twenty-minute short film that proved Peters right. The film is essentially one episode of a History Channel-style documentary about an event in the Star Trek universe’s timeline called The Four Years War. This “episode” focused on the run-up to a critical battle in the war between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets – the two, primary adversaries in the original Star Trek series created by Gene Roddenberry in the 1960’s.
“We knew PRELUDE would be a hit,” explained Peters. “But the enthusiasm released by the short film surpassed even our expectations. People liked what they saw and wanted more.” In fact, Axanar Production’s YouTube channel has shown PRELUDE TO AXANAR more than 1.4 million times. It’s also been shared repeatedly by other YouTubers and virally through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
The second phase of the Axanar Productions business plan was to build the infrastucture we needed to make quality films. “We’ve always wanted to produce more than just one film,” said Peters. “We want to do more Star Trek stories in the future, of course, but we also have some ideas of our own – so to do that, we needed a studio space to film and office space from which to run the production. The fulfillment of perks alone is a huge operation that needs space for storage and shipping.”
A second crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter raised more than $ 638,000, allowing Axanar Productions to lease a warehouse in Valencia, California and retrofit it to be a film studio. Additional funds from that campaign helped pay for the construction of sets Peters and company would require for their full length feature film, AXANAR. “We were also able to use $13,000 of the funds we raised to pay for the production of an early scene from the movie that we could show fans at San Diego Comic-Con this past July,” added Peters.
That initial scene also marked the entry of a new director into the AXANAR project. Rob Meyer Burnett, noted as both an editor and as a filmmaker (and as the directorial force behind the 1999 award-winning cult classic FREE ENTERPRISE), took charge on set and turned in a visual feast for the eyes of the Star Trek fans who were watching. The final scene on the planet Vulcan featured Star Trek alumnus Gary Graham, reprising his role of Ambassador Soval from Star Trek: Enterprise and Kim Fitzgerald as T’Lera. When combined with visual effects created by Tobias Richter and The Light Works (based in Cologne, Germany), the result was a lifelike walk inside the courtyard outside the Vulcan High Council.
Fans were thrilled. Axanar Productions had hit two home runs in two attempts with their support.
Would The Third Time Be The Charm?
Presenting the introductory scene at San Diego Comic-Con was just the beginning of a very active summer for Axanar Productions. During the event, the filmmakers launched their next crowd-funding effort, this time on IndieGoGo which had lower operating costs and the ability of the campaign to remain open past its campaign end date provided there was enough support from fans.
Fan support was not a problem; the initial surge (created through a sneak-preview campaign two days before the official launch) generated enough of a head start to allow the third campaign to achieve its funding goal in a matter of hours after its official launch. But with such an early success, there was some confusion as to whether there was a need for continued financial support from backers.
“In hind sight, it wasn’t clear enough to our fans just how much money we were going to need to produce a feature-length AXANAR story at the level they expected and deserved,” admits Peters. “The $250,000 initial goal was our bare minimum to make the first act of a four-act movie; that may not have been clear to everyone.”
Burnett agreed, “As we went through the script, we continued to shape the story and character arcs in a way that we felt would be compelling storytelling, but achievable on a tight budget. That number still came to nearly a million dollars. It was pretty clear from the start that we were going to have to think of producing AXANAR in chunks because no one had ever raised seven figures for a fan-funded Star Trek film before.”
“We’ll continue raising funds for AXANAR,” explained Peters. “It’s part of our daily operations now – and there’s a sense of urgency. The sooner we can raise enough to produce all four acts of the film, the lower our over-all production costs will be.” Both Peters and Burnett cite the potential costs of having to start, stop and then re-start production once additional funds are raised.
“Just like any other film production, time is money – and the longer it takes to produce this film to our standards, the more expensive it’s going to be,” said Peters. “But we now have enough money to film the first half of Axanar and that will start principle photography in January.”
Doing More With Less
While raising far more than other Star Trek fan-funded and produced films, AXANAR’s funding is still far less than the commercial projects seen on television or in movie theaters. Thanks in large part to digital effects houses like The Light Works and union agreements that allow professional filmmakers to work on reduced rates for web-based projects like AXANAR, the production’s budget is less than 1% of the projected budget for Star Trek Beyond, the sequel to JJ Abram’s 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness.
“Obviously, we’re already thinking of life after AXANAR,” said Peters. “We have ideas and dreams we want to produce in order to make Axanar Productions and our studio a viable, sustainable business – and we’ll be able to do that putting everything we’ve learned on PRELUDE TO AXANAR and AXANAR into practice. But we’re careful not to spend too much time thinking about our future while we have this project on the immediate horizon.”
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AXANAR and PRELUDE TO AXANAR are projects produced by AXANAR Productions at ARES Studios in Valencia, CA. Axanar Productions specializes in science fiction entertainment including, but not limited to, film/television production, web content production, books and games. For more information on AXANAR and associated production efforts, visit: www.startrekaxanar.com. To view progress on the AXANAR crowdfunding campaign currently underway on IndieGoGo, please visit: www.savethefederation.com. For downloads of visual assets and other editorial content related to Axanar Productions projects, please visit: www.axanarpr.com.