There have been a lot of Star Trek fan films over the years, of varying styles and quality. Productions like the Star Trek Continues and Star Trek: Phase II webseries have combined fannish enthusiasm and even actual Star Trek veterans to tell continuing adventures of the Enterprise crew. But Star Trek: Axanar may be the most ambitious fan project yet. The goal is to create an original independent Star Trek feature film, one which boasts production values that can compete with some smaller Hollywood films. The first step was to create Prelude to Axanar, a 20-minute short film that serves as a proof of concept and stepping stone to the planned full-length feature film. Prelude to Axanar is now finished and online, and I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty damned impressive. You can watch the full 20-minute film on the Axanar Kickstarter page (it’s not embeddable, sadly), and you can check out a trailer for Prelude up top.
Prelude to Axanar was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, and the finished short film premiered this past Saturday, July 26, at Comic-Con in San Diego. It takes the form of a documentary looking back at the events of the Battle of Axanar, a key campaign in the war between the young Federation and the Klingon Empire, and the event that made Garth of Izar — one of Captain Kirk’s heroes — a name not soon forgotten. (Izar appeared in the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy.”) The faux documentary format works surprisingly well with the Trek material, and the full-length Axanar movie will take a more traditional narrative approach to telling the story of an infamous chapter of Trek history. Assuming it reaches its funding goals, of course, which shouldn’t be a problem. Prelude had a target goal of $10,000 and wound up bringing in over ten times that amount.
One thing that’s immediately apparent is that the level of acting in Prelude is well above that of many fan productions, and that’s in no small part due to the stellar cast, which includes genre veterans such as Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Tony Todd (who appeared in episodes of Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager), and Gary Graham, who is reprising his role as the Vulcan Ambassador Soval from Enterprise, a nice touch that really makes Axanar feel like part of the official Trek canon. The makeup, special effects, and sound are all likewise contributed by industry professionals, so this thing is very polished. Maybe not on par with J.J. Abrams’ mega-budget Trek films, but at least as good as the remastered Original Series episodes.
The Axanar feature film is expected to require a 20-day shoot and cost around $650,000, and they’re taking an interesting approach to the funding campaign — or rather, campaigns. Rather than trying to crowdfund the full $650,000 all at once (a goal they say they don’t expect to fulfill solely through Kickstarter), they’re doing several distinct Kickstarter campaigns to fund various aspects of the production. This first one will help pay for construction the sets for the film. With a target goal of $100,000, they’ve already hit $154,000, and they’ve still got until August 24. Assuming they don’t run out of enthusiastic fans willing to crack open their wallets, it should be smooth sailing to fund the rest of the film.
As with any crowdfunding campaign, your donations will net you various rewards, depending on how much you pledge. $20 will get you an illustrated Axanar script full of behind-the-scenes goodies, and five dollars more will also get you a digital download of the Axanar film once it’s finished. $100 will earn you all of the lower-tier rewards plus an autographed picture of the cast member of your choice. Got ten grand? You could become an actual Axanar producer!
It’s definitely worth watching the full 20-minute Prelude video, and it’s got me excited for the feature in a way I wasn’t previously. Especially for Trek fans who aren’t digging the Abrams version of the saga, Axanar could be just the shot of old-school Trek you’ve been craving.