This past week I went to visit my Mom down in Florida, and after I left, I had a choice, either drive 14 hours back home, or split the drive by going out of my way(taking I-75 instead of I-95) and hitting Atlanta GA for Axacon 2018.
Me and my Mom
Well of course my geeky side won out, and I made the trek up to Lawrenceville, GA to attend the first day of Axacon 2018. This was the second time I ventured to Ga to OWC Studios. In October 2017, I attended the 1 day open house for the studio. This was just after Axanar Productions and Alec Peters made a cross country move from LA to Ga. At the open House I met Alec for the first time(we had been facebook friends prior to that), along with some members of the Axanar production crew. It was also here that I first saw the dominant feature of the studio, the USS Ares bridge set. After having been trucked cross country and reassembled it looked like this..
As you can see, it was missing the monitors, and graphics panels for each bridge station. Axacon 2018 was something Alec and the fans and supporters had talked about for more than a year, it was viewed as a way to give back to the fans who had been supporting the idea of making the Star Trek fan film “Axanar” for more than 4 years. It would bring together the crew behind the film and its stars for fans to meet and greet, hold Star Trek and Axanar related panels. Because Axanar is “just a fan film”(abeit with professional actors and crew) it wanted to join forces with another Con. It found a willing partner in SphinxCon 2018(a celebration of the Honor Harrington sci-fi book series). By sharing convention space, the “dream” of Axacon was a reality. Alec Peters proceeded to line up guests, David Gerrold(writer of arguably the best loved TOS episode “the trouble with tribbles”) was already scheduled for SphinxCon, so getting him to agree to do some panels for Axacon was fairly “simple”. Also agreeing to attend were Star Trek FanFilm blogger and Axanar supporter Jonathan Lane (https://fanfilmfactor.com/), Gary Graham(Ambassador Soval from Enterprise, and Prelude to Axanar), JG Hertzler(General/Chancellor Martok From DS9, and Captain Samuel Travis “Prelude to Axanar), Steven Jepson(Admiral Slater from Prelude to Axanar).
With the guests lined up, next task was to set a schedule for the Axacon 2018, The first day would include a “studio Tour”, and live script reading with actors Gary Graham and JG Hertzler(among others). The 2nd and 3rd days would be held at the Crown Plaza Airport Hotel(site of SphinxCon) and consist of various Axanar and Star Trek related panels with various guests and fans. The few days prior to the Con, Alec received his copy of the book “life and death of a rising star: Steve Ihnat” by Author Linda Alexander. Alec was able to get in contact with the author and both she and Sally Marshall(Steve’s widow) agreed to attend Axacon, and do a panel on both the actors life and his role as Garth of Izar.
So I drove up, and arrived at the studio around 1pm(right before the scheduled tour was supposed to start). After saying hello to Alec, his girlfriend Crysstal and a couple of others I knew from both facebook and the open house last year, Crysstal asked if I wanted to go have lunch with them, of course I said “yes”. So we piled into Dale Simpson’s(OWC head of security) Vehicle and headed off to the Local Republic for some food. Riding with us was none other than Steven Jepson(Admiral Slater). arriving at the restaurant we met up with both Gary and JG. Lunch with 3 of the stars of Prelude to Axanar was an unexpected treat for me. Dale, Gary and myself spent most of the meal talking military related stuff and combat shooting tactics(never thought I would have that conversation with an actor). Gary probably talks more than any person I have ever been around, and keeping up with him, and his knowledge on subjects was definitely a challenge.
Gary Graham/Steve Jepson JG Herzler(in the ballcap) Myself
All Lunch photos taken by Dale Simpson
After lunch we headed back to the studio, where I took my first really good look at the bridge set. Alec, Dana Wagner(in charge of construction), James Simpson(monitor and PC set up) and a group of volunteers had worked diligently to get the set finished….. and as you can see from the photos below they did a magnificent job of it.
Forward right side of bridge set Forward left side of bridge set
aft right side of set Aft Left side of set
Navigation and Tactical consoles
The graphics on the individual stations look amazing as every button is labeled. the graphics are a 1 piece plexi mounted with the graphics on top which allow for them to be lighted from below.
Various station graphics
Of course we also had various Large and small monitor stations showing graphics as well
The graphics were running on a “Test Loop” showing the same 5-7 images. They need some slight adjusting to fit the monitors better, but they are very well done, and rather impressive. Graphics designers Alexander Richardson, Lee Quesenberry and others did a wonderful job on them.
Here are close ups of both the Pilot/Nav station and tactical stations
The highlight of the day had to be when the 30-40 attendees joined the actors on the bridge for a live reading from the full 90 minute Axanar script. If you have never seen a live script reading, especially one with such venerable actors, the caliber of Gary Graham and JG Hertzler, you are missing out on something amazing.
Gary Graham in the center seat with JG at the pilots station
Steve Jepson, Alec Peters, Jonathan Lane, Gary Graham and JG Hertzler(from Left to Right)
Alec Peters and Jonathan Lane
Alec, Gary, JG, Dana, and his wife pose for the group photo(with the actors giving the Vulcan Salute)
While the studio tour was only set for approximately 2 hours, the studio was actually open for close to 6 hours. There was a video crew recording everything for future release by Axanar Productions. Everyone basically hung out, and talked about anything, whether it was Star trek related or not. The studio made financial books going back to 2014 available for anyone who wanted to look through them, I did look at some of them, but I respected the integrity of both Alec and the studio and did not take pictures of them(also accounting and receipt information is rather dry and boring).
After everyone had departed, a few of us went out for NY style pizza, that was actually pretty darn good. I then said my goodbyes, as I had to drive back to Virginia for work(yes I wanted to stay for at least part of the Saturday panels). I am glad I attended the first day, as it allowed me the honor of meeting actors whose roles in Star Trek lore are the stuff of legends. I renewed friendships in real life, that up until then had only been the online variety. Learning about the plan for the future of Axanar(yes there are still two 15 minute episodes to go), 2019 is looking more and more solid for their release.
In talking with those who attended the Saturday and Sunday panel sessions, it was obvious that Axacon 2018 was a success for the team and Alec personally. There has been so much negativity surrounding the production, those attached to it (especially Alec and Crysstal) and the supporters from a small but very vocal group of detractors(who have gone as far as to blatantly lie about anything and everything), that this past weekend was a much needed shot of positivity. Hopefully there will be an Axacon 2019 because having another one after the 2 films are released would be a nice way to wrap up this journey.