The incredible TOS sets at NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA began in 2008 when the fan series STARSHIP FARRAGUT began building its own sets. They didn’t want to keep borrowing James Cowley’s set in upstate New York (where they shot scenes for the second episode of For Want of a Nail). In 2009 they had an incredible shuttle interior, as well as a transporter room, a turbolift, a captain’s cabin and a corridor….. and they were about to start on the bridge!

These sets were originally located in a small building in the beautiful town of St. John’s. St. Marys, Georgia (the second oldest city in America), just north of the Georgia-Florida border. The facility was named Studio One and held its first event on the 17th. April 2009, the very first open house of the fan series. At the time, the set looked like this ….

At the second open house on 4. In December 2010, the deck was as follows: ….

A year later, two major announcements were made. The first is that Vic MIGNOGNA (who joined the Farragut Films team to direct the third full episode of The Price of Anything) will take on the creative direction and teamwork not only for Starship Farragut, but also for a new fan series featuring Vic as Captain Kirk, to be called THE STARS OF CONTINUES. The second announcement was that the kits would be transferred to a new facility 15 miles away in Kingsland, Georgia, which is nearly four times the size of the area. It is here, in the new Studio Two, that the TOS sets are expanded. And as of 2013, nearly all of the original Star Trek sets that existed at Paramount Studios in the 1960s had been recreated… with the notable exception of engineering.

But that set addition comes in 2015 after a second STC Kickstarter (which they called Kirkstarter) raised $215,000, which was enough to fund the construction of most of the technology, as well as the set buyout from Farragut Films (the two fan productions officially broke up at the end of the year), pay next year’s rent, and produce two new episodes in 2015.

STC closed out 2017 with the release of the tenth and eleventh episodes. But Vic Mignogna continued to pay the $4,000 a month rent for those beautiful sets that he and the fan series no longer needed. Vic couldn’t afford these costs forever, but thanks to the RAY TESI superfan, Vic’s problem was solved.

In February 2018, Ray bought the set from Vic, drew a monthly rent from his savings, and opened the set to all fan films for a small daily fee. Stages was renamed Stage 9 Studios, the name of which was later changed to Neutral Zone Studios the following February, after a British virtual reality group named Stage 9 was shut down by CBS for attempting to make an unlicensed VR move on NCC-1701-D.

So far, it’s been a story…

Over the past three years, Neutral Zone Studios has produced several fan films and series using the sets from TOS: AVALON UNIVERSE, DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, the CONSTAR CHRONICLES series, and the unique fan films TO HAVE BOLDLY GONE and LET OLD WRINKLES COME. In addition, Neutral Zone Studios has also released several fan films, TALES FROM THE NEUTRAL ZONE : VITREOUS HUMOR AND ENDOSYMBIOSIS.

Of course, there’s always the monthly rent, and Ray has a Patreon where fans can sign up for monthly donations of small amounts to help keep the studio doors open, the lights on, and the trash can parts installed. If you would like to help, please click on the link below:

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

The pandemic and the global economic crisis have reduced the number of visitors and the monthly income. So I was surprised to learn that Neutral Zone Studios had just added something new to their deck….. something that hasn’t been done since this thing was built. Here’s a before and after comparison – if you can see the new addition (it’s not hard!) …..

For…

…and beyond!

Yes, there is a new screen in town and it looks great! The first took place from the 16th to the 18th. April, fan appreciation weekend. Curious about how this wonderful acquisition came about (and what might follow), I contacted Mr. B. and asked him to send me an e-mail. Ray Tesey himself…

Jonathan – Of all the things in the Neutral Zone studios, what made you decide to add a new viewing screen?

Ray Tesi

RAY – Well, there hasn’t been any construction since 2015 and I’m tired of looking at the white walls at the front of the bridge. For a while they were green, then gray, but always ugly. One day Vic and I were talking about how he had always wanted to build a display. He used CGI when he needed a film shot. So I thought the new building would give the studio a new lease on life.

Jonathan – Did you pay the cost of the hardware out of pocket, from Patreon donations, or did you run a separate crowdfunding campaign?

RAY – I launched the Indiegogo campaign in mid-February hoping to raise money, but I had my doubts. Historically, I’ve been crowdfunded and I don’t seem to be part of the network. I have always lifted less (sometimes much less) than the goal. That’s why I decided not to shoot for the moon in this campaign.

I set a goal of $2700 in 60 days, and that’s the estimate we made for the build. To my surprise, the campaign raised the entire amount in about a week! I then tried to add an extended lens to get the View Screen Challenge piece, and voila….. more participants! I had a total of 55 supporters who gave 5800 – 214% of my goal!

Jonathan – Congratulations, Ray, that’s pretty cool. So if you started a two-month campaign in mid-February and finished in mid-April, you must have been working fast!

Ralph Miller and Royal Weaver

RAY – We worked the week of the 5th. April began purchasing materials and sought out several people to lead the design and construction. I have worked primarily with STC alumni RALPH MILLER, who has worked on the biggest and most important Trek productions, WILLIAM SMITH, who is a genius in design and electronics, VIC MIGNOGNA, whose vision got the project started, and ROYAL WEAVER, who has been building and producing the studio for 12 years. Dream Team.

A large group of volunteers worked with them: DAN SCANLAN, ALLEN ANDERSON, SKIP MORRIS, JOHN POWELL, SAM RUX (an 11-year veteran of the studio) and me.

Allen Anderson

Ralph flew over from Los Angeles and started on Friday the 9th. April, with the schedule. The goal was to make it to Thursday the 15th. April, should be completed and published on Fan Appreciation Weekend, 16-18. From April to the exhibition. We’re getting closer! On Friday morning we had almost the entire structure to show visitors and tell them it was still a work in progress.

Everyone did the NCO’s job, and the screen was finished on Sunday, just before the final round! We are currently working on a screen projector.

participants of the fan appreciation weekend in April

Jonathan – So now you have about three quarters of the bridge. The only thing missing are the three stations between the sciences and the panel to the right of the screen. Do you plan to complete the rest of the bridge, or is that just not possible due to the space available?

RAY – It’s not really about space, but I feel like we have the right group of fans. I remember the 360 degree bridge in STARBASE STUDIOS, and while it was impressive, it was a box. I love the open feeling that allows people to see it when they turn the corner of the hallway. I am very happy with the result!

Ralph Miller, Vic Mignogna and Skip Morris.

Jonathan – Do you have any plans to improve or add to other kits or existing kits?

RAY – We constantly clean, update and ink the kits. I plan to repair a shuttle damaged during storage and, space permitting, showcase a Romulan bridge. But all of this is still pending.

Ralph Müller

Jonathan – What are those blue light bars around the screen made of?

RAY – The blue strips are blue LED light tubes inside the plastic tubes.

Jonathan – Well, they look cool. But do the blue bars blur the green screen behind the viewer to the point that it becomes unusable, or do they mostly illuminate outward?

The lights are almost all off, but we didn’t expect the LEDs to be so bright, so we put a fader in and see what happens.

Ralph Müller

Jonathan – Since you’re here, I haven’t had a chance to cover the release of your first two episodes of Tales from the Neutral Zone. You want to talk about either one?

RAY – We’re very proud of what we did with The Looking Glass and the fact that it won first place in the SCI-FI category at last year’s IndieBOOM festival.

Jonathan! – Oh, congratulations! Anything to say about your other publication?

RAY – Endosybiosis is an interesting story. We have the 31st. The May 2019 shoot, and it was beyond hot and humid in the studio. At one point the temperature went up to 97 degrees! Most of the actors had to give up, the others were sweating, but we kept going anyway. I even added a sentence that most systems don’t work, including environmental control, to explain why everyone is sweating. It took me a year to film it because I was too afraid of what it would become. But I was proud of the result and the perseverance of the actors and crew.

Monica Mendivil in Endosymbiosis.

Jonathan – Are you working on a third version yet?

RAY – We had a third recording planned, TEST OF TIME, but we had to postpone it because of COVID. But this year, three shoots are planned, the first of which will take place on December 1 and 2. The month of May will take place.

Jonathan! This weekend! Well, that’s exciting! Are you filming the time trial? (I love this title, by the way).

No, we’re going to work on a different scenario this weekend. The time trial is scheduled for this fall.

Jonathan – Is there anything else of interest in the Neutral Zone studio?

We are always looking for ways to push the boundaries. We try to have hour-long parties on the plateau, in the engine room (it’s a little cooler there because of the adjacent cake factory….). We are also making progress with the Kingsland Centre. They had a number of ideas, including a parade and a parachute party. It’s all right, it’s all right.

Jonathan! Fantastic! I know that Riverside, IA has adopted Star Trek by declaring itself the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. They have monuments to the city of Star Trek and the Museum of Travel. Why doesn’t Kingsland claim the future birthplace of Dr McCoy? After all, he is from Georgia…

Okay, one last question, or rather a chance for you to close with a pitch for your Patreon. Why people would give you money every month.

Of course, we want these kits to live and thrive for a long time. We were hit hard by COWID, just like everyone else, and now Patreon brings in about 40% of what we need. If we can start reducing the remaining 60%, that would be a good deal. …. Even if the supporters only gave a small amount each month.

In fact, I recently added a new level for $1. If enough people donated just $1 a month (less than a cup of Starbuck’s coffee), we’d go a long way.

Jonathan – Well, Ray, it seems like a good time to remind people to join your Patreon, and even if they can’t afford it themselves, tell your friends and family of fans. $1 a month is all it takes, folks …..

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

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