When the new fan film guidelines were announced by CBS and Paramount, one of the biggest concerns was what would happen to Star Trek Continues. This celebrated fan series now violated most of the guidelines, including a run time of more than 15 minutes per episode, the fact it was a continuing series in the first place, their recent $200,000 crowd-funding campaign (the new limit is $50,000), the distribution of perks, their use of professional actors and crew (including some who have previously worked on Star Trek films and/or licensed products), and of course, the words “Star Trek” in the title.
Of course, fans didn’t mind any of this. In fact, Star Trek Continues remains one of the most popular and successful of all the fan series…with a passionate and devoted following (including myself, a proud donor). And that’s why we were so concerned that these new guidelines would spell the end of Star Trek Continues (as they had already claimed another beloved fan series, Star Trek: New Voyages).
It had already been announced that STC‘s seventh full-length episode, “Embracing the Winds,” would be premiering on September 2 at Salt Lake City Comic Con and then the following day at the Toronto Fan Expo. And the assumption of a number of fan series has been that any film already in post production would be allowed to be released, even if it didn’t follow all the new guidelines.
But what about future episodes of STC? Show-runner Vic Mignogna had gone on record many times saying that he always planned for the series to run about 13 episodes, with the final 2 or 3 containing story arcs that would evolve into the character situations at the beginning of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Seven released episodes is more than halfway there, but would fans once again be cheated of seeing the USS Enterprise complete its original 5-year mission?
STC fans like me were a somewhat reassured when Vic said this in their most recent newsletter :
I want to assuage any concerns that our fans may have about the current climate. We fully intend that the kind donations from our supporters will be used for the exact purpose for which they were donated.
STAR TREK CONTINUES is the only official 501(c)3 non-profit Trek fan production company out there dedicated solely to TREK. We are awaiting further clarification, but I am optimistic about completing our planned series and I would like to ask all of our fans to remain optimistic with us. We have a plan to bring STAR TREK CONTINUES to a close with an outstanding final episode arc.
We are working at warp speed to complete STAR TREK CONTINUES.
While I certainly appreciated the update, it left my head spinning with questions! Would STC still be making 13 total episodes? Would the episodes now all be 15 minutes long instead of 60? How can STC go on as a continuing series if the very concept of a continuing series now violates the very first guideline?
With these questions and more on my mind, I approached Vic Mignogna on Saturday evening at the Las Vegas CREATION convention right after The Roddenberries had finished their amazing 90-minute concert. I introduced myself as an STC donor and fan and also as the writer of Fan Film Factor. And that’s when I asked Vic: “Are you going to be able to finish your series?”
“We’re sure going to try to!” he replied.
“But what about the new guidelines?” I followed up. “Will you still be able to make all 13 episodes you had planned?”
As I was asking these questions, STC writer/director/co-producer James Kerwin wandered into the conversation, and I introduced myself. As more people were surrounding Vic to talk about various things, Vic turned to James and asked him to address my questions. I explained to James that I was a blogger for Fan Film Factor and asked if I could quote his answers on the record. James happily agreed and had this to say…
JAMES: We’re planning to complete four more full-length episodes.
JONATHAN: Are you planning any more crowd-funding campaigns?
JAMES: No more crowd-funding.
JONATHAN: So can you make four full episodes with the $200,000 you have have from your last campaign?
JAMES: We actually have closer to $400,000.
JONATHAN: Did I miss an Indiegogo campaign???
JAMES: No, but we had some private investors come through for us. I think we’re somewhere between having $350,000 and $400,000 to work with…and that should be enough for four more episodes.
JONATHAN: Do those four include the one coming out next month?
JAMES: No, we’re planning for another four episodes after that.
JONATHAN: So you’ll wind up with eleven episodes total.
JAMES: That’s our intention.
JONATHAN: And they’re all going to be full-length, one-hour episodes…not 15 minutes each?
JAMES: Again, that’s our intention. We want to finish up the series, and we’re going to try to make these last four episodes as quickly as we can.
JONATHAN: So the obvious question is: what about the fan film guidelines? You guys violate nearly every one of them.
JAMES: Here’s the thing that a lot of people aren’t understanding about the guidelines. What CBS and Paramount have said is: If you follow all of these guidelines, then we will not sue you. But it doesn’t say: if you don’t follow these guidelines, then we will sue you. There is a big distinction there.
JONATHAN: So you’re going to make these four episodes and hope you don’t get sued by the studios?
JAMES: Over the years, we’ve had a very good relationship with CBS. We’ve been very respectful of them, which is something that isn’t true of all fan films. Additionally, we’re a 501(c)3 non-profit entity.
JONATHAN: And you think that’ll keep you off their radar?
JAMES: We’re not planning to hide anything that we’re doing. But we want to finish our series…if the studios will allow us to. We want to maintain our good relationship with them no matter what. So be sure to tell the readers on your blog that this is only what we want to do and what we’re planning to do. It’s not a guarantee that we will do it. We are going to try to do it because that’s what our donors have supported us doing. But in the end, and most of all, we want to be respectful of CBS and Paramount, who own the rights to Star Trek.
As a fan of STC, I’m cautiously excited as all heck right now. As the writer of Fan Film Factor, though, I’m really curious to see how this ends up playing out. James did mention that STC is going to proceed with producing these remaining episodes as quickly as possible. And I sure wish them luck, as I definitely want to see as much of STC as the fates (and the studios) will allow.
Later in the weekend, I was chatting with a couple of other fan series producers about James and Vic’s comments, and one of the other fan filmmakers had an interesting take. Asking not to be identified by name, this person still allowed me to quote them:
“The studios saw what happened when they sued Axanar, and it wasn’t pretty. It’s still a real mess for them. Now, Continues has fans who are just as dedicated to their series as the Axanar fans are to their project…but they aren’t all the same fans. So if CBS and Paramount move against Continues, they’re going to piss off a whole NEW set of fans and come off looking like a huge bully. It’ll be really ugly. So if the studios are smart, they’ll let STC finish up, go away, and just concentrate on suing Axanar.”
It’s about to get really interesting around here…
Please visit the Star Trek Continues Facebook page for more news and fun photos from this groundbreaking series.