Now, this is intriguing! If you look about half-way down the fan film guidelines to the second-to-last point under #6, you find the following:
No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.
That seems pretty straightforward. If you want to give away any perks, they have to be licensed Star Trek merchandise. You can’t give any patches or T-shirts or signed scripts or posters or anything related to your fan production in exchange for donations…at least if you want to make sure you aren’t sued or sent a cease and desist letter by CBS and Paramount.
So how was it that STARSHIP REPUBLIC, the newest fan film to launch a crowd-funding campaign (and the first to do so since the Axanar settlement), was offering a whole set of perks? Sure, most perks were digital, but there were also physical posters in the mix (like the two images shown above).
Well, it turns out that they simply asked CBS for permission–and they got it! Well, kinda…
When CBS and Paramount jointly announced their new fan film guidelines last June, most of us in the fan production community (both filmmakers and viewers) were horrified, furious, indignant, grief-stricken, and depressingly convinced that these ten Draconian rules would spell the end of world for Star Trek fan films as we knew them.
And few out there felt more strongly about this than yours truly! I used words like “carnage,” “eliminate,” and “destroy.” I proclaimed in a blog I posted on June 23, 2016:
In short, these new guidelines would obliterate the majority of fan films…
And I quickly moved to set up a new protest campaign, Project: SMALL ACCESS, endeavoring to use the threat of fewer subscriptions to CBS’s new All Access paid video streaming service to try to encourage the studio(s) to revise and revisit these overly-restrictive guidelines.
SMALL ACCESS quickly grew to over a thousand members in a group on Facebook, and we examined the guidelines one-by-one. Through polling and discussions, we determined that about half of the guidelines were actually just fine as they were and didn’t cause much angst. Another quarter of them could benefit from a little tweaking of the phrasing to explain them better. And the final quarter of them, well, they pretty much pissed most of us off completely.
Eventually, we created a 38-page Focus Group Report, and members mailed 115 copies to various executives at both studios. Yes, it was a stunt, and no, it didn’t work. Eight months later, the guidelines are still in place, and the studios don’t seem to be inclined to make any changes.
So what in the name of James Tiberius Kirk do we do now?
On September 23, 1999, the Mars Surveyor Orbiter crashed into the red planet because of a very simple (some say “stupid”) error. According to the NASA.gov website:
…one team used English units (e.g., inches, feet and pounds) while the other used metric units for a key spacecraft operation.
One little mistake…
The result was the loss of a $125 million satellite.
In early February 2017, I was IM’ing with one of my local producer friends, asking how much it costs to rent a decent studio/sound stage here in Los Angeles. He IM’d me back: “About $15-$30K per day.”
That number intrigued and excited me. It wasn’t long before I’d done the math and determined that–lordy lordy!–it was actually CHEAPER for Alec Peters to have built out Ares/Industry studios than to have RENTED an existing sound stage! And the savings difference was in the six-figures!!!!
NOTICE: THERE IS AN IMPORTANT PIECE OF INCORRECT INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS EDITORIAL. SOUND STAGE RENTAL IS NOT $15K-$30K/DAY BUT RATHER PER MONTH.
A FOLLOW-UP BLOG CORRECTING THIS ERROR APPEARS HERE.
One of the most controversial decisions made during the three-year saga (so far) of AXANAR was the choice to build Ares Studios (now Industry Studios) rather than to just rent a local sound stage in Los Angeles.
In a recent Fan Film Factor interview, ALEC PETERS said that the original plan was NOT to shoot Axanar in Los Angeles but rather to film in upstate New York on James Cawley’s Star Trek: New Voyages sets:
I certainly wish we had done what I had originally planned on and shot Axanar at the Star Trek: New Voyages sets. Instead, Christian Gossett–our former director–felt he couldn’t shoot at those sets because of the limited space and the volunteer crew. Ironically, Rob Burnett did a beautiful job when we shot the “Heroes” vignette there. You’ll see his work as an “extra” when we release Axanar.
If we’d done that, we would be finished with Axanar by now and probably avoided the lawsuit.
Now, I don’t claim to know the details of whether the decision not to film on the New Voyages sets was made solely by Christian Gossett or solely by Alec Peters based on Christian’s reservations or as a team decision. But I do know that it changed everything about Axanar and immediately turned it from a fan film that could be made for potentially a couple of a hundred thousand dollars into a fan film that would cost between a half million and a million dollars (or more)…
…even if they’d rented a sound stage. In fact, BUILDING a studio instead of RENTING one actually saved them money! Let me ‘splain…
Right after the settlement in the AXANAR lawsuit was announced, rumors were flying that the reason for this unexpected development was because the Court had lifted the confidentiality designation on Alec Peters’ financials. According to some detractors (well, most of them), Alec suddenly panicked that the jig was up and hastily rushed to settle so as not to let those financials become public.
You know me and rumors, right?
So I e-mailed Axanar lead defense attorney, Erin Ranahan, to see if these rumors were true or not. And she gave me a surprising answer. And then I asked her a few other quick questions, and she answered those, too. “Geez, if only I could get an official interview with you!” I e-mailed back to her.
A few seconds later, she responded: “Send me a list of questions and I’ll let you know which I can answer.”
Whoa! Did Erin just agree to do an interview with Fan Film Factor??? I didn’t even know that lawyers in big cases like these were allowed to give full interviews. Usually, all I see are quick sound bytes that don’t really say much.
And so I put together a list of questions, and Erin actually answered most of them. The couple that she didn’t dealt with items like the specific terms of the settlement, which are confidential.
So, is that rumor about Alec’s financials true? Read on…
Some deaths really hit you hard. This one did for me. I’d been working on site at a client this afternoon when the news came down that actor Richard Hatch had passed away at the age of 71 from pancreatic cancer. I didn’t find out until hours later when I sent a response to a friend’s IM. Instead of continuing our debate, he wrote me back: “Richard Hatch passed away. Not long ago. He’s an old friend.”
At first I didn’t believe it. “THE Richard Hatch???” I typed back. Then I looked through my e-mails and almost immediately found this from Alec Peters:
It is with great sadness that I report to all Axanar fans that Richard Hatch has passed away. 3 weeks ago I found out he had stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. We knew he had little time left, but this is quite more sudden than we thought.
Richard was in good spirits when I visited him 2 weeks ago. He knew his time was short, but was comforted by the fact that his son would be taken care of.
Richard was a dear friend and a staunch supporter of Axanar. Kharn was literally one of his favorite roles from his 50+ year acting career. We will all miss him a great deal.
I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Just weeks after the Axanar legal settlement allowed Richard Hatch to appear in a 30-minute version of the main fan film, I was so looking forward to seeing him reprise his role as the Klingon Commander Kharn, truly some of his best work in a career that also featured two other beloved sci-fi characters: Captain Apollo and, later, Tom Zarek from both the original and the rebooted Battlestar Galactica.
Richard also did a number of independent sci-fi and fan film roles recently. He appeared in an episode of Star Trek: New Voyages that was never completed, “Torment of Destiny” (perhaps now it might finally be edited and completed; we’ll have to see). He was also slated to appear as a major character in the independent sci-fi web series Blade of Honor as Admiral DiCarrek.
Of course, for most readers of Fan Film Factor and millions of YouTube viewers, Richard was known most recently for his captivating performance as the introspective, intense, and haunted Klingon Commander Kharn from Prelude to Axanar.
I realize it’s both cliche and a little egotistical to say, “I knew the deceased”–especially when it’s a celebrity who has passed away. And to be certain, there are many, MANY people who knew Richard Hatch far better than I did. But even though I only met Richard a few times at conventions where Axanar had a table, interviewed him via e-mail for the STARFLEET fan club newsletter, and had dinner with him just one time, he did leave an indelible impression on me. And that is what I’d like to share with you, if you don’t mind.
It was after that dinner in late 2014–which consisted of three volunteers (myself, Derek Allen, and Martin Horowitz) plus Alec Peters, Diana Kingsbury, and Richard himself–that I realized how much Richard Hatch truly didn’t look his age. Derek, Martin, and I were trying to figure out how old Richard was, as he didn’t look older than his mid- or, at most, late-50s. He was nearly 70 at the time.
Richard was just so full of life…like a puppy who just wanted to explore everything the world had to offer. Before dinner, while still at the the convention for eight straight hours, he was talking to everyone who walked by his table, never for a moment looking bored or exhausted or uninterested in the person talking to him.
During dinner, Richard spoke excitedly and knowledgeably about a flurry of topics…eventually landing on Klingons and how Kharn might be influenced by other Klingons who had appeared in Star Trek. This led to an energetic and passionate discussion among all of us geeks on the best Klingons to research…and why they were important. Alec had always seen Kharn as cut from the same cloth as Kang from “Dave of the Dove.” I thought it would be good for Richard to look more closely at Martok from Deep Space Nine. Everybody had an opinion!
And rather than just zoning out at this cacophony of Klingon comparison and contrast, Richard was right there in the thick of it all. He challenged us to connect what this or that Klingon did that could tie into how Kharn might think or act. Richard brought into this discussion the philosophies of The Art of War, World War II history, elements of Eastern spirituality, and a collection of other facts and experiences from his life..
For me, this was a total geek-gasm, chatting about Star Trek for over 90 minutes with the star of Battlestar Galactica and giving him potentially valuable insights into how he might play his newest Klingon character more effectively. And Richard really wanted to know! This wasn’t just some lip service for a bunch of Trekkies he was trapped with in a P.F. Chang’s in Long Beach. Richard questioned, drilled down, challenged us a few times, and in the end even asked if we could send him a list of the most informative Star Trek episodes to watch and examine. I went home and composed an e-mail list of a couple of dozen episodes to check out and why they were important. (I think I still have that e-mail somewhere…)
So no, I wasn’t close to Richard Hatch, and I doubt he could have picked me out of a police line-up. But that didn’t matter. Richard inspired me…with his thirst for knowledge, his positive attitude, his energy, and his lust for life and experiences…even at the age of almost 70. Twenty years from now, I can only hope to come close to that kind of optimism and spiritual awareness.Farewell, Richard. Thank you for touching our lives with your wonderful characters, your graciousness, and your limitless energy and optimism. You will be truly missed…
The fan film/series RENEGADES was in the right place at the wrong time. Still called Star Trek: Renegades when thefan film guidelines came out last June, the producers had already completed a very impressive 90-minute feature film in 2015 for $350,000 and were about to begin production on a new series of episodes with a starting budget of $515,000 for the first one.
With Tim Russ directing and reprising his character of Tuvok, plus both Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols reprising their roles as Chekov and Uhura (likely for the final time), plus appearances by Star Trek veteran actors Cirroc “Jake Sisko” Lofton, Aron “Nog” Eisenberg, Terry “Jadzia” Farrell, Robert “Chakotay” Beltran, Gary “Soval” Graham, and a few others–some playing the same characters, other playing new ones–Star Trek: Renegades‘ first two-part episode, “The Requiem,” looked like Trekker’s fan film dream come true! Even the production crew was a virtual “Who’s Who” of fan film luminaries, including VFX wizards Tobias Richter and Tommy Kraft, prop guru Scott Nakada, and many more.
In Part 1 of my interview with AXANAR executive producer ALEC PETERS, we covered the past and the present. We discussed what led up to the copyright infringement lawsuit from CBS and Paramount, what happened during the 13 months the lawsuit was progressing toward trial, and what led to the unexpected (to most of us, at least) settlement.
Now it’s time to transition toward a look into the future. What exactly is Axanar allowed to do going forward, and what plans are there so far. But first, there was one really important question that I think a lot of people–donors and detractors alike–wanted to know…
JONATHAN: Okay, remember when you said I could ask you any question?
ALEC: Oh, boy…
JONATHAN: How much personal blame do you accept for the lawsuit and the delay in producing Axanar?
ALEC PETERS, the executive producer of AXANARPRODUCTIONS) has arguably become one of the most controversial and polarizing figures in the world of fan films. Having worked on the fan series Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II, Alec ultimately set his sights on producing a Star Trek fan film of his own: Axanar. Using the relatively new crowd-funding tools of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Alec was able to go where no Star Trek fan filmmaker had gone before: past the $1 million mark in fan donations to build a studio and produce his dream project.
He also became the first-ever Star Trek fan filmmaker to get his ass sued simultaneously by two major Hollywood studios.
Rather than turning into a mass of quivering jelly and accepting a potentially multi-million dollar judgment against him, Alec was able to find a top intellectual property law firm to represent him pro bono (for free), and “David” took on “Goliath” in a case that I’ve analyzed extensively here on Fan Film Factor. It was ugly, surprising, frustrating, amusing at times, full of twists and turns, and even covered by the mainstream media. The case carried the potential of settling huge precedents in copyright law that could affect all fan films…for good or ill. And thousands of fans and donors watched eagerly to see what would happen next.
But fandom was not united in their opinion of this case nor their feelings about Alec Peters. Some fans (like myself) were huge supporters and proudly proclaimed, “I Stand With AXANAR!” Others felt just as strongly that an arrogant and overconfident Icarus had flown far too close to the sun and deserved to plummet to a painful, smashing oblivion far below.
The bar has just been raised for Star Trek fan films. On May 2 of last year, Gary O’Brien and Paul Laight launched a Kickstarter to fund their latest short film. Based in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom, over the past eleven years Gary and Paul had collaborated on eight other short films.
At first, their script had nothing whatsoever to do with Star Trek. It was, quite simply, a chance encounter between an older man and a younger woman. Then Paul suggested adding in a science fiction element, and Gary (who would later be crowned the U.K.’s “Ultimate Trekker” and win a trip to Los Angeles to tour Paramount Studios) suggested that the idea might work well as a Star Trek story.
Their Kickstarter was surprisingly modest, asking for only £1,700 (the equivalent of only about $2,500). They ultimately raised £1,862…including £10 me yours truly. And although Gary put in some of his own money, you will likely be shocked that a fan film of such quality could be made for so little…especially considering that the actors were paid a modest amount (production predated the guidelines requiring no one be paid) and that two very impressive sets were constructed, props created, uniforms purchased, visual FX rendered, and original music composed. And the entire project was completed in just half a year!
You can discover more about this project, find out about the cast and creators, and see some fun behind-the-scenes videos on their website.
Do yourself a favor. Drop whatever you’re doing and take twenty minutes to watch this impressively crafted, deftly acted, and gently touching fan film…