FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 1) – DO WE FIGHT ON?

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?

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CORRECTION! — It was NOT CHEAPER (as far as I can tell) for AXANAR PRODUCTIONS to BUILD a studio than to RENT one

One little mistake…

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!!!!

This was HUGE!  Or so I thought…

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It was actually CHEAPER for AXANAR PRODUCTIONS to BUILD a studio than to RENT one!

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…

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An interview with AXANAR attorney ERIN RANAHAN

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…

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R.I.P. – RICHARD HATCH (1945-2017)

Richard Hatch played Tom Zarek on the new Battlestar Galactica and, more recently, Klingon Commander Kharn in Prelude to Axanar.

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…

MICHAEL HINMAN asks detractors NOT to call AXANAR a “scam”

Michael Hinman–blogger and self-described journalist

If being an Axanar detractor were an Olympic event, MICHAEL HINMAN would have to change his last name to PHELPS.  He is the administrator of the CBS/Paramount v. Axanar Facebook group where detractors of Axanar and Alec Peters go to…well…detract.

I visit the group occasionally when I feel my blood pressure has dropped too low, and I usually realize within about a minute or two of reading the comments there why I usually hit the “Back” button on my browser after about a minute or two of reading the comments there.

So imagine my surprise when I popped over there a few minutes ago to find a message from Michael Hinman that I actually AGREED with!  In fact, I need to APPLAUD him for posting it!!!

I’ll reprint the post in its entirety in a moment, but first I need to explain a few things.  If you’re a reader of the blog comments here on FAN FILM FACTOR, you’ve probably seen at least a few detractors doing their “thing” when I post blogs that discuss Axanar.  And some of those comments can be a little–shall we say–intense, passionate, heated, crude, indignant, insulting, ranting, raving, vitriolic (the list goes on).  And that’s only a taste of what you’ll see on their Facebook group.  Trust me; it’s not pretty.

I can deal with all of the above–my only real pet peeve (aside from obscenity) is straight-out misinformation.  It bugs the shat out of me, and can, at times, border on libel.  I’ve even gone so far as to issue warnings a few times in the comments section and state that opinions expressed by the readers of Fan Film Factor do not necessarily reflect the views of the blog owner (me).  Well, today it was Michael Hinman’s turn to issue the warning to his members…

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GUEST BLOGGER: CBS/Paramount vs Axanar: Join Me In A Drink To Celebrate Our Mutual Dissatisfaction

The puppets just learned their options were picked up for Ax’d-No-More!

Dave Heagney, Jr. is a fellow blogger and Facebook friend of mine.

Actually, I should correct that to say that Dave WAS just a Facebook friend and has since become an actual friend whom I speak with on the phone and look forward to meeting in person the next time I get up to the San Francisco Bay area.  Dave is also a fellow Axanar supporter and has helped me immeasurably in serving as one of my moderators over on the Project: SMALL ACCESS Facebook group.
 
 Yesterday, Dave wrote a blog entry for his site that was, quite frankly, nearly the exact same blog I was planning to write next week.  I was gonna call mine “The AXANAR SETTLEMENT – Win, Loss, or Draw?”  But Dave still hit on the same main points that I was going to.  So rather than reinvent the wheel and just write a longer blog (’cause that’s what I do!), I  asked Dave if I could reprint his editorial here–and he graciously agreed.
So without further ado…here’s Dave!

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LEGAL EXPERT says AXANAR has more ways to WIN than to LOSE the lawsuit! (Interview)

Moses Avalon works as a leading proponent of artists’ legal rights with 30 years experience and four books under his belt.  Two of his books, Million Dollar Mistakes and Confessions of a Record Producer continue to be required reading in over 50 music business courses around the world including the music business programs at such prestigious colleges and universities as UCLA, Loyola, and NYU. His latest book 100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business is a tell-all guide to help recording artists at each stage of their music career.

In addition, Moses is also a court-recognized music business expert in New York, California, Florida and Puerto Rico, has acted in an advisory capacity to multiple State Attorney General Offices and the Senate Judiciary Committee in Sacramento regarding the music industry, and has appeared on numerous television news shows (Court TV, MSNBC, CNN Money Line, & Bill O’Reilly) seeking the inside info on the music business.  (I got the preceding two paragraphs from his website.)

Although Moses does not currently practice law himself, he knows the ins and outs of copyrights and has served as a consultant and as an expert witness on dozens of cases.  In fact, on cases where he’s testified as an expert, the party that called him as a witness has won 7-out-of-7 times.  Not bad!

He’s been following the AXANAR lawsuit closely and has been offering his guidance to Alec Peters.  Moses feels strongly that Alec has more ways to win this lawsuit than to lose it, and he spent about 45 minutes on the phone telling my how and why…

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JUDGE issues TENTATIVE rulings on EXCLUSIONS in the AXANAR LAWSUIT! (Part 2)

Yesterday in Part 1, we began looking through Judge R. Gary Klausner’s TENTATIVE (important word!) rulings in the AXANAR lawsuit regarding the exclusion of evidence and witnesses from the jury trial.  The rulings were issued to the attorneys early Monday morning (before oral arguments, which is standard practice) and released to the public the following day.

Court-watchers on both sides of the case (pro- and anti-Axanar) were left confused and somewhat speechless, and neither side knew whether to gloat or mope.  Some of the rulings seemed to slam the hopes of the defense, while other rulings seemed to cripple the chances of the plaintiffs.  And a few of the rulings even contradicted each other!  (We’ll look at an example of the latter in just a moment.)

Yesterday, we began with the plaintiffs’ motions in limine (to exclude evidence and testimony).  All but one defense witness was tossed out (I was tossed out–bummer!).  And the plaintiffs were able to get the judgeto exclude any script version and any other piece of evidence produced or created after the lawsuit was filed on December 29, 2015.  But confusingly, the judge allowed Alec Peters’ revised and audited financial statement (which wasn’t produced until just two months ago).  The plaintiffs also received a nod from the judge preventing the defense from bringing up Alec Peters’ previous professional working relationship with the studios prior to his making of Axanar.  And the judge is still considering whether or not to allow the defense to mention the existence of other Star Trek fan films.

All in all, if I had seen only that, I’d have said it’s pretty much over for the defense (assuming all these TENTATIVE rulings stand, which is fairly unlikely).  Some of those exclusions are potentially devastating (especially if the judge rules the defense can’t bring up other fan films…even though the judge himself did on page 14 of his Order on Motion for Partial Summary Judgment).

But then I read his TENTATIVE rulings on the defense’s motions, and it suddenly seemed the plaintiffs could be in major trouble, too!  So today, we go through those…

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JUDGE issues TENTATIVE rulings on EXCLUSIONS in the AXANAR LAWSUIT! (Part 1)

Okay, nobody cheer, nobody panic!  These are all TENTATIVE rulings in the AXANAR lawsuit.  Judge Klausner himself even made sure to put the word TENTATIVE in ALL CAPS in his ruling yesterday:

The Court makes the following TENTATIVE rulings on the Motions In Limine:

  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 1 – Denied
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 2 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 3 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 4 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 5 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 6 – Under Submission
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 7 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 8 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 9 – Denied
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 10 – Granted

 

  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 1 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 2 – Denied
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 3 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 4 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 5 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 6 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 7 – Denied
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 8 – Denied
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 9 – Granted

So what the heck just happened?  Well, first of all, each party submitted motions in limine to Judge R. Gary Klausner on December 16 asking for certain pieces of evidence and witnesses (including me!) to be excluded from being presented or mentioned during the trial.  I wrote about all of those 19 motions in a 4-part blog starting here.  (It’s nice light reading.)

Then, last Friday, both the plaintiffs and the defense submitted 19 separate OPPOSITIONS to those 19 motions in limine…which I’ve collected for your reading pleasure into this single 143-page PDF: Oppositions to Motions In Limine.  (Yeah, talk about light reading!)

I’d actually begun preparing one of my meticulously entertaining  (or entertainingly meticulous) blog analyses of those oppositions, but I got sidetracked on blogs about the Judge’s ruling on fair use last Wednesday , the likelihood of a successful appeal, and a possible trip to the Supreme Court.  And and much as I was looking forward to reading through and summarizing 143 pages of dense legal arguments, that all seems like “old news” now that we’ve got this TENTATIVE (ALL CAPS!!!) ruling to look at.

So let’s look, shall we…?

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