STAR TREK: DISCOVERY vs. THE ORVILLE – Should CBS be worried? (Part 2)

Last time, I discussed the recent release by two of the major networks of official trailers for their new sci-fi shows debuting for the upcoming 2017 season.  CBS, of course, unveiled STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, while FOX surprised (many) genre fans with a new Star Trek-ish series from Seth MacFarlane titled THE ORVILLE.  Both trailers were viewed millions of times with thousands of comments.  But what was very intriguing came from the thumbs-up/thumbs-down ratios.

The trailer for Star Trek: Discovery has about two and a half times more thumbs-down reactions than the trailer for The Orville.  Some misunderstood my previous blog and thought I was calling this a competition—as though fans were going to choose EITHER Discovery OR Orville.  Not quite.  Many fans (like me) might choose to watch both series.

But what makes this interesting is that we have a pretty close comparison of trailers and their reactions from viewers.  The two shows are coveting essentially the same audience (Trekkies and sci-fi fans), so the trailers and series themselves are unmistakably in the same “marketing category.”  The two trailers have almost the same run-length (2.5 minutes) and were released at nearly the same time using the same platform (Youtube).  But beyond that, the two networks are going in very different directions.

CBS is making Discovery available only through paid subscription streaming services (after a free preview of the pilot on CBS).  FOX is putting Orville on their regular network.  CBS went for a very unfamiliar (to Trekkers) production design with dark sets and mostly monochromatic uniforms.  FOX is using a very familiar-looking Star Trek visual approach of brightly-lit sets and and colorful uniforms.

So these two series are coveting the same kinds of fans with very different approaches.  One is very derivative of Star Trek but based within a different universe, and the other is very different but based within the Star Trek universe.  So the word “versus” in the title of this blog entry doesn’t imply that fans must make a choice but rather simply refers to putting the two series side-by-side for comparison, analyzing the very noticeable differences in fan reaction.

So with fans appearing to show a measurable preference for Orville over Discovery—admittedly using only online reaction through thumbs-up/down plus a general trend in posted comments—should CBS be worried?

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STAR TREK: DISCOVERY vs. THE ORVILLE – Should CBS be worried? (Part 1)

Before I begin, please note that the title of this blog is the question “Should CBS be worried?” and not the statement  “CBS should be worried.”  I’m pondering, not preaching.

Also, I want to mention up front that I personally enjoyed the new trailer for Star: Trek Discovery and am looking forward to at least checking out the new series.  People seem to think I’m just another Discovery hater/detractor.  Not so!  I am very much keeping an open mind.  But I’m not blind to the reality of the situation either, and that’s what this blog is about.

(And yes, I know that this is a site about fan films.  But it’s also a site about Star Trek…and it’s my blog, so I can editorialize whatever I want to.)


Last week, all of the major networks unveiled trailers for shows that will premiere during their upcoming 2017 season.  Naturally, Star Trek fans were eagerly expecting to see their first extended glimpse of the new STAR TREK: DISCOVERY series…coming to the subscription-based CBS All Access.

What fans weren’t expecting, however, was a new Star Trek-ish series from FOX starring and produced by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) and directed by Iron Man‘s John Favreau.  Titled THE ORVILLE, this new hour-long series looked more like the Star Trek of yore: bright sets, colorful uniforms, chest emblems with division insignia, sleek and over-lit starships (some filmed from actual physical models!), and a token alien species or two with big bumpy foreheads.  The Orville is obviously meant to be a campy tongue-in-cheek comedy, but the production values, sets, costuming, make-up, and visual FX looked like…well…WOW!

For two days, fans were aflutter with comments about this surprise new sci-fi series.  And the comments were nearly all positive, with many Trekkers suggesting that THIS was the Star Trek we’d wanted all along (minus the implied parody, of course), and wondering why CBS just didn’t get it.

Then, last Wednesday, CBS had their turn to say, “Hey, we DO get it…and here’s what OUR new Star Trek will look like.”  But did they really get it?

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FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 8) – Size DOES matter!

I started the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign on Facebook last July, shortly after CBS and Paramount released the new guidelines that seemed to spell certain doom for Star Trek fan films.  I’d hoped we could start a “movement” that would make the studios take notice and convince them to revisit and revise the guidelines.

It’s now almost a year later, and the guidelines remain in place…unchanged.  We tried to get bunch of the guidelines changed all at once, but that didn’t work.  And I realized instead that, if we tried to “eat the elephant” in smaller bites (try to change one guideline at a time), then we might have more luck in convincing the studios to listen to us and maybe even work with us.

And our offer would be simple: revise just one guideline, and our members will subscribe to CBS All Access for a month (to check it out, see if we like it).  Revise two guidelines, two months.  And so on.  The first guideline we wanted to target was the “no ongoing fan series” rule (we voted on that), suggesting that Guideline #1 could be rewritten with a revised second part:

The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total. The production can continue featuring the same title, characters, and settings for additional episodes as long as no single story extends beyond two consecutive segments, episodes or parts.

The big question was: would the members of SMALL ACCESS agree to subscribe for a month if the studios made his first revision to Guideline #1?  I published the results of a survey last week in Part 7, but here they are for you again…

Continue reading “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 8) – Size DOES matter!”

STAR TREK CONTINUES becomes a CBS All Access AFFILIATE!

Things got very interesting on Sunday morning after STAR TREK CONTINUES posted this message on their Facebook page overnight:

Got CBS All Access yet? STC has been invited to join the affiliate program, so you can sign up through our website now. Sign up today!

Almost immediately, fans started conjecturing what this meant for STC.  Were they suddenly being accepted by CBS?  Would they now be allowed to complete their cancelled 12th and 13th episodes?  Were they getting a kickback from CBS?  Would STC be shown on All Access?

The answers to all of these questions appear to be “no.”  Apparently, STC was simply contacted by a division of CBS (likely CBS Interactive or else someone in marketing) and offered the option of becoming a CBS All Access Affiliate, promoting subscriptions to the network’s streaming service through online banners on their startrekcontinues.com website.  (Note to CBS Interactive: the hyperlinks aren’t working from Mac browsers.)

It’s unclear whether or not STC will be receiving a commission for any fans who sign up for CBS All Access.  STC posted on their Facebook pages that they are not being compensated.  However, I just signed up Fan Film Factor for the same program and was required to agree to terms that included the following (which I screen capped)…

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FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 7) – Eating the Elephant!

In the previous entry of this blog series, I shared my thoughts on how to proceed with the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign I created the Small Access Facebook-based group to try to put pressure on CBS and Paramount to revise some or all of the fan film guidelines by having our members pledge to watch the new Star Trek: Discovery TV series on All Access only in groups (with a single designated subscriber hosting viewing parties) rather than subscribing as individuals.  This would be a potential revenue hit to CBS and a way to (hopefully) get them to take notice of our protest.

Our first attempt at convincing the studios to revise the guidelines culminated in a letter-writing campaign that met with no discernible success.  One of the challenges we faced—along with our unfortunately small size—was the fact that CBS and Paramount worked very hard writing these guidelines.  The people involved had to get approvals and sign-offs from numerous stakeholders at higher levels.  And so, convincing the studio executives to make significant changes to the guidelines now requires them to go back through that same time-consuming review and approval process.  And spoiler alert: it also means they have to explain to their bosses that they screwed up writing the guidelines in the first place!  To be honest (and realistic), I doubt that 1,300 irate Trekkies are going to be much of an incentive to get them to do that.

So I realized, sadly, that a wide-ranging change to all or even most of the guidelines wasn’t a realistic goal.  It was just too much of an uphill climb, no matter how passionately some might feel about the righteousness of our “noble” cause.  To the studios, the guidelines are now written in stone….and it’s a BIG stone…elephant-sized, in fact!

But it’s said that if you want to eat an entire elephant, you need to do it one bite at a time.  Could this be a viable strategy with the guidelines?  Could we start with just one bite and work our way forward from there…?

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Hoist with his own PICARD? (editorial)

Earlier this week, someone played a practical joke on CARLOS PEDRAZA of axamonitor.com.  Many think it was ALEC PETERS or perhaps one of his associates (not me, people!), although it’s looking like a “he said/she said” situation.

In short, here’s what we know happened…

Axanar Productions is moving to a new studio in Atlanta.  Carlos Pedraza, for some reason, was pushing hard for any information he could find out about the new facility.  I was sent screen captures of the following two Facebook posts from Carlos, although there may have been more…

I’m not sure why it was so crucial for Carlos to get information about the new studio, but that’s not really important.  What is important is that, apparently, he found a “mole” willing to funnel him information from Alec Peters (despite Alec’s request to volunteers not to share information yet about the new facility).

I’ve since been told by a few detractors in comments posted to Fan Film Factor that the name of this mole is Brian Hartsfield, and on Wednesday at 1:46PM, he received an e-mail (allegedly) from Alec Peters saying the following…

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A FAREWELL TOUR of INDUSTRY STUDIOS! (editorial and video)

This past Saturday, my son Jayden and I drove to Industry Studios in Valencia to help pack up the Axanar Productions items for a move east to a new production facility in Atlanta, GA.

It was a sad day for me because I really loved Industry Studios.  I’d loved watching it evolve from a stark, gutted building with no individual offices and a huge, echoing warehouse with loud concrete floors…into what looked like (to my eyes, at least) a high-end Hollywood studio and sound stage.

Jayden and I had watched for months with excitement as piles of stacked wood were cut, molded, and sculpted by industry professionals, slowly morphing into a starship bridge, a turbolift, a transporter, captain’s quarters, and a Klingon bridge.

Even though my visits weren’t particularly frequent, I still felt as though I were a part of Ares Studios (later renamed Industry Studios)—helping to fund it, volunteering to do everything from carrying carpet rolls up the stairs to assembling IKEA furniture, and even sorting and packing perks.  I watched all the work that went into making the dream of a studio dedicated to Star Trek fan film-making (not just Axanar) grow and take shape from basically nothing into a facility that fans could be truly proud of.

I can already hear the detractors typing feverishly about the hubris of starting a “for profit” studio based on donations obtained from unapproved use of copyrighted material owned by a Hollywood studio.  And I’m sure others out there are already halfway done with comments about the folly of signing a 3-year lease on a location with a $12,000 monthly rent when all Alec Peters ever needed to do was make a simple fan film, not build a full sound stage!

All are fair points when viewed with 20/20 hindsight—and all are arguments made and countered hundreds of times over.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.  Instead, I want to give you a tour of Industry Studios…

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STAR TREK CONTINUES releases new BLOOPER/GAG REEL!

Bloopers.  Gag reels.  Behind-the-scenes flubs.  Call them what you will, but they’ve been a part of the Star Trek fan experience since the 1970s when Gene Roddenberry first began bringing his TOS “blooper reel” to conventions to show hilarious outtakes by Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, and the rest of the original cast to fans in the audience.

The tradition continued with The Next Generation, and I recall owning bootlegged copies of both blooper reels on VHS tapes that I bought at cons in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The reason these outtakes are so special and treasured isn’t simply because they’re funny but because they give fans a glimpse into who these beloved actors and producers were as people…people who make mistakes and can laugh at themselves, cut loose sometimes, and have fun.

Not all fan films collect their bloopers and release them.  Some don’t even have time to do multiple takes of the same scene.  Others simply have collections of goofs and flubs.  But the best of the gag reels contain just that: gags.  It’s not just the missed cues and forgotten lines.  Sometimes the actors know they’re going to have to do another take, and so they just go with it and have fun playing with the scene.  And if we’re lucky, hilarity ensues while the camera is still rolling.

Such is the case with Star Trek Continues.  They have edited together and released hysterically entertaining gag reels for all but their second episode.  (You can view all seven gag reel videos at the bottom section of this web page.)

It’s no secret that I love this particular fan series and lament its impending conclusion in the coming  year.  But I don’t love STC only because of the great episodes it produces.  I love it because of what I see on their gag reels.

I’ve worked on fan films, and it can be tedious, mind-numbing, stressful, exhausting, frustrating, irritable, and even confrontational.  But it can also be a lot of fun.  In fact, if it weren’t for the FUN, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever do it!  STC‘s gag reels show us the camaraderie that can exist at the core of fan productions.  Sure, the actors and crew work hard—incredibly hard!—but they play hard, too.  They laugh at themselves, play practical jokes on each other, and keep their sense of humor through the seemingly endless late-into-the-night hours when shoots can shift between moving at a snail’s pace to a manic sprint in the span of seconds.

So I invite you to join me and others in celebrating Star Trek Continues in that most special of ways: sharing their laughter…

FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 6) – The CARROT and the STICK

First I should mention (in a follow-up to our previous post) that the survey results are in.  I invited members of the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign to vote in an online Facebook poll: which ONE if the new fan film guidelines feels like it is the most problematic for fan filmmakers?  This would be the guideline that Project: SMALL ACCESS will focus on convincing CBS and Paramount to revisit and revise.  And there was a clear winner: Guideline #1.

However, Guideline #1 is actually a two-part guideline made up of the following:

#1a – The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total…

and

#1b – …with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

It’s possible for us to request a revision by CBS to one part of this guideline without necessarily changing the other part.  And so I divided Guideline #1 into two options, and together these were, by far, the highest vote-getters, taking more than 95% of the nearly 140 submitted responses.  So which one got the most votes?

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SOME PERSPECTIVE: a “BIG WIN” for AXANAR or “GAME OVER”? (Part 2)

In Part 1, I outlined the dire situation that ALEC PETERS and AXANAR PRODUCTIONS were in regarding INDUSTRY STUDIOS.  The dream had turned into a nightmare as money was running out.  A new Indiegogo campaign had pretty much stalled far short of its goal, and it was looking like all the work and donor money that had gone into creating a very impressive film studio and really awesome sets might end up having all been in vain.

It was a dark time, and I’ll admit that I was actually way more defeatist than Alec.  But Alec couldn’t afford the luxury of self-pity or panic.  He had a problem to solve, and he wasn’t giving up.  In fact, Alec actually did his best to lift my spirits as he tried to navigate a course forward…despite the odds stacking up against him.  Say whatever else you want about the guy, but you can’t deny that he’s a fighter.  Alec refuses to go gently into any good night.  Where other people (including me) would have thrown in the towel and given up long ago, Alec Peters has always pushed on.

Continue reading “SOME PERSPECTIVE: a “BIG WIN” for AXANAR or “GAME OVER”? (Part 2)”