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…
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.
Last Saturday, your sometimes-humble blogger, Jonathan Lane, appeared live on the SHANE PLAYS geek talk radio show to discuss the AXANAR lawsuit and surprising last-minute legal settlement. Since then, folks who weren’t able to listen when it first aired have asked me when and how they can listen to the entire broadcast online.
While we wait for my interview with Alec Peters for be reviewed and approved by the AXANAR legal team (yes, they’re taking the confidentiality aspects of the settlement agreement quite seriously…as they should), there was a posting made yesterday morning addressing some of the questions many Axanar fans (and detractors) have been asking.
ALEC PETERS answered four frequently-asked questions and also provided a link to a special blog about the Axanar financials (coming really soon…right, Alec???).
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…
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.
And so it ends…not in fire, not with a warp core breach and a huge explosion that rocks the very foundation of the world of copyright law, but with a quiet settlement between the parties with sparse details revealed to anyone not directly involved in the AXANAR lawsuit.
Press releases were issued separately by both CBS/Paramount and byAxanar Productions two and a half hours ago. They both said mostly the same things, each with a different “spin.” But details were sparse.
But Axanar just sent out an e-mail to donors with more specifics…and I’m a donor so I thought I’d share some of the details here. In addition to the studios allowing Axanar to be produced and released, we now know a few more key things:
The Axanar fan film WILL be permitted to use Gary Graham as Soval! (Wow.) It will ALSO be allowed to use the other professional actors who appeared in Prelude to Axanar (J.G. Hertzler, Richard Hatch, and Kate Vernon…Tony Todd has previously announced he would not remain with the production).
The new Axanar fan film will have to adhere to all the other guidelines, including being limited to only two 15-minute parts of a single story, not having “Star Trek” in the title, etc. No professionals can be compensated for their work on the production.
Public crowd-funding campaigns will not be permitted, but private donations can be accepted (I plan to donate).
Alec Peters and Axanar Productions will be allowed to create OTHER Star Trek fan films in the future beyond the Axanar sequel. (Whether these other fan films will be in the Axanar universe or the more general Star Trek universe is still unknown, but any future films will also need to follow the guidelines.)
That’s what we DO know. What was frustratingly absent from the announcements were two key pieces of information:
Was Alec Peters required to pay any kind of financial penalty to the studios? (After all, by settling the case, he is avoiding a judgment in the thousands and perhaps even the millions of dollars.) I have yet to independently confirm that.
What happens to Ares/Industry Studios? There was no mention of its fate in today’s announcement. I suppose if its still around in another month or two, we’ll have our answer.
But I want answers sooner than that…and I know you folks do, too! I’ve already left messages for Alec Peters (voice-mail, text, Facebook IM), and I’m gonna keep pestering him for an interview…today, if possible! And as soon as I get it transcribed, you’d better believe it’s going up on this website!
In the meantime, here is the full text for the announcement to the Axanar donors: