Have you ever sat in the audience for something–a concert, a stage play, or a seminar–and there was an unexpected delay? Maybe there were technical problems, or maybe someone was stuck in traffic. Whatever the reason, as things took longer and longer to get started, was the audience becoming impatient?
Maybe you were lucky and there was a host or a warm-up act who could keep the audience engaged and entertained during the delay. Or maybe you weren’t lucky and just sat there waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Maybe some people even got frustrated and walked out before the show started.
What does any of this have to do with Star Trek: Discovery and fan films? Glad you asked!
STAR TREK CONTINUES’ seventh full-length episode, “Embracing the Winds” is–at least in my opinion–a masterpiece. It’s a MUST SEE+Star Trek fan film and possibly one of the best ones released to date. Fan reaction has ranged generally from positive to gushing, with almost no one saying anything overall negative (only pointing out this or that little issue…and we Trekkers always have our “little issues”).
But really, STC has continued to up their game, and the quality and watchability of their newest offering is superb. The acting, writing, directing, pacing…everything is top-notch. There’s not of a lot of “wasted” scenes where the viewer feels the production has indulged itself too much and stretched things out. In short, it’s a tight, exciting story that does what Star Trek has traditionally done so well: take a modern day issue (in this case, a very politically charged one at the moment) and provide a “safe” mirror through which we can examine our society and beliefs…and look at ourselves with a critical eye.
The interview also addresses the confusion and misinformation currently circulating about whether Axanar is behind the SMALL ACCESS campaign…which it is not. While I happily support Axanar and write this fun blog on the Axanar website, I’m way too busy with FAN FILM FACTOR and SMALL ACCESS to run everything past Alec Peters, and he’s way too busy to micromanage me. So we’re two ships in the same fleet fighting the same enemy, but Alec has his battles, and I’ve got mine.
Anyway, here’s the full interview for your viewing pleasure. Let me know what you think…
IF YOU WANT TO HELP US GET THE FAN FILM GUIDELINES CHANGED, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE…
In 1968, NBC received 115,893 letters from Star Trek fans pleading for the network not to cancel their favorite show…and it worked. Star Trek was renewed for a third and final season.
It is now 2016, and fans have a new opportunity to make their voices heard. This time, the imperiled entity is Star Trek fan films, restricted by a new set of guidelines issued by Star Trek license holders CBS and Paramount. Not all of these guidelines are threatening to fan films. Nearly half of them are perfectly acceptable as written. Another a quarter of them simply need some minor tweaking to better clarify what the studios are trying to communicate. It is only the small number of remaining guidelines that have overshot the mark and wound up too restrictive to allow fans the creativity and passion that the studios themselves say they want to encourage fans to showcase.
A week after the guidelines were announced, John Van Citters of CBS Consumer Products Inc. appeared on a podcast and said the following:
“All of this is definitely a conversation. We hope very much that this helps settle things with Star Trek fan films, that it provides some clarity for everybody, and that we can see what is working and what is not working…and we can follow up accordingly with that.”
But how do fans approach the studios to share our concerns? There is no official mechanism for fans to sit down with the CBS and Paramount executives to try to find a fairer compromise between the best interests of both parties. There is no single fan representative who speaks with the collective voice of fandom. Even fan filmmakers themselves are all over the map in their responses to the guidelines. So how can fans provide their feedback and recommendations to the studios?
The SMALL ACCESS group on Facebook began as a protest against the new fan film guidelines issued by CBS and Paramount. But it quickly grew into something more significant. Rather than simply complaining about the guidelines or arguing over whose fault it was they were written in the first place, the group began discussing each of the guidelines one-by-one. Opinions were shared, surveys were taken, and in the end, over 1,200 fans participated in one of the largest Star Trek focus group research projects ever!
Now those results have been compiled into a massive 37-page report written up by Jonathan Lane (yeah, that’s me), a former creative director and focus group coordinator with decades of experience in researching what consumers and product users like and don’t like. When it came to the guidelines, half were considered fine as currently written (according to polling results). Another quarter only needed minor revision tweaks for clarification. And it was only a few remaining guidelines that required more significant compromise solutions.
The report compiles these results into a series of recommendations by the fans to the studios for revising the guidelines in a way that both respects the studios’ interests in protecting their intellectual property while also allowing more flexibility for fan filmmakers to create their productions.
Next week, fans will be invited to mail printed copies of this report to key executives at the studios in a new LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN. If enough fans participate in the weeks leading up to the actual 50th Anniversary of Star Trek (September 8), it’s our hope that the news media will cover this campaign, which will put pressure on the executives to at least read and consider our suggestions rather than ignoring them completely.
Is it a stunt? Yes. Is it a long shot? Yes. But it’s at least worth a shot, right? After all, what other mechanism do fans have to engage a conversation with the studio execs who wrote and enforce these guidelines?
The letter writing campaign will kick off next week, but the report itself has been made available for early viewing on the SMALL ACCESS Facebook page. If you’re interested, please take a look. Next week, you’ll get a chance to make Star Trek letter-writing history…again.
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).
On Friday morning at the CREATION 50th Anniversary Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, I learned of a troubling new policy: fan films are apparently a forbidden topic!
The first indication I had of this new policy came at the end of the panel discussion with Tim Russ, Ethan Phillips, and Garrett Wang (who were each hilarious and not to be missed on stage if you ever get the chance). As their talk moved into the questions-from-the-audience stage, I wandered to the front of the room to get in line to ask my question.
Back in May (a month before the new fan film guidelines were announced by CBS and Paramount), a fan production out of the United Kingdom set out to raise $2,500 in a Kickstarter campaign to fund a short Star Trek fan film called Chance Encounter. They were successful and immediately began to build their one set (the interior of a Type-15 TNG-era shuttlepod), create costumes, and hire cast.
Then the fan film guidelines came out. Would it be a problem for this production? Well, the production is already intended to be a short one-shot film, so the first guideline limiting run-time to 15 minutes and forbidding a continuing series won’t be a problem. The title Chance Encounter doesn’t have Star Trek in it, so guideline #2 is safe. In fact, nearly all of the guidelines have been followed, including a Kickstarter that raised less than $50,000 (significantly less)…although perks were distributed. Of course, the Kickstarter happened before the guidelines were released, so it’s probably okay.
Fan Film Factor founder (and the guy typing this right now), JONATHAN LANE, had the pleasure of doing a podcast interview alongside co-moderator DAVID HEAGNEY, JR. discussing the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign and the new fan film guidelinesreleased by CBS and Paramount.
We were interviewed by super-fan and live radio podcaster Shane Stacks for an hour. In the first half-hour, Shane covered recent sci-fi news and releases, and starting at the 30-minute mark, we dive into discussion about the guidelines and the SMALL ACCESS campaign. Among the questions we answer: what are we hoping to accomplish, will the studios even take us seriously, and is Alec Peters hiding behind the curtain pulling our strings?
CBS and Paramount ruined my 50th Anniversary!!! The whole year–January to December–they just ruined it. First, no sooner had Christmas ended, they sued Axanar, my favorite Star Trek fan film ever. And in doing this, the studios split fandom into a Hatfield and Dr. McCoy feud. Then, just when I thought the anniversary year might be saved after all when J.J. Abrams announced the lawsuit would be “going away” and fans allowed to make their films…WHAM!…ridiculously Draconian guidelines were created by the studios that seemed purposefully designed to end Star Trek fan films as we know (and love) them.
I was so pissed that I started the SMALL ACCESS campaign on Facebook to protest these new guidelines and try to get them revised. Hundreds and hundreds of fans joined me on my impassioned quest, sharing their anger and frustration, as well. Some threatened a full-on boycott of all things Star Trek: the new movie, the new TV series, novels, licensed merchandise…you name it. They suddenly wanted nothing to do with Star Trek anymore. And several of them were encouraging me to do likewise.