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?

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

FAN FILM GUIDELINES – Have you voted yet?

Last week, I invited folks to vote on just one of the fan film guidelines that they thought the SMALL ACCESS group should focus our energies on trying to convince the studios to revise.

Initially, we set out to encourage multiple changes simultaneously from CBS and Paramount and pretty much got nowhere.  And while we still have a veeeerrrrry steep mountain to climb, we might end up with a better chance of success asking for just one change rather than many.

And so we set up a survey over on the Small Access Facebook Group, and so far, we’ve had just under a hundred votes.  Two-thirds favor a focus on the second half of the first guideline: “…With no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.”  And with about a quarter of the vote, the notorious 15-minute limit is currently in second place.

But there’s still time to vote because, to be honest, I haven’t had a chance to work on the next entry of my “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check” blog series yet.  And since I’m on vacation next week (heading up the California coast with the family and my camera), there might be a solid two weeks left to vote.

Here’s the link for the poll if you haven’t voted yet or want to encourage others to:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/smallaccess/permalink/465593603781344/

And in the meantime, if you want to help me write the next entry in the blog series, how do YOU think we should proceed from here?  We’ve got 1,300 in the Small Access group…92 of which are bothering to vote.  We’re not exactly a “movement,” but we’re not entirely invisible either.  A full-on boycott with just 1,300 people is pretty meaningless, though.  And I doubt we’re going to convince every fan filmmaker out there to simply ignore the guidelines and risk getting sued.  So what else is there?

I have a few ideas, but I’m curious first to see what other people think.  Feel free to comment on this page or, if you’re a member of SMALL ACCESS (and if you aren’t–why not???) on that Facebook group page.

FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 5) – Betcha can’t choose just ONE…continued!

Last time, we began looking at all of the fan film guidelines one at a time, wondering if we could choose just one to present to the studios with a request for reconsideration.

Why choose just one?  Don’t we hate all of the guidelines?  Don’t we want everything to go back to what it was when the only rules were “Don’t charge to see your fan film” and “Don’t make any profit”?

Well, actually, no…at least I don’t feel that way anymore.  Actually, I never wanted to get rid of all of the guidelines, and I only ever thought that maybe four of them were truly problematic for fan films.  As I discussed in Part 2, the guidelines didn’t kill Star Trek fan films.  In fact, since the guidelines were announced last June, more than SIXTY Trek fan films have been released…some of which did not follow the new guidelines but many did.

And then in Part 3, I discussed how the guidelines weren’t a completely bad deal for fan producers.  By providing a safe harbor, much of the guesswork, uncertainty, and outright fear could be avoided by fans wanting to ensure they would not answer the door one day to a person holding a subpoena.  Of course, the guidelines are still very restrictive, but they are far from impossible to follow.

However, I still believe there is room left to improve the guidelines to make them less constraining for fans while still protecting the interests of the studios.  But the reality is that the more changes we fans try to get made to their guidelines, the less likely the studios will be to cooperate.  So last week and this week, I’m looking at all the guidelines in an attempt to choose just one to focus on—one little compromise.  If we can adjust just a single guideline, it’s still a win for fans…and we go from there.

But which one?

Last week, we quickly eliminated nearly half of the guidelines because they weren’t really problematic.  Then we began looking at the second group of guidelines, a category I called…

Continue reading “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 5) – Betcha can’t choose just ONE…continued!”

FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 4) – Betcha can’t choose just ONE!

In Part 3, I acknowledged a very  inconvenient truth for many fans: CBS owns STAR TREK.  This is the reality we live in, and if we want to continue in our quest to change the Star Trek fan film guidelines, we need to accept that fact and strategically move forward from there.

Project: SMALL ACCESS began as a protest campaign to convince CBS and Paramount to revisit and revise their new guidelines for Star Trek fan films.  And we had a plan.  After several weeks of discussion and debate about all of the guidelines, employing surveys and gathering suggestions for possible changes/improvements, we came to (mostly) a consensus that only about a quarter of the new guidelines were really troublesome to the 1,200 members of our Facebook group who were involved in the discussion.  Another quarter only needed minor tweaking to make them less ambiguous, and nearly half were fine as is.

Our plan involved creating and then sending out copies of our Focus Group Report to CBS and Paramount executives as a sort of “letter-writing campaign” to begin a conversation with the studios in an attempt to create a better compromise of rules that still protected the studios but allowed fans more flexibility in creating their films than the guidelines were permitting.

The plan didn’t work.  Although we know the studios received and were aware of the 115 copies of the 38-page report that was sent (they acknowledged receiving them during questioning in the Axanar lawsuit depositions–so we know the printouts weren’t just thrown out unread), there has been no mention by the studios of revisiting or revising the guidelines at all.

Over the past few months, I’ve done some deep soul searching about what to do for “Plan B” (assuming there even is a “Plan B”…which I would still like there to be).  And then I realized something, and again, a number of you aren’t gonna like hearing it:

The more guidelines we try to convince the studios to revise, the less chance there is that they’ll want to change any.

Here’s why…

Continue reading “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 4) – Betcha can’t choose just ONE!”

FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 3) – THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH

At the end of Part 2, I said that, in order to move forward with our goal of getting CBS and Paramount to revisit and revise the fan film guidelines, some of us more–shall we say–passionate fans are going to have to face a very unpleasant, inconvenient truth.  And here it is:

CBS owns Star Trek.

I’m sorry, they just do.  And yes, I’ve heard all the arguments that it was the FANS who saved Star Trek and supported it all these years.  It was the FANS who spent billions of dollars keeping the franchise commercially viable, watching it on TV and in movie theaters, and buying an endless parade of licensed merchandise.  We fans MADE Star Trek what it is today!

You know who else made Star Trek what it is today?

Continue reading “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 3) – THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH”

FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 2) – The DEATH of TREK FAN FILMS?

If you read Part 1, you know that I want to keep fighting for a change to the fan film guidelines issued last June by CBS and Paramount.  I’m not ready to give up.

You might remember that when those guidelines were first announced, they were met with cries of panic that the world of Star Trek fan films was doomed.  These guidelines would eliminate, destroy, even obliterate fan films.  (Yep, I used all of those words.)

And you know what?  I was wrong.

Rather than killing the medium of Star Trek fan films, the guidelines didn’t seem to have had much of a curtailing effect at all.  In fact, do you know how many Star Trek fan films have been released in the eight months SINCE the guidelines were announced last June?

Take a guess.

Continue reading “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 2) – The DEATH of TREK FAN FILMS?”

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?

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

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…

Continue reading “An interview with AXANAR attorney ERIN RANAHAN”

ALEC PETERS discusses the AXANAR LAWSUIT and SETTLEMENT (Interview – Part 2)

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?

Continue reading “ALEC PETERS discusses the AXANAR LAWSUIT and SETTLEMENT (Interview – Part 2)”

ALEC PETERS discusses the AXANAR LAWSUIT and SETTLEMENT (Interview – Part 1)

ALEC PETERS, the executive producer of AXANAR PRODUCTIONS) 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.

Continue reading “ALEC PETERS discusses the AXANAR LAWSUIT and SETTLEMENT (Interview – Part 1)”