Word is beginning to spread about the Fan Film LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN, and I’m very encouraged so far. After just one week, we’ve already had 75 packets mailed to executives at CBS and Paramount with the focus group results and recommendations from the 1,200+ members of the SMALL ACCESS Facebook group.
Now, 75 packets might not seem like much (especially considering that the original Star Trek letter writing had over a hundred thousand letters), but keep in mind that 1) word is only just starting to get out about this initiative, and 2) the packets are supposed to contain a 37-page Focus Group Report and optional Cover Letter, which will use up a lot of toner and paper and cost about two to three bucks per packet to mail (more from outside the U.S., although I don’t expect as many international fans to participate due to the higher postage costs). So each mailed packet represents a greater amount of time, effort, and investment by a fan then just sending a 1-page letter or copy/pasted e-mail. I was actually kinda worried that we’d only get about one or two dozen packets sent…so 75 in a week is pretty awesome. (And remember, only one copy has to get read by the right executive!)
During the next week, Mike Bawden will be trying to get us some press coverage in the mainstream media, but there’s already been some interest just around fan circles. Earlier today, I did a podcast for an upcoming episode of TrekZone (look for it this weekend). And Shane Stacks told me he’ll be mentioning the campaign on the excellent Shane Plays Radio and Podcast.
And I’m even being covered by other blogs!!! And that brings us to…
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.
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.
There still seems to be some misconceptions about the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign. Some say we’re all about a boycott and want to destroy Star Trek. Some say we’re under the control of Axanar. And most people have no idea why we’re doing surveys each day.
First and foremost, a boycott implies not watching or supporting Star Trek at all. We’re actually suggesting the opposite. We want fans to WATCH the new TV series, not avoid it completely. We’re simply suggesting a designated subscriber hosts a viewing party and the rest of the friends who come over pitch in to share the cost of the subscription (or pay for the host’s dinner or whatever seems the most legal). In the end, groups of Trek fans get together to WATCH the new series, NOT to avoid it. If some people want to boycott completely, I won’t stop them. But that’s NOT what the SMALL ACCESS campaign is about.
As for being under the thumb of Alec Peters and Axanar, that’s simply not the case. In fact, in a recent poll on the SMALL ACCESS Facebook group, I lobbied hard for a compromise of raising the 15 minute time limit to 30 minutes. That wouldn’t help Axanar much, as that feature film was planned to be somewhere around 90 minutes or even 2 hours. I was actually trying to help find a way for Star Trek Continues and New Voyages to still get made because I really enjoy both fan series. So no, Alec Peters isn’t pulling our strings, and the SMALL ACCESS campaign is completely independent from anything Axanar. Many in our SMALL ACCESS group like and support Axanar (and yes, some members don’t), but our goal is to convince that studios to REVISIT and REVISE the new guidelines. Period. We’re not about pointing fingers at any particular fan film.
And that brings us to the big question: what the heck do we do in our Facebook group day after day? Some people imagine that we just sit around, bitching and griping and talking about how Star Trek should just die.
Ummmmmm……no with a capital NO.
Instead, each day I post a new online survey, and we take a daily poll. In fact, that’s the MOST IMPORTANT thing we do!
By now, you’ve likely heard that CBS and Paramount have finally, after decades of silence, released a series of guidelines for Star Trek fan films to follow and not get sued. Unfortunately, the guidelines were written by a group of over-caffeinated lawyers and licensing employees with little to no understanding of the concept of Star Trek fandom. In short, these rules would essentially obliterate nearly all past and current Star Trek fan films and series.
From their announcement on StarTrek.com, CBS seems almost proud of themselves, feeling that they’ve done fandom some kind of favor. And even though nearly 200 (as I write this) comments have been posted with about 90% highly negative reactions, I doubt that CBS or Paramount will see the devastating reality of what they’ve done…