When CBS and Paramount announced their new guidelines for Star Trek fan films, the fates of two long-running, celebrated fan series seemed to be in jeopardy. Star Trek: New Voyages (having released nearly a dozen full-length TOS fan episodes since 2004) and Star Trek Continues (with six full-length TOS fan episodes plus three vignettes released since 2012) both appeared to violate multiple new guideline rules. These included run-times over 15 minutes, more than $50,000 in crowd-funding, perk give-aways for contributors, the use of professional actors and crew, and of course, simply having an ongoing fan series in the first place!
Would these two venerated fan series finally come to an inglorious end? It seems the answer is “yes”…and “no”…and “maybe.” Let me explain…
Shortly after the announcement that the amazing New Voyages TOS sets in Ticonderoga, NY would now be officially licensed by CBS Consumer Products for set tours, many fans (including yours truly) wondered if this official licensing relationship between James Cawley’s Retro Studios and CBS might bring along with it some sort of licensing agreement for Star Trek: New Voyages, as well. That hope was quickly dashed when the following announcement appeared on the New Voyages International Facebook page (scroll down to the first comment under the announcement of the set tour deal):
There will be no more new episodes or vignettes (short stories) filmed by New Voyages. As for the three episodes already filmed and in some stage of post production – no one knows at this time if we will be permitted to complete and release them.
So there’s the disappointing first answer of “yes” New Voyages will come to an end, and “maybe” New Voyages will be allowed to release the episodes already filmed and in post production.
(As a side note, producer David Whitney of Star Trek Raven said in an interview published on Fan Film Factor yesterday that he believed the new guidelines would NOT apply to fan films that were already “in the can” and currently within the post production phase. He plans to test that theory shortly when Raven is released as a 24-minute fan film in a few more months.)
Also worth noting is that the above announcement is careful to state that no more episodes or vignettes will be filmed BY New Voyages. This doesn’t necessarily mean the sets will not or cannot be used in the future for filming by other fan projects.
And what of Star Trek Continues…which also houses an amazing TOS set recreation, this one at an 18,000-square-foot studio in Kingsland, GA? In this case, the news wasn’t quite so pessimistic…albeit it was still full of unknowns. In an e-mail message sent yesterday to donors for their latest Indiegogo campaign, show-runner Vic Mignogna had this to say:
Episode VII will premiere at Salt Lake Comicon on Friday, September 2. It will then have an international screening at Fan Expo in Toronto the following day. Of course, you will see it before anyone else because of your generosity and support of Star Trek Continues.
I also want to assuage any concerns you may have about the current climate. We fully intend that your kind donations will be used for the exact purpose for which they were donated. As you know, STC is the only official 501c3 non profit Trek fan production out there. We are awaiting further clarification, but I am optimistic about completing our planned series and I would like to ask you, as our biggest supporters, to remain optimistic with us.
And so we have an encouraging “no,” Star Trek Continues will NOT be ending…at least not yet! But then there’s the big “maybe” as they await further clarification. Like David Whitney of Raven, Vic Mignogna and company are hoping an episode in post production gets “grandfathered in.”
I suppose we’ll find out in September. One would expect STC‘s seventh episode to break the 15-minute time limit rule, and of course, it’s an ongoing series with perks and crowd-funding to the tune of $200,000 for that episode and two others (which still divides down to more than $50,000 per episode). And of course, Vic himself is a professional who has worked on official Star Trek properties (voice-overs for the Star Trek Online game)…something that violates Guideline #5: “…cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.”
So…whew! September is going to be a VERY interesting month for fan films. Or perhaps not. As John Van Citters commented in his podcast interview, these are guidelines and not “laws.” It is very possible that CBS and Paramount will look the other way this time and wait until STC‘s eighth episode (which is NOT in post production yet) is released online. Maybe there will be a phone call first instead of a lawsuit. Maybe there’s a deal to be worked out.
When all is said and done, we are, all of us (fans and the studios) traveling in an undiscovered country at the moment. I suspect that CBS and Paramount are not entirely certain they’ve created a perfect set of guidelines, and they’re probably waiting to see what happens next. As the guidelines themselves say at the very end:
CBS and Paramount Pictures reserve the right to revise, revoke and/or withdraw these guidelines at any time in their own discretion.
And so the adventure is just beginning…