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.
“What’s your question going to be?” a volunteer came up and whispered to me quietly. She had already asked the people in front of me.
“I have a question about fan films,” I replied. I was particularly curious as to Tim Russ’ reaction of having to remove all references to Star Trek from the fan film RENEGADES after a day of filming Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols playing Chekov and Uhura.
“I’m sorry,” she responded, “Questions about fan films aren’t allowed. Only Star Trek canon. Do you have another question you could ask?”
I was totally at a loss. I’d never imagined I’d be asking a forbidden question! To be honest, I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to know. “Well, I can try to come up with something before I get to the head of the line,” I said, as there were five people ahead of me and another five or six on the other side of the stage.
“Maybe you could ask about their latest project,” she suggested.
“That sounds fair,” I answered. And immediately, my mind jumped to: Mr. Russ, your latest project has you directing Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols. On day one of filming they were playing Chekov and Uhura, but on day two, their character names and identities had to be changed…as did yours from Tuvok to Kovok. Were you frustrated with having to give up the original plan for the characters?
(Yeah, asking Tim Russ about his latest project would be just perfect! Thanks for giving me permission, lady.)
But alas, as the final person in front of me stepped forward to ask his question, I was told his would be the final question, and I should go back to my seat. Drat!!! So close to getting a juicy scoop for Fan Film Factor! Oh, well…
And then I heard the guy on the other side mention Prelude to Axanar and how each of the actors on the stage had appeared in fan films themselves. How did they feel about the current state of PR…
The fan was never allowed to finish his question, but I recorded Creation founder Adam Malin’s response…
“We’re gonna pass on that question because there’s a lot of controversy and discussion regarding it and a lot of confusion,” Adam said, “and we’re not really in a position to have an appropriate discussion about it in this forum. So if you wouldn’t mind, we’re going to pass on that question. Thank you. Not that we have an opinion in either direction ’cause we don’t. But this isn’t the right forum for it. So forgive us for that.”
Fair enough. Polite, respectful, and I understood that Creation, being a licensee of CBS and catering to many Star Trek fans (some of whom have extremely passionate opinions about certain fan films), would not want to wander into the minefield of fan film discussions. Creation had its own Kobayashi Maru topic here, and later on during the day, as I heard fans discussing this abrupt cut-off of a fan film question (and many fan were discussing it), I actually came to Adam Malin’s defense…at least on this particular occasion.
But then I wandered into the autograph room. I wanted to chat with some of the dozen or more celebrities there…and they are all so nice! You don’t even need to buy a photo or autograph, as they’ll happily chat with anyone who walks up to their tables. Several of them had actually appeared in fan films, and this being FAN FILM FACTOR, I was hoping to maybe snag an interview or three…especially since one of the new guidelines (number 5) now prohibits any of them from appearing in any more fan films.
One of the celebrities, who asked to remain anonymous (for reasons that will become apparent in a moment) shared with me that they would very much have liked to talk to me about fan films because of all the great work that was being done on them. But they couldn’t because Creation had put a gag order on the topic of fan films.
“A gag order?” I asked.
“If anyone brings up a fan film or fan films in general to us,” they said, “we’re supposed to change the subject or simply say that we’re not comfortable discussing fan films because some are controversial right now.”
“And Creation told you this personally?” I followed up.
“Someone at Creation told my agent, and they relayed it to me,” this actor said. “And they said that they’d have people walking around the convention listening to make sure we were all following this rule…and that the people would be dressed as fans, not just as volunteers, so we’d never know who was listening.”
I looked around and noticed that no one was standing anywhere near us, which was likely why this actor was sharing this information with me. I asked if I could mention this on my Fan Film Factor blog, and they said okay, as long as I didn’t identify who had told me this.
So this left me pondering whether or not this “gag order” by Creation was reasonable or unreasonable. And I invite you, my readers, to ponder this question, as well. On the one hand, anyone arguing for freedom of speech has to remember that this is a private venue and the celebrities are being paid to appear by Creation. Despite free speech laws, your boss is able to tell you what you can and can’t say. For example, if you work at Kentucky Fried Chicken, you can’t blurt out the Colonel’s seven herbs and spices secret recipe. A sales clerk at Macy’s might be advised by their supervision not to discuss religion or politics with the customers.
In this way, Creation is well within their rights to impose this restriction on their celebrity guests. But then there’s the spirit of freedom of speech. Fan films are a part of Star Trek. It’s not like discussing Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton with a guest (which I did at one point) or religion or some convention trade secret. This gag order applies to a part of the career history of some of these actors…at least the ones who worked on fan films. And it’s not like any of them speak for Creation. That much is pretty obvious, since goodness knows some of these actors can get a bit raunchy and risque from time to time! It’s part of the fun. But if Creation worried about everything that came out of the actors’ mouths, they’d all be required to speak in mime or interpretive dance!
Now, I do have to admit that the threat of the “Big Brother” listening seemed a little over the top. But remember that this tidbit was only something heard by an actor through their agent. We don’t know what exactly was said to the agent or even by the agent. But this actor did say that a lot of the celebrity guests had discussed this new restriction among themselves, so it wasn’t just one actor being told this.
That said, I did ask one other actor about fan films in general, and they said they’d rather not talk about that subject because it’s kind of a hot button issue. So take from that what you will. I didn’t want to put any of the rest of them into an awkward position by asking them to confirm the first actor’s story.
I will say that, despite this moral quandary that sneaked into my day, I’m having a blast at this convention. Creation has put on a fantastic tribute to the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, with great celebrity guests, ample photo ops, fun events, a decent dealers room, and a real love for all things Star Trek…
…except, of course, for fan films.