RENEGADES: THE SERIES releases “THE REQUIEM, Part 1″…for $35?

The fan film/series RENEGADES was in the right place at the wrong time.  Still called Star Trek: Renegades when the fan film guidelines came out last June, the producers had already completed a very impressive 90-minute feature film in 2015 for $350,000 and were about to begin production on a new series of episodes with a starting budget of $515,000 for the first one.

With Tim Russ directing and reprising his character of Tuvok, plus both Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols reprising their roles as Chekov and Uhura (likely for the final time), plus appearances by Star Trek veteran actors Cirroc “Jake Sisko” Lofton, Aron “Nog” Eisenberg, Terry “Jadzia” Farrell, Robert “Chakotay” Beltran, Gary “Soval” Graham, and a few others–some playing the same characters, other playing new ones–Star Trek: Renegades‘ first two-part episode, “The Requiem,” looked like Trekker’s fan film dream come true!  Even the production crew was a virtual “Who’s Who” of fan film luminaries, including VFX wizards Tobias Richter and Tommy Kraft, prop guru Scott Nakada, and many more.

But as I said: right place, wrong time…

With sets constructed, props built, costumes sewn, scripts finalized, and dozens of cast and production crew assembled for several days of filming, the first scenes had just started to be shot the morning that the new guidelines were announced.  Star Trek: Renegades was already in violation of most of them (or so they thought):

  • They were making a fan film that would be longer that 15 minutes.
  • They would be creating an ongoing series with more that two parts.
  • They had “Star Trek” in their title.
  • They were making their own uniforms and props.  (It would later be explained in a follow-up podcast that this was actually okay, but this restriction wasn’t clear on the days the guidelines were announced.)
  • Many on the cast and some on the production crew had previously worked on Star Trek productions/projects for Paramount and/or CBS…now a no-no.  And while we don’t know if anyone on Renegades was getting paid, that was a no-no now, as well.
  • The production had raised, through multiple crowd-funding campaigns, more than $515,000 (well over the new $50,000 limit), and they were distributing perks…including DVDs/Blu-rays of the finished project.

In short, they were screwed.  While Renegades could easily pull the words “Star Trek” out of their title, that was about it.  The script couldn’t possibly be shortened down to just 15 minutes–not with actors who had already memorized their lines sitting around in costume and make-up on the set!  Ordering licensed Starfleet uniforms and phasers, etc. online would also require time to wait for delivery.  And how do you recast at the last second when you’ve already got Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and over a half dozen other Star Trek veteran actors all signed up to appear in specific roles?  And of course, there was no way to un-spend $465,000 of crowd-funded money and return the extra to donors.

Faced with an impossible Kobayahi Maru scenario, the Renegades show-runners made the only decision they felt they could: they did emergency surgery on the script the removed all references to identifiable Star Trek elements of intellectual property:

  • The Federation was now the “Confederation.”
  • Walter Koenig was now simply “The Admiral” (whose first name was still Pavel, which is just a common Russian name and not copyrightable).
  • Nichelle Nichols’ character is never addressed by name.
  • Tuvok was now Kovok, and his pointed ears were removed…along with the antennae from a blue-skinned character from what was now an unknown alien race (don’t say the “A” word!).
  • Nog was now Fnaxnor with different make-up that was definitely NOT Ferengi (which makes his line “I’m all ears…” toward the end seem a little less amusing).
  • While Cirroc Lofton is still addressed early on as “Mr. Sisko,” he’s listed in the credits as “Jacob.”  Terry Farrel is now “Jada,” an Altarian host (not a Trill).
  • For some reason, there’s still a Breen in his environmental suit.  But he’s not called a “Breen”…and we remember from our many blogs about intellectual property law that clothing cannot be copyrighted, right?
  • All Starfleet logos and comm badges were immediately removed from uniforms, props, and sets/readouts.
  • Section 31 is now “Section 6.”
  • The CGI visual effects were completely redone with the starship Archer (still named that) no longer looking quite so Starfleet-ish.  Likewise, the “Rigelian” warbird (y’know, the one with the cloaking device?) looks very much like a Romulan warbird while also looking totally different…see the still image below.

Frustratingly, it turned out that Renegades did NOT havve to surgically remove the Star Trek references after all!  Just one week after the guidelines came out, on the “Engage” Official Star Trek podcast, CBS Licensing VP John Van Citters explained that fan films that were already in production at the time the guidelines were announced would be allowed to complete their projects.  And even though Renegades had started filming that same morning, they still beat the announcement by a few hours!  But alas, they didn’t know that at the time, and so they decided to opt for the surgical Trekectomy.  By the time of John Van Citters’ podcast, the script had already been completely changed and all of the scenes filmed.

Of course, keeping the original script and costumes, etc. inside of the Star Trek universe would have only delayed the inevitable.  Even though the 2-part “The Requiem” would have been grandfathered in, the rest of the Renegades episodes would have required the change…especially since the “no continuing series” rule would have made any more episodes impossible within the guidelines.

Part 1 of “The Requiem” debuted last Thursday night, and I watched it almost immediately…curious to know how this now non-Trek fan film would feel when I finally experienced it.

The effect of the Trekectomy, at least for me personally, was very disorienting.  I had to mentally edit things in my mind and “translate” them back into “Star Trek.”  It’s much like when I try to speak Spanish.  I know the language somewhat from high school, but I’m not fluent.  So when I hear something, I have to stop for a moment and examine what I just heard, internally rearranging it into my native English.

And to be honest, without doing that “translation,” I felt little emotional connection to what was going on.  I’m sorry to be so blunt (as I know this was a difficult choice for the producers to make), but unless I reminded myself that these were actually Chekov, Uhura, Tuvok, Jadzia, Nog, et. al., I just didn’t invest myself emotionally in the characters because they had no real background in my mind.

I will say that I found the production values to be very impressive, especially the physical (practical) sets that were constructed.  The green screen scenes, while better than most fan films, were still noticeably Chroma-keyed composited scenes…sometimes with inconsistent lighting of the characters.  And while most of the costumes were very impressive, the Fleet (don’t call it STAR Fleet!) uniforms were not tailored well for some in the cast.  That said, I couldn’t begin to do any better myself, so I don’t really have any right criticize.

Now compliments, those I can dispense quite liberally.  The visual FX were stunning and the music was amazing.  The acting was top-notch by everyone involved.  The make-up was superb…especially in a bar scene loaded up with aliens.  The props looked quite convincing.  Aside from some of the green screen stuff, the lighting was actually really well done and convincing.  The film editing was strong and kept the pace moving quickly.  I didn’t feel like there was all that much that didn’t need to be in there (except, of course, for plot exposition…which is hard to avoid when you’ve already done a 90-minute pilot/prequel).

So, have you seen it yet?  Likely, you haven’t.

Why?  Because “The Requiem, Part 1” has only been released so far to donors to the Renegades project.  Donors (such as myself) been given a special URL and individual password, and the show-runners have requested that we not share either with non-donors.  So while I’d love to just copy/paste the YouTube link right here like I usually do, this time I can’t.  And please don’t ask me to violate their trust by sharing the unlisted URL and the password.

(To be honest, I suspect that, if my–or anyone’s–password is released, they’ll just change it.)

So when will “The Requiem” be made available to the general public?  Curiously, I haven’t been able to get an answer…and yes, I’ve asked a number of people both on the Renegades Facebook page and directly through IM.

However, I do have a suspicion that it won’t be for a while (if ever).  You see, their Facebook page posted the following message last Friday:

Remember, if you want to see Part One of The Requiem, you can become a donor at any time!

And if you go to that page, you’ll discover that the minimum donation to view the entire first episode (including immediate access to  the 27-minute Part 1) is $35.

Now, before you start typing that it’s a ripoff for just a 27-minute–or even an hour–episode of what is essentially a fan film (and not even a Star Trek fan film), and that for $6, you can get 13 episodes of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access if you wait and  binge-watch them all in a month’s subscription time…well, just wait for a moment.  Remember that fan films are a brand new “industry,” and they don’t have reliable funding sources right now.  Kickstarters and Indiegogos  used to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But lately, they’ve been far less lucrative.

So think about it: what is a professional-quality (or something trying to be professional quality) independent fan film supposed to do?  They need hundreds of thousands of dollars.  If fans aren’t flocking to crowd-funding campaigns…then why not charge to see the finished product?  People do have to pay for movies at theaters, after all.

But $35???  Yeah, you’ve got a point there, so stop typing that angry comment.  I’m right there with you.  But then again, who’s to say that $35 needs to remain the magic number?  This number is, I would assume, an experiment.  And if the $35 minimum donation doesn’t work, maybe they’ll try taking it down to $25 or $15…closer to the price of a movie ticket.  And keep in mind that, if you’re like me and believe in fan films and giving the “little guys” a chance to strut their stuff, then you’re gonna need to put your money where your mouth is.  I’m a Renegades donor because I believe in the project and the people behind it.  But for them to do what I want then to do, they need money.  And some of it, yes, will need to be my money.

So let’s see how the experiment goes first before we start complaining about it.  In a way, we’re all in this together, even the Renegades folks.  Give them a chance.

Now, while I can’t show you the full film, I think I can at least post some still images.  They didn’t tell me I couldn’t, and anyway, stills might get folks interested in seeing it…and that could encourage some donations, right?  (They’ll thank me later.)

So here–with no captions to spoil anything, are some sneak peeks at how “The Requiem, Part 1” turned out…


23 thoughts on “RENEGADES: THE SERIES releases “THE REQUIEM, Part 1″…for $35?”

  1. In the beginning of the article, you mention that Renegades came out in 2105. I think you meant to say 2015. It looks like Nichelle is using a cane in that image. Is that for the character or does she actually need one now. Anyway, hope all are doing well health wise. Personally, I am on the fence about charging to see a film where they already raised the funds to film it. Doesn’t that take it out of the not-for-profit realm and potentially get them into trouble?

    1. In order of your comments…

      1) I’ve corrected the 2105 to 2015. It’s funny what you miss when you are your own editor.

      2) Nichelle usually gets around via wheelchair these days since her stroke back in 2015. But she can stand and walk for short distances using the cane. She is 84, y’know.

      3) Renegades can make as much profit as it wants to now that it’s no longer derivative of Star Trek’s intellectual property. And most independent films are made with at least the hope of making a profit…or at least covering costs. It often doesn’t happen that way, frustrating many a filmmaker and investment backer, but that’s still the hope.

  2. I’m going to be very honest this review basically took a dump on Renegades because YOU couldn’t relate to it, YOU thought the uniforms didn’t fit well and you list of complaints went on.

    Yes, Renegades will be made free soon. They are offering in on DVD because helps get donors.

    Technically they are their own franchise now so they can do as they please.

    As far as “fan films being an industry” that is 100% incorrect. Fan films are a labor of love by fans who love a particular franchise and it’s never about money. I will admit it sounded very much like a sneaky advertisement for Industry Studios

    1. “this review basically took a dump on Renegades”

      Really? You must have missed this part:

      “The visual FX were stunning and the music was amazing. The acting was top-notch by everyone involved. The make-up was superb…especially in a bar scene loaded up with aliens. The props looked quite convincing. Aside from some of the green screen stuff, the lighting was actually really well done and convincing. The film editing was strong and kept the pace moving quickly.”

      Doesn’t sound like a dump to me, Admiral. Are you trying to give birth to another alt-fact, or are you just not good at reading? It’s okay to admit that, you know. Even Albert Einstein was dyslexic. If you have difficulty reading, Admiral, then I won’t make fun of you for missing an entire paragraph of what I wrote since it wasn’t really your fault.

    2. Well, business can be for profit or not, just depending on the final intent. Unless reading minds, one can not tell from reading a blog post what peoples are intending to.
      Fanmade productions are a new business model, basically where funding is not profit oriented and mainly aimed at barely allowing to achieve the project. Apart from IP considerations, I can perfectly understand that Renegades is trying to test the market with pay per view option to fund its next project while crowdfunding is less efficient and would probably be even less without ST references.

      For the fact of fanfilms becoming an industry, no one can deny there has been some escalation fro some years now, with several “factories” (more and more sets), with an significant ‘competition’ in terms of quality level, alumni attendance, audience and awards race.
      All that is good for the fans that get more contents to enjoy, and the elements of an “industry” are all there and are compatible with the work for love consideration; ST fan productions precisely proved it !
      But on the other hand, Big studios see potential competition when all these proam studios are able to deliver such good stuff with far less expenses. That is often considered as “unfair competition” since amateur do not have to pay some charges pros have to.
      The fear becomes more credible even when considering proam studios are just one step away from becoming fully operative competitors. The Axanar issue was about that, I already tried to explain it several times in comments of FFF. CBS probably thought that fans will hijack the franchise and clearly missed the opportunity to surf the phenomenon. They prefered to stop it but they only precipitated what they feared: fan filmmakers are becoming really independants.
      The new model will be that project are created as independant productions and will be eligible to subventions and to direct purchase by alternative networks. In that model, series are owned by the producers and not ordered by networks. The one that creates the “Netflix for amateurs” will take it all. Frightening for dinosaurs studios isn’t it ?
      The advantage is that as long as the producers are able to get funding from the audience, they can sustain their show and are not subject to cancellation based only on immediate profit (too many good series disappeared too soon while not so good ones remained longer). The way to fund all this in a stable maneer will be the key.
      Time will tell…

      For Jonathan’s observations, it is strong to call these complaints. My undesrtanding of this article is more that Renegades producers handled it rather well in the circumstances and such issues as some costumes unfitting perfectly are difficult to avoid. Please admit this is minor compared to the whole work. Other remarks are only what any other viewer will feel on watching a series shifting to an well known universe to an altered one. That is of course disorienting, but no big deal, Jonathan also listed more nice observations, why ignore it ?

  3. “Remember that fan films are a brand new “industry,” and they don’t have reliable funding sources right now.”

    Fan films are not an “Industry”
    Fan Films are NOT AN “INDUSTRY”

    FAN FILMS ARE A HOBBY, nothing more and nothing less… it’s when people who take a Hobby, and try to turn it into something like a job, or a commercial studio, is when they run afoul of the Studios….

    FFS Johnathan This is why you get trolled… this is why the “Haters” call you Slow Lane… Because you take something that is merely a personal interest, that is made a group hobby and try to turn it into something commercial… You and Peters must be cut from the same cloth.

    and Renegades is no longer a Fan Film.. it’s an independent production that has filed own the serial numbers to make it a generic Science Fi Film….

    1. So here is how the Business Dictionary website defines “industry”:

      The manufacturing or technically productive enterprises in a particular field, country, region, or economy viewed collectively, or one of these individually.

      Fan films are, indeed, manufactured products, whether or not they are sold. An industry does not necessary need to be all about profit. I direct you to this web page “What Sectors Make up the Non-Profit Industry?”:

      So the words “non-profit” and “industry” are not mutually exclusive.

      The people who make fan films are typically VERY industrious. So I’ve chosen to cal it an industry. You don’t have to agree, but that doesn’t make me wrong. You’re welcome to picket in front of City Hall and try to get a law passed, but until then, I’m sticking with “industry.” 🙂

      1. Sure, if you waterboard the definition…..

        So If I even concede your incredibly tortured definition, how does your statement here, “Remember that fan films are a brand new “industry,”

        Jibe with your statement

        “This executive summary provides an overview of the independent amateur films made by fans using derivative intellectual property of the Star Trek franchise copyright and trademark holders over the past 50 years.”

        Are fan films new or are they half a century old, Johnnyboy?

        1. “Are fan films new or are they half a century old, Johnnyboy?”

          Well, Jumpsuityboy (or is it Orangeyboy?), that’s pretty easy to answer. Yes, fan films have been around since the 1920s/30s when “Our Gang” (a.k.a. “The Little Rascals”) became the first unlicensed, fan-produced version of a cinematic property. Star Trek fan films have been around since 1967, but they didn’t enter the realm of being prolific efforts with increasing levels of quality and production value until the technology to make them became affordable to the masses.

          I personally mark the “modern age of fan films” as beginning in 1997 when the fan film “Troops” premiered at San Diego Comic Expo. It spread to Star Trek in 2000 with the debut of “Hidden Frontier.” That fan series went on for seven seasons and 50 episodes and spawned 5 spinoff fan series lasting ten years total. In 2004, “Star Trek: New Voyages” set the bar even higher. Then “Star Trek: Of Gods and Men,” “Starship Exeter,” “Stsrship Farragut,” “Star Trek Continues,” all the way through “Renegades,” “Prelude to Axanar,” and many more.

          Prior to 2000, Star Trek fan films were not very prolific or particularly impressive (at least, not by modern standards). But now they are both, and thus was born “an industry”–not necessarily a for-profit industry, but an industry nonetheless.

          A good analogy is desktop publishing. While professional printers and layout editors had perfected the art and practice of print design since the creation of the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th century, it was typically not a do-it-yourself-at-home “industry” until the late 1980s/early 1990s with the advent and easy availability of desktop publishing programs like Quark Xpress and, later, Adobe InDesign. Sure, back in 1984, I did my own version of the “Tricorder Readings” newsletter for my Star Trek fan club, but I used scissors and scotch tape to put the elements onto each page. That, my friend, was NOT an industry. That was a hobby.

          But half a decade later when I was doing those same newsletters with Quark Xpress on my Macintosh II…as well as other freelance design projects for money, THAT’S when desktop publishing went from being just a hobby to an industry…whether people were doing it for fun or profit. We were suddenly being just as industrious as the pros…and some of our stuff looked almost as good.

          Make sense, Orangeyboy?

        2. Are fan films new or have they been round since the beginning time?
          According to the Alec PETERS definition of fan films, it depends on whether your in court or not !
          When you being prosecuted for IP theft, then fan films are new and untested waters, however when your blowing smoke up your donors rearend, then it’s been around since the silent era!

          1. Would you please stop taking mind-altering substances before submitting comments, Tony? If you don’t even try to make sense, then winning arguments with you isn’t at all satisfying. 🙂

  4. Well, while everyone is out there debating the meaning of the word “is”, I an going to tell you that, as a donor, I thoroughly enjoyed. I actually love the IP edits. I’M ready for part 2,please!

  5. It’s interesting to watch them break every guideline out there… But then they are Renegades after all…

    35 Bucks though,,, that’s a little steep. Oh well this is a good week to dust off the Galactica DVD’s.

      1. Well filing the serial numbers off… Your Star Trek production. Doesn’t exactly make it all shiny and new.

        1. Removing all references of Star Trek and hanging the the props are major steps in creating your own brand, however it does require some creative expertise to pull off something which the fans will watch and enjoy. It does appear that Renegades have accomplished this, and most of their supporters are accepting these changes.. Now if only another so called creative genius (laughable) could come up with something original (doubtful) to film in his donor paid warehouse, instead of trying to praise himself on ripping off something from the Star Trek universe..

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