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…


#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?

With nearly THREE QUARTERS of the total votes cast, the “winner” was:

#1b – …with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

Members wanted fan productions to be able to continue beyond just two 15-minute episodes.  And really, who can blame them?  Fan productions assemble casts, build sets, and create interesting characters for themselves to play.  Capping those character appearances at 30 minutes of maximum screen time would frustrate many fans who simply want their Vulcan-Trill-Ferengi-Klingon hybrid doctor/helmsman/security chief to be able play around on the bridge of the USS Whatever for more than just two 15-minute episodes.

Of course, we do need to acknowledge the very reasonable concern by CBS and Paramount: fan productions splitting a 2-hour feature-length film into eight 15-minute segments.  Without the “no series” guideline, this would be a very easy work-around to sneak a full-length movie through on a technicality.

But I believe I have a compromise to make both sides happy on this one, and I call it: THE ANIMATED SERIES OPTION.

I don’t mean to suggest that all fan films must suddenly be animated.  Instead, I’m referring to the animated Star Trek series from the 1970s.  Those episodes were each only a half hour long (24 minutes, actually), and divided into two acts separated by a commercial…in many ways just like the guidelines limit Star Trek fan films to two 15-minute parts.

But the animated episodes were also a continuing SERIES.  It was simply that each episode had a unique story with a beginning, middle, and end.  The next episode featured the same starship and the same crew but with a completely different plot.

Could that same approach work for fan films?  I would recommend a revision to the first guideline to read as follows (with a change to the second part):

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.  The production can continue featuring the same title, characters, and settings for additional episodes as long as no single story extends beyond two consecutive segments, episodes or parts.

This is the proposal that I would like to take to CBS and Paramount.  But it brings up an important issue that I need to discuss with the members of the SMALL ACCESS campaign.

When I first launched Project: SMALL ACCESS, the idea was NOT to boycott Star Trek—not Beyond, not Discovery, not anything.  Instead, I simply wanted members to watch Discovery in groups where there was a single “designated subscriber” to CBS All Access, which would decrease the studio’s potential subscription revenue…not eliminate it entirely.  It was a way to (hopefully) get their attention long enough for our voices to at least be heard.  In short, it was the “stick.”

But now we need to discuss the “carrot.”

It’s easy to shake our fists in the air and threaten like an angry mob, but are we willing to put our money where our virtual mouth is?  Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that CBS and Paramount find our proposal reasonable and agree to make the adjustment.  Then we need to keep up our end of the bargain.

So if f we were going to protest the guidelines by subscribing to All Access in groups or “collectives,” then if the guidelines get changed at all, then I think we should be willing to subscribe as individuals.


Obviously, many of us want more that just half of one guideline revised, so that isn’t necessarily going to be seen as a big “concession” by some of the most ardent opponents of the guidelines.  But it’s still something significant.  And as I said in Part 4 of this blog series, the more guidelines we try to pressure the studio(s) into revising at one time, the less likely we are to get anywhere.  So let’s start with one (or half of one) and see if we can get SOMEwhere.  And if we can…

THEN!  We have to hold up our end of the negotiation.  Without the carrot, the stick is meaningless.  If CBS and Paramount make this goodwill gesture, then we need to respond with our own gesture of good faith and subscribe to All Access…at least for one month to try it out.

And really, that’s all I’m asking for.  If we can get the studio(s) to revise this one half of one guideline, and if you live within the U.S. or Canada, subscribe for just ONE month.  Give Star Trek: Discovery a chance.  That’s OUR good faith gesture.  And if you don’t like the new series or feel that more guidelines still need to be changed, then cancel your subscription after that first month and go back to protesting.  Or maybe you might just end up liking Discovery.

And in the end, that’s what CBS is most hoping for: that fans will try out All Access, like Discovery, and remain subscribers.  So we’re actually offering a pretty attractive carrot—even if our members just subscribe for one month in exchange for one-half of one guideline—because it could turn into something more.

Unfortunately, lately SMALL ACCESS has become a nexus for CBS and Discovery bashing, which it was never intended to be.  There are folks in our group who are dead set against supporting CBS in any way or ever subscribing to All Access.  And if it turns out that most or even a good portion of our members are unwilling to subscribe to All Access for even one month—even if CBS agrees to revise our group-selected Guideline #1b—then there goes our carrot!

And so I am posting one more survey because I have to know: will members of SMALL ACCESS act in good faith and subscribe for a month if CBS revises Guideline #1b as I’ve proposed above?  If not, this could be the end of SMALL ACCESS because there wouldn’t be much sense trying to get the guidelines revised by simply griping about them and about Discovery all the time.  We’ve already been doing that for nearly a year, and it’s had no effect.

In my opinion, this is our one shot at being heard and making an impact…and the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.  Star Trek: Discovery will likely premiere in just a few more months.  CBS wants to maximize subscription totals for the shareholders.  Once that moment passes, I doubt we’ll get a second chance.

So what do you think?  Are you willing to pay $5.99 for one month to change the most troubling of all the guidelines?  Make your voice heard by voting here.

17 thoughts on “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 6) – The CARROT and the STICK”

  1. I my self will say no DON’T got go for that. You should try to understand why that cbs and paramount studio is trying to rip off some your work. It is to where you should go to the site and read the full rules your self for tv and movies.

    1. Kenny, good to see you online man – How’s First Frontier coming? Did you secure that 90 minute length with CBS’s blessing yet? – I REALLY hope you did… P 😉

        1. Oh, well just the same, I hope that film is still happening – I’d really like to see it…

          1. It would, of course, be nice to given an update on the project – I know they’re probably pretty busy working on the actual film but still, would like to hear something about what’s going on with them right now… P

  2. I find it funny that CBS and Paramount…the companies who gave us TOS, the TOS movies, TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, the TNG movies…and the NuTrek reboots has suddenly becomes an enemy because one guy couldn’t make his fan film. Someone call the Whambulence. Axanar was not the second coming of Gene Roddenberry.

  3. If CBS wises up and gives us 90 minutes for fan films, then, even without follow-up stories that would sit a little better with me – At least then we could get fully developed characters, stories, and a better chance to see more of those beautifully designed sets that these good fan film makers work so hard at putting together. This is me crossing my fingers and praying real hard for a FRACKING miracle – Come on CBS, just budge just a LITLE bit already will ya?… *hopeful* / P 🙂

  4. The only Trek I care about at this point is “What We Left Behind” speculation on what another season of DS9 would have contained and a few fan efforts. The only way I’d watch any trek on Paramount/CBS is if they had an episode entitled: “Zombie Borg Assimilate Corporate Executives” followed by “Zombie Borg Corporate Executives Versus Godzilla & Daleks” with the concluding show “Zombie Borg Corporate Executives vs every science fiction monster since 1960. I’d pay $10 to watch that.

  5. “If we can get the studio(s) to revise this one half of one guideline, and if you live within the U.S. or Canada, subscribe for just ONE month.”

    CBS All Access isn’t in Canada, but that doesn’t matter because Discovery is airing on cable TV Canada on Space channel, which also airs Doctor Who, Orphan Black, The Expanse and most of Syfy’s series! Discovery will also stream on Crave TV after the Space airing, but I imagine most Canadian scifi fans will watch on Space.

    1. Yeah, the part you wrote was too long to fit into the question. 🙂

      But yes, I know the whole Canada thing is different from the U.S. All Access set-up. I’m actually kinda surprised that CBS has managed to keep everything straight themselves!

      I only just realized that, if I want to subscribe to All Access, I actually need to buy a new smart box something or other for the living room. What a pain!

  6. Jonathan, there is a lot to the situation with Star Trek beyond just the issue of fan films. Look for the root cause of the problem, which you stated clearly: “But the animated episodes were also a continuing SERIES. It was simply that each episode had a unique story with a beginning, middle, and end. The next episode featured the same starship and the same crew but with a completely different plot.” That is it. When TOS aired, it was in that form. STNG did the same thing, with a couple 2 parters, usually across seasons, DS9 started the “great story arc” program, and Voyager had a weird dysfunctional mixture of that, and back to the original method, in a tug of war between story arc and individual stories, but kept returning to the well so often that it gets unwatchable after a while. Then there was Enterprise, (which I have seen in back to back form and decided was good, but disliked during airing because it was always “to be continued”). The fan film world filled the need for most Trek fans to have the original form you described, individual, stand alone episodes, with a beginning, middle, and end. That was what fans latched onto to. Axanar hit a nerve because it too, promised a stand alone story, but longer, better, of the quality people today expect from video entertainment. My own opinion is a lot of fan films, whether 15 minutes or 90, present no threat or issue to CBS, as the quality is just not there (and were not funded to provide it). Axanar did both, got money for quality, and offered a full length, traditional Trek Story. That was why they got hammered. That was a threat percieved. Now, the rules came about probably because some suit said “We can’t hammer one because it was too good, or people will think we are scared or threatened, so we have to impose rules on all of them, besides, they will then hate Axanar” CBS could allow fan films in all their previous glory, and just impose a level of quality limit, or funding limit, and it would be right back where it was before crowdfunding became the real issue. Discovery is having it’s issues because they still do not listen to the fans, they are still pursuing the “we can make new Trek like Paramount and rewite the universe in our image” and added in all the nice politically correct goodies to draw in a new audience (they think). Gene Roddenberry broke all the rules of social etiquette in the 60’s, and NEVER had to announce “this week on Star Trek a black woman kisses a white man take that” or “racisim gets a new twist in outrage when black right side guy chases evil white right side guy”. He just took the stories he got from his writers and made the show, and was honest about what he wanted to say. If they would just concentrate on the story, and deliver it on some reasonable schedule, and try to make it contiguous to the established universe the fans have been exposed too, they might have a much better chance. As it stands now, I really do not want to watch Discovery, and try to digest it’s political correctness on top of a Klingon king on some weird old kingship or whatever they have in mind, and make it fit in the STR universe I know. 50 years is hard to change. Finally, they added their little maneuver of making it available next day on Netflix in every place in the known universe, except the US, meaning that CBS access is simply an extortion plot to be able to see their show, and they have not done anything to entice me to pay for that privilege.

  7. I find the carrot & stick approach somewhat interesting in the short term. But while the stick may always be available even if it gets shorter or thinner over time as CBS/P relents to some arbitrary degree, my real concern is about the carrot. Say, for the sake of argument, this first attempt to move CBS/P on one half of one guideline is successful. Then what? What other carrots are there we could offer in follow-on attempts? In other words, how many carrots do we fans actually have?

    1. Actually, the hope (slight though it may be) is that the act of actually changing one half of one guideline “breaks the seal,” as they say, and opens up the possibility in the minds of CBS that yes, maybe these guidelines aren’t all perfectly formed the moment they flew out of the ear of Zeus. And maybe this just begins a conversation that hasn’t really started yet. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

      I don’t really expect us to go to the carrot and stick “well” for each inch of territory we want to grab. CBS doesn’t want to set a precedent of giving in to threatening demands by a small number of fans. If we’re lucky enough to at least start this conversation and get a small change, I doubt they’ll respond well to us leveraging our “threat” to get them to change more. But if they’re at least willing to look at what is and isn’t working, well, that’s more than we have now.

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