A few days ago, I posted a blog looking back at the MANY fan film news stories I covered on Fan Film Factor over the past year—nearly 75, believe it or not! (Not bad for a sub-genre that some predicted would be all but extinct by now.)
But what were the fan film news stories from 2017 that had the greatest impact on the world of Star Trek fan films? Well, guess who just made a Top 10 list of that very thing!
I’m sure some folks won’t agree with all of my selections. Heck, some of the stories I chose aren’t even directly Star Trek-related. But hey, everyone’s got opinions, right? And if you think a different fan film story should have made it onto the list, feel free to tell me in the comments. (That’s a sneaky way of turning a “Top 10” list into a “Top 10 Plus” list!)
And so, without further ado, here’s the biggest fan film stories of 2017…
#10 -FILM FESTIVALS ADD A CATEGORY FOR FAN FILMS
This past year, the BERLIN SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL became the first-ever to feature a category exclusively for “Fan Films.” Initially, I was concerned when I saw this rule: “You must have all copyright clearances, including music, for all the work you submit to us.” But then I noticed the very next rule: “Fan films are an exception as they are always homages to existing franchises. We do accept and want fan films in the festival.” Later in the year, the IndieBOOM! film festival also opened up submissions specifically to fan film makers. And this film festival was also offering a grand prize of $500!
#9 – VOLDEMORT: ORIGINS OF THE HEIR
Take a look at this trailer and tell me if you think Warner Brothers might have a problem with a fan film of this quality being released…
Instead, after a discussion with the film’s Italian producer, GIANMARIA PEZZATO, Warner Brothers has allowed him to complete and release this $30,000+ Harry Potter fan film with only minor stipulations: no profit is to be generated in any way, no endorsement by the studio is to be implied, and don’t use the official movie font in your logo so you won’t confuse the fans. Is this a taste of things to come in the way the major movie studios deal with fan films? Might CBS and Paramount someday relax their strict guidelines for Trek fan films? Or will Warner and other studios tighten their rules instead? All we know for certain right now is that fan films aren’t going away.
#8 – THE PASSING OF RICHARD HATCH
The fan film community lost one of its most beloved proponents when RICHARD HATCH passed away in February at the age of 71 from pancreatic cancer. Known to most sci-fi fans as Captain Apollo from the original Battlestar Galactica and Tom Zarek from the reboot series, Richard was also involved in multiple fan film projects. Most notably, Richard Hatch played the magnificent role of Klingon Commander Kharn in Prelude to Axanar. He also appeared in an episode of Star Trek: New Voyages, “Torment of Destiny,” which sadly was never completed and released. And Richard starred in an upcoming new fan series, Blade of Honor, the first episode of which is still in post-production.
Richard’s enthusiasm for the fans and their film projects was legendary. In fact, Richard himself made a Galactica fan film back in 1999, “Second Coming”—with the help of countless friends, fellow actors, professionals, and volunteers—in an effort to revive the franchise. As a tribute to Richard, I’m including that fan film here for you all to enjoy…
#7 – DEEP SPACE NINE: WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND
The Indiegogo campaign from the IRA STEVEN BEHR and ADAM NIMOY for the DS9 documentary What WeLeft Behind took in $647,891 from 9,552 backers! That blew through all four stretch goals and will allow this documentary to be 90 minutes long (instead of just 60), feature elaborate 3D graphics and animations, have an original score recorded by a live orchestra, provide an extended writers room feature, and remaster some selected show clips in High Definition…including having CGI master DOUG DREXLER render new CGI animation sequences in HD.
This amazing crowd-funding total demonstrated that Trekkers are still willing to donate to worthy projects. It also showed the studios that Deep Space Nine has as loyal a following as any of the other Star Trek properties.
#6 – THE STAR TREK FAN FILM ACADEMY
This past August, JAMES CAWLEY (creator of Star Trek: New Voyages) was able to expand his CBS license for his STAR TREK SET TOUR to create the STAR TREK FILM ACADEMY. Fans will be able to come to his upstate New York sets for a week of film production classes taught by veteran Star Trek professionals. Cawley explained that this wasn’t simply a “make your own fan film” school. Each student will oversee and direct their own version of a CBS pre-approved screenplay. Described as a “fantasy camp” by Cawley, the week-long curriculum will culminate in fans being able to shoot their own Star Trek scenes on his TOS sets and walk out of the experience with their own finished mini-episodes to show.
#5 – POTEMKIN PICTURES
POTEMKIN PICTURES is a fan film-making MACHINE! Around since 2010, they began with the fan series Project: Potemkin, which produced three dozen episodes over six years. In the years preceding 2017, Potemkin Pictures had added another THREE series focusing on the crews of the USS Deimos, USS Tristan, and Klingon Battlecruiser Kupok. Those three series continued to release a combined TEN episodes this past year. They also launched two new series in 2017…one focusing on the crew of the USS Endeavour and another on Janice Rand and the crew of the USS Triton. Although ultra-low budget, these numerous series—produced by various teans in Alabama and Georgia and overseen by executive producer RANDY LANDERS—focus on story and character…with a good amount of dedication and heart.
#4 – VANCE MAJOR’S MINARD SAGA
Speaking of fan film-machines, VANCE MAJOR is a one-man force all his own! Nicknamed (by me) the “Where’s Waldo of Trek fan films,” Vance had already been involved in various capacities in over a dozen different fan films and series even before launching on his own ambitious undertaking: the MINARD saga. Focusing on the chief engineer that Vance himself played on the fan series Starship Valiant, Vance used 2017 to flesh out this character with an expansive story spanning over a century in Trek-time…from serving under Captain Pike to fighting the Borg in the late 24th century.
During 2017, Vance would at one point release seven Minard episodes in just seven days(!), ranging from 3-minute vignettes to the maximum 15 minutes allowed by the guidelines. He released ANOTHER seven episodes in November and December, and still plans a final six in the first two months of next year. Told in a non-chronological order, each fan film stands on its own while also fitting into a rich, larger tapestry.
#3 – STABASE STUDIOS
At the end of 2016, STARBASE STUDIOS was forced to relocate from Oklahoma City when the warehouse owner who was providing them free rent sold his property. Vance Major organized a GoFundMe campaign that raised $3,500 to help cover expenses for the move of their TOS sets to neighboring Arkansas, with many volunteers chipping in free labor to help pack things up and load/unload from trucks. After the move, it seemed everything was fine again with Starbase Studios.
It turns it things weren’t fine. Disagreements among the organizers/owners about whether to charge fan films and how much to charge them, along with other conflicts, resulted in various items being surreptitiously removed from the sets, leaving the remainder all but unusable. This situation was kept quiet for about three months while efforts were made to work things out. Those efforts failed, and SCOTT JOHNSON and KENT EDWARDS went public with a video documenting what was done to the sets. A lawsuit was then filed against them by GLEN WOLFE.
There’s word that the two sides are still trying to work things out, and with luck, a peaceful and productive resolution to the Starbase Studio controversy might be one of the Top 10 fan film stories of 2018. But for now, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope.
#2 – STAR TREK CONTINUES
After five years and seven FANtastic full-length TOS episodes, STAR TREK CONTINUES faced a hard choice going into 2017. They’d planned to produce six more episodes before shutting down, doing maybe one or two more crowd-funders. Instead, with the new guidelines in place, STC made a bold decision: they would ignore many of the new guidelines and use the $200,000 from their most recent Indiegogo to produce and release just four more episodes in rapid succession, all in 2017, and then shutting down their production forever. Their hope was that a good relationship with CBS and Paramount would result in their being allowed to complete their four not-in-compliance episodes.
The gambit worked. Using a combination of volunteers, paid professionals (working at a discount), and even a veteran Star Trek actor (John DeLancie), STC produced and released four new 50-minute-plus Star Trek fan films…and they were each spectacular. Enthusiastic and energized, hard-working and dedicated, brash and bold, the STC team left Star Trek fandom with a precious gift of eleven triumphant episodes and a legacy that will be long remembered and admired.
#1 – AXANAR
Without a doubt, the mother of all shockers to the fan film world came last January when CBS and Paramount unexpectedly settled their year-long copyright infringement lawsuit against ALEC PETERS and AXANAR PRODUCTIONS. After spending an estimated one million dollars on legal fees trying to shut down the production, the studios agreed to let Axanar be made with the same cast of veteran Trek and sci-fi actors along with other industry professionals. The only stipulations were that Axanar could no longer use public crowd-funding campaigns and that the finished production could be no longer than 30 minutes (rather than the 90 minutes that were initially announced).
But things were far from smooth sailing for Axanar after that. With a 3-year leased Southern California studio draining away $15,000/month, and a campaign to raise donations to cover rent failing to get much over $22K, a decision was made in April to move the sets to just outside of Atlanta, GA into a facility with less than a third of the rental and utilities costs. Alec was able to end his lease commitment eight months early, and in May, the sets were moved across country with the help of dozens of volunteers on both coasts.
But the Axanar news for the year wasn’t over yet. Shortly after the move, the new studio got a sponsor, OWC DIgital, whose CEO, LARRY O’CONNOR, is a big fan and supporter of the Axanar project. Then in early November, ROBERT MEYER BURNETT, who had edited Prelude to Axanar and was slated to direct the upcoming 30-minute Axanar fan film(s), announced that he was stepping down. A new director has not yet been announced. However, when one door closes, another door opens, as at about the same time, Marvel Comics writer PAUL JENKINS joined the Axanar team as a new co-writer for the script.
Quite a year, huh?
Speaking of which, I’d like to wish all of my readers a very happy and healthy New Year. Remember, if you’re going to drink, please don’t pilot a shuttlecraft or any other moving vehicle. I want to see you ALL back here in 2018!