It’s interesting to watch the various reactions of the current Star Trek fan series to the new CBS/Paramount guidelines. In the case of Star Trek: Renegades, they dropped the name “Star Trek” from their title, took off the comm badges, and named Walter Koenig’s character “The Admiral.” Of course, we all know who they mean…don’t we? But with no “obvious” Star Trek content, the fan guidelines no longer apply to Renegades: The Series.
On the other side of the United States, Alabama-based Potemkin Pictures has taken a different approach. For the last half-decade or so, the vast majority of Potemkin Pictures’ fan films have actually followed most of the guidelines (before they even came out!): short-duration episodes, no crowd-funding, no perks, original music, home-made costumes, and store-bought props. Their only real “violation”–now that the new guidelines are in place–is “no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.”
Today, JOHN VAN CITTERS, Senior Vice President, Licensing at CBS Consumer Products Inc., gave a lengthy podcast interview to the ENGAGE official Star Trek podcastto host Jordan Hoffman. During that interview, “JVC” spoke at length about the new fan film guidelines that were just issued jointly by CBS and Paramount.
Considering the uproar these new guidelines have incited, along with petitions, calls for letter-writing and tribble-inundation campaigns, threats of boycotts, and of course, my own SMALL ACCESS campaign on Facebook, JVC is to be applauded for “stepping in front of the firing squad,” so to speak, and trying to explain and justify these new guidelines reasonably, calmly, and–dare I say it?–logically. And I have to hand it to my former boss (yep, I used to be a Star Trek consultant for Paramount’s licensing department back when it was still Viacom Consumer Products, and JVC was one of my supervisors), he did a very commendable job of explaining what CBS and Paramount were thinking.
With great notoriety comes great misunderstanding and misinformation! (Sounds pretty catchy, don’t it?)
Now that Project SMALL ACCESS has picked up nearly one thousand active participants on Facebook in just three days, we’re getting noticed. Obviously, we have a fair number of supporters–and still growing!–but there are also detractors out there calling out our campaign for all sorts of reasons…some valid, and some very much not.
In an effort to make sure there are no misunderstandings about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and who is behind it, I’ve put together the following list of questions and answers that I hope will be widely shared…
I was having a discussion a couple of days ago with one of the many Trekkers who is furious about these new Star Trek fan film guidelines from CBS. “It’s obvious that they just wanted to destroy all fan films forever!” he said with anger and disgust.
“I’m not sure that’s true,” I responded. “I think they sincerely wanted to help fan films by making these guidelines.”
He was shocked…especially since I’ve gone so far as to set up the SMALL ACCESS protest. He couldn’t believe I was being serious! But I was.
My wife is an attorney, and I used to work closely for many years with the Star Trek licensing department (back when they were still Viacom Consumer Products). Granted, I wasn’t in the conference room at CBS when these guidelines were written up, but I still think I know what happened and why it happened…and it was all because the wrong people were in the room.
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And when CBS and Paramount give you impossible guidelines to follow for your Star Trek fan series, then you make a non-Star Trek fan series, right?
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Star Trek: Renegades. When the new fan film guidelines were released from CBS and Paramount, Renegades was completing principle filming on two-days of scenes featuring Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols reprising their iconic roles of Chekov and Uhura. But suddenly, Star Trek: Renegades would be in violation of all of the following new fan film rules:
Must be less than 15 minutes and not be a series with recurring characters.
Title cannot contain the words “Star Trek.”
Cannot use imitations of commercially-available costumes or other licensed Trek items (like phasers or custom-designed comm badges).
and most important of all…
Cannot feature any actor who has previously appeared in any Star Trek series of film from Paramount/CBS.
Oh, and they cannot have raised more than $50,000 (Star Trek: Renegades took in $378,000) or given away any perks in exchange for donations (which they also did).
By now, you’ve likely heard that CBS and Paramount have finally, after decades of silence, released a series of guidelines for Star Trek fan films to follow and not get sued. Unfortunately, the guidelines were written by a group of over-caffeinated lawyers and licensing employees with little to no understanding of the concept of Star Trek fandom. In short, these rules would essentially obliterate nearly all past and current Star Trek fan films and series.
From their announcement on StarTrek.com, CBS seems almost proud of themselves, feeling that they’ve done fandom some kind of favor. And even though nearly 200 (as I write this) comments have been posted with about 90% highly negative reactions, I doubt that CBS or Paramount will see the devastating reality of what they’ve done…
Be careful what you wish for! For years, Star Trek fans have been hoping for guidelines from CBS to help define what was and was not acceptable in the creation of fan films. Today, those guidelines were finally posted publicly…
…and it wasn’t pretty.
The new guidelines would limit all Star Trek fan films to no more than 15-minute short films and no more than two-parts (so you couldn’t divide a one-hour episode into four segments). Likewise, continuing series with seasons and/or sequels would be prohibited.
Yesterday, Blade of Honor completed its 40-day Kickstarter campaign with a very impressive $51,302 raised from 828 backers. Although not technically a Star Trek fan film, Blade of Honor features many notable Star Trek and sci-fi actors, as well as several veterans of Star Trek fan films.
Their posted Kickstarter goal was $30,000 to make a single pilot webisode. By surpassing that goal, Blade of Honor gets to keep the Kickstarter money that was raised. Once the $30,000 goal was passed a few weeks ago, a stretch goal of $58,000 for webisode #2 was targeted and nearly reached. It’s unknown yet whether the extra money will be used immediately or kept in reserve to be used after a second Kickstarter fully funds episode two. For now, however, work can begin in earnest on their pilot.
By now, you’ve probably heard that Anton Yelchin, the Russian-born actor who portrayed the character of Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek films, was killed overnight when his car rolled and pinned him up against a brick wall.
Fan Film Factor joins Star Trek fans everywhere in morning the untimely passing of this promising young actor whose portrayal of our beloved Chekov was heartfelt and truly enjoyable to watch. While the rebooted Star Trek had its fair share of detractors, one character who was seldom if ever criticized was Chekov. Anton Yelchin’s energetic performances made the enthusiastic young Russian navigator lovable and engaging.
Last time: Ryan T. Husk, executive producer of the independent sci-fi series Blade of Honor, discussed the cast and crew of this exciting new project that’s currently raising money for its pilot episode (and possibly more episodes!) via Kickstarter. This web series features a number of Star Trek actors like Tim Russ, Aaron Eisenberg, and Cirroc Lofton, plus professional actors from other series, including Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica and James Kyson from Heroes. There’s also a bunch of veterans from Star Trek fan films like New Voyages and Horizon.
Ryan’s insights into to film industry have been fascinating, to say the least! As our interview concludes, we start off by discussing what differentiates an independent film from a fan film. And then we jump into how to set up and run a crowd-funding campaign… Continue reading “BLADE OF HONOR (interview), part 3”