Some fans believe that Axanar was the first fan film to use professionals or, at the very least, the first to pay them. Both of those assumptions are incorrect by nearly a decade.
The first fan film to feature a known Star Trek professional in their credits was the debut episode of Star Trek: New Voyages in early 2004, “Come What May,” which featured Doug Drexler as visual effects artist (under the pseudonym “Max Rem”) while Doug was also actively working doing the digital FX for Star Trek: Enterprise and also for the new Battlestar Galactica.
New Voyages’ next episode, “In Harm’s Way,” likewise included Doug Drexler…this time as an executive producer. It also featured veteran Star Trek TOS guest stars William Windom (reprising his role as an older, time-displaced Commodore Matt Decker), BarBara Luna, and Malachi Thorne (also voicing his former role as Commodore Jose Mendez as well as playing a Klingon).
The fan series formerly known as Star Trek: Renegades and now officially renamed Renegades: The Series may no longer technically be a Star Trek fan series, but it still features a cast full of veteran Trek actors. Among them are Walter “Chekov” Koenig, Nichelle “Uhura” Nichols, Tim “Tuvok” Russ, Terry “Jadzia” Farrell, Cirroc “Jake Sisko” Lofton, Aaron “Nog” Eisenberg, Robert “Chakotay” Beltran, Gary “Soval” Graham, Manu “Icheb” Intiraymi, and Hana “Molly O’Brien” Hatae.
Not all of them were supposed to be playing their original roles from Star Trek series like TOS, DS9, and Voyager…and now, of course, none of them are playing those roles (wink, wink). But you can now see the entire cast along with extras and a plethora of amazing-looking aliens of a quality and intricacy that have never been seen in any fan production to date!
There are also several production images that have now been posted, with more promised soon. These photos give a better idea of what the uniforms (sans chest insignia) will look like, and they also show the extensive amount of green-screen filming that will allow a wealth of potentially breathtaking CGI backgrounds to be added to what scenes they are filming. Additionally, there are practical (physical) sets like a bar as well as hybrid sets like a starship bridge where the crew sit in actual chairs with real consoles, but the rest of the bridge background will be digitally added later.
Okay, folks, now THIS one is intriguing! As many of you probably know, TOMMY KRAFT is the fan dynamo who wrote, produced, directed, and did about six dozen other things on the wildly popular Star Trek: Horizon feature-length fan film (currently at 1.75 million views on YouTube!). Shortly after releasing Horizon in late February, Tommy announced a Kickstarter for a sequel and was quickly contacted by CBS and strongly advised not to proceed with his new endeavor.
Now we know why, as the new fan film guidelineswere probably already being discussed and would soon be released by CBS and Paramount. One of those guidelines states: “The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.” Another states: “No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.”
Fast forward to this week, and Tommy Kraft has just launched a brand new Kickstarter for a short film called Runaway, set in the not-too-distant future where an android fights for her life as she races to get to the Free States. He’s seeking $13,000 and has already raised about $4,000 in pledges from 55 backers…one of whom is me. I pledged $35.
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.