ALEC PETERS is pretty much a man who needs no introduction…at least in the fan community. But if you’ve only just landed on this planet, here’s a quick run-down. Alec has been the driving force behind the fan production AXANAR for half a decade, writing, producing, and appearing in the widely popular Prelude to Axanar fan film. He worked ceaselessly over three crowd-funding campaigns to raise more than $1.3 million in fan donations to build out a studio and sets and begin filming a 90-minute Star Trek fan film detailing the final battle of the Four Years War with the Klingons at the planet Axanar.
And then Alec got sued by CBS and Paramount for copyright infringement. He fought back, and after a year of legal proceedings, the lawsuit was settled just days before a trial was set to begin. While the specifics of Alec’s settlement with the studios aren’t public, we do know that Alec is now allowed to make two 15-minute Axanar fan films with his original cast (if they choose to return) as well as other entertainment industry professionals.
“What’s happening with AXANAR?” “When is it coming out?” “Has the entire project just fallen apart?” “Who’s the director?” “Do they even have a production team?”
These questions and so many like them pour into comments, IMs, and emails to me almost weekly. (In fact, the “fallen apart” one came in just last week.) I’ve so wanted to share what I know, but I’ve been asked repeatedly by ALEC PETERS to please keep things under wraps for the time being.
A few weeks ago, I finally started asking Alec in earnest when we could do a proper interview and announce some of these big news items publicly. Believe it or not, it’s actually been well over a YEAR since my last full interview with him! Anyway, it took some prodding and nagging, but I finally convinced the man behind Axanar to sit down with me for an extended interview and update.
MICHAEL ILASI, a dedicated AXANAR detractor, announced last month that he was planning to create a “parody” of Prelude to Axanar using actual footage from the fan film…re-edited to be “funny.”
But what Michael released wasn’t a parody so much as a mockery. It belittled ALEC PETERS and the other cast members of Prelude by showing their bloopers, adding banjo music, crickets, laughter, etc…and making it look like these were bungling idiots rather than actors trying to put in solid performances while flubbing the occasional line.
Michael called it a “fan film,” but I don’t think it qualifies. A fan film should celebrate and honor something a fan loves—Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Harry Potter—not try to tear it down or cheapen it in some way. In fact, that’s sorta the OPPOSITE of a fan film.
Michael was using Axanar blooper footage released without permission last year by former Axanar marketing director turned vitriolic detractor TERRY McINTOSH, violating his non-disclosure agreement with Alec and Axanar Productions and releasing footage that was not legally his to release.
The arguments being employed currently by Michael and other detractors justifying the creation and release of this mockery film can best be summed up as follows:
Alec can’t own the Prelude footage because it’s all Star Trek, and Alec doesn’t own the Star Trek intellectual property.
Parody is protected speech under fair use. Alec can’t do anything to prevent Michael from enjoying his First Amendment rights.
Axanar is”open source.” Alec even said so himself.
Get over yourselves and laugh, fer cryin’ out loud! They’re bloopers, not KFC’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. Lighten up.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve got an answer to each of these attempts to justify and excuse what Michael did.
Some call them “haters.” I call them “detractors.” Any way you slice it, though, they are the Captain Ahabs and Khans of the fan film community. They will chase ALEC PETERS ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round perdition’s flames before they ever let go of their anger and resentment for him and his fan project AXANAR.
And their wrath and indignation aren’t simply reserved for Alec himself but also for anyone who supports him and his production, anyone who stands up to defend him, and in fact anyone who has any connection to him and Axanar whatsoever…real or perceived.
Sometimes, the detractors just insult people, call them names, and/or create a few snarky memes. Sometimes it’s angry tweets and posts on Facebook. But occasionally it goes beyond that to attempts to sabotage people in social media through reports to Facebook and the like, online threats, or even interfering with people’s livelihoods. Such a thing happened the week before last…and I wouldn’t have even known about it had not a member of Carlos Pedraza’ AXAMONITOR Facebook group contacted me privately to share his newfound concerns and disgust for the group.
I personally stopped visiting the Axamonitor Facebook group (and any other lingering detractor echo-chambers) many, many months ago. It was a waste of my time, as the petty nastiness and cruel vulgarity in those groups was frankly nauseating. And it wasn’t just the insults against Alec (or me). These guys often turned venomously on each other, and the moderators had to frequently warn members to be respectful of other members (just not respectful of any Axanar supporters).
So when JOES DIAZ sent me an IM request on Facebook on Superbowl Sunday morning, I had no idea who he was or what had happened in the Axamonitor group. When I found out, I was pretty disgusted myself…although not entirely surprised.
As we messaged back and forth, I asked Joe if he felt strongly enough about this incident, and about his fellow detractors, that he might want to do an interview to share his story. He said yes, and the next day, we had the following very eye-opening discussion…
I can imagine how the detractors will react to this interview. But maybe, just maybe, a few of them might hear Joe’s words and begin to realize that hating on Axanar and Alec Peters won’t solve anything…and perhaps it’s finally time to just settle down and move on.
This morning I face a bit of a dilemma. There’s an 800-pound mugato in the cave (a more appropriate metaphor than “elephant in the living room”), and I needed to decide how to deal with it.
On the one hand, it’s fan film news…major fan film news, in fact. A version of the 90-minute AXANAR script that was “locked” prior to the lawsuit (meaning it would be used to determine line item costs) was leaked yesterday by disgruntled (man, is that an understatement!) former CTO and Marketing Director for Axanar Productions, TERRY McINTOSH. It was actually an earlier version than the one used for the lawsuit (Terry released version 7.3, but the version submitted in the legal filings was 7.7—and the latest version that exists now actually goes to 11). But the fact is that a version of the Axanar script is now out there…and that’s news.
On the other hand, Terry violated a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in doing so. The thing about NDA’s is that, for a project like Axanar, they are unlikely to be enforced because ALEC PETERS would have to prove financial damages and injury. Since Alec is unlikely to lose any money from the release of an outdated script that’s been rewritten multiple times since 2015, there’s little reason to bother taking legal action. (But hey, who knows?)
That said, despite the lack of legal “teeth,” signing an NDA is like making a promise…saying that you’re trustworthy and able to keep a secret. I’ve signed an NDA with Axanar Productions, as well. The things I know could potentially explode my page views. But I don’t share them because I gave my word—and at least for me, that means something.
So, yes, there’s an outdated Axanar script out there now, and you’ll probably be able to find it fairly easily if you look. But I am not going to post it here. Nor am I going to link to any of the numerous detractor sites that have sprung up in the last 24 hours to tear the script apart.
Have I read the script myself? Not yet. I’ve been too busy reading through Alec’s new scripts for the two 15-minute Axanar films and preparing my feedback for him, and I didn’t want to get distracted. I might read the leaked script eventually…maybe not. I haven’t decided yet.
But what I have decided is to honor my own signing of an NDA and not facilitate access to the outdated script, even though it is now public. Unlike some people, when I give my word, I keep it.
Earlier today, ALEC PETERS posted the following blog on the AxanarProductions.com website. As it’s very relevant to my editorial blog entry from yesterday—and it makes some excellent points—I asked for and received Alec’s permission to re-post the blog in its entirety here on FAN FILM FACTOR. (Please note that the opinions expressed and descriptions of events presented are solely those of Alec Peters.)
There is a a lot of talk lately about how Star Trek Continues has decided to openly violate the Star TrekFan Film Guidelines that CBS put in place last year. STC has already violated the guidelines with the release of their last episode, and is making 3 more roughly 50 minute episodes that violate at least 5 Guidelines including length (close to 50 minutes) and the use of Star Trek actors.
I would highly recommend you read Jonathan Lane’s Fan Film Factor article on the matter here:
Jonathan provides a very fair view of the matter, as he likes both Axanar and STC. And Jonathan calls out Vic for his hypocrisy in attacking Axanar for violating “guidelines” that never existed, while violating the actual written rules himself. And lets be clear, Star Trek Continues has neither been “grandfathered” in (total nonsense), nor do they have a special deal with CBS. They are simply stating that “we think CBS will be OK with us doing this.”
But I am going to argue that this is actually good for fan films.
Now let’s be clear, I don’t like Vic. He has been lying about Axanar since he stormed out of the Prelude to Axanar Premiere we invited him to in 2014. But I support Star Trek Continues as I do all fan films. I don’t let my feelings for Vic cloud my feelings for a very worthy fan film series. Along with Star Trek New Voyages, they have done wonderful things in the fan film genre.
Now what is ironic is that while Vic refuses to help anyone else in fan films, (he famously asked Tommy Kraft for a role in the Horizon sequel while telling Tommy he wouldn’t lift a finger to help him) and has refused to allow others to use his sets (unlike James Cawley or Starbase Studios who generously allowed anyone to come use their sets), Vic’s decision to ignore the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines may well help all fan films moving forward. How is that?
Well, CBS always hated policing fan films. Having communicated extensively with with John Van Citters, (Head of Star Trek licensing), Liz Kolodner (VP CBS Licensing) and Bill Burke (VP CBS Consumer Products) about fan films for years, and having advocated extensively for guidelines, I knew that CBS didn’t WANT to have to worry about fan films as they saw it as a huge waste of time. They were too busy making money to have to worry about a bunch of fans making films. I once joked with John Van Citters that CBS treated fan films with “benign neglect” and that was good, as fan films did nothing but help the franchise. And CBS told me over and over how it would be impossible to come up with fan film guidelines because of 50 years of Star Trek contracts and agreements with unions, guilds and actors.
Well, clearly that wasn’t the case, since they were able to come up with Guidelines pretty quickly after they sued Axanar. And while many feel the guidelines are too severe (e.g. limiting fan films to 15 minutes and no more than two installments) or even possibly illegal (it’s questionable if CBS can tell you who you CAN’T hire for your fan film) – the guidelines are what they are. They provide some general rules to follow if a Star Trek fan film producer doesn’t want to run the risk of getting sued by CBS.
So how does Star Trek Continues violating the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines help all fan films? Well, it just supports what we at Axanar have known for a while. Axanar was sued because we didn’t look like a fan film. Not because we made “profit” (we didn’t) or that we built a “for-profit studio” (we didn’t…STNV did that), both reasons made up by people who don’t know what they are talking about, but because Axanar looked like it came from the studio.
Now CBS doesn’t want to sue its fans again. The 13 months of the lawsuit was not good for CBS and Paramount from a PR perspective. And the Guidelines were basically a way to put a lid on the “arms race” of professionalism taking place.
But what we see here is CBS giving Star Trek Continues a pass. And why? Because over a year ago, CBS said to me, “No one is going to confuse them with real Star Trek.” And that is the crux of the matter. Yes, Star Trek Continues, like Star Trek New Voyages, have excellent production values, with amazing sets, brilliant VFX and visuals, and excellent costuming and props. They LOOK amazing. But the acting is mostly amateurs, and that is the main reason fan films don’t have widespread appeal. (By the way, I love Chris Doohan as Scotty in STC. Simply brilliant). But ask fans what they think of fan films, and the overwhelming # 1 reason they give for not watching or liking them is the acting. And this is one of the main reasons I decided to give up the role of Garth in the feature film.
So, as long as you aren’t too good – and stay in familiar territory – it appears you are in a safe harbor. Want to break the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines? Just don’t make something that CBS perceives as a threat. There’s no question that from a marketing perspective, fan films are actually very good for the Star Trek franchise, and the powers that be at CBS know this and will allow you to break many of the guidelines as long as you aren’t overly ambitious. And since no one is really raising money for their productions anymore, I don’t think CBS has to worry about this. STC is spending the money they had previously raised and why they cut down on the number of episodes they were making.
So, while I won’t advocate a fan film maker break the CBS Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines, I think what Star Trek Continues has shown is that CBS isn’t going to worry about a product that they don’t see as threatening. And that gives all fan film makers a little breathing room.
Last November, a crowd-funded Star Trek project got sued for copyright and trademark infringement by a major rights holder.
No, not Axanar! That was the previous year, silly (although the Axanar lawsuit was still going on when this other lawsuit was filed). In this new case, however, the defendant was none other that renown Star Trek screenwriter/author DAVID GERROLD (the man who gave us tribbles!) along with Marvel/DC (and others) comic book artist TY TEMPLETON and their publisher ComicMix, LLC.
Gerrold and Templeton had created a parody mash-up book based on Dr. Seuss’s beloved classic Oh, The Places You’ll Go! In their new book, Dr. Seuss was mashed-up with Star Trek to create Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!with pages that that adapted the originals on the left to look like the ones on the right:
The accompanying rhymes were obviously Seussian, as well…things like.
You can get out of trouble, any that’s knotty, because in a pinch you’ll be beamed out by Scotty.
Weird things will happen, and they usually do, to starship explorers and their marvelous crew.
They launched a Kickstarter in late 2106 and took in $30,000 before the rights owners of Dr. Seuss’ collected works had the campaign shut down for an alleged copyright violation. The following month, a full infringement lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dr. Seuss Enterprises by law firm DLA PIPER, LLP. Here is the 19-page Seuss Complaint if you’re interested in reading it. It’s very similar to CBS and Paramount’s initial filing against Axanar, citing the same demands for $150,000 in statutory damages per violation PLUS attorneys fees.
The Axanar detractors were quick to pounce. SHAWN P. O’HALLORAN, one of the most prolific posters of petulance and profanity, had this to say:
You believe its fair use? You would be mistaken. It’s intellectual property theft and they came right out in their campaign and acknowledged that they were poking the bear to get sued. David Gerrold is a blatant IP theft [sic] who supports other blatant IP thieves such as Alec Peters…
O’Halloran was referring to the following message included in the “Risks and Challenges” section on their original Kickstarter page:
While we firmly believe that our parody, created with love and affection, fully falls within the boundary of fair use, there may be some people who believe that this might be in violation of their intellectual property rights. And we may have to spend time and money proving it to people in black robes. And we may even lose that.
But it’s looking like they might actually have a chance to win…
Well, it’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for news about AXANAR, as literally every other blog entry I’ve posted over the past 12 days has involved that particular fan production in some way. So heck, let’s keep the momentum going for one more day!
But seriously, folks, there’s an interesting bit of news about Axanar coming from Atlanta…but NOT from the new studio in Lawrenceville. Instead, it happened during a panel yesterday at Treklanta, a small but well-attended annual Star Trek convention in the Atlanta area. And the panel featured J.G. Hertzler, who famously played General Martok on Deep Space Nine (along with a few other Trek roles). But his most recent Trek-related appearance came playing the character of Samuel Travis in the fan film Prelude to Axanar.
After Tony Todd’s public announcement that he had chosen to part ways with Axanar and not appear in the feature fan film after his mesmerizing performance as Admiral Marcus Ramirez in Prelude to Axanar, some were wondering if any of the cast and crew would be sticking with ALEC PETERS to continue their participation. The late RICHARD HATCH was always very supportive of the project and of Alec himself, but with Richard’s recent passing, fans wondered if any of the former cast members would be making a return for the 2-part sequel allowed by the settlement.
Now, I knew that J.G. Hertzler and Gary Graham were both interested in reprising their roles, as I spoke with both last summer in Las Vegas. But I’m just one blogger-guy, and those weren’t on-the-record interviews, just casual conversations at their tables in the autograph room.
But now, we’ve got the first public indication that at least one of those actors is still very much supportive of both the project and of Alec Peters himself. Yesterday, J.G. Hertzler took time during his panel discussion to specifically address this beleaguered fan film…
This past Saturday, my son Jayden and I drove to Industry Studios in Valencia to help pack up the Axanar Productions items for a move east to a new production facility in Atlanta, GA.
It was a sad day for me because I really loved Industry Studios. I’d loved watching it evolve from a stark, gutted building with no individual offices and a huge, echoing warehouse with loud concrete floors…into what looked like (to my eyes, at least) a high-end Hollywood studio and sound stage.
Jayden and I had watched for months with excitement as piles of stacked wood were cut, molded, and sculpted by industry professionals, slowly morphing into a starship bridge, a turbolift, a transporter, captain’s quarters, and a Klingon bridge.
Even though my visits weren’t particularly frequent, I still felt as though I were a part of Ares Studios (later renamed Industry Studios)—helping to fund it, volunteering to do everything from carrying carpet rolls up the stairs to assembling IKEA furniture, and even sorting and packing perks. I watched all the work that went into making the dream of a studio dedicated to Star Trek fan film-making (not just Axanar) grow and take shape from basically nothing into a facility that fans could be truly proud of.
I can already hear the detractors typing feverishly about the hubris of starting a “for profit” studio based on donations obtained from unapproved use of copyrighted material owned by a Hollywood studio. And I’m sure others out there are already halfway done with comments about the folly of signing a 3-year lease on a location with a $12,000 monthly rent when all Alec Peters ever needed to do was make a simple fan film, not build a full sound stage!
All are fair points when viewed with 20/20 hindsight—and all are arguments made and countered hundreds of times over. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. Instead, I want to give you a tour of Industry Studios…
Last month, I published a blog where I provided a copy of the AXANAR financials, along with reporting on the go-forward plans for AXANAR PRODUCTIONS and INDUSTRY STUDIOS. Obviously, those plans have changed quite a bit over the past few weeks—as Tuesday’s blog pointed out—but the financials remain constant because they’re now a matter of public record.
In that same blog from last month, I also invited readers to submit their own questions for Alec via the comments section and received dozens of inquiries. It was a mix of questions from supporters and detractors, some about the financials and some about other things, but I submitted every one to ALEC PETERS, requesting that he try to respond to as many participants as he could.
It’s been a busy few weeks to be certain (with the Indiegogo campaign and finding new studio space in Atlanta). But a few days ago, Alec submitted his answers back to me. And so, without further ado, let’s see what he had to say…