The very FIRST Star Trek fan film ever to be SHUT DOWN by the studio lawyers was in…1968???

As we celebrate the 53rd anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek on September 8, 1966, let’s take a trip back in time five decades to what was very likely the first-ever Star Trek fan film to be shut down by the studio that owns the franchise.

It’s generally accepted in our community that the first major Star Trek fan film produced with a decent degree of quality by American fans was the 1974 project PARAGON’S PARAGON. But thanks to the folks at RODDENBERRY ENTERTAINMENT and some recently-discovered letters from the archives of the late GENE RODDENBERRY (Star Trek‘s creator), we’ve just learned that there might well have been a significant Star Trek fan film half a decade sooner—while Star Trek was still on the air!—if only a lawyer at Paramount hadn’t killed the fan project in its infancy.

Sure, we all know about the Axanar lawsuit. And some fans mistakenly believe that CBS (and before them, Paramount) hate Star Trek fan films and want to shut them all down. But if you look at the numbers, that claim doesn’t hold up. Over the decades, there have been thousands of Star Trek fan films created and released onto the Internet and, prior to that, copied from VHS tape to VHS tape and even shot on Super 8. In all of that time, the studio lawyers have only stepped in a small handful of times.

In other words, this blog isn’t a hit-piece bashing CBS or Paramount for being “evil” corporations dedicated to trying to screw over their loyal fans. Instead, it’s what Spock would consider a fascinating look back at a time when the concept of a fan film was likely as alien to a studio lawyer as an Andorian or Tellarite.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so), Star Trek‘s very own creator—a man often considered ahead of his time—was all for the idea of a Star Trek fan film and tried to talk Paramount’s lawyer into it. But there’s an old saying that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.

This is a story of what happened when a Trekkie tried to get permission…

Continue reading “The very FIRST Star Trek fan film ever to be SHUT DOWN by the studio lawyers was in…1968???”

Just $535 away from saving ERIC WATTS’ house!

Eight days ago when I first covered this story, ERIC L. WATTS had just launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $11,000…of which, the first $6,000 would go toward getting his house out of foreclosure and the other $5,000 would pay off the credit card debt accrued from Eric personally covering the shortfalls from the TREKLANTA convention (held each year since 2011). For the past five years, that convention has hosted what is now known as the BJO AWARDS, the only annual contest focused exclusively on honoring Star Trek fan films.

While I don’t usually cover campaigns for personal crowd-funding help, in Eric’s case, I made an exception because Treklanta and the Bjo Awards are a special resource for our fan film community, and I’d rather not lose either of them. And of course, Eric is a friend, and I don’t want the guy to be homeless.

I’ll be honest with you—I doubted that Eric would be able to pull this off…even just making it to $6,000 to save his house. It wasn’t that I doubted the generosity of our community. Heck, my own recent crowd-funding for Interlude has been surprisingly successful. But this isn’t a campaign for a fan film. Donors won’t get anything in return for supporting Eric’s campaign…other than the satisfaction of helping a fellow human being in need.

But it turns out that our community has quite a big heart after all! And in just a little over a week, Eric is within $535 from being able to save his house…and just in time, as his past-due mortgage payments must be received by early September (I don’t have the specific date) or else his home goes into foreclosure.

Part of the reason for the success of Eric’s campaign is certainly Eric’s reputation as an important part of our fan film and Star Trek community, along with his work in organizing the Bjo Awards each year. Another is that Eric wisely made use of a relatively new crowd-funding feature on Facebook where donations can be made through their site, as well.

So instead of having one campaign trying to reach $11,000 to cover mortgage and credit card debt, Eric now has two campaigns, each trying to reach only $6,000 combined to cover just the past-due mortgage itself. (Paying off the credit card will potentially be a separate endeavor. Right now, the priority for Eric is to keep his home.) Here are links to the two campaigns…

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/help-save-eric039s-house-treklanta-amp-the-bjo-awards

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/donate/2457823331114420/

By splitting the campaign in two, a new avenue for donations was opened, and now the GoFundMe is up to $3,145 from 52 donors (including me), and the Facebook total is at $2,320 from 53 backers. That combines to $5,465…just $535 away from the $6,000 Eric needs to (after fees) save his house. I think he might just be able to pull this off after all!

Eric provided me with the following statement of gratitude…

Continue reading “Just $535 away from saving ERIC WATTS’ house!”

RED ALERT! The BJO AWARDS are in jeopardy…along with TREKLANTA and ERIC WATTS’ house!

For the past nine years, ERIC L. WATTS has been chairman of the annual TREKLANTA convention, a small con in the Atlanta area that has always been very supportive of Star Trek fan films. In fact, for the last half-decade, Eric and Treklanta have hosted the annual BJO AWARDS—originally called the Independent Star Trek Fan Film Awards, and rechristened the “Bjo’s” after the woman credited with saving Star Trek from an early cancelation in 1968, BJO TRIMBLE.

Those awards, and the Treklanta convention, have been a special boon to the Star Trek fan film world, letting us celebrate—year after year—the best our community has to offer. Eric has never charged fan filmmakers a fee to register for the Bjo’s. Trek fan productions were simply included in the contest if they met the qualifications…and most did.

Eric has done so much for the fan film community. Now he needs us to do something for him…and it’s pretty much an emergency!

Treklanta has never drawn huge crowds, and that has resulted in years finishing in the red. Rather than default on commitments and risk businesses no longer willing to do business with Treklanta, Eric would pay off the shortfalls out of his own pocket, using credit cards when there was too much to cover with available funds.

As the years went on, the credit card debt piled up with Eric only able to pay the minimums and interest mounting. Eventually, just making those minimum payments delayed Eric’s ability to submit his own mortgage payments on time.

Now Eric is about to lose his home, still buried in credit card debt, all because he wanted to keep a convention going that celebrated Star Trek and its fan films.

It’s tempting to do a whole bunch of woulda/shoulda/coulda to Eric. But advice on handling things differently over the last nine years isn’t going to fix the immediate problem. Eric needs $6,000 to pay his past-due mortgage, and another $5,000 pays off the convention’s credit card.

Eric has just set up a GoFundMe campaign, and in the first 7 hours, 13 fans donated $635 (including $50 from me)…or about 6% of what he needs. There’s still a long way to go, but the news is only just beginning to make its way around fandom. Please help spread the word and, if possible, make a donation…even if it’s just a small one.

Click here to save Treklanta, the Bjos, and Eric’s House.

Once we help put out this fire, we fans can step up with some ideas to help make sure that Eric doesn’t fall down this slippery slope again (like maybe charging fan filmmakers a small $10 or $20 registration fee to enter the Bjo Awards contest). But right now, it’s all hands on deck to help someone in need.

Below is Eric’s public plea for assistance. You can tell this was not an easy video for him to make, and all the more reason to try to offer him some desperately needed assistance…

Dr. Seuss has appealed – they now want a do-over…so we’re at it again, get set for round two-over!

Just when you thought it was time to vamoose
From all of this talk of the law of Fair Use
Regarding the mash-up of Star Trek and Seuss
Here comes the sequel, we’ll call it “Part Deuce!

And with that, I shall stop rhyming…although I can’t say the same for GLENN HAUMAN of ComicMix, the folks who, this past March, won a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against them by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE). You can read more about the judge’s final ruling here.

The case involved an illustrated “mash-up” of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! This proposed book was written by “The Trouble with Tribbles” author DAVID GERROLD and illustrated by award-winning comic book artist TY TEMPLETON…with ComicMix doing the publishing. Back in late 2016, they held a Kickstarter that raised $30,000 but were quickly shut down by DSE, who later sued. The nearly two-year legal battle was a back-and-forth rollercoaster ride, with the lawsuit eventually being dismissed after the judge ruled Boldly to be Fair Use.

As I pointed out at the end of that previous blog, DSE always had the option to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit…something they did just two weeks after I published that blog, on the same day the district court entered Hon. Judge JANIS SAMMARTINO’s ruling officially into the record. The Plaintiff’s notice of appeal also asked for, and was granted, an extension of a few months in order to file their opening appellate brief…all 81 pages of it! (No, you don’t have to read it…although it is pretty interesting and very well-presented.)

DSE also submitted four amicus briefs, which are opinions submitted to the court by non-litigants who, even though they aren’t part of the lawsuit, still have a vested interest in the outcome of the case. In this instance, DSE got help from two professors from the Berkeley School of Law, three members of The Copyright Alliance, the Motion Picture Association of America, and The Sesame Workshop (yep, Big Bird is buddies with The Cat in the Hat!). That’s another 140 pages to add to your summer reading list. They mostly say the same thing…essentially that the judge got it wrong and here’s why they think so (and why the law backs up their belief).

It’s a little early in the process for me to start making predictions. After all, this is only the initial brief (which is anything but brief!), and ComicMix hasn’t had its chance to respond yet. I will try to summarize what arguments are being made in the appeal, however. But before I do, since we now have the opening brief from DSE, I reached out to Glenn Hauman for an initial statement from ComicMix.

As he’s done previously, Glenn responded poetically (with some pretty decent rhymes—including one in Latin!)…

Continue reading “Dr. Seuss has appealed – they now want a do-over…so we’re at it again, get set for round two-over!”

How INTERLUDE’s Thousand Dollar Thursday became FIVE Thousand Dollar Thursday!

Wow.

Even in my wildest dreams, I didn’t expect this…although my friend MIKE BAWDEN predicted it the day before. “I really think you’ll be up five or six thousand dollars by the end of Thursday,” he said, “You might even come close to your $19,500 goal.”

And he was right. After a crazy day of more than 70 donations, 40 from brand new donors and another 30 donations from existing backers (plus the $1,200 each from both of my match-backers), we’d taken in more than $5,000 for our GoFundMe for INTERLUDE!

So how did this all happen? Was it just blind luck? Did everyone simply wait to donate on the same day? How did Thousand Dollar Thursday turn into FIVE Thousand Dollar Thursday?

I know that a number of my readers have held crowd-funders of your own—or are planning to. And when something works for one of us, there’s no reason not to share our “secrets.” After all, we fan filmmakers are in this together!

So this blog is a deep-dive for anyone who is interested in everything that happened “behind-the-scenes” to set up all the dominos that fell into place so perfectly yesterday. Sure, every campaign is unique, and not everything that I did will translate to other campaigns. But take from this whatever insights you think might help you out.

For everyone else, feel free to read this blog if you’re curious to find out everything that the duck was doing under the water while gliding smoothly over the surface. It was pretty wild! Otherwise, feel free to skip this one…

Continue reading “How INTERLUDE’s Thousand Dollar Thursday became FIVE Thousand Dollar Thursday!”

First STAR TREK, then THE EXPANSE, now THE ORVILLE…is this the beginning of the end for “free” TV sci-fi???

Before I begin, let me explain that the purpose of this unique blog is to bring folks up to speed about what the HECK is going on with all of these new streaming TV services that are suddenly appearing like clowns getting out of a Volkswagen. I’m going to focus mainly on how this is affecting the sci-fi genre of television shows…although the impact is pretty much across the board. Then I want to explain why it’s happening so fast, why it’s not going away anytime soon, and then speculate on where this is all heading in the future.

I began working on this blog a month ago when Seth MacFarlane announced the The Orville would be moving from the FOX broadcasting network to behind a paywall at Hulu. Since then, I’ve been researching like crazy! And each time I thought I’d gotten the blog finished, there’d be more “BIG” streaming announcements from folks like NBCUniversal and, just last week, Disney. Eventually, though, I just needed to pull the trigger…knowing that parts of this blog are gonna be old news almost as soon as I hit “Publish.”

I do want to apologize if this is a longer blog than usual, but there’s just SO much going on, and I want to help you folks process it all like I just managed to do…mostly. Also, I’m going to focus mainly on America only because, once you head internationally, the shows and services all shift around and this poor blog would be six times as long!

Remember when automated teller machines (ATMs) first started being installed at banks? I can’t remember if it was still the 1970s or the early 1980s; I only remember that hardly anybody used ’em. Why risk your hard-earned money on a “fallible” computer when you could deal with a competent human being you could talk to?

The same thing happened when e-commerce first appeared. The idea of entering your credit card information onto a website in order to buy something seemed…overwhelming! Was it safe? Would the thing I just ordered even arrive? How long would it take? Why not just go to the store like everyone else, buy something, pay for it, and take it home?

We were so naive back then, weren’t we? It just took us a decade or so to get used to the “new normal,” and now everything is so much easier, faster, and more convenient.

So is paywall streaming TV the “new normal”?

Continue reading “First STAR TREK, then THE EXPANSE, now THE ORVILLE…is this the beginning of the end for “free” TV sci-fi???”

The INTERLUDE GoFundMe tops $11,000!

Yesterday, the GoFundMe campaign for my fan film INTERLUDE crossed $11,000! Although this might not seem as significant a milestone as crossing the half-way point or crossing $10,000…it’s very exciting to me personally because it means I’m doing my job properly. (Also, most of the detractors never thought I’d raise more than $5K-$10K at the most, and now even some of them are impressed!)

Y’see, unlike many folks who make fan films, I don’t have any background or experience in filmmaking. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. While I’m a decent graphic designer and can edit as a novice with iMovie on my Mac, I’m not a director or VFX artist or lighting specialist or cameraman. I can’t compose music, build sets, create props, do make-up, or even sew uniforms and costumes. I’m not a sound FX guy, and while I’ve done a couple of fan film voice-overs, I’m not an actor and won’t even appear in my own fan film! All I did was write a script.

So why am I here at all? What’s my bag, baby?

The simple truth is that I’m here to convince people like you to give me your money. In return, I’ve assembled a very talented team who are going to make an amazing fan film for all of you to enjoy. It’s going to have the quality level of PRELUDE TO AXANAR (or as close as we can get!) and be able to stand beside its “siblings” (Prelude and the two Axanar sequels) as a proud part of the expanded “Axanar Universe.”

But in order to do that, things (some of them kinda expensive) needed to be paid for.

Believe me, I would have loved to have just written a check or charged everything to a credit card. But I simply don’t have the financial means—certainly not at the level required to match up to the other Axanar fan films. And even though the Ares bridge set is now complete (or 98% of the way there), this fan film is more than just the set.

So with essentially no skills, no experience, and no money, what the heck am I doing trying to make a fan film???

Well, let me tell you what I do have…

Continue reading “The INTERLUDE GoFundMe tops $11,000!”

A ‘Death Howl’ for Kur’Den (guest blog by DON GAFFNEY)

Before I turn the blog over to me friend DON GAFFNEY, I’d like to say few quick words myself.

DENZIL MIRACLE was a die-hard Trekker, a Klingon kosplayer, an avid Axanar supporter, and a truly awesome guy. I only met him once, briefly, at Axacon last November, but he was just this big bundle of warmth and happiness and excitement…the best that we fans have to offer.

In these days when so many of us are quick to show our worst devils to each other, it’s important to honor those who present the best angels of their natures.

Denzil had been stricken too early in life with brain cancer and passed away a couple of weeks ago surrounded by family. While I knew of his terminal condition, I wasn’t aware of his actual passing until I read yesterday’s eulogy from his good friend (and fellow Axanerd) Don Gaffney. It’s a beautiful remembrance, and I humbly ask you to consider taking a moment to read it and perhaps even give a quiet Klingon death howl to the warriors of Sto’Vo’Kor, where I have no doubt Denzil is currently having an awesome time.

And now, my friends, Don Gaffney remembers his friend, Denzil Miracle…

Continue reading “A ‘Death Howl’ for Kur’Den (guest blog by DON GAFFNEY)”

SD Comic Con PICARD Trailer 2019 vs SD Comic Con DISCOVERY Trailer 2016 – What has CBS learned…?

It’s hard to believe that it was only three years ago that fan got their first glimpse of the new STAR TREK: DISCOVERY at San Diego Comic Con 2016. And when I say got our first glimpse, I don’t mean of the show itself. That wouldn’t happen until the following summer. I mean we got our first look at what a disorganized mess CBS was in dealing with the launch of their first-ever Star Trek TV series that would also be the first-ever Trek series to air only on subscription-based services (All Access, SpaceTV, and Netflix).

Let’s take a moment to compare the two Star Trek series trailers that premiered at San Diego Comic Con to give fans their first look at the new show. The first debuted in July of 2016…

The Discovery trailer was obviously a rush job. The marketing department knew they needed something to show at Comic Con because that has become THE place to premiere the big sci-fi and related genre movies and shows. But there was nothing ready yet! No footage had been shot because, unbelievably, no actors had yet been cast! The sets and uniforms were still being designed.

Remember that, at the time this trailer was first screened for fans, Discovery was still scheduled to debut in January of 2017…just six months after Comic Con. As a comparison, the new STAR TREK: PICARD series is currently set to premiere in January 2020—just six months after Comic Con. So really, no one (especially CBS) should have been surprised when Discovery ended up launching nine months behind schedule.

Still, desperate to show SOMETHING, the show-runners of Discovery decided to render out a quick CGI animation revealing the look of the new starship. Of course, even the ship wasn’t fully designed yet…as you can see from the “rocket” nacelles and the fact that the saucer section was still all one piece. But at least CBS would have something to get the fans excited. (Whether or not it succeeded is still up for debate.)

But what isn’t up for debate is how excited Trekkers have been for the last few days after seeing the extended trailer for Star Trek: Picard that debuted this past Saturday at Comic Con…

What a difference three years makes, huh?

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane (no relation to me) and look back at the CBS of 2016 versus 2019 and what has changed for Star Trek in that time…

Continue reading “SD Comic Con PICARD Trailer 2019 vs SD Comic Con DISCOVERY Trailer 2016 – What has CBS learned…?”

Why I am NOT “neutral” about NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS…

I need to clear the air regarding myself and NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS, the TOS sets in Kingsland, GA that were originally used for STARSHIP FARRAGUT, later used for STAR TREK CONTINUES, and were recently purchased by RAY TESI and opened up to any fan filmmaker who wanted to use them, was able to pay $300/day, and was willing to follow the fan film guidelines.

I want to state for the record that I wholeheartedly SUPPORT Neutral Zone Studios and encourage anyone who is a fan of Star Trek fan films to support them, as well, through their Patreon campaign:

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

As many of you know, I was originally scheduled to film two of my scenes for my fan film INTERLUDE there. Ray Tesi was 100% on board. In fact, when I was considering bringing my son Jayden to Georgia watch the shoots, Ray told me that he’d make sure the entire studio was lit up (all the lights and buttons) before we arrived so that when Jayden walked in, the first thing he’d see would be the USS Enterprise in all of its glory. Ray was even going to see if he could manage to drive up for the day from Florida to finally meet me in person and watch the shoot.

But over Memorial Day weekend at Neutral Zone Studios‘ Fan Appreciation Weekend 2, Ray informed my directors, JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX (who were there shooting interviews with VIC MIGNOGNA, MICHELLE SPECHT, and CHRIS DOOHAN to help promote the studio’s Patreon campaign) that Interlude was no longer welcome to use the sets.

Although ALEC PETERS, who was similarly banned, accused Vic of being the reason for Ray’s sudden change of heart, Star Trek Continues make-up artist, LISA HANSELL, posted this comment on Facebook the Monday after the event…

Now, all things considered, I should probably feel angry, hurt, insulted, frustrated…and to be honest, I did feel those emotions quite deeply for a short time. But I moved past it.

However, something happened this past weekend that has left me wondering if others haven’t let this go as I have. And I now feel that it’s important to state publicly that I have forgiven Ray and Lisa and (if he was involved in the decision) Vic…and anyone else who pressured Ray Tesi into changing his mind about letting my production film at NZS.

So what happened this past weekend?

Continue reading “Why I am NOT “neutral” about NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS…”