Why is the Fan Films & Audio Dramas Facebook group REJECTING posts about the AVALON UNIVERSE? (editorial)

I’m extremely troubled about something that happened last week on Facebook, and I’m not sure what to do about it other than bringing it to the attention of my readers.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been putting in a fair bit of effort over the past few weeks trying to help encourage donations to the current GoFundMe campaign for the AVALON UNIVERSE fan series. They’re doing pretty well so far, about 18% ($3.6K) of the way to to their $20K goal. If you’d like to give a little sumthin’, by the way, here’s the link:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/zdn4p-AvalonUniverse2021

Now, helping fan productions get the word out for their campaigns is nothing new for me. Over the past three months, I’ve written multiple blogs about SAMUEL COCKINGS’ TREK SHORTS crowd-funder back in May and GARY DAVIS’ campaign for DREADNOUGHT DOMINION in June. Naturally, I’d also want to help out JOSHUA IRWIN with his Avalon GoFundMe…not only because he’s a Star Trek fan filmmaker but because he did an awesome job as DP and editor on my fan film INTERLUDE and because he’s a good friend.

So last week when I posted to Facebook a “progress” graphic like the one at the top of this blog, I shared it with the usual collection of Star Trek and fan film groups on Facebook that I’m a member of. I do this with all Fan Film Factor and related posts to increase visibility, and invariably, I either see an immediate “Your post has been shared with your group” message or, within a few minutes to a few hours, “An admin has approved your post.”

What I don’t usually see is a DECLINE notice like this one…

Huh?

Now, two things immediately struck me as odd about the note from the admin at the bottom. The first was that a Facebook group called “Star Trek Fan Films & Audio Dramas” was restricting anything related to JJ Trek. There’s almost no Star Trek fan films set in that universe anyway, but why exclude the few that are? I mean, even if you loathe J.J. ABRAMS and the motorcycle he rode in on, why should the “sins of the producer” also be an albatross worn around the neck of a fan filmmaker? (What a wonderful mix of metaphors!)

So I looked at the rules of the group, just to be sure. And lo and behold…

7) No Kelvin universe fan films will be permitted. Nor will discovery based fan films

Continue reading “Why is the Fan Films & Audio Dramas Facebook group REJECTING posts about the AVALON UNIVERSE? (editorial)”

It’s FEAST OR FAMINE here at FAN FILM FACTOR…and it’s about to be FEAST! (editorial/news)

Have you noticed that these past couple of months have been relatively quiet in the Star Trek fan film world? There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. There’s an “ebb and flow” with news and releases from time to time…feast or famine, as they say.

And it’s not like there’s been no new Trek fan films whatsoever. The folks at POTEMKIN PICTURES never let us down, and there was a new release from STARSHIP ANTYLLUS a couple months ago that I haven’t gotten around to covering yet. Oh, and we can’t forget the steady stream of new content from that fan filmmaking machine known as VANCE MAJOR, who has been releasing one new episode per week of CONSTAR COMPLETED this past month. Vance says that he’s only going to release another five Trek fan films and then he’s hanging up his cell phone. Of course, he’s “retired” before.

Okay, so maybe things haven’t been nearly as quiet as all that. But they have been pretty quiet, all things considered. Since January’s release of the AVALON UNIVERSE’s AIR AND DARKNESS and STARSHIP VALIANT’sANIMALS,” and then February’s release of the blockbuster Czech fan film SQUADRON, there haven’t been many totally new releases other than those I mentioned above.

This was actually somewhat serendipitous for me, as it opened a convenient four-week window for me to release my four-part History of STARSHIP VALIANT blog series. Then I filled up some “thin” weeks by covering (two months late) the December release of the German Spock JENS DOMBEK’s TIMES ARE CHANGING, the launch and staggeringly successful conclusion of the Star Trek: Voyager documentary Indiegogo campaign, along with some features about older fan films that I’ve had on the back-burner, like STAR TREK: SECRET VOYAGE and the amazing stop-motion fan films ENTERPRISE II from German wunderkind JÜRGEN KAISER.

Oh, and let’s not forget the release of my AXANAR-universe fan film INTERLUDE and some of the the subsequent Interlude Confidential behind-the-scenes blogs that I’ve published since. And of course, the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up lawsuit is still going on and is as interesting as ever!

And sadly, we lost that beloved cheerleader of Trek fan films, BARBARA READER, last month.

So even when the Star Trek fan film world is a little slow with new releases, I’m still doing my best to supply you fine folks with new content. Indeed, between the “back-burner” features I’ve been working on and an impending uptick in new fan film news and releases, Fan Film Factor is about to be getting VERY busy VERY soon!

Here’s what’s coming down the, er, pike…

Continue reading “It’s FEAST OR FAMINE here at FAN FILM FACTOR…and it’s about to be FEAST! (editorial/news)”

Bombshell in the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss MASH-UP infringement lawsuit: are SNEETCHES and ZAKS in the PUBLIC DOMAIN???

Copyrights don’t last forever. Unless they are properly renewed, they eventually expire. And when they do, the works those copyrights protected fall permanently into the public domain, free for everyone to use without fear of infringement lawsuits.

Is this the case with some of the most beloved creations of the late children’s book author DR. SEUSS? Can you or I use the Sneetches or the Zaks in any way we’d like? If so, the ramifications in the current Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up lawsuit (and beyond) could be staggering!

Okay, a brief recap of where we are. After getting sued for copyright infringement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) for trying to mash-up Seuss drawings with Star Trek characters and calling their book Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! (or “Boldly,” for short), publisher ComicMix, along with Tribbles creator DAVID GERROLD and artist TY TEMPLETON, appeared to have won. In March of 2019, Ninth Circuit Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO dismissed the case having found that Boldly qualified for protection under the doctrine of Fair Use.

So DSE appealed the ruling, and this past December, a 3-judge appellate panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously agreed that Boldly was NOT Fair Use and sent the case back to Judge Sammartino’s courtroom with the understanding that Team Mash-up could no longer rely on a Fair Use defense to save their Lorax.

Things looked really bad for Team Mash-up, but just as I and many others were about to count out ComicMix and company, they seem to have pulled an ace from their sleeve. Well, actually, it’s somewhere between an ace and a “Hail Mary” pass late in the fourth quarter, but whatever it is, it could be a total game-changer!

Let’s dive in…

In their latest renwed motion for summary judgement (meaning, “Don’t even waste everyone’s time with a jury trial, Judge, ’cause you know we won, so just give us our money now…”) from this past Friday, DSE is asking for a statutory award of $75,000 per work infringed, and they are claiming that THREE Dr. Seuss books were “slavishly copied”—Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (“Go!”), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (“Grinch”) and The Sneetches and Other Stories (“Sneetches”). Some examples are as follows…

On the left, two pages from stories in “Sneetches”…and on the right, corresponding pages from “Boldly.”
On the left, a page from “Go!” (top) and “Grinch” (bottom)…and on the right, corresponding pages from “Boldly.”

So that’s 3 x $75,000 = $225,000 in potential damages awarded to DSE that ComicMix would have to pay…and possibly attorneys fees, as well. Yeesh!

Now, before I tell you how Team Mash-up is planning to get out of this predicament, we need to go over two VERY important things…

Continue reading “Bombshell in the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss MASH-UP infringement lawsuit: are SNEETCHES and ZAKS in the PUBLIC DOMAIN???”

Star Trek fan filmmakers pay tribute to BARBARA READER following her passing…

Yesterday, fans found out that BARBARA READER finally lost her years-long battle with cancer. May her soul soar over the undiscovered country and across the final frontier.

If you’re not familiar with Barbara but you’re a fan of Star Trek fan films, she gave our community a precious gift: The STAR TREK REVIEWED blog site. Launched back in 2009, Barbara’s humble website quick grew to mind-blowing proportions, containing resources and information about nearly EVERY Star Trek fan film ever released!  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever found a Trek film that wasn’t already listed somewhere on Barbara’s site.  If you think I’ve covered a lot of Trek fan films here on Fan Film Factor, I’m just peanuts compared to an outfit like Star Trek Reviewed!

I never thought of Barbara and her blog site as a “competitor.” Like firefighters and police officers, there’s similarities but also a lot of significant differences in what we do.  STR covers EVERYTHING, but mostly as a “jumping-off” point to outside articles, interviews, and of course, the YouTube links to the fan films themselves. Barbara once told me she thought of herself mainly as the “librarian” of fan films.

I’m more of a “roving reporter,” and although Fan Film Factor doesn’t cover nearly as much, those fan films I do spotlight receive a deep-dive into the production process for each project along with getting to know the people who make them.

Together, Barb and I (or rather, our blogs) made a great team!

Speaking of teams, Barbara ultimately had to find a team of her own to help keep STR going. In 2016, with cancer starting to get the better of her (although she never complained or asked for pity), Barbara reached out to the fan film community and asked for some help. Up until that point, she had somehow managed to keep track of pretty much every old and new Star Trek fan film—and maintain what seemed like an infinite number of individual web pages (one for each production)…for SEVEN years all by herself!

Now she needed some help, and a number of volunteers stepped forward. These included KIROK L’STOK (real name Alan Anderton) from Australia along with SVEN MATTHES from Germany, and JAMES HEANEY (from Minnesota). Barbara and Sven would find all the fan film content, Kirok would write it up and enter it on the website (and post to Facebook), and James was the IT guy. Even now, they’re working on moving all the material over to a new website and should have it set up as a searchable database soon. They were hoping to have it running before Barbara passed away, but it wasn’t to be.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know much about Barb’s personal history. But fortunately, James Heaney provided some enlightening background…

Continue reading “Star Trek fan filmmakers pay tribute to BARBARA READER following her passing…”

The COVID vaccination is a shot in the arm for fan filmmakers…but only if they get it! (editorial)

Most of my readers, I am hopeful, are either planning to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines or have already gotten one or both (if necessary) shots. And if you are one of those people, I applaud you!

In fact, as of this week, I have joined the partially-vaccinated group, having received my first dosage of the Moderna vaccine. (California just opened up vaccinations to people with obesity…the only good thing to ever come from my chronic weight problem!)

I am pleased to report that, with the exception of a ridiculously sore left upper arm for 36 hours—which is now mercifully back to normal—I am feeling just fine. I didn’t die or go into anaphylaxis; I didn’t pass out or grow a second head.

In fact, now that I’ve gotten my first vaccination shot, there’s only unusual thing that I’m feeling:

AN AMAZING SENSE OF RELIEF!

Honestly, folks, I hadn’t realized how much I’d been living with this almost constant pounding of fear and dread these past 14 months. Like some crazy end-of-times sci-fi horror movie, there was literally a super-virus out there that could kill me! And sure, COVID-19 isn’t necessarily fatal to everyone, but when you’re 5′ 9″, 255 pounds, and have hypertension, this unpredictable virus was more likely than not to do a serious number on me…and possibly even end my life at 54. When you feel as though you’re taking a potentially fatal risk just by going to Costco…that’s stress!

Now, I realize that, with the Moderna vaccine, one dosage isn’t enough yet. Full immunization doesn’t come for me until my second shot in the middle of April. But for the next four weeks, the odds of my surviving an infection if I get one just shot up considerably!

It’s troubling to me that a number of people in our fan film community are not planning to get the vaccine (I won’t name names). In fact, I was texting one of my own INTERLUDE team members that I was at Rite Aid awaiting my shot, and this person sent me back the following IM…

You’re really going to take vaccine that hasn’t been through more than 4 months of clinical trials? You really are a gambler. Also, do note, that you’ll be 3 times more contagious for 2 weeks after you take the vaccine, so you’ll want to have st. john’s wort on hand for your family. There’s a high likelihood they’ll get it from you.

Nothing like getting a little emotional shot in the arm just before you get an actual shot in the arm! So I showed the message to Helen, my Rite Aid pharmacist. I’ve known this woman more than a decade, and I’ve literally trusted her with my life as well as the lives of my wife and son.

Helen explained something to me about the vaccine that I was unaware of…

Continue reading “The COVID vaccination is a shot in the arm for fan filmmakers…but only if they get it! (editorial)”

DISCOVERY’s third season finale was like watching STAR TREK 2009 with speed bumps! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST AN UNAVOIDABLE FACT OF LIFE

Last week, I truly LOVED the second-to-last episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s third season, “There Is a Tide.” With so much happening going into the final episode, my hopes were high. Tilly and the bridge crew, along with the DOT-bot “army” still had to retake the ship from Oysraa. Michael had just been captured by Zareh while Book was already a hostage on the bridge. Osyraa was cornered, outnumbered by Starfleet vessels that could blow Discovery out of the sky (well, space) but holding the most valuable bargaining chip: the spore drive. But she couldn’t jump away because Stamets (against his will) was ejected from the ship by Michael…setting up lord-knows-how-many future fireworks between the two! Meanwhile, Saru, Culber, and Adira were stuck on the dilithium planet with the Kelpien equivalent of Black Bolt, trying to save the galaxy before dying of radiation poisoning. The clock was ticking!!!

With a set-up like that, what could possibly go wrong with the finale?

It’s hard to know where to start…or stop…or start…or stop again. I say it that way because that’s kinda how I felt as I watched the full 60-minute episode (the longest of the season). Have you ever ridden with a teen just learning to drive a car and they speed up and slow down and speed up and slow down over and over so much that it’s all you can do to hold down your last meal? The finale was kinda like that.

There was ample action—AMPLE!!!—lots of running and shooting and explosions and fighting and kicking people out of elevators and crew members suffocating and people running out of time and gosh darn it…things just moved at maximum warp.

And then there was Su’Kal. Gotta keep that kid calm lest he scream and destroy the galaxy again! So everything in the holo-chamber on the dilithium planet was super serene and slow, with lots of empathy and understanding from Saru and the others. Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s third season finale was like watching STAR TREK 2009 with speed bumps! (editorial review)”

DISCOVERY’s penultimate episode “There Is a Tide” is the series’ BEST YET! (editorial review)

NEW YEAR, NEW SPOILERS

I know that some of you out there read my editorial reviews either before or instead of watching STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. This time, please take my word for it: don’t. Watch the episode first. And if you don’t usually watch Discovery or gave up on it (and if you have access), just watch this one episode. You don’t need to have watched the rest of the series or even the third season. This episode provides enough exposition along the way that you won’t feel lost.

It’s just a damn fine, exciting, fast-paced, engaging, well-crafted, and most of all highly entertaining piece of television that is loaded with surprises and the unexpected. So just watch it…trust me.

In fact, “unexpected” serves a very appropriate way to begin this blog because, even though I usually try hard to go into each new episode of Discovery open to anything and with no preconceived expectations, this time I was sooooo sure I knew what was coming! This would be Discovery‘s version of the TNG episode “Starship Mine.” Tilly, reeling from her dismal failure during her first command, would need all the help and hugs her bridge crew friends could give her as she proved herself by leading a successful plan to retake the ship. I was even thinking of titling this blog “How Tilly Got Her Groove Back”—that is, until I actually saw the episode.

From the first moment, the episode had me hooked with things I didn’t see coming. Using Discovery as a Trojan Horse to get inside Starfleet’s defense shield by “coming in hot,” being fired on by Osyraa’s dreadnought, communications jammed…brilliantly simple and simply brilliant! But then, as Book and Michael crashed into the hangar bay in the nick of time, I thought: “Wait, what about Discovery‘s shields? They were being fired on, why wouldn’t the shields be up?” So then I thought I’d write another nitpicking blog…those are always popular on Facebook! (Actually, I’m being sarcastic. My Guardian of Forever “Time Error” blog was royally bashed on Facebook.)

But then we came back after the opening credits to see this little nugget…

Award a point to the writers for addressing my gripe so quickly!

Okay, with my nitpicking nullified, I decided to just sit back, enjoy the episode, and write the blog later—and so I did. This was the seventh episode of the series and third this season directed by JONATHAN FRAKES, and I must say, the man knows what he’s doing. The episode was written by co-executive producer KENNETH LIN. Interestingly, Lin wrote and Frakes directed the 8th episode of the season, “Sanctuary,” where the crew goes back to Book’s home planet. Most fans found that episode somewhat mediocre (including me), but this episode was much the opposite, demonstrating that you can’t just an episode simply by the writer and director. Sometimes magic just happens.

Let’s look at how…

Continue reading “DISCOVERY’s penultimate episode “There Is a Tide” is the series’ BEST YET! (editorial review)”

2020 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!

On the one hand, 2020 pretty much sucked. Political upheaval, protests and rioting, wildfires burned, rains flooded, hurricanes and tornadoes blew…and some crazy bat virus got loose and started spreading rapidly across the world while scientists tried to find a vaccine at warp speed. Civilization as we knew it seemed to have hit “pause,” and we’re still wondering if things will ever return to the way they used to be.

On the other hand, with most of the world’s outside-of-the-home activities curtailed, we did have ample time to catch up on our binge-watching on TV and YouTube. And for those of us with a predilection for Star Trek, 2020 gave us, for the first time ever, TWO new Star Trek TV series premiering in the same year! STAR TREK: PICARD debuted in January (you remember January, right?) and STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS followed in August.

And no sooner had Lower Decks finished than a new season of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY fired back up…meaning that 2020 will have a total of 32 new episodes of Star Trek in a single year! We haven’t had that much new Star Trek on TV since back in 1999 when Deep Space Nine and Voyager were running concurrently.

And if 32 new episodes of television Star Trek weren’t enough for you, then fan films gave you even MORE to binge-watch during your quarantine! Anyone who had “The guidelines will totally destroy Star Trek fan films” in the office betting pool lost big for a fifth straight year, as not only did Trek fan films live long and prosper, they even did so despite a global pandemic with the release of new “fandemic” films shot carefully with masks and social distancing during production.

This year also saw the debut of multiple long-awaited Star Trek fan films that had been in production for three years, five years, and even 35 years! It’s been an exciting twelve months for our fan film community, and a darn BUSY one for bloggers like me (assuming there are any other bloggers like me!) who spend their time covering the people behind these productions and the seemingly endless parade of of content they bring to us. In fact, back in October, I published my one thousandth blog since starting back in January of 2016!

So let’s take a look at some of the good that came out of 2020 in the form of a wonderful supply of new Star Trek fan films…

Continue reading “2020 Star Trek Fan Film YEAR IN REVIEW!”

DISCOVERY finally airs an episode with a “classic” STAR TREK feel…but was it good? (editorial review)

LET’S END THE YEAR WITH…SPOILERS!

I’ve often (often!) wondered would STAR TREK: DISCOVERY would be like if it were more like the classic Star Trek I grew up with on TOS and even TNG. I’m not talking a total homage like The Orville (where the heck IS that show anyway???) but more simply carrying through on certain story elements, structure, character interplay and development, and just the overall “feel” like they used to have in the “good ol’ days.”

For what seemed like one of the only times in the three seasons of Discovery, this episode FELT like Star Trek to me. But what does that even mean “felt” like Star Trek? It seems like such a subjective and ambiguous thing, possibly different in the mind of each Trek fan watching.

So let me tell you why I personally thought that the 11th episode of season three, “Su’kal,” felt more like real Star Trek than Discovery usually does. And along the way, I’ll try to decide if this was a good or bad episode…or both! (Knowing me, it’ll probably have aspects of both—as I seem to have difficulty committing to either loving or hating the episodes this season.)

Okay, let’s do this thing…

MOVING TO MORE MODERATE AMOUNTS OF MICHAEL

Fans couldn’t help but notice that, for the past nearly-three seasons, Discovery has felt like “The Michael Burnham Show, starring Michael Burnham as Michael Burnham.” Michael seems to be in almost every scene, usually is the center of attention, and she saves the day regularly.

One of the reasons that Star Trek‘s previous iterations worked so well is because they had a variety different characters spotlighted in different episodes. Not every TOS story was about Kirk, not every TNG about Picard nor every DS9 about Sisko nor Voyager about Janeway. There were Spock and McCoy-focused episodes, Data and Worf and Crusher episodes, Kirk and Odo and Bashir episodes, Tuvok and Paris and B’Elanna episodes, T’Pol and Malcolm and Phlox episodes…you get the idea. And just because one character was featured prominently in a story didn’t mean we wouldn’t see the rest of the crew. A Riker episode would also show the rest of the crew. Mix and match! These shows had great casts, and the captain didn’t need to be in every scene.

This episode of Discovery was the first time in a while that Michael wasn’t dead center of the action almost all the time. Excitement was also happening on the ship, and because the landing party beams down and splits up, Michael is only part of the story on the planet. Michael definitely gets some major stuff to do, but so do Saru and Culber…giving each of their characters some breathing space. On the ship, we see some great moments for Stamets, Tilly, and Adira (and one single line from Reno…really?).

Continue reading “DISCOVERY finally airs an episode with a “classic” STAR TREK feel…but was it good? (editorial review)”

The news is mixed (but pretty bad) for ComicMix as they both lose and win the DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK Mash-Up appeal…

For tribbles-creator DAVID GERROLD, award-winning comic artist TY TEMPLETON, and ComicMix publisher GLENN HAUMAN, last Friday was not a fun day. While there was one tiny piece of good news in their ongoing legal struggle with DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES (DSE) regarding the Star Trek/Seuss mash-up Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! (“Boldly” for short), the main part of the news was rather unfortunate.

Things looked rosy for ComicMix back in March of 2019. After nearly two years in litigation, Ninth Circuit Federal Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO ruled before the trial could even begin that Boldly was protected from DSE’s infringement lawsuit because she considered it to be Fair Use. (You can read an in-depth analysis of that ruling here.) She threw out DSE’s complaints for both copyright infringement as well as for trademark infringement (two different things), effectively ending the lawsuit before a jury could even be seated.

Five months later, DSE filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, trying to reverse the summary ruling from Judge Sammantino. Last Friday, a three-judge appellate panel came back with a unanimous decision that Boldly did NOT qualify as Fair Use, and so the copyright infringement lawsuit could proceed. The panel also ruled that the summary dismissal of the trademark infringement decision was indeed correct, and so that aspect of the lawsuit is over. (You can read the full appellate opinion here.)

So…good news/bad news, right?

Well, it’s much more bad news than good, I’m afraid. The trademark claim was always the thinnest of arguments, and even DSE didn’t push hard on that point during their appeal (four amicus briefs were filed, and none of them touched at all on the trademark question). What DSE really wanted was the copyright infringement complaint reinstated, and they got it.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

DSE hasn’t won yet. But now they haven’t lost either. We are simply back to where we were at the beginning of 2019 before the judge made her summary ruling. The lawsuit is on again, heading back to Judge Sammartino’s courtroom.

If you’re DSE, you’re ecstatic and holding all the cards right now. There will (most likely) still be a trial, but if you can convince three out of four learned judges that Boldly isn’t Fair Use, you should certainly be able to convince twelve ordinary folks of the same thing. And indeed, you might not even need to, since the appellate judges’ ruling might preclude using a Fair Use defense entirely (more on that in a moment).

Now, if you’re ComicMix, you have a decision to make, and you really have only three choices on the menu…

Continue reading “The news is mixed (but pretty bad) for ComicMix as they both lose and win the DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK Mash-Up appeal…”