It’s “High Noon” in the Axanar lawsuit…and we haven’t even gotten to trial yet! But that ominous background music is playing, and the two gunfighters are facing off for a showdown in the middle of a dusty street in a western town. More specifically, the CBS and Paramount lawyers at Loeb & Loeb are facing down the Axanar lawyers at Winston & Strawn (and vice-versa!), and the entire case could be won or lost right now by either side–months before trial even begins–and both teams of lawyers know it!
Have you ever sat in the audience for something–a concert, a stage play, or a seminar–and there was an unexpected delay? Maybe there were technical problems, or maybe someone was stuck in traffic. Whatever the reason, as things took longer and longer to get started, was the audience becoming impatient?
Maybe you were lucky and there was a host or a warm-up act who could keep the audience engaged and entertained during the delay. Or maybe you weren’t lucky and just sat there waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Maybe some people even got frustrated and walked out before the show started.
What does any of this have to do with Star Trek: Discovery and fan films? Glad you asked!
You might not consider the new “Spockumentary” from Adam Nimoy to be a typical fan film, but I think it very much qualifies. Sure, it might not have needed to follow the fan film guidelines, but FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK still managed to raise more than $662,000 from nearly 10,000 fans! It was, for all intents and purposes, a labor of love and a product of love…not just of a son for his father but also of fans for a beloved character and actor.
As Adam Nimoy explains in the opening of the film, the original idea had simply been to produce a documentary film to be released for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, looking at the origins and the impact of the character of Mr. Spock on society and culture. Adam’s father, actor Leonard Nimoy, insisted the film be only about the character and not the actor himself. Leonard was always very humble and felt that his own life was hardly worthy of a full documentary–or even part of one. So Adam agreed to focus his film exclusively on the character of Spock and not on the actor who played him. The two Nimoys began their work.
And then Leonard Nimoy died.
I wasn’t sure what to write on this incredible day when Star Trek turns FIFTY YEARS OLD!
I didn’t want to let the moment pass without saying at least something. But what? Then a few days ago, I received a message from a podcaster who was still working on an interview I’d done with him:
To be honest with you, I’m pretty much over Star Trek at this point. When I can finally bring myself to finish this episode I’m gonna upload it to the network and then I’m done with Star Trek fandom. There’s plenty of stuff to spend my time and money on. I’ll post you as soon as the episode is up.
This really broke my heart, mostly because it wasn’t the only message like this I’d seen recently. Some members on the SMALL ACCESS group had expressed similar sentiments, as had others here and there.
I understand the reason for being frustrated or even angry at the moment–with the studios, with other fans, with Star Trek in general. But then I started remembering all the reasons I chose to become a Trekkie in the first place. Heck, I sometimes wonder if it was actually the other way around and Star Trek chose ME! But however I got here, I can’t quit you, Star Trek! I can’t even imagine doing so…no matter how many lens flares I see or how many fan film guidelines I read.
Last time: well, last time there was just way too much to summarize, so just click here to read it if you haven’t already.
Basically, with a trial date set for January 31, 2017 and no settlement announced yet, the case has entered the discovery phase. (So yes, “Star Trek: Discovery” now means two totally different things to CBS!)
During discovery, both the plaintiffs and the defendant must provide the other side with any piece of evidence they ask for that is relevant to the case. Witnesses are questioned (deposed), documents are collected and shared, and queries are submitted in writing requiring honest and open answers…and all this months before a jury is ever seated and the clerk says, “This courtroom will now come to order.”
Last week, former Axanar marketing director and tech guru, Terry McIntosh, posted on Facebook that he had just been subpoenaed by CBS and Paramount to be deposed as part of the copyright infringement lawsuit against Alec Peters and Axanar. Terry is not in any legal peril himself, as no other defendants other than Alec Peters were named in the lawsuit. Instead, the studio lawyers will probably just ask for copies of all of Terry’s correspondence (e-mails, IMs, chats) with members of the Axanar team, and the studios might set up a deposition to ask Terry some (maybe even a lot of) questions either in person or over the phone.
And this means that the (coincidentally named) DISCOVERY phase of the lawsuit is now in full swing. So what does that mean?
STAR TREK CONTINUES’ seventh full-length episode, “Embracing the Winds” is–at least in my opinion–a masterpiece. It’s a MUST SEE+ Star Trek fan film and possibly one of the best ones released to date. Fan reaction has ranged generally from positive to gushing, with almost no one saying anything overall negative (only pointing out this or that little issue…and we Trekkers always have our “little issues”).
But really, STC has continued to up their game, and the quality and watchability of their newest offering is superb. The acting, writing, directing, pacing…everything is top-notch. There’s not of a lot of “wasted” scenes where the viewer feels the production has indulged itself too much and stretched things out. In short, it’s a tight, exciting story that does what Star Trek has traditionally done so well: take a modern day issue (in this case, a very politically charged one at the moment) and provide a “safe” mirror through which we can examine our society and beliefs…and look at ourselves with a critical eye.
Word is beginning to spread about the Fan Film LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN, and I’m very encouraged so far. After just one week, we’ve already had 75 packets mailed to executives at CBS and Paramount with the focus group results and recommendations from the 1,200+ members of the SMALL ACCESS Facebook group.
Now, 75 packets might not seem like much (especially considering that the original Star Trek letter writing had over a hundred thousand letters), but keep in mind that 1) word is only just starting to get out about this initiative, and 2) the packets are supposed to contain a 37-page Focus Group Report and optional Cover Letter, which will use up a lot of toner and paper and cost about two to three bucks per packet to mail (more from outside the U.S., although I don’t expect as many international fans to participate due to the higher postage costs). So each mailed packet represents a greater amount of time, effort, and investment by a fan then just sending a 1-page letter or copy/pasted e-mail. I was actually kinda worried that we’d only get about one or two dozen packets sent…so 75 in a week is pretty awesome. (And remember, only one copy has to get read by the right executive!)
During the next week, Mike Bawden will be trying to get us some press coverage in the mainstream media, but there’s already been some interest just around fan circles. Earlier today, I did a podcast for an upcoming episode of TrekZone (look for it this weekend). And Shane Stacks told me he’ll be mentioning the campaign on the excellent Shane Plays Radio and Podcast.
And I’m even being covered by other blogs!!! And that brings us to…
CBS and Paramount ruined my 50th Anniversary!!! The whole year–January to December–they just ruined it. First, no sooner had Christmas ended, they sued Axanar, my favorite Star Trek fan film ever. And in doing this, the studios split fandom into a Hatfield and Dr. McCoy feud. Then, just when I thought the anniversary year might be saved after all when J.J. Abrams announced the lawsuit would be “going away” and fans allowed to make their films…WHAM!…ridiculously Draconian guidelines were created by the studios that seemed purposefully designed to end Star Trek fan films as we know (and love) them.
I was so pissed that I started the SMALL ACCESS campaign on Facebook to protest these new guidelines and try to get them revised. Hundreds and hundreds of fans joined me on my impassioned quest, sharing their anger and frustration, as well. Some threatened a full-on boycott of all things Star Trek: the new movie, the new TV series, novels, licensed merchandise…you name it. They suddenly wanted nothing to do with Star Trek anymore. And several of them were encouraging me to do likewise.
There still seems to be some misconceptions about the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign. Some say we’re all about a boycott and want to destroy Star Trek. Some say we’re under the control of Axanar. And most people have no idea why we’re doing surveys each day.
First and foremost, a boycott implies not watching or supporting Star Trek at all. We’re actually suggesting the opposite. We want fans to WATCH the new TV series, not avoid it completely. We’re simply suggesting a designated subscriber hosts a viewing party and the rest of the friends who come over pitch in to share the cost of the subscription (or pay for the host’s dinner or whatever seems the most legal). In the end, groups of Trek fans get together to WATCH the new series, NOT to avoid it. If some people want to boycott completely, I won’t stop them. But that’s NOT what the SMALL ACCESS campaign is about.
As for being under the thumb of Alec Peters and Axanar, that’s simply not the case. In fact, in a recent poll on the SMALL ACCESS Facebook group, I lobbied hard for a compromise of raising the 15 minute time limit to 30 minutes. That wouldn’t help Axanar much, as that feature film was planned to be somewhere around 90 minutes or even 2 hours. I was actually trying to help find a way for Star Trek Continues and New Voyages to still get made because I really enjoy both fan series. So no, Alec Peters isn’t pulling our strings, and the SMALL ACCESS campaign is completely independent from anything Axanar. Many in our SMALL ACCESS group like and support Axanar (and yes, some members don’t), but our goal is to convince that studios to REVISIT and REVISE the new guidelines. Period. We’re not about pointing fingers at any particular fan film.
And that brings us to the big question: what the heck do we do in our Facebook group day after day? Some people imagine that we just sit around, bitching and griping and talking about how Star Trek should just die.
Ummmmmm……no with a capital NO.
Instead, each day I post a new online survey, and we take a daily poll. In fact, that’s the MOST IMPORTANT thing we do!