Has the STAR TREK/DR. SEUSS mash-up lawsuit become a CHESS GAME? (update)

Last time, I discussed the new GoFundMe campaign implemented by ComicMix, LLC to assist in paying legal fees associated with an infringement lawsuit filed by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) back in late 2016.  The lawsuit has been a very active one, with 13 notices, 14 motions, 7 responses, 6 replies, 28 judicial orders, and 1 amended complaint (so far)…and the date of trial isn’t until next spring!  The lawyers on both sides have been VERY busy…which is mainly why this lawsuit is costing so much.

Things are going well for both sides at the moment, and it’s far from clear how this lawsuit will turn out once it goes in front of a jury (assuming it doesn’t settle, which isn’t looking likely at present…but who knows, right?)

Most recently, Hon. Judge Janis Samartino of the Ninth Circuit Federal Court in San Diego made two very significant rulings that will likely have a major impact on this case.  One was clearly a win for the defense (“Team Mash-up” as I call them) and was actually covered by The Hollywood Reporter (and other media outlets) two months ago with the headline: “‘Star Trek’/Dr. Seuss Mashup Creator Beats Trademark Claims.”  That made it almost sound like the case was over.  Not even close!  The “victory” by Team Mash-up was only partial, albeit important.  I’ll explain that shortly.

Then last month, another ruling came down striking 11 affirmative defense claims that Team Mash-up intended to use to argue their case.  That’s the legal equivalent of taking 11 arrows away from an archer going into battle who only has 37 arrows to begin with.  So this time, it was a victory for the plaintiff…although, again, only a partial one.

This lawsuit—a very important case  that could set a significant precedent in the emerging art form of the “mash-up”—has turned into a fascinating game of chess.  And as I’ve done before on this blog, I’d like to translate all the boring legalese into enjoyable English so you folks who are interested can get a layperson’s update on this fascinating case.

Continue reading “Has the STAR TREK/DR. SEUSS mash-up lawsuit become a CHESS GAME? (update)”

Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly GoFundMe!

Mash-up mess-up!  Seuss sues!  Tricky Trekkies find fans to fund!

…or at least that’s the short form of the story so far.  As I’ve covered in a series of blogs over the past year, copyright and trademark precedent is being made right under our very noses, and Star Trek is right smack dab in the middle of it!  But this time, it’s not a fan film in the thick of things but an unpublished attempt to mash-up Star Trek and Dr. Seuss into a fun (but allegedly not entirely allowable) illustrated book intended to be titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

Written by Star Trek‘s own DAVID GERROLD (creator of the tribbles) and illustrated by TY TEMPLETON (Eisner award-winning mainstream comic book artist), this project was going to be crowd-funded through Kickstarter and managed to raise $30,000 in September of 2016.  But Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) asserted their intellectual property rights, and Kickstarter elected to shut down the campaign.  On November 10, DSE sued Gerrold, Templeton, and ComicMix (the company running the campaign) for both copyright and trademark infringement.

It’s now nearly two years later, and this case is nowhere near done.  In fact, the trial isn’t scheduled to begin until next spring, and the lawyers on both sides have been VERY busy (more on that tomorrow)!  But in the meantime, the legal bills are piling up.  This isn’t as much of a problem for DSE, which makes money every time someone buys Green Eggs and Ham or The Lorax, not to mention royalties on all the movie remakes of classic Seuss stories.  ComicMix, on the other hand, is a much smaller company…and apparently, their cash bucket isn’t nearly as deep.  And unfortunately, unlike a certain fan production we all remember, ComicMix didn’t find attorneys willing to work for free.

And so ComicMix has launched a GoFundMe campaign with a $25,000 goal.  So far, they’ve managed to get about 9% of the way there.

“Why is this worth donating to?” you ask.  I’ll tell you…

Continue reading “Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly GoFundMe!”

STAGE 9 STUDIOS announces a new PATREON, OPEN HOUSE, and an awesome WALK-THROUGH VIDEO!

Would you pay $1, $5, $10, or $25/month to keep the lights on for the only full TOS sets to be completely open to the fan film community?  Right now, 11 people are already doing that, giving STAGE 9 STUDIOS in Kingsland, GA a combined $100/month (or thereabouts) in guaranteed financial assistance to pay for rent, electricity, and maintenance.

With rent estimated at about $3,000/month, a hundred bucks a month might not seem like much.  But Stage 9 Studio only just recently launched their new Patreon, and owner RAY TESI is currently paying all expenses out of his own pocket from retirement savings.  So donating even as little as a dollar a month will be a welcome help.

For those not familiar with Patreon, it’s similar to Kickstarter and Indiegogo in that anyone can set up a campaign, anyone can contribute, and there can be perks.  The difference is that, while the latter two are designed for a one-time contribution, Patreon is set up so that supporters (patrons) donate monthly, a recurring contribution charged to their credit card or transferred from their bank account until the donor says otherwise.  Patreon is designed for ongoing endeavors rather than one-time projects, so it’s perfect for something like Stage 9 Studios where the expenses from rent, utilities, and maintenance are ongoing.

And what happens if the Patreon generates more per month than it costs to “keep the lights on.”  (What a great problem to have, right!?!)  Simple.  Additional funds will be used to improve the studio (like adding air conditioning, perhaps?) and maybe even to build more sets.  As the Patreon page clearly states:

STAGE 9 STUDIOS is NOT a money-making enterprise, but an opportunity to share the passion that millions of STAR TREK fans have for the series!

But that’s not all that’s happening with Stage 9 Studios.  Would YOU like to see these amazing sets in person…for FREE???

Continue reading “STAGE 9 STUDIOS announces a new PATREON, OPEN HOUSE, and an awesome WALK-THROUGH VIDEO!”

“ONCE MORE WITH FEELING” is a HYBRID fan film/table reading…

What do you do if you want to make a Star Trek fan film and you can’t afford costumes, sets, make-up, lighting, and all of the other bells and whistles?  This was the challenge facing Australia’s MATT MILLER, who had previously tried on multiple attempts to create Trek fan films with limited resources.  Matt explains his frustrations and the shortcomings of those productions in this heartfelt video.

So “Once More with Feeling” works as a title on various levels.  Matt’s latest attempt at a Trek fan film is, of course, his own attempt to do it better, once more, with feeling.  The “feeling” comes from what is a hybrid, of sorts, of a traditional Star Trek fan film and what would be a dramatic table reading for an audio production.  The actors provide very passionate performances, even though they are reading directly from scripts in the visuals.

Table readings are, of course, fairly standard in the theater, which is where Once More with Feeling! was originally performed as a stage play (written by Harry Kurnitz) in 1958, starring Joseph Cotten, Arlene Francis, and Walter Matthau (who won a best actor Tony award for it).  Two years later, it would be made into a film starring Kay Kendall and Yul Brynner.  (And yes, in 2001, “Once More with Feeling” was also the title of an all-musical episode of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.)

For this Star Trek fan film, the title also appears to harken to the structure of the story, as a disgraced Starfleet captain describes his tragic, final battle for a young woman who has come to his home, she tells him, as part of a college research project.  However, if you watch until the very end of the film, you will discover yet another reason for the title.

This is undoubtedly a different kind of fan film, and somewhat jarring in places due to its basic structure.  The outer space starship CGI visual effects, created by Trekyards’ SAMUEL COCKINGS, are outstanding and take the viewer deep into the fan film narrative.  But cuts to the actors, standing in a virtual “lounge” of some kind, wearing normal clothes, reading from scripts, jolts the viewer out of the imaginary Star Trek universe back into reality.

Reaction online has been generally very positive (with the expected outliers, of course).  I believe that all fan films should be given respect and viewed with an open mind—this one being no exception.  So take a look at what can be produced on a low budget, with few resources, when the writer/director thinks outside the box…

AXANAR fan comic COMPLETES part one of “Arcanis IV”!

The latest comic book story based on the fan film PRELUDE TO AXANAR has just completed part one of its first chapter.

Last July, Axanar super-fan TREY McELWAIN released the first-ever Axanar comic story: the four-page (including cover) “Trial By Fire.”  It was a huge hit among Axanar fans, many of whom hoped to be seeing more similar projects from Trey and his illustrator, DANIEL FU.

The wait lasted for ten months.  In May, Trey continued what he called the “Tip of the Spear” saga, with each chapter focusing on a different battle from The Four Years War with the Klingons, as shown in Prelude.  But now the comics would expand from just a few pages to stories with chapters, each about 5-7 pages long.

The first story took a closer look at the battle that began the Four Years War at “Arcanis IV.”  Trey initially released the cover and first two pages of the story, with the intention of releasing one additional page per month for the foreseeable future.  Part one of “Arcanis IV” would be seven pages, and there would be three parts.  Then the next chapter would be “Inverness V,” also divided into multiple parts.  So releasing one new comic story page per month could keep this going for years!

At least, that was the plan…

Daniel finished drawing the next three pages more quickly than anticipated, so rather then holding them back, all three were released last month.  And then Daniel was fast again, so this month has the final two pages being released (see below), completing part one of “Arcanis IV.”

That’s the good news.  Unfortunately, it could be a while before fans see part two.

Continue reading “AXANAR fan comic COMPLETES part one of “Arcanis IV”!”

YOU could appear in GARY GRAHAM’S new MUSIC VIDEO!

GARY GRAHAM is no stranger to Star Trek and sci-fi…and he’s also been a friend to Trek fan films for over a decade.  Known as Ambassador Soval from Star Trek: Enterprise (he was in an episode of Voyager, too) and Detective Matt Sikes from the TV series Alien Nation, Gary also appeared in the Trek fan films Of Gods and Men, Renegades, and Prelude to Axanar.

But did you know that Gary also has a rock band that plays original songs with Star Trek-themed lyrics?  It’s true!  Heck, he’ll even perform at your wedding or birthday party with his group, THE SONS OF KIRK.  (Seriously, how cool would it be to have a Star Trek veteran actor come to your house and sing Star Trek songs???)

According Gary, “All of [my] insider experiences are infused into the songs and lyrics!  Every single song is Star Trek-themed, with hilarious, cool, and sexy lyrics to make even the most casual fan crack a Vulcan Smile. No filler, No additives; just #NerdCool.

Gary and his band have just launched a KICKSTARTER campaign with a $5,000 goal.  Their hope is raise enough to record their first studio album and then create a music video for one of the songs.  If they surpass their goal (which is looking likely, as nearly a third of that $5K has been raised in the first 12 hours!), they will have stretch goals for additional songs and potentially more music videos.

Perks include the expected—copies of the finished album, autographed photos, merchandise, listings in the credits at various producer levels—plus a a couple of unique options.  With as little as a $15 donation, your name will be mentioned in a special “Thank You” song (not on the album, but released to the public).  And all contributors of $200 or more get to be in the music video (travel and lodging not included).

You can follow The Sons of Kirk on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

To donate, visit their Kickstarter page.

STARSHIP TRISTAN gets a NEW CAPTAIN in their 13th fan film: “A Look in the Mirror”!

After a seven-month hiatus due to heart bypass surgery for POTEMKIN PICTURES‘ show-runner RANDY LANDERS, their parade of fan films came flooding back in March with the release of the eleventh and twelfth fan films from their Starship Tristan Creative Group…only one week apart!  This was followed by the release of two fan films from the Deimos Creative Group in May…only five days apart.  And last month, there was yet another fan film release for Deimos, their eighth total.

Well, it’s July, and that means it’s Tristan‘s turn again!  (Actually, Potemkin Pictures has SEVEN different active fan series at present, each in varying states of pre-production, production, and post production.  You can view all of their offerings at the Potemkin website.)

With this latest release , the titular Constellation-class starship now has a new captain, the former first officer, Lt. Commander Privette (played by Kimberly White).  I’d noticed that, over on Starship Deimos, that fan series had just gotten a new captain, as well (this one being Captain Mark Stone, played by actor Tony Anderson).

I asked Randy about this new game of “musical captains” that his main fan series seem to be playing lately…and also noted that, while a promotion from first officer to commanding officer isn’t unheard of, a rank jump from Lt. Commander directly to Captain is pretty significant.  Randy replied…

Tristan’s former Captain Walker (played by Keith Harris) has disappeared while on a mission, and the circumstances are quite mysterious.  Privette’s promotion came as quite a shock to both Lieutenant Commander T’Noshi and Lieutenant Commander Mycroft, and expect this to rear its head from time to time.

In real life, Keith stepped down, as the demands of the role of a ship’s captain are very challenging (Tristan films 4-6 times per year). Keith and I spoke about his return as Captain Walker in a much more limited capacity again only last week, and we look forward to his continued involvement with Potemkin Pictures once he recovers from a work-related injury.

Expect more cast and crew changes as our productions continue. Filming 12-15 times per year is very challenging to both our actors and our behind-the-scenes personnel.

We also expect to begin construction on our small shuttlecraft…I’m calling it a shuttle-coupe (LOL). It will be for two or three persons, and we’re hoping to begin its construction in September.

Here’s the latest adventure of the Tristan crew, “A Look in the Mirror”…

IRA BEHR says that DS9 DOCUMENTARY is DONE…well, “BASICALLY” done!

I’m not afraid to say it: I LOVE IRA STEVEN BEHR!  The former show-runner of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE (my hands-down favorite of the numerous Star Trek TV series) never fails to delight when he releases updates on the progress of the crowd-funded DS9 documentary WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND.  Fans donated nearly $650,000 in an Indiegogo campaign in early 2017, blasting through the initial $150K goal and allowing for an amazing amount of extra content and features that Ira and director ADAM NIMOY never thought would be possible.

Ira’s last major update came back in April, explaining that editing was still going on because they had “…100 hours of new interviews with cast and crew to go through, plus fan submissions, archival materials, animations, audition tapes, convention footage and over 170 broadcast episodes…  Then, factor in the technical elements of licensing all our official footage, finding new archival elements and creating animations, working with CBS to scan film negative for presentation for the first time in HD…” and you can see why it’s taking so long.

In his latest update video from last week (see below), Ira announced that they have finally LOCKED PICTURE.  In the video, Ira doesn’t go into details of what this actually means, saying only that they’re now “BASICALLY done.”  (Locked picture means editing is completed, and now it’s time for post production.)  Of course, then the update video shows a series of clips of the production team listing all the elements of post production that still have to happen: sound design and mixing, music, HD remastering, animations and graphics, color correction, clip licenses, titles and credits…and the list goes on!  Take a look…

But Ira assures us that the documentary WILL be finished during this year, the 25th anniversary of Deep Space Nine!  There will also be clips to show attendees at this year’s Creation Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.  One of those clips was released last year as a sneak peek…

By the way, crowd-funding is still happening…albeit in a more direct way that cuts out the Indiegogo “middle-man.”  On their website, you can now pre-order the Blu-ray/DVD combo, pre-order tickets for premieres in New York, London, and Los Angeles, purchase a dinner with “Vic Fontaine and friends,” or for just $50, you can have your name appear in the credits.  (Yep, I did that.)

It won’t be much longer, folks!

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION launches new GOFUNDME with two vignettes! (interview, part 2)

Last week, we took a look at the fan series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION, which debuted in early 2015 and returned in late 2016 and 2017 with two additional episodes that crossed over with STARSHIP VALIANT and Vance Major’s MINARD saga.  Now Dominion is set for yet another return, and has launched a brand new GoFundMe campaign attempting to raise $1,500 for a full-length (two 15-minute episodes) fan film.

In the first part of my interview with show-runners GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN, we discussed the crowd-funder, the guidelines, and the two recent vignettes that were released.  But were very outside-of-the box fan films.  The first, “Reality Check,” debuted last month and features jumps between the Star Trek fan film universe and the “real” world where their production is actually being filmed.  You can watch it here…

The second vignette, “Silent Acknowledgement,” focused on an intriguing concept: a communications officer who is deaf.  Played by Gary’s wife TRACEY DAVIS, who is actually deaf and has cochlear implants, Lt. Paula Tomkins’ “disability” is no more a hindrance in the 23rd century than Geordi LsForge’s blindness was in the 24th century.  For hearing impaired watchers of fan films, this is (I believe) the first totally deaf character to be featured in any fan production or series.  You can watch the vignette below…

One of the most distinctive things about Dreadnought Dominion (in addition to the deaf communications officer and the use of a tri-nacelled Federation-class dreadnought design from the Franz Joseph Starfleet Technical Manual from the 1970s) is where the series has been filmed.  The first two episodes and the most recent two vignettes were each filmed on the TOS sets in Kingsland, GA, previously used exclusively for the fan series Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues.  No other fan production was ever allowed to film there.  But Dominion filmed there years earlier and was also the first fan production to film on those sets just as the new owner, RAY TESI of STARSHIP REPUBLIC, was opening them up to other fan productions.  How did they manage that…?

Continue reading “DREADNOUGHT DOMINION launches new GOFUNDME with two vignettes! (interview, part 2)”

DREADNOUGHT DOMINION launches new GOFUNDME with two vignettes! (interview, part 1)

One of those “hidden gems” of Star Trek fan films is the series DREADNOUGHT DOMINION.  Not as fancy or polished as the “big guns” like Star Trek Continues or New Voyages, Dominion is one of those mid-tier productions that has benefited from using  TOS sets from other productions (or faked it when they weren’t able to) and put a lot of heart and dedication into producing labors of love.

I also fancy this particular fan series because it’s the only one to feature the Federation-class dreadnought starship design from the Franz Joseph Starfleet Technical Manual from the 1970s.  I always loved that 3-nacelled design with the hangar bay on the front!

Dreadnought Dominion release two episodes in 2015, each filmed on the sets used at the time by Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues (the only other fan production to ever use those sets).  Their third episode wouldn’t come out until the end of 2016 and was actually a crossover with Starship Valiant.  You can read more about all of that in this blog.  Ten months later, Dominion crossed over again withStarship Valiant but in the Mirror Universe as part of the MINARD saga from Vance Major.  That’s covered in this blog.

Then last month, Dominon returned yet again…this time all on its own, once again using the STC sets in Georgia( now owned by Ray Tesi).  They promptly released an amusing 10-minute vignette titled “Reality Check” that broke the “fourth wall”…

Then last week they released another new vignette, “Silent Acknowledgement” that focuses on a hearing-impaired communications officer (the first Trek fan series that I’m aware of to feature a deaf character)…

They also just launched a new GoFundMe campaign trying to raise $1,500 for their next production:

https://www.gofundme.com/dreadnought-dominion

By the way, “they” are show-runners GARY DAVIS and RANDY WRENN, who also play the new captain and first officer of the USS Dominion.  And of course, I interviewed them (’cause that’s what I do)…

Continue reading “DREADNOUGHT DOMINION launches new GOFUNDME with two vignettes! (interview, part 1)”