Okay, I just couldn’t wait anymore! I had to know…was a settlement reached in the Axanar copyright infringement lawsuit????
If you read my previous blog on the subject, you know that the two sides–CBS/Paramount and Alec Peters/Axanar Productions–were ordered by judge R. Gary Klausner to sit down for one last-ditch attempt to work out a settlement before going to trial. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick was assigned to facilitate the discussions. There is a court-mandated gag order on all discussions of the content of the settlement talks, and so all we got from Alec Peters on Monday evening was this:
We did not reach a settlement, but we are close. We will know by week’s end, as the attorneys have a call with Judge Eick Friday.
Everyone needs to manage their expectations. A settlement means neither side gets exactly what they want.
That sounded promising–or so I thought. But as Friday (today) wore on and Alec wasn’t answering my texts of “So…any news yet?” I was getting antsier and antsier. Their Monday meeting had lasted past 9:00p.m., so I tried to be patient and not bother Alec over and over again. I failed.
In past years, crowd-funding campaigns for fan films have helped to cover the cost of set construction, 3D visual effects and post-production, studio build-outs, and any number of costs associated with filming.
But now your much-needed donations can help pay for…
A TRUCK! (Oh, and movers.)
Actually, this is pretty serious, and it could effect multiple fan films! So get ready to take out that credit card or Paypal login, ’cause you’re really gonna want to help on this one, folks!
Hot on the heels of the release of the debut episode of The Federation Files, “His Name Is Mudd,” STARFLEET STUDIOS has released the first episode of STAR TREK RAVEN “Voyager Continues.” Coming in at a run-time of just over 30-minutes, Raven‘s first episode runs afoul of two of the fan film guidelines: it is longer that 15 minutes (or 30 minutes if released in two parts), and it has the words “Star Trek” in the title. However, show-runner David Whitney commented in a 2-part interview on FAN FILM FACTOR:
When it comes to the time limit, though, I’m going to have to say, “Yes, I’m ignoring that for Star Trek Raven because I think we got in under the wire. But moving forward, I’m gonna do my best to conform to the guidelines to make sure CBS doesn’t bug me…
The episode features quality compositing of well-lit actors in front of green screens with high-end 3D backgrounds and lots of music that’s very non-traditional for Star Trek…so Raven has a very refreshing and well-produced feel. The episode ends on a bit of an open-ended cliffhanger, and so there’s room for another episode…if David Whitney wants to make it.
In the meantime, David and Starfleet Studios are already moving ahead with plans for a third original production titled (for right now) The TNG Project. With the latest two Starfleet Studios releases still “hot” and spreading virally though the fan film world, David has launched a brand new Kickstarter with a goal of $11,000. The new fan film has cast an amazing Data look-a-like, and the production will feature a cutting-edge 3D compositing technique that will let live actors move through a virtual starship “set” that will pivot, pan, and zoom to match the actors’ movements.
Just imagine: going to FAN FILM FACTOR and not seeing the words “AXANAR LAWSUIT’ at the top of the home page…
It could happen! Yesterday, the two sides had a court-mandated meeting to discuss ways to settle the case before going to trial. Most lawsuits settle before ever reaching trial (like 90-95%, I’m told) because it’s usually not worth the cost and the risk of losing to ether side.
Also, full trials take up a LOT of time in court. So far, the Axanar case has required only a few hours of a judge’s actual time on the bench (plus some extra time in chambers reviewing filings). But an actual trial can take days or even weeks to finish, plus the costs of sitting and potentially sequestering a jury. So it’s often in the best interests of the legal system, as well, for cases to settle rather than coming to trial.
And so Judge R. Gary Klausner (the main judge in the Axanar case) ordered both sides to try–really try–to come to an agreement…a compromise where both sides give a little and get a little. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick, who had just made two major rulings in the discovery phase, was told to facilitate the settlement talks on Monday.
So my best one-sentence summary of Magistrate Judge Charles Eick’s ex parte order in the Axanar lawsuit would be: “Move along folks; nothing to see here.” In other words, nothing really surprising happened (at least if you read my previous blog).
In short, the plaintiffs asked for three main things and got two and a half of them…maybe two and a quarter. But the thing is, they got what the defense was already offering. You order a drink, the waiter brings it. Done. So it was kind of anticlimactic.
Remember back in the first half of this year when the initial documents were being filed in the Axanar lawsuit? Remember how each time one side or the other would submit their latest filing, it would suddenly look like it was “game, set, and match?” And then the other side would respond, and it would seem like a knockout blow for that side. And on and on.
Man, just when you thought we’d go at least a few days without a long AXANAR post! But hell hath no fury like a pair of studios compelled by a judge to produce a ton of discovery documentation and new witnesses to depose.
So what the heck just happened? Well, long story short, yesterday the plaintiffs attorneys in the case filed a 122-page ex parte (emergency) application for a judge’s order of relief while still in the discovery phase of the case. Time was running out (discovery ends on Wednesday!) and the plaintiffs couldn’t wait to jointly approach the judge for a fast resolution. And what are they trying to resolve?
Well, now it’s time for short story long. Strap in, folks–’cause a LOT has happened in the last seven days!
Some of you may know the not-so-secret origin of FAN FILM FACTOR. Back in 2015, I was writing a regular weekly blog for the Axanar website called “Fan Film Friday,” and it was becoming quite popular. Shortly after the infringement lawsuit was filed, however, a couple of my interviewees requested not to appear on the Axanar website. Other fan filmmakers were fine with being featured on the Axanar site, but I lamented the fact that I would no longer be free to feature all the fan producers that I wanted to.
I mentioned this concern to Alec Peters, and he suggested that I create a separate blog site independent of Axanar. That way I could talk about anything I wanted…and arrange my content any way I wanted. “But I have no idea how to set up a blog site,” I told Alec. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said, “Mike Bawden can do it for you.”
So far, the four previous episodes of STARSHIP TRSITAN from Potemkin Pictures have ranged in length from six-and-a-half minutes to ten-and-a-half minutes. (You can watch them all here.) Their latest episode, “Be Careful What You Wish For,” has a 15-minute run time and a much larger cast than usual. The episode was an ambitious endeavor that required a lot of on-location shooting. It’s a very impressive effort.
William C. Searcy, who plays the lovable and colorful character of the half-Vulcan Dr. Skep Anderson, wrote the episode and produces the Georgia-based series. Note that, from their second episode onward, in order to comply with the CBS/Paramount fan film guidelines, the series is no longer known officially as “Starship Tristan” and is instead just a collection of separate fan films, each with a different name (the title of the individual episode). That said, Dr. Anderson has appeared before and will (hopefully!) appear again. Will that constitute an “ongoing series” and violate guideline #1? Hard to say, but it’s such a minor quibble, one would think the studios wouldn’t bother making a big deal of it since the series complies with all other guidelines.
At this time, according to the Potemkin Pictures website, two more episodes of this series have been filmed and are currently in post production. With luck, we’ll be seeing them soon!
And so we come to the fourth and final part of this blog series. (Time sure flies when you’re writing 2,000 words a day!) Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. If you haven’t read them yet, to quote Pavel Chekov, “Now vould be a good time.”
It’s probably pretty darn busy right now at CBS and Paramount. What are been asked for (or rather, ordered) by the judge will most likely require all hands on deck for much of the week–tracking down documents and e-mails and financial records, compiling them, composing careful answers to submitted inquires from the defense, and creating a full privilege log. Plaintiff’s Attorney Jonathan Zavin said as much in court last Friday toward the beginning of his presentation (I’ll post the court transcript when I receive a copy) and even called the amount of documentation requested “unduly burdensome” 25 different times in the plaintiff’s responses in the Joint Stipulation document.