If the release of the new guidelines by CBS and Paramount was the shot heard round the fan film world, then the subsequent response by the show-runner of Star Trek Raven was the first hint of return fire.
Or was it?
A week after CBS and Paramount published their guidelines for Star Trek fan films, an announcement went up on the news page for Star Trek Raven, a little-known fan series based in central Iowa filmed at Starfleet Studios (not to be confused with Starbase Studios in Oklahoma). The production had only released three short vignettes so far (this, this, and this), but Raven was about to become one of the most talked about fan films.
On July 1, the lead producer for Raven, David Whitney, posted this proactive statement:
The rules which pertain to direct copyright infringement and intellectual property will be adhered to. The rules which do not directly support their copyright, and copyright law, will be ignored.
Last time: Marc Scott Zicree discussed the first professional fan film, “World Enough and Time,” the fourth episode release from Star Trek: New Voyages back in 2007. Roughly 200-300 people worked on the production (235 names appear in the credits plus another 50 on the “Special thanks” list. A number of team members were actually Hollywood industry professionals…including George Takei himself reprising his role of Sulu, plus Marc and his co-writer Michael Reaves, his editor Chris Cronin, many of the department heads, the visual effects team, and the production unit who shot the USS Excelsior scenes in Los Angeles (the majority of the episode was filmed in upstate New York on the New Voyages TOS sets).
Even today, nearly a decade later, “World Enough and Time” remains high up on the list of MUST SEE fan films. And it provides a magnificent example of the kind of engaging, emotional, and dramatically satisfying production that can be achieved using a mixture of fan amateurs and industry professionals working together to create a true labor of love.
Of course, such a fan film would now be impossible to create and release under the new guidelines issued by CBS and Paramount. Industry professionals are barred from working on a fan film, although this particular guideline may violate California’s Business and Professions Code: Section 16600. Even if it does, however, fan films are now limited to 15-minute episodes or, at most, two 15-minute parts totaling no more than 30 minutes. The depth of character development and story complexity required for “World Enough and Time” could never be squeezed into such a constrained time limitation…nor should it, say many fans.
Marc Zicree is a rabid Star Trek and science fiction fan who has written and produced hundreds of hours of network television over a career spanning decades…including episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
As our 2-part interview with Marc concludes, he finishes discussing “World Enough and Time” and then dives head-first into what he thinks about those darn guidelines…
Back in 2004, Star Trek fans’ collective jaws dropped when they got their first look at Star Trek: New Voyages, an original fan film series shot on sets meticulously recreated from the original TOS bridge, transporter room, and captain’s quarters. Show-runner and lead actor James Cawley reportedly funded the construction of these sets with $100,000-150,000 of his own money.
Other set recreations would follow: sickbay, the briefing room, expansive corridors, and many more. Eventually, the New Voyages (also known as Phase 2) sets located in Ticonderoga, New York had replicated nearly the entire layout of the original TOS shooting sets at Desilu Studios on the Paramount lot fifty years ago.
Along the way, Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase 2 produced and released nearly a dozen original fan films, each dazzling fans. But then the new fan film guidelines were released by CBS and Paramount, potentially signalling an end to this venerable TOS fan series. Fan wondered if they would even see these amazing sets again.
Well, wonder no more! Although the fate of Star Trek: New Voyages as a fan series is still unknown, an announcement was just made on the Star Trek.com website that the TOS sets in upstate New York would now be open to viewing by the general public…on officially licensed set tours! Yes, officially licensed!!!
Even though Runaway isn’t a Star Trek fan film, Tommy Kraft is a beloved enough Star Trek fan filmmaker that we’re keeping an eye on his latest Kickstarter campaign.
With a goal of $13,000, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. But it’s not over yet! With just over a week to go, Tommy still needs to raise about $3,000 more or else he’ll get zero/zilch/zip/nada from Kickstarter for all of his efforts. 147 backers have gotten Tommy 77% of the way to his goal. Another 50 or so should put him over.
Set to be filmed in the style of a cyberpunk western, Runaway will focus on Maria, an android on the run–falsely accused of murdering her master. Pursued through the forest by ruthless bounty hunters, Maria struggles to reach the Free States and maybe discover her humanity along the way.
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!
Some fans believe that Axanar was the first fan film to use professionals or, at the very least, the first to pay them. Both of those assumptions are incorrect by nearly a decade.
The first fan film to feature a known Star Trek professional in their credits was the debut episode of Star Trek: New Voyages in early 2004, “Come What May,” which featured Doug Drexler as visual effects artist (under the pseudonym “Max Rem”) while Doug was also actively working doing the digital FX for Star Trek: Enterprise and also for the new Battlestar Galactica.
New Voyages’ next episode, “In Harm’s Way,” likewise included Doug Drexler…this time as an executive producer. It also featured veteran Star Trek TOS guest stars William Windom (reprising his role as an older, time-displaced Commodore Matt Decker), BarBara Luna, and Malachi Thorne (also voicing his former role as Commodore Jose Mendez as well as playing a Klingon).
The fan series formerly known as Star Trek: Renegades and now officially renamed Renegades: The Series may no longer technically be a Star Trek fan series, but it still features a cast full of veteran Trek actors. Among them are Walter “Chekov” Koenig, Nichelle “Uhura” Nichols, Tim “Tuvok” Russ, Terry “Jadzia” Farrell, Cirroc “Jake Sisko” Lofton, Aaron “Nog” Eisenberg, Robert “Chakotay” Beltran, Gary “Soval” Graham, Manu “Icheb” Intiraymi, and Hana “Molly O’Brien” Hatae.
Not all of them were supposed to be playing their original roles from Star Trek series like TOS, DS9, and Voyager…and now, of course, none of them are playing those roles (wink, wink). But you can now see the entire cast along with extras and a plethora of amazing-looking aliens of a quality and intricacy that have never been seen in any fan production to date!
There are also several production images that have now been posted, with more promised soon. These photos give a better idea of what the uniforms (sans chest insignia) will look like, and they also show the extensive amount of green-screen filming that will allow a wealth of potentially breathtaking CGI backgrounds to be added to what scenes they are filming. Additionally, there are practical (physical) sets like a bar as well as hybrid sets like a starship bridge where the crew sit in actual chairs with real consoles, but the rest of the bridge background will be digitally added later.
Okay, folks, now THIS one is intriguing! As many of you probably know, TOMMY KRAFT is the fan dynamo who wrote, produced, directed, and did about six dozen other things on the wildly popular Star Trek: Horizon feature-length fan film (currently at 1.75 million views on YouTube!). Shortly after releasing Horizon in late February, Tommy announced a Kickstarter for a sequel and was quickly contacted by CBS and strongly advised not to proceed with his new endeavor.
Now we know why, as the new fan film guidelineswere probably already being discussed and would soon be released by CBS and Paramount. One of those guidelines states: “The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.” Another states: “No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.”
Fast forward to this week, and Tommy Kraft has just launched a brand new Kickstarter for a short film called Runaway, set in the not-too-distant future where an android fights for her life as she races to get to the Free States. He’s seeking $13,000 and has already raised about $4,000 in pledges from 55 backers…one of whom is me. I pledged $35.
It’s interesting to watch the various reactions of the current Star Trek fan series to the new CBS/Paramount guidelines. In the case of Star Trek: Renegades, they dropped the name “Star Trek” from their title, took off the comm badges, and named Walter Koenig’s character “The Admiral.” Of course, we all know who they mean…don’t we? But with no “obvious” Star Trek content, the fan guidelines no longer apply to Renegades: The Series.
On the other side of the United States, Alabama-based Potemkin Pictures has taken a different approach. For the last half-decade or so, the vast majority of Potemkin Pictures’ fan films have actually followed most of the guidelines (before they even came out!): short-duration episodes, no crowd-funding, no perks, original music, home-made costumes, and store-bought props. Their only real “violation”–now that the new guidelines are in place–is “no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.”