One could argue that a documentary doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of a Star Trek “fan film,” but one year ago, director Adam Nimoy raised $662,000 from nearly ten thousandStar Trek fans in a Kickstarter campaign for a movie about the life of his amazing father, Leonard.
To me, that’s the truest essence of a fan making a film about something he loves with the help of other fans who share that love (including $50 from yours truly)!
For the past twelve months, Adam Nimoy (who is both directing and writing the “Spockumentary”), worked tirelessly to research and assemble footage and to interview a vast array of fans and professionals alike about their love not only of Spock but of the man who created the character. The film will feature such notable names as William Shatner, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Neil deGrasse Tyson, J.J. Abrams, and the late Leonard Nimoy himself.
Two weeks ago, Nimoy delivered the finished film to his distributor for worldwide release. And a week ago, he announced that the film will be released in theaters, on VOD, and via iTunes on September 9, 2016 (the Friday immediately following the 50th anniversary of the broadcast television debut of Star Trek). Nimoy also released an amazing trailer that has me more excited than ever to see this tribute to an incredible actor who gave the world a universally beloved character…
The fan series Project: Potemkin was nearly finished with its four-season run. Thirty episodes had already been produced and released, and only three more remained. Show-runner RANDY LANDERS (read his interview with Fan Film Factor here) had announced that the series would wrap up after the end of season four, although four other series–Starship Tristan, Starship Deimos, Battlecruiser Kupok, and Starship Endeavour–would continue with new episodes.
The remaining three episodes of Project: Potemkin had already been filmed over a year ago and were simply awaiting post-production editing, sound, VFX, and musical scoring. Then the fan film guidelines were released by CBS and Paramount.
Last time: David Whitney, the show-runner for Star Trek Raven (and two other Trek fan films) produced by Starfleet Studios in central Iowa, shocked the fan world on July 1 when he announced his productions would be ignoring the new CBS and Paramount fan guidelines that, in his words, “do not directly support their copyright and copyright law.”
A day later, in an apparent about-face, David eliminated the parts of his announcement dealing with ignoring the new guidelines and instead stated “We are going to try to conform our film, now called ‘Starfleet Studios Raven Part One’ to the new rules.”
Okay, so maybe Renegades is no longer officially STAR TREK: Renegades, but we all know what it really is. Sure, Chekov will now be referred to simply as “The Admiral” and Tuvok is now “Kovok,” the Federation is now the “Confederation,” and the comm badges are gone from the uniforms. But it’s still a Star Trek fan film at heart, even if all the obvious and direct references to Star Trek have been surgically removed to avoid having to follow the new CBS and Paramount guidelines.
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.
Don’t panic! Tommy Kraft, creator of the hugely popular Star Trek: Horizon fan film, has already reached and exceeded the $13,000 Kickstarter goal he set for his new non-Star Trek independent sci-fi film Runaway. In fact, he’s nearly reached $18,000!
Wanna see and hear what the guy who types all these blogs looks and sounds like? Last week, I was contacted by a news producer for ReasonTV and asked if I’d be willing to come in for a half hour or so and discuss Star Trek fan films. Well, gee, twist my arm!
I’d never heard of ReasonTV, but it turns out it’s the latest offering from the Reason Foundation, which was founded in 1978 and publishes the monthly Reason magazine (voted one of the 50 best magazines in 2003 and 2004 by the Chicago Tribune…for whatever that’s worth).
I was told the news feature would be about 10 minutes long and focus on the CBS/Axanar lawsuit and the new fan film guidelines. Alec Peters and Richard Hatch would also appear in the piece. We’d all be interviewed separately and edited together later.
I drove to the studio (conveniently located only about ten minutes from where I live) and sat for a very pleasant interview. The reporter, Zach Weissmueller, was well prepared with some great questions. This wasn’t just a fluff piece, and my job wasn’t to talk up Axanar. In fact, I think I only even said the word “Axanar” once during the entire interview. Instead, I was asked about the history of fan films and the introduction of the new official guidelines.
When CBS and Paramount announced their new guidelines for Star Trek fan films, the fates of two long-running, celebrated fan series seemed to be in jeopardy. Star Trek: New Voyages (having released nearly a dozen full-length TOS fan episodes since 2004) and Star Trek Continues (with six full-length TOS fan episodes plus three vignettes released since 2012) both appeared to violate multiple new guideline rules. These included run-times over 15 minutes, more than $50,000 in crowd-funding, perk give-aways for contributors, the use of professional actors and crew, and of course, simply having an ongoing fan series in the first place!
Would these two venerated fan series finally come to an inglorious end? It seems the answer is “yes”…and “no”…and “maybe.” Let me explain…
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…