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.
Before we jump back into the legal battle of Axanar, I strongly recommend you read Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog analysis if you haven’t already. There’s a LOT that happened last week involving the Axanar copyright infringement lawsuit, including a 2-hour long court hearing and a ruling by Magistrate Judge Charles Eick of the Federal 9th Circuit Central District.
The judge’s ruling gave the defense (Axanar) nearly everything it wanted from the plaintiffs (CBS and Paramount) that the studios were refusing to turn over during the discovery phase. Discovery is when both sides in a lawsuit get to ask the other side to show them all the cards in their hand (or, in this case, documents, e-mails, and answers to questions during witness depositions). The idea is that neither the plaintiff nor the defense should be bringing out some surprise piece of evidence during trial that the other side never saw coming. Yeah, I know it happens all the time on TV, but it’s not supposed to. Both plaintiffs and defense should be allowed to prepare full arguments based on all the evidence that will be presented in court. If one side doesn’t see the evidence, how can they put together a proper rebuttal?
If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, go read it now. Then come back.
Welcome back. Shall we begin…?
When last we left off, the focus was on J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin and their public comments about Axanar. The studios have now been ordered in a ruling by Magistrate Judge Charles Eick to turn over:
All Documents and Communications relating to the statements made by J.J. Abrams on or about May 19, 2016 that (a) Justin Lin was “outraged” by this lawsuit; (b) this lawsuit “was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans”; (c) “fans should be celebrating this thing”; (d) “[f]ans of Star Trek are part of this world”; (e) Justin Lin “went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit”; (f) “within the next few weeks, it will be announced this is going away”; and (g) “fans would be able to continue working on their project.”
And Atlas shrugged. Many of the Axanar detractors, and indeed, even the plaintiffs and their attorneys have said, “So what?” These two men aren’t spokesmen for the studios. They were hired out as directors, and therefore, any opinions they might have are hardly relevant to the case. Who cares what they both said in their e-mails to the studios about Axanar? We already know what they think anyway!
Okay, so everyone is talking about, cheering about, cursing about, and analyzing Friday’s ruling by Magistrate Judge Charles Eick after the hearing to determine Axanar‘s motion to compel discovery from the studios.
Rather than summarize exactly what just happened, I am going to humbly direct you to the blog website of my delightful counterpart over on the other side of the Internet fence, Janet Gershen-Siegel. Unlike me, the Boston-based Janet actually went to law school, graduated, and practiced insurance defense law for a few years back in the 1990s. She’s been analyzing and writing about the Axanar lawsuit in painstaking detail almost since it was filed. And while we all have our little biases (yes, even me!), Janet’s meticulous reviews are sprinkled with a generous helping of comedic flairs to be very accessible for the lay-person. And when I say I do my research before writing these blogs, hers is one of my never-miss sources of information and insight.
So instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m going to send those of you who are curious over there to Janet’s blog to read more about what the judge actually ordered the studios to do…and then come back here for the follow-up. What I’m going to talk about is how the defense is planning to use all of this newfound “bounty” (an amazing amount of new discovery documentation and verbal/written answers to defense questions ordered by the court) to try to win their case…or at worst, not lose too badly.
I don’t usually get breaking news as it happens, but Judge Magistrate Charles Eick just ruled on the Axanar defense team’s motion to have the court compel discovery (force the studios to deliver documents they were refusing to produce for the defense to look over before trial).
I was in court myself observing this morning, and I hadn’t expected the judge to rule so quickly. But Judge Eick understood that, with only 12 days left until the close of the discovery period, the clock was ticking.
His ruling JUST came out, and I don’t even have the full text yet. All I have is this summary:
On or before October 28, 2016, Plaintiffs shall…
serve supplemental responses without objection, and produce all documents responsive to, the following requests (except documents withheld under claim of attorney-client privilege): 14, 35, 36, 37 (limited to the works allegedly infringed and also limited to documents (which may be summary documents) sufficient to show revenues and profitability), 17 (limited to 2009 to the present), 18 (limited to 2009 to the present), 21, 25 and 29;
serve supplemental answers without objection to Interrogatories Nos. 8 and 9
produce for deposition a witness or witnesses prepared to testify as to Deposition Testimony Subject No. 28;
serve a privilege log identifying with particularity all documents withheld under claim of attorney- client privilege; and
to the extent not otherwise ordered herein, fulfill all discovery-related promises previously made by Plaintiffs to Defendants.
In short, Axanar got pretty much everything they wanted and the studios are going to have a VERY busy week ahead.
Now, I’m going to need a couple of days to parse this all out and translate it from legalese into lay-person’s English. So please be patient. (During that time, I’ve also Jayden’s karate class, soccer practice, a friend’s birthday, a soccer game, and a birthday party for one of Jayden’s classmates. And so this is why I don’t blog professionally.)
But short summary: big win for Axanar during the discovery phase. The actual trial is completely separate, but for right now, the defense is going to have a very happy weekend.
If there were ever a game of “Where’s Waldo” using the credits of Star Trek fan films, Glen L. Wolfe would surely be Waldo. If you visit Glen’s IMDb page, you’ll see him having participated in a dozen different fan films and series stretching back to 2013: Star Trek: Renegades, Horizon, Deception, Secret Voyage, Ambush, Equinox, Temporal Anomaly, and multiple episodes of New Voyages and Continues. He’s worked on fan films as an actor, producer, cameraman, electrician, and art designer.
And now Glen can add writer and director to that list, having finally been the show-runner on a fan film of his own. “His Name Is Mudd” serves as the debut release of the new THE FEDERATION FILES, which is produced in conjunction with Starfleet Studios in Iowa. Their Facebook page talks about the new series:
The Federation Files is an opened look at the Memory Alpha database. The concept is to allow filmmakers a location to make their films available to the fans. Scripts will span the entire Star Trek Universe. Each episode can be free standing, therefore a new cast could be featured every time.
Following the Outer Limits and Twilight Zone format, the fan can view any episode in any order as they do not build on each other.
In this way, the new series will conform to the guidelines in not featuring continuing stories about the same characters.
This debut episode features a veritable “who’s who” of Star Trek fan film actors and crew. Michael L. King of Starship Valiant makes a cameo appearance as Commander Bishop (his character from that series). Cat Roberts, who appeared in Star Trek Continues‘ “Fairest of Them All” and later played Janice Rand in multiple episodes of The Red Shirt Diaries, plays Rand again, this time on the USS Constitution. Robert Withrow reprises his character of Admiral Witrow from multiple episodes of New Voyages. David Whitney of Starfleet Studios in Iowa, the show-runner of the nearly-completed Trek fan film Raven, plays a perfectly unscrupulous Harry Mudd. And even more actors and production crew from these series and others appear throughout the credits.
This 47-minute fan production was filmed at various locations, including at Starfleet Studios in Iowa; down at Starbase Studios in Oklahoma on their bridge, transporter, and sickbays sets; and even up in Ticonderoga, New York at James Cawley’s Retro Studios using the briefing room set. If there is such a thing as a “family” of fan filmmakers (and I truly believe there is) this production was indeed a family affair.
Fans of this innovative amateur Trek series have been waiting a long time for this! STAR TREK: AURORAbegan way back in 2006, using 3D animation to tell the story of two colorful and intriguing merchant woman trying to make a living on the fringes of Federation space. It was Star Trek and it wasn’t Star Trek–all at the same time–and it was fantastic! Creator Tim Vining worked for years, with his computer spending countless hours rendering out one frame at a time of footage. Posting the first episode in multiple parts as each was completed, the final act was released to fans in 2011…six years after the series first debuted.
But Tim wasn’t finished yet. In September of 2013, he released the first part of his second episode, “Mudd in Your I.” Needless to say, a familiar and unscrupulous character from Star Trek lore had a role to play in the story. Last December, the fourth of five parts was released, bringing the total length to 27 minutes. And now, in October of 2016–three years after the first part debuted–“Mudd in Your I” is finally complete, clocking in at a full 38 minutes long! (Fortunately, newer computers render CGI frames faster.)
Unfortunately, the new fan film guidelines affected this series in two ways. The first was minor–Star Trek: Aurora became simply Aurora (complying with the moratorium on using the words “Star Trek” in a fan film’s title and instead including a subtitle saying “A Star Trek Fan Film” underneath). The second was more problematic: no ongoing series. Tim Vining addressed this on his website:
As many fans know, recent guidelines from CBS/Paramount, the owners of Star Trek’s copyright, have placed new restrictions on fan films, in particular regarding the use of recurring original characters in fan films, so the future for Kara and T’Ling is a bit cloudy at the moment. What is not in doubt is our commitment to creating animated stories for people to enjoy and share, so whether that involves Kara and T’Ling, or some new characters or even some “new world,” be watching for further adventures from our little team!
George Kayaian released his first Star Trek fan film waaaaaaay back in 1994. It starred his mother as the captain and his father as the chief engineer. That series turned into a trilogy of mutli-part productions, finishing up in 2012 and spanning more than five and a half hours of screen time!
But George Kayaian wasn’t finished quite yet. In 2013, George began his next ongoing fan series, Star Trek: Antyllus, starring himself as the captain. George also writes and directs the episodes, still using family and friends to play the various roles and help with production. As fan series go, it’s quite noticeably one of the lower budget ones, but those are often the ones with the most heart and passion….and good stories.
George posted his previous episode in November of 2015, a couple of months before FAN FILM FACTOR was launched. In the interim, the new fan film guidelines were released by CBS and Paramount, which necessitated a change of title for the series to Starship Antyllus (fan films are no longer allowed to have “Star Trek” in their titles). Of course, there are other guidelines, as well, dealing with things like funding and episode length. Funding isn’t an issue, as these guys pretty much bankroll themselves. But run time for this episode is 35 minutes, way over the 15-minute limit imposed by the studios. I asked George about that, and here’s what he said:
I’m trying my best to follow the guidelines, and I’m hoping that the grandfather clause still applies since this episode and the next couple were created before the guidelines came into being. It’s just taking me a while to get things posted in this incredibly busy period of time in my life. My series is self-funded, or no budget at all for that matter! And each episode is made with my family and friends with love and no pay. We are a true fan film project. I hope the powers that be appreciate that and realize where I’m coming from. Even my YouTube channel is NOT monetized! Everything I do is for love and creativity.