At the end of Part 2, I said that, in order to move forward with our goal of getting CBS and Paramount to revisit and revise the fan film guidelines, some of us more–shall we say–passionate fans are going to have to face a very unpleasant, inconvenient truth. And here it is:
CBS owns Star Trek.
I’m sorry, they just do. And yes, I’ve heard all the arguments that it was the FANS who saved Star Trek and supported it all these years. It was the FANS who spent billions of dollars keeping the franchise commercially viable, watching it on TV and in movie theaters, and buying an endless parade of licensed merchandise. We fans MADE Star Trek what it is today!
You know who else made Star Trek what it is today?
TOMMY KRAFT became the first Star Trek fan filmmaker to be “shut down” in the period after CBS and Paramount filed their lawsuit against Axanar. In February of 2016, Tommy released the amazing STAR TREK: HORIZON, a 104-minute Star Trek fan film produced quite literally in Tommy’s parents’ basement for a production budget of only $28,000. The film was set in the era of Star Trek: Enterprise during the Romulan War and featured the crew of the USS Discovery NX-04.
Although Tommy initially said there would be no Horizon sequel, the exuberant fan response led him to reconsider, and by April, Tommy was planning to launch a new Kickstarter to fund Federation Rising, once again featuring the crew of the USS Discovery NX-04. In hindsight, we now know that Tommy had unknowingly chosen a Starfleet vessel with the same name as the upcoming new Star Trek television series. But all we knew back then was that Tommy was contacted by CBS days before the launch of his Kickstarter campaign and told in no uncertain terms that they would strongly advise him against moving forward in any way with his project. They weren’t belligerent or threatening; they were simply reaching out proactively…in much the same way they did NOT do with Axanar. Hoping to avoid the same fate as that other fan film project that he had worked on (yep, Tommy was on the production team for Prelude to Axanar), Tommy opted to shut down his project before it could even get to the launch pad. You can read Tommy’s statement here.
Instead, Tommy and his production partner, Ryan Webber, decided to create an original non-Star Trek production titled PROJECT DISCOVERY, examining mankind’s earliest forays into manned interplanetary spaceflight in the mid-21st century. Tommy and Ryan launched a Kickstarter campaign in late April with a 2-month time frame and an ambitious goal of $250,000. Although they got off to a strong start, just short of a month into the campaign, pledges had stalled in the $17,000 range. Reluctantly, Tommy and Ryan canceled the Kickstarter and decided to pursue other projects.
Tommy moved onto a new non-Trek film production called RUNAWAY. And this time, not only was he successful with his Kickstarter, he has knocked the project out of the ballpark!
As reported a week ago, STAR TREK CONTINUES has announced a release date for its eighth episode, “Still Treads the Shadow,” of April 1 at Fan Expo Dallas. STC also confirmed that they will release three additional episodes after that, completing their run with eleven episodes total (two fewer than their originally-planned thirteen episodes).
These announcements led to some major speculation among fans (especially here on FAN FILM FACTOR and on the SMALL ACCESS Facebook page) wondering how long the episode will be, how are they getting around the guidelines, have they been in contact with CBS and gotten any kind of permission, etc.
Yesterday, STC sent out a newsletter to donors (yep, I got mine!) that included a spotlight on STC guest star Rekha Sharma (of the new Battlestar Galactica, who will be appearing in this upcoming STC episode) as well as some frequently asked questions and answers about their remaining episodes.
Before I publish the STC Q&A, I want to warn any Axanar supporters reading this that, yes, they include a bit of a dig in their fifth answer. As many fans are aware, there is no love lost between Vic Mignogna of STC and Alec Peters of Axanar (total understatement!). And in the “I hit Krako, Krako hits Teppo, Teppo hits me…” traditions of fine fan film feuding, we have yet another hit.
As a proud backer of both series who loves watching Vic play Kirk and Alec play Garth, I personally find the mutual animosity distasteful (whichever of them it comes from). And as a donor to STC, I could have done without the inclusion of the Axa-negativity in the statements. It wasn’t necessary to say it like they did and just serves to prolong the feud another day/week/month. But it’s their production, their newsletter, and their chip on the shoulder.
I do dream of a day when we can all just get along and celebrate each others’ successes. Maybe someday. But I will stop editorializing now. Just know that, yes, the dig is in there. Yes, you’re all welcome to light up my comments section with yet another flame war (they’re kinda like tribbles, aren’t they?). But no, I’m not going to participate. I love BOTH productions, and I’m ROOTING for both productions. I invite those of you who can get past the resentment and anger to join me in not exploding yet again. It requires a LOT less energy and doesn’t raise your blood pressure nearly as much.
All right, getting down from my soapbox now and handling the mic over to STC…
Last time, we chatted with Ray Tesi about one of the newest fan projects, Starship Republic. Filmed at Starbase Studios before it recently moved from Oklahoma City to Arkansas, the fan production just released a short vignette and launched an Indiegogo campaign with a $16,000 goal.
One of the most intriguing things about Starship Republic is the fact that show-runner Ray Tesi actually reached out to John Van Citters of CBS Licensing to review their crowd-funding campaign and give feedback on whether or not there was any problem with them distributing unlicensed perks…both physical and digital. And so far, CBS sees no issues with Republic doing just that.
We also learned a little about what will make Starship Republic unique…specifically aiming for a look and feel that reflects more modern cinematic techniques rather than trying to faithfully recreate the style of the 1960’s era original series episodes.
And now it’s time to conclude our interview with Ray as we learn more about how the production came to be, how they found their cast, what it was like to actually produce the project, and what’s in store for the future…
Yesterday, I reported that the new Deep Space Nine documentary WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND had just crossed the $400,000 milestone on their Indiegogo campaign (with 9 days left). This amount is well more than double their original goal of $150,000 and has allowed them to reach certain stretch goals. Among these are a longer running length (from 60 to 90+ minutes), an extended writers room feature, original music performed by an orchestra, and new 3D graphics and animations.
Their next goal is $425,000 (allowing for more interviews), but there was also a $500,000 stretch goal that was left a mystery…at least when I wrote yesterday’s blog entry. Now the veil has been lifted and the mysterious half-million-dollar stretch goal revealed:
When Star Trek: The Next Generation was remastered into high-definition (HD), it took several years and cost millions of dollars. Original film negatives were meticulously re-edited while entirely new VFX sequences were modeled and rendered by computer. But in the end, sales of the remastered ST:TNG Blu-rays were disappointing (to say the least), leaving CBS and Paramount quite hesitant about ever trying to remaster DS9.
Now, before anyone starts drooling about this Indiegogo campaign resulting in a complete HD-remastered Blu-ray collection of all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, that’s not going to happen…and certainly not for a measly $75,000. But their next stretch goal level will potentially allow the producers to remaster the DS9 clips that they’ll be showing during the documentary. This involves getting access to the original archival masters and original film elements from the Deep Space Nine series. The documentary team announced yesterday that they have, in fact, officially been in talks with CBS Television Studios to do just that.
And if they manage to hit or surpass $500,000 in the next 8 days (right now, they stand at $413, 374–so it’s certainly within reach!–click HERE to donate), they will be able to use that footage along with CGI effects rendered by DS9 VFX alum Doug Drexler to give fans a taste of what DS9 could look like if it were ever to be remastered.
And it might look something like this video (created by Trekcore.com):
When last we checked in on the new Deep Space Nine documentary WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND, their Indiegogo campaign had kicked off with an initial goal of $150,000 and zoomed past that in less than 24 hours to $170,000 with 29 days still to go!
Well, now there’s just 9 days left to go, and the project has just crossed the $400,000 milestone!!! This has allowed them to reach a couple of exciting stretch goals…
CROSSING $250,000 –
Allowed them to extend the length from 60 to 90+ minutes and add in a whole bunch of new, cool 3D graphics and animations.
Crossing $350,000 –
Allowed them to now have an original score and hire a live orchestra to perform it. It will also allow them to extend their “Writer’s Room” feature where the original DS9 writers will reunite to brainstorm a story-arc and episode ideas for what a hypothetical season eight would have looked like.
And if they cross $425,000 (almost a certainty at this point!) –
They will be able to film additional round-table interviews with DS9 crew members and fans. Oh, and it will unlock an additional bonus item for donors, as well.
And if they reach a half million dollars??? Well, we don’t know yet, but the milestone is there on the Stretch Goal graphic above. (Just click to enlarge it.)
You’ve still got 10 days to make a donation of your own (or increase the one you’ve already made) to show CBS that DS9 is truly loved by us fans:
If you read Part 1, you know that I want to keep fighting for a change to the fan film guidelines issued last June by CBS and Paramount. I’m not ready to give up.
You might remember that when those guidelines were first announced, they were met with cries of panic that the world of Star Trek fan films was doomed. These guidelines would eliminate, destroy, even obliterate fan films. (Yep, I used all of those words.)
And you know what? I was wrong.
Rather than killing the medium of Star Trek fan films, the guidelines didn’t seem to have had much of a curtailing effect at all. In fact, do you know how many Star Trek fan films have been released in the eight months SINCE the guidelines were announced last June?
It’s been quite a while since fans and donors got an update fromSTAR TREK CONTINUES. Despite many, many new posts (sometimes more than one a day!) on their Facebook page, there has been precious little news on the plans for Star Trek Continues now that the fan film guidelines are in place. After all, with guidelines saying that a Star Trek fan film can’t contain the words “Star Trek” in the title, must be less than 15 minutes in length and a maximum of a 2-parter (for 30 minutes total), and cannot be a continuing series, it seemed like Star Trek Continues couldn’t…well…continue without running afoul of multiple guidelines.
As I reported here last August, STC writer/director/co-producer JAMES KERWIN had told me at Creation’s 50th Anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas that what CBS and Paramount have said is if you follow all of these guidelines, then they will not sue you. But they do NOT say that if you don’t follow these guidelines, then they will sue you. There is a big distinction there.
James also told me during our talk that STC wanted to spend the remainder of their crowd-funding resources to film their final four episodes to wrap up the series. They hoped that their good relationship with CBS might result in the studio allowing the fan series to complete its run. The plan for STC had always been to do a limited number of episodes (originally planned for 12 or 13–now the total will be 11)…as star and show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA himself said that he won’t be able to play a 37-year-old Captain Kirk forever. (The Internet reports Vic’s current age as 54.)
But since last August, updates have been scarce from STC…until now, that is. They just published a MAJOR announcement confirming their intention to release the last four episodes of the series (already filmed and in post-production) and providing a premiere date for their eighth episode, “Still Treads the Shadow.”
Now, this is intriguing! If you look about half-way down the fan film guidelines to the second-to-last point under #6, you find the following:
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.
That seems pretty straightforward. If you want to give away any perks, they have to be licensed Star Trek merchandise. You can’t give any patches or T-shirts or signed scripts or posters or anything related to your fan production in exchange for donations…at least if you want to make sure you aren’t sued or sent a cease and desist letter by CBS and Paramount.
So how was it that STARSHIP REPUBLIC, the newest fan film to launch a crowd-funding campaign (and the first to do so since the Axanar settlement), was offering a whole set of perks? Sure, most perks were digital, but there were also physical posters in the mix (like the two images shown above).
Well, it turns out that they simply asked CBS for permission–and they got it! Well, kinda…
When CBS and Paramount jointly announced their new fan film guidelines last June, most of us in the fan production community (both filmmakers and viewers) were horrified, furious, indignant, grief-stricken, and depressingly convinced that these ten Draconian rules would spell the end of world for Star Trek fan films as we knew them.
And few out there felt more strongly about this than yours truly! I used words like “carnage,” “eliminate,” and “destroy.” I proclaimed in a blog I posted on June 23, 2016:
In short, these new guidelines would obliterate the majority of fan films…
And I quickly moved to set up a new protest campaign, Project: SMALL ACCESS, endeavoring to use the threat of fewer subscriptions to CBS’s new All Access paid video streaming service to try to encourage the studio(s) to revise and revisit these overly-restrictive guidelines.
SMALL ACCESS quickly grew to over a thousand members in a group on Facebook, and we examined the guidelines one-by-one. Through polling and discussions, we determined that about half of the guidelines were actually just fine as they were and didn’t cause much angst. Another quarter of them could benefit from a little tweaking of the phrasing to explain them better. And the final quarter of them, well, they pretty much pissed most of us off completely.
Eventually, we created a 38-page Focus Group Report, and members mailed 115 copies to various executives at both studios. Yes, it was a stunt, and no, it didn’t work. Eight months later, the guidelines are still in place, and the studios don’t seem to be inclined to make any changes.
So what in the name of James Tiberius Kirk do we do now?