GUEST BLOGGER ALEC PETERS: Why Star Trek Continues Violating the Fan Film Guidelines is GOOD for Fan Films! (editorial)

Earlier today, ALEC PETERS posted the following blog on the AxanarProductions.com website.  As it’s very relevant to my editorial blog entry from yesterday—and it makes some excellent points—I asked for and received Alec’s permission to re-post the blog in its entirety here on FAN FILM FACTOR.  (Please note that the opinions expressed and descriptions of events presented are solely those of Alec Peters.)


There is a a lot of talk lately about how Star Trek Continues has decided to openly violate the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines that CBS put in place last year. STC has already violated the guidelines with the release of their last episode, and is making 3 more roughly 50 minute episodes that violate at least 5 Guidelines including length (close to 50 minutes) and the use of Star Trek actors.

I would highly recommend you read Jonathan Lane’s Fan Film Factor article on the matter here:

Fan Film Factor

Jonathan provides a very fair view of the matter, as he likes both Axanar and STC.  And Jonathan calls out Vic for his hypocrisy in attacking Axanar for violating “guidelines” that never existed, while violating the actual written rules himself.  And lets be clear, Star Trek Continues has neither been “grandfathered” in (total nonsense), nor do they have a special deal with CBS.  They are simply stating that “we think CBS will be OK with us doing this.”

But I am going to argue that this is actually good for fan films.

Now let’s be clear, I don’t like Vic.  He has been lying about Axanar since he stormed out of the Prelude to Axanar Premiere we invited him to in 2014.  But I support Star Trek Continues as I do all fan films.  I don’t let my feelings for Vic cloud my feelings for a very worthy fan film series.  Along with Star Trek New Voyages, they have done wonderful things in the fan film genre.

Now what is ironic is that while Vic refuses to help anyone else in fan films, (he famously asked Tommy Kraft for a role in the Horizon sequel while telling Tommy he wouldn’t lift a finger to help him) and has refused to allow others to use his sets (unlike James Cawley or Starbase Studios who generously allowed anyone to come use their sets), Vic’s decision to ignore the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines may well help all fan films moving forward.  How is that?

Well, CBS always hated policing fan films.  Having communicated extensively with with John Van Citters, (Head of Star Trek licensing), Liz Kolodner (VP CBS Licensing) and Bill Burke (VP CBS Consumer Products) about fan films for years, and having advocated extensively for guidelines, I knew that CBS didn’t WANT to have to worry about fan films as they saw it as a huge waste of time.  They were too busy making money to have to worry about a bunch of fans making films.  I once joked with John Van Citters that CBS treated fan films with “benign neglect” and that was good, as fan films did nothing but help the franchise.  And CBS told me over and over how it would be impossible to come up with fan film guidelines because of 50 years of Star Trek contracts and agreements with unions, guilds and actors.

Well, clearly that wasn’t the case, since they were able to come up with Guidelines pretty quickly after they sued Axanar.  And while many feel the guidelines are too severe (e.g. limiting fan films to 15 minutes and no more than two installments) or even possibly illegal (it’s questionable if CBS can tell you who you CAN’T hire for your fan film) – the guidelines are what they are. They provide some general rules to follow if a Star Trek fan film producer doesn’t want to run the risk of getting sued by CBS.

So how does Star Trek Continues violating the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines help all fan films?  Well, it just supports what we at Axanar have known for a while.  Axanar was sued because we didn’t look like a fan film.  Not because we made “profit” (we didn’t) or that we built a “for-profit studio” (we didn’t…STNV did that), both reasons made up by people who don’t know what they are talking about, but because Axanar looked like it came from the studio.

Now CBS doesn’t want to sue its fans again.  The 13 months of the lawsuit was not good for CBS and Paramount from a PR perspective.  And the Guidelines were basically a way to put a lid on the “arms race” of professionalism taking place.

But what we see here is CBS giving Star Trek Continues a pass.  And why?  Because over a year ago, CBS said to me, “No one is going to confuse them with real Star Trek.”   And that is the crux of the matter.  Yes, Star Trek Continues, like Star Trek New Voyages, have excellent production values, with amazing sets, brilliant VFX and visuals, and excellent costuming and props.  They LOOK amazing.  But the acting is mostly amateurs, and that is the main reason fan films don’t have widespread appeal. (By the way, I love Chris Doohan as Scotty in STC.  Simply brilliant).  But ask fans what they think of fan films, and the overwhelming # 1 reason they give for not watching or liking them is the acting.  And this is one of the main reasons I decided to give up the role of Garth in the feature film.

So, as long as you aren’t too good – and stay in familiar territory – it appears you are in a safe harbor.  Want to break the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines? Just don’t make something that CBS perceives as a threat.  There’s no question that from a marketing perspective, fan films are actually very good for the Star Trek franchise, and the powers that be at CBS know this and will allow you to break many of the guidelines as long as you aren’t overly ambitious.  And since no one is really raising money for their productions anymore, I don’t think CBS has to worry about this.  STC is spending the money they had previously raised and why they cut down on the number of episodes they were making.

So, while I won’t advocate a fan film maker break the CBS Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines, I think what Star Trek Continues has shown is that CBS isn’t going to worry about a product that they don’t see as threatening.  And that gives all fan film makers a little breathing room.

Alec

VIC MIGNOGNA can’t have it both ways (editorial)

Last Wednesday, STAR TREK CONTINUES announced that none other than actor JOHN “Q” DE LANCIE is going to guest star in the ninth episode of their fan series, “What Ships Are For,” which will premiere the last weekend of July.

And now I am about to get myself into a shatload of trouble!  But before I jump into the smoldering volcano of fan film frenzy and fanatical fealty, let me state the following up front:

I love Vic Mignogna (not romantically, just as a fan).  Yes, I’ve heard him called every name in the book by people who don’t like him.  I’ve heard vitriolic complaints about Vic’s ego, lack of integrity, and even his acting ability.  (And I’ve heard similar rants about Alec Peters, by the way.)  The fact is: I don’t care!  I think very highly of both of these men…and for very similar reasons.  But for right now, let’s focus on why I love Vic.

Every fan production has one bright sun at the center of its solar system.  And for STC, that has always been Vic Mignogna.  He’s a leader and inspiration to his production team.  He makes things happen.  He has set the tone for an endeavor where everyone gives 200% and does it all with smiles while having a blast.  You can see it in their behind-the-scenes videos, and I’ve seen it in person at cons I’ve attended where the STC cast is in attendance…with Vic right there in the middle of the enthusiasm.

I also think Vic does a fantastic job being James T. Kirk.  Many have attempted the role—from the late/great John Belushi to Jim Carey and even Carol Burnett to fan film actors James Cawley and Brian Gross.  Each has brought something different and unique to the character.  So before any of you criticize Vic Mignogna for his performance, imagine yourself trying to portray the legendary captain of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 and tell me if you could do any better.  As far as I’m concerned, Vic nails it.

So regardless of everything else I am about to say in this blog editorial, let me state for the record that I am a big fan of Vic Mignogna and a HUGE fan of (and proud donor to) Star Trek Continues.

And with that, it’s time for Jonathan to jump into the volcano…

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AXANAR SETS get a CORPORATE SPONSOR… and a NAME for their NEW STUDIO!!!

ALEC PETERS has just announced that his new studio in Lawrenceville, GA now has a corporate sponsor that has purchased naming rights.  So allow me to introduce… OWC STUDIOS!!!

For anyone who listened to Axanar Podcast #41 last December, you’re already aware that OWC Digital (OWC stands for Other World Computing) is Axanar‘s second largest single contributor (behind Alec Peters himself), having donated well over $20,000 in computer hardware and software for director/editor Robert Meyer Burnett to store all the digital footage and edit it.  Their equipment was already used to edit Prelude to Axanar and the Vulcan scene.

To give you an idea of how large high-quality digital video files can be, most of us can go to Best Buy and purchase a consumer hard drive with up to four terabytes (a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes).  Axanar was given a drive with 64 terabytes…and it’s already half-full!

And when you’re dealing with files that are so large, it’s not enough to simply have a big hard drive; you need software to make sure it can access and edit those files quickly and smoothly without crashing or taking seven hours to open a file.  Those are the kinds of solutions that OWC Digital provides for Hollywood production companies and others in related industries.

OWC Digital is a privately-held company with offices in Woodstock, IL (just northwest of Chicago) and Austin, TX.  According to figures I was able to find on the Internet, in 2011, they had sales revenue of $88.3 million with 137 employees.  The company was on the Inc. magazine 5000 “Fastest-Growing Privately Owned Companies” and “Computer and Electronics Top 100” lists from 2007 through 2013.

The founder and CEO of the company is Larry O’Connor, who is a big fan of the Axanar project.  Back in 1988, at age 14, Larry started up LRO Enterprises selling computer memory chips via America Online.  In 1994, the company had grown to fill 6,500 square feet of office space and was renamed Other World Computing (OWC).  By 2008, OWC had grown to fill a 37,000 square foot space and, a year later, had installed a wind turbine that generated twice the electricity that OWC needed to run their facility…making OWC the first technology manufacturer/ distributor in the U.S. to become totally on-site wind powered.  Pretty cool, huh?

So now OWC has partnered up with Alec Peters and his new production company Rocketworx to sponsor a studio just outside of Atlanta dedicated to producing fan film and independent sci-fi projects.  This is the press release that I just received announcing the deal…

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AXANAR sets arrive in GEORGIA!

The Ares has landed.

On Saturday, nearly THIRTY(!!!) volunteers showed up at the new location for AXANAR PRODUCTIONS in Lawrenceville, GA to help unload three super-sized moving trucks carrying the amazing sets that were originally constructed to be used in the full-length Axanar fan film.  And even though that full-length film has been reduced in scope to two 15-minute episodes (agreed to in the legal settlement) and will now be produced in mocumentary style like Prelude to Axanar, those sets are still VERY nice and VERY usable by other fan films and sci-fi productions.  And so they’ve now been moved to a much less expensive location from their previous home at Industry Studios in Valencia, CA.

ALEC PETERS posted two live video segments to Facebook on Saturday, which I’ve compiled at the end of this blog entry for anyone who is curious to see what the move-in looked like.    He also provided some interesting tidbits of information.  And if you don’t feel like watching a 9-minute video, here’s a short summary of what he covered…

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J.G. HERTZLER discusses AXANAR and ALEC PETERS!

Well, it’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for news about AXANAR, as literally every other blog entry I’ve posted over the past 12 days has involved that particular fan production in some way.  So heck, let’s keep the momentum going for one more day!

But seriously, folks, there’s an interesting bit of news about Axanar coming from Atlanta…but NOT from the new studio in Lawrenceville.  Instead, it happened during a panel yesterday at Treklanta, a small but well-attended annual Star Trek convention in the Atlanta area.  And the panel featured J.G. Hertzler, who famously played General Martok on Deep Space Nine (along with a few other Trek roles).  But his most recent Trek-related appearance came playing the character of Samuel Travis in the fan film Prelude to Axanar.

After Tony Todd’s public announcement that he had chosen to part ways with Axanar and not appear in the feature fan film after his mesmerizing performance as Admiral Marcus Ramirez in Prelude to Axanar, some were wondering if any of the cast and crew would be sticking with ALEC PETERS to continue their participation.  The late RICHARD HATCH was always very supportive of the project and of Alec himself, but with Richard’s recent passing, fans wondered if any of the former cast members would be making a return for the 2-part sequel allowed by the settlement.

Now, I knew that J.G. Hertzler and Gary Graham were both interested in reprising their roles, as I spoke with both last summer in Las Vegas.  But I’m just one blogger-guy, and those weren’t on-the-record interviews, just casual conversations at their tables in the autograph room.

But now, we’ve got the first public indication that at least one of those actors is still very much supportive of both the project and of Alec Peters himself.  Yesterday, J.G. Hertzler took time during his panel discussion to specifically address this beleaguered fan film…

Hoist with his own PICARD? (editorial)

Earlier this week, someone played a practical joke on CARLOS PEDRAZA of axamonitor.com.  Many think it was ALEC PETERS or perhaps one of his associates (not me, people!), although it’s looking like a “he said/she said” situation.

In short, here’s what we know happened…

Axanar Productions is moving to a new studio in Atlanta.  Carlos Pedraza, for some reason, was pushing hard for any information he could find out about the new facility.  I was sent screen captures of the following two Facebook posts from Carlos, although there may have been more…

I’m not sure why it was so crucial for Carlos to get information about the new studio, but that’s not really important.  What is important is that, apparently, he found a “mole” willing to funnel him information from Alec Peters (despite Alec’s request to volunteers not to share information yet about the new facility).

I’ve since been told by a few detractors in comments posted to Fan Film Factor that the name of this mole is Brian Hartsfield, and on Wednesday at 1:46PM, he received an e-mail (allegedly) from Alec Peters saying the following…

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ALEC PETERS discusses the new ATLANTA location for AXANAR! (interview)

Yesterday, I was told by several folks to look at this posting from CARLOS PEDRAZA’s Axanamonitor.com blog site. In it, he had had the “scoop” on where the new AXANAR PRODUCTIONS studio would be located, how big it was, the amenities it offered and didn’t offer, and even photos of the outside and inside.

There was only one problem: that WASN’T the new studio.  It wasn’t the right building; it wasn’t even the right city!  Carlos listed the new location as Gainesville, GA: “…about 55 miles northeast of Atlanta, actually a bit closer to the South Carolina border than to Georgia’s capital.”

Now, I’m not sure where Carlos got his information from, but for the last two weeks, I’ve been preparing an interview with ALEC PETERS about the new Atlanta facility, and I already had a whole bunch of information and photos…and they didn’t match what Carlos had posted at all.  This seemed, to me at least, both curious and a bit troubling.  One of us had the wrong information…and I really hoped it wasn’t me!

So I contacted Alec.  I asked him if he’d made any last-minute changes to the location of the space that he’d be leasing.  He said no, he was still leasing the same place—the lease was signed, sealed, and delivered—and no, it was not the same one that Carlos was reporting on Axamonitor.com.

Then I asked Alec if he would mind moving up our interview so I could get the correct information disseminated before people started thinking that Axanar was moving into some dumpy building in an economically depressed town more than an hour away from Atlanta.

DON’T BE FOOLED!!! This building shown on the Axanonitor blog site is NOT the building that Axanar Productions will be moving to. The correct image is the red brick building featured at the top of this web page.

Originally, I was planning to publish my interview with Alec sometime next week when the moving trucks are supposed to arrive.  But I heard that Alec has a whole slew of local volunteers lined up to help unload the trucks and unpack things, and to be honest, I was worried that some of the volunteers might get confused and think they’d accidentally shown up at the wrong building…as the one in Carlos’ photo isn’t even the right color!

Anyway, Alec agreed to expedite his answers to my interview questions, and I just received them. So here is the CORRECT information about the new facility in Atlanta…

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A FAREWELL TOUR of INDUSTRY STUDIOS! (editorial and video)

This past Saturday, my son Jayden and I drove to Industry Studios in Valencia to help pack up the Axanar Productions items for a move east to a new production facility in Atlanta, GA.

It was a sad day for me because I really loved Industry Studios.  I’d loved watching it evolve from a stark, gutted building with no individual offices and a huge, echoing warehouse with loud concrete floors…into what looked like (to my eyes, at least) a high-end Hollywood studio and sound stage.

Jayden and I had watched for months with excitement as piles of stacked wood were cut, molded, and sculpted by industry professionals, slowly morphing into a starship bridge, a turbolift, a transporter, captain’s quarters, and a Klingon bridge.

Even though my visits weren’t particularly frequent, I still felt as though I were a part of Ares Studios (later renamed Industry Studios)—helping to fund it, volunteering to do everything from carrying carpet rolls up the stairs to assembling IKEA furniture, and even sorting and packing perks.  I watched all the work that went into making the dream of a studio dedicated to Star Trek fan film-making (not just Axanar) grow and take shape from basically nothing into a facility that fans could be truly proud of.

I can already hear the detractors typing feverishly about the hubris of starting a “for profit” studio based on donations obtained from unapproved use of copyrighted material owned by a Hollywood studio.  And I’m sure others out there are already halfway done with comments about the folly of signing a 3-year lease on a location with a $12,000 monthly rent when all Alec Peters ever needed to do was make a simple fan film, not build a full sound stage!

All are fair points when viewed with 20/20 hindsight—and all are arguments made and countered hundreds of times over.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.  Instead, I want to give you a tour of Industry Studios…

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ALEC PETERS answers READER questions about the AXANAR FINANCIALS!

Last month, I published a blog where I provided a copy of the AXANAR financials, along with reporting on the go-forward plans for AXANAR PRODUCTIONS and INDUSTRY STUDIOS.  Obviously, those plans have changed quite a bit over the past few weeks—as Tuesday’s blog pointed out—but the financials remain constant because they’re now a matter of public record.

In that same blog from last month, I also invited readers to submit their own questions for Alec via the comments section and received dozens of inquiries.  It was a mix of questions from supporters and detractors, some about the financials and some about other things, but I submitted every one to ALEC PETERS, requesting that he try to respond to as many participants as he could.

It’s been a busy few weeks to be certain (with the Indiegogo campaign and finding new studio space in Atlanta).  But a few days ago, Alec submitted his answers back to me.  And so, without further ado, let’s see what he had to say…

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AXANAR PRODUCTIONS is moving its sets to ATLANTA!

As I reported previously, ALEC PETERS of AXANAR PRODUCTIONS worked out a deal with his landlord that was unexpectedly positive in that it allowed him to vacate the Valencia, CA studio (where he has been paying $12,000/month in rent) eight months early with no financial or legal penalties. And the landlord has even offered some partial reimbursement for the donor funds that were used to improve the facility and convert the warehouse into a studio and sound stage.  Industry Studios will continue, and Axanar Productions will still be allowed to film in it, but the landlord will now be in charge, and the sets will need to be removed.

Ah, the sets.  Nearly complete, they really are quite gorgeous and very well constructed.  They are also quite large and can’t simply be stored in someone’s living room or garage.  So Alec has been forced to find another home for them, and apparently, that home has been found in Atlanta, GA.

Axanar Productions just released the following statement to donors…

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