ARES STUDIOS poster Kickstarter winds up with nearly $10K! (interview with ALEC PETERS)

It took just two weeks, but 258 AXANAR fans and supporters just donated $9,690 to fund a series of Master Display Posters and also, of course, ARES STUDIOS in Lawrenceville, GA. The monthly expenses run about $4,200 ($3,750 of that is rent, the rest utilities). A Patreon brings in about $2,600 a month from an average of 260-270 donors…so the remaining $1,600 is coming out of the pocket of ALEC PETERS himself.

To help make up at least some of the shortfall, Alec launched a new Kickstarter on May 16, offering fans a snazzy full color poster of the USS ARES—a side-view cutaway designed by Axanar graphic designer extraordinaire ALEXANDER RICHARDSON. The original goal was a pretty humble $1,200…with a stretch goal of $3,000 that would unlock a second full-color cutaway poster of the USS Geronimo class and a mystery poster stretch goal at $5,000.

Donations began pouring in almost immediately. The $1,200 goal was passed in less than one hour, the first stretch goal a few hours later, and the second stretch goal within the first week! When the campaign closed yesterday evening, the final total was nearly $10,000! Even I wasn’t expecting such a large amount.

A few folks wondered if this Kickstarter campaign was a violation of the agreement that Alec Peters and Axanar Productions signed with CBS and Paramount to settle their infringement lawsuit and allow Alec to finish Axanar as two 15-minute fan film segments. As I wrote in this blog from a couple of weeks ago, the answer is no. The agreement not to publicly crowd-fund using services like Kickstarter applies only to Axanar Productions and the completion of the Axanar fan film, not to the studio that houses the bridge and captain’s quarters set. In fact, Ares Studios did not even exist at the time the agreement was signed in January of 2017, and so Ares Studios (a not-for-profit corporation in Georgia) cannot legally be considered a signatory to the settlement agreement (barring the existence of time-travel).

I texted Alec last night to congratulate him on his surprising achievement of nearly $10,000 in just two weeks, and our back-and-forth turned into a mini-interview of sorts…

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Why the new ARES STUDIOS Kickstarter is NOT a breach of the AXANAR legal settlement…

Okay, so a lot happened over the past few days in Lawrenceville, GA…the home of ARES STUDIOS. If you read yesterday’s blog, you know that the AXANAR project got a jaw-dropping $10,000 donation last Thursday from a very generous and supportive donor…bringing the total for the current private crowd-funding campaign above $20K. The goal was also adjusted upwards from $30K to $35K to bring in a little money to start work on post production while production (filming) is on hold due to the pandemic.

And while I was writing all of that up in a blog, ALEC PETERS was also launching a brand new Kickstarter to fund production of the first in a series of “Master Systems Display” Posters…the first one (pictured above) featuring a beautiful side cutaway view of the USS Ares. The artwork was lovingly and meticulously created by graphic designer extraordinaire ALEXANDER RICHARDSON of Great Britain. He’s actually created a whole bunch of these images based on the various ships from PRELUDE TO AXANAR. And if the first Kickstarter is successful, additional posters will be offered to fans with the proceeds going to help Ares Studios live long and prosper.

Actually, there’s no need to say “if” the first Kickstarter is successful. With a 15-day duration, the campaign reached the $1,200 goal in less than an hour, and within the first few hours had crossed the first stretch goal threshold of $3,000 (which unlocked a second poster—the USS Geronimo class—which will be sent free to all donors). After 24 hours, the campaign had added another thousand and was now closing in on the second stretch goal of $5,000 (which unlocks a mystery poster).

Not entirely unexpectedly, some less-than-supportive fans caught wind of the Kickstarter and mistakenly assumed that Alec was violating the legal settlement that he had signed with CBS and Paramount in January 2017, ending the infringement lawsuit and allowing Alec to complete two Axanar sequel films (15 minutes each) as long as he did not publicly fund the project using services like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

Since Alec was using Kickstarter for these posters, they surmised, he must be breaking the settlement agreement and would quickly see a cease and desist letter (or worse!) from the lawyers at Loeb & Loeb on behalf of the corporation now known as ViacomCBS.

There are multiple reasons that these folks are wrong, of course. After all, Alec Peters isn’t stupid and did graduate from law school and pass the bar. He’d never risk the Axanar project and potentially his own livelihood just to print up a few hundred posters.

So, yes, this is all on the up and up. But just in case anyone is still dubious, let’s briefly discuss the biggest reasons that Alec is NOT running afoul of his settlement agreement…

ARES STUDIOS IS A SEPARATE LEGAL ENTITY FROM AXANAR PRODUCTIONS

This is, of course, the biggest elephant in the living room. The settlement was signed by Alec Peters on behalf of Axanar Productions. That means that only those two entities can be in breach of that agreement if, in fact, a breach ever happens.

Ares Studios did not exist until seven months after the settlement had been signed and Alec moved himself and the sets from California to Georgia. Therefore, there is no way (barring time travel) for Ares Studios to be considered a signatory of the settlement agreement that was signed before Ares Studios ever existed.

ARES STUDIOS IS NOT ALEC PETERS

Ares Studios is a not-for-profit corporation based in Lawrenceville, GA. Alec Peters is a corporate officer of Ares Studios (one of several) but not considered the corporation itself. Sometimes the Axanar detractors dream of CBS’s lawyers someday “piercing the corporate veil” to determine that Ares Studios is just Alec Peters in disguise or some such. It doesn’t work that way in the real world, however. Don’t take my word for it. Click that link I just provided or just read the following quotation from that article:

“…generally courts have a strong presumption against piercing the corporate veil, and will only do so if there has been serious misconduct.”

Printing a bunch of posters is not “serious misconduct,” folks.

Alec Peters has started a number of small businesses in his time. The legal settlement applies to only ONE of those businesses: Axanar Productions. All other ventures Alec engages in are his business (literally and figuratively).

A STUDIO IS NOT THE SAME AS A FILM

The legal settlement applied only to the production of a fan film called Axanar, the sequel to a previous fan film called Prelude to Axanar. That’s it. It didn’t apply to sets or lights or cameras or green screens or costumes or props or anything other than a finished fan film production.

Ares Studios is a film studio. It’s not nearly as big or impressive as, say, Pinewood Studios an hour’s drive southwest in Fayetteville, GA, but perhaps that’s still a good example to bring up. You see, since it opened in 2013, Pinewood Studios has played host to the filming of eight Marvel blockbusters including Civil War, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the last two Avengers movies. But Pinewood Studios has no ownership in any of those films. They’re all Disney. The Walking Dead is also filmed at Pinewood, but the production company is AMC Studios. Pinewood is just a place they use to film.

The same is true for Axanar and Ares Studios. Ares Studios is just the facility where Axanar is being filmed. Several other productions have also filmed at the studio, including my own production INTERLUDE, a parody sci-fi project from PUAL JENKINS, and a number of student films. After the pandemic, Alec is planning to film even more productions there…and none of them are Axanar.

The legal settlement only forbids Alec from publicly crowd-funding Axanar itself, not from crowd-funding the rent of a studio used for multiple productions besides Axanar.

THE TWO FINANCIALS ARE COMPLETELY SEPARATE

This probably goes without saying, but money given to the Kickstarter for the posters goes to Ares Studios only (minus the cost of printing, packing, and shipping). The money for Axanar is being collected privately via the Ares Digital 3.0 firewall, not using Kickstarter or any other public service. Alec has been careful not to promote the Axanar fundraiser publicly, and so he is abiding in good faith to the specifics of the settlement.

HALF A YEAR WITH NO COMPLAINTS FROM THE STUDIOS

Late last year, Alec received two Notice of Breach letters over a two-month period from David Grossman, one of the attorneys from Loeb & Loeb, CBS’s outside law firm. Alec had actually received about 8 or 9 of these letters since the settlement in 2017, and Alec has always responded, addressing any issues raised and making corrections to his practices when needed. And when the issues raised were either misunderstandings or incorrect, Alec would clarify that the thing(s) they had a problem with weren’t really a problem, explain why…and that would be the end of it.  There has never been any follow up by CBS or Loeb & Loeb about any unresolved issue.

This time, though, Alec felt particularly aggrieved by the letters, especially after the first letter got leaked to a detractor in an attempt to sabotage the first Axanar shoot in October.  In the process of looking into this leak, Alec discovered to his shock that Mr. Grossman had contacted him (Alec) on behalf of CBS without informing CBS that he (Mr. Grossman) was doing so.

So Alec sent a copy of his second response directly to executives at CBS letting them know what their lawyer was up to and pointing out that, with Star Trek: Picard about to launch, it might not be the best time for stories to start appearing in the media about CBS continuing to harass their fans with legal intimidation after resolving a year-long lawsuit amicably.

And to be fair, Alec has been a good Star Trek citizen.  He is never overly critical of CBS on his live streams and podcasts, he loves Picard, and is excited about the new Pike series Strange New Worlds.

Although I can’t read the minds of the folks at what is now ViacomCBS, my guess is that they don’t think that a guy raising money in the tens of thousands of dollars (no longer over a million) to produce a 30-minute fan film is worth the public relations hassle at such a critical time for All Access. And they certainly wouldn’t care about a bunch of posters and a $1,200 Kickstarter.

In the past six months, Alec hasn’t received a single communication from anyone at either Loeb & Loeb or ViacomCBS…and this despite having a Patreon for Ares Studios taking in $2,600/ month and an online store selling patches, mugs, T-shirts, stickers, hats, messenger bags, and a whole bunch of other “swag.” Long story short, if CBS had a problem with Alec publicly funding Ares Studios while privately funding Axanar, I suspect he would have heard more than crickets over the past six months.

THERE’S NO STAR TREK INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN ANYTHING ALEC IS SELLING

Even if ViacomCBS did have some kind of problem with Alec selling swag, it’s hard for them to do anything about it. As I pointed out above, Ares Studios never signed a legal settlement with the studios. And if it’s a case of pulling the infringement alarm again, take a close look at what’s being sold. There’s nothing on any product that says “Star Trek,” nothing that uses any of ViacomCBS’s licensed trademarks, and no intellectual property unique to Star Trek and only Star Trek. Words like “phaser,” “transporter,” and “warp” are too generic to ever be granted copyright protection. And you won’t find unique words like “Klingon” or established starship designs like the USS Enterprise on any Axanar merchandise.

In short, everything that Alec and Ares Studios are selling is 100% original intellectual property that Alec owns the rights to. Anyone arguing differently isn’t looking carefully at the products themselves. This is all completely legit.

So if you think the stuff is cool and worth owning, and you have the money to spare, then shop (or donate) with a clear conscience, my friends…

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aresstudios/uss-ares-master-systems-display-poster

Finishing touches – ALEC PETERS updates AXANAR supporters on the ARES BRIDGE set!

Remember that bridge set that the AXANAR detractors said would never be finished? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint the detractors (no, I’m not), but it’s almost finished, folks! I’d estimate we’re more than 95% of the way there at this point, but that’s just a subjective opinion. The important point is that things have now moved from the “big” stuff to the final little details.

In an update published last week on the Axanar.com website, ALEC PETERS provided a list of things that still need to get done:

  1. Replace two broken upper monitors.
  2. Install rubber matting in section of bridge that needs it.
  3. The edges of the plexis need to all be painted black so light does not bleed around the edges.
  4. Rout out and finish Tactical, Fleet Ops and Pilot consoles and install plexis.
  5. Plexis for Tactical and Fleet Ops upper monitors.
  6. Plexis for controls on Captains Chair.
  7. Replace computers for eye-level monitors with Rasberry Pis to reduce power needs.
  8. Install Plexis for 10 eye-level monitors.
  9. Install lighting above and below consoles.
  10. Green screen or 84? TV for the main viewer.
  11. Get chairs in place for all stations.

The biggest challenge at this point involves power consumption. The studio can supply 200 amps. Obviously, there’s the lights and A/C for the building and whatever is plugged in at the moment. But the real energy drain comes from the various electrical elements of the bridge set itself.

Now, Alec could opt for a solution similar to the one used recently for the TOS sets formerly known as Starbase Studios that were moved to Dogpatch, Arkansas. That facility didn’t have enough capacity to power all the bridge stations simultaneously, so folks filming there would meed to light one station at a time for close-ups and then try to minimize wide shots showing multiple stations at the same time.

This option was not acceptable for Alec. He hadn’t put four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars of both donor money and his own money into completing this incredible set only to be limited to filming it from only tight close-up angles…even though the level of detail provided will make those “hero” shots look pretty awesome!

No, Alec needed a solution where, if he flicks a switch or three, the whole bridge set lights up for filming whatever scene from whatever angle the director needs. But how…?

Continue reading “Finishing touches – ALEC PETERS updates AXANAR supporters on the ARES BRIDGE set!”