DISCOVERY vs. AXANAR – choose “your” KLINGON WAR! (editorial / review)

WARNING – SPOILERS!!!  Lots and lots and lots of SPOILERS!!!


I really WANTED to like Star Trek: Discovery.  And to be honest, some things I actually DID like.  Sonequa Martin-Green put in a great performance playing the character of Commander Michael Burnham, and I loved the dynamic of seeing two women interacting as captain and first officer of a starship…and neither was caucasian!  (If only both characters could have continued beyond two episodes, but alas, we’ll soon be back to a captain who’s a white male.  Oh well, at least we’ve still got a black female lead.)

I even really liked some of the scenes…like when Burnham talks the ship’s computer into letting her out of the brig before power goes out.  But in the end, I just really didn’t enjoy the show overall—at least the first two episodes.  It was so dark (visually and emotionally), and I just couldn’t grab onto that uplifting feeling I used to get when watching Star Trek.  This new show felt so weighed down to me that even when things were moving quickly, they still seemed somehow slow and heavy.  A couple of times during those Klingon scenes with the never-ending subtitles, I nearly dozed off!

And it wasn’t even the Klingon actors’ fault they were so boring.  The decision to completely redesign the look of the Klingons not only alienated many long-time Trek fans, but it made it virtually impossible for those actors to deliver decent performances.

Imagine if you were asked to give a compelling performance while wearing a medieval suit of knight’s armor with the face-plate covering every part of your face except your mouth. You can barely move your head except a little side to side—very little!—and your arms won’t go any higher than your chest. You can’t even bend your elbows!  And then, before you go in front of the camera, you realize that all of your lines are in Polish…and your don’t speak Polish!  Sounds like an actor’s worst nightmare, right?  Well, that was pretty much the assignment these unfortunate Klingons were given.

And as I was considering this, I began to imagine what Discovery would have been like had they NOT redesigned the Klingons…or the Starfleet uniforms…or made the starships into barely-recognizable whatever-they-were…or had a dark bridge covered with lens flares.  What would Discovery have looked like then?

And then I realized: it would have looked a lot like Axanar

Continue reading “DISCOVERY vs. AXANAR – choose “your” KLINGON WAR! (editorial / review)”

Great news for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY…or is it? (news and editorial, part 2)

Rather than writing a review of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (that’s coming tomorrow), I decided to take a look at the bigger picture.  Were the record sign-ups right after the premiere really “big news” or simply the inevitable result of hundreds of millions of dollars in production and advertising/marketing budgets?  Also, what does it tell us that CBS remains so reluctant to provide hard numbers about how many people actually subscribed last night?

As I said in yesterday’s blog, my goal here is NOT to try to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory for CBS.  I’m actually very happy that Star Trek: Discovery did so well in both ratings and sign-ups.  This means that the worst-case scenario—CBS simply assumes that Star Trek has run its course and is no longer a viable sci-fi franchise—has been avoided.  Nearly 10 million people watched the free network TV premiere on Sunday night.  So anyone accusing me of sour grapes is wrong.  Wet blanket, yes.  Sour grapes, no.

My desire, to be honest, is to simply take a wider look at this new series…beyond just Sunday night or this one week.  Now that the horse is fast out of the starting gate, what are the challenges facing Star Trek: Discovery in terms of keeping and growing its viewership?  Obviously, CBS is in a unique situation due to its decision to require viewers to pay to see episodes of the new series.  How does that affect their goal of attracting and keeping viewers?

Continue reading “Great news for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY…or is it? (news and editorial, part 2)”

Great news for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY…or is it? (news and editorial, part 1)

The news seems to be REALLY great for the premiere of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY.  According to a press release quickly and enthusiastically circulated by an exuberant CBS, the premiere of the newest Star Trek TV series has resulted in record-breaking sign-ups for the ALL ACCESS streaming service:

Tonight’s premiere of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY on CBS All Access, the CBS Television Network’s digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service, broke a new record for subscriber sign-ups in a single day, eclipsing the previous record held by the 2017 GRAMMY Awards®.

In addition to its single day subscriber sign-up record, CBS All Access experienced its best week and month ever for sign-ups due to the launch of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, the fall kick-off of the NFL ON CBS on the service’s live local feeds and the season finale of BIG BROTHER and the BIG BROTHER LIVE FEEDS.

Also, the free premiere on the regular CBS network was watched by 9.6 million people.

But before people start gulping down too much champagne (although there is certainly reason for celebration), I’d like to mention a few things that CBS and fans should be noting.

Now, I realize this blog is going to sound like a wet blanket, but please make no mistake: I am ABSOLUTELY, SINCERELY HAPPY that so many people liked the new show!  (I personally wasn’t thrilled with it, although I do plan to watch more episodes eventually.)

But I’m also a business strategist trained to look at multiple aspects of a situation.  As I did in my previous blog about Star Trek: Discovery, I want to take a look at the whole picture…which is, of course, impacted significantly by CBS’s decision to offer their new Star Trek series exclusively as a paid streaming video-on-demand service.

So yes, the news is definitely good for CBS.  But it might be a little too soon to consider the game won…

Continue reading “Great news for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY…or is it? (news and editorial, part 1)”

Did CBS doom STAR TREK: DISCOVERY by putting it on ALL ACCESS? (editorial, part 2)

In yesterday’s blog, while many Star Trek fans are debating uniforms, starships, bridge lighting, hairless Klingons, and adopted human sisters, I decided to look at a much more fundamental question regarding the new Star Trek: Discovery television series.  Was it a good or bad business decision by CBS to make the new show available (at least in the U.S) exclusively via subscription to their ALL ACCESS streaming service?

We already looked at CBS’s decision to target the series to a younger audience, based on a statement made be CBS President and CEO Les Moonves back in May.  This means that the older, more loyal Star Trek fans, “yesterday’s fan-base” as I call them, aren’t the primary target…which is kinda why Discovery isn’t sweating the details in hewing to established Star Trek canon.

Instead, CBS is focusing their attention and hopes on younger viewers who are more likely to subscribe to a brand new streaming video on demand (SVOD) service than the older fans.

Ah, but therein lies the rub!

These younger viewers don’t have an existing, decades-long relationship with Star Trek.  They weren’t watching TOS when it first aired in the 1960s or grew up with it in the 1970s.  They didn’t even watch TNG in the 1980s and 1990s as kids.  All those folks are already pushing 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70!)  CBS is targeting viewers in their 30s or even 20s.  By the time these younger viewers were old enough to watch Star Trek, the ratings for the show had already plummeted and few people were watching at all.

In other words, the vast majority of these young viewers aren’t really Star Trek “fans.”  To them, Discovery is more like a new science fiction show based on an old series that their parents or grandparents used to watch…except this version has cool sets, dazzling VFX, action, adventure, and a TV-MA rating.  And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  I don’t fault CBS for choosing to make the new series young and hip.

But they made another choice to put the new series exclusively on the ALL ACCESS subscription service here in the U.S.  And today, I want to look at some of the consequences of that decision—not from the perspective of an angry fan (which I’m not; I actually want the new series to succeed), but as a business analyst.

Continue reading “Did CBS doom STAR TREK: DISCOVERY by putting it on ALL ACCESS? (editorial, part 2)”

Did CBS doom STAR TREK: DISCOVERY by putting it on ALL ACCESS? (editorial, part 1)

(NOTE FROM JONATHAN – I’ve decided to take a two-part break from fan films to answer the question I keep getting asked: “What do you think about the new Star Trek series that’s coming out?”)

Many Trek fans are hotly debating whether or not it was the right move to “modernize” the production design of the new STAR TREK: DISCOVERY series and put a TV-MA rating on it.  I’ve read passionate posts going back and forth arguing about the new uniform styles not matching those worn by Captain Pike in “The Cage” back in 1965; how the “hairless” Klingons don’t look like the ones we’ve seen on TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise; and why after 50 years we’re only just now finding out that Spock had an adopted human sister!

In my opinion, none of that is the problem.  That’s not where I think CBS has steered the wrong courae, and that’s not what I’ll be discussing in this blog.  I’m actually planning to check out Discovery at some point down the line.  But am I the exception or the rule?

I honestly think I’m going to be the exception, and that CBS made an unwise decision to offer their new series solely through their ALL ACCESS subscription service (at least here in the U.S.).

It’s not that Trek and sci-fi fans aren’t ready for CBS ALL ACCESS—it’s that ALL ACCESS might not quite be ready for the fans!

Let’s discuss…

Continue reading “Did CBS doom STAR TREK: DISCOVERY by putting it on ALL ACCESS? (editorial, part 1)”

JAMES CAWLEY announces the new STAR TREK FILM ACADEMY! (news and editorial)

This is what I get for going to Colorado instead of Las Vegas!  I wind up taking an antique train ride through the Rocky Mountains to visit an old silver mine with my son and my brother and his family…while at the same time, JAMES CAWLEY makes a HUGE announcement about fan films and CBS licensing!

It’s amazing the kind of cell coverage you get on a train in the middle of mountain wilderness, but it seemed like everyone was coming to me for answers about Saturday morning’s big news from the creator of STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES and the officially licensed Star Trek Set Tour in the small and lovely town of Ticonderoga, New York.

Of course, I had no answers.  Yes, I knew the announcement was coming a few days earlier and that it involved James Cawley and his sets—but I didn’t know the details.  My news Saturday came from Carlos Pedraza’s Axamonitor blog site and TrekMovie.com.  And for those that haven’t heard yet, here’s the basic info…

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Star Trek/Dr. Seuss “Mash-Up” creators received a CEASE & DESIST letter from CBS!

Is CBS switching back from copyright infringement lawsuits to cease & desist letters?  It’s hard to read the tea leaves when it comes to a multi-billion dollar corporation, but we may have just gotten a clue.

The year 2016 was a turbulent and uncertain time for the world of Star Trek fan films.  It began with a copyright infringement lawsuit against Alec Peters and AXANAR, and then by the summer, fans were presented with a series of fan film guidelines listing the things fans were and were not allowed to do if they wanted to avoid legal action on the part of CBS and Paramount.

But were lawsuits now the “new normal”?  Would fan films that violated the guidelines find themselves dragged into court for expensive litigation?  The studios weren’t saying.  For many years, most fan film producers had (perhaps naively) assumed that the worst that would happen would be they’d get a call (or letter or e-mail) from the studios saying, “Stop what you’re doing.”  Even Alec Peters himself figured he’d probably get a call long before ever being served with a multi-million dollar lawsuit.  Man, was he wrong!

Ironically, had the studios simply sent Alec a cease & desist letter instead of suing, they could have saved themselves nearly a million dollars in attorneys fees and 12 months of polarizing publicity with likely a similar result of a scaled-down Axanar.  But that’s a “what if” scenario that we’ll never see played out in this universe.

But here’s a question: did CBS’s and Paramount’s experience with the year-long Axanar lawsuit leave a bad enough taste in the studio execs’ mouths that they’ve decided to dial things back from battlestations to just yellow alert?  Are the studios ready to return to good ol’ fashioned cease & desist letters to get the job done?

The answer to this question might come from another copyright infringement lawsuit going on right now involving Star Trek…and Dr. Seuss!

Continue reading “Star Trek/Dr. Seuss “Mash-Up” creators received a CEASE & DESIST letter from CBS!”

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…

Continue reading “VIC MIGNOGNA can’t have it both ways (editorial)”

SMALL ACCESS HeadTalker – once more…with FEELING!

Unlike the USS Enterprise in Star Trek II, no, we didn’t make it.  Our attempt to sign up 500 social media accounts to all automatically post/tweet the same message at the same moment last Tuesday came up short with only 109 participants.

But hey, live and learn, right?  Or how about…if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  We’re doing a little but of both!

My Chief Social Media Officer (yeah, that’s kind of a thing), Commander LEE QUESSENBERRY, has just launched a NEW HeadTalker campaign.  This one has a much less lofty goal of only 50 participants…and we’re already nearly there with 43!  We can, of course, go over 50, and the more the merrier!  And we’ve still got 15 days left!!

There’s a couple of other changes you might notice.  First, the name of the campaign is now “United For Star Trek Fanfilms“.  That works in THREE important elements of our message.  Obviously, we’re all about Star Trek.  And we’re also all about fan films.  And of course, we’re united.  No need to push the name “SMALL ACCESS” as few people outside of our group even know what that is.  (And hey, that’s part of the problem…and the challenge!)

We also have a slightly new message that will be posted/tweeted on Friday, June 30 at noon Eastern Time:

“I am joining a cause (@smallaccesstrek) because I want to see #StarTrek #FanFilms succeed! #FF #FollowFriday https://hdtk.co/rWuJm

As before, this one includes the @smallaccesstrek Twitter account and a hashtag for #FanFilms.  But this time, we also included #StarTrek (yep, we forgot to include that one the first time—d’oh!) as well as #FF and #FollowFriday.  What are those?  I didn’t know either, so I asked Lee, and he said, “Follow Friday is an old twitter holiday like Throwback Thursday or Taco Tuesday.  So on a Friday, if there’s someone you follow that you think others would find interesting, you #FF or #FollowFriday.  It’s been a while since I actually did a FollowFriday request on Twitter, but it seems it is still a thing.”

So here we go again, folks!  If you have a spare moment (and a Facebook or Twitter or other social media account), please click on the image below to help us out…