Back in 2004, Star Trek fans’ collective jaws dropped when they got their first look at Star Trek: New Voyages, an original fan film series shot on sets meticulously recreated from the original TOS bridge, transporter room, and captain’s quarters. Show-runner and lead actor James Cawley reportedly funded the construction of these sets with $100,000-150,000 of his own money.
Other set recreations would follow: sickbay, the briefing room, expansive corridors, and many more. Eventually, the New Voyages (also known as Phase 2) sets located in Ticonderoga, New York had replicated nearly the entire layout of the original TOS shooting sets at Desilu Studios on the Paramount lot fifty years ago.
Along the way, Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase 2 produced and released nearly a dozen original fan films, each dazzling fans. But then the new fan film guidelines were released by CBS and Paramount, potentially signalling an end to this venerable TOS fan series. Fan wondered if they would even see these amazing sets again.
Well, wonder no more! Although the fate of Star Trek: New Voyages as a fan series is still unknown, an announcement was just made on the Star Trek.com website that the TOS sets in upstate New York would now be open to viewing by the general public…on officially licensed set tours! Yes, officially licensed!!!
There still seems to be some misconceptions about the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign. Some say we’re all about a boycott and want to destroy Star Trek. Some say we’re under the control of Axanar. And most people have no idea why we’re doing surveys each day.
First and foremost, a boycott implies not watching or supporting Star Trek at all. We’re actually suggesting the opposite. We want fans to WATCH the new TV series, not avoid it completely. We’re simply suggesting a designated subscriber hosts a viewing party and the rest of the friends who come over pitch in to share the cost of the subscription (or pay for the host’s dinner or whatever seems the most legal). In the end, groups of Trek fans get together to WATCH the new series, NOT to avoid it. If some people want to boycott completely, I won’t stop them. But that’s NOT what the SMALL ACCESS campaign is about.
As for being under the thumb of Alec Peters and Axanar, that’s simply not the case. In fact, in a recent poll on the SMALL ACCESS Facebook group, I lobbied hard for a compromise of raising the 15 minute time limit to 30 minutes. That wouldn’t help Axanar much, as that feature film was planned to be somewhere around 90 minutes or even 2 hours. I was actually trying to help find a way for Star Trek Continues and New Voyages to still get made because I really enjoy both fan series. So no, Alec Peters isn’t pulling our strings, and the SMALL ACCESS campaign is completely independent from anything Axanar. Many in our SMALL ACCESS group like and support Axanar (and yes, some members don’t), but our goal is to convince that studios to REVISIT and REVISE the new guidelines. Period. We’re not about pointing fingers at any particular fan film.
And that brings us to the big question: what the heck do we do in our Facebook group day after day? Some people imagine that we just sit around, bitching and griping and talking about how Star Trek should just die.
Ummmmmm……no with a capital NO.
Instead, each day I post a new online survey, and we take a daily poll. In fact, that’s the MOST IMPORTANT thing we do!
Some fans believe that Axanar was the first fan film to use professionals or, at the very least, the first to pay them. Both of those assumptions are incorrect by nearly a decade.
The first fan film to feature a known Star Trek professional in their credits was the debut episode of Star Trek: New Voyages in early 2004, “Come What May,” which featured Doug Drexler as visual effects artist (under the pseudonym “Max Rem”) while Doug was also actively working doing the digital FX for Star Trek: Enterprise and also for the new Battlestar Galactica.
New Voyages’ next episode, “In Harm’s Way,” likewise included Doug Drexler…this time as an executive producer. It also featured veteran Star Trek TOS guest stars William Windom (reprising his role as an older, time-displaced Commodore Matt Decker), BarBara Luna, and Malachi Thorne (also voicing his former role as Commodore Jose Mendez as well as playing a Klingon).
Okay, folks, now THIS one is intriguing! As many of you probably know, TOMMY KRAFT is the fan dynamo who wrote, produced, directed, and did about six dozen other things on the wildly popular Star Trek: Horizon feature-length fan film (currently at 1.75 million views on YouTube!). Shortly after releasing Horizon in late February, Tommy announced a Kickstarter for a sequel and was quickly contacted by CBS and strongly advised not to proceed with his new endeavor.
Now we know why, as the new fan film guidelineswere probably already being discussed and would soon be released by CBS and Paramount. One of those guidelines states: “The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.” Another states: “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.”
Fast forward to this week, and Tommy Kraft has just launched a brand new Kickstarter for a short film called Runaway, set in the not-too-distant future where an android fights for her life as she races to get to the Free States. He’s seeking $13,000 and has already raised about $4,000 in pledges from 55 backers…one of whom is me. I pledged $35.
Today, JOHN VAN CITTERS, Senior Vice President, Licensing at CBS Consumer Products Inc., gave a lengthy podcast interview to the ENGAGE official Star Trek podcastto host Jordan Hoffman. During that interview, “JVC” spoke at length about the new fan film guidelines that were just issued jointly by CBS and Paramount.
Considering the uproar these new guidelines have incited, along with petitions, calls for letter-writing and tribble-inundation campaigns, threats of boycotts, and of course, my own SMALL ACCESS campaign on Facebook, JVC is to be applauded for “stepping in front of the firing squad,” so to speak, and trying to explain and justify these new guidelines reasonably, calmly, and–dare I say it?–logically. And I have to hand it to my former boss (yep, I used to be a Star Trek consultant for Paramount’s licensing department back when it was still Viacom Consumer Products, and JVC was one of my supervisors), he did a very commendable job of explaining what CBS and Paramount were thinking.
With great notoriety comes great misunderstanding and misinformation! (Sounds pretty catchy, don’t it?)
Now that Project SMALL ACCESS has picked up nearly one thousand active participants on Facebook in just three days, we’re getting noticed. Obviously, we have a fair number of supporters–and still growing!–but there are also detractors out there calling out our campaign for all sorts of reasons…some valid, and some very much not.
In an effort to make sure there are no misunderstandings about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and who is behind it, I’ve put together the following list of questions and answers that I hope will be widely shared…
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And when CBS and Paramount give you impossible guidelines to follow for your Star Trek fan series, then you make a non-Star Trek fan series, right?
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Star Trek: Renegades. When the new fan film guidelines were released from CBS and Paramount, Renegades was completing principle filming on two-days of scenes featuring Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols reprising their iconic roles of Chekov and Uhura. But suddenly, Star Trek: Renegades would be in violation of all of the following new fan film rules:
Must be less than 15 minutes and not be a series with recurring characters.
Title cannot contain the words “Star Trek.”
Cannot use imitations of commercially-available costumes or other licensed Trek items (like phasers or custom-designed comm badges).
and most important of all…
Cannot feature any actor who has previously appeared in any Star Trek series of film from Paramount/CBS.
Oh, and they cannot have raised more than $50,000 (Star Trek: Renegades took in $378,000) or given away any perks in exchange for donations (which they also did).
By now, you’ve likely heard that CBS and Paramount have finally, after decades of silence, released a series of guidelines for Star Trek fan films to follow and not get sued. Unfortunately, the guidelines were written by a group of over-caffeinated lawyers and licensing employees with little to no understanding of the concept of Star Trek fandom. In short, these rules would essentially obliterate nearly all past and current Star Trek fan films and series.
From their announcement on StarTrek.com, CBS seems almost proud of themselves, feeling that they’ve done fandom some kind of favor. And even though nearly 200 (as I write this) comments have been posted with about 90% highly negative reactions, I doubt that CBS or Paramount will see the devastating reality of what they’ve done…
Be careful what you wish for! For years, Star Trek fans have been hoping for guidelines from CBS to help define what was and was not acceptable in the creation of fan films. Today, those guidelines were finally posted publicly…
…and it wasn’t pretty.
The new guidelines would limit all Star Trek fan films to no more than 15-minute short films and no more than two-parts (so you couldn’t divide a one-hour episode into four segments). Likewise, continuing series with seasons and/or sequels would be prohibited.
Three days after J.J. Abrams announced that the copyright infringement lawsuit against AXANAR and Alec Peters was “going away,” the Axanar attorneys at Winston & Strawn filed a legal Response to the most recent amended complaint and ALSO filed a Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief.
Now why would they go and do a provocative thing like that just when the studios were about to start playing nice???
I decided to ask Axanar‘s lead attorney in the case, Erin R. Ranahan. It turns out there was a filing deadline on Monday that, if missed, could have severely and negatively impacted Axanar‘s ability to successfully navigate this lawsuit. Ms. Ranahan explained the situation…