The SMALL ACCESS group on Facebook began as a protest against the new fan film guidelines issued by CBS and Paramount. But it quickly grew into something more significant. Rather than simply complaining about the guidelines or arguing over whose fault it was they were written in the first place, the group began discussing each of the guidelines one-by-one. Opinions were shared, surveys were taken, and in the end, over 1,200 fans participated in one of the largest Star Trek focus group research projects ever!
Now those results have been compiled into a massive 37-page report written up by Jonathan Lane (yeah, that’s me), a former creative director and focus group coordinator with decades of experience in researching what consumers and product users like and don’t like. When it came to the guidelines, half were considered fine as currently written (according to polling results). Another quarter only needed minor revision tweaks for clarification. And it was only a few remaining guidelines that required more significant compromise solutions.
The report compiles these results into a series of recommendations by the fans to the studios for revising the guidelines in a way that both respects the studios’ interests in protecting their intellectual property while also allowing more flexibility for fan filmmakers to create their productions.
Next week, fans will be invited to mail printed copies of this report to key executives at the studios in a new LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN. If enough fans participate in the weeks leading up to the actual 50th Anniversary of Star Trek (September 8), it’s our hope that the news media will cover this campaign, which will put pressure on the executives to at least read and consider our suggestions rather than ignoring them completely.
Is it a stunt? Yes. Is it a long shot? Yes. But it’s at least worth a shot, right? After all, what other mechanism do fans have to engage a conversation with the studio execs who wrote and enforce these guidelines?
The letter writing campaign will kick off next week, but the report itself has been made available for early viewing on the SMALL ACCESS Facebook page. If you’re interested, please take a look. Next week, you’ll get a chance to make Star Trek letter-writing history…again.
Bryan Fuller, showrunner for the new CBS All Access TV series Star Trek: Discovery (or DSC, for short), just announced the time-frame for the highly-anticipated new series. It’s already been reported that DSC will take place in the prime universe (not the Kelvin timeline), but now we know when:
TEN YEARS before the original series!
Fans of the Axanar project nearly had a collective heart attack (including yours truly), until we realized that this time period is actually ten years AFTER the Four Years War depicted in the 20-minute 2014 fan film Prelude to Axanar.
When the new fan film guidelines were announced by CBS and Paramount, one of the biggest concerns was what would happen to Star Trek Continues. This celebrated fan series now violated most of the guidelines, including a run time of more than 15 minutes per episode, the fact it was a continuing series in the first place, their recent $200,000 crowd-funding campaign (the new limit is $50,000), the distribution of perks, their use of professional actors and crew (including some who have previously worked on Star Trek films and/or licensed products), and of course, the words “Star Trek” in the title.
Of course, fans didn’t mind any of this. In fact, Star Trek Continues remains one of the most popular and successful of all the fan series…with a passionate and devoted following (including myself, a proud donor). And that’s why we were so concerned that these new guidelines would spell the end of Star Trek Continues (as they had already claimed another beloved fan series, Star Trek: New Voyages).
Back in May (a month before the new fan film guidelines were announced by CBS and Paramount), a fan production out of the United Kingdom set out to raise $2,500 in a Kickstarter campaign to fund a short Star Trek fan film called Chance Encounter. They were successful and immediately began to build their one set (the interior of a Type-15 TNG-era shuttlepod), create costumes, and hire cast.
Then the fan film guidelines came out. Would it be a problem for this production? Well, the production is already intended to be a short one-shot film, so the first guideline limiting run-time to 15 minutes and forbidding a continuing series won’t be a problem. The title Chance Encounter doesn’t have Star Trek in it, so guideline #2 is safe. In fact, nearly all of the guidelines have been followed, including a Kickstarter that raised less than $50,000 (significantly less)…although perks were distributed. Of course, the Kickstarter happened before the guidelines were released, so it’s probably okay.
Fan Film Factor founder (and the guy typing this right now), JONATHAN LANE, had the pleasure of doing a podcast interview alongside co-moderator DAVID HEAGNEY, JR. discussing the SMALL ACCESS protest campaign and the new fan film guidelinesreleased by CBS and Paramount.
We were interviewed by super-fan and live radio podcaster Shane Stacks for an hour. In the first half-hour, Shane covered recent sci-fi news and releases, and starting at the 30-minute mark, we dive into discussion about the guidelines and the SMALL ACCESS campaign. Among the questions we answer: what are we hoping to accomplish, will the studios even take us seriously, and is Alec Peters hiding behind the curtain pulling our strings?
CBS and Paramount ruined my 50th Anniversary!!! The whole year–January to December–they just ruined it. First, no sooner had Christmas ended, they sued Axanar, my favorite Star Trek fan film ever. And in doing this, the studios split fandom into a Hatfield and Dr. McCoy feud. Then, just when I thought the anniversary year might be saved after all when J.J. Abrams announced the lawsuit would be “going away” and fans allowed to make their films…WHAM!…ridiculously Draconian guidelines were created by the studios that seemed purposefully designed to end Star Trek fan films as we know (and love) them.
I was so pissed that I started the SMALL ACCESS campaign on Facebook to protest these new guidelines and try to get them revised. Hundreds and hundreds of fans joined me on my impassioned quest, sharing their anger and frustration, as well. Some threatened a full-on boycott of all things Star Trek: the new movie, the new TV series, novels, licensed merchandise…you name it. They suddenly wanted nothing to do with Star Trek anymore. And several of them were encouraging me to do likewise.
Wanna see and hear what the guy who types all these blogs looks and sounds like? Last week, I was contacted by a news producer for ReasonTV and asked if I’d be willing to come in for a half hour or so and discuss Star Trek fan films. Well, gee, twist my arm!
I’d never heard of ReasonTV, but it turns out it’s the latest offering from the Reason Foundation, which was founded in 1978 and publishes the monthly Reason magazine (voted one of the 50 best magazines in 2003 and 2004 by the Chicago Tribune…for whatever that’s worth).
I was told the news feature would be about 10 minutes long and focus on the CBS/Axanar lawsuit and the new fan film guidelines. Alec Peters and Richard Hatch would also appear in the piece. We’d all be interviewed separately and edited together later.
I drove to the studio (conveniently located only about ten minutes from where I live) and sat for a very pleasant interview. The reporter, Zach Weissmueller, was well prepared with some great questions. This wasn’t just a fluff piece, and my job wasn’t to talk up Axanar. In fact, I think I only even said the word “Axanar” once during the entire interview. Instead, I was asked about the history of fan films and the introduction of the new official guidelines.
When CBS and Paramount announced their new guidelines for Star Trek fan films, the fates of two long-running, celebrated fan series seemed to be in jeopardy. Star Trek: New Voyages (having released nearly a dozen full-length TOS fan episodes since 2004) and Star Trek Continues (with six full-length TOS fan episodes plus three vignettes released since 2012) both appeared to violate multiple new guideline rules. These included run-times over 15 minutes, more than $50,000 in crowd-funding, perk give-aways for contributors, the use of professional actors and crew, and of course, simply having an ongoing fan series in the first place!
Would these two venerated fan series finally come to an inglorious end? It seems the answer is “yes”…and “no”…and “maybe.” Let me explain…
If the release of the new guidelines by CBS and Paramount was the shot heard round the fan film world, then the subsequent response by the show-runner of Star Trek Raven was the first hint of return fire.
Or was it?
A week after CBS and Paramount published their guidelines for Star Trek fan films, an announcement went up on the news page for Star Trek Raven, a little-known fan series based in central Iowa filmed at Starfleet Studios (not to be confused with Starbase Studios in Oklahoma). The production had only released three short vignettes so far (this, this, and this), but Raven was about to become one of the most talked about fan films.
On July 1, the lead producer for Raven, David Whitney, posted this proactive statement:
The rules which pertain to direct copyright infringement and intellectual property will be adhered to. The rules which do not directly support their copyright, and copyright law, will be ignored.
Last time: Marc Scott Zicree discussed the first professional fan film, “World Enough and Time,” the fourth episode release from Star Trek: New Voyages back in 2007. Roughly 200-300 people worked on the production (235 names appear in the credits plus another 50 on the “Special thanks” list. A number of team members were actually Hollywood industry professionals…including George Takei himself reprising his role of Sulu, plus Marc and his co-writer Michael Reaves, his editor Chris Cronin, many of the department heads, the visual effects team, and the production unit who shot the USS Excelsior scenes in Los Angeles (the majority of the episode was filmed in upstate New York on the New Voyages TOS sets).
Even today, nearly a decade later, “World Enough and Time” remains high up on the list of MUST SEE fan films. And it provides a magnificent example of the kind of engaging, emotional, and dramatically satisfying production that can be achieved using a mixture of fan amateurs and industry professionals working together to create a true labor of love.
Of course, such a fan film would now be impossible to create and release under the new guidelines issued by CBS and Paramount. Industry professionals are barred from working on a fan film, although this particular guideline may violate California’s Business and Professions Code: Section 16600. Even if it does, however, fan films are now limited to 15-minute episodes or, at most, two 15-minute parts totaling no more than 30 minutes. The depth of character development and story complexity required for “World Enough and Time” could never be squeezed into such a constrained time limitation…nor should it, say many fans.
Marc Zicree is a rabid Star Trek and science fiction fan who has written and produced hundreds of hours of network television over a career spanning decades…including episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
As our 2-part interview with Marc concludes, he finishes discussing “World Enough and Time” and then dives head-first into what he thinks about those darn guidelines…