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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STAR TREK CONTINUES announces RELEASE DATES and TITLES for their FINAL THREE EPISODES!

It’s a bittersweet time for followers of the groundbreaking fan series STAR TREK CONTINUES.  The “sweet” part is that we will be served with FOUR new full-length episodes from this production team in the matter of just SEVEN months!  We’ve already seen the first of these four episodes, the ambitious and poetic “Still Treads the Shadow,” released at the beginning of April.

The “bitter” lies in the fact that this is it for STC…the end of this amazing fan series.  Although they were originally planning to make 13 episodes—and instead they will now only be doing 11—the fact is that they always intended for the series to have a completion point.  Some fans have been asking them to continue (no pun intended) and not shut down, but the end story has been written and filmed and soon will be released.  The Georgia studio sits quiet and unused (or so I’ve been told).

Show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA himself said in interviews that, at his current age (he turns 55 in August), he wouldn’t be able to play a 35-year-old Jim Kirk for much longer.  So yes, folks, this is the inevitable end of the line for STC…with a return of the U.S.S. Enterprise from its historic 5-year mission.

And here’s the schedule for release dates.  The episodes will premiere at three different cons during three weekends and then be posted online a day or so later:

Episode IX, “What Ships are For” will premiere at Florida Supercon in Ft. Lauderdale the weekend of July 27-30.

Episode X, “To Boldly Go (Part One)” will premiere at Salt Lake City Comic Con the weekend of September 21-23.

Episode XI, “To Boldly Go (Part Two)” will premiere at New York City Comicon the weekend of October 5-8.

So the gap between episodes VIII and XI will end up being about three and a half months.  Then the gap between XI and X will be less than two months.  And finally, fans won’t have to wait more than two weeks for the second half of the final two-parter.  That’s quite a feast!

Although few details of the series finale have been released, we do know that the ninth episode, “What Ships are For,” was written by Kipleigh Brown, who plays Lt. Smith on the fan series.  There will also be at least three professional actor guest stars in that episode: Elizabeth Maxwell, Lex Lang, and Sandy Fox.

For a closer look at this fan series from its beginnings in 2012, check out this three-part history of Star Trek Continues.

 

STAR TREK CONTINUES becomes a CBS All Access AFFILIATE!

Things got very interesting on Sunday morning after STAR TREK CONTINUES posted this message on their Facebook page overnight:

Got CBS All Access yet? STC has been invited to join the affiliate program, so you can sign up through our website now. Sign up today!

Almost immediately, fans started conjecturing what this meant for STC.  Were they suddenly being accepted by CBS?  Would they now be allowed to complete their cancelled 12th and 13th episodes?  Were they getting a kickback from CBS?  Would STC be shown on All Access?

The answers to all of these questions appear to be “no.”  Apparently, STC was simply contacted by a division of CBS (likely CBS Interactive or else someone in marketing) and offered the option of becoming a CBS All Access Affiliate, promoting subscriptions to the network’s streaming service through online banners on their startrekcontinues.com website.  (Note to CBS Interactive: the hyperlinks aren’t working from Mac browsers.)

It’s unclear whether or not STC will be receiving a commission for any fans who sign up for CBS All Access.  STC posted on their Facebook pages that they are not being compensated.  However, I just signed up Fan Film Factor for the same program and was required to agree to terms that included the following (which I screen capped)…

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STAR TREK CONTINUES releases new BLOOPER/GAG REEL!

Bloopers.  Gag reels.  Behind-the-scenes flubs.  Call them what you will, but they’ve been a part of the Star Trek fan experience since the 1970s when Gene Roddenberry first began bringing his TOS “blooper reel” to conventions to show hilarious outtakes by Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, and the rest of the original cast to fans in the audience.

The tradition continued with The Next Generation, and I recall owning bootlegged copies of both blooper reels on VHS tapes that I bought at cons in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The reason these outtakes are so special and treasured isn’t simply because they’re funny but because they give fans a glimpse into who these beloved actors and producers were as people…people who make mistakes and can laugh at themselves, cut loose sometimes, and have fun.

Not all fan films collect their bloopers and release them.  Some don’t even have time to do multiple takes of the same scene.  Others simply have collections of goofs and flubs.  But the best of the gag reels contain just that: gags.  It’s not just the missed cues and forgotten lines.  Sometimes the actors know they’re going to have to do another take, and so they just go with it and have fun playing with the scene.  And if we’re lucky, hilarity ensues while the camera is still rolling.

Such is the case with Star Trek Continues.  They have edited together and released hysterically entertaining gag reels for all but their second episode.  (You can view all seven gag reel videos at the bottom section of this web page.)

It’s no secret that I love this particular fan series and lament its impending conclusion in the coming  year.  But I don’t love STC only because of the great episodes it produces.  I love it because of what I see on their gag reels.

I’ve worked on fan films, and it can be tedious, mind-numbing, stressful, exhausting, frustrating, irritable, and even confrontational.  But it can also be a lot of fun.  In fact, if it weren’t for the FUN, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever do it!  STC‘s gag reels show us the camaraderie that can exist at the core of fan productions.  Sure, the actors and crew work hard—incredibly hard!—but they play hard, too.  They laugh at themselves, play practical jokes on each other, and keep their sense of humor through the seemingly endless late-into-the-night hours when shoots can shift between moving at a snail’s pace to a manic sprint in the span of seconds.

So I invite you to join me and others in celebrating Star Trek Continues in that most special of ways: sharing their laughter…

TOM HANKS watches STAR TREK FAN FILMS!

Sometimes people ask me why I spend so much time writing about and obsessing on Star Trek fan films.  After all, few people even know about them, and on a good day, I only get about 1,000 visits to this blog (on a bad day, it’s about 500…and on an Axanar day, it’s about 3,000!).  Some comments have even said that fan films are just wasted time with Trekkies playing “dress up,” and most fan films aren’t even watchable.  So why do I write this blog?

Well, first of all, someone’s gotta do it, right?  I mean, whether or not a fan film is good or bad (and remember my Prime Directive of Fan Film Factor), a great deal of work and dedication goes into each one.  Sometimes it might not look that way, but trust me, I’ve worked on enough of them and spoken to enough creators to know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into even the most humble, low-budget fan film.  And frankly, someone out there should be covering it all and giving them some credit.  Why not me?

Second, I find it really interesting to watch this medium developing and evolving.  And this blog is an archive, of sorts, of that evolution.  Granted, things were much more ambitious before the guidelines, but it’s still exciting—at least to me—to see what fans can come up with: the stories, characters, sets, props, costumes, VFX, sound and film editing, music, etc.

And third, it’s not as small a world of viewership as you might think!  Sure, I only get about 45K-50K visits a month, but fan films like Horizon, Renegades, and Prelude have gotten MILLIONS of views on YouTube!  People out there are taking notice of fan films…usually in a good way.  And one of the people who took notice was none other than Academy Award-winning actor TOM HANKS!

I’d forgotten about the 2013 interview with Tom Hanks that took place on actor/comedian Kevin Pollak’s online chat show.  In it, he briefly discussed Star Trek fan films and STAR TREK CONTINUES in particular.  Although he mistakenly said they were based in South Carolina (it was actually southern Georgia), it was clear that he was talking about STC.

At the time, they had only released their first episode “The Pilgrim of Eternity,” but that was clearly enough to make an impression upon Mr. Hanks.  I thank STC actor MICHELE SPECHT for posting this little gem a week ago and reminding me of yet another reason I work on this blog site: BECAUSE TOM HANKS WATCHES STAR TREK FAN FILMS!  YAY!!!  Take a look at this 79-second clip…

 

STAR TREK CONTINUES releases their eighth episode: “Still Treads the Shadow”!

Once again, STAR TREK CONTINUES proves itself the undisputed king of the Trek fan film genre.  This isn’t meant as a slight against any other fan film or series.  It’s simply that STC‘s eight full episodes just get better and better and are all but flawless in their interpretation of classic Star Trek.  They tell stories that are both well-written and extraordinarily well-produced and well-directed…with excellent editing, musical scoring, visual effects, costumes, make-up, lighting, and of course, meticulously recreated TOS sets.

“Still Treads the Shadow” was written by Judy Burns, a professional Hollywood screenwriter and producer with a long list of credits.  And her very first one was as co-writer for the third season TOS episode “The Tholian Web”…which should be kept in mind as fans watch this latest episode from STC.  (No spoilers!)  Also of note is a guest appearance by Battlestar Galactica series regular Rekha Sharma (one of the final five “sleeper” Cylons), who has an extensive list of Hollywood television roles.  The episode was directed be Julian Higgins, who also directed the sixth episode of Star Trek Continues, “Come Not Between the Dragons.”  Both episodes were magnificently directed.

In the finest traditions of Star Trek, this latest episode provides wonderful literary themes that serve to richly enhance the viewing experience.  The title, “Still Treads the Shadow,” is taken from poetic masterpiece The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  A passage from that epic poem is quoted during the episode, and I highly recommend that you click that link I just provided and (re)read that classic work (especially if you skipped reading it in high school!).  It will provide some interesting insights into the symbolic “ancient mariner” who appears in this episode.

So now the question is: what will CBS and Paramount do…if anything?  STC has now finished production on its final four episodes (this being the first of them) and plans to release all of them over the next several months.  And although the $200,000 in crowd-funding was completed shortly before the new fan film guidelines went into effect, the run-time of this episode is 54 minutes (longer thsn 15 minute), it’s part of a continuing fan series, it features paid professionals including alumni of studio-based Star Trek productions (including writer Judy Burns and star/executive producer Vic Mignogna himself, who worked on Star Trek Online), and of course, it has the words “Star Trek” in the title.

The STC folks hope that they’ll be permitted to complete their run, having told me in a conversation last August that the guidelines don’t say that a production WILL be sued if it fails to follow all of the guidelines, only that it WON’T be sued if it does follow all of the guidelines.  Fingers crossed that they’re correct!

In the meantime, “Still Treads the Shadow” premiered yesterday at the Fan Expo Dallas convention with a sneak preview for donors.  But now it’s available for everyone.  Enjoy…

STAR TREK CONTINUES answers some questions from fans about their FINAL EPISODES!

As reported a week ago, STAR TREK CONTINUES has announced a release date for its eighth episode, “Still Treads the Shadow,” of April 1 at Fan Expo Dallas.  STC also confirmed that they will release three additional episodes after that, completing their run with eleven episodes total (two fewer than their originally-planned thirteen episodes).

These announcements led to some major speculation among fans (especially here on FAN FILM FACTOR and on the SMALL ACCESS Facebook page) wondering how long the episode will be, how are they getting around the guidelines, have they been in contact with CBS and gotten any kind of permission, etc.

Yesterday, STC sent out a newsletter to donors (yep, I got mine!) that included a spotlight on STC guest star Rekha Sharma (of the new Battlestar Galactica, who will be appearing in this upcoming STC episode) as well as some frequently asked questions and answers about their remaining episodes.

Before I publish the STC Q&A, I want to warn any Axanar supporters reading this that, yes, they include a bit of a dig in their fifth answer.  As many fans are aware, there is no love lost between Vic Mignogna of STC and Alec Peters of Axanar (total understatement!).  And in the “I hit Krako, Krako hits Teppo, Teppo hits me…” traditions of fine fan film feuding, we have yet another hit.

As a proud backer of both series who loves watching Vic play Kirk and Alec play Garth, I personally find the mutual animosity distasteful (whichever of them it comes from).  And as a donor to STC, I could have done without the inclusion of the Axa-negativity in the statements.  It wasn’t necessary to say it like they did and just serves to prolong the feud another day/week/month.  But it’s their production, their newsletter, and their chip on the shoulder.

I do dream of a day when we can all just get along and celebrate each others’ successes.  Maybe someday.  But I will stop editorializing now.  Just know that, yes, the dig is in there.  Yes, you’re all welcome to light up my comments section with yet another flame war (they’re kinda like tribbles, aren’t they?).  But no, I’m not going to participate.  I love BOTH productions, and I’m ROOTING for both productions.  I invite those of you who can get past the resentment and anger to join me in not exploding yet again.  It requires a LOT less energy and doesn’t raise your blood pressure nearly as much.

All right, getting down from my soapbox now and handling the mic over to STC

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STAR TREK CONTINUES announces PREMIERE DATE and TITLE for their EIGHTH episode!

It’s been quite a while since fans and donors got an update from STAR TREK CONTINUES.  Despite many, many new posts (sometimes more than one a day!) on their Facebook page, there has been precious little news on the plans for Star Trek Continues now that the fan film guidelines are in place.  After all, with guidelines saying that a Star Trek fan film can’t contain the words “Star Trek” in the title, must be less than 15 minutes in length and a maximum of a 2-parter (for 30 minutes total), and cannot be a continuing series, it seemed like Star Trek Continues couldn’t…well…continue without running afoul of multiple guidelines.

As I reported here last August, STC writer/director/co-producer JAMES KERWIN had told me at Creation’s 50th Anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas that what CBS and Paramount have said is if you follow all of these guidelines, then they will not sue you.  But they do NOT say that if you don’t follow these guidelines, then they will sue you.  There is a big distinction there.

James also told me during our talk that STC wanted to spend the remainder of their crowd-funding resources to film their final four episodes to wrap up the series. They hoped that their good relationship with CBS might result in the studio allowing the fan series to complete its run.  The plan for STC had always been to do a limited number of episodes (originally planned for 12 or 13–now the total will be 11)…as star and show-runner VIC MIGNOGNA himself said that he won’t be able to play a 37-year-old Captain Kirk forever.  (The Internet reports Vic’s current age as 54.)

But since last August, updates have been scarce from STC…until now, that is.  They just published a MAJOR announcement confirming their intention to release the last four episodes of the series (already filmed and in post-production) and providing a premiere date for their eighth episode, “Still Treads the Shadow.”

Here’s the full update…

The announcement you’ve all been waiting for!

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DREADNOUGHT DOMINION and STARSHIP VALIANT cross-over in “CHAIN OF COMMAND”!

chain-of-command-dreadnought-dominion-and-svBack in April of 2015, a new Star Trek fan series called DREADNOUGHT DOMINION premiered with its initial episode, “Haunted.”  Three months later, a second episode, titled “Anchors Aweigh” (a bit of a prequel to the first episode), made its debut.  It wasn’t the only TOS-era fan series to feature the crew of a non-heavy cruiser class starship, but it was the first and only one to feature the crew of a Starfleet dreadnought-class starship based on the mid-1970s Franz Joseph Star Trek Technical Manual.

dreadnought-dominionThanks to a 3D model created by Kenneth Thomson, Jr. and Thomas Phong, the beauty shots of the tri-nacelled USS Dominion in the opening credits and during the episodes were gorgeous.  The two episodes were filmed primarily on the very impressive TOS sets in Starship Farragut’s Studio Two in Kingsland, GA (also the shooting location of Star Trek Continues).

A year earlier, another fan series, Starship Valiant, made its debut on YouTube with an introduction vignette titled “Legacy.”  Valiant was filmed using the TOS bridge set at Starbase Studios in Oklahoma City.  (The following year, a “special edition” version of “Legacy” with added footage was posted after Starbase Studios built a new sickbay set.)  Valiant has since completed principal filming on its second episode “The Ties That Bind,” although post production is still ongoing and the second episode hasn’t been released yet.

So what do these two fan series–filmed in different locations in different states during different years–have in common?  A man named Vance…

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