Sunday, May 29, 2016

Telling Tales Out Of School

Well it seems that my last post caused quite a stir! I've heard a lot about what is being said about the public release of the meetings and the working draft of the proposed guidelines, and I feel I should say something about all this.

First off, since I posted, there have been public statements from Starbase Studios, Starship Valiant, and Star Trek: Ambush.

To Starbase Studios: I reviewed my article, and I did find a discrepancy. My first line about the Facebook chat implied that all eight of the producers contacted and invited to the chat were actively participating in the discussion. I clarified this with Mr. Peters, and my understanding is that he did invite all eight into the chat, released the first draft there, and half of the people invited chose to participate further. I have corrected the original post to reflect that, as well as corrected the information on the number of productions you produce. As much as the original post made it seem like Mr. Johnson participated beyond receiving the guidelines, that was an error in my writing which I should have caught in editing, and I do apologize to you for that.

That being said, I do not believe that the intent of Mr. Peters in relaying the information in my post was anything other than the reason I give below.

To Mr. King of Starship Valiant, I understand any consternation you have at what was supposed to be a private conversation made public. I would suggest speaking to Mr., Pedraza and asking him who gave him the conversation, as I did not receive any information as to what was said, let alone publish it. You deserve an apology, but it should come from someone who, at the moment, remains anonymous. Also, my understanding from Mr. Peters is that the rules as had been given to me had not been finalized, but were still under discussion, and my article reflects that.

While I have not seen it, I understand there is a tweet from someone in the production of Star Trek Continues stating that they were no part of the discussion. I also have a comment awaiting moderation on the original post which purports to be from Todd Haberkorn (as the commenter's handle is "unknown", but signed by Todd, I cannot confirm this) which states that he did take a phone call from Mr. Peters, but never received the guidelines. From the comment, he seemed to be expecting them in an email from Mr. Peters, which could explain why he didn't receive them. For the same reasons I gave to Starbase Studios above, I do apologize to the production of Star Trek Continues if I gave the impression you were an active participant. 
I have not heard of any word from any other production named my post. If I do, I will update this article with the information.  

In the interests of full disclosure, the one thing I did not say was that Mr. Peters did tell me that a member of the discussions had disclosed the guidelines, and it had made its way to Carlos Pedraza, who runs the website. He wanted to convey an accurate account in the event Axamonitor did go public with news of the discussions. I personally had no problem with doing this. The information he gave me, by itself, seemed fairly innocuous. If the guidelines were going to come as a result of the settlement negotiations, it seemed to be a no-brainer to reach out to other fan productions to get their thoughts on this (Indeed, I had actually been idly discussing with another friend on Facebook an idea of how to go about soliciting comments from other productions). Who knows if CBS and Paramount would have considered them, but I thought it was good that Mr. Peters was trying to bring them to their attention.

I had no idea that Mr. Pedraza not only had the guidelines, but details of the conversation as well.

I read the article he had posted. And, sure enough, he had portrayed it as Alec trying to rally support amongst the other productions, and apparently failing. He showed some of the more sensational parts of the conversation where some of the other producers were disagreeing with one of the proposals as originally written. He goes on to speculate as to what Alec's motivations were in initiating this discussion (to be sure, he speculates something more egregious than simply soliciting input).  What he didn't do was name any of the participants or disclose his source.

So, to recap, I wrote an article that stated that Mr. Peters reached out to some producers to get some thoughts on the guidelines which names the producers he contacted. Again, fairly innocuous. Mr. Pedraza wrote his using an unnamed source and detailing conversations that were private. Fairly incendiary, and apparently designed to embarrass Mr. Peters. Since Mr. Pedraza allowed his source to remain anonymous, and didn't name any of the producers in the parts of the conversation he chose to disclose, by itself the only person who could be burned by this is Mr. Peters. However, combine the two together (as the Axamonitor article now does) and we get something similar to when you combine glycerin with nitric acid.

Now, I have seen quite a bit of criticism of Mr. Peters and myself being bandied about in all the usual places. It all seems to be along the lines of since Mr. Peters revealed the names of the participants, that he's somehow the bad guy in all this. This seems to miss a fairly obvious point:


This discussion was intended to be private. Someone who had access to that conversation chose to disclose that private conversation to Mr. Pedraza, or to someone to forward to him. Believe it or not, I don't really blame Mr. Pedraza for doing something with the information. He received information that he felt newsworthy and posted it. I did the same thing. I do, however question him as to what his intentions were in doing so. He has professed that his interest in the case and reason for starting Axamonitor was concern over the future of fan films. I fail to see how disclosing the contents of the discussion furthered that end. In fact, by revealing insider information, he probably blew the only chance any fan film production had of of having any sort of input on the future guidelines. Either in his zeal to embarrass Mr. Peters he overlooked his professed reason for having Axamonitor, or that never was his true intention in the first place. I hope all the page hits you got are worth that to you.

But the real turd in the punchbowl is whoever decided to convey a private conversation that should have stayed so to an outlet that is not neutral. He either did it directly, and asked Mr. Pedraza not to identify him, or he passed it off to someone else, thus making it harder to trace directly to him. Personally, I despise people who act in such a manner. They are the actions of a coward, and I have no compunctions whatsoever in saying so. Whoever it was had been banking on remaining in the shadows. They didn't consider that the names would get named, or that they wouldn't have been had they never disclosed the conversation.

What amazes me the most is all this brouhaha is all over fan films. If there ever was such a thing as a First World Problem, this would absolutely be it! Outside of the furor created over this by the Anti- side of the Axanar equation, you know what most everyone is talking about? The guidelines themselves. They're offering opinions on which ones are good, which are bad, or how they could be better modified. These are the people who fan film makers make fan films for! They don't seem to care about who was in the conversation; they seem to be glad that the conversation is (or, at least, was) taking place. Perhaps this is who the cues should be taken from.

All this having been said, I stand by my original post. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Forging Fan Film Guidelines

Funny how a simple message of congratulations can turn into something worth writing about! After JJ Abrams announcement (and subsequent confirmation by CBS and Paramount) that the lawsuit would be settled amicably and Alec Peters and company would be allowed to continue producing Axanar, I shot Alec a message to congratulate him. He responded, and told me how much he appreciated reading my blog posts on the subject. I tried to get some idea of how the negotiations were going, but he obviously couldn't talk about those. However, he did tell me the following, which he is allowing me to share with you!

Based on the official statement from CBS that the network is finally going to issue fan film guidelines, Alec has put together a group of Star Trek fan film producers to discuss a guideline proposal which reflects their concerns, and the apprehension of the thousands of fans who have rallied behind fan films for decades.

Alec said he contacted almost every major fan film producer seeking suggestions on a proposed set of guidelines.  Eight of them were invited to a Facebook chat group to discuss the proposal.  “I just felt that all the active fan films should be able to share their thoughts together in a constructive way,” he said. “Most of them don’t speak to CBS, and clearly we are communicating with them regularly, so it felt like the right thing to do."

“Unfortunately, James Cawley of Star Trek: New Voyages said no without even hearing a proposal. He was the only one who declined.  Everyone else wanted to at least see what a set of proposed guidelines would look like.”

As a starting point, Alec created some suggested guidelines which he forwarded to Todd Haberkorn of Star Trek: Continues, John Broughton of Farragut,  John Atkin of Yorktown, Nick Cook of Intrepid, Michael King of Valiant, Scott Johnson of Starbase Studios (who produce their own fan production as well as let other productions use their facility), Greg Lock of Star Trek Ambush, plus an unnamed representative of Star Trek: Renegades. “Everyone I sent this to agreed to at least look at the draft, and half of them became part of the ongoing discussion.As for the guidelines themselves, "It is still very much a work in progress, but we hope that we can at least have something to send to CBS so they appreciate the concerns of the fan film makers.”, said Peters.

Apparently, Peters has been lobbying CBS for fan film guidelines for over four years. He told me about his various meetings over the years. “I first spoke with Liz Kalodner, EVP of CBS Consumer Products and the Head of Licensing, after my first trip to New Voyages back in 2010. We actually met on the Paramount lot when Liz was out for some meetings in L.A.  She’s really nice, and very sharp, obviously! She felt there was too many issues that would need to be overcome, but she was very positive about fan films in general.”

“I then spoke to John Van Citters, Head of Star Trek Licensing, who I managed the Star Trek: The Experience auction for in 2010. We had a very good working relationship. In 2013, at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, I met with Bill Burke, VP of CBS Consumer Products, and continued the conversation. Both gave me the same line.  CBS simply couldn’t come up with guidelines because there were too many contracts, union and guild agreements, actor contracts, etc.  It was too complicated. Bill even told me that it would take the CEOs of both CBS and Paramount sitting together in the same room, talking about Star Trek fan films, in order to get anything done.”

Then there was the well-known (and since thoroughly discussed) meeting between Alec and several CBS representatives at the Las Vegas Convention last Summer, where Alec’s auction company Propworx produced a giant Star Trek auction. “John Van Citters and Bill Burke met with me at my request. I was determined to get some guidance, but they still told me that CBS would neither tell me what I could do, or what I could not do.  They were afraid that any such guidance would potentially give up IP rights. Ironically, here we now finally doing what should have been done years ago!"

It seems pretty obvious to me that if CBS had possessed the internal will to put out guidelines back then, they would have avoided a lawsuit and saved themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

As I said previously, this situation was inevitable, as fan films have increased in popularity and quality over the years. These changes have led other studios, notably Lucasfilm Ltd., to publicly support and assist fan films, even hosting them on their own websites.

And for those who might be curious as to what guidelines Mr. Peters and his group are planning to propse, here is their working draft:

1.) There must be the following disclaimer at the end of each episode, and in all promotional and marketing materials, on all fan production websites:
"Star Trek" and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios, Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition of distribution is permitted.
2) Fan productions may not sell, or give away as perks, any item with a Star Trek mark, logos or character including, but not limited to, the words "Star Trek", the Enterprise insignia chevron, images of the USS Enterprise, or any Star Trek trademark.
3) Fan productions may take donations, but all donations must go to the production of the fan film and may not be used to pay any of the principals.
4) Fan productions may pay professional cast and crew for their time working on the production.
5) If a production uses a SAG member, he or she must become a SAG New Media Signatory.
6) Finished fan films may be no longer than 50 minutes in length (the approximate length of TOS episodes).
7) Fan film makers give to CBS an unlimited, unrestricted license to use their films, or any portion thereof, in any format CBS should deem appropriate.

Personally, I think this is a pretty good start! It will be interesting to see how much of this gets incorporated into the final guidelines. I find it strange that the Godfather of the modern fan film, James Cawley, declined to participate in this discussion. Alec has mentioned in his blog that his relationship with James has its ups and downs, so the lawsuit may have put it on the "down" side of things for Mr. Cawley. Even still, CBS will issue these guidelines regardless of his participation. One would think a man of his standing in the fan film community would want to have a say in shaping them. Then again, he shut down his Facebook page, and his website is now "under construction", so who knows what's going on with New Voyages in the first place? 

Either way, kudos to Alec and the other producers for working together to propose guidelines.  Incorporation of their efforts by CBS would certainly help guide Star Trek fan film producers, assuage concerned studio executives, and satisfy Star Trek fans who simply want more stories set in Gene Roddenberry's vast universe.

And thanks to Alec, for allowing me to share this with everyone!

(5/28/16: I have corrected this article based upon information released in a statement from Starbase studios. Previously, I had stated that eight had joined the Facebook chat and were part of the discussion, which conflicts with Mr. Peters' later statement that half of them actively participated. I also corrected the article to show that Starbase Studios only produces one production themselves, while allowing several others the use of their facilities) 

(5/30/16: Please also read my follow-up post here

Saturday, May 21, 2016

CBS/Paramount vs Axanar: The Undiscovered Country (AKA, An Open Letter To Michael Hinman)

For the last few months, I've been writing rather exclusively on the lawsuit filed against Axanar Productions by CBS and Paramount. At the end of my first post on the subject I asked the following question, "So, my question is this: at what point will the something that CBS/P want to get out of this lawsuit not be worth the public ridicule and alienation that is occurring? At what point will they realize that the victory they seek to claim may end up being Pyrrhic?"

The answer, as it turns out to be, is when the director and producer of your upcoming Trek movie tell you the suit is a really bad idea! Take a look.....

Yes, that's none other than JJ Abrams announcing at the fan event held this past evening that CBS and Paramount will be dropping the lawsuit against Alec Peters and Axanar Productions. This was further confirmed via a press release sent to various news outlets, "We're pleased to confirm we are in settlement negotiations and are also working on a set of fan film guidelines."

This pleases me to no end! Not only are they seeing the light as far as the lawsuit goes, they are also willing to design the framework in which fan films can operate with their good graces. Since I got vilified in certain quarters for advocating this very thing, I feel rather vindicated.

Obviously, I'm not the only one who's happy about this. First off, the audience definitely received the news well. There are tons of ecstatic fans on various pages around Facebook. Heck, even the puppets from the Ax'd-We-Are parody are joyous!
Seems  Adm.Sameold Tropes didn't get his uniform back....
But I am sure none of us is as pleased as the man himself, Alec Peters. Mr. Peters was in the audience at the fan event, and apparently had no idea this announcement was going to be made! I'm willing to bet that after pinching himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming, then breathing a sigh of relief after realizing he wasn't, he has yet to come down from cloud nine!

Alec got to thank his guardian angel, Justin Lin, personally
Now, to be sure, there is still work to be done. We have entered an Undiscovered Country, if you will. The actual details of the settlement still need to be hammered out, and there's always the possibility that whatever guidelines get put in place could be fairly restrictive (if they adopt a severe time limit, like the Star Wars Fan Film Awards, we may see Axanar released like Blood & Chrome was!). Even still, there couldn't have been a happier ending for those of us who are big fans of Axanar, and fan films in general.

However, there are others who aren't taking this news so well, and that brings me to the second part of my post....

Dear Michael,

I'll be up front: I don't like you one bit. Considering that you once called me a "simpleton" and that you had a "bug bite that was smarter than me" (I hope you had that bite bronzed, by the way. It has to be the smartest bug bite on record.....),  I'm sure you can understand why I might have more than a little bit of enmity towards you.

It's ironic, though, that we are both alike in one respect: we both wrote about Axanar. And we both did it for the same reason: drive traffic to our respective sites. I, however, was up front with the fact that everything I posted was strictly my opinion on the matter (I mean, hell, I call my blog "Stuff I Think About", it couldn't really be anything else!). Whereas you cloak your opinion as "reporting". Oh, I know you'll fully defend your writing to the death as such. Perhaps I'll be kind and just say that you're so used to "reporting" through the filter of your own personal opinion, that you don't even notice that you do it anymore.

I don't feel like being kind, though. I read your "Lost: Hurley's Star Wars Script" screed (or, at least, as much as I could stomach), and here is what I think: you are an incredibly sore loser. Rather than take a little time and reflect on the things you've done and written over the last five months, you've opted to double down and "be right" about the whole thing, and act insufferable in the process.

I'm not usually a person who seeks to engage in schadenfreude (God! How, I love that word, though!), but you merit a special exception. Because, you see, no matter how many "articles" you post, or how much you attempt to convince all and sundry that you "were right" about Axanar and this lawsuit, the simple fact is that I, who you consider to be an "idiot" who "doesn't know how to think", was actually right. Your first post on anything having to do with Axanar was how they were "going to ruin it for all fan films". I, on the other hand, postulated the notion that this was a potential PR disaster and advocated for fan film guidelines. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but last night bore both those points out quite succinctly.  I sincerely hope that realization (assuming you are actually capable of enough self-awareness to have that realization) absolutely galls you.


(Pictures courtesy of Mark Largent and Alec Peters)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

An Open Letter To Vic Mignogna

Dear Vic,

I want to say that I respect the hell out of the work you and your cast and crew do in putting out Star Trek Continues. First, there is no other fan production that I know of which produces high quality episodes in the volume that Continues does. You've managed to average 2 episodes a year, where even New Voyages/Phase II has only managed 1 per year at best.

Second, you have assembled a cast that is one of the best I've seen in a fan production. Having Chris Doohan play the role originated by his father is a master stroke. Todd Haberkorn is, hands down, the best Spock out there (short of Leonard Nimoy and Zach Quinto, of course). And, I've found that if I squint just enough, I can believe that you're actually William Shatner, chewing the scenery with wild abandon! With Chuck, Grant, Kim, Wyatt, Michelle and Stephen, you have all done a wonderful job of inhabiting your characters. The fact that you've maintained a consistent cast throughout all the episodes is also really nice, so far as continuity goes.

By far, my favorite episode has to be The Fairest Of Them All. I've said before that it stands out as one of the best individual fan film episodes ever made (right up there with Of Gods And Men, Mind Sifter, The Tressaurian Intersection, the director's cut of The Holiest Thing, and Prelude To Axanar, in my mind). Of all your episodes, I find it is the one with the most rewatchability factor.

So, here's why I changed my mind about contributing to your Indiegogo campaign.

Based on what I've said above, it has nothing to do with the production itself. Rather, it has to do with certain actions you've taken and things you have said as an individual.

When your campaign kicked off, I went to the fundraising page to make a pledge. Then I read the following line: "Our producers have never drawn a salary, and they never will." Now, in and of itself, that is laudable. However, I knew that sentence had a broader meaning.

You see, by now, pretty much anyone who is remotely interested in fan films has heard about CBS & Paramount's lawsuit against Axanar Productions. I also know that this suit has caused a divide within the fandom over who's the bad guy in the suit. Further, I've known for a long time that there is no love lost between you and Alec Peters. Personally, I couldn't care less who is to blame for what in that particular relationship; that's between the two of you. What I do care about is that animosity bleeding over into your respective productions. Now, if you read any of my recent blog posts, it's pretty clear that I'm for Axanar. Indeed, I am for all fan productions. But, since I knew all of the above, I knew you had taken a side on the issue of the Axanar lawsuit.

To me it was wholly unnecessary to do that in order to make your point. Your body of work, both in quality and volume, speaks quite well to the point that the money people donate to Continues is well spent on your end. You didn't have to point out, even if subtly, the purported misdeeds of another production.

Your recent interview on the Synthaholics has further reinforced to me that I was correct in my decision. Yes, your fundraising isn't going as well as you had hoped, and I would be a fool to believe that you're lying when you say you've heard from some fans who have held off from donating due to the lawsuit and the uncertainty it creates. But laying it all at the feet of Alec Peters ignores a number of other factors, many of which were detailed quite nicely by Jonathan Lane at

To put it simply, you asked for an amount of money which was nearly double any of your previous campaign goals, and you did it on a fundraising platform which has less than half the contributor base of Kickstarter. As it stands, you've raised over $199,049, which is right in the wheelhouse of your previous fundraising totals. Unless you've quantified just how many fans told you they weren't going to donate because of the suit, and the dollar amounts they would have contributed, I highly doubt the gap between your goal and what you actually got would have been covered by them.

But you should also take into consideration that I'm probably not be the only one who feels the way I do about this. I can't quantify how many people feel the same way, or their dollar amounts either (though I'd be willing to wager that it would at least have gotten you more than a bit past the $200,000 mark), but money left on the table is money left on the table. Be aware that you left it there.

And on a more personal note, I found the way you behaved on that podcast to be distasteful. I compare it to how Tommy Kraft acted on the recent Trek Geeks podcast. Tommy is the only person who is actually collateral damage to the lawsuit, and who has had his production shut down. If he had teed off on Alec and Axanar Productions anything close as to the way you did, I wouldn't have blamed him. Instead, he was entirely calm about the whole thing, played it down the middle and, at worst, speculated on what might have drawn the lawsuit when asked to. He displayed all the grace and poise that you did not. And that is why the money that would have gone to your campaign has now gone to help fund Tommy's Project Discovery. (If you haven't done so already, I would hope that you contribute to his project. If anyone deserves all of fandom's backing now, it's Tommy.)

Finally, I have a piece of advice for you. If you are going to proclaim loudly to all and sundry that you are a fan production who "does everything right", you need to make sure you do everything right. And, as Mr. Shatner had to remind you recently, using his likeness without his permission in your fundraising efforts falls well outside of the "everything right" category. Now, perhaps it was just a mistake, but for someone who has boasted as you have, it's a foolish one, and one you made more than once.

For all it's worth, I do wish you well with Star Trek Continues. I just can't and won't contribute to your efforts to produce more episodes, unless you have a change of heart.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

All Things Axanar

Well, it's been a little while since I've written about my favorite fan-film lawsuit, so here's a collection of things that have gone on since!

Mark Largent, creator of the animated puppet parody Stalled Trek: Amutt Time has leveled his humor and wit at the ongoing lawsuit with his latest creation, Stalled Trek: Prelude To Ax'd-We-Are. Give it a look here:

I don't know about you, but this thing had me in stitches the first time I watched it. Jonathon Lane of (who collaborated with Mr. Largent and voiced some of the characters) has a story there about how this project came about.

Now, you just had to know that at some point a lawsuit about Star Trek was going to get uber-nerdy. On April 28th, Eriq Gardner wrote a story at The Hollywood Reporter about the Language Creation Society filing of an amicus curae ("Friend Of The Court") brief supporting Axanar against CBS and Paramount's claim that they own copyright on the Klingon language (a copy of the brief is available in the article). It is well worth a read, as it posits the notion that the language itself has grown beyond the bounds of Mark Okrand's original creation for the studio and "taken on a life of its own". The author of the brief also managed to write it in a lightly humorous manner, using Klingon phrases (kindy translated in the footnotes for those who can't read Klingon script) and making references that any Trekkie would immediately recognize. I don't know how much weight Judge Klausner will give the brief, but it does provide another light-hearted moment in the ongoing lawsuit.

Last month, I got a fair amount of heat for my blog post where I advocated formalizing rules for fan films, mainly being told that such an arrangement would never happen because it might inadvertently create rights for fan films which previously belonged to CBS. Therefore, when I read Peter Decherney's article at, I felt rather vindicated. After all, here's a man who writes about Hollywood and copyright law for a living expressing a sentiment very much like I did. It's simply going to take more creative and innovative thinking than a room full of lawyers at Loeb & Loeb can generate.

(Completely Random Thought: For some reason, every time I see the name Loeb & Loeb, I think it would be the perfect name for a law firm run by Ferengi....)

Finally, Tommy Kraft, subject of my last blog post has produced a teaser video for his original Sci-Fi project, Project Discovery:

Currently, Project Discovery has raised almost $16,000 on Kickstarter. That's a healthy amount, but it's still a good ways off from the $250,000 goal. If you haven't donated yet, please click the link above and give what you can! Tommy made one hell of a fan film, and deserves both his chance to break into Hollywood, as well as all the support we can give him.

That's all for now! Be on the lookout for my next post, where I have a few words for the producer of a certain fan production.