Sunday, June 26, 2016


So, a few days ago CBS and Paramount Pictures released their new fan film guidelines, and, to put it simply, they suck. Here we are more than a month from JJ's announcement that the lawsuit against Axanar would be "going away" and CBS and Paramount confirming that they were in settlement talks and would be issuing guidelines for fan films. The lawsuit has yet to be settled, but here we have a set of guidelines that not only make filming Axanar impossible, but pretty much shuts down nearly every fan production out there short of Project Potemkin (and even then, Potemkin couldn't continue in a series format).

Basically, CBS and Paramount have made guidelines that would have made sense maybe 15 years ago. However, New Voyages, digital cameras, You Tube, and the general democratization of film-making have changed the scope and dimension of what a fan film could be, and it's been that way for about 12 years now. These rules appear to be an attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. Perhaps, as my friend Jonathan Lane of the Fan Film Factor blog (more on him later) has said, it was simply a matter of the wrong people being in the room when it came time to concoct these guidelines. That makes some sense to me. These guidelines needed to have a balance of creativity and opportunity mixed in with the concern for protecting intellectual property.

Regardless, however we got here, the fact is, we are here and most people are spitting mad about these guidelines. A few are spitting mad at Alec Peters and Axanar Productions for apparently forcing CBS and Paramount's hand (remarkably short-sighted in my opinion, but that's a story for another day), but the vast majority have directed their anger towards CBS and Paramount. The question is, what can be done about this?

Now, many of the people angry at the studios are calling for a boycott. While I certainly understand and sympathize with the sentiment, here's why I doubt it would work. When the lawsuit was announced against Axanar, a certain party (whose name I cannot recall) started a petition to boycott against CBS and Paramount unless they dropped the lawsuit against Axanar. This person was able to get about 10,000 signatures in fairly short order. From there it became a grind to get many more, and the last time I saw an update (about a month or so ago) the petition was stuck at about 12,000. Now, assuming every single person who signed that petition actually followed through on it, that would account for maybe $120,000-150,000 in box office revenue. That's less than 1% of the take of Into Darkness. That's not going to make Paramount blink. It might be enough to get CBS to pay a little attention, as it would amount to $72,000/month in subscription money for All Access.

However, the studios know the same thing I know, and that's fans of Star Trek love Star Trek! That's why I won't participate in a boycott; I love the franchise, I have enjoyed the new movies, and I really want to see what Fuller, Meyer, and company have planned for us in January. Sooner or later, that 12,000 is going to experience attrition, and all that will be left were people who were probably not going to go see Beyond, or watch the new series to begin with.

So, what's a person to do when they want CBS and Paramount to see the light on their myopic and draconian fan films rules?

Leave it to my friend Jonathan to come up with a possibly brilliant way to go about it: Project SMALL ACCESS!

For those who don't want to read his blog (but why wouldn't you?), the idea is simple: instead of threatening to boycott the new CBS series, start a campaign to organize viewing parties for the new show. Instead of six individuals signing up for All Access to watch the show, those same six people arrange to get together at one person's house (the "designated subscriber") to watch, and the others chip in to help the designated subscriber with the bill (directly, or indirectly). Here's why I think this idea makes sense:

1) As I just pointed out, boycotts don't really work.

2) This idea falls more in line with the letter writing campaign spearheaded by Bjo Trimble back in 1968. That campaign targeted the sponsors NBC relied upon for their advertising revenue.

3) Unlike a boycott, this idea does not require a large sacrifice of anyone in the Trek fandom.

4) Most importantly, IT'S FUN!!!!! Why watch a show by yourself, when you can get a bunch of friends together (or make a bunch of new friends) and make a party out of it?

I invite everyone reading this to join in, as we plan to have a lot of fun, and if enough people join in, the powers that be just might take notice long enough to listen to more reasonable revisions and adjustments to their guidelines. We are in the process of discussing what we think those revisions and adjustments should be, and would love to have your input!

Monday, June 6, 2016

"20 Minutes Of Action"

The photo that should have run with all the stories

Today, I read the letter that the father of Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexual assault, wrote to the judge presiding over the case.

Two things about the letter really stuck out in my mind:

1) Calling sexual assault and attempted rape "20 minutes of action" has to be the most crass and tone-deaf description of what his son did to that woman! I sincerely hope that was merely a poor choice of wording on Mr. Turner's part.

2) But notwithstanding that, reading the letter reminded me of something I did when I was a teenager.

One weekend, when I was 15, I was up visiting my mother and sister. While I was there, I got caught stealing a pack of cigarettes from a supermarket. No charges were filed against me, but my mom decided that for the rest of my visit I was going to pull weeds in a section of her back yard where she planned to plant a garden. I pleaded with my mom for some lenience. After all, I was filled with guilt and remorse for what I had done, and I told her that I had learned my lesson. "Son," she told me, " I understand that you feel remorse for what you did. You should feel that way. However, you still need to pay the price for what you have done." And with that, I spent the rest of my weekend digging dirt and pulling weeds.

I get that Mr. Turner is looking at his son, and seeing how what he has done has had a devastating effect on him, and doesn't want to see his flesh and blood in such a manner. But making excuses for his son and telling the judge how a six month sentence is too harsh is not what he should be doing. The simple fact of the matter is that his son committed an act which is punishable by law. If anything, he should be thanking the judge and his lucky stars that his son has been let off so light! But most importantly, he should realize that no matter how badly his son feels about what he did, he needs to pay the price for what he has done. And he needs to tell his son that.