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!


  1. So things haven't even started and your already blinking?

    1. Huh? I'm not sure what you mean by this. Please elaboate.

    2. I mean that the guidelines have just come out, things are still in flux and this article advocates, "fighting is too hard and anyway it won't work so we should just capitulate and make the best of it". I mean that we should stand our ground, even if it doesn't hurt them financially the point is one of principle. To refuse to be bullied and browbeaten, to stand up for ourselves.

    3. Jaime, I think you misunderstand the point of this article. I am advocating a way of fighting against the rules that is a lot more fun, and potentially more likely to have an actual effect upon CBS than the usual call for a boycott. Please click the link to Jonathan's blog, where he goes over Small Access in detail.

    4. Boycotts do work, at least in the current context, this one did; the threat of boycott is part of why CBS/Paramount backed off on the Axanar suit and threw down the "guidelines" gauntlet. The guidelines are a slap in the face, and I suspect a way to test the water with the fandom, but the fandom should continue to respond accordingly whether it's through a direct boycott or through communal ideas like Small Access.
      And is not banding together to reduce or otherwise impact the cash-flow from fandom pockets to CBS/Paramount just a boycott by another name? Don't get me wrong, I commend the effort, but don't discount the efforts of those who've taken a different, albeit parallel, approach.

    5. TW, the idea is similar, and I'm not pooh-poohing someone who wants to boycott. It's just that, realistically, the 10,00-15,000 people who would sign a petition to boycott, even if every single one of them followed through on it, doesn't amount to a whole lot of money, certainly not enough to catch the attention of either Paramount or CBS. SMALL ACCESS has the potential to reach a lot more people because it's a way to get their voices heard that could be lots of fun!

    6. And still give money to Paramount/CBS? No thanks I call that capitulation. You do what you want I'll boycott, we'll see what happens.

    7. Jaime, you are free to do so, I'm certainly not telling you to not boycott if you feel so inclined. We also want to reach the people who are upset, but aren't inclined to boycott.


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