If you’re a science fiction and fantasy film fan and don’t want to read all this, in short, it’s about Star Trek fan films and you can skip to the 2nd paragraph after the “2).” What I have before that is building the case.
I know a lot of people have been upset over CBS and Paramount’s suing the fan Star Trek production Axanar. (Basically once Axanar made $1 million in pledges on Kickstarter, CBS-Mount jumped in to sue them.) Now look at this: CBS has warned the producers of Horizon that it’s best for them to not produce their sequel. I don’t know if this is their “no cost” way of stopping fan productions or if they really intend to take action against fan film producers (and I’m wondering why, if CBS is doing this, Horizon was contacted rather than Star Trek: Phase II or Star Trek Continues, since they’ve both been doing their own series with a number of episodes each).
It’s also possible that, while the Axanar suit is ongoing, CBS feels the court would be more likely to toss the case out if there were other ongoing production in similar situations who were not being sued. And, of course, one possibility is that since CBS is now planning a series, they may be going after all fan productions eventually.
This leads to two points, one CBS and Paramount should consider and one that producers and fans should consider.
1) As some “weighty” (to borrow a Quaker term) Trek people have mentioned, CBS and Paramount now have a win-lose situation. They could create a win-win situation if they change their attitude and started working out a licensing situation so fan productions could be officially approved. This would allow them to actually make a profit (which would lead to better productions), it would mean CBSMount would make a licensing fee off those productions (which, admittedly, in comparison to their other Trek income, would not be much), and even provide a licensing procedure that would give them some level of quality control over fan productions. In the long run, with this, everyone wins. The only people that even think they lose are those that view fan spending as a limited source and think that if fans and viewers spend a few bucks on a fan produced DVD, they won’t see the movie or watch the series. That is also a view we know is not true.
2) I think many of us felt, from the start, that Star Trek fan productions were on shaky ground. Yes, some have said they got an unofficial “wink wink nudge nudge” from CBS that it was okay as long as they didn’t make a profit. Others in the industry or with some legal knowledge (or lawyers) have said that there were no clear grounds for a suit. Remember, one doesn’t need full legal grounds to sue. If you’re as big as CBSMount, or even half that juggernaut, and you want to shut down the fan productions, go after one or two, file notices, do everything you can to force the production to hire lawyers, delay the case, keep them in limbo, and basically keep them tied in knots as long as possible. Fan productions, even Axanar, are limited in budget and if they can be forced to spend money on lawyers, that can destroy the production without ever reaching the courtroom. Maybe it’s not right, but it’s possible.
Many of us have enjoyed the fan productions and want to see them continue, but I think this is a good time to consider an alternative that excites me more than the Star Trek fan films. The fan films have proved a number of things: A) There are a number of highly talented people quite capable of creating professional quality productions, and B) They no longer have to work through or in big studios to do this because C) The internet has created many avenues for funding productions and D) Science fiction and fantasy is now much less expensive to produce due to computer and video technology can turn any teenybopper with a cell phone and a free program like Blender into a science fiction movie producer.
There is the talent, the skills, the technology, and the funding out there for a revolution in science fiction and fantasy films. We could see dozens, hundreds, of new movies and series created for us to enjoy.
Not long ago, there was a Kickstarter for “Star Wolf”. Star Wolf would have started with one movie and continued as long as funding was there. I mention this one because I first heard about it in the late 1980s and have been eager to see it done as a series ever since. It has much of what made Star Trek popular in it and is even done by two Star Trek alumni.
Another that I’ve just become aware of is “Personal Space”
So why, with all these options available, and the chance for us to help fund, start, and create a number of science fiction shows we could be enjoying for years, are we, as fans, spending most of our money on Star Trek?
What if the million dollars raised for Axanar went into Star Wolf or any other SF indie project and created a new world? What if someone created an SF universe that was a playground we could all play in, make movies about, write fan fiction for, and there wasn’t a boogeyman in the cave who could jump out and quash it all with just threats of a lawsuit?
It’s time we, as fans, start putting up the money for productions in the huge number of worlds that could be created rather than just for Star Trek. Yes, Trek is a wonderful playground, but when we can play almost the same games elsewhere, on a playground without any gang of bullies lurking and ready to shutdown the playground at any time, it’s about time we start helping all these talented and hard working people build new playgrounds we can all enjoy. With all the possible universes, why do we insist on playing in just one?