Star Trek fan films have been around over four decades. They’ve come in all shapes, sizes, and varying levels of quality. In all that time, the copyright owners of Star Trek have remained quiet. So why has one fan film elicited a lawsuit that has the fan community in an uproar?
Fan films for genre properties are extremely popular. You can probably find fan films for every sci-fi, superhero, or fantasy-based intellectual property from games to films to TV shows. And one of the most popular sci-fi franchises of all time, Star Trek, has one of the highest numbers of fan films on the internet. One of the most popular was a 21-minute short released in 2014 called “Prelude to Axanar.” It has won over 45 film festivals and racked up almost 2.5 million views as of this podcast. So popular was this short, that the filmmakers raised a record-setting $1.2 million dollars from two crowdfunding campaigns to make a feature film version.
Then in December of 2015, the filmmakers behind Axanar were hit with a full-blown lawsuit from CBS and Paramount, something they’ve never done in the 40+ years that fan films have been around. Why now has the “sleeping giant” awakened?
Today on the show we talk to Robert Meyer Burnett, the director of the film (which has not yet begun production due to the suit). He talks about it origins and insight into their side of this argument.
We also hear from Richard “RB” Botter, CEO and founder of Stage32, whose connections to the Hollywood machine give him an insightful POV. Show regulars JD and Yolanda Cochran chime in as well. And show co-producer Chris Huslage is back to give us some history about fan films.
Support Axanar Productions
Hop on over to AxanarProductions.com if you would like to support this film and the team behind it.
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Music in this Episode
Music was curated from FreeMusicArchive.org. In order of appearance, the music in this episode:
- Windy Bluffs by Visager (CC BY)
- Airship by Visager (CC BY)
- Stellar by Mindseye (CC BY)
- Ho Hey by the Lumineers. Courtesy of Song Freedom. All rights reserved.
- Cylinder Eight by Chris Zabriskie (CC BY)
- Village Dreaming by Visager (CC BY)
- The Last Slice of Pecan Pie by Josh Woodward (CC BY)
- Bathed in the Light by Kevin MacLeod (CC BY)
- The Final Road by Visager (CC BY)
- Age of Feminine by Kellee Maize (CC BY)
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Mr Universe says
Now I’m confused. Robert has said on Twitter and FB that he can’t be called “director” since the film isn’t in production. So which is it Bob?
Also, I find it odd that you’re (Ron) advocating people to support monetarily a project that is in the middle of a copyright suit (which they’ll probably lose) and even if by some miracle they win they would run afoul of the new fan film guidelines so won’t get made anyway.
Ron Dawson says
I didn’t say you had to support the project monetarily. In fact, what I specifically said was to shoot a tweet to CBS and Paramount. That’s one non-monetary way to support them. There are others. People can make up their own mind if they want to throw money at a project in the middle of a lawsuit. I don’t think that’s wise, but I don’t think I need to specifically spell that out either.
As far as the fan guidelines, I’m still holding out hope CBS and Paramount come around to their senses and 1) drop the lawsuit and 2) create guidelines that aren’t so restrictive. I know at the end of the day it’s their IP and they can do with it as they will, but part of this is on them. For 4 decades they’ve let a standard be set. If from the very beginning they fought against fan films, it might have sucked, but at least there wouldn’t have been such a precedent and expectation set. And as I said on the show, ultimately they HURT their brand when they attack fans. And there’s no denying that this project is born out of nothing but love for the franchise. It’s rather ridiculous they came out the door with guns blazing.