I have been trying to avoid posting about Star Trek: Axanar because of the furor that has sprung up around it both legally, and in fandom. However, in revisiting old posts a few days ago, I saw that I had promised to, so here goes.
Simplest explanation of it all? It’s a mess.
The lawsuit is still pending, and there has been so much comment on what has unraveled since various documents started coming out, that it’s very hard to know where to start.
Do we just look at it as a legal issue, do we explore it as fans, or do we look at it solely from the perspective of what it might mean for other fan productions?
I don’t know.
So, I’m just going to look at it from a personal perspective.
Axanar is something I’ve been looking forward to for some time, I donated money to it, I followed it’s development with great interest, and I sat in awe through Prelude to Axanar (the short film made to promote the concept for a potential longer form fan film) and was so excited for what it showed and the promise held within the idea.
After Prelude, it felt like news on the production of the feature slowed down, and it also felt like the dialogue around the production changed. I might be wrong, but I remember it being referred to as a fan film, but somewhere along the line it became something else.
Late last year I started to look into it all, because I was wondering what was going on. Then the lawsuit from Paramount Pictures and CBS happened and I was stumped. Obviously something had been happening since Prelude was released… and obviously some people weren’t happy about it!
Historically, Paramount and CBS have allowed (tolerated?) fan productions without issue, but the lawsuit filed by both companies suggests Axanar crossed a line no other fan film had crossed. Then this year news starting popping up that a producer had drawn a salary from fan raised money and things started to get nasty.
It’s important to note that in some fan productions in the past, professional actors, directors and other creative staff have been paid – which is a legal requirement in some countries. I’m not up on how that works in America, but in Australia it depends on the nature of the employment and the type of production. We all do freebies as actors in Australia, but usually only for mates and for student productions.
Axanar was promoting itself as a professional production which appeared to infringe on the Star Trek trademark and would definitely require a lot of people get paid a wage.
The rub, for Paramount and CBS, seems to be the word ‘professional’. They’ve also listed a variety of other issues with Axanar including the use of characters, ship classes and the use of Star Trek languages.
For the fans, the issue seems to be “what did our money go to?”
I don’t know what to say about any of it, because I naively trusted everyone behind the production and I hope that my faith in them is eventually upheld.
I have always thought that as Trek fans we’re a community, and a very beautiful one. I’ve been overseas a couple of times, and have bonded with complete strangers in other countries over Star Trek, its philosophies and how it has inspired us. To me, it’s always been this special thing that brings people together. As fans we do sometimes get into crazy arguments over which is the best Trek film or series, who the best captain is, and there are some of us who like to debate the more esoteric aspects of our favourite show – but we support each other and the various fan efforts that are out there, and we don’t set out to deceive each other.
Did the people behind Axanar set out to deceive a bunch of trusting fans? I don’t know. I hope not. I’m definitely deciding to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Until the truth comes out in the wash, if you’re interested in following the unfolding drama, I highly recommend you go to the actual official site for Axanar and these two excellent Star Trek sites that have been following the developments behind this historic lawsuit: Michael Hinman’s excellent 1701News (Michael has been following the lawsuit closely and has a number of informative articles on his site), and the brilliant TrekZone, an Australian Star Trek site that has also been following the Axanar production (Matt Miller, the man behind TrekZone, recently scored an insightful interview with Alec Peters, one of the driving forces behind Axanar).
Star Trek: Sentinel won’t be following the Axanar issue. I’ll report on it once there’s a resolution, but until then I want to stay out of the argument. As a donor to the project I have a vested interest in seeing the film made, but as long time fan of Trek, I also want to see the copyright of the brand respected. So, I’m torn and as far as I’m concerned there are more than enough voices in the mix.
As a Star Trek fan who adores the fanfilms that have sprung up over the years, I hope this lawsuit doesn’t affect any other productions in the future. They’re a very special part of Star Trek and one I hope isn’t tarnished or completely destroyed by this lawsuit.
EDIT/UPDATE (April 12 2016 – Australia/April 11 2016 US):
A big thank you to Kabalyero (www.kabalyero.info) for a question that prompted me to be a little more comprehensive with the information I was sharing on the Axanar issue.
There’s a well researched site called AxaMonitor which has possibly the most comprehensive coverage on the Axanar lawsuit issue to date. Is it objective? You decide. To check it out, click here. For the other half of the argument, please make sure you visit the official Axanar website and read their side here.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, this is an historic issue that will have far reaching consequences for television and film production, and fanfilm production in particular, and it’s important we are all as informed as we can be while we wait for the courts to make a decision.
There are so many opinions out there right now that it is confusing. AxaMonitor does a great job of aggregating multiple sources of news, but it’s also worth hearing from the proverbial horses mouth and visiting the Axanar website.
If you’re interested in reading the actual legal argument that’s being made by the owners of the Star Trek brand, the only copy of the current legal documents I have been able to find are via the AxaMonitor website as a PDF. If you want to read the document click here.
Once a decision has been made in the courts, I’ll post about it.
Until then, please keep supporting Star Trek fan productions. Long time series like Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Continues and many more (including the recent amazing Star Trek: Horizon) have done incredible and noteworthy work with full and clear disclosure around their financials.
Let’s not tar the whole with whatever brush people are choosing to tar Axanar with.