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Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines

CBS and Paramount released guidelines for fan films this week, it comes in the wake of the two companies going after a Star Trek fan film in court. The film is called Axanar and it raised $1.2 million with crowd funding. It’s a feature length film that takes place between Enterprise and TOS (or the new movie reboots if you prefer). From the trailer and the 21 minute prelude it looks like this could actually be the Trek movie we deserve. Not that I haven’t enjoyed Action Trek, but it’s not Star Trek and leaves behind much of what Star Trek stood for. Several of the old movies were bad (like terrible bad, like Riker taking manual control of the enterprise with a joystick you could walk into Best Buy and purchase at the time) but they stayed true to at least some of Roddenberry’s vision.

Axanar may very well violate copyright, I’m no lawyer but I know copyright is complicated and I’m not even going to pretend to know the answer there. But it’s what the fans want and the strongest argument for it is that it’s the fans who got you where you are and you’ve already spent 7 years basically crapping all over it (I’ll say again that I’ve watched the movies and enjoyed them, but they shouldn’t be called Star Trek). So, this movie, which doesn’t star any established characters and is going out of its way to be its own thing in a period of time in the Trek universe that’s little covered and looks very original, is in their cross-hairs, well maybe, they were supposed to be dropping it, but maybe aren’t or at least haven’t yet. So their answer was a set of guide lines. I’ll just hit the high points of those really quick.

The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

This is just ridiculous, at 15 minutes even the prelude to the film doesn’t count. Let alone the fact that they may want to continue with those characters. So the first item shows they’re not serious about enabling fans with reasonable guidelines for telling a compelling story.

The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.\

So, if the production can get money together they can’t actually pay anyone, and even if they got a real actor to do it for free, they couldn’t use them because they’re not amateurs. Again, clearly not serious. Restrictions are understood, that’s the point of guidelines, but restrictions designed to lower the quality of the films is just insulting.

Did I mention it also limits fundraising to $50,000?

Now for one that I’m actually glad they included because it’s the only one I feel makes any attempt to keep the films in line with Roddenberry’s vision. Although I think it may go a little too far it at least feels like it’s got the right goal in mind.

The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy.

The rest of it is mostly about protecting their money, which is what this is really all about and it’s pretty much what I would expect. The bottom line is they hamstrung fan films so badly that many of the existing ones don’t qualify, ones they haven’t gone after in the past. Remind me again why these are the guys who should be in charge of Gene’s vision?

One final note, I feel it would be in poor taste to end this article without saying something about the death of Anton Yelchin, it’s a tragedy not just for the loss of life but for the loss to Star Trek of the character that I thought best captured the original character in the movie reboot, he got far too little screen time but really knocked it out of the park.

Here’s the prelude to Axanar.

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