Monday, July 18, 2016

A Piece of the Action: the new Trek fan film rules

1. 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. 
2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan productions. 
3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.
I've been excited about the wave of Trek fan films that have popped up in recent years, but only in the context of them being one out of many different ways - fan fiction, fan art, licensed novels, comics, video games - to appreciate Trek outside of the canonical work. (I think some fans, in their fervor over the fan films, might have forgotten about this.) It's unfortunate that Axanar has poisoned the fan film well to the extent that CBS/Paramount had to step in and establish boundaries for future Trek fan films, but truthfully, I'm not gonna shed too many tears over this change.

The reason has nothing to do with the guidelines per se. There have been differences of opinion regarding their fairness, and even their legality. CBS/P clearly wants to avoid another Axanar by putting a cap on film length and fundraising money, and banning professional actors. Maybe it's not fair to think all Trek fan films would or will follow the Axanar pattern, but I doubt the lawyers at CBS/P see it that way. Remember, fan-made works exist at the copyright holder's sufferance. CBS/P could've said "no more fan films, at all" and that would've been that.

I think once the dust has settled, those who want to continue shooting Trek fan films, even under the new guidelines, will make like the Borg and adapt. The truly creative ones will find different ways to tell their stories, and the fans will adjust their expectations accordingly. The bounty of stunning and polished fan material looking like an official episode or movie might have spoiled us, myself included, and perhaps we thought it could have continued indefinitely as long as CBS/P had no objections. And maybe it could have.

As for those who can't or won't work under these conditions, I hate to say it, but maybe they should reconsider playing with another kid's toys and make some of their own. Homages to another creator's work are all well and good, but the bottom line is we need new Star Treks - and we, as fans, need the will to let go of our attachment to Trek long enough to follow talented creators like James Cawley, Vic Mignogna, Tommy Kraft, Christian Gossett, and others if they decide to start something new outside of Trek fan films. Personally, I hope they do.

Axanar and fan fiction
William Shatner's 'Leonard'
Two Nimoy docs
Lin brokers Axanar settlement
action Trek vs. mental Trek


  1. Well said. Especially the part about "getting your own toys". This is how things stand and life goes on.

  2. Thanks. I'm not against fan films per se - they're a good way to learn the craft and build an audience - but I personally would not want to stick to making fan films or fan fiction for the rest of my career. Strikes me as a waste.


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