EDITORIAL: The Benevolent And All-Seeing Eye

In Editorial, Fan Films

One of the last takeaways from the Axamonitor Facebook group for me, as briefly mentioned in my previous post, was the attention placed on Ray Tesi’s Fan Appreciation Weekend – happening at the Stage 9 Studio this weekend.

Following an impromptu conversation with a good friend, I’ve come to realise that the fallacies purported by some of the members of the Axamonitor group are nothing more than misguided and ill conceived notions stemming from a base of misinterpretation or perhaps even misunderstanding of the entire schamozle that is Star Trek fandom right now.

In my opinion, we saw the first rumblings of the schamozle when it burst forward following the lawsuit filing against Alec Peters and Axanar Productions – where supporters of the fan film producer were actively working to subvert – however incapable – the ability of CBS and Paramount to make a profit from new endeavours in the franchise.

We saw folks like Jonathan Lane, an active Axanar website blogger turned Fan Film Factor curator, create Project Small Access – his letter writing campaign to CBS executives seeking to change the fan film guidelines they released. Jonathan was a guest on The Trekzone Spotlight back in September 2016 where he discussed the project before the mail out began. That action was unsuccessful.

When those guidelines dropped the fan film landscape changed irrevocably, folks like Vic Mignogna could no longer continue producing their high quality full length episodes, Nick Cook in the UK halted production to retool his work and Star Trek Renegades abandoned the Star Trek universe all together.

Over numerous episodes of The Trekzone Spotlight I focused on the positives these guidelines had generated – including Aaron Vanderkley’s set of short films, Gary Davis’ Dreadnought Dominion, Gary O’Brien’s Chance Encounter as well as my own Once More With Feeling. To me, fan films were on track to make a resurgence with a healthy dose of blessing from the benevolent eye.

It seemed like CBS was content to just drop the guidelines and say no more. Until Tommy Kraft’s follow up project was nixed by Star Trek‘s owners – we’d later learn that it was going to come really close to some of the ideas and names used in Discovery. More time passed by and everyone went back to assuming CBS didn’t care, until Samuel Cockings learnt that they are indeed an all seeing eye… he was pinged for using actual live action scenes from TNG in his trailer for Temporal Anomaly.

Rob Bryan and his Stage 9 team discovered that it wasn’t just fan productions that were under the watchful gaze of the owners – they were shut down just as the quality and effort in their virtual reality tour of the Enterprise-D stepped up a gear. And now we come back to where this article started – with Ray Tesi and his Fan Appreciation Weekend.

The vocal commentators in the Axamonitor group have bemoaned how close he’s stepping to James Cawley’s license and he should be shut down, but that impromptu conversation with a friend taught me that CBS is well aware of Ray’s intentions and have been for almost three months. If CBS were going to shut Ray down, you’d think that they would’ve done so already – and not be waiting until the 11th hour after so many folks (guests and visitors alike) have booked flights, accommodation, time off work etc.

At each turn in the Star Trek fan saga over the past almost three years, CBS can’t be accused of ever looking for bad publicity with poorly timed injunctions. The studio has kept an eye on what’s going on across the fan base of their largest property and dropped a letter or two where it’s been required. Rob Bryan of Stage 9 and Samuel Cockings for Temporal Anomaly have both told me on separate episodes of A Trekzone Conversation that CBS have been courteous, understanding and – at least in Sam’s case – willing to negotiate a way forward.

At the end of the day, keep loving Star Trek and pursue hobbies in fan films or other activities to your hearts content. But be aware of your surroundings, read the precedents that have been set and most of all… don’t fight a cease and desist letter – we’re all playing in their sandbox, and if you argue a case you’ll just jeapordise everything for others who are doing the right thing.

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