The Fan Appreciation Weekend That Wasn’t Appreciated By Some

In Editorial

When the fan film guidelines dropped in 2016, Star Trek: Continues was already on the path to wrapping it’s production. A little over a year later the final episode was released and the Stage 9 studio in Kingsland, Georgia fell silent. Fast forward a few months more and Vic Mignogna signed the lease and guardianship over to Ray Tesi.

Since that decision in February, a few Facebook groups have witnessed another fracture in the “niche of a niche” that is the Star Trek fan film community. A fracture that follows on and takes cues from the Axanar movement and is spearheaded by Mignogna’s antithesis James Cawley. Cawley, a fan film actor and producer turned licensee, has carried himself with a modicum of disdain bordering on outright hatred for the other production over the years.

Recently, Tesi decided to open the doors to Stage 9 Studios for a Fan Appreciation Weekend, which took place last weekend and featured many STC alumni and provided walkthroughs for groups of people who wanted to see where the magic happened. There was no admission charge. Any time a post was made in the Axamonitor Facebook group in the lead up to this event, Cawley – an infrequent poster in the group – would let an angry comment fly, bemoaning Ray’s flagrant disregard for his license, occasionally asserting that CBS would be hearing from him and how he would get the fan service shut down.

This would whip other members of the group into action, eventually leading to a permanent paradigm shift in the focus of the group to policing any infringements of the Star Trek IP.

After remaining mum for almost two years CBS has recently clamped down on a couple of projects, including Rob Bryan’s Stage 9 Virtual Reality project. He was sent a cease and desist letter which he promptly actioned, taking down all official records. Samuel Cockings is another that was flagged by CBS for using the Enterprise-E senior staff in the trailer for his fan film Temporal Anomaly, however he worked with CBS to change the production enough to appease them.

Ray Tesi himself has confirmed to Trekzone that CBS was made aware of his plans for the Fan Appreciation Weekend and did not stop it from moving forward as planned. (although Ray notes that they didn’t bless it either.)

Despite all of this, James continues to carry on about the violation of his license and how he will be pursuing the matter. However it seems that CBS is not interested in addressing his concerns, so one has to wonder how his public displays of anger are going to solve anything.

It’s a tawdry affair going on right now, and I’m so disappointed to see it happen again.

23 commentsOn The Fan Appreciation Weekend That Wasn’t Appreciated By Some

  • I don’t want to speak ill of Cawley… But, now he knows how the people who supported the final New Voyages/Phase II Kickstarter felt when many never got their perks, the episode that was in production before the fan film rules, having to fight to get a refund (I finally got mine after nearly three years), and the sets being converted into the original set tour. Maybe CBS should look at that instead of this.

    • interesting to note Alex. I knew that NV had abandoned their final episode… but I had no idea they’d failed to honour the crowd funding campaign.

    • I never asked for or got any refund, but I do consider myself to have been cheated. I donated primarily to help put out an episode. Cawley CHOSE to sign a contract in which he used my money for a business venture and to NOT put out the episode I donated to. He was not sued, as far as I know. The person I have met from CBS licencing gushed over his sets and over him. I have zero interest in Cawley’s set tour. The decent thing would have been for him to at least offered disappointed donors a credit on the set tour, but that hasn’t happened either. For all I know he was hoping for this when he was running the crowdfunding and never intended to complete the episode. At any rate, I got to watch all his prior episodes free, so I wouldn’t sue, but it reflects on his character.

      • Hi Barbara, this makes two folks now to comment on Trekzone about the crowd funding campaign leading into his business venture.

        It’s a successful version of Axanar isn’t it…

  • I continue to be puzzled that 2 individuals whom I would conclude are both brilliant and talented are reported to have such personal disagreements between them. Certainly viewed by an outsider, both New Voyages and STC are superb achievements. I’ll get to Stage 9 first since GA is closer for me here in NC but I’ll eventually reach Ticonderoga since both of these sets seem to me from online images to be excellent. Thanks for your reporting on the IP owners’ apparent lack of legal action against Mr Tesi’s project.

  • Unapproved Star Trek events such as what was witnessed in Georgia damage CBS licencees, all CBS licencees. One, they potentially draws ticket buyers away from officially licensed events and their approved vendors and two, because there is no accountability as far as what is being presented or any guarantee as to the accuracy of what is being advertised. A licence to merchandise Star Trek as Star Trek isn’t just given by CBS either, it’s a contract between an individual and CBS and there are licencing fees and financial obligations to be met and certain attitudes and protocols to be followed. That license is what enables Star Trek Original Series Set Tour to have official events which are sponsored and promoted by CBS and enable the invitation of Star Trek series guest stars and celebrities without fear of repercussions for either party. It also means that Star Trek Original Series Set Tour as is the case with all licencees must present itself with a high degree of accuracy and professionalism. Star Trek Continues is Star Trek in name only. That means they ARE NOT REAL STAR TREK, as ARE ALL fan films regardless of who creates them or who appears in them. They are not approved, their stories are not canon and they are not marketable. The conditions under which those hobby projects were created no longer existed after CBS was forced to create guidelines after Alec Peter crossed the line and presented his own project as “professional”. That fans continue (no pun intended) to seek ways to present themselves as “owners” and merchandisers of Star Trek who are nothing of the kind, presents a unique problem, one which could conceivably result in the eventual shutting down of ALL Star Trek fans projects. And such an action would be justified. Fans do not own Star Trek! Licencees should be justifiably outraged that some individuals continue to break the rules and even refuse to acknowledge their are any rules or legal rights to Star Trek, actions which damage CBS, CBS licencees and ultimately Star Trek fans.

    • I don’t see any Star Trek branding on the Stage 9 website, nor at the studios in Kingsland. Therefore there can be no reasonable expectation that CBS is in any way associated with or responsible for this project – especially given the disclaimers on the website. Furthermore, Star Trek: Continues has concluded – they no longer exist and Stage 9 Studios is under the ownership of Ray Tesi.

      Brian, you are another person piling on to this notion that there can only be one or other – if the OSST exists, then there can be no other standing sets in studio for fan films to create their own works – something that IS allowed given that CBS and Paramount released guidelines for future productions. With that in mind, I’m curious as to why you’ve gone off on the tangent about canon or approval?

      Also, I haven’t seen anywhere where Ray has presented himself as the “owner of Star Trek”, could you please point that out to me?

      • No Star Trek branding? Any reasons that anyone would want to go to the Georgia studio or their web pages, are Star Trek related. Ray owns a studio that is used for what? Fan films? What kind of fan films? Star Trek fan films! When I go to Stage 9 Studios web pages, I see an Enterprise like bridge, I see the captain’s chair, I see Star Trek fans in Star Trek attire, I read comments about Star Trek and I see Star Trek related imagery. And, I read a list of disclaimers the length of my arm about who actually DOES own Star Trek, (not Ray Tesi!) who is not affiliated with CBS (Ray Tesi), basically an admission that the owners of the page are bringing you Star Trek in the form of Star Trek sets for the making of Star Trek fan films and Star Trek visits by Star Trek fans at Star Trek events, BUT OH, BY THE WAY, we are not in any way affiliated with the people who own Star Trek and we can’t and won’t call any of this Star Trek. (Wink, wink!) It’s either an admission of guilt or seeks to make viewers of their content complicit in the charade. However, thou dosh protest too much! Licensees have a right to call their venues and events “Star Trek”. They don’t have to make apologies for and and they don’t require disclaimers. They can advertise their properties and events as “Star Trek” and they are encouraged to. They can make money and they are encouraged, because they have CBS’s approval and where the licensee profits, so does CBS and so do fans. Fan films can be created by fans under CBS’s guidelines but I don’t believe that gives people the right to own Star Trek studios for hire or Star Trek studios for public exhibition whether they are called Star Trek or not or whether they make money from those ventures or not. The question at hand is, who has the right to use Star Trek and Star Trek related imagery? and the answer to that question I believe is Star Trek fans creating their own material on their own time and dime and additionally CBS licensees who have express approval to use the name Star Trek and ALL of its imagery and visual assets. Yes, people who are skirting the IP laws at every turn certainly do seem to imply they have some kind of a moral ownership of Star Trek and as “owners” have a right to Star Trek, a right by the way, which simply does not exist.

        • You have basically negated your own argument with your final sentences. However, I will respond to a couple of your points.

          Firstly, with regards to the disclaimers – you’ll spot them on this site as well. Is it an admission of guilt? No, it’s an acknowledgment of the rightful owners of the property I write about. Is it a legal requirement? Yes, it is. To jump to assertions of illegalities based solely on the disclaimers is outlandish and quite frankly stupid.

          Secondly, to the legality of Ray owning Stage 9… I’ll say simply: CBS and Ray are discussing the way forward with it. CBS were well aware that the FAW was taking place and had ample opportunity to stop it. They did not.

        • Brian, I think Matt makes a very valid point I wish you would address: If CBS permits ST Fan Film productions by virtue of their providing guidelines, and Ticonderoga doesn’t permit fan films to use their tours-only sets, where exactly can the sanctioned fan films be filmed if not at Stage 9? I think CBS gets that, and Matt certainly does, but I’m not so sure you do. Not trying to be combative here, just trying to understand if I am missing something.

  • Correctly or not, I was influenced by what the IP owners did not do, i.e., they did not apparently ask Mr Tesi to stand down from his project with the Farragut/STC sets. I waited until the Stage 9 event concluded to join its’ Patreon because I wanted to see if speculation online about CBS defending Mr Cawley’s license against Mr Tesi was correct. Needless to say, I mean no harm to Mr Cawley’s project and hope to visit it in future.

  • Lawrence (Larry) Fleming

    Star Trek has always been about inclusion. That is what we all like about the show. Fan films continue that premise. There is room for all. Both sets are great and should be seen. I’m not going to say anything more than that. LLAP

  • Because CBS has not yet taken action against the Georgia sets, does not mean that they won’t in the future. It’s doing a disservice to the readers of this page to assert that because CBS has not yet taken action, it’s a tacit approval.

    I hope that if the situation changes in the future, you will admit that your assumption was wrong and apologize.

    There are reasons for the bad blood between NV/Phase II and STC that it isn’t my place to recount.

    James Cawley simply wants to run his business without drama or strife.

    I am a contributor to past episodes that also did not receive the promised perks. But… I didn’t contribute to get the perks. I contributed to help the production. I’m well satisfied with that.

    I’ve been to the Set Tour in 2016, and it was wonderful! But, it’s even better today.

    I’d rather see the sets for the fan films converted into a business that pays the rent, lights the lights and pays for the heating and cooling, rather than see the sets destroyed after the thousands of man-hours put into them.

    I’d love to see a West Coast location for another Official Set Tour. I don’t know if CBS is thinking about doing that. For right now, only the Set Tour in Ticonderoga is licensed and official.

    As someone who has created IP, I respect CBS’s desire to protect their property, and James Cawley’s wish to protect his business and the huge investment in time and money that created it.

    We don’t own Star Trek, we just purchase things that are created to live in it’s universe.

    • I’m not sure at what point fans starting turning on each other. Where fans decided that if you’re not with me, then you are against me… it’s quite sad really. I have enough research on my desk to suggest that my assumption that CBS will not take any action against Ray, however if they do I will eat some humble pie.

      If James Cawley wants to run his business without drama or strife, perhaps he should stick to being a professional and raise his concerns through the appropriate channels, rather than using echo chambers to drum up support.

      It’s interesting you note that you were a donor to NV, yet you see nothing wrong with James turning the donations for productions into donations for his for-profit business.

  • Interestingly, they were several gentlemen who have done a great deal of work for Mr. Cawley over the past few years; all of them are friends of mine and just really decent guys. They went to the Fan Weekend, and when word got back to James, he perma-banned them. They are no longer welcome in Ticonderoga. Seems petty and childish to me. Adults in the real world do not behave like this.

  • Cawley was KNOWN over his time of starting his “bridge set” to have been selfish, self centered, and broke alot of promises he made to the many people that helped him along over the years to get where he is with his new convention huckster position. In addition, his episodes were quite amateurish, and aside of the professionals he got from his connection with Roddenberry, virtually NONE of them were actors, and it showed. ANYONE can put together a team to build whiz bang top flight sets, costumes and props, but if the acting is that lousy , all the rest is a waste, and for the most part STC BLEW away Cawley’s episodes. Now hes just being childish an vindictive. He’s got his license, and he gets paid from all his visitors. Ray charges NOTHING..So Cawley LOSES NOTHING. There is NO reason he needs to pick on a fan enterprise. He makes enough with his Elvis gigs, and NOW..He makes money from his Convention, in true huckster style..People like him should have stayed OUT of Star Trek.

    • In terms of fairness, money isn’t the only means test for whether a person violates a licensee and/or IP.

      But in Ray’s case, he’s not doing anything to warrant CBS’ ire… and that’s indicative in the current negotiations they’re having.

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