EDITORIAL: The Star Trek Fan Film Conundrum

I've long been a champion of true fan films set in our beloved universe - hosting numerous Fan Film Done Right interviews, while so many other Trek podcasts don't even give them a passing glance. But something caught my mind's eye last week and it's taken me a few days to conceptualise it in written form...

I’ve long been a champion of true fan films set in our beloved universe – hosting numerous Fan Film Done Right interviews, while so many other Trek podcasts don’t even give them a passing glance. But something caught my mind’s eye last week and it’s taken me a few days to conceptualise it in written form…

In the last couple of months both James Irwin’s Avalon crowd funder and Ray Tesi’s Neutral Zone Studios Patreon have been the beneficiaries of large dollar sums from single donors (2 large individual donations in Avalon’s case), which quite literally catapulted their campaigns from doing-alright to now-we’re-getting-somewhere. That’s great news for them, and the product they’re going to be able to deliver with that boost, but there’s one other crowd funding campaign out there that isn’t doing so well, and it all got me wondering about a possible mystery backer trying desperately to keep interest in Star Trek fan films alive.

While we can reasonably assume the identity of the first large donation as the incredibly generous David Butler Agrinsonis, who chipped in around $1k at the end of March, we weren’t told the identity of the individual who had trouble donating $500 two weeks later on Indiegogo and instead directly donated to the producers via PayPal. We know all about this trouble because Axanar sycophant Jonathan Lane detailed everything in one of his usually long-winded blog entries.

I’m genuinely excited for Demons – the next production from Avalon – and Josh and Victoria have said that they will make up the shortfall in the budget with their own money… a perfect example of a fan film done right.

Ray Tesi, meanwhile, is struggling with the burden of those beautiful Farragut-turned-Continues sets, he’s on the hunt for $3,500 a month to cover the upkeep and insurance premiums. Tesi’s been looking for patrons since July, and it’s been a slow and steady climb from $0, but last week gave him the biggest shot in the arm with a single generous individual chipping in $824 per month. While this relieves some of the pressure off Ray to stump up some of the cash… it once again leaves us wondering – who is the generous person?

Our third case here is Alec Peters’ warehouse in Atlanta now titled Ares Studio. It’s crowd funding campaign is floundering, barely scraping past 50% of what he claimed to have needed by May 1 to avoid moving again. Every month, when the Patreon renewal train rolls around more and more people are disembarking at the station and running far, far away… probably because all they get for their trouble is angry old Alec yelling at his webcam with a microphone around his head about how bad CBS are and why they should’ve put him in charge of Star Trek – or some such.

Out of these three – the most recently active and prolific crowd funding cases in Star Trek fandom – only that last one sticks out in my mind’s eye.

With five Star Trek shows in some form of production right now, we’re going to be graced with about 20-30 weeks of the franchise from next year – that’s a lot of real, big budget Trek to sit through and it’s all going to be behind a paywall. So many fans will again be presented with a choice – do I pay for a fan film or official Trek?

I think Alec Peters can already see that the choice is clear, and his fledgling empire built off the back of unsuspecting donors is about to come crumbling down, hard. Sure, Vance Major Owen is slated to film on his sets and the kids from Gwinnett County Public School are seemingly having a good time, but Vance nor the Public School board will pay Alec $4,000 a month just to have a wooden fort in a warehouse. And since Alec’s money can only be used for frivolous law suites and not actual film making, one has to wonder how cold and lonely it’s getting out there with a warehouse no one wants to pay for.

So Alec set out to rejuvenate the niche of a niche by pitching in some of that potential-Axanar-making money to other productions. If the spark was reignited he could be there to scoop some of the prize.

Or perhaps he’s hedging his bets on The Neutral Zone outlasting him and he’ll need a new place to go… at any rate, let’s wait and watch for any large mystery donations to Lane’s Axanar fan film.

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