For almost two decades, Star Trek fan films have been entertaining a niche market of Trekkies around the world. From Hidden Frontier to New Voyages, Continues to Chance Encounter, each has tackled their own limitations to produce a product on target with their intended purpose – fans coming together, having fun and acting out their very own Star Trek scenes. However in the past five years, as we’ve covered on Trekzone, a perceived arms race between the biggest of the players – James Cawley’s New Voyages, Vic Mignogna’s Continues, Sky Conway’s Renegades and Alec Peters’ Axanar – built into an inevitable end game that saw the landscape irrevocably changed.
With these four productions raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars through crowd funding campaigns and competing with each other to be seen, heard and ultimately donated to, the smaller players were forced out of the spotlight, merely by their inability to be heard over the noise rather than any means of brute force. There was no way for Australians, Brits, Kiwis or even start up Americans to cut through and get donations to realise anything beyond their most basic of dreams with little to no viewers.
Right at the end of 2015, CBS and Paramount launched legal action against Alec Peters for his Axanar fan film, which was growing increasingly noisy in it’s proclamations and crowd funding perk offerings. From claims such as “independent production” and perks like Klingon coffee and others with Star Trek brand marks, it was a fight that couldn’t be won. But Alec tried anyway and it created the first rift in this niche of our fandom – you were either with Alec or against him, as a “detractor.” He spoke with us in April 2016, mid lawsuit, which was followed by an hour round table discussion with journalist turned Axamonitor Carlos Pedraza where the minutiae of many of the detractors was analysed and discussed.
That discussion, our most viewed podcast, continues to be relevant today with many of the same arguments still in play – even with the lawsuit settled and Axanar reportedly mere months away from finally realised a thirty minute variant of the movie they’d intended to make. We’ve hashed that topic ad infinitum, just search for Axanar.
To today’s latest installment. The two sides of the fence on the Axanar conundrum continue to ripple through the niche, often accompanying personal attacks, an inability to stick to the facts or simply looking for some other project to tread too far over the line. In a recent example, it could be something as insignificant as a production being interviewed by Axanar sycophant Jonathan Lane for his Fan Film Factor blog.
Star Trek fan films have become almost as toxic as the Discovery argument – which we’ll cover another day – and it’s a struggle for newcomers to find the neutral zone and make their hobby for the world to see, without the politics. Sometimes it’s just better to live your own life and do what makes you happy.