After pushing a nearly year-and-a-half-long copyright battle with fan filmmakers to a settlement earlier this year, CBS and Star Trek New Voyages Producer James Cawley announced the creation of a Star Trek Film academy equipped to train interested creators and produce future fan films.
“Learn the art of Star Trek filming of those who made it,” Cawley said when announcing the initiative at the… Star Trek Las Vegas convention this weekend. “From giving a joke to costumes to special effects, fans will work side by side with talented Star Trek artists to create short vignettes from start to finish.”
This is the first official CBS-approved fan movie making effort in trek‘s history of more than 50 years. The academy will launch in the fall with the first films expected in the spring of 2018. Unlike previous trek fan movies or movies made under newly announced guidelines, movies made through the Star Trek Film academy can employ people who have worked on professional trek productions.
These Academy fans and movies also have access to the New trips kits and facilities. New trips is a fan-created web series that Cawley directed from 2008 to 2015, with approximately one episode per year. Although the series was not officially a CBS production, sets were made for New trips was licensed as a “Studio Set Tour” as of July 2016. New trips recommended contributions from major trek players like George Takei (who reprises his role as Sulu) and Eugene Roddenberry, Jr. (as producer).
Details on exact dates and prices were not immediately available, although the location is likely Ticonderoga, New York, given the New trips sets will be used. Ars will update this post if further logistics information is announced.
Learned a lesson?
The Film Academy contrasts CBS and Paramount Studio’s recent interactions with Axanar Productions, a company formed by trek fans to raise money and produce professional quality Star Trek fanfiction movies.
In 2014, Axanar Productions released a 20 minute short film called Prelude to Axanarin which retired Starfleet leaders talk about their experiences in the Four Years’ War, a war between the Federation and the Klingons that took place in the Star Trek universe before The original series began. At the time, the company planned to make a full-length story called axanar. That project would follow the story of Captain Kirk’s hero, Garth of Izar, and ideally premiere in 2016. Both productions were funded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, raising more than $1.1 million from fans.
But in 2015, Axanar ran into a problem. Attorneys for CBS and Paramount have filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Despite decades of trek spin-off movies made by fan-amateur filmmakers, this effort apparently came a little too close to professional standards.
“The axanar The works are intended to be professional-quality productions that, as the defendants themselves admit, unabashedly occupy the intellectual property of Paramount and CBS and strive to “look and feel like a real Star Trek movie.” the indictment (PDF).
A long copyright saga followed. A petition for dismissal was denied in May 2016, and a federal judge in Los Angeles paved the way for a courtroom trial by dismissing motions for summary judgments in January 2017. Overall, CBS and Paramount largely stuck to their stance: Attorneys for the two companies listed 57 cases of infringement of Axanar’s work and eventually announced formal guidelines that fan filmmakers must follow going forward (no unofficial merchandise, alcohol consumption or long episodes for example). The two entities demanded injunctive relief that prohibits Axanar Productions from distributing Prelude to Axanar and axanaras well as “up to $150,000 for each individual Star Trek copyrighted work (PDF).”
For his part, Axanar . positioned Precursor as a free “mockumentary” and offered to modify the script for axanar as a means of circumventing the initial disagreement. The most recent director in the Star Trek movie universe, JJ Abrams, seemed to agree that things escalated too far. “We started talking about it and realized it wasn’t the right way to deal with the fans,” Abrams said during a May 2016 Star Trek event following the rejection of that rejection request. “The fans should celebrate this.”
Abrams’ comments indicated that the case would be dropped or settled, but such a conclusion would not come until January 20, 2017, just over a week before a trial was set to begin. General details of the settlement remain confidential, but Axanar stated “we are not paying anything” and announced that the company would proceed with axanar productions after “substantial changes to” Axanar to resolve this dispute.” All future works from Axanar Productions must also be coordinated with official fan film guidelines.
Today the 20 minutes Prelude to Axanar has been allowed to remain on YouTube while Axanar went from a feature-length production to multiple 15-minute shorts. All future works from Axanar Productions must also be coordinated with official fan film guidelines. The company has been keeping fans updated on the progress, and it recently moved into a studio, started work on costumes and stated that filming will begin soon.
With the announcement of the Film Academy this weekend, the Axanar Productions team took to Facebook to applaud the move. As noted by Axamonitor.com, Axanar Executive Producer Alec Peters wrote, “Hey, good for [Cawley]! Of course we came up with SciFi Film School in 2015! 🙂 I think Discovery isn’t the only thing that draws inspiration from Axanar. :)”
List image by Axanar