I somehow hadn’t heard about this, but it is pretty interesting.
So there seems to have been a fan funded Star Trek movie called Axanar (named after the planet that was to have the climactic battle.) It was set to be years before the original Star Trek series, in the earlier days of the Federation, and the conflicts with the Klingon Empire.
It was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, where it raised almost $640,000 and on Indiegogo where it raised almost $570,000 (that is well over a million dollars) for the feature. Prior to these they did a campaign on Kickstarter for a Prelude to Axanar where they raised about $101,000.
On Christmas Day Paramount/CBS filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers in California Federal Court asking for an injunction and damages incurred with copyright infringements.
There is more info on the legal aspects in the article from the Hollywood Reporter.
io9 has an article discussing the goings on surrounding this and it seems that there is some confusion as CBS has been supportive in the past of fan undertakings.
Meanwhile, CBS not only had a long-standing reputation of embracing the Star Trek fan film community and their projects but had also met with Axanar executive producer Alec Peters in recent months to confirm that, as long as the new film wasn’t made for commercial purposes, CBS was fine with it.
The thrust of the suit seems to be that because ofAxanar’s vast crowdfunding success, the project has evolved beyond the sort of fan film that CBS would tolerate into something that violates its copyright. And presumably, with a new Star Trek show entering production next year, the thought of a wildly popular fan creation attracting attention and potential confusion is not something CBS wants.
So where was all the money they raised going?
Axanar is a feature film, but will be broken down into four episodes following the four acts of the script. With an overall budget of approximately $960,000, that means each episode will cost approximately $240,000. Add to that a portion of the ongoing studio costs, and the cost of Indiegogo, payment processing, and perks (see below), and we are setting a goal of $330,000 per episode, or $1,320,000.
We can make Axanar one act at a time, if needed (although we’d prefer to make it all at once!). So, we are setting our first goal at $330,000. There will be stretch goals at $660,000, $990,000 and $1,320,000, with each stretch goal meaning another episode will get made. If we raise the entire $1,320,000, then we will have what we need to make all of Axanar. (Anything above that will just make it better.)
So it was going to be broken down into four episodes, but they updated in September saying they had enough to do the first half and would raise more for the 2nd half.
Based on what we have raised so far, we will be shooting the FIRST HALF of Axanar, releasing it, and then raising the rest of the money we need for the second half.
Now with the 2nd Kickstarter (where they earned about $640k) they used the money to create studio.
From the Indiegogo campaign
In our second fundraiser, we raised $638,000 and created Ares Studios, a 16,000 sf warehouse that we have turned into a functioning sound stage.
That might be a problem. They already used a large amount of money to create their own production company and got a warehouse turned into a sound stage. and made alterations and began building sets.
So….if they can’t do the film, how are they going to refund the backers? What happens?
This is a big ole can of worms here. Not sure how it is going to turn out but it is a good lesson to take forward. If you plan on doing a fan film (or anything large scale based off of someone else’s IP) you should have permission in writing or some kind of guidelines set by the IP holders to assist decisions on what can and can’t be done. I can see why they thought it was a go, after meeting with people and discussing it, one would think it was fine, but apparently, if too much money starts to show up, then it becomes an issue.
Time will tell if the fans will win out on this one.