The Fan Film Guidelines Breakdown – Part One

It has been nearly a year since the release of the vaunted “Fan Film Guidelines” and it has taken time for many to be able to fully digest them and dissect them enough to understand what they may mean for fan films.  Furthermore, personally I wanted to understand what the fallout was from them, was this the end to ALL fan films or was this just a hiccup and then things would carry on as normal but with some alterations.  As history has presented us with all big changes to the status quo the landscape does change and there are always some casualties, as a result of their implementation a few fan films decided to shut up shop or retool to remove the Star Trek aspect altogether, however for the vast majority things carried on but as expected they had to alter things to enable the productions to move forward.

From the “about section” of Project Small Access

However, unlike the Borg some fans did not adapt and as a result a very small yet vocal group of fans have banded together to express their dislike for the guidelines, on the same day the guidelines were announced a group on Facebook calling themselves “Project Small Access” popped up with the goal to semi-boycott the new Star Trek series due to air on CBS All Access, they plan to achieve this by hosting “Viewing Parties” to hurt CBS “in the wallet”.

Admins and Moderators Of “Project Small Access”

Nevertheless after looking through the group seeing it’s Admins and reading its post history the group seems to be just another Axanar group due to the Admins being Axanar’ PR rep Mike Bawden, Known Axanar Surrogate Jonathan Lane who is joined by three other very loyal Axanar supporters but the strong pro Axanar vibe you get from its posts it is clear to see that there is an ulterior motive to the group and its goals. the timing of the group’s appearance is extremely suspect as not only is the group run completely by loyal Axanar supporters its inception was less than six months into the Axanar lawsuit.

An example of the hate directed towards CBS

Although the group started out with a somewhat ill-advised ethos in thinking that a disgruntled group of supposed fans (less than 1300) could try to somewhat hold CBS to ransom with the notion that they could influence change to the guidelines by using the tactics they use or they will not sub to All Access is misguided at best, diluted at worst. However, the worst thing is the group now stands, for the most part, as a group that has just descended into a free for all of venom towards other big named fan film productions and a strong dislike towards CBS in general, this is not only worrying but it tarnishes what Star Trek is all about, the acceptance of all things and the ability to adapt and change. Alongside this worrying facebook group there have been several petitions set up and a lot of extremely vocal folk saying on social media saying they will boycott all officially sanctioned CBS work or even pirate it as a result of the guidelines.


So enquiring minds want to know why have the guidelines been met with a very small but strong vocal opposition by fans and not by the fan films themselves, The answer is anyone guess, to date I have spoken to over 60 independent fan film productions about this and other fan production related issues and, while all of them have their own views on the guidelines varying from they love them too, they hate them, one fact that is undeniable is they all respect the need for them and more importantly respect CBS as they own the Star Trek IP and belongs to them so it is up to them how to they choose to protect it. But here is the thing, these guidelines are here to stay and they are not going to change or even go away overnight, and as it stands we have to work with them and show CBS we can play by the rules.

One thing that was passed along to me in so many conversations is until CBS handed them down, no one had any real idea of the boundaries that were acceptable to CBS for a production to operate within, before the guidelines there had always been the “unwritten” rules that pretty much everyone followed and many knew but unfortunately things started to escalate to the point even these unwritten rules were being ignored by a few and by one in particular. It took one production to push CBS & Paramount to the breaking point of what is acceptable even to them and with this the good old days of semi-unrestricted fan film production into the ground to a halt.

So why a blog series about the guidelines

Well, the principal reason I decided to do this is that almost everything you see online regarding them is so negative and, to be honest depressing, YES! They changed the playing field for fan films, but did they kill them NO! And that is important to communicate not only to whoever wants to read this blog series. So with the negativity and calls for action that surrounds the guidelines, I reached out to some fan film producers of varied experiences to see if they would like to take part in forming these blogs with their own views and commentary, I was extremely honoured and excited that the guys I reached out to decided to accept and have their voice added to these blogs. One key thing we all felt is it is very important to share our knowledge with the next gen of fan films.

These blogs will be split into sections as not to overwhelm you all at once and will be released as and when we have pulled our resources together for each section.

So this is part one of what may! Be ten parts, WHY? Ten parts the idea of these blogs is to break these guidelines down in an easy how-to for ALL fans to be able to make their own fan films without the all the negativity and misunderstanding and that is why I have teamed up with various people from different fan productions as these are the people who know more than others on what is involved in bringing a fan film to life.  


It should be noted the Fan Film Guidelines DO NOT effect anything but Fan Films, this means Audios dramas and alike are not bound by them.


CBS and Paramount Pictures are big believers in reasonable fan fiction and fan creativity, and, in particular, want amateur fan filmmakers to showcase their passion for Star Trek.  Therefore, CBS and Paramount Pictures will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional and amateur and meet the following guidelines.

Guidelines for Avoiding Objections:

1) The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.  



RANDY LANDERS – Potemkin Pictures

  • What is your interpretation of this guideline?

A single, self-contained story cannot exceed 15 mins or 2 15 min segments.  It does NOT prohibit characters or setting from being used to create another single, self-contained story.

  • Do you think that you can make follow up episodes as long as they are “self-contained stories” and not “part 2 or 3” of the same story?

We no longer can refer to them as episodes. They are fan productions. Captain Walker and the crew of the Tristan can appear in any number of self-contained stories/productions providing that they’re not more than 15 mins in length (or two 15 segments).

  • Are there any links you think would be of benefit to add to this section such as lists to strong short stories or links on “how to make a short in 15 – 30 mins”

https://www.youtube.com/user/Potemkin1711/videos

Only 4 of our 48 productions to date are more than 15 mins in length.  You have to be willing to avoid “beauty shots” or lingering on a character’s reaction or melodramatic pauses. Life doesn’t include those anyway. You don’t have to start the story in the beginning. Start it in the middle and let the audience figure it out. For heaven’s sake, they’re not stupid.

I’d recommend not relying on the two-parter as a crutch. Give us a short story!

Nick Cook – Intrepid

  • What is your interpretation of this guideline?

I think this is very intentionally worded to prevent people trying to market themselves as a series. That said, I also think there’s some room for interpretation. The time limits are pretty black and white but there’s nothing that specifically precludes using recurring settings and characters, as long as you’re not doing story arcs or direct sequels.

  • Do you think that you can make follow up episodes as long as they are “self-contained stories” and not “part 2 or 3” of the same story?

Yes, I do. See above.

  • Are there any links you think would be of benefit to add to this section such as lists to strong short stories or links on “how to make a short in 15 – 30 mins”

Not specifically, but I think if you look at the films Randy Landers’ Potemkin Pictures are producing, or the last couple of films we’ve released, you’ll get a fair idea of what appears to be tolerated. Which is not to say that couldn’t change.


Vance MajorMelbourne

  • What is your interpretation of this guideline?

Well, honestly I’ve already played the same character over several shorts, and no one’s come knocking at my door or taken down my films. I think ppl can look at the things I’m doing and see that what little bending I am doing is in good faith, these are just guidelines, not rules. It’s the spirit of the law, not the letter. Hell, it’s not even law, like I said it’s a guideline.

  • Do you think that you can make follow up episodes as long as they are “self-contained stories” and not “part 2 or 3” of the same story?

If they are made with passion. You watch um, no one’s going to mistake what I do for what’s on tv or compete with the big guns. If they do, they don’t get out much lol but I do bend that rule to some degree while respecting it somewhat. I had an idea when I started doing my stuff and I’m compromising on it because it is not my franchise. However, it’s my time to do with it how I choose. So I can compromise to some degree and respect the guidelines. But as I said, no one’s going to mistake me for what CBS is doing. And I think I have been very creative with the things I’ve put out, and what I’m waiting to put out. So….spirit of what’s intended. Even if not the letter.

Justin Burton – Former member of the Lexington production. 

  • What is your interpretation of this guideline?

Just exactly that, however, I would allow for a 30-second intro that would lead into the opening act.  Most Tv shows do not carry long intros anymore

  • Do you think that you can make follow up episodes as long as they are “self-contained stories” and not “part 2 or 3” of the same story?

Yes, But you have to follow the formula exactly and not make it look like a story arc.

Ray Tesi – Republic

  • What is your interpretation of this guideline?

Having had the opportunity to contact John van Citters and CBS directly, they seem adamite that it’s basically one story and you’re out, meaning no follow-up episodes using the same “crew.” On our Indiegogo page, we stated that we were looking to do a total of 6 episodes of Starship Republic. Of all of the questions I asked CBS about the crowdfunding campaign and its perks, this was the only item they indicated was “out of line.” The good news is that CBS is still allowing fans to play in their sandbox.

  • Do you think that you can make follow up episodes as long as they are “self-contained stories” and not “part 2 or 3” of the same story?

I think there are ways around the guideline, and I don’t think CBS will be “lawsuit happy” if you do, but I think it’s treading a fine line.

Robin –  Dark Armada:

“The guidelines set by CBS are just what they are…….. Guidelines, as it was explained in the podcast they’re not supposed to be rules and CBS, isn’t going to inspect every single fan film about these guidelines. The Star Trek Fan Film community used to live by a certain code or ‘unofficial rules’, until some decided to break that code and all hell broke loose. But it’s really just common sense: making a fan film means you play with someone’s intellectual property and in our case, CBS and Paramount have graciously allowed us to do that for over a decade. The risk that they would ask you to stop is always present, so do you think it’s wise to sell DVD’s, ask for money/donations, build a studio, pretend to be official Star Trek? Only a few thought it was. Most fan productions followed a few simple rules: don’t make a profit, don’t sell DVD’s or similar merchandise and make clear it’s a fan production. The only difference today is that these rules are now officially presented as guidelines by CBS. Follow them and you’re safe from any legal action. Most important about these guidelines are that your intentions are good (the common sense stuff I mentioned before), that it’s a production by the fans for the fans out of love for Star Trek (and of course…. don’t pull an Alec). My advice would be not to try to desperately work around the guidelines, but realise that they are a way for CBS to allow us to play with Star Trek as fans. Some of these guidelines weigh heavier than other. I think I don’t have to explain that collecting more money is a worse guideline to ignore than the one about the length of your film. Whether your film is 15, 30 or 45 minutes long, make sure your intentions are good and put a lot effort, a lot of work and a lot of love into it”

More Producer Analysis is on its way. 


Vic Mignogna from Star Trek Continues on Fan Films and CBS/Paramount

Vid Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbjgYZ1kzE8



  • One thing this does not say is you cannot use the same characters to tell further stories. Ref: 

For example, DS9: “In Pale Moonlight”, TNG: “Eye of the Beholder”, TNG: “Face of the Enemy”, ENT: “A Night in Sickbay”, VOY: “Message in a Bottle”, VOY: “Life Line”

All these episodes focus on one! Character from each series, yes there are one or two scenes with other cast members but the story revolves around one centric character.

 


There are so many fan films out there that have managed to stick to the run times as set out in this guideline it has been done and can be done.

Some examples are:

Animated Examples:

Live Action Examples:

Potemkin Pictures

INTREPID

DARK ARMADA –

Starship Valiant

Dreadnought Dominion

Melbourne –

Other examples see here –

= So making films within 15 mins IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE =


Ref: Engage Podcast – Full Transcript HERE 

Time Index – 00:35:30 – Time Length

{} Jordan {}

“There was somebody else that asked  uh 15 minutes for the film does that  include the credits and tell me if the  answer is right the answer is yes but  now like if you’re if it comes to minutes and  seconds  fine but go for  minutes right I mean  like these are doing shave it down”

{} JVC {}

These are guidelines there they are intended to be something that gives structure and lets people know that these the limits they can operate within where they know they’re not going to get a knock on the door well we don’t we don’t go house to house anyway there they’re not going to hear from us they’re not going to get a phone call they’re not going to get an email  they’re not going to get anything that is going to ruin their day one way or another and in and make them you know feel bad or like they’ve done anything wrong that they’re guidelines we’re not we’re not going to be able to provide the level of feedback that’s like you know I got this really great scene but if I include this scene or  this one really cool shot  I don’t want to cut anything else from  it’s going to make the film 15 minutes and 30 seconds what do I do that’s up to you and your you know  creative decisions were not looking to get into that, were not approving any material we don’t want to get involved in your script choices your costume choices”

Time index – 00:59:55

{} JVC {}

and what I’m what I’m honestly  hoping will happen with the with these  guidelines with a  15 minute or 30 minute limit on this and a  fifty thousand dollar crowdfunding limit  I think it’s going to be easier for people to hit their goals quickly and  easily and get their projects underway  I think with the 15 minute limit I think with some of the things that are here is it’s going to make it easier than ever for more people to pick up cameras everybody’s walking around with a  high definition video camera in their pocket now which is it’s amazing  that that’s where we’re at you buy  computers and there’s a capable video editing software preloaded on it’s an amazing time for that what we want to do is we want to drive more films forward more fan voices not fewer we want more we want we want to see more people express their creativity for Star Trek and hopefully out of that will be able to find new ways to take advantage of this and see  Star Trek continue to grow and evolve.

I’ve definitely had people express their concerns about what this means it’s a big adjustment there’s no question people have gotten people have gotten used to full like 1960’s length episodes of you know 50 minutes  plus 90minute feature films but that’s what we do we’re producing full-length episodes within and Paramount’s producing  amazing amounts of I mean they did the  budgets that are involved in a Star Trek motion picture now are beyond  anything I could you know possibly have  believed  years ago that that kind  of budget would be available to Star Trek


How to make a short film in fewer than 15 mins here are some tips on how to make a short film:


Ref Links:

 

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Why I Started Trekfanproductions.com

I want to tackle a rumour that I have heard and one that I feel is worthy of my attention.

Today during a conversation with some others involved in the fan film community it was brought to my attention that “some” see Trekfanproductions as a site that is in direct competition to “Fan Film Factor” or to push a “hidden” agenda, this could not be further from the truth. Well, unless you think that dragging the spotlight back to where it should be is wrong or an agenda of negative intent.

Now, some would take this as a personal attack and reply in kind. I though am not one of them, I see this as feedback and one that I felt I need to address to clarify my position as the owner of this site but I also wanted to make and the position of Trekfanproductions.com very clear.

The main reason, although not the only one for me started this site is that I saw a need to help bring the focus back to the many Star Trek Fan Films that for some reason seem to have been pushed aside in favour of a “certain production”, but I also strongly felt that the same attention needed to be brought to ALL Fan Productions as like it or not, not all roads lead back to Axanar! fan productions of all genres for example Podcasts, Audio Dramas, and Fan Fiction deserve just the same attention. I felt it was the time we also get to know more about the lesser-known ones like Fan Artists and the many Star Trek related websites out there. All these have become part of what makes Trek so great our diverse look of things and how we all celebrate it.

Therefore, I hope this has put this rumour to bed as it were and now we can get back to enjoying and celebrating fan productions in all their eclectic varieties.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

As always, all Feedback good and bad is welcome and helps me divert my attention to where is needs to be.

James Hams

Owner and Creator of Trekfanproductions.com

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