Axanar Pulls Up Stakes for Move to Atlanta

Sets Going, Too, Yet Questions Remain About New Facility, Charitable Goals

In an April 18, 2017, update to his Indiegogo page, Alec Peters told donors Axanar Productions will be moving out of its California facility April 30, bound for Atlanta, where the company will be housed in a much smaller and cheaper space.

“Atlanta is the third largest film production city in the U.S.,” Peters explained, “and our new facility will cost approximately 25 percent of our current lease, giving us both the time and space required to finish production of Axanar.”1)

Peters' Former Home

Why Atlanta? The city is Peters’ former home, and the base of operations for his earlier, now-defunct companies ScreamingSports and Marketworks.

It’s also where his attorney and longtime friend Sheldon Friedman had already set up two LLCs whose names mirrored Peters’ California operations — Valkyrie Studios LLC and Industry Studios LLC.

LONGTIME ATTORNEY and friend Sheldon Friedman (right) of Atlanta, with Alec Peters in 2016.

Future in Atlanta

Using Peters’ figures, Axanar’s new facility in Atlanta will cost about $3,750 a month for rent and overhead. The space — about half the size of the never-used studio in California paid for by Star Trek fans’ donations — “will make a great long-term home for both Axanar and the other Star Trek and science fiction projects we have planned,” he said.2)

What Kind of Facility?

Peters gave no other details about the Atlanta facility, other than it has air-conditioning (something the California studio lacked, as well as soundproofing).

Not a Soundstage

Peters’ update did not indicate whether the Atlanta building was already a soundstage or if Axanar would have to pay to make improvements to convert it into a proper soundstage.

Axanar spokesman Mike Bawden told AxaMonitor “the new facility is not an existing soundstage but would work sufficiently as is, if needed. Since Axanar Productions is planning on producing other Star Trek fan films and additional sci-fi content down the road, I’m guessing that’s where they’ll shoot when the time comes.”3)

Use of the facility “as is,” however, may limit its appeal for use by professional productions.

WEBSITE FOR the facility abandoned by Axanar, Industry Studios.

Use By Other Filmmakers

Left unanswered was whether this smaller facility would be offered for free or low-cost use by independent and fan filmmakers as the Indiegogo campaign had initially offered for the California studio. That offer appeared to be the basis of Axanar’s application for tax-exempt status as a charitable organization.

Future Nonprofit?

Also left unclear was the fate of Axanar’s registration with the state of California as a charitable organization, a precursor to its application to the federal government for tax-exemption.

Peters recently changed Axanar Productions’ organization from a for-profit corporation to a non-profit with California’s secretary of state. However, its formal registration as a charitable organization remained pending with the state attorney general’s office, which manages California's registry.

Attorney General Complaints

Axanar has been the subject of a number of complaints filed with the attorney general regarding its portrayal of itself as a nonprofit organization while it solicited funding from the public, possibly violating the California Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004.

Peters had previously reported that some kind of hold-up with the California attorney general had delayed registration.

CHARITY REGISTRATION Like California, Axanar’s new home of Georgia, also requires it to register if CEO Alec Peters plans to operate it as promised as a nonprofit organization.

Georgia Regulations

The state of Georgia requires charitable organizations to register. It also offers a searchable database of its charities. So far, Axanar had not yet registered in Georgia, at least under that name.

Even so, the Fan Film Factor blog reported April 15 that Peters had just submitted its federal application for tax-exempt status.

Future of the Sets

While Peters’ Indiegogo update vaguely referred to “the disposition of the amazing bridge and other sets built for the Axanar feature,” it didn’t actually inform donors where the sets were ending up after a frustrating search for a place to store them.

Bawden clarified that the sets are also being moved to the facility, which is actually located in suburban Atlanta.4)

Leaving Behind

In his update, Peters reiterated his account of the deal he had struck with his California landlord, Danny Luh, who released Axanar from the remainder of its three-year lease. Peters also claimed Luh would continue to operate the space as a soundstage under the Industry Studios name.

One of the conditions for being released from the lease was the landlord would get to keep the hundreds of thousands of dollars of building improvements Axanar fans had paid for.

Peters claimed the deal would end up reimbursing Axanar for “a portion of the investment we made,” based on future rentals of the studio. He failed to explain either how much of a portion or for how long the profit-sharing arrangement would last, but did say those payments would “go back into Axanar Productions so we can continue telling the story of Axanar and fulfilling our commitments to donors.”

State of the Campaign

MORIBUND CAMPAIGN BackerKit’s analysis of Axanar’s Indiegogo prospects remained pessimistic, with daily donations and donors plummeting to zero and below. Click image to enlarge.

Indiegogo Donations

Meanwhile, Peters’ Indiegogo campaign limped through its last few days, some with no new donors, others in the single digits. Even so, according to BackerKit, Axanar remained on track to eventually raise $22,500 — far short of its $60,000 goal.

With the loss of his costly California studio, Peters asked donors to allow him to divert the money away from its stated goals to instead pay for Axanar’s move to Georgia. He said an “overwhelming majority of [donors who replied to his poll] indicated they were happy to let us decide how to best move forward. Fewer than 2 percent of all donors to the campaign asked for a refund.”5)

An impressive response — except Peters refused to account for how many of the campaign’s nearly 300 donors had actually participated in the poll, which was not a secret ballot; donors had to divulge their name and email address along with their vote.

Assuming any funds are left after moving expenses, Peters did not specify how they would be used. Under terms of its copyright infringement lawsuit settlement with CBS and Paramount Pictures, crowdfunding cannot be used for producing Axanar.

Sputtering Support

Peters’ update did give a small jolt to the moribund Indiegogo campaign, with six new donations after his announcement that afternoon. A few days before, the campaign had literally ground to a halt.

FIRST FRONTIER is another of the Star Trek fan productions based in Georgia.

Moving Dates

Peters appealed to Axanar fans in the Los Angeles area to help load trucks and move out of Industry Studios on April 28-30. The scheduled move into the Atlanta facility was scheduled May 6-7. Peters asked for Atlanta volunteers to unload and move in, and noted that a team from another Star Trek fan production would be helping, too.

He did not name the production. Among the Georgia-based fan films are longtime rival Star Trek Continues, Star Trek: First Frontier, Exeter Trek and, formerly, Starship Farragut and Potemkin Pictures. Continues, which completed its production run, has its own production facility in Georgia, used also by Farragut and Exeter. Potemkin moved its main production facility to the Birmingham, Alabama, area in 2015, with a small production team remaining in Atlanta.

Peters promised “food and swag for everyone who helps!”6)

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Keywords

1) , 2) , 5) , 6)
Industry Studios Indiegogo page, Update No. 5, 4/18/17.
3) , 4)
Email from Mike Bawden to AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza, 4/18/17.