The Axanar Settlement


A PUBLIC APPEAL for donations remains on Axanar’s homepage in spite of settlement terms seemingly prohibiting such fundraising activity. Screencap/axanarproductions.com

Axanar Continues Public Appeal for Donations

New ‘Independent’ Financial Committee Member Named, More Hints About Additional Axanar Content

See also: Axanar Removes Public Fundraising Plea — Sort of

Despite a settlement agreement Axanar itself claimed allows no public financing, its website continued to solicit donations by creating the impression it is a nonprofit organization, and capturing potential donors’ email addresses as a possible end run around the settlement’s funding prohibition.

In a January 26, 2017, Axanar podcast producer Alec Peters portrayed the settlement of his copyright infringement lawsuit as a victory, despite the restrictions he accepted from plaintiffs CBS and Paramount Pictures limiting his film to only 30 minutes and to financing it with only private fundraising.

Peters also named Axanar‘s digital imaging technician Bing Bailey as the new third member of his so-called independent financial review committee, replacing the film’s cinematographer who resigned citing concerns about a conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Peters and Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett began revealing plans for new content for donors that could be produced outside the strictures of CBS’ fan film guidelines.

Public End Run, Private Donations

In a statement to donors about the January 20 settlement, Peters claimed he could not raise money publicly to finance the 30-minute Axanar film allowed under his agreement with the studios:

Axanar Productions will not publicly fundraise for the production of these [two 15-minute episodes] — that means no more Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaigns to support the production of the Axanar story — although private donations may be accepted. That may slow things down a bit, but we’re developing options that fall within the conditions of our settlement with CBS and Paramount.1)

« It is a shame that the fan film community decided to turn against each other in this process because sticking together would have allowed us maybe to reach a better settlement. » Axanar producer Alec Peters

New Financing Needed

Since Peters already spent all $1.4 million (and then some) that was to have gone to producing the feature-length Axanar, he needed new financing for the much shorter two 15-minute episodes. Constrained from crowdfunding, he must seek private financing.

What had been revealed about the settlement did not offer specific definitions of what ‘public’ and ‘private’ mean when it came to raising money for Axanar. If it meant making any public appeal for donations, the Axanar Productions homepage nevertheless continued to do so as of January 28.

BEFORE Axanar’s donation page featured prominent links for visitors to contribute money to the production.

'Private' Appeals

In public statements since the settlement Peters declared that reaching out to his claimed 14,000 previous Kickstarter and Indiegogo donors constituted private fundraising and that he would seek further financing from them.

But changes to Axanar’s donation page signal one of the “developing options that fall within the conditions of our settlement.” The page formerly featured two large yellow banners reading, “Click here to Donate,” that took readers to Axanar’s “retroactive donation” page.

AFTER the settlement the Axanar donation page no longer offered a direct means to contribute money, instead asking for email addresses to facilitate future communication that could be considered private fundraising under the settlement terms.

After the settlement, the donation page had removed the banners, encouraging potential donors to instead offer their email address. Why the change? Peters acknowledged crowdfunding campaigns are clearly public; but does any direct email appeal, which presumably is how he would communicate with prior donors, fall clearly under the category of ‘private’ fundraising?

That may be the option Axanar developed to operate within the settlement’s constraints: A public appeal for an email address, followed by a private communication to solicit money. Except that public appeal was made using the words “Click here to donate” on the homepage.

New Financial Reviewer's Independence

After Axanar‘s director of photography Milton Santiago resigned from the’ so-called independent financial review committee, Peters refused to disclose who would fill the third slot. He cited concerns that AxaMonitor would harass the new committee member.

‘Peters named Bing Bailey, an Axanar crew member, to the committee, raising the same conflict of interest concerns that prompted another member to resign.’New Financial Reviewer’s Independence

That concern appeared to have dissipated by January 26 when Peters named Bailey, an Axanar crew member, to the committee,2) raising the same conflict of interest concerns that prompted Santiago to resign.

AxaMonitor attempted to contact Bailey for comment. He replied through Axanar spokesman Mike Bawden that he did not wish to be contacted further.3)

Bailey was named in more than one of the subpoenas served to witnesses in the Axanar lawsuit as a person whose communications with other witnesses was of interest to attorneys in the case.

In addition to questions about the independence of a committee that includes two Axanar crew members were continuing concerns about the validity of examining only financial records selected in advance by Peters himself, whose own interest remained in exonerating himself from allegations in court documents of lavish personal spending of donors’ money.

Axanar Lite

The January 26 Official Axanar Podcast, the first since the settlement, offered more details about Peters’ plans for the scaled-back Axanar.

Co-host Burnett called Peters “a winner, a big winner,” in the lawsuit having “emerged successful from the fight of his life” because Peters will get to make Axanar albeit in a much shorter form and largely subject to the guidelines CBS imposed governing fan productions.

Despite condemning those guidelines as “draconian” after they were issued in June 2016, Peters sang a different tune on the new podcast, portraying the coming short film as the “best case for how these guidelines can work.”4)

Axanar producer Alec Peters

'Draconian' Guidelines

In a tweet after the guidelines were released, Peters said, “We have been asking for guidelines for years. CBS decided to make those guidelines draconian.”5)

At the time, Peters criticized the guidelines as an effort “tailor-made to shut down all of the major fan productions and stifle fandom,” he told The Wrap. “In no way can that be seen as supportive or encouraging, which is very disheartening.”6)

By contrast in the new podcast, Peters attempted to cast the ‘draconian’ description as someone else’s characterization of the guidelines rather than his own, while he himself looked forward to making Axanar under their restrictions:

Everyone was talking about how draconian they are and how they killed fan films. Well, a bunch of fan films have come out since the guidelines. … So we have the opportunity to tell two 15-minute stories as part of this Axanar universe, and I for one am excited as hell about it.7)
Scott Johnson of Starbase Studios, on the set of Star Trek New Voyages, where he also volunteers.

Other Fan Films' Betrayal

Peters also bemoaned other fan film producers’ disavowal of his effort in 2016 to use them to apply pressure on CBS to issue guidelines that would have benefited Axanar:

It is a shame that the fan film community decided to turn against each other in this process because sticking together would have allowed us maybe to reach a better settlement.8)

Other Fan Films' Examples

While condemning other fan producers with one breath, with another Peters praised others as good examples of successful fan efforts made under the guidelines, pointing to Chasing the Infinite Sky and the forthcoming Pacific 201, on which Axanar set designer Eric Henry also worked.

“We want to be like Pacific 201 and the new Starbase Studios in Arkansas,” Peters said.9) Starbase Studios provides production facilities for a number of smaller Star Trek fan films.

That praise stood in stark contrast to Peters’ criticism in 2016 of Starbase Studios principal Scott Johnson, whom Peters falsely accused of leaking details to AxaMonitor about Peters’ secret effort to rally other fan films behind his own proposed guidelines.

DRACONIAN When CBS issued fan film guidelines in 2016, Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett tweeted this:
CBS just announced STAR TREK fan film guidelines so draconian I can no longer work on my own film.

Axanar Summit

Peters planned to hold what he called an “Axanar summit” in two weeks for his team to determine what shape an Axanar short might take.

Director on Board?

Despite proclaiming Peters a winner in the settlement Burnett — who himself denounced the guidelines as draconian — held back from announcing he would stay on to direct an Axanar short film, citing his own full schedule.

Fulfilling Promises to Donors

Peters said the settlement terms would allow him to fulfill the perks he promised donors to Axanar’s Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, including Blu-rays and DVDs. That concession was an exception to the fan film guidelines.

Though the settlement allowed only a 30-minute film, Peters said he was committed to providing discs filled with at least 90 minutes of “Axanar content.”

NEW VOYAGES Alec Peters as Garth of Izar on set with the cast of Star Trek New Voyages

'New Voyages' Teamup

Burnett implied that the additional content would include Axanar-related material filmed prior to the guidelines’ release under the auspices of Star Trek New Voyages. What he described as a New Voyages-Axanar “teamup movie” not constrained by guidelines. “It’s a New Voyages episode,” Burnett said.

It wasn’t clear how this content would be released since it doesn’t belong to Axanar and would require the permission of New Voyages producer James Cawley, an avowed Axanar opponent often publicly criticized by Peters. And it wasn’t clear which specific content Burnett referred to since there are as many as three possible vignettes:

  • ORIGINS As part of the never-completed New Voyages episode, “Origins: The Protracted Man,” in which Peters first played Captain Garth peeking in on Cadet James Kirk taking his Kobayashi Maru test. It was shot in June 2010.
  • GOING BOLDLY Peters portrayed Garth again in June 2012 in the New Voyages vignette, “Going Boldly.”
  • HEROES Director Robert Meyer Burnett and Peters traveled again to the upstate New York New Voyages set to shoot Axanar’s own short, “Heroes.” That vignette tells the story of Garth’s rehabilitation following the events of the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy” 23 years after the events to have been portrayed in Axanar.

Documentaries

Peters also noted that documentaries the making of Axanar and the lawsuit were fair game for production outside the fan film guidelines. “Hopefully, we can get someone else to come in and make a documentary,” he said.

LAWYERS AND KLINGONS Peters’ gift of Axanar Coffee to his lawyers recalled one Klingon advocate’s approach to legal matters: “We Klingons are not concerned with matters of fact and circumstance.”10)

Axanar Books

Peters pointed to potential book projects, including his own recounting the experience trying to produce Axanar and how he contended with the copyright infringement lawsuit, and a book by someone else focusing on just the making of Axanar.

The Final Fate of Axanar Coffee

While Peters pulled Axanar’s coffee from the market because of the lawsuit, he revealed that he had given his pro bono lawyers at Winston & Strawn some of the product as gifts for their service.

“ We will do projects other than Axanar,” Peters promised, “that will make the donors happy, too.”


Keywords

1)
Alec Peters email to donors, “Axanar Productions has settled its lawsuit with CBS and Paramount. Here are some donor-exclusive details,” 1/20/17.
3)
Email from Mike Bawden to AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza, 1/28/17.