Fact Check

December 2017 Axanar Donor Update

Peters: All systems ‘Go’ despite incomplete script, no budget, no crowdfunding

By Carlos Pedraza

OWC Studios head Alec Peters sent Axanar donors an update describing 2017’s healthy progress toward making the Axanar short films allowed under the CBS-Paramount lawsuit settlement, gliding over the production’s serious personnel and financial obstacles.

FACT CHECK is an AxaMonitor series examining claims made with regard to Axanar, chiefly Alec Peters’ blog posts, interviews and public announcements. Read the series »

AxaMonitor fact-checks Peters’ claims in a newsletter emailed to Axanar’s donors on December 12, 2017.

OWC Studios

Peters’ crowning 2017 achievement was establishing the subsidized OWC Studios in Lawrenceville, Ga., after having to abandon its California studio in May, moving its contents cross-country to the new warehouse.

“OWC Studios is now officially open!” Peters wrote in the update, thanking Illinois-based OWC for its “continued support of our efforts!”1)

Peters assured donors, “The studio is YOUR studio. While we couldn’t make Ares Studios in Los Angeles a success due to CBS’ lawsuit, OWC Studios in Georgia is the happy successor and the result of every single donor’s donation. So THANK YOU!”

True or False?

TRUE OWC Sponsorship. Peters successfully convinced the technology company, Other World Computing, to pay the rent and overhead costs for the Georgia warehouse he christened OWC Studios, estimated at $5,000-6,000 a month.

PARTIALLY FALSE Ares Studios Failure. Peters blamed CBS-Paramount’s copyright infringement lawsuit for having “drained our coffers.”2)

The reasons behind the loss of the Valencia, Calif., warehouse into which Peters poured nearly three-quarters of a million donor dollars, are a bit more complicated than Peters suggested in the update. Defending itself against the CBS lawsuit did not directly cost Axanar anything, given that it was represented pro bono by the law firm, Winston & Strawn.

As reported by AxaMonitor in May 2016, Axanar ran out of its donated funds because it was losing $15,000 each month paying rent and overhead for a three-year lease Peters had signed for a facility he only needed for a feature film that would have been in shot in just about a month.

PANDERING Whose Studio Is It Anyway? Apparently, the answer depends on whom Peters is addressing. With so much of donors’ money wasted on building out a studio in which no part of Axanar was ever shot, Peters’ update sought to keep donors’ spirits up, telling them: “OWC Studios in Georgia is the happy successor and the result of every single donor’s donation.”

However, his lyrical assurance to donors that “ the studio is YOUR studio” struck a dissonant chord with what Peters stated in the Official Axanar Podcast #50, on which OWC chief executive officer Larry O’Connor was a guest: “This is [OWC’s] studio. They are the ones paying the bills.”3)

« What I felt [the Axanar script] lacked was that it didn’t feel like this was being done by people; it’s just a series of things that happen. » — New Axanar writer Paul Jenkins

Progress on 'Axanar Lite'

Peters’ update painted a rosy picture of progress toward producing the 30-minute version of Axanar (AKA Axanar Lite):

New Axanar writer Paul Jenkins
Now that we are closer to having a revised and locked script, and we are well into pre-production, we are planning our next (and hopefully last!) fundraiser.4)

New Writer

Peters also welcomed accomplished comic book writer Paul Jenkins (Wolverine: Origin) to the project:

We are very excited to have him on board to help finish the Axanar and Four Years War scripts. Alec and Paul expect to be done with their revisions by the end of December.5)

True or False?

MOSTLY TRUE Closer to Locked Script. Peters’ optimistic assessment of the state of the script for the Axanar short films is based on the involvement of talented writer Jenkins. Curiously, though, Peters seemed to minimize Jenkins’ contributions as merely “finishing” the 30-minute script that will be produced, as well as the never-to-be-produced 90-minute script.

As for his end of December estimate for completed revisions, if Peters remains true to his track record, his assessment is more optimistic than realistic. AxaMonitor plans a follow-up at that time.

DUBIOUS Minor Revisions. In fact, on his own blog, Peters said Jenkins’ work wouldn’t amount to “a major rewrite, but more a polish of dialogue, a deepening of characters and an overall look at the flow. … The story and structure remain the same, the script just gets smoother and more polished each time.”6)

While generally praising Peters’ efforts, Jenkins’ own description on the pro-Axanar Fan Film Factor blog of the extent of his work on the script pointed to the need for deeper, if not structural, revisions to the script:

I read the full script, and the sense of action is great. All of those parts worked. … There are plenty of scenes where battlecruisers are fighting, there’s tension, and there’s stuff happening. … What I felt it lacked was that it didn’t feel like this was being done by people; it’s just a series of things that happen. … I want to spend my time on populating those core events with people … and not icons. So my primary focus is that…making sure that there’s that adherence to character.7)

DUBIOUS ‘Well Into’ Pre-production. Clearly meant to reassure donors, it would be difficult for a fan film to be as far along in pre-production as Peters suggested without a completed script or budget. The donor update appeared to grasp for any way to create the impression that progress toward making Axanar continued apace. No production, however, moves forward very quickly without money — something Peters sorely lacks. That brought him to the topic of fundraising.

OWC Studios head Alec Peters


Peters laid the blame for Axanar’s financial troubles squarely at the feet of CBS and Paramount for their lawsuit against him personally and Axanar Productions Inc. He put a positive spin on it by portraying the fundraising goal for the short Axanar films as achievable, finally naming a price tag for the production:

In 2014, we raised $101,000 for Prelude to Axanar, which was 20 minutes long. Since we are now making two more episodes, with a total length of 30 minutes, we are hoping to raise $150,000.8)

True or False?

MOSTLY FALSE All CBS’ and Paramount’s Fault. While Peters continued to paint Axanar’s failure as the fault of the studios’ lawsuit, the reality is Axanar faced serious financial obstacles even before the lawsuit was filed in December 2015.

As demonstrated by AxaMonitor‘s analysis of Axanar’s budget, spending and fundraising by the end of 2015, the production’s crowdfunding had slowed, totaling barely 44 percent of the amount needed to produce the feature film.

In the most recent Axanar Podcast, Peters appeared to be a bit more forthcoming about his responsibility for Axanar’s financial failure: “I wish I had the foresight to not build the studio four years ago.”9) He sunk nearly $750,000 into that project, hoping to come out of the project with a soundstage he could use for other commercial productions; that was half of the money raised from donors — all gone.

« The studio is the endgame. The idea is we create a studio that we can then [use to] produce our own original content, our own movies. » Alec Peters, Axanar Productions CEO, September 201510)

FALSE Cost of ‘Prelude’. Peters based his estimate for the $150,000 cost of the forthcoming Axanar short films on how much Prelude to Axanar was able to raise in its Kickstarter campaign. What he neglected to mention was that Prelude‘s true cost, according to his own 2015 annual report, was actually nearly 25 percent higher — $123,285; Prelude ran a nearly $10,000 deficit that was made up only by taking money from the subsequent Kickstarter campaign — funds donors were told were intended for the feature film.

Using Peters’ own method for estimating the budget of the 30-minute version of Axanar (150 percent of Prelude‘s cost), he would need closer to $185,000 — much closer to the $200,000 observers have estimated production would require.

DUBIOUS Meeting Fundraising Challenge The financial hill Axanar needs to climb is much steeper than Peters tries to portray. Indeed, Prelude was rather easily able to raise $101,000 on Kickstarter. But that was in 2014, having attached known Star Trek and scifi actors and a slew of Hollywood professionals, including director Christian Gossett.

Three years, one lawsuit and a wasted $1.4 million later, however, Axanar is rudderless, having lost both director Gossett and his successor, Robert Meyer Burnett, as well as its writer, Bill Hunt, and lead actor Richard Hatch.

Most importantly, Peters agreed to the terms of the lawsuit settlement preventing him from public fundraising (e.g., Kickstarter or Indiegogo) to pay for the Axanar shorts. That severely constrains Axanar’s funding options. It’s misleading to portray the shorts’ funding prospects as being similar to Prelude‘s. Without crowdfunding, only private appeals are possible, limiting the viral campaign that previously proved so successful for Axanar. Moreover, in its 2017 Indiegogo campaign Peters sought more than $200,000 to save his ill-fated California studio, counting on his vaunted 15,000 supporters to come to his rescue. Barely more than 300 donated just $22,020, casting the loyalty of those 15,000 into doubt.

DUBIOUS Returning Actors. To keep fans’ interest in Axanar alive, Peters had previously claimed the Star Trek alumni actors who appeared in Prelude would return, pointing especially to Gary Graham and J.G. Hertzler. The terms of the lawsuit’s settlement allow the actors to appear in the short films. However, without a script, a budget, funding and shooting schedule none has made a firm commitment. Graham, in fact, has distanced himself from the project. Kate Vernon has refused to confirm she remains attached to the project.

Importantly, no other lead creative staff have been named.


Undelivered perks have long been a sore spot for many donors, who resented Peters placing a higher priority on selling unlicensed merchandise than on fulfilling the promised for his crowdfunding contributors.


Peters took advantage of the update to assure them: “After we finish these two episodes, we will have everything we need to then fulfill all the donor perks from all three campaigns.”11) Out of money, Peters will have to divert money from the Axanar shorts’ production budget to pay for manufacturing and shipping all the promised perks.

Wrong Address

Despite touting OWC Studios’ lavish new digs outside Atlanta, the Donor Update instead displayed the defunct Industry Studios’ address in Valencia. Calif.

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1) , 2) , 4) , 5) , 8) , 11)
“An Update from Axanar Executive Producer Alec Peters,” newsletter to Axanar donors, 12/12/17.
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