Photo/Gareth Courage

Endgame II: The Settlement

Editor’s Note: Hollywood producer Lukas Kendall posted an essay on TrekBBS in April whose summary on AxaMonitor became one of our most popular opinion pieces. “Endgame” examined the constraints preventing quick resolution of the Axanar copyright lawsuit — constraints, he writes in this latest essay, that continue to bedevil efforts to resolve the case.

Commentary

By Lukas Kendall
AxaMonitor contributor
November 5, 2016

FOLLOW THE money,” said Deep Throat.

Actually, not really. Deep Throat never said that. William Goldman said that — he made it up as dialog for the movie. But it stuck. Among other things, it’s often accurate. Follow the money, you find the truth.

Why didn’t we see a settlement Friday? I think, in this rare instance, we should take Axanar producer Alec Peters at his word: he could not make a version of Axanar that pleases the donors under the terms offered by CBS and Paramount.

What are those terms? CBS doesn’t want money. They don’t care about the studio (built with donor funds). They are protecting their copyright. They would allow a version of Axanar to be made under the fan film guidelines. They might (conjecture on my part, no sources) even extend a few courtesies like allowing professional talent or a longer run time to get this nightmare out of their lives.

BROKE? As Axanar’s lawyers try to keep its financial records away from the public view, recent reports indicate Axanar is out of money.

Axanar's Real Problem

But they are not going to allow any more public fundraising. Would you? He’s already raised $1.3 million — that’s more than enough.

The real problem is that Alec is out of money.

Because he was stupid and ignored advice, and sunk his money into an albatross of a studio on the megalomaniacal idea that he would be allowed to produce bootleg Star Trek, indefinitely, with professional talent under the studios’ noses in Los Angeles.

I mean, people don’t jump off of buildings for a reason — you won’t fly, you’ll kill yourself!

Breaking Down the Budget

The first, $100,000+ Kickstarter was spent making Prelude to Axanar. The second, $638,000+ Kickstarter went into overhead (see AxaMonitor‘s analysis of Axanar’s Annual Report).

That leaves the $575,000+ Indiegogo campaign. Take away 10 percent to Indiegogo. Take away 2016’s rent of $15,000 a month to date. It’s down to $300-400K — probably far less.

HIGH QUALITY visual effects by Tobias Richter soaked up a significant amount of Axanar‘s budget. Graphic/Axanar Productions

They’ve continued to sink money into the studio but, for inexplicable reasons, have yet to rent it out (probably because it still needs more work before it’s up to code and professional standards).

Just look at the categories in the 2015 Annual Report: insurance, phones, perks, shipping—and the ones that are basically Peters’ lifestyle slush fund (convention expenses, auto, travel).

Even though his lawyers are pro bono, the lawsuit has hard costs that have to be paid (e.g., depositions, transcriptions, subpoena services, travel).

We know that a ton of the Tobias Richter VFX work was already completed. Was he paid? How much? The short of it is: I would not be surprised if they are quite literally out of money. Or have $100K at most left to make anything.

Calling Axanar's Bluff

So CBS would basically be calling Alec’s bluff to let him proceed with making a limited version of Axanar…because he can’t even afford to do that.

GARTH VS. GARTH Alec Peters as Garth of Izar (left), and Garth as portrayed in the TOS episode, “Whom Gods Destroy,” as originally portrayed by Steve Ihnat.

And if he did, even though he would get to play Garth (which he is desperate to do, despite the fact he sucks and his own people consider him a horrible actor) it would be so embarrassingly bad he would be a laughing stock and a pariah.

Plus CBS would not allow him to make a documentary about himself. A good documentary actually could be profitable, a la Trekkies or The Death of Superman Lives.

Ego Trip

I do not believe Axanar was ever a moneymaking venture. I do believe it was a massive creative ego trip, and the money was incidental. So I do not doubt Alec’s sincerity about making the movie.

But we also have enough of a track record on him and his shenanigans (like the bankruptcy of his company, Propworx) that he will follow the money.

New Prediction

And for me his play financially is to:

  1. Try the Hail Mary pass of winning the lawsuit, to make Axanar as a fair use “mockumentary” and fulfill his dream of making bootleg Star Trek indefinitely (won’t work, but worth a shot). When this fails (maybe after appeal, dragging it out at least another year):
  2. Liquidate the studio — just walk away.
  3. Make a documentary about himself.

So that’s my new prediction.

Really pathetic, and I feel so sorry for the donors who were swindled, and the people at CBS and Paramount who have to spend time on this instead of making actual Star Trek that we would all enjoy.


Lukas Kendall is an award-winning producer and actor, known for Lucky Bastard (2014), Basil Poledouris: His Life and Music (1997), in addition to Free Enterprise, in which he is credited for providing additional voices. He is also known as the editor and publisher of the film music appreciation newsletter and website, Film Score Monthly.

His Star Trek credentials include producing most of the recent collector’s edition soundtrack CDs, including the 15-disc La-La Land Records TOS box set. He also assisted with the publication of “Return to Tomorrow,” the oral history of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In 2015, he wrote a seminal essay for TrekMovie.com, “The Future of Star Trek: It’s the Story, Stupid,” examining the franchise’s fundamental appeal and the reasons why J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot is so polarizing.1)


Keywords

1)
Some of Kendall’s biographical information adapted from TrekMovie.com.