Cinematographer Milton Santiago (right) on the upstate New York set of Star Trek New Voyages, where the Axanar short, “Heroes,” was shot in November 2015. Photo/Axanar Productions

Part 1

What's Behind Resignation from Axanar Financial Review?

AxaMonitor Accused of Harassing Members of ‘Independent’ Committee

Read Part 2: Committee Reviews Only Part of Axanar's Finances

Axanar cinematographer Milton Santiago resigned January 13, 2017, from the independent financial review committee tasked with examining the beleaguered production’s books after the studios suing producer Alec Peters claimed he spent tens of thousands on personal expenses.

Peters had been under fire for weeks since court documents revealed his spending on such personal expenses as cellphone bills, restaurants, new tires and car maintenance, health insurance and gasoline for his girlfriend’s car.

Milton Santiago Photo/Facebook

He appointed “an Independent Financial Review Committee, a group of industry professionals and donors, to review the financials and report back to the entire donor base.”1)

AxaMonitor learned who the committee members were and obtained comments from all three, raising new questions about Axanar’s financials and its avowed transparency. Peters’ messages were provided by a source who made them available only under condition of anonymity.

Read Milton Santiago's full statement explaining his resignation from Axanar's independent financial review committee

Independent Reviewers?

Peters had touted the independence and expertise of the committee members, whom he had refused to publicly name until he learned AxaMonitor had communicated with all three earlier in the week:

  • Santiago was director of photography on Peters’ short film, Prelude to Axanar, and was slated to fill the role in the feature-length followup, Axanar.
    Kevin Rubio Photo/LinkedIn

    DISCLOSURE Rubio and AxaMonitor‘s Carlos Pedraza collaborated for a short time on the Star Trek New Voyages episode, “Enemy Starfleet,” shot in 2008. Rubio resigned as director of the episode; Pedraza was first assistant director.

  • Writer-producer Kevin Rubio was a vocal defender of Axanar. He is well known for his 1997 Star Wars parody fan film, TROOPS. He went on to a career including credits such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ben 10: Omniverse and Power Rangers: Samurai.
  • Axanar associate producer, New York-based financial services professional and Broadway producer Cedric Yau (Godspell), who donated $10,000 directly to Axanar, an amount not included in the funds raised via Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Cedric Yau Photo/LinkedIn

Defining Independence

When confronted with skepticism that a committee comprised of Axanar supporters may not truly be viewed as independent, Peters replied through his surrogate, Jonathan Lane:

“Independent” means they are not employees. And since we have no employees, these people are independent. A review committed for any Fortune 500 company has PAID board members do this work. And you have an “Axanar Team Member” because he knows what went on and provides critical insight.2)

In a phone interview, AxaMonitor asked Santiago if he was satisfied that the status of the committee was truly independent. He pointed to a statement Rubio provided:

We truly are independent, and Ares Studio [Axanar] has complied with all our requests. … I do not wish there to be an appearance of impropriety or bias one way or the other.3)

Santiago stated, “I affirm what Kevin said,” and the interview concluded.

Resignation

Several minutes after Santiago’s first phone interview, he called back to announce he planned to resign from the committee. He would not provide an explanation. But the following day, Peters described Santiago’s reason for recusing himself:

Milton has backed out for a couple of reasons. First, he really doesn’t feel qualified to judge the financials as that is outside his wheelhouse. … The fact that he wants the donors to feel like the committee is qualified to do the work, even when no one would question his expertise, is a credit to him.4)

Peters went on to describe Santiago as ”[Axanar’s] amazing director of photography, [who] was to be the third on the committee,“ indicating Santiago had recused himself prior to the committee commencing work, while simultaneously indicating it was nearly complete, with a report due the following week.5)

AxaMonitor 'Harassment'

When Peters announced Santiago’s resignation on his surrogate’s blog, Fan Film Factor, he also attributed his cinematographer’s decision to alleged harassment by AxaMonitor‘s Pedraza. “He doesn’t want to subject himself or his family to that,” Peters said.

Peters used harassment as the excuse for not releasing the name of the “long-term Axanar team member” who would replace Santiago. “Pedraza has been harassing the members of the committee to get information, and we don’t want any other committee member to be subject to this treatment. … He’s called all three personally multiple times.”6)

The so-called harassment of Santiago and Rubio consisted of a Facebook private message asking if they would consent to be interviewed; Yau was contacted by email.

Responding to Harassment

In reply, Rubio issued a short and courteous statement. Santiago phoned and conversed for 55 minutes. Yau called and spoke with AxaMonitor for nearly an hour. The “multiple” phone calls consisted of Pedraza and Yau calling one another back when their cell phone call dropped several times over the course of the interview.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

All three members of the committee responded to AxaMonitor‘s interview requests under the constraints of non-disclosure agreements they had signed with regard to Axanar’s finances.



Keywords

2)
Alec Peters comment on “Alec Peters Discusses Axanar’s Financials and his Review Committee! (Interview),” Fan Film Factor blog, 1/13/17.
3)
Facebook private message from Kevin Rubio to AxaMonitor writer Carlos Pedraza, 1/11/17.