Crowd Fund for Axanar Expenses Abruptly Ended

Peters Cancels Campaign After Blogger Admits Axanar is Out of Money, Sought $45,000

A GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $45,000 to pay three months’ worth of rent, utilities and salaries at Axanar’s studio abruptly ended on November 3, 2016, just a few days after launch and following numerous complaints in its comments section and reports to GoFundMe itself.

Axanar's Broke?

Titled “We Stand With Axanar,” the project was launched October 29 by blogger Jonathan Lane, whose pitch confirmed producer Alec Peters’ statements in May and again in November that the project was broke:

JUSTIFIED Alec Peters told Kickstarter contributors he personally paid the rent on Axanar’s donor-built studio, so he’s using the empty space to play Warhammer 40K.
Already, Alec has put more than $150,000 of his own money into “keeping the lights on,” but he is nearly out of money now. I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. 1)

On Kickstarter more than a week later, Peters revealed he had personally paid for months of the rent of Industry Studios, his commercial soundstage paid for with donor dollars, entitling him to use the space as he saw fit, including setting up a Warhammer 40,000 gaming venue.2)

Lane posted in a comment on his blog that he took down the page at Peters’ urging:

Inside the Studio

WARHAMMER Alec Peters hosted a Warhammer 40K tournament in the unused Industry Studios on October 15, 2016.

Alec asked me to take down the GoFundMe site. It is now down. Not wanting him to be involved with it in any way until it was officially launched, I didn’t tell him I’d put it up online in the first place. When he found out about it, I got a call very quickly.3)

Independent Fundraising Effort

As a formally independent crowdfund, controlled by Lane, this new money might very well have been beyond the reach of any damages or monetary settlement stemming from the copyright infringement lawsuit Peters faces from CBS and Paramount Pictures.

Lane insisted he set up the campaign without Peters’ knowledge:

Alec Peters does not know I am doing this. He will learn about it when I take this live. Alec himself can’t do any more crowd-funding while a lawsuit is going on, but I can. WE can.4)

Lane portrayed Axanar’s struggle with CBS and Paramount as a “David and Goliath story. The studios’ strategy is to intimidate and make things too expensive for a fan to outlast the seige [sic].”

GOFUNDME Fan Film Factor blogger Jonathan Lane was looking for $45,000 via GoFundMe to help Axanar pay its rent, utilities and salaries.

Oddly, Lane set up the GoFundMe page on October 29, yet on November 2 he posted this reply to a supporter’s suggestion that he’d be willing to contribute $10-20 a month to help Axanar:

Hmmmm… Not a bad idea! Alec can’t really crowd-fund right now. Well, technically, he can do whatever he wants. But it would look a lot like he was poking the bear … especially if this case still goes to court. But I’m curious: if a fan set up a “Save Axanar” campaign, would people contribute if it was simply raising money just to pay the rent on the studio until the verdict comes down? Show of hands, people.5)

Of course by the time of that posting, his GoFundMe page had been up for four days.

Axanar's Financial Status

The notion that, after accumulating $1.4 million from crowdfunding and merchandise sales, Axanar was out of money raised questions about Peters’ spending and financial records, something his attorney, Erin Ranahan, worked to keep from public view:

Defendants produced the financial information … in an effort to be cooperative and avoid wasting the Court’s time on discovery disputes. Defendants fully intend to seek to exclude these expenditures before trial.6)

«But we’re so close to the finish line! If we can just keep the lights on for a few more months, this case can play out in court.»Blogger Jonathan Lane

See also: Loosening Restrictions on Financial Information

For their part, the studios’ attorneys claimed Peters’ effort to restrict who can see his financial records stemmed from questionable spending on personal expenses, such as car insurance, tires and travel:

The material in that document may embarrass Mr. Peters by showing the ways in which he spent funds that were raised from Star Trek fans. This is not a proper basis for designating a document as Highly Confidential.7)

Where the Money Went

As of January 2016, when Axanar’s Indiegogo campaign was shuttered by the lawsuit, AxaMonitor estimated the production appeared to have $565,330 on hand (minus expenses between July 31 and December 31, 2016). At the time, the shortfall between money raised from both Kickstarter and Indiegogo and the production budget for Axanar stood at $745,566 — 66 percent of the film’s production budget.

It became apparent Lane began to delete negative comments from the GoFundMe page.

Burn Rate

Meanwhile, in its April 2, 2016, FAQ, Axanar explained the amount of cash it has on hand changes by the month:

The amount of money left over from [Indiegogo] changes every month due to the “burn rate” of maintaining the studio while Axanar Productions works through the details of the lawsuit.8)

Lane pegged Axanar’s monthly expenses at $15,000.9)

Appealing to Fans

Lane’s appeal to fans consisted of painting Axanar as a victim of studio intimidation on the brink of financial ruin, followed by a standard tactic used in election campaign fundraising:

But we’re so close to the finish line! If we can just keep the lights on for a few more months, this case can play out in court and we’ll all know the conclusion … good or bad. HELP US REACH THE FINISH LINE!10)
DONORS SPAMMED An excerpt from the Propworx auction advertisement emailed to Axanar donors.

Using Donor Mailing Lists

The GoFundMe page didn’t indicate how Lane had planned to reach out to Axanar’s 12, 000 supporters other than through Twitter and Facebook share buttons, and via his blog, Fan Film Factor, which Peters touted to supporters as “the only legitimate news source on the Axanar lawsuit online.”11)

Since the GoFundMe effort is technically independent of Axanar, Lane should not have had access to donor mailing lists gathered by Peters’ first three crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo — something that caused trouble before when Peters used the lists to spam donors to advertise a prop auction conducted by a separate company, Propworx, which he also owns.

See also: Donors Complain Company Spammed Using Axanar List

Earlier Donor Spamming

Kickstarter’s terms of service prohibit projects from using email addresses and other personal information gathered in one of its campaigns for advertising other endeavors. Though Peters insisted the use of the donor lists was appropriate, his own spokesman, Mike Bawden admitted the effort may have run afoul of federal anti-spam laws.

“There are right ways and wrong ways to go about using email solicitations,” Bawden told AxaMonitor. “This wasn’t the right way to do it.”

« [Axanar] is nearly out of money now. I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. »Jonathan Lane, Fan Film Factor blogger


As of this post, the only comments on the GoFundMe page were negative. Axanar donor Rob Roberson’s comment was typical:

I will happily donate to the cause the day after we all get to look at Axanar’s books and see “exactly” how each penny of the money I previously donated was spent. This is an incredible amount of arrogance to ask for more money for a product that had already raised more then enough cash to be completed.12)

Deleting Negative Comments

It became apparent Lane began to delete comments from the GoFundMe page on November 3. Roberson’s comment quoted above had disappeared from the page, as have others, but they were swiftly replaced by other comments warning people not to contribute, and questioning Axanar’s spending of $1.4 million.

One commenter reacted to the deletions: “You can delete all the comments you want. More will replace the ones you axe.”13)

CALLING TO ACCOUNT Dennis Bailey donated so it would be more difficult to delete his comment criticizing Lane’s campaign to pay Axanar’s expenses.

Money Raised

In the first six days of Lane’s effort, the campaign had received a single $5 donation — from Dennis Bailey, a former Star Trek writer and fan producer who has been a vocal critic of Axanar. Ostensibly, as a donor, his comment (a statement calling to account Sen. Joseph McCarthy‘s for his red-baiting campaign in the 1950s) would be more difficult to delete.


1) , 4) , 9) , 10)
We Stand With Axanar, GoFundMe, retrieved 11/3/16.
Defendants’ Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Ex Parte Application for Order, p. 7, 10/28/16.
Plaintiffs’ Ex Parte Application for Order, Memorandum of Points and Authorities, p. 3, 10/27/16.
Alec Peters post, "CBS/Paramount vs. Axanar Lawsuit News", Star Trek Axanar project, Kickstarter, 10/4/16.
Rob Roberson comment, We Stand With Axanar, GoFundMe, retrieved 11/3/16.
James Vergon comment, We Stand With Axanar GoFundMe, 11/3/16.