HAPPIER DAYS Prelude to Axanar director Christian Gossett poses with his cast of scifi and Star Trek alumni. Pictured from left: Kate Vernon, J.G. Hertzler, Gary Graham, Gossett, producer Alec Peters and Richard Hatch. (Photo/Axanar Productions)

‘Prelude’ Director's Deposition Raises Big Issues

Axanar Attorney Sought to Represent Witnesses Subpoenaed by Plaintiffs

UPDATE Christian Gossett, director Prelude to Axanar, was deposed October 22, 2016, revealing a trove of emails exchanged with producer Alec Peters, who had not disclosed their existence, and prompting an emergency motion by attorneys for CBS and Paramount.

Gossett’s deposition in the copyright infringement lawsuit against Axanar had previously been postponed from September 16.

Prelude director Christian Gossett.

See also: Plaintiffs: Peters Withheld Trove of Email

Lawyers from Loeb & Loeb informed Gossett his deposition would be rescheduled to October. Gossett did not say whether the attorneys gave a reason for the delay.

Gossett, who left Axanar in May 2015 after a dispute with producer and defendant Alec Peters has become an outspoken critic of Peters’ management.

See also: Former Axanar Officer Served with Subpoena

Gossett’s subpoena is the second to become public, following the one served to former Axanar chief technologist Terry McIntosh. Both subpoenas were for depositions to be led by the studios’ lawyers from Loeb & Loeb.

Terry McIntosh

McIntosh Deposition Postponed Again

Former Axanar CTO Terry McIntosh said October 7, 2016, that he asked for his deposition, now to be conducted in Seattle, to be moved to October 28, after an earlier amended subpoena had rescheduled it to October 14:

Since I’m rather looking forward to participating in the process, and have already collected the majority of the requested materials that I’ll be submitting for review — over 3TB worth, so far, and I’m still gathering — this makes things more manageable.1)

McIntosh had earlier protested he would not travel to Los Angeles at his own expense for the deposition.2)

Represented by Axanar Attorney?

In a curious development, Axanar defense attorney Erin Ranahan appeared to be reaching out to witnesses being deposed by Loeb to offer her services at depositions. McIntosh revealed she had phoned him September 13 with the offer:

I was contacted by the counsel for the defense, Erin Ranahan — very nice lady — and she offered to represent me, as an individual, pro bono at the deposition. I accepted. I very likely also will have additional counsel present, at my expense, which is my right, too.3)

McIntosh later turned down the offer after his own counsel expressed concerns.

Meanwhile, Gossett disclosed to AxaMonitor that Ranahan had contacted him as well, but on his attorney’s advice did not return the call. He planned to have his own counsel at the deposition that was to be held at Loeb’s California office.

According to court documents, Ranahan represented Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett, co-writer Bill Hunt and fulfillment director Diana Kingsbury.

CURIOUSLY, Axanar attorney Erin Ranahan, of the firm Winston & Strawn, represented several Axanar figures who were to be deposed by the plaintiffs attorneys from Loeb & Loeb.

Conflict of Interest

Legal observers were surprised by Ranahan’s offer since it carries the possibility of a conflict between McIntosh’s interests and those of defendants she represents in the same case, Peters and Axanar Productions. The American Bar Association defines such a conflict like this:

According to the Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers, a conflict of interest exists “if there is a substantial risk that the lawyer’s representation of the client would be materially and adversely affected by the lawyer’s own interests or by the lawyer’s duties to another current client, a former client, or a third person.”4)

Though the defense is already allowed to observe depositions, formally representing McIntosh gives Ranahan the opportunity to object on the record to questions asked of him. The admissibility of testimony objected to by Ranahan is ruled upon later by Judge R. Gary Klausner.

Phone calls to Ranahan’s office by AxaMonitor for comment were not returned.

Terms of the Subpoena

Gossett’s subpoena requires him to testify and to submit a wide variety of documents and communications in his possession, including relevant social media postings, texts and private messages. The lengthy list of items requested in the subpoena may provide clues as to avenues the plaintiffs may pursue in the case.

Axanar, Prelude and the Axanar Works
To avoid confusion, the generic term Axanar in this article refers to what the subpoena describes as “the Axanar Works,” which encompass both Prelude to Axanar and Axanar. Specific references to the feature film by itself use the italicized title, Axanar.

Documents, Records Sought

In the subpoena, the plaintiffs specifically sought:

  • SCRIPTS All versions of scripts for Prelude to Axanar and the planned feature, Axanar (referred to collectively by the plaintiffs as “the Axanar Works.”
  • DEVELOPMENT Treatments, production notes, storyboards, drafts, notes, pitch memos, screenplays, outlines and/or revisions relating to Axanar, and their respective development.
  • SETS Records related to Axanar’s sets.
  • DESIGNS & VFX Any documents related to design for Axanar, including CGI/visual effects.
  • PROPS Records related to purchase, design, construction or use of props for the films.

The plaintiffs seek all records, communication and business plans about the studio Alec Peters built with donor funds.

  • CONTRACTS All agreements with third parties providing services for production of Axanar.
  • INFRINGEMENT All documents, including those from third parties, reflecting any opinion about Axanar’s possible infringement of Star Trek copyrights, or whether the studios’ permission was required.
  • COSTUMES Anything related to Axanar costumes.
  • ARES STUDIO All records relating to the soundstage Peters had built in his leased warehouse using donor funds. The subpoena sought anything about the leasing or purchase of the studio, its ownership, its construction (including all financial documents) and its use.
  • FUTURE USE of the studio, especially agreements, business plans, incorporation documents and tax documents.
  • SCHEDULES associated with making the films, including writing and preproduction timelines, production schedules and post-production plans, including editing.
  • CHARACTERS Anything related to the characters portrayed in the films, including production notes, casting sheets, casting notes and character biographies.
  • FOOTAGE Any footage already created for Axanar, including cuts and sequences filmed buy not yet distributed. Presumably, this would include visual effects sequences produced by Tobias Richter.
    ON SET Director Christian Gossett with actor Kate Vernon shooting Prelude to Axanar in 2014. (Photo/Axanar Productions)
  • ALL COMMUNICATIONS, both public and private, including those with third parties, regarding Axanar. In addition, the subpoena specifically sought communications with actors, investors or donors.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA Any postings Gossett may have made with regard to the lawsuit, Axanar, the copyright Star Trek works, and references to either CBS or Paramount.
  • PLAINTIFFS Records and communications with, or related to, either CBS or Paramount.
  • LAWSUIT-related communications.
  • STAR TREK-related documents, including those related to its copyrights, including copies of Star Trek works Gossett may have used in developing any part of the Axanar Works, including books, films or television shows.
  • INSPIRATION Pre-existing writings or audio-visual works upon which any part of Axanar is based, or from which the Axanar Works arose.
  • FUNDRAISING All documents relating to Axanar’s fundraising.
  • SPENDING Records showing how money was spent on Axanar, especially money raised from investors.
  • PAYMENTS Documents naming individuals who received money with respect to Axanar, and the amount of the payments.
  • COPYRIGHT applications and registrations for anything related to Axanar, and any communications regarding such.
  • INDEPENDENT WORKS Documents that Gossett believes support or establish the original conception of Axanar apart from Star Trek-copyright works.
  • DISTRIBUTION Any plans for distribution for the Axanar Works, including documents regarding how many views any of the Axanar Works attracted online, communications with YouTube and any efforts to monetize Axanar-related videos.
  • REVENUE All documents showing revenue derived from Axanar, especially from advertising.
  • PRODUCTS Records about sale or distribution of products or physical materials related to Axanar — as well as their design, manufacturing and sale — sold through the Axanar store or given to donors as perks.
  • KICKSTARTER All Axanar-related communications with the crowdfunding platform.
  • INDIEGOGO All Axanar-related communications with the crowdfunding platform for Axanar’s third campaign.

Persons of Interest

The subpoena identified specific individuals in which plaintiffs sought Gossett’s Axanar-related communications, including:

  • Peters, the producer
  • Prelude editor and Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett
  • Former chief technologist McIntosh
  • Alexander Bornstein, composer of the score for Prelude to Axanar, the CD for which is sold in Axanar’s Donor Store.
  • Bing Bailey, digital imaging technician and colorist for Prelude to Axanar
  • Diana Kingsbury, associate producer and fulfillment director (responsible for shipping Axanar merchandise)
  • Michael Spatola, makeup artist and head of the Cinema Makeup School. Peters described him as “a two-time Emmy nominee and a huge Star Trek fan.”5) Spatola was due to head the makeup team on Axanar.
  • Frank Serafine, supervising sound designer/editor for Prelude, who has also worked on such films as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Tron Legacy and The Addams Family.
  • Adam Howard, the on-set visual effects supervisor for Prelude, and a visual effects artist whose previous work includes Star Trek: The Next Generation and a wide variety of TV shows and films, including the Oscar-winning Birdman.

Of the two subpoenas so far made public, Serafine appeared only in Gossett’s. His name did not appear on Terry McIntosh's subpoena.


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