By Carlos Pedraza
AxaMonitor editor
May 2, 2018

Skin in the Game

A reader wonders about the motivation behind AxaMonitor

AxaMonitor recently received this email from a reader using the site’s feedback form. While signed, it is reproduced here anonymously since the writer didn’t give explicit permission for publication. I believed it raised questions that deserve answers. The reader stated:

Regarding your ostensibly harsh criticism of [Alec] Peters and the Axanar project in general, what exactly is your skin in this game? He made a film, got sued by CBS, et al., and is going forward under the limitations of the lawsuit.

Certainly there have been other fan films made, and his drew notice for the amount of money it raised, but it still begs the question, what’s it to you? Did he defraud you out of money? Was Prelude to Axanar originally your idea?

I have seen independent films made which are better than [Prelude] and some which are much, much worse; I have never gone so far with one of the worse ones as to try and make the filmmaker a pariah. It boiled down to more of a “wow, that sucked” reaction and I moved on.

Show us on the doll where this movie hurt you, Carlos.

As always, I appreciate whatever feedback readers care to share, and I am happy to answer whatever questions I can.

Personal Harm

The writer appears to proceed from a peculiar premise — namely, that I had to have been personally harmed by Axanar or Alec Peters himself; otherwise, I have no standing for what he calls my “ostensibly harsh criticism.”

I’m troubled by the notion that unless I personally lost money, or believed I was defrauded, or that my story ideas had been stolen, I have no justification for calling Peters and Axanar Productions to account for their actions and troublesome management of this project.

JUMPED SHIP Director Christian Gossett and star Tony Todd on set during production of Prelude. Both later left the project citing production problems and financial mismanagement.

If that were the case, no journalist would be justified in covering any story.

Attacking 'Prelude to Axanar'

Then there’s the curious assumption that the movie itself is something I’m attacking. First of all, I really like Prelude to Axanar. I think Christian Gossett did an amazing job turning a few unconnected monologues drafted by Peters into a full-fledged, affecting screenplay, expertly shot by Gossett, then cut together by editor Robert Meyer Burnett.

While Burnett and I have often tussled online, my respect for the work he and others did on Prelude has never been in question. The quality of Prelude has never been part of my motivation in covering Axanar.

CBS and Paramount Pictures sued a fan production for the first time after it had turned into a commercial venture trading off their property rights — a finding by the federal judge in the case.

Drawing Notice

The writer’s feedback describes the Axanar project as having drawn notice “for the amount of money it raised,” as if that summed up everything at issue in the lawsuit, and in what AxaMonitor covered now for more than two years.

Commercial Enterprise

Other fan films had raised six-figure amounts before Axanar did (unlike Axanar, though, none in the seven-figure range), without legal action by the studios that own Star Trek. What Peters did went far beyond merely raising a lot of money to produce a film. He used Star Trek to raise money to build out a soundstage, laying the foundation for an ongoing commercial enterprise with Axanar at the center.

DONOR STORE Axanar established a full-fledged e-commerce site to sell Star Trek-based merchandise to its fans — once they made a $10 “donation” to gain entry.

Early Warning

In a warning four months before it filed suit, CBS publicly “object[ed] to professional commercial ventures trading off our property rights”1) — a warning at which Peters publicly scoffed less than a month later.

Peters’ commercial ventures went beyond just the soundstage. He also set up a full-fledged online store selling Axanar merchandise, using its Star Trek provenance to market a full line of products, raising money that remains unaccounted for even now.

Axanar’s 2015 annual report outlined extensive plans to expand its revenue streams as it moved into the future, a business at the heart of which was intellectual property Alec Peters did not own.

What I Have Criticized

As for my criticism of the “movie” Axanar itself, it’s pretty difficult to hate a movie that’s never been made. What I have criticized, instead, was Peters prioritizing building a commercial studio space over actually producing the film he’d promised his donors.


My agenda has never been to denounce Alec Peters or the unmade feature film. It has been to provide information allowing people to judge Axanar’s viability for themselves.

What I have criticized is the mounting evidence of financial mismanagement of at least $1.7 million that was spent on a never-made movie.

What I have criticized is the hypocrisy of proclaiming the openness and transparency of Axanar’s finances when virtually no documentation has been produced detailing those claims. What little has been disclosed has been vague, inaccurate or points to a pattern of deficit spending and questionable costs.

MOVIE SATIRE Axanar has inspired both vitriol and comedy amongst its critics and spurned supporters, such as this movie poster (part of a series) making fun of Alec Peters’ antics. Poster/Marcus Blazingstoke

The so-called independent financial review to which Peters continues to point as evidence of Axanar’s clean bill of health can't even be found on Axanar’s website any more. At least one of the reviewers demanded its removal because Peters published a draft letter unsigned by the review committee, portraying it as a final report.

Making a Pariah

The writer of that feedback would have you believe that somehow my dislike of a movie that’s never been made is the reason I have called Peters to account.

My goal has never been to make Peters into a pariah, though he has certainly stoked intense feelings, including dark humor, among his critics.

I have never called him a name, accused him of multiple crimes, threatened him with litigation or wished him physical harm. He has done all these things publicly to me.

If my criticism seems harsh, it’s only because of Peters’ ever-growing pattern of obfuscation, lack of transparency and questionable accountability, and the mounting number of concerns about Axanar‘s viability.

Alec Peters

As for other people, Peters’ antics have sparked pointed criticism, satire and allegations of illegal conduct, which allegations I’ve always worked to counter; none of his actions has risen to the level of criminal conduct.

Treating Supporters

That’s not to mention the way Peters has treated his own supporters when they’ve merely asked questions about the progress of the project, or even simply for being members of Facebook groups that don’t toe the Axanar line. They have been booted from Axanar groups even without ever posting in the “disapproved” groups. Hundreds have ended up leaving on their own because of Peters’ vitriol against those who dare to question his narrative.

NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES Scores of Axanar supporters were ejected from their Facebook group in one fell swoop in the weeks since the filing of the lawsuit. In Axanar’s ongoing effort to stifle dissent, that number has grown by the hundreds.

Peters has repeatedly forced Kickstarter and Indiegogo supporters to take refunds simply so they would lose the privilege to post uncomfortable questions in those sites’ forums about the status of the project. He routinely deletes message threads in which people question his actions.

A Forum for the Silenced

Just a few weeks after the lawsuit’s filing, hundreds of members of various Axanar-Facebook groups were summarily ejected in a single weekend (see “Axanar's Night of the Long Knives”), silencing those who wanted answers to mounting questions about whether Axanar would ever be made.

AxaMonitor, and later its Facebook discussion group, became for those exiled Axanar supporters a place to get some of those questions answered, raise still more questions and, finally, to offer a community in which people could discuss those issues.

Even today, closed Axanar Facebook groups force prospective members to disclose whether they belong to what they term a “haters group” (the AxaMonitor group prominent among them), often denying membership to those who fess up, even if they’ve never posted in such a group.

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

Fact-Checking

Another essential function served by AxaMonitor is fact-checking Peters’ Axanar progress reports, the claims he made during the CBS/Paramount copyright infringement lawsuit, and his characterization of the financial management of the project.

AxaMonitor doesn’t simply allege Peters lies; I compare his claims with documentable facts. Each one is sourced with citations at the bottom of every article on the website. Peters’ truthfulness is for the reader to decide after examining the facts, sources and analysis cited by AxaMonitor.

Informed Choice

None of these issues is about the Axanar feature film. It doesn’t exist. And I have never called upon anyone to make Peters a pariah. Instead, AxaMonitor focuses on the way donors’ money was used (and not used) so that when the expected fundraising effort for Axanar Lite finally comes, prospective donors can verify the project’s track record and make an informed choice:

In view of that track record is it worth it to donate still more money (estimated at $200,000) to the shortened 30-minute version of the story allowed under Peters’ settlement of the copyright lawsuit brought by CBS/Paramount?

TREK ZONE SPOTLIGHT In an infamous set of 2016 video interviews by Trek Zone’s Matt Miller, Alec Peters and his spokesman prove incapable or unwilling to justify Axanar‘s copyright infringement and commercial exploitation of Star Trek’s intellectual property. Part 1 | Part 2

Skin in the Game?

So why do I do this? As I’ve stated on AxaMonitor, one of the reasons is that my own career as a filmmaker was born from my experience in writing and producing fan films — one of the earliest and longest-running series, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, and one of the most well-regarded, the award-winning Star Trek: New Voyages.

If I have a personal stake in the Axanar controversy it stems from the damage Axanar’s lawsuit wrought upon the fan film community. CBS’ fan film guidelines, while reasonable, deny current and future fans the same opportunities I had, making the community all the poorer for it.

A Resource

In the lawsuit’s early days, so many of the debates online were based on inaccurate or incomplete information about Axanar, Alec Peters, fan films and, especially, copyright law. I had the time and resources to create a website to document that kind of information, to ask informed questions (and answer them where possible) about the project and the lawsuit. Hence, AxaMonitor.

My agenda has never been to denounce Alec Peters or his unmade feature film. It has been to provide information allowing people to judge for themselves Axanar’s viability and truthfulness. And where I have shared my opinion, it has been solely presented as analysis about Peters’ efforts to avoid accountability.

Finally, the Doll

I wish my motivations behind AxaMonitor were as simple to sum up as pointing somewhere on a doll. Alas, such playthings lack a single spot to show injury to one’s sense of justice, accountability, free speech and fair play.

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