Star Trek–Horizon creator Tommy Kraft, left, and actor-producer Ryan Webber.

Horizon Creator: Axanar 'Not Wholly Innocent'

In a heartfelt Facebook post in the wake of an apparent legal reprieve announced the day before by producer J.J. Abrams, Star Trek–Horizon creator Tommy Kraft spoke out against Axanar as a production “not wholly innocent” that treated him badly.

Kraft was a major contributor to the visual effects in the short film, Prelude to Axanar. Following the positive reception to his own recent fan film, his planned sequel, Federation Rising, was shut down at the suggestion of CBS because of its upcoming $250,000 crowdfunding campaign and the pending litigation against Axanar.

‘I’m angry that my film was shut down whilst the production which was rightfully being investigated appears to be allowed to continue. ’ — Star Trek–Horizon creator Tommy Kraft

‘Axanar Should Not Get Off So Easy’

“I’ve been quiet on this for some time but feel the need to speak out,” Kraft posted May 21, 2016, on the Facebook page for his lauded fan film. “The Axanar case caused a rift in the community and has led to many folks feeling wary of new projects. With the announcement that the lawsuit was going to “go away”, I became quite frustrated, much moreso than when CBS told me I could not move forward with Federation Rising. The reason is two-fold: Axanar should not get off so easy and it has come to my attention that CBS/Paramount had plans to drop the lawsuit for some time but still told me not to continue with my sequel due to the legal troubles with Axanar.”

Interceding on Axanar's Behalf?

Kraft appeared to refer to unconfirmed reports that Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin had begun to intercede with one of the lawsuit‘s plaintiffs, Paramount Pictures, on Axanar’s behalf as far back as March 2016, while the other plaintiff, CBS, phoned Kraft on April 19, suggesting he give up his Star Trek fan film plans.

Unable to proceed with the Kickstarter campaign for Federation Rising, Kraft opted to raise $250,000 for an original film, Project Discovery, which he canceled after it failed to attract enough crowdfunding support.1)

Catalog of Problems

Kraft catalogued a number of problems he encountered working on Prelude with producer Alec Peters, and that disturbed him about the Axanar production as a whole:

  • Despite being responsible for constructing all of Prelude‘s virtual environments and compositing every shot featuring an actor appearing on screen, Kraft said he received “zero direction on what they wanted.”
  • Despite the lack of direction, Kraft said he was asked to complete his work, for free, over a weekend. “After I had worked tirelessly for two days straight, they asked me to redo the vast majority of the shots because they wanted something different.”
  • “I had to rush last-minute over the course of a weekend to complete my work due to their negligence,” Kraft said, including sending the wrong kind of video files, causing him to spend more time than would otherwise have been necessary.

Axanar's Support

Kraft made special note of the Axanar team’s supportiveness of his effort to raise money and complete his fan film, Star Trek–Horizon:

To be completely fair to Alec and/or Axanar, I was flown out coach to San Diego for their Prelude to Axanar premiere and he donated $600 to Horizon in April of 2014. Later, some of my YouTube links and Kickstarter links were shared on their Facebook page.

His Kickstarter campaign went on to raise $$22,600.2) The film was released in February 2016.

  • After rushing a hard drive with his completed work, Kraft said an unhappy Peters claimed the drive was faulty and went on to publicly blame Kraft in a podcast for delaying the film.“The truth is, they just didn’t know how to operate a standard external hard drive,” Kraft explained. “I never received an apology. I personally mentioned this to Alec and he shrugged it off with a joke.”
  • Peters “publicly trashed me,” Kraft said for misunderstanding something he stated in a podcast interview. After asking Peters to listen to the podcast, Kraft said Peters deleted the posts but never apologized.
  • After Kraft learned Axanar won an award for visual effects but that he was not credited with the award, Kraft said he had to complain to Peters so that he was mentioned in subsequent awards.
  • Despite Peters’ public claims that he was hiring professionals to work on the Axanar feature, Kraft said the producer offered him only $300 for extensive greenscreen work. “This on a production that has raised $1.6 million.”3)
  • Kraft wondered how Prelude, with an original budget of $80,000, went on to spend $100,000,4), including substantial amounts on visual effects and post production, couldn’t afford to have paid him “a penny of this.”

Prelude Director & Editor Differ on Kraft's Account

In replies posted on Facebook and on Twitter, Prelude‘s editor, Robert Meyer Burnett, also the director of Axanar, disputed several of Kraft’s specific claims, then summing up.

DISPUTES ACCOUNT Axanar director and Prelude editor Rob Burnett demanded an apology from Tommy Kraft for publicly airing his complaints about the productions.
You shouldn’t take your frustrations on your previous collaborators … especially those who fly you out and put you up to attend the World Premiere of your work. … I’m extremely disappointed in your posting here … and I think you owe the entire Prelude to Axanar team an apology.5)

No apology was required by Prelude‘s director, Christian Gossett, who commended Kraft for speaking out:

I’m here to back you up 100%. You were a crucial part of the greatness of Prelude to Axanar, and Alec can never take that away from you. Your reel shows brilliantly the scope of your contribution. As for me, I thank you again. Please see this current situation as an opportunity: your talent, energy and skills can take you to any part of the entertainment world you want to be, and not just fan films.6)

Burnett went on to admonish Kraft with regard to his giving up on his Federation Rising fan film after the phone call from CBS senior vice president Bill Burke, Burnett admonished Kraft:

Next time you receive an intimidating phone call … don’t accept it at face value.7)

Coming Forward

Kraft, who had previously been a vocal supporter of Axanar, addressed why he was coming forward now, in the wake of Axanar’s seeming legal reprieve, with his complaints about the production:

I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’m coming forward with this now in a time when many fans seem to be rejoicing. The answer is that on any production there will be issues and quarrels, but my personal experiences and things that I know have led me to the conclusion that Axanar is not wholly innocent.

Kraft described his reaction to learning Axanar seemed to be getting a green light from his filmmaking hero:

I love making movies and I’ve literally devoted my whole life to it. I happened to be at a place in my life where my developing career as a filmmaker overlapped with my love for Star Trek. I’m angry that my film was shut down whilst the production which was rightfully being investigated appears to be allowed to continue with the support of Justin Lin, the director of Star Trek Beyond, and JJ Abrams, the director whose works have inspired me as a filmmaker the most.

After noting that much of the original Prelude creative team, including actors Tony Todd, Michael Hogan, director Christian Gossett and many others had left the project, Kraft said, “I simply feel that fans should know the truth of my experiences and I encourage others to come forward with theirs as well.”


Keywords

3)
Public documents only account for $1.3 million raised by Axanar.
4)
As noted in Axanar’s Annual Report, the actual amount was $123,285