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Axanar Plans to Divert Indiegogo Money to Relocation

Cites Undisclosed Poll Results to Justify Diverting Funds; Nonprofit Application Moves Forward

The loss of the studio that was the whole reason for its Indiegogo campaign didn’t stop Axanar CEO Alec Peters from keeping what money it had managed to raise, thanks to a poll whose results he cited as justification but did not fully disclose.

The announcement came as the crowdfunding effort ground to a halt once again, its daily donor count actually slipping into negative numbers, with the total number of backers remaining a few people shy of 300.

95 Percent of What?

In an update posted on the Industry Studios campaign page, Peters claimed “a resounding 95 percent of the people completing our survey gave us the go-ahead to use the funds from the campaign in a way that will allow us to take care of the sets and keep moving ahead with our dream of establishing Axanar Productions as a non-profit film production company.”1)

Focus on 'Axanar'

In addition to diverting the money to uses other than that originally proposed in the campaign, Peters also cited 25 percent of the poll respondents’ desire for him to “focus on producing more Axanar-related content first, so that will be our primary focus going forward.”2)

Axanar CEO Alec Peters

Priority No. 2

It wasn’t clear whether the new “primary focus” on producing the Axanar short film allowed under the lawsuit settlement with CBS and Paramount Pictures meant that establishing operations as the non-profit production company promised in the campaign was now a lower priority for the use of Peters’ Indiegogo proceeds.

Axanar, of course, was not supposed to be the focus of the Indiegogo campaign, as production of the short film is not allowed to depend on crowdfunding, under the terms of the lawsuit settlement.

The declaration mirrored Peters’ decision two years before to move producing the Axanar feature to the backseat while he focused on what eventually became Industry Studios — the facility he just lost after spending all $1.4 million raised from Star Trek fans.

« As a form of consumer protection, credit and debit card companies allow their customers to file disputes on transactions. … While we hope you will never need to file a Chargeback yourself, you’ll be glad this protection exists should you ever need it! » ‘Understanding Chargebacks,’ Indiegogo Trust and Safety

Poll Results

The 95 percent and 25 percent figures were the only portion of the poll results Peters chose to release. Everything else — even how many people replied to the poll — was not disclosed, casting doubt on the validity of the poll results as interpreted by Peters.

Weighted Options

The poll options were heavily weighted toward the outcome Peters appeared to favor — diverting the money raised on Indiegogo to uses other than those detailed in the original proposal (i.e., paying the studio’s rent and utilities in order to help other filmmakers).

Three of the four options allowed Peters to keep the money. Only one allowed donors to indicate they wanted their contribution returned. If Peters’ claim was true, 5 percent of the unknown number of respondents wanted refunds.

« We’ll pass on providing any information related to our current crowdfunding campaign other than what we post to the campaign page. » Axanar spokesman Mike Bawden

Non-Secret Ballot

Fewer than 300 people donated to the Indiegogo campaign. By not releasing the full results of the poll, no one outside Axanar knows how many actual donors were O.K. with Peters diverting the funds.

POLL OPTIONS
These were the options presented to donors in a poll conducted via SurveyMonkey. Though the results could be easily shared, Axanar refused to do so.
1. Since my donation was meant to cover the primary costs for Industry Studios, and those are now covered, I’d like my money back (or my pledge cancelled).
2. I’m more interested in seeing Axanar Productions produce Axanar. Use the money raised to pack up and put the sets in storage and then get to work on the two fifteen-minute films.
3. I trust you guys to do the best with the money I’ve pledged to you. Use it to find a new home for Axanar Productions, move the sets there and get back to work!
4. I don’t care what you do as long as I get my perks.3)

Peters only counted the ballots submitted by people willing to disclose their names and email addresses; he knew how each person personally voted.

Secret Results

Asked by AxaMonitor whether the poll results would be released, Axanar spokesman Mike Bawden demurred:

We’ll pass on providing any information related to our current crowdfunding campaign other than what we post to the campaign page.4)

Non-Profit Application

Meanwhile, the other part of Axanar’s Indiegogo goals took another step forward, according to Axanar surrogate Jonathan Lane on his Fan Film Factor blog.

“Industry Studios has finally filed their 501(c)(3) application, by the way,” Lane wrote in an April 15 comment on the blog.5)

Earlier in the day, Peters posted a note on the Axanar Facebook page endorsing Lane’s blog as “the #1 resource for information on Star Trek fan films.”6)

Blogger and Axanar surrogate Jonathan Lane

Who's Applying?

Lane’s revelation presented some factual challenges, however. He claimed the application for federal tax-exempt status was filed by Industry Studios.

But Peters’ announcement he had lost the studio claimed Industry Studios, even including its website, was being taken over by its landlord, Danny Luh.

Judging by the pitch on the Indiegogo page, the applicant for the federal non-profit tax-exemption was more likely Axanar Productions. Its status as a charitable organization in California, however, remained “unregistered” as of April 16.

Next Steps

In his Indiegogo update, Peters promised a follow-up on April 17 “to let you know our plans for moving ahead.”

Last Chance for Refunds

He also stated that he would honor refund requests submitted by noon PDT April 22. The Indiegogo campaign was to wrap up on April 22.

Chargebacks

According to Indiegogo, donors who want their money back don’t have to go directly to Peters. They can request a chargeback on the credit card used to make the donation. Chargebacks are a form of consumer protection in which consumers can dispute a transaction.

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Keywords

3)
Axanar Indiegogo Poll, SurveyMonkey, retrieved 4/12/17.
4)
Email from Mike Bawden to AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza, 4/16/17.