Axanar producer Alec Peters chats with fans during his inaugural Reel Trek livestream on YouTube.Image/Axanar YouTube Channel


Planning for Worst in Patreon Effort to Save Axanar's Home

Less than a day after launching his Patreon, Axanar producer Alec Peters’ campaign to get fans to pay the rent and utilities for his Georgia warehouse, the effort ran onto the shoals of controversy.

Meanwhile, details casting doubt on Peters’ hope to save the facility he’s dubbed Ares Studios began to emerge over the weekend since the auspicious launch of his new weekly YouTube livestream chat, dubbed “Reel Trek.”


Alec Peters hopes 800 patrons will each donate an average $5 every month to pay for his warehouse’s rent, insurance and utilities. Image/Patreon

Standing Up for Sargon

Peters unexpectedly took to the air again the day after the first livestream to stave off complaints he had received about using the Patreon platform.

An increasing number of conservatives, alt-right figures and extreme free speech advocates are boycotting Patreon following its banning of Carl Benjamin, a combative right-winger whose handle is “Sargon of Akkad,” named after the ancient Mesopotamian ruler.

“Sargon” Benjamin had been earning more than $12,000 a month on Patreon when he was banned December 7, 2018, from the platform for an interview in which Benjamin used the “n word” and a homophobic slur to describe his foes on the extreme right.1)

Peters, whose own avowed political views tend toward the left, spent a great deal of time on his ad hoc Reel Trek episode defending Benjamin’s right to free speech. Peters said he sympathized with those who were refusing to support his Ares Studios effort, and he went on to criticize Patreon for banning “Sargon” for behavior that occurred off the platform.

‘AxaMonitor discovered Ares Studios’ current warehouse has already been advertised as available for lease. Its rent is listed at $4,250 a month.’

Dark Money

Peters tried to assuage potential supporters’ feelings by saying he would also launch a PayPal account they could use for recurring monthly payments to support Ares Studios.

That alternative would create a revenue stream for Ares without any accountability. Peters ran similar operations for Axanar, with direct donations at conventions and via PayPal, as well as sales on his Donor Store, raising an undisclosed amount over and above the $1.2 million in crowdfunding. That money has never been accounted for.

ON THE MARKET Ares Studios’ warehouse space in Lawrenceville, Ga., was already listed for lease before the Patreon campaign, with the notation “Date Available: Now.” The Georgia business database confirms the address is the same as Alec Peters’ Rocketworx, Inc. Click to enlarge. Images/Listing by LoopNet. Inset/Business Registration, Georgia Secretary of State

Planning for Failure

Peters said he would rely on Patreon, plus YouTube monetization, as means of subsidizing his warehouse after losing Other World Computing’s sponsorship.2) However, those funding models can be volatile, Patreon contributors can drop out at any time without notice, for example. But Peters’ rent is due every month regardless.

Peters has been here before, however. When his 2017 Indiegogo effort failed to produce enough money to keep his studio he was forced to break his lease and relocate to Georgia, an eventuality he appeared to have prepared for even before launching the Indiegogo campaign.

Another Move Already Planned

Tucked deep into his hour-and-a-quarter long live chat, Peters admitted he already had an alternative should he fail to reach his Patreon goal:

If we don’t raise $4,000 a month, we raise less, we’re going to have to move to a smaller facility — a brand new facility — it’s right next door. We’re going to roll the sets over. [But] I want to stay where we are.3)

Unexplained in his Patreon pitch was a reason for the otherwise arbitrary February 15 deadline for the $,4,000 commitment from contributors. Some have speculated that may be a date by which he must either give his current landlord notice to renew his lease or have a deal in place for the new, smaller warehouse. The two warehouses appear to have the same landlord.

BYGONE DAYS This photo from August 2017 features Axanar producer Alec Peters (left) with visitors to the now former OWC Studios. Image/Axanar Productions

Current Warehouse Already Listed

Lawrenceville, Ga., warehouse real estate listings examined by AxaMonitor revealed the following:

  • Ares Studios’ current space at 248 E. Crogan St., Suite 301 has already been advertised as available for lease. Its rent is listed at $4,250 a month.4)
  • Six smaller, newly built warehouse spaces are in fact available next door to Ares Studios. At about 3,000 square feet, each is about half the size of Peters’ 6,000 square foot current space. The monthly rent ranges from $1,700-$2,000.5)

Right now, we’re paying $4,000 a month. For the past four months I’ve been paying that out of my pocket. I don’t have $4,000 a month anymore to be paying for the studio. Axanar producer Alec Peters

When OWC Walked Away

Peters has been vague about the circumstances under which tech company Other World Computing walked away from the sponsorship in which they had won naming rights to Peters’ warehouse, implying the sponsorship was time-limited, though OWC gave no such indication when they announced the partnership in 2017.6)

« OWC Digital is still sponsoring the studio that bears their name, and they’re still very happy with what we’re doing both now and going forward. » — Axanar producer Alec Peters, a week before OWC stopped paying his rent

Peters Paid Rent

Peters was also vague about when the sponsorship was withdrawn. Rumors about it had begun to swirl in autumn 2018 after more than a year of growing tensions around Peters’ behavior. Also, the productions he had long crowed would be filmed at the warehouse never materialized.

During his first Reel Trek episode on YouTube on January 18, 2019, Peters made an offhand comment that made it possible to calculate when the partnership ended and what effect it had on Peters’ personal finances:

Right now, we’re paying $4,000 a month. For the past four months I’ve been paying that out of my pocket. I don’t have $4,000 a month anymore to be paying for the studio. … That’s what our Patreon campaign is for. The Patreon campaign and the YouTube channel pay for the studio. We need to raise $4,000 a month.7)

OWC Timeline

Counting four months backwards from January means OWC had pulled out by the end of September 2018, with Peters taking over rent payments in October. That coincided with when AxaMonitor first heard OWC may have pulled out.

One of the last direct references Peters made to OWC’s sponsorship turned out to be in late September 2018 — just about a week before Peters reportedly began paying rent himself — when he must’ve known OWC was ending its sponsorship. In an interview about Axacon, Peters described a healthy relationship with OWC.

'Still Very Happy'

SEPTEMBER 2018 In an interview, published on Axanar surrogate Jonathan Lane’s Fan Film Factor blog on September 24, 2018, Lane asked Peters, “ So no one is giving any money to Axanar or OWC Studios at the moment … other than you, of course?” Peters’ reply:

No one is funding Axanar right now except me. OWC Digital is still sponsoring the studio that bears their name, and they’re still very happy with what we’re doing both now and going forward. And we’re certainly grateful for their support!8)

Three months earlier, in June 2018, Peters had also described the relationship in glowing terms with a bright future, at that point pinning his hopes to a partnership with a local school district:

I have been working on a program to open OWC Studios to high school students, and we had our first student film filmed at the studio! This program is being expanded as we work with OWC studios to make the studio more robust and able to handle more professional productions. Our conference call with OWC last week went very well, and I am pretty excited about what we can do here. Stay tuned as we develop the studio into a laboratory for film students!9)

OCTOBER 2018 About two months later, OWC was no longer paying Peters’ rent.

Staying Mum

As Peters has demonstrated several times before, he refrains for months from publicly sharing with supporters any bad news (see ”Tony Todd Leaves Axanar“ and ”Axanar Co-Writer Announces Departure.“) In this case, he continued to use the OWC Studios name for the warehouse in advertising his fan convention, Axacon, in November 2018, when he had already been paying the rent himself for two months.

For those who have followed the Axanar saga, the circumstances sounded familiar.

Patreon Mirrors Failed 2017 Effort

By May 2016 in the middle of the copyright lawsuit brought against him by CBS and Paramount Pictures, Peters had spent more than a million dollars Star Trek fans had given him to produce Axanar. He was, however, stuck with a three-year lease he had signed to build his own studio for productions beyond Axanar.

A year later, with months still left on his lease, Peters had been paying the studio rent and expenses himself and turned to his avowed 15,000 fans to save the flailing facility he had named Industry Studios. He relied on Indiegogo to raise the $200,000 he needed to set the studio’s finances aright.

He raised barely more than 10 percent of what he needed, from only about 300 fans. Instead of paying for a studio, that money went to pay his moving costs to the Georgia warehouse now the subject of a Patreon campaign.

Same Pitch

Even though that Indiegogo campaign was a failure, Peters’ pitch on Patreon virtually mirrored what he did on Indiegogo.

Just as in California, Peters had run out of other people’s money and had to pay rent himself. His Indiegogo pitch touted the benefits the studio supposedly offered to student and fan filmmakers, some of whom provided testimonials about the studio, even though none of them had actually made anything there.

For his Georgia warehouse, Peters included a testimonial from Gwinnett County Public Schools educator Pasha Souvorin, who touted the benefits the studio was to offer his students.

Peters also claimed two fan productions were slated to use his Georgia facility, though he could only name one producer of almost-no-budget films, Vance Major Owen.

Effect on Axanar Shorts

Unaddressed by Peters was the impact the prospect of losing or moving his studio might have on his always-slipping production schedule for the two Axanar short films for which donors have been waiting for nearly two years. He had recently said he was aiming for a spring 2019 shoot.

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