Axanar Justin Lin JJ Abrams Bombshell
Did you see the Justin Lin JJ Abrams Bombshell?
Yes, we saw it. Don’t panic. I’m here to try to break it all down for you.
Let’s get some perspective. Back in March, Justin Lin tweeted in general support of fan films, firing off a tweet, probably quickly.
Axanar felt it was a direct support of their position. Certainly, within the confines of 140 characters, the tweet did not get into nuances or subtleties.
And of course it is incorrect that ‘Trek belongs to all of us’.
Fans help to support an IP, yes. Their funds keep it going. No argument here. But purchasing tickets, tunics, models, books, cable subscriptions, all-access passes, convention tickets, etc. does not create an ownership interest in the franchise.
Allow me to repeat that for the cheap seats.
Star Trek is an owned property, just like your car, your home, your financial instruments (stocks, bonds, etc.). If I admire your automobile, take pictures of it, and maybe even take it out for a spin (with or without your permission, I might add), I do not miraculously suddenly own it.
May 20, 2016
On May 20, there was a fan event. This video shows what happened:
And that’s about it. At 00:36, Abrams says, “He [meaning Lin] went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit, and now within the next few weeks it will be announced this is going away and then we’ll be able to move on …” (the remainder is inaudible)
Lots of sites are running with this story and claiming it means the lawsuit is being dropped.
Uh, no. Just no.
A few things, right off the top:
- Dropping a case is the equivalent of “Oops, our bad!” A settlement is far more likely. Settlements are the product of negotiations.
- Settlements are common in the law. They are cheaper, easier, and faster. Plus you don’t make precedent.95% of all cases settle before trial. Predicting a settlement is akin to predicting a sunny day in southern California.
- Predicting settlement negotiations heating up now, as the answer is due soon and discovery will begin (and Doe defendants would be named), is another no-brainer. Even Axanar PR guy Mike Bawden talks about settlement.
- Talking to the ‘studio’ is not the same as talking to Corporate Legal.
- This matter was absolutely not on the agenda. Adam Savage (the guy sitting in the middle) was clearly blindsided by the statement. Even defendant Peters apparently did not know this statement was going to be made.
Are CBS and Paramount splitting their focus?
Possibly. People have asked me if CBS and Paramount are at odds or if Paramount could be convinced to get out early. I don’t know in the sense that I am not there. However, I will say this much. Paramount does have a case as they, too, were aggrieved. I can easily get to a half a dozen IP violations on the Paramount side alone, e. g.:
- The use of much of the screen-worn Chang costume (or at least a damned fine facsimile thereof)
- The use of the Klingon character, Chang
- Klingon makeup from the films
- The look of the planet Vulcan, virtually identical to the planet shown in the 2009 film
- The use of 2009 character Richard Robau
- The worker bees surrounding the Enterprise in space dock, same as in TMP
This list of six is off the top of my head and with no research or digging whatsoever.
But Paramount may still have cause to listen more to their high-powered directorial team. Does this mean they must do everything Lin and Abrams say? Of course not. But there is possibly going to be some weight there.
This weight would be virtually absent on the CBS side of things.
Either way, even if Lin and Abrams have the clout they feel they do, such an announcement was premature at best. Furthermore, such talks would be confidential, subject to NDAs.
What we have here is, instead, an unauthenticated and conveniently vague hearsay statement that seems to have been made solely for the purpose of generating applause at the fan event.
Yeah, I said it.
Does this signal dissension between Lin and Paramount? Perhaps. Maybe this is the cross which Lin wants his contract to die on.
Some Sobering Objective Measurements
Let’s also dig into some numbers, all right? There are something like:
- 8,501 fans in the Axanar Facebook group.
- There are 8,548 Kickstarter backers.
- There are 7,660 Indiegogo backers.
- As of the writing of this blog post, there are just under 2.3 M Prelude views on the official YouTube video since August 15, 2014.
Let’s round up and be generous and add those figures together. Yes, yes, we all know there are going to be people who watched the video more than once or for research or morbid curiosity’s sake. There are also people who contributed to more than one crowdfunding campaign. Plus membership in the Facebook group is a crowdfunding perk. But I’m in a generous mood.
We are talking about some 2,326,300 people (The Axanar Facebook group membership was rounded up to 10,000; Kickstarter was rounded up to 8600; Indiegogo was rounded up to 7700; and the video views were rounded up to 2.3M).
There are 15 M views on the first Star Trek: Beyond trailer (since December 15, 2015) as of the writing of this blog post.
There are 39,998 views on the second Star Trek: Beyond trailer (since May 20, 2016) as of the writing of this blog post.
There are 2.4 M views on the Star Trek 2017 teaser (since May 18, 2016) as of the writing of this blog post.
The most recent Star Trek film made over $229 M per Box Office Mojo on a budget of $190 M.
For however much Lin and Abrams felt it was a good idea to pander to fans at the event (and later viewers), the numbers (even for the second trailer; it is on pace to break 7 M views by the time it’s out for a year, and Prelude to Axanar has been out for a year and a half) simply do not support working up that small percentage of a fraction of the fan base into a lather.
Will Paramount settle? Will CBS go on? Either or both of these scenarios is possible. CBS can absolutely go ahead without Paramount. Expect to see any number of discovery requests for specificity on IP ownership if Paramount does bow out. Furthermore, you can expect that CBS will be able to fulfill those requests.
Expect, too, a demand for a full accounting by an independent auditing firm of the books (such as they are) of Axanar, as any separate settlement with Paramount could be, at least in part, financially-based.
Fan Film Guidelines
In a statement to Buzzfeed reporter Adam Vary, CBS/Paramount lawyers (note, this was not a statement from Loeb & Loeb) have said that they are in settlement talks and plan to set up guidelines for future fan films.
What would these guidelines look like? Well, for everyone who talks about the vaunted Star Wars fan film guidelines, the truth is, those are only for a single competition. They also offer limitations, three of which Prelude would have miserably failed:
- No profanity
- 5 minutes’ run time, max
- “Don’t include any names and/or likenesses of any person other than you in the Submission without first obtaining written permission”
What was it Spock said in Amok Time? Oh yeah –
Or, as we have been saying for quite a while, be careful what you wish for.
What seems to my mind to be the most likely piece of the fan film guideline puzzle will have to do with funding mechanisms. We shall see.
The answer, which is still due by the end of this calendar month (May of 2016). The settlement – or whatever is the result of the undocumented Lin conversation – in a few weeks, if it happens at all. The June 8th Doe day of reckoning. Discovery and, if the matter is not fully settled, trial in January.
As always, we will do our best to cover this matter in a timely fashion. Thank you for reading; please feel free to ask questions or comment below.
She's also a published author (Untrustworthy, published by Riverdale Avenue Books; QSF Discovery 2 Anthology, published by Mischief Corner Books; and The Longest Night Watch Anthology 1 & 2, published by Writers Colony Press), and a prolific fan fiction writer. You can find her adding her fanfiction to our forums, or live tweeting our show.
We understand that she can be bribed with pie.