Fan Dance Commentary: A Lousy Axanar t-shirt
Yes, what follows below is my own, very personal, opinion. Terilynn
It’s official. According to the definition supplied by Alec Peters, I am a hater.
In reality, I don’t think I am. I think I’m more of a pragmatist than that. You see, despite what you may force yourself to believe when you get to the end of this opinion piece, I really do not hate Axanar. As a matter of fact (and you can listen our previous episodes if you’d like) I was actually pretty damned impressed with Prelude to Axanar when it was done. I am (as is the whole team) extremely supportive of ALL unofficial productions here at The G&T Show and always have been. (Yes, even slash-fic.)
I even agreed to let Alec Peters place costumes and other items from Prelude in our booth at STLV a couple of years ago as a gesture of friendship and support of the project. When Prelude was fully funded and ultimately made, we all had high hopes that the planned “feature film” wouldn’t suffer what other Trek projects had, a frustrating crowdsourcing disease known as “goal post moving”. Alas, over the next two years, our hopes have been smothered.
About a year ago, I was contacted by an Axanar donor expressing concern over the seeming lack of control over the production. This person was concerned over the fact that there would be a second crowdfunding project to drum up more financial support for the film. I asked this person if it looked like the film would not be able to be finished for the hefty amount already collected from Kickstarter (over a half million dollars.) The response was negative.
Soon after that discussion, Axanar Productions set forth on a new and additional goal of a half million dollars to seemingly finish the project. However, that changed and instead of telling donors that the money would be going to completing a Star Trek fanfilm, instead they began making the goal … bigger. They sought money from donors in order to make the film shinier and to make it shinier they would all need to be paid salaries, and rent a big new space in Southern California, and pay people to make Star Trek art to sell, ahem, fulfill donor’s desires for Star Trek-related paraphernalia. Books, art, models, t-shirts, coffee – all of the merchandise with Star Trek plastered all over it – was paid for by Axanar from the donor funds to fulfill the rewards for donating…
It was then the antennae started to go up. We discussed on the show the morality of personally and directly benefiting from donors on a Star Trek fan film. Many donors were becoming increasingly concerned that their money wasn’t being used in good faith to make the movie they wanted, but rather to fund all of the ancillary projects that suddenly became associated with the film.
Propworx – a long bankrupt company mysteriously rose from the dead (oddly enough, the Propworx articles of incorporation are dated the day after Axanar’s, and an investment company under Alec Peters’ name was also created on the same day as Axanar, albeit in a different state) and moved into the same physical space as Axanar’s rented studio/warehouse/office/whatever.
An additional $600k was taken in by the second campaign. To date they had collected well over a million dollars to make an unofficial Star Trek movie. There was no license. There was no permission. People were making annual salaries off of the donations. People were now crossing lines that no other fan production had, to my knowledge.
Furniture, phones, desks and carpet were installed. (For a fan film? Why carpet, why couldn’t they just forgo the carpet and use the money on … oh, I dunno film?)
Suddenly it became crystal clear that hundreds of thousands of Star Trek donor dollars were going into a studio that Peters and other Axanar employees fully intended to be a permanent, for-profit, corporation where they would be able to make original works – supposedly after Axanar would be finished.
All of this was done using money that donors have willingly sent in the hopes they would get to see a full-length film of the tale of the Battle of Axanar set in the Star Trek universe.
Then the news hit that they were about to open up yet another crowdfunding campaign, this time for an additional $1 million.
I was stymied. They needed another million? What was wrong with the million they had already taken in and told people they would have a movie? Now they need $2 million?
The proverbial question arose: When will it stop?
It became abundantly clear that the horse was not just out of the barn, but someone had forgotten to put the halter on the head and the bit in the mouth.
Many donors were rabidly excited. They were so sure that this project wouldn’t raise ire with the company that owns the IP that they no longer really cared about getting the movie made so long as their donations were met with the gleeful receipt of unlicensed Star Trek paraphernalia in their mail. They were so excited to be a part of the Axanar clan that they just kept giving money without regard to how it was actually being used.
However many other donors started to grumble and those that grumbled were silenced.
Rumors swirled that yet another new company would be formed, a “fulfillment” company created solely to handle the increasing burden of collecting donations and fulfilling the growing desires for unlicensed Star Trek paraphernalia and all under the auspices that a “donation” to Axanar would be rewarded with a unique t-shirt or mug or patch. If the donation was especially large, a gorgeous model of the Star Trek ship that would be featured in the touted-as-underfunded film would be the reward. Rumors also swirled that the fulfillment company might be able to be used as an independent company to provide the same services to other, non-Axanar-related crowdfunded projects.
All of this craziness revolves around one person. Mr. Alec Peters started this project with a gleam in his eye. At first I thought it was the gleam of creative fun. Now I’m not so sure. Thanks to his ever-so-loyal donors, he seems to have built a multi-faceted string of companies meant to support what appears to be a never-ending stream of risk-free capitalization of a professional film corporation.
I am not sure if this is why CBS and Paramount decided to step in or not. I hope it is. I would like to think that not only are CBS & P looking out for their fans by trying to stop the flow of unregulated investment into Axanar Productions, but also looking out for their shareholders who HAVE invested in Star Trek and by doing so will see their shares affected.
You see, most entrepreneurs seek venture capital from investors for their new companies. These investors expect a return on that investment. It’s RISKY. But Axanar and Peters found a way to take in that capital without having to risk a single dime of it as they don’t have to pay back anyone should their project(s) fail.
Even if Axanar loses this fight, Axanar and Peters have a nice new studio space, a costume rental/auction company, what appears to be a financial investment company, a possible new independent fulfillment company, and probably some cash to keep them going until they can start a new original project that they can’t get sued over.
And now he’s asking for donors to fly him and his friends to the UK to party at a pub. Fool? Meet Money. Don’t worry about remembering him, you won’t know each other very long.
But don’t forget that ALL of it was started on the back of Star Trek – an IP which was never owned or licensed by Axanar or Peters or anyone else involved in the scheme.
And I fear that at the end of this ordeal all the donors will be left with is a lousy Axanar t-shirt.