G & T Show SL – Christian Gossett
G & T Show SL – Christian Gossett is now available to download. Check it out here. Nick and Mike sat down with Christian Gossett, Director and Writer for Prelude to Axanar,. Chris talks about his experiences working on Prelude, working with Alec Peters, and where Axanar went wrong. Don’t miss this exclusive and timely interview, recorded the night after the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines were made public by CBS and Paramount.
Nick kicks off the interview with introductions. Chris is talking to them this evening from New Zealand. The fan film guidelines came out this morning and this interview is very timely. Chris doesn’t consider himself a hater and finds it telling that Axanar became very Cardassian-like when things started going bad. Chris directed Prelude to Axanar, which Nick and Mike liked a lot.
Chris’s Early Days with Axanar
Nick begins the interview by asking how did he get involved with Axanar. Chris and Alec were once close friends, and Alec wanted Chris to show him how to create a spec film to illustrate his ability as a producer. Chris had been an intellectual property creator since he was nineteen years old. He had been around film sets since he was five, since his father was actor.
Chris shares some of the advice he had given Alec initially. This was for Alec to tell his own space story, rather than a Star Trek story. However, Alec was dead set against doing anything other than Trek. Over the course of years, the conversations continued. Once Chris realized Alec was serious, he told Alec to go to writing and acting classes, among other things.
When Alec started talking about wanting to do a Klingon War story, it struck a note with Chris. He had been a fan of TOS Klingons his entire life. His family was in the military and he loved Saving Private Ryan. He wanted to do for Trek something of that caliber in terms of accuracy and realism. Nick helps clarify Chris’ point when he compares Saving Private Ryan to The Dirty Dozen. That was want Chris wanted to do with Trek. Chris had been a concept designer most of his life and liked taking liberties while remaining true to the essence of Trek. The two started their working relationship on Axanar when his vision for Trek meshed with Alec’s.
Putting together Prelude to Axanar
At that point, they were still communicating. Alec was listening in a very collaborative way. However, this didn’t continue after Prelude, when they got a little bit of success and things changed. For Prelude, Chris had brought in a lot of professional friends since Alec had never produced anything before. They raised over $100k on Kickstarter and didn’t want to waste it.
Chris got a couple of great producers to volunteer. Then they found the sound stage, and brought on the DP. And then the DP in turn brought in their crew all the way down the line. They were all hardcore professionals and are directly responsible for making Prelude look the way that it does. Creating a film is like a military campaign and resources have to be managed. Its all about logistics.
Everything ran smoothly because everything was in place. Plus the crew were professionals, Alec was listening to his counsel, and they were still collaborative partners. Alec had a lot of passion, he had the desire, and willingness to learn. However, that was before the success of Prelude.
The people who worked on Prelude worked for nothing or for pennies on the dollar. Academy award-winning makeup artists worked only for the cost of materials. There was so much value on the screen, and if these professionals actually were paid what they deserved, the entire project would have cost upwards of four times the budget.
Shooting Prelude to Axanar
Chris describes the shoot as very smooth. They were worried about the process, since they had never actually filmed Star Trek. However, it helped when experienced Trek alumni praised their efforts. Trek is expensive and difficult to make and they were doing well considering everything. The next Kickstarter brought them in over $580k after fees.
It was at that point that things changed. Alec wanted to change personnel and get rid of people who had worked tirelessly. This was despite Chris’ protestations to the contrary. They no longer were collaborative. Even the producers Chris brought in wanted to leave because of the way Alec was wanting to run things. It’s about momentum. Once you get the money, you go ahead. The money should have been spent on makeup and wardrobe resources. However, Alec wanted to wait and second guess all of Chris’ decisions. It was detrimental to the project.
Chris mentions the conversation they had with Robert Burnett, when they tried to convince Alec to rent a sound stage rather than building one. They didn’t agree with him. But since Alec was in control of the money, there was little they could do. The house of cards was beginning to fall. Chris’s people went back to their jobs. Chris’ DP was publicly let go over Facebook, which was completely inappropriate and uncalled for. Chris was counting the days since then. When Chris finally did leave, he decided to do it publicly, giving Alec a taste of his own medicine for what he had done to his DP.
Things Turn Sour
Nick asks if the threats began at that point, since he and Mike had experienced the threats first-hand. Chris mentions how Alec deals with people. The emails and IMs have been posted publicly. Nick shares his story of receiving threats from Alec and how they ended the moment he posted those messages publicly. But Alec seems to count on people not to do that. Chris has emails from Alec that he doesn’t want to make public in order to be professional. However, today, he has decided to end his silence on the subject and speak out.
The New Fan Film Guidelines
Nick mentions the guidelines and how it was a moment for the Axalites. This made them vocal in blaming everyone but where the blame should actually fall, which is in the lap of Alec Peters and Axanar. Fan films have been around for decades and this is the first time in that long history that anything like this has happened. The only thing that changed was Alec and Axanar. They are responsible for what has happened. Chris clarifies that there are major differences between Prelude to Axanar and Axanar the feature. That is, this includes everything from the crew, the people, and the command chain, to different ways of doing things. Alec also started pushing the commercial boundaries beyond anything anyone else had ever done. Chris offers an analogy but likes Nick’s house analogy better.
Nick asks about how some of the licensing deals, especially Axanar Coffee, came about. Chris explains that it happened while Alec was away from him. Apparently, Alec just came back and said, by the way, we have a coffee deal. That is, Alec would spin it in the most innocent fashion. People couldn’t say certain things to Alec. There are things they refuse to hear.
Alec was always reassuring Chris and other people that he was in contact with CBS and they were fine with whatever it was he was doing. Chris and others didn’t have contact with the people Alec dealt with to get the details. Furthermore, Alec was always claiming to be in touch with CBS. However, it turns out that wasn’t the case. Was he really in touch with CBS or if he was was he providing an objective report on their meetings? In hindsight, Chris feels that he should have done some due diligence on it.
The Vulcan Scene
Mike asks what was the point when Chris realized there was no way Alec could get the kind of blind approval he claimed CBS gave him. Chris says there were several of those moments, some of which he cannot speak about right now because of the ongoing nature of the lawsuit. He says the issues were coming hard and fast. He praises Tobias Richter. Also, he clarifies that Tobias was completely innocent in all of this. Tobias was the best thing Alec had. But then Alec asked Tobias to do the Vulcan scene for a meager amount of money. The people that knew how to create a budget and knew about all of the logistics required for a production were gone. Alec thought he could do correctly something that takes experience and knowledge.
From Prelude to Feature
For Prelude, they made decisions that put every penny on the screen for the donors and fans to see. But with the feature film, Alec had hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, he wanted to film something for a fraction of the necessary cost and effort. Alec hoped the scene would motivate people to donate two million dollars. Chris tried to tell him that it wouldn’t work that way and he ended up leaving afterwards. Chris described subsequent contact with Alec as ‘heated’.
The Financial Report
Nick brings up the financial report. Chris was glad he had left before then but wishes he had left even sooner. Chris lists all of the ways he could have done things differently, including pushing harder to make Alec see what he was doing. He knows, though, that if he had dug in his heels and pushed harder, Alec would have only put up even more resistance.
Nick confirms it’s at this point that Alec’s rhetoric turned negative towards him and anyone that criticized or questioned his efforts. Nick admires Alec’s passion, but Alec seems to have believed himself to be above the rules. Nick talks about the donors who have been kicked and banned from their group for doing nothing more than questioning or even being a part of another group. The annual reports are not audited financial reports. Chris wants to see an audit and wants to see an independent accountant go over the books and see where all of the money went. Nick talks about STC and how their books were audited in order to get their 501(c)(3) status.
Star Trek Continues
Chris talks about Star Trek Continues and his relationship with Vic. He had met Vic through Alec. When they had their falling out, Chris trusted Alec. When he left Axanar, he contacted Vic and asked what had happened. Vic merely didn’t want to work with Alec anymore. After that, he met the rest of the crew and immediately found them to be warm and loving. They truly were a fan film. They were a family and any time they get together is like a reunion. Chris talks about his experiences with them. It was a completely different situation from the one he had just left. He says it was hard to be silent for so long and he still has to keep some things to himself because of the lawsuit. But he is just explaining the facts as he knows them. If he’s pushed, they will come out.
Robert Meyer Burnett
Nick asks about the relationship he had with Rob Burnett. Alec comes between people and makes them choose sides. Chris still likes Rob and will be with him at SDCC in a few weeks to do Starship smackdown. Chris is looking forward to the time when it all blows over and they can be close again. They currently disagree when it comes to Alec. He uses a Zoolander example to describe their relationship.
Nick tries to understand Axanar’s failure to admit where they had gone wrong. They don’t have seem to have any sense of responsibility for what they did wrong. He shares a story of messing up at work, yet Axanar continues to antagonize people over social media. Chris says that it illustrates their lack of understanding of the professional aspects that have made the fan film guidelines a necessity. When the reality of what the situation is and not what one wishes it to be eludes a person, especially as it pertains to others in a social community, then, the only response is to be draconian in response. Nick states that people don’t automatically have cachet or respect. Dues have to be paid, success and respect has to be earned.
Carlos Pedraza and Axamonitor
Chris talks about Carlos Pedraza and AxaMonitor. He describes them as very fair, balanced, and objective. It is a counterweight to the Axanar echo chamber and reflects the zealousness of their actions. He points out that the fans’ loyalty is for Prelude and the people who made it and isn’t really for Alec, though there are a few exceptions to that statement. But, the people that made Prelude aren’t involved with Axanar anymore and the fans do not realize it. He goes on to talk about Tony Todd leaving the show and how no one even knew. Chris states that whatever Axanar has said about Tony Todd has been self-serving and wrong. He goes on to praise Tony. Tony was smart enough to leave the project when he did.
Chris’s Thank You to all Fans and Supporters
Nick asks what Chris thinks the reaction to this interview will be. Chris wants to publicly thank everyone who supported and helped to make Prelude what it was. He knows people – friends – who have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Prelude and Axanar because of his involvement. All of those relationships were jeopardized by Axanar’s actions. He thanks them and is thinking about their patronage and friendship. He’s just trying to communicate with them.
To the cast and crew, he wants to tell them that they did a cool thing and he is sorry it went where it did. And, to the people still clinging to Axanar and to a place of anger, he hopes they will eventually understand what they are screaming about. He wants them to take a step back and take a look at what is happening around them.
This is not a David and Goliath story with CBS being Goliath. Rather, the other fan productions are David and Axanar is the Goliath. He hopes the fans badmouthing CBS and Paramount will try to look at it from their position. If the fans do that, they will understand what is really going on. CBS and Paramount are protecting their property. The unspoken agreement has now become a legal reality.
Why Just Axanar?
There is hope for fan filmmakers. Chris says to fan filmmakers who can’t make the stories they want because of the guidelines, he hopes they will take it as an opportunity to tell their stories in their own way. He goes on to describe that as the essence of Star Trek. Trek inspires people to go beyond what they know. He hopes fan filmmakers will be inspired to create their own stories in honor of Star Trek rather than for Star Trek. Go where no Fan has gone before.
Chris addresses why CBS/Paramount didn’t go after all of the other fan films, why they singled Axanar out. That is exactly the reason. Everyone else was following the rules and doing what they were supposed to do. Only Axanar wasn’t and only Axanar is the one being sued for their actions. Axanar and Alec is where all of the scrutiny should be focused. Ask questions. Be diligent. Find out the truth. To ask the question is to answer it.
Chris’s Thoughts on the Guidelines
Mike asks Chris for his general thoughts on the fan film guidelines. Chris is an optimist. The number one rule of fighting is to get up when you get knocked down. Right now people are feeling like they have been knocked out. But this is an opportunity for them to get on their feet, pool their resources, and make something amazing.
Amateur filmmakers have to accept the limitations and embrace them. If a filmmaker can create a fan film, they can make another film. This is their chance to spread their wings. This is merely a Kobayashi Maru scenario for them. Now, its the time for them to think outside the box and be creative. Mike talks about the audio fiction he produces and how upset he has felt because some of the rules could be applied to audio fiction. He has been treating the rules as such. However, after listening to Chris and his inspiration, he is finally feeling better about it. It’s time to get up, move forward, and do their own thing. He thanks Chris for the inspiration.
A Final Thank You
They wind up their conversation with Chris by thanking him for his time. He thanks Nick and Mike and the G & T Show for being open minded and encouraging people to look at the situation objectively and maturely. He hopes people will watch Beyond and the new series. He also hopes people will realize the problem isn’t with the people that own and make Trek but with those that have attempted to push the boundaries of what is accepted. It is their issue and they have to be held accountable for their actions. Nick and Mike thank Chris for joining them and sharing his story about what has happened behind the scenes.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.