The Star Trek franchise has inspired an active community of fans who produce short films and web series set in the fictional universe. I knew of a few projects, but I had no idea how many were out there.
One of the most impressive, Star Trek Continues, captures not only the flavor of the original series, but its distinctive cinematography and production values. It transcends the fan service of most amateur efforts and offers a warm homage to a show that changed television and popular perceptions of science fiction. It is also unabashedly cheesy.
These fan productions have historically been tolerated Trek's copyright-holders, as long as they were non-commercial projects. But now there's some real money in play. The Kickstarter campaign to fund a full-length film, Star Trek: Axanar, raised over $600,000. Star Trek Continues raised over $200,000 to fund its ongoing web series.
Now, after a generation in which their existence became the stuff of whispered legend, the dreaded twin empires CBS and Paramount Pictures have returned to our galaxy with heavily armed lawyers, promising to assimilate everyone into their vision of utopia.
Throughout the years, many of you have expressed your love for the franchise through creative endeavors such as fan films. So today, we want to show our appreciation by bringing fan films back to their roots.
Their "Tips for Avoiding Objections" (re: crippling legal action) include that fan efforts cannot be more than 15 minutes long and cannot involve any sequels or episodes. If anyone on board your fan ship wants to wear the Starfleet uniform or carry any of the gizmos, they'd better purchase one of the officially licensed versions. Also, the title of your production cannot include the words "Star Trek." You can crowdfund, but your production cannot have a budget over $50,000.
In short, non-commercial fan films are fine, as long as they suck.
As you might imagine, the guidelines have been called things like "super uncool."
But is this entirely the case of an evil empire vs a plucky resistance? This isn't the Star Wars universe, after all. Trek has always embraced a bit more subtlety. Self described "egotistical malcontent" Chris Murray alleges that Paramount isn't entirely at fault and the producers of Star Trek: Axanar ruined it for everyone.