While the people behind the “independent” fan-film production “Star Trek: Axanar” might call themselves a victim, that production — and the fact it’s now a defendant in a major copyright infringement suit — might be creating a new victim, “Star Trek Continues.”
Vic Mignogna, the producer and star of the fan-film that continues the adventures of Capt. Kirk and the USS Enterprise from the original “Star Trek,” has put out a plea seeking support for its current fundraiser that so far has met only a third of its goal. And time is running out.
“There are a lot of scared folks out there, afraid to donate to a fan production due to the climate now,” Mignogna told The Bronze Review‘s Rich Schepis. Although Mignogna did not directly point fingers at Axanar, he also didn’t try to convince anyone the lawsuit CBS Corp. and Paramount Pictures filed against that particular production last December didn’t have anything to do with what has become the first time in “Continues” history that it’s struggled in a crowdfunding campaign.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of here,” he said. “I feel that if you look at the numbers, the statistics, people will see we do what we say we’re going to do.”
On the “Continues” crowdfunding page, the project says its producers have never drawn a salary, “and never will.”
“In fact, executive producer Vic Mignogna personally funded the first episode, and has put nearly $150,000 of his own money into the series,” the crowdfunding page said. “Co-executive producer Steven Dengler has contributed over $100,000. Our co-producers donate their time — some working hard very day of the year on various aspects of the show — simply because of a deep love for Star Trek and for our STC family.”
That draws a direct contrast to “Axanar,” even if it doesn’t mention that production by name, since it has publicly stated paying salaries not only to cast and crew, but also to its producers. That includes $38,000 last year plus expenses to Peters, according to an unaudited financial report “Axanar” released last year just before the lawsuit was filed.
Axanar raised more than $1.3 million through multiple crowdfunding campaigns, and have used that money to partially build a studio in the heart of the expensive film district in Los Angeles, and outside of a trailer and a short, have not released a single frame of its full-fledged feature despite raising more money for a single project than any other in Star Trek fan-film history.
CBS and Paramount sued both Axanar Productions Inc. and its producer, Alec Peters, leaving the door open to add more defendants in the future. CBS and Paramount are looking for statutory damages of $150,000 per copyright infringement, or actual damages, which could cleanly wipe out all the donations made to “Axanar,” and then some.
That has created what one person from the “Continues” production, who asked not to be named, has called “donor fatigue.” Once people donate to a crowdfunding venture, they rarely get refunds, even if the announced project never materializes. And with the fate of “Axanar” a huge question mark leaning toward never being made, some fans who have freely given to such campaigns in the past are being much more cautious.
For this particular campaign, “Continues” set a goal of $350,000, which would finish the seventh episode (started using unexpected leftover money from a previous campaign), and adding three more standard-length episodes. Plus, it would pay for rent of the permanent studios of “Continues,” which Mignogna maintains in a far more cost-effective studio in Georgia.
Past campaigns have met the goal in a matter of days, Mignogna said. This one, however, is just a few weeks away from ending, and as of late Friday night, just under $108,000 has been raised.
“We’ll shoot eight, or eight and nine,” Mignogna said of the three episodes that are in pre-production. “We’ll shoot three episodes, one episode, whatever the fans want us to do. We’re going to do what the fans help us do.”
Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, Indiegogo offers a “flexible funding” option that will turn over pledged donations to “Continues” even if the goal has not been met. However, such a function would come with a higher service fee charged by Indiegogo, lowering the potential take even more.
Based on figures Mignogna provided to 1701News last month, the current raised amount should be able to cover the cost of one episode and pay for most of the upcoming year’s rent on the facilities. But it’s likely Mignogna and his crew would finish the seventh episode first, and maybe work halfway through the eighth before quitting if no significant money comes in.
The campaign has had nearly 1,300 backers so far, averaging a donation of just under $84.
Remember, however, that crowdfunding is not the same as an investment. Money provided is, in fact, a donation (and is tax-deductible for “Continues,” since they are now a registered non-profit), but it does not create any financial returns. Crowdfunding projects typically offer incentives for donations, but there are no guarantees that any crowdfunding project will be completed as announced.