With less than two weeks remaining, “Star Trek Continues” producer Vic Mignogna is doing everything he can to try and raise $350,000 for more episodes of his popular fan-film series — even climb to the peak of Vasquez Rocks.
The 930-acre park, located about 45 miles north of Los Angeles, is a popular television and movie location setting, including episodes of the original “Star Trek,” and the Vulcan scenes from “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” Mignogna used the geological park as a setting for what could be a final plea to get three more episodes of “Continues” funded — a goal that is about $110,000 short.
The fundraising struggles are new for “Continues,” which last year sought to raise just $100,000, but actually doubled that in 30 days. Now, two months into this particular campaign, “Continues” has pulled in a little more than $140,000, well short of the requested $350,000.
Mignogna publicly acknowledged the fundraising problems earlier this month when he told The Bronze Review blog that “there are a lot of scared folks out there, afraid to donate to a fan production due to the climate now.”
The producer and actor wouldn’t go into details about what that climate was, but wouldn’t deny it was related to the copyright infringement lawsuit CBS Corp. and Paramount Pictures filed against the makers of a separate fan-film, “Star Trek: Axanar.” That production, which billed itself as an independent feature, raised some $1.3 million, according to its producer Alec Peters, and has only produced an online short and a trailer so far. Production was reportedly halted in early January after the studios filed the lawsuit, which named Peters, his Axanar Productions, and a list of unidentified “John Does” as defendants.
In his latest video, however, Mignogna was far more forthcoming.
“We’re hearing from a lot of you that you’ve been reluctant to give because of a pending lawsuit against another production,” Mignogna said, referring to the Axanar case. “‘Star Trek Continues’ is not a commercial venture. There are no yearly salaries. Nobody’s getting monthly paychecks. In fact, myself and others have personally put in hundreds of thousands of dollars of our own personal savings into this production with no expectation of anything, but the joy of bringing Star Trek — a show that we all love — to you for your enjoyment.”
Mignogna is referencing a document Axanar released last December it claimed detailed its finances, which includes salaries for producers, including $38,000 for Peters himself. Peters defended that salary in a Feb. 1 interview with 1701News.
“I’m not volunteering my time,” Peters told reporter John Kirk at the time. “I can’t do this for free. If I make minimum wage, I’m lucky. The fans who donate? They understand. They don’t have any problems with me paying myself.”
Peters also pointed out at the time that if CBS and Paramount didn’t block “Continues” from this particular crowdfunding campaign, it would only help his defense in the lawsuit with the studios. He even went as far as to say this lawsuit would have no effect on any other fan productions like “Continues.”
‘Star Trek Continues’ is starting another Kickstarter,” Peters told Kirk. “Which is going to be real interesting because that Kickstarter, if that isn’t stopped by CBS, we can use that against them in court. That’s good for us because one of our arguments is waiver. They waived their rights because they let this go on for so long.”
In that same story, however, Florida intellectual property attorney Suzi Marteny disagreed.
“If you got a copyright, there is no obligation to go after every infringer,” Marteny, an attorney with Shumaker Loop & Kendrick in Tampa, Florida, told 1701News. “But from an equitability perspective, if you’re targeting one person, they could have an argument that you’re specifically targeting them and never enforce these rights on everyone else. They could have an argument, but I don’t know how much that would carry the day.”
While it does appear that the Axanar lawsuit has not stopped “Continues,” it did reportedly force another fan-film project to stop before it could get off the ground. Tommy Kraft, the producer of the post-“Star Trek: Enterprise” fan feature “Star Trek: Horizon,” had announced plans just a couple weeks ago to raise $250,000 to film a sequel called “Star Trek: Federation Rising.” But those plans ended abruptly last week when, according to Kraft, CBS contacted him and advised against moving forward.
“Earlier today, executives from CBS reached out to me and advised me that their legal team strongly suggested that we do not move forward with plans to create a sequel to ‘Horizon,'” Kraft announced on the fan-film’s Facebook page. “While this is a sign of the current climate that we find ourselves in with Star Trek fan-films, I want to personally thank CBS for reaching out to me, rather than including us in their ongoing lawsuit against ‘Axanar.'”
Kraft took a different route instead, capitalizing on some of the media attention he received for canceling “Federation Rising” by launching a fundraising campaign for a non-Star Trek science-fiction project called “Project Discovery,” that raised more than $6,000 in its first day.
Kraft had previously filmed “Horizon,” which went on to receive just shy of 1 million views on YouTube, for less than $50,000.
Axanar and Peters are fighting the lawsuit in court, so far going through preliminary procedures that have included two motions to dismiss by the defense, and an amended complaint from CBS and Paramount.
The studios are seeking not only to stop “Star Trek: Axanar” from ever being made, but also are seeking up to $150,000 in statutory damages per copyright infringement, or actual damages. If successful, just a few infringements could be more than enough to bankrupt Axanar.
Mignogna, however, desperately wants to keep his distance from all that, but knows it’s difficult with the lawsuit dominating news for the small segment of the Trek audience that keeps up with the fan productions.
“We have no desire to do anything but honor and pay tribute and respect to both Star Trek and the people who love it,” Mignogna said. “So don’t be afraid.”