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Fan-Film Producers Finally Speak Out On Axanar Lawsuit

Tommy Kraft, James Cawley, Christian Gossett among those sharing tough love

Shocking observers, fans — and according to at least four different sources, the studios themselves — “Star Trek: Beyond” producer J.J. Abrams publicly inserted himself into a copyright infringement lawsuit Friday night declaring his support for the fan-film being sued.

However, in an effort to defend fan-films, Abrams might have actually riled up many of those very fan-film communities not attached to “Star Trek: Axanar.”

“There was a fan movie, ‘Axanar,’ that was getting made,” Abrams said while sharing a stage with “Beyond” director Justin Lin and “Mythbusters” host Adam Savage, adding that Lin “as a lifetime fan” of Star Trek was “outraged” by the lawsuit.

“And we started talking about it that this was not an appropriate way to deal with fans. The fans should be celebrating this thing. We all, fans of Star Trek, are part of this world.”

Abrams then declared that the copyright infringement lawsuit CBS Corp. and Paramount Pictures had filed against Axanar Productions and its principal Alec Peters was “going away” in a matter of weeks, giving some hope that “Star Trek: Axanar” might actually be completed.

Within hours of that declaration hitting news outlets, CBS and Paramount issued a late-night joint statement confirming they were in “settlement discussions” and were even working on what they described as “fan-film guidelines.” Even an Axanar spokesman was optimistic, yet reserved, saying that “while we’re grateful to receive the public support of J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin, as the lawsuit remains pending, we want to make sure we go through all the proper steps to make sure all matters are settled with CBS and Paramount.”

The news that after nearly five months, the Axanar lawsuit was “going away,” seems to have lit a spark under some people in the fan-film community over the weekend — especially those who have stayed quiet, or tried not to directly respond to the ongoing litigation.

It started early Sunday morning with Tommy Kraft, the writer and director of “Star Trek: Horizon,” who later said he scrapped plans for a fan-film sequel called “Star Trek: Federation Rising” after being contacted by CBS and encouraged not to move forward with a $250,000 fundraising campaign.

“With the announcement that the lawsuit was going to ‘go away,’ I became quite frustrated, much more so than when CBS told me I could not move forward with ‘Federation Rising,'” Kraft wrote on the “Horizon” Facebook page. “The reason is two-fold: Axanar should not get off so easy, and it has come to my attention that CBS/Paramount had plans to drop the lawsuit for some time, but still told me not to continue with my sequel due to the legal troubles with Axanar.”

Kraft implied that Paramount’s desire to end the lawsuit sooner rather than later has been in the works for quite some time, even back in April when he had planned to start pre-production on “Federation Rising.” Although Lin did express support for Axanar in a Twitter post last March, two sources have told 1701News that the movie studio didn’t get any serious pressure to bow out of the case until Abrams was roped into the fold over the past two weeks. Not being able to ignore the financial success Abrams and his Bad Robot production shingle has brought to Paramount and the Star Trek franchise over the last seven years, the studio simply couldn’t ignore Abrams’ opposition to the ongoing lawsuit.

Yet Kraft didn’t stop there. He also shared issues he had with Axanar as a member of its production team for the short “Prelude to Axanar,” where he said he did all the virtual environments and green screen compositing.

“After rushing my completed work to them on a hard drive, I received an unhappy phone call from Alec Peters claiming the drive was faulty,” Kraft said. “I was publicly blamed in a podcast for delaying the film. The truth is, they just didn’t know how to operate a standard external hard drive.

“I never received an apology. I personally mentioned this to Alec, and he shrugged it off with a joke.”

Robert Meyer Burnett, the announced director of “Axanar,” didn’t take Kraft’s Facebook post well.

“Well, Tommy, as the editor of ‘Prelude to Axanar,’ can I just say you’re not quite remembering what went down?” Burnett said. “I had a good working relationship with you and you certainly did some great work, once you did in fact have some direction. But you shouldn’t take your frustrations out on your previous collaborators, especially those who fly you out and put you up to attend the world premiere of your work.”

Yet, the original announced director of “Axanar” who also was heavily involved in leading the “Prelude” team, broke his silence to support Kraft’s statements in the same Facebook comments.

“Tommy, I commend you for speaking out, and I’m here to back you up 100 percent,” wrote Christian Gossett, who left “Axanar” in May 2015, according to a timeline maintained by AxaMonitor. “You were a crucial part of the greatness of ‘Prelude to Axanar,’ and Alec can never take that away from you.

“Please see this current situation as an opportunity: Your talent, energy and skills can take you to any part of the entertainment world you want to be, and not just fan-films.”

James Cawley, the producer of “Star Trek: New Voyages,” also took a rare opportunity to talk about the Axanar case, more or less. He took to Facebook Sunday to once again express what he felt were the necessary ingredients to have a true fan-film.

“Fan-films are supposed to be made by friends, with a common love of the material and the sheer enjoyment of doing this incredible thing they love together,” Cawley wrote on his Facebook page. “More often than not, fan-films are being hijacked. They have been turned into a nasty competition and popularity contest. Many of the so-called pros who get involved are more and more, in reality, people looking to climb a ladder to get somewhere in the industry and get paid bucks to participate, while the true fan producers go into debt and kill themselves to fund the party.”

Some have said Axanar’s Peters and Burnett were looking to fund a commercial studio with money they raised from fans to produce “Axanar.” Peters also admitted to paying himself a $38,000 salary last year from those fan donations, as well as various expenses including car, phone and even travel to Star Trek conventions around the world.

Axanar says it has raised upward of $1.3 million from fans, producing primarily the “Prelude” short and a second short described as the “Vulcan scene” featuring “Star Trek: Enterprise” actor Gary Graham.

Cawley ended this statement with what he said is the true definition of fan-films.

“You don’t get involved in making a fan-film to further your career, get paid or win an online popularity contest,” he said. “You do get involved to play, share and celebrate.”

The attorney representing Axanar is still scheduled to file a defense to the copyright infringement suit as early as this week, but before the end of the month. That is unless both sides settle before that deadline, or a judge grants an extension while settlement talks continue.

Need to catch up on the “Star Trek: Axanar” copyright infringement lawsuit? Visit our easy-reference guide to all of 1701News’ coverage and commentaries by clicking here.

Source: 1701News


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