Over the course of Star Trek’s 50-year existence, fans have made their devotion known through a variety of methods. Whether by collectibles, fan art, or any of the other avenues available to the diehard contingent of Trekkies, the spirit of what makes Star Trek so much fun has always managed to thrive and inspire new generations along the way to join in.
For the truly committed, however, a love of Star Trek is best served by actually shooting their very own fan films. As the availability of filmmaking technology has drastically changed over the years, aspiring filmmakers — or simply keen hobbyists — have seized the opportunity and worked to make their own visions of Star Trek come true. As a result, fan made films have become an increasingly popular aspect of Trek culture.
Unfortunately, the studios that control the Star Trek franchise – Paramount and CBS — have not been so thrilled by the eagerness of Trekkies to ape the legendary space exploration saga. In fact, a lawsuit was filed late last year against a crowdfunded Star Trek movie prequel. Now, CBR has revealed Paramount and CBS’ newly created, concise list of Star Trek fan film guidelines that must be followed in order to avoid legal action. You can read the list in its entirety, but among the key points of the newly drafted guidelines are the following:
“The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.
The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.
The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.
If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.
The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.”
In addition to these restrictions, the budget for any fan made film must not exceed $50,000 – which may seem like a lot, but the budget for Axanar, the aforementioned fan film that Paramount and CBS took legal action against, had crowdfunded a budget of over half a million dollars.
While fan made films do make sense and are just a bit of fun for up and coming filmmakers and hobbyists alike, the fact remains that Star Trek is a pre-existing property and the excuse of making a fan film only travels so far. When a budget has soared to that of Axanar, for example, the filmmakers are no longer simply honoring a beloved franchise, but using the success of a pre-existing concept to build up awareness of their own product.
It’s great to see fans being creative and passionate about Star Trek, however, and in the case of Axanar, even big name Star Trek personalities like Justin Lin and J.J. Abrams have spoken out in favor of fan made films. As of this writing, the lawsuit that Axanar faces still exists, but the new fan film guidelines will, at the very least, prevent such headaches from occurring for other Trekkies who might have the inclination to take a shot at producing their own works.
Star Trek Beyond opens in U.S. theaters on July 22, 2016. The new Star Trek TV show will debut on CBS in January 2017.