I have a big announcement I want to share, and I've been so excited about it, I don't know how I've kept the lid on it for this long.
But I have planned a huge crowdfunding campaign, beginning tomorrow, for "Lost: Hurley's Star Wars Script."
If you remember back in Season 5 of "Lost," one of my favorite characters of the show, Hurley (played by Jorge Garcia) was thrown back into the 1970s with some of his other island castaways. And while there, he was actually trying to write a better Star Wars script than what Lucas would eventually do — working to make some corrections to the film that fans have always had issues with.
J.J. Abrams and his creative team didn't really spend a lot of time on that small story element, but I am in "Hurley's Star Wars Script." There I will take on the role of Hurley, and it will focus on my efforts to get this script written, while the Dharma Initiative and whatever the secrets are on the island try to suck me into oblivion. It's a great feature film with tons of special effects, and I promise will be a $150 million film that I will try to make for $2 million, or $3 million if fans support me.
While I couldn't get Garcia to come back and play Hurley, I did convince a bunch of other people to return. Maggie Grace, Malcolm David Kelley and Ken Leung are going to be a part of my new "independent" fan-film. I've also invited some out-of-work cast members from "Battlestar Galactica" to lend a hand, too.
We hope to turn this production into not just a fan-film (where I've been told by Denise Crosby, the narrator of "Trekkies," that this is the "best 'Lost' script ever") but into a whole new production empire. I'm going to build a studio out of a warehouse, where I'll host other commercial productions to pay the rent, and of course, to pay my minimum wage salary of $18.50 an hour, plus expenses (like $9,000 a year for my car, and another $9,000 a year for my phone — why are you giving me that look? It's an iPhone on an AT&T plan!)
I'm so excited about this. I really wanted to do this months ago, but I held off, because of that whole pesky copyright thing. You know, where I didn't own "Lost" nor could I made derivative works of it for my own commercial use. But then J.J. Abrams told a crowd of Star Trek fans Friday night that copyright laws mean nothing. If you love something enough, then you should be able to do whatever the hell you want with it.
And dammit, I love "Lost." So I'm doing it! Now send me money!
OK, I'm not making a "Lost" independent film. I'm just trying to make a point while irritated, which is not a good combination. But of all the intelligent things I've heard J.J. Abrams over the years, I'm actually, for the first time, hearing him talk like a complete imbecile. Like where it's perfectly OK to take whatever you want of someone else's property, do with it whatever you want, and collect whatever money you want on it ... and screw the people who own that other property.
Abrams said "Star Trek: Beyond" director Justin Lin was outraged about the copyright lawsuit Paramount Pictures and CBS Corp. filed against the "independent" Star Trek fan-film company Axanar Productions and its producer, Alec Peters. Why was Lin outraged? Because he's a "lifetime fan" of Star Trek, and Goddamn it, we better listen to him.
We're still not clear what Abrams means that the Axanar lawsuit is going away. We know he has a lot of influence over Paramount because he produced two very successful Star Trek films, with a potential third one on the way. But Paramount isn't the only company involved — CBS also is a plaintiff, and they're likely the ones with the purse paying for all of it.
So maybe Paramount just pulls out as a plaintiff, and CBS is left on its own. Maybe CBS jumps out too, because no one wants to piss off a "lifetime fan" who also makes you lots of money, both directly or indirectly.
The problem is that this is not Paramount and CBS being jerks to some fans, saying "You can't play Star Trek." In fact, CBS and Paramount have gone out of their way to allow fans to celebrate Star Trek by not just letting them play Star Trek, but even giving them the leeway to perform that for others, and even raise money to do help make those performances even better. That's why you have dozens of Star Trek fan productions on the Internet, both right now and in the past.
The biggest, of course, is "Star Trek Continues" and "Star Trek: New Voyages," two productions who have picked up where William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy left off in the classic "Star Trek" series. These are rather big-budget productions, at least for fan-films, costing tens of thousands of dollars each. And yes, both have turned to crowdfunding resources like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to make them happen.
But it's not a commercial venture. They don't cut into anything CBS and Paramount are trying to. And yes, you could even argue that it might play a small role in providing positive press for Star Trek, and keep interest high, even when there is no television show and we're all between movies.
Axanar, however, was not "Continues" or "New Voyages." This was a production that might have started out hoping to do the same thing those two fan series did, but then when the money started rolling in, they suffered from extreme mission creep.
So what all did Axanar do? You can read a lot of it in the 40-plus news stories and commentaries 1701News have written on this lawsuit (and yes, in case you didn't notice, this is a commentary, not a news story).
Or better yet, you can visit an independent website set up to provide all kinds of details on this case and the people involved called AxaMonitor, which summarizes the basic case CBS and Paramount have levied against Axanar in the courts.
To give you an idea, however, Axanar created Ares Studios, a warehouse that was funded with money collected on the Star Trek name to allow a commercial venture, which included producing some of the works of author and original "Star Trek" writer David Gerrold. They set up a "donor store" where if you gave a donation of a certain amount, you received a perk in return. Like, for example, if you have $85 (according to AxaMonitor) and you send it to Axanar, they will in return send you a resin model kit featuring ships that are very familiar to Star Trek fans, but slightly modified to be from Axanar.
That's not a purchase, according to Peters, because you're making a donation and getting something in return. Yes, just like when I go the grocery store. I only go to make a donation to the company. And as a perk, they give me food in return — typically specific items at a specific donation level.
Then Peters did something that, at least as far as anyone can tell, no other fan production did before. He paid himself a salary from the donor funds. The base salary, at least according to his non-audited financial "report" (which was nothing more than some numbers he put on a spreadsheet), was $38,000 for him. Plus money for expenses, including sending him to conventions around the world, as well as car and phone. And that's just what he publicly disclosed — despite our calls for an audit, none was ever released.
So much for being transparent, eh?
If Abrams is worried that this is going to affect "Beyond," maybe he should get a better understanding on how much knowledge is actually out there. I know Hollywood types — and sometimes fans — have bubbles we like to live in. Where everything important to us must be important to everyone else.
Hell, in 2009 when I made news in many places because of my creation of the "SyFy" brand that I sold to NBC Universal, as far as I was concerned, everyone knew about it. At least everyone who knew anything about science-fiction.
But you'd be surprised how many people I talked to who had no idea that I was involved, and others who didn't even realize the name had changed. And these were science-fiction fans, including a couple people who told me how they've visited Airlock Alpha "for years" (like, for years when it was called "SyFy Portal").
The same is true about Axanar. One of the funny things I heard from someone I know who messaged me right after the Abrams/Lin talk Friday night was that when people were applauding about the supposed end of the lawsuit, there were a number of people in that crowd who were looking at each other with puzzled looks, and you could see their lips form words around "What is he talking about?"
Even the people who were so excited about Axanar they donated money numbers in the thousands. People who bought tickets to "Star Trek: Into Darkness" were in the tens of millions, and that was just in North America. The people who tuned into "Star Trek: Enterprise" — the first Star Trek series to get an unplanned cancellation since the original series — also numbers in the millions.
How much of an impact does 10,000 people have on even 1 million? About as much as a speck of dust on the inside of your brown shirt that no one can see. Imagine if the pool was in multiple millions, like it is for Star Trek on television and Star Trek in the movies.
This was not a lawsuit pitting the studios against fandom. Axanar does not represent fandom. It represents some fans, but not all of them. I can point to many who say Axanar represents the exact opposite of what Axanar stands for.
We understand that CBS and Paramount own Star Trek. We appreciate the fact they let fans do things they couldn't do otherwise — like make fan-films.
Even in the Star Trek community, if you go to a convention and ask 10 random people about Axanar, one might have heard something about it, and the other nine will look at you as if you're speaking a copyrighted version of the Klingon language.
I hope CBS and Paramount are not being bullied into this by ill-informed movie directors like Abrams and Lin, who somehow think that just because they collect a Star Trek paycheck, that somehow they are bigger fans than the rest of us. They are not. Nor are we, many of us lifetime fans as well, feel we can just tell Paramount and CBS what to do with their property.
Sure, we can respond by giving them money or not giving them money. But that's it. That's where it ends.
If Axanar is allowed to continue the way it is, where does it stop? How long do we have to wait for Star Trek fan Rupert Murdoch to decide he would like to do an independent Star Trek fan-film, and he's just going to make it over at his little studios he owns, you know, Twentieth Century Fox?
I'm not convinced Paramount and CBS are dropping the lawsuit, to be honest. Settled? Sure. But then again, we (along with many other close observers of this case) have said settlement will just be weeks, if not days, from when the judge rules on the defense motion to dismiss. And that happened last week.
Maybe Paramount and CBS don't wipe out Axanar like it would (and probably should). But if somehow "Axanar" was allowed to continue, I'm thinking it's going to be far different than what was originally planned. With many of the commercial elements removed.
And if that's the case, then I think we can be happy about that settlement. I am not here to say "Death to Axanar!" I am here to say, "Stop fucking it up for everyone else." And Axanar, the way it was run up to the lawsuit, was absolutely doing that.
Let's hope that it ends, and if Abrams and Lin get fan-suck-up points, great. But not at the cost of protecting copyrights not just for major corporations, but for all of us who create, and who don't want someone else to come in and just take what we create and use it for their own commercial gain.
If that isn't the case here, then maybe "Lost: Hurley's Star Wars Script" will come to a commercial studio near you, with or without J.J. Abrams' blessing.
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.
About the Author
Michael Hinman is the founder and editor-in-chief for 1701News, Airlock Alpha and the entire GenreNexus. He owns Nexus Media Group Inc., the parent corporation of the GenreNexus, and a co-founder of 1701News. He lives in Tampa, Fla.Email author