It seems like Paramount hates Star Trek fans but loves our dollars. Paramount is so jealous of its franchise that the suits have forgotten, if they ever knew, that but for the fans, the original series would have died on June 3, 1969.
Ever since the series was cancelled there has been fan fiction. While most of it was truly horrid it was also beautiful as a paean to an original (for the visual media at least) idea. For the most part, Paramount stayed away from the fans, except when it finally saw them as a cash cow to be milked. Between the television shows, the reboots and merchandising, Paramount has taken franchising where no company had gone before, at least until Star Wars.
When video technology became cheaper, the fan fiction migrated to video and later to YouTube. With more computing power in our phones than what launched the Apollo missions, the amateur film maker can create works far superior to commercial productions of 20 or even 10 years ago.
With websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the fans can pool the power of their fellows and create a high quality low budget film. Professional film makers realizing the power of the crowd funding have used it to unshackle their vision from the corporate drones. Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk used crowd funding to create Con Man, a love story to their fans and a swipe at Fox which canceled Firefly.
Professional and semi-professional film makers and actors have, naturally gravitated to Star Trek. While many of the fan films are amateurish and unintentionally funny, such as the German fan-flick Dark Horizon (you have to watch the first five minutes. It is absolutely hysterical), there are productions which rival the best TV Movies and some theatrical releases.
Two of the best fan flicks are Star Trek: Horizon and Star Trek Renegades. The great fan film was to be Star Trek: Axanar, which was created by Christian Gossett and was to star Kate Vernon, Tony Todd, Richard Hatch, Gary Graham, and J. G. Hertzler. The original short, Prelude to Axanar is a documentary style film about the lead up to the Battle of Axanar, a major battle between the Federation and the Klingons.
Although it was crowd funded and made on a not for profit basis, the corporate drones at Paramount were frightened. They foolishly believed that Axanar and similar fan ventures would cut into their profits. Naturally, the attack lawyers were called in. Although, Paramount ultimately dropped the lawsuit, it instituted very restrictive guidelines for future fan films. The bottom line, the films can’t be more than 15 minutes and can’t be part of a series of stories.
Clearly, the guys running Paramount are the spiritual heirs to the nimrods who canceled the show in the first place. Their concept of communications is back in the era of the Pony Express and be damned with that newfangled telegraph. We are now 17 years since Blair Witch demonstrated the power of internet marketing, and Paramount still doesn’t get it.
These, and let’s not put too much fine a gloss on this, fools believe that fan films cut into Paramount’s marketing revenue. These fan films are free advertising on a massive scale. Right now, Star Trek is only kept alive by the fervor of fans. It has been 11 years since Enterprise ended, 15 years since Voyager ended, 17 years since Deep Space Nine ended and 22 years since television episodes of TNG ended. The Star Trek movies are coming, but at multi-year intervals.
What keeps Star Trek alive is the fans. Because of the fans, Paramount has a ready-made base for movies and the new television series. Allowing the fans to express their love through fan films keeps the Star Trek brand alive between movies. Fan films don’t erode the revenue stream, but enhances it.
If we were in the Mirror Universe, where hopefully the Paramount executives were chosen for intelligence, fan films would be encouraged and yes, monetized. Here’s where Paramount has really shown their lack of vision. They can make money off of the Fan Films but have thrown it away.
All they have to do is establish a Star Trek Fan Channel on Youtube, and then encourage fans to submit their work for inclusion. Paramount would then collect the advertising dollars from the videos. For example, Star Trek Renegades has 1.7 million views. Similarly, Star Trek Horizon also has 1.7 million views. While Prelude to Axanar has over 2,418,652 views!
Paramount could also repackage the best films on Blu-Ray for resale.
All Paramount has to do is fire the moron who came up with the 10 restrictive rules and replace the rules with just two. First, all films must be not for profit. Second, all films must be submitted to Paramount for the right of first refusal. That’s it. And now Paramount has free advertising worth millions plus they get paid for it. It’s an idea so simple and smart that Paramount will never do it.