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Fan Productions Creating our own Trek canon!

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Old April 12 2012, 09:19 PM   #1
Maurice
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Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

In light of the recent incident wherein CBS stopped Norman Spinrad from selling his "He Walked Amongst Us" script and asked the Phase II people not to produce it, I thought it would be interesting to find out if anyone knows of any other instances where such a thing has happened.

I've read of one. A group in North Carolina was working on a non-profit web series based on Lost In Space. A fellow named Ron Haselius — who was working on the 3-D models for it — says that on November 2nd last year the production got a C&D (Cease & Desist) letter from the rights holders, shutting them down. Here's a quote from a topic on SciFi-Meshes where he was showing the design work on the ship model:

3rd Nov 2011 06:19 #183
[by] Avian

Yes, the producers of the LIS Web Series were given a cease and desist order yesterday from Kevin Burns, the owner of the intellectual property rights to Lost in Space.

It's a shame that a large studio like Paramount can embrace non-profit fan-based productions (e.g. Star Trek), but a franchise like Lost In Space that has had very limited success in revivals cannot. It's rather unfathomable that someone who holds an aging property that has very little chance of making much more money would not consent to a high-quality series that is merely based upon the premise, and does not seek to re-write the original show or infringe upon the established canon.

But that's Hollywood for ya.


The domain is now defunct, but, thanks to the magic of Archive.org's Wayback Machine, you can still see parts of it.

Anyone know if this kind of thing has happened to anyone else/any other franchise? I suppose it's the inherent danger of playing with someone else's toys.
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Old April 12 2012, 10:08 PM   #2
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

Maurice,

Over 40 years ago an author named Sid Fleischman published a wonderful novel titled BY THE GREAT HORN SPOON.

Disney bought the rights to it in the late 1960's and made a really terrible film of it, titled BULLWHIP GRIFFIN.

Eversince I read that book as a teenager, I wanted to film it, exactly as written. A few years ago I befriended Mr. Fleischman, and asked about the possibility of obtaining the rights to make such a film. He explained to me that I'm not the only one who wanted to do that, but all these years later, Disney still maintains the rights to it and will not allow ANYONE else to get them, even though they have no planes to ever make the film again.

Sid told me he thinks, I believe correctly, that Disney would be corporately, and creatively, embarrassed by someone who might actually make the film properly.

That makes me more tempted to film it just to egg Disney into trying to shut me down, and telling them to shove it if they don't like it!

It's the mentality of many non-creative, middle-and-upper management-types who will do ANYTHING to cover their asses before admitting that they did a job wrong. The old, "If I can't do it, NOBODY can do it!" attitude.
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Old April 12 2012, 10:45 PM   #3
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

That's interesting, Pony. It's sad that things like this happen.

However, I always shake my head at the idea that companies are "embarrassed" at someone making something well. I think there is a simpler answer, and that almost always really comes down to the following.

Do we own the rights?
Yes.

Might we ever do anything with it someday?
Maybe, possibly.

Is it worth paying our lawyers to sort out the contracts to release the rights vs. just saying 'no'?
No.

Answer = No.
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Old April 12 2012, 11:05 PM   #4
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

That narrative is insightful, Maurice, and, therefore, beneficial.

Seems like a recurring theme among fans is being unable to see things from the perspective of the "other side". I suppose that comes at least partly from being blinded by their enthusiasm for their show, coupled with their generally being amateurs, and therefore inexperienced in the biz.
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Old April 12 2012, 11:19 PM   #5
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

I think part of it may be that Gene Roddenberry embraced fandom and fanzines. Fan films are a natural progression of fan fiction given the technological advances. It's probably harder for CBS Studios to shut down a production rather than turn a blind eye to it.
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Old April 12 2012, 11:24 PM   #6
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
That narrative is insightful, Maurice, and, therefore, beneficial.

Seems like a recurring theme among fans is being unable to see things from the perspective of the "other side". I suppose that comes at least partly from being blinded by their enthusiasm for their show, coupled with their generally being amateurs, and therefore inexperienced in the biz.
My primary experience is in videogame production/licensing and dealing with IP there (e.g. PAC-MAN), but decisions really always came down to opportunity cost, i.e. given budgets and resources (manpower) available, is there any expectation that spending any time and effort (=money) of this is going to actually be in the company's best interests?

A friend of mine ran into this recently when he contacted some companies about licensing rights to use some of their logos, and basically their lawyers didn't know what doing so would entail, and it wasn't worth their time to research it when they had other licensing arrangements that were much easier to figure out and considerably more profitable.
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Old April 12 2012, 11:46 PM   #7
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

[by] Avian

...It's rather unfathomable that someone who holds an aging property that has very little chance of making much more money would not consent to a high-quality series that is merely based upon the premise...
"Avian's" poor-mouthing to the contrary, if I were the rights-holder to Lost In Space I certainly wouldn't view it as a property having "very little chance" of being profitable in the future.

Yep, the big-budget movie made in the 90s failed at the box office.
Yep, the 2003 WB series never made it to air.

So, where's the remaining value in such a property?

Ask Tim Burton and Warner Bros. They're about to release Dark Shadows - based on a cult TV series from about the same era as Lost In Space. DS spawned a couple of cheap movies in the 1970s, a big-budget TV miniseries made in the 90s that failed in the ratings...and a 2004 WB series that never made it to air.

There are reasons that producers keep coming back to properties like this. Someone fortunate enough to own the rights to this one might reasonably expect Hollywood to come back around for another pass at it, and if I owned it I'd protect the hell out of it right now.
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Old April 13 2012, 04:46 PM   #8
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

My Name Is Legion wrote: View Post

and if I owned it I'd protect the hell out of it right now.
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Old April 14 2012, 02:38 AM   #9
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

What about that?
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Old April 14 2012, 03:44 AM   #10
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

The book Homemade Hollywood documents a few cases of fan filmmakers being shut down by cease and desist letters. It doesn't include any recent examples, though, as far as I recall.
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Old April 14 2012, 01:37 PM   #11
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

My Name Is Legion wrote: View Post
[by] Avian

...It's rather unfathomable that someone who holds an aging property that has very little chance of making much more money would not consent to a high-quality series that is merely based upon the premise...
"Avian's" poor-mouthing to the contrary, if I were the rights-holder to Lost In Space I certainly wouldn't view it as a property having "very little chance" of being profitable in the future.

Yep, the big-budget movie made in the 90s failed at the box office.
Yep, the 2003 WB series never made it to air.

So, where's the remaining value in such a property?

Ask Tim Burton and Warner Bros. They're about to release Dark Shadows - based on a cult TV series from about the same era as Lost In Space. DS spawned a couple of cheap movies in the 1970s, a big-budget TV miniseries made in the 90s that failed in the ratings...and a 2004 WB series that never made it to air.

There are reasons that producers keep coming back to properties like this. Someone fortunate enough to own the rights to this one might reasonably expect Hollywood to come back around for another pass at it, and if I owned it I'd protect the hell out of it right now.
Or look at Doctor Who which fell apart in the late 80s in ratings made a bad, not well liked and basically failed revival in a movie in the 90s. But in part because in part because of fan audio productions and the revival series in the 2000 became a huge success and the show basically has no end. Something like a web show can easily help bring back a show.
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Old April 14 2012, 04:20 PM   #12
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

Awesome find, Maurice! It would've been interesting to see a fan film that wasn't another TBYASS (TREK but on yet another starship) or a Jedi/Sith/Stormtropper love fest. LiS is ripe for a fan film format. Sounds like it would've been fun.
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Last edited by Ryan Thomas Riddle; April 14 2012 at 05:38 PM.
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Old April 14 2012, 04:51 PM   #13
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

middyseafort wrote: View Post
Awesome find, Maurice! It would've been interesting to see a fan film that wasn't another TBYASS (TREK but on yet another starship) or a Jedi/Sith/Stormtropper love fest. LiS is ripe for a fan film format. Sounded like it would've been fun.
I want to disagree with the thrust of this discussion. Many fan films do take different tacts on Trek. Most famously, Aurora follows a merchant ship. (STR page on Aurora:http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/25.html ) Intrepid has one short which take place entirely around a campfire, with two characters talking things through. (Episode on Vimeo, http://vimeo.com/32705453 STR page on Intrepid, which includes You Tube, downloads, and other formats, http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/109.html ). Similarly, Star Trek Unity, which follows a Dr. Who-style Time Lord and his friend, also from the ancient civilization which spawned that technology who are also Starship Captains, includes episodes like this Easter one, in which the two aliens have a discussion in which they compare Easter Eggs, Romulan Ale, and Coca Cola, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnMNWS3RCkE (Page at STR http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/90.html ). Also entirely different, Flintstone-inspired "Stone Trek," (STR page, http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/8.html ), Silent Film inspired "Steam Trek" (http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/7.html, ) and prehaps the most offbeat of all, Duet, which is close to a reshoot of a DS 9 Episode, set in 1950s Germany (http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/6.html . )

In fact, what has really been the outstanding factor in Star Trek Fan Films has been their variety. I had to stop myself from going on and on, but I could probably list another dozen with entirely fresh approaches.
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Old April 14 2012, 05:24 PM   #14
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

I think you overstate how "fresh" these approaches are. Too many of these films ape the most formulaic and tired conventions of Star Trek even if their setting is different, especially of the "shields down to nobodycares" variety.
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Old April 14 2012, 05:43 PM   #15
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Re: Fan Productions shut down by Rights Holders?

Barbreader wrote: View Post
middyseafort wrote: View Post
Awesome find, Maurice! It would've been interesting to see a fan film that wasn't another TBYASS (TREK but on yet another starship) or a Jedi/Sith/Stormtropper love fest. LiS is ripe for a fan film format. Sounded like it would've been fun.
I want to disagree with the thrust of this discussion. Many fan films do take different tacts on Trek. Most famously, Aurora follows a merchant ship. (STR page on Aurora:http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/25.html ) Intrepid has one short which take place entirely around a campfire, with two characters talking things through. (Episode on Vimeo, http://vimeo.com/32705453 STR page on Intrepid, which includes You Tube, downloads, and other formats, http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/109.html ). Similarly, Star Trek Unity, which follows a Dr. Who-style Time Lord and his friend, also from the ancient civilization which spawned that technology who are also Starship Captains, includes episodes like this Easter one, in which the two aliens have a discussion in which they compare Easter Eggs, Romulan Ale, and Coca Cola, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnMNWS3RCkE (Page at STR http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/90.html ). Also entirely different, Flintstone-inspired "Stone Trek," (STR page, http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/8.html ), Silent Film inspired "Steam Trek" (http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/7.html, ) and prehaps the most offbeat of all, Duet, which is close to a reshoot of a DS 9 Episode, set in 1950s Germany (http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/6.html . )

In fact, what has really been the outstanding factor in Star Trek Fan Films has been their variety. I had to stop myself from going on and on, but I could probably list another dozen with entirely fresh approaches.
As Maurice says, fan films hardly move beyond the formulaic and ape the worse aspects of TREK. The examples you list aren't particularly fresh nor innovative. I talk about this more in this post.
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