Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Duane, May 14, 2014.
Thanks for the explanation. A take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing was what I was thinking of.
Maurice is right about legal papers. I remember years ago I was working at a studio that specialized in television commercials. One day the owner was chatting away about the business. At one point he pulls out a 2 inch-thick binder and points to it, saying here's all the paperwork needed for a single 30-second commercial. We're all pretty impressed/horrified when he says ''my bad, I forgot this one'', then pulls out a second 2-inch thick binder, also filled with legal stuff...
Our audio production recently had an original TNG guest star make an appearance. The paperwork required to obtain SAG/AFTRA blessing was a royal pain. I can only imagine that it is multiples worse for a video production.
Having dealt extensively with CBS legal, I absolutely do not agree. You CANNOT pay anyone to work on a Star Trek fanfilm - no one can profit in any way off the CBS license which isn't a licensed production. (They shut down a donation to the Shuttle Charity even, refusing to let the CHARITY profit from the name "Star Trek")
HOWEVER.... everyone DOES. ALL the "major" fanfilms I know of are SAG signatory now - and though the contract says they can work for free if they choose, in almost every case the actors not only get paid, but their insurance and pension plans are compensated as if it's a union job covered by an actual union clause*. (we're not just talking about the "NAME" stars. For instance, most of Phase II's actors are SAG.)
So, legally CBS says you can't pay them. They, however, are not taking action on it. Those two facts are universal. You can't. Everyone does.
SAG signatory productions ARE required to document hours worked etc to SAG, whether or not the actor is getting financial renumeration of any kind. If you're not SAG signatory then it's not an issue.
* for those curious, the SAG MBA currently says that for a "New Media Production" (their word for "on line") members are to negotiate their own terms with the production. Unlike the WGA - which actually went out on strike to get a very detailed contract regarding their compensation for writing for the internet.
Also in distribution... when you upload the fanfilm to Youtube, it generates ad revenue for Youtube as well.
Here's hoping CBS sees that as free advertising for the Trek franchise. I think they understand the importance of "Goodwill" and the benefits out weigh the downside. If fan films ever get good enough to be considered broadcast quality for production values and script and acting, I wonder if CBS will bring the hammer down then?
I do wish CBS would sponsor a yearly fan fest the way Lucas Entertainment does or did. I went to one official Trek con in Las Vegas and felt I really over paid for what I got. I'm sure CBS could do better. Plus they could showcase their other scifi/fantasy shows as well.
Bottom line is they do get paid and there has never been an issue because of it. Saying what CBS should or could do is one thing, but we can only look at what they allowing fan films to do now. If CBS changes there policy in the future then that is there right, but for now, paying actors, crowd-funding and some other things we have talked about are acceptable practices to them.
@JoJo -Fan films are free publicity for Star Trek, they help keep the fanbase energized. CBS only want to weed out those with clear 'intent' to produce a profit. They see productions like PhaseII, Continues and Renegades and see that there is a hard working effort to put out materiel that will excite fans help to keep the buzz of Star Trek going.
What could happen to the actor's payments retroactively if CBS decides to throw the lawsuit anvil?
The producers would be liable, not the actors.
But technically, the fan film producers don't make a profit, while the actors do?
Yes, and when the producers go to Home Depot to buy plywood with which to build the Star Trek Transporter Room set, Home Depot makes a profit on said purchase.
But Home Depot has no knowledge of what the guy does with the plywood. So no legal responsibilities when an illegal action is performed with it (take the most extreme example: guy buys hammer to kill someone: Home Depot is not responsible because they sold him the hammer).
But an actor (usually) would know that he works and gets paid for the fan film.
Similarly, if the costume designer gets paid to design Star Trek costumes, I'd say he could be liable, but the store he buys the fabrics from isn't.
Would there be a legal distinction between a guy who makes Star Trek costumes and sells them (and the one who makes a fan film just orders those on ebay), and a guy who makes Star Trek costumes and sells them on order (by the one who makes a fan film)? And what if these roles are not clearly defined, because it all just happens in someone's garage, nothing is thoroughly documented?
Yes, it's a mess (or at least ostensibly it's a mess; maybe there's some "simple" legal principle that makes sense of it all). Contract Law: not my forte.
It would be interesting to know what would happen if our hypothetical killer announced in advanced to Home Depot what he planned on doing with his hammer purchase. Does Home Depot's responsibility change?
Similarly, do actors who dress up in Starfleet uniforms wandering around a bridge set have to give back their SAG-mandated money--but yet some guy who is brought in to play some ND alien in some Second Unit pick-up shots who has no idea what the full script is all about gets to keep his pay because he was never informed that the footage was for a fan-based "Star Trek" project?
My hunch is whatever legal principle is in force here probably functions independently of whether various participants along the supply chain have foreknowledge of what other later-step participants intend. It would be difficult to ascertain who knew other parties intend. Likely legal responsibility circumvents having to go through the rigmarole of making that determination.
As the folks who filmed in our garage (or more accurately, our carport) for three years, I'm going to point out that none of our actors have ever gotten paid or received compensation, despite some of them being professional actors.
Our costume designer gives us a bill, but it's not for her work; it's for the fabric and other materials. For this weekend's shoot, the Andorian costume cost us $14.85 in materials for the vest, $3.50 for an off-the-rack purple mock turtleneck, $10.70 for a pair of black pants off the rack from Dollar General. She does not bill us for the time she puts into a costume.
Our VFX guys do not get paid. Our music guys do not get paid. Our website designers do not get paid. Our makeup guys do not get paid. None of the cast or crew gets paid.
So who do we pay? We keep meticulous books and records: Lowes, Joann's Fabrics, various makeup or appliance or costume companies (including Amazon and eBay). The food for our lunch break is donated, often by friends of the production, or by my family. I personally pay the rent, the insurance, the utilities because I like what I'm doing. It's no worse than the hundreds of dollars other people spend on season sports events tickets, collecting stamps, going to concerts, and the like.
Donations are occasionally solicited, but almost always for a specific project. General donations go into wardrobe or set construction and maintenance. We can show where we've spent every penny donated, and we can show how much of our own personal money has gone into the production.
Project: Potemkin is written, acted, directed, edited, produced by our cast and crew for the fans. It's a labor of love, and it saddens me that some folks have turned it into a business. We're not the big guys; we don't have delusions of grandeur that our web series will be "picked up" by CBS. We're here to have fun, not to create some pretense that we're anything more than we are.
The bottom line is that we're a fan film, and we're content to be just that.
I have laughed, cried, and learned a lot from this thread.
It's been a unique ride.
Actually, the COSTUMES are the one area that CBS has clear definitions and, in fact, enforces them.
Bottom line is that you can make and sell CUSTOM MADE Star Trek uniforms. You cannot "openly" make a bunch of uniforms and sell them. As in, "I have 10 large captains, 10 medium Spock's" CBS has and does shut those sales down on eBay and elsewhere. (People still get away with it at cons, etc, where there is no CBS legal team wandering around looking for these sellers)
People also use a loophole of selling "individual" costumes...as in, "I have this large sitting here if you want it"...which CBS allows.
Usually. They've been known to just randomly get Star Trek costumes pulled off eBay - stuff they have no right to get pulled. Like Klingon costumes.
Legally - they can't actually do any of the above, but they do it anyway, and eBay listens.
The LAW says that you cannot copyright a garment. Anyone can make velour or doubleknit tunics that look exactly like the ones on Star Trek, etc, and nothing can be legally done to stop it. The ONLY thing that is licensed on the uniforms is the Delta Shield insignia. Technically, you can legally sell as many as you want as long as the insignia isn't on them... but you can also claim that you bought the insignia from Rodd.com and therefore can sell them with the insignia.
CBS actually DID go after a well known costumer several years ago (before Anovos and Pillsbury bought any licenses). It went to court and they were scolded by the judge for wasting the court's time and told to get a better legal team that actually knew something about fashion law.
In short - costumers are the one set of people that continually irritate the dentures of CBS and they are always on the cusp of being contacted by them. Simply, you can't throw proof in the face of CBS that you are making a living selling Star Trek costumes. When they are bored, or annoyed, or what have you, they'll get the sales shut down.
Which blows my mind. When I was a kid, the only people who sold Star Trek uniforms were third party vendors. You couldn't get an "official" uniform. Believe me, I scoured startrek.com, which I was always in the chat room of.
Well, if you grew up in the 70's, you could get licensed Star Trek shirts by Donmoor. They had the insignia, long and short sleeve, red, gold and blue, only missing the rank braids. They had black cuffs instead. Oh, and you had to be a child to wear them.
Fortunately, I was a millennial, so I had the internet to find uniforms and such. I just always thought it was bizarre, as a kid, that Paramount didn't sell official uniforms for their most popular series.
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