Last week, CBS and Paramount ventured down from the mountain, i.e., whatever glass-encased skyscrapers house their respective offices, to issue their 10 guidelines for making Star Trek fan films. The move appeared to be prompted by the lawsuit they filed against the makers of Axanar, which is probably the most professional-looking Star Trek fan film to date, over copyright infringement. But now a CBS official is waving off that connection and insisting that the guidelines are simply to help fan productions return to their roots.
A new episode of Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast features an interview with John Van Citters, vice president of product development for CBS Consumer Products, in which he explains just what these guidelines mean for projects new and old. He clarified that the new rules for fan filmmaking do not retroactively apply to pre-existing films, so you don’t have to worry that your “Datalore”-inspired shorts will suddenly be under scrutiny. And according to Van Citters, these joint measures aren’t intended to limit creativity (just the professional quality of any resulting productions):
“The productions started spiraling larger and larger. There’s something of an arms race about how many Hollywood names could be attached, how many people that have previously worked on Trek, how many famous actors could you involve. And that’s not really in the spirit of fan fiction.”
Van Citters, who was also the namesake for a Next Generation character, says the Axanar lawsuit remains “a separate issue,” but otherwise declined to comment on that ongoing legal matter. And yet, his statements certainly seem to point to the fan film, which raised $500,000 in its crowdfunding campaign and stars multiple Star Trek alums. Of course, Van Citters could have just been talking about stemming the tide of increasingly professional projects in general, into which he says “abuses have very definitely crept.”