One of the many things that was up for debate in the great Paramount vs. Axanar legal battle of 2016 was what exactly makes a fan film. Questions arose around their creation, such as does your riff on “The Trouble With Tribbles” venture into the realm of commercial films just because you managed to do a decent job of playing Captain James T. Kirk, or otherwise displayed significant professionalism? Just how many elements can you borrow from the venerated franchise without stepping on CBS’ toes? And can you really copyright Klingon?
Those questions remain mostly unanswered, though CBS and Paramount did say they still support fan films, even if they’d rather such works remain amateurish. In order to ensure that future productions remain in the Neutral Zone, the studios will launch a Star Trek fan film academy. That’s according to Ars Technica (via Boing Boing), which learned of the new film school at the yearly Star Trek Las Vegas Convention. This is the “first official, CBS-sanctioned fan filmmaking effort,” so the network isn’t doing it halfway—it’s brought in a fan filmmaking expert to teach the courses or “filming sessions.” James Cawley, co-creator of Star Trek: New Voyages, a popular webseries about the continuing missions of the TOS crew, will school these new Trekkies in how to put together a respectable 15-minute short.
Cawley played Captain Kirk for several installments of New Voyages, which also featured cameos from past Enterprise crew members George Takei, Walter Koenig, Denise Crosby, and Malachi Throne. But the students won’t just have access to his expertise; they’ll also shoot on New Voyages’ sets (which now offer tours) and will have access to Star Trek IP that isn’t available to most fan filmmakers. It looks like the schedule will see the films shooting in the fall for unveiling in the spring. There’s currently no word on when and where to apply, but the site of the fan film academy will likely be Ticonderoga, New York, since that’s where the New Voyages sets are located. You can check out Cawley’s interview with TrekZone below (note: the Elvis Presley hair is for his impersonator side gig, not some Holodeck simulation).