The LIEF Erikson

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Trek Media centre

We all have our own visions of what could be done with the idea of Trek United funding it's own Fan productions. Let me share with you one possibility.

Imagine, if you will, that it is Friday night and you fire up the computer to download your weekend's entertainment. You've got your homepage set to "The Federation" and a short Flash intro comes up as you log in. Like just about everything on the main web site it is "vaguely" Trek, it shows its parentage but has evolved beyond it's beginnings.

You have the sound turned on and the SF background music from the Fed. Radio Station reminds you that you need some Podcasts to listen to on the train to work next week. After a quick browse you choose a serialised radio play of The Borg Wars, a couple of Doco's (the latest on the Mars rovers and a retrospective on Apollo), Chase Masterton interviews Tim Brazeel and the latest stand-up comedy from Billie Connelly about Klingons at Wembley stadium.

All of these have been put into the download list in the Bit Torrent window and are followed by something to read from the FanFic list. You pick the latest instalment in the Virtual Next Generation Season 8 plus a week's worth of your favourite comic strip, unfortunately there's nothing new in comic books, but you spot a new Flash movie so that goes in too. Window after window is opened and closed in the Fed. navigation frame which was commissioned from Okuda specially for the website.

OK, down to the serious stuff - a movie for the family tonight. You click on the paid advert on the Fed. frame and choose something from a Pay-per-view site. You get a warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that you've pushed a bit more commission towards the Fed's then its back to the Fed main page and you browse what is available amongst the FanFlicks. You noticed on the notices that Flash across the bottom of the Fed frame (just above the RSS ticker) that the final results for last month's peer reviewed FanFlick awards are up, so you want to know if your favourite won.

Rats! It missed out by three points! Never mind, they'll still be in next months Fans Choice awards so you'll butter the wife up and see if she'll let you cast two votes. Come on, its only twenty bucks and she enjoyed their last episode as well!

Your daughter is looking daggers at you because she wants to get on the Net to download some more music (another paid link, but she is on a budget!) and upload her latest horror FanFiction. Oops, this reminds you that you wanted to download the latest Science project from the kids website so that you could do it with your son for a school project.

Your wife is getting cranky because dinner will be on the table shortly and "You're still on that damn computer!" so you have to leave it downloading. Tomorrow afternoon you'll have to sneak some time in so that you can upload your contribution to the Fanzine of the Trek Fan Club you are a member of, and update your Blog, and vote in this month's FanFlicks awards and - damn! I still haven't downloaded anything for Saturday night yet!

No worries. There's plenty to choose from and if all else fails …

… I suppose you could turn on the TV.

Sounds good? of course it does! You know, the amazing thing is that virtually all of it could be done right now with the resources on the Web today.

I've called it "The Federation" because the surface level needs to a new creation - just incase the worst case scenario happens and the lawyers persuade paramount to police their copyrights.
The Fed. Radio Station exists now in the form of Radio Starfleet although they don't do Podcasts ... yet!
The Documentary Podcasts could come from Universe Today or many others available from somewhere like ipodder or custom made ones could be made using
All of these things would be downloaded by Bit Torrent
The FanFic list could be a TU run affair or you could link to various FanFic sites, such as The Trek Writers Guild or the Starfleet Fiction Archive.
The Virtual Next Generation Season 8 has a draft website up and will be launched within weeks
I'd love to see a comic strip, or on-line comic books, however this hasn't been done ... yet
However there definately is a new Trek Flash movie site out - Enterprise Flashed

The webdesign by Okuda is wishful thinking but not impossible. Paid adverts, especially a link to a Pay-per-view site or a bookseller would bring in easy revenue. Flash notices and an RSS ticker - Please! Give me a hard task! Voting for awards by buying the right to vote awards …

Need I go on? This is a vision that could be accomplished today. All it needs is a backer.

This was posted in substantially the same form on Trek United.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Copyright & Merchandising

My comrade in arms Keela noted on another forum

"… you still have to remember that all aspects of Star Trek are copyrighted. And the lawyers of Viacom don't mind going after anyone who infringes on their copyright especially if it makes "money" for someone."

With respect to copyright, I'll be the first to admit the idea of Trek United producing it's own works is untested ground. "New Voyages" is arguably the most ambitious fan Movie to date, but it is still a legitimate fan production in that …

  • It seeks to expand on to the Trek franchise, embellish it, publicise it
  • It does not seek to make a profit
  • It will not be released in a media that would put it in competition with Viacom/Paramount

As she so rightly points out, Viacom has the whip-hand here and could easily do a Disney on us and close up the whole She-Bang! I think however, that we have some significant bargaining chips on our side when negotiating with Viacom with regards to copyright …

A) Trek fans have a long history of working with Paramount as an unofficial publicity department, creating fiction, artworks, music. There might be a precedent for established practice. We should build on this. We are not their enemy, we want to help them make money.

B) Viacom/Paramount see their Trek franchise as a capital investment that they want to get the maximum return possible from. Whatever we plan to produce, I would suggest that we find some way of tying it into approved Paramount merchandise so that Paramount and the merchandisers can see that we are making them money. For example …
- A fan funded episode or movie could revolve around a Trek ship, say a Klingon Bird of Prey or Steamrunner Class, which a plastic model company such as AMT could release as a special edition.
- Similarly a fan funded episode or movie could revolve around an existing piece of Trek merchandising, for example a toy. Remember the old cowboy flick "Springfield Rifles"? Why not do a kids orientated, action short that features the phase pistol and communicator set made by Art Asylum. Hmmm … by the way, has anyone thought of making a shooting game for the X-Box or PS2 similar to "Time Crisis" that uses the phase pistol?
- A fan funded movie could be made of one of the Trek video games

C) This last idea of a fan funded movie based on a Trek video game brings to mind the court case between Activision and Viacom when Activision alleged that Viacom/Paramount were in breach of contract by not maintaining/developing the Trek franchise aggressively enough. Stop me if I'm wrong but it would appear that Paramount have a contractual obligation to maintain the media profile of the Trek franchise. If they were to block Trek United from doing that when they were not, I think you would find that the merchandisers would have something to say.

D) It is important NOT to do anything that would place Trek United in opposition to or in competition with Paramount. I doubt if they would appreciate us trying to sell a movie, TV program or DVD that people might watch or buy rather than the Paramount productions. This mainly applies to live-to-air & cable TV as well as direct to DVD.

Basically what I'm trying to show here is that there is a positive spin on copyright as well as a negative side. Trek United can work with the system to show Paramount that their fan base is not just a cash-cow, to be milked for all it can give, but a vibrant community of SciFi fans who see Trek as the focus of their "fan experience".

Sure, Trek fandom is a merchandising demographic, but it is a slice of the market that can only be maintained by constant development. All Trek United wants to do is keep the Trek flame burning, if we can show that by doing this we will be helping Paramount reach their corporate goals of survival and growth, so much the better.

This was posted in substantially the same form on Trek United.

Carpe Diem

I am in agreement with Tiorn, who in a post to Trek United said " Why put it on hold? … There's no reason why we can't enter into a development phase ... Its just procrastination."

I would assume (and I have only a layman's knowledge of Film) that starting from scratch to having to sign contracts - never mind actually having people on a set, shooting scenes - would take a considerable amount of time.

Call for submissions from small production companies NOW. A winning pitch should take months to put together, if not I would question whether they had done a proper job of it. Even if it only takes two months, surely TU could have made a decision by then if and how they were going to go about it.

Worried you'd get saddled with a hot-shot production company that would fold, taking TU money with it? Insist on a completion bond. These are all things that a professional would know and be able to advise TU on. Tim has the right idea - bring in professionals. In fact get the opinion of a media expert on Trek United's options right from the start.

I built my own house - but only by learning what a builder does, thinking like a builder and acting like a builder. I contracted out the things I knew were critical - electrical, plumbing. Did I get a house equal to a professionally built one? I think so, it certainly has my individual stamp on it. But better? No.

If you were thinking of having surgery you wouldn't take the opinion of people on an internet forum would you?

Talk to the professionals, find out your options then make your decisions.

This was posted in substantially the same form on Trek United

Monday, April 25, 2005

Trek United initiative for fan productions

The quality and standing of FanFilms is increasing by leaps and bounds, as can be seen by the fact that Walter Koenig will reprise his role as 'Pavel Chekov' in the upcoming fourth episode the online series, STAR TREK NEW VOYAGES which will be written by one of the Original Series creators, D.C. Fontana.

Trek United has just announced the possibility that they might fund their own productions. There's a lot of confusion at the moment, so perhaps I can add to it with a few ideas/comments of my own ...
- If more fan Films are made there is the possibility of a Paramount copyright backlash. I think there should be a standardised agreement with Paramount similar to the Creative Commons idea.
- Shlomi of Vulcan mentioned Internet viewing I would suggest that Trek United take the role of Internet SciFi Channel. Provide the medium for productions in the form of a legitimate Bit Torrent, Peer-2-Peer style, Web Channel.
- OK, so something like that is well within the bounds of reality RIGHT NOW! You could probably even get an existing outfit to set it up or handle it for you. Probably minimal expense.
- To be blunt, I don't believe that Trek United has the expertese to produce Fan Films. It has ideas, energy, commitment and has an organisation set up for communication between fans, media publicity and fund raising. It should do what it does best ...
*** Maintain a forum for Trek Fans to support the entertainment they want.
*** Publicise that entertainment
*** Raise funds to foster that entertainment
- So Trek United raises the money and publicises what for the sake of argument I'll call Fan Films. Who decides who gets the money? Why not have periodic Fan Film Festivals ( like the CINE Golden Eagle Film and Video Awards?) having at least two categories - Peer judged and Fan judged
- The Peer judged competition selects a winner using an expert panel chosen from TV/film professionals, SciFi authors, professionals who have worked on Star Trek in the past ...
- the Fan judged competition selects a winner by a popular vote of the fans (fen? I can never be sure)
- The prize? Funding for a full scale production
- While you're at it run Peer and Fan judged competitions for scripts, comics, special effects, Flash productions, radio and stage productions

[pause to draw breath]

- I've talked about Trek but, yes, I think it should be open to others such as Star Wars, etc. However I believe that Trek United has an obligation to maintain Star Trek for it's fans though. Come on, it's called "Trek United" not "SciFi United".
- Should a totally new fictional universe be built? I'm open to new ideas but Im here because I like Trek. Leave it to the Fans to decide ...
*** Call for submissions
*** Put them to a Peer judged and Fan judged competition
*** Fund the winners
- The majority of Fans get what they want
- The Trek community funds works judged the same way as the Hugos which we can assume will be good quality.
- The only ones who might loose out are Paramount unless ...
- Why not offer the completed winners productions to Paramount as Pilot films? They would get a Pilot that they haven't paid for, PLUS free publicity in the target audience (SciFi) and the Fan Film production teams could get a shot at the big time!
- Dare I say that they (Paramount) could turn it into a reality TV mini-series ...

  • "SciFi Survivor"
  • "My Film Rules"
  • "Trek Boot Camp"

Who threw that! OK, I deserved it! (@!*) I said the "R" word.

I think this initiative by Trek United has the potential to change the face of entertainment as we know it. For the better.

This was posted in substantially the same form on Trek United, Starfleet-L and SFI-Writers