Axanar: Studios behind Star Trek franchise try to shut down 'independent' fan film

The plan was to shoot the first half of Axanar, release it, and then raising the rest of the money needed for the second half

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The Independent Culture

A crowd-funded “independent” Star Trek movie has earned the wrath of the major studios behind the franchise who have taken out an injunction to stop the film being made.

Axanar, a forthcoming prequel whose producers have raised more than $1m so far on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, enlisted some of the crew who have worked on the mainstream movies. George Takei, who played Mr Sulu, has also reportedly helped advise the team.

The film was close to wrapping production when rights holders CBS and Paramount went into battle stations and fired a law suit at Axanar’s producers, led by Alec Peters, citing a violation of their intellectual property. The film franchise alone is worth $2bn.

“The Axanar works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes,” the complaint says.

The plan was to shoot the first half of Axanar, release it, and then raising the rest of the money needed for the second half. A 20 minute prelude on YouTube has been viewed 1.7m times.

The producer’s pitch to investors stated: “Axanar is the first fully-professional, independent Star Trek film.  While some may call it a ‘fan film’ as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew--many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself--who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see.”

The film mines subject area referenced in the late 1960s television series by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and takes place 21 years before the events of Where no Man Has Gone Before, the first Kirk episode of the original Star Trek.

CBS and Paramount are suing for violation of their intellectual property (Star Trek Axanar/YouTube)

The film’s website says: “Axanar is the story of Garth of Izar, the legendary Starfleet captain who is Captain Kirk’s hero... Axanar tells the story of Garth and his crew during the Four Years War, the war with the Klingon Empire that almost tore the Federation apart. Garth’s victory at Axanar solidified the Federation and allowed it to become the entity we know in Kirk’s time. It is the year 2245 and the war with the Klingons ends here.”

Mr Peters gave interviews in the summer expressing confidence that the project would survive any legal issues. Following a meeting with CBS in August the producer told reporters that the film was not allowed to make money.

“CBS has a long history of accepting fan films,” he told entertainment site The Wrap at the time. “I think Axanar has become so popular that CBS realises that we’re just making their brand that much better.”

Now the studios, represented by attorneys Loeb & Loeb, are demanding an injunction as well as damages for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.

A dozen Star Trek films have been screened to date with the 13th, Star Trek Beyond, coming out next July (2016) to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the franchise. An as yet untitled new TV series, the first since Star Trek: Enterprise finished production in 2005, was announced last month and set for broadcast in 2017.