I felt that I owe both of you and all the people who have worked with you over the years an apology.
First, a little background:
Like both of you, I have been a fan of Star Trek from my childhood. I was a fan of all the Star Trek series and I’ve seen all he films featuring the original cast. I even had a collection of Star Trek books when I was growing-up, because I always wanted more Star Trek.
One evening, I discovered Star Trek: New Voyages and I was instantly in love! Sure, it wasn’t the same as the TV series and movies, but it was like a glass of cold water after a long walk in the desert. I watched every episode several times and eagerly awaited the next.
Then, Star Trek Continues arrived and though it took some adjusting because of having James Kirk portrayed by two different people, it was more Star Trek, which is what I wanted.
Then, I did what I am apologizing for: I became a donor for Star Trek Axanar.
I was introduced to Axanar via a Facebook post by James Heltzer, who was advocating that people should support it and become backers. Further encouraged by the advocacy of George Takei, I contributed $65 to help fund what I hoped to be an awesome Star Trek fan film. I didn’t have the opportunity to back either of your projects, so I wanted to be one of those who supported a professionally-made fan film whose trailer and Prelude to Axanar inspired me to part with some of my own money. I hoped to watch this film and see my name listed as one of the people who helped it become a reality.
I made my contribution and eagerly awaited the airing of the film and the arrival of my perks, both promised by December 2014, only a few months after I had sent in my money. I Liked the Axanar page on Facebook and joined the Fan Group, in order to keep up with the progress of the film.
It was shortly after I joined the fan group that I began to suspect that I had made a mistake. Alec Peters seemed to have an extremely thin skin when it came to criticism, even from people who had made contributions far larger than my own. Rather than simply start making the film, Peters was talking about renting a warehouse and setting-up his own for-profit studio, even though that plan hadn't been previously mentioned on the Kickstarter page. I had erroneously assumed that Axanar would be filmed using the Star Trek Phase 2 sets, since he had appeared in the “Going Boldly” short and someone from New Voyages had posted positive comments on an Axanar video. I had wrongly assumed that the two were somehow connected. After all, why reinvent the wheel? Why build your own studio when a studio and experienced staff were already available and supporting your work?
Taking a fresh look at the Kickstarter page, I realized that my earlier assumptions were incorrect. There were announced plans to rent a warehouse - for one year, not the three years Peters ended-up paying the rent on - and build a studio from scratch. Over the eighteen months from the end of the Axanar Kickstarter campaign until the lawsuit, there was more than enough time to get the whole thing accomplished. Axanar had met both its $275,000 and $400,00 stretch goals, but very little was done of what they said they were going to do once those stretch goals were met. Like many others, I began to wonder what was being done with our money, but asking those types of questions often elicited a hostile response from Peters and resulted in people getting kicked-out of the Donor Group.
I also noticed a post on Mr Cawley’s Facebook page that mentioned that someone he had helped in the past had betrayed him, somehow. James didn’t mention any names, but I suspected that the alleged betrayer was none other than Alec Peters.
My discomfiture grew as Peters’ behavior in the fan group became often hostile to even the slightest hint of impatience from donors or supporters. Things were being pushed back and the date for the expected arrival of Axanar and my perks, December 2014, came and went without the slightest hint of when the project would be completed. It was always “Back to making Axanar!”, without mentioning exactly how much progress, if any, had been made. An online store was opened and pictures of patches were posted in the fan group, but none were ever shipped. It was like they kept dangling a carrot for us, expecting donors to giggle with glee at all the cool stuff that would soon be ours.
In December 2015, about eighteen months after I had made my contribution and a year after my perk were supposed to have already arrived at my door, Axanar got sued. As a result of the discovery phase of the trial, I learned about how Peters had used donor funds, including mine, to pay for lavish meals, new tires for his car, his insurance, phone bills, travel expenses and much more. The biggest expense was for the much-vaunted studio in which not a single inch of film had been shot for Axanar or anything else.
All that money was gone forever and Axanar was no closer to completion than it had been on the day I had first heard about it.
I felt like a fool. But, the worst was still to come.
When Paramount released its fan film guidelines, I instantly realized that not only was Axanar doomed to either be a short film under thirty minutes, which was not what we had been promised and the reason we had all given Peters our money, or that Axanar would never be released and our money had simply been wasted.
But, worse than that was the fact that Star Trek Phase 2 and Star Trek Continues weren’t going be able to keep producing films anymore. So, the two fan film productions that I had enjoyed were about to fade away…
and I was partly responsible.
Certainly, others had contributed more than I did, some in the thousands of dollars. My $65 was a drop in the ocean of the over one million dollars raised to support Axanar. But, however small my part had been, I did have a part in helping it along. By supporting Axanar, I had contributed to the outright demise of Star Trek: Phase 2 and the early conclusion of Star Trek Continues, both projects for which many people had contributed their time, hard work and money to produce labors of love that I was lucky enough to have discovered and enjoyed for many hours of repeatedly watching episodes back-to-back.
I wish that I could take it back. I wish that I could take back my $65 and delete every post I made that supported Axanar and feel like my hands were clean of this awful trainwreck. But, I did what I did and it came back to bite me. Worse than my own sense of being suckered by Peters is the fact that I had inadvertently contributed to destroying two fan film productions that I loved as much as the TV series that I’ve watched over the years.
Alec Peters recently sent out another email announcing the establishment of his new studio in Georgia. As if the donors hadn’t been exploited enough, he stated that another $150,000 would be needed to finally make Axanar and to send out the three-years-late perks.
Don’t worry, gentlemen. I won’t be repeating my earlier mistake and send him any more money. I’ve learned my lesson.
I just wish that the lesson I learned hadn’t come at your expense and the expense of your teams.
Again, I sincerely apologize for the part, however small, I played in all this. I wish there was a way I could help undo the damage I helped cause.
Live long and prosper.