I have been reporting on the Star Trek fan film (made by professionals) Axanar for a loooooong time now. From their earliest fundraising to their complex legal troubles, many of you have hoped against hope that Axanar's film about the Federation/Klingon war would actually see daylight.
Now, for the first time in a while, it looks like it really might. And the dudes you can thank are J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin.
About two months ago, we saw Star Trek Beyond's director, Justin Lin, take to Twitter very clearing stately his unhappiness with Paramount Studios over their attempts to block Axanar from getting made. It seemed as though, if Lin had anything to do with it, the lawsuit against Axanar Productions over copyright infringement would be dropped.
At last weekend's Star Trek fan event (where the latest Beyond trailer was shown), J.J. Abrams, with Justin Lin, spoke about where the Axanar situation currently stands. If you can't watch the video above, here's a transcript:
"A few months back there was a fan movie, Axanar, that was getting made and there was this lawsuit that happened between the studio and these fans and Justin, I’ll tell the story because he probably wouldn’t, was sort of outraged by this as a long time fan. We started talking about it and realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans.
The fans should be celebrating this thing. Fans of Star Trek are part of this world. So he went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit and now, within the next few weeks, it will be announced this is going away, and that fans would be able to continue working on their project."
It's important to note here that nothing has been finalized yet. Team Axanar, themselves, have released a statement letting the 10,000-plus people who have supported them know that Axanar is not completely out of the woods yet:
"While we’re grateful to receive the public support of JJ Abrams and Justin Lin, as the lawsuit remains pending, we want to make sure we go through all the proper steps to make sure all matters are settled with CBS and Paramount. Our goal from the beginning of this legal matter has been to address the concerns of the plaintiffs in a way that still allows us to tell the story of AXANAR and meets the expectations of the over 10,000 fans who financially supported our project.
There is still a lot of work to do, but receiving this kind of public support helps immensely."
If you want me to streamline all of this into a final "yes or no" on whether Axanar will actually happen, I can't. I wish I could! For one thing, Abrams and Lin deal primarily with Paramount because that is who owns the Star Trek movie rights. This speaks nothing to CBS, however, who owns Trek's TV rights, and the murky waters of where a digital production like Axanar fits in to that two-party dynamic.
Also, Abrams and Lin can demand all they want, but that doesn't guarantee anything other than their own consciences being clear. Yes, their public statement of support for Axanar places Paramount in a precarious spot, but multi-billion dollar corporations aren't exactly known for being guided by public opinion. Not to sound too jaded, but while I'm sure Abrams and Lin care about fans somewhat, the thing they care about at least as much is that the fans will come out and see their movie, Star Trek Beyond. After years of Bad Robot on the whole being accused of disrespecting the integrity of Trek, it's a pretty shrewd move that they're paying lip service to this one fan production. Their words might help Axanar, but they will definitely earn Beyond some good will and put more butts in seats come July 22nd.
If the lawsuit is dropped by Paramount, that is great news both for the people making Axanar and the fans who want to see it made. But the flipside is that, without the courts weighing in, there is no guarantee that fan projects will be safe moving forward.
Regardless, the attention Axanar received, for better or for ill, will have an impact on the future of Star Trek fan films and, indeed, all other fan films going forward.