In unexpected and delightful news, CBS and fan film producer James Cawley (Star Trek New Voyages) are creating the Star Trek Film Academy, a film school for Star Trek fan filmmakers—giving them an unprecedented legitimacy.
The Star Trek Film Academy will be based in Ticonderoga, New York, home of Cawley’s New Voyages set—which was built according to the original blueprints of the 1966-1969 series. The New Voyages set also has the distinction of being an officially licensed set tour.
According to Ars Technica, “This marks the first official, CBS-sanctioned fan filmmaking effort in Trek's 50-plus year history.” But more than that, it’s the first time in history a big-budget production company will actively help create fan films. (George Lucas should be given props for his filmmaking awards for Star Wars fan films, beginning in 2002.)
CBS has obviously softened its stance toward fan filmmaking: After its lawsuit for copyright infringement over the fan film Axanar in 2015, CBS released fan filmmaking guidelines that specified what fans can do (produce only 15-minute episodes) and cannot (use professional actors and filmmakers).
But to create an entire film academy that teaches people how to make their own fan films? That’s remarkable. I remember the bad old days, when cease-and-desist letters were the fear of every fan artist and creator; the line between official production and fan was drawn in a way that woe betide anyone who tried to cross it. CBS's sea change now proves that big-budget production companies can become the fans’ greatest allies. I applaud them.
Are you listening, Disney?