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Star Trek fan film guidelines defended by CBS official

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CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Star Trek fan films will be still able to live long and prosper in the wake of last week’s announcement of official guidelines governing such productions, according to a CBS official.

John Van Citters, vice president of product development for CBS Consumer Products, joined the latest episode of Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast to discuss the new guidelines, which have been criticized by some Trek fans and embraced by others.

“We’ve seen an explosion of fan films in recent years, and we know that these come from a place of very deep love for Star Trek,” Van Citters said. But due to increasingly sophisticated and accessible filmmaking tools as well as the rise of crowdfunding, rights holders CBS and Paramount felt the need to clarify the line between professional and fan productions.

Van Citters stressed that the guidelines were not designed to quash fan films, however.

“That’s not what we’re trying to do here,” he said. “They’re not intended to end fan films, but with the explosion of crowdfunding, abuses have very definitely crept into the process. For many it became more about the item that you were donating to get than it was about supporting a fan production for its own sake.”

He continued, “The productions started spiraling larger and larger. There’s something of an arms race about how many Hollywood names could be attached, how many people that have previously worked on Trek, how many famous actors could you involve. And that’s not really in the spirit of fan fiction.”

Responding to compiled fan questions, Van Citters explained that CBS won’t be going after pre-existing Star Trek fan films which don’t adhere to the new guidelines, nor will it be actively reviewing and policing new ones for compliance.

Van Citters also said the fan film guidelines are “a separate issue” from the high-profile Star Trek fan film Axanar, which is the subject of a copyright lawsuit filed by CBS and Paramount last year. He declined to comment on pending litigation but confirmed that discussions toward a possible settlement are ongoing.

Listen to Van Citters’ full interview on the Engage podcast.

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