On Saturday, August 6th at the Star Trek Las Vegas Conveton, CBS announced that they are licensing James Cawley and his Original Series Set Tour attraction to create Star Trek Film Academy, basically a film school for Star Trek fans. In addition to James, Star Trek alumni Doug Drexler, Mike and Denise Okuda and Daren Dochterman were also involved in the project.
And to this we say Bravo!
You know why? Because when I was working with producer Gary Evans to help James find his new studio location, I wound up talking to the economic development people in Ticonderoga about the landlord’s desire for the location to offer something that would be a positive influence to the community. A film school was part of those original discussions (as I was reminded by one of James’s former crew members the other day). It was part of what that studio was meant to do from the beginning and kudos to James for tenaciously seeing it through.
Now, many our fans have noted Axanar announced a Sci Fi Film School in my January 11, 2015 and have concluded that CBS is ripping us off. In fact, that really isn’t the case.
Oh sure, we can have fun discussing how Star Trek Discovery may have been influenced by Axanar (e.g. the show takes place the same year as Prelude, it involves the conflict with the Klingons, and that ship sure looks like the Ares…); but the Star Trek Film Academy is something that was originally envisioned to be done at the Ticonderoga studio.
So even though CBS knew about our plans for the Sci Fi Film School – I pitched the idea of licensing it as a Trek-related project to John Van Citters from CBS in 2015 and was turned down – I don’t see CBS ripping us off.
Furthermore, the Sci Fi Film School, which we hope to launch after we’ve finished Axanar, is a completely different animal. As I understand it, the Star Trek Film Academy is meant to be like the old Universal Star Trek ride, where you get to don a uniform and be put into a scripted movie, most of which has already been shot. Our intended market for the Sci Fi Film School is people who want to become sci-fi film makers.
Star Trek Film Academy is meant for Star Trek fans, Sci Fi Film School for film makers interested in telling their own stories and raising their game. Both can exist in the same universe, and in my opinion, they should (and hopefully will) support each other. Now we know that’s unlikely (we don’t expect CBS to do anything to help us), but we certainly hope fans who just want to get a feel for what it is like to make a Star Trek fan film on some amazing, TOS-era sets will go to the Film Academy. Other fans who have compelling stories of their own will come to the Sci Fi Film School.
On a side note, I think it is interesting that CBS has finally found a way to monetize fan films. I had been encouraging them to develop their relationship with fan film producers since 2012 and give fan films more exposure. That James has managed to turn a donor-funded studio into a licensed, for-profit business is a positive step forward.
Congratulations James and good luck!