STALLED TREK. The name alone is enough to induce waves of confused ignorance and disinterested apathy to all but the most hard-core fan film aficionados.
But to those who know, those who have seen, heard, and experienced this Star Trek parody masterpiece, the name Stalled Trek is enough to bring outbursts of laughter and cries of “MORE! MORE! MORE!”
The Stalled Trek characters are all 3D animated puppet versions of the TOS crew, and writer/director/animator MARK LARGENT squeezes every drop of humor from each gag he presents. The first episode of Stalled Trek, “Amutt Time,” was crowd-funded in one of the first Star Trek fan film Kickstarters with 106 supporters donating $2,200. Rather than just reading about it, why don’t you just take a look for yourself at this MUST-SEE parody fan film…
Pretty hilarious, right? Well, that was all way back in 2012. And while Mark Largent did do another Stalled Trek short film in 2016, Prelude to Ax’d-We-Are (along with some blogger named Lane co-writing and co-producing), that was a parody of Prelude to Axanar and the infringement lawsuit filed by CBS and Paramount. It featured all new animated puppet characters rather than the original TOS crew of the USS Second Prize.
But some of us wanted to see the original crew again.
It’s been six years, but Stalled Trek is back with a Kickstarter for an all-new episode: “The City on the Edge of Foreclosure.” With an initial goal of $600, Mark blasted through that total in less than 8 hours! He’s now up to about $1,400 (as I type this), and has set stretch goals at $2,000 (for a new director’s commentary video pointing out all of the inside jokes and giving behind-the-scenes info), $4,000 (remastering “Amutt Time” in HD and adding it as a digital download and also to the Blu-ray for donors at the $25 level and above), and $6,000 (adding a remastered copy of “The Wobbling Dead,” which was Mark’s other puppet parody).
So let’s check in with the puppet-master himself…
JONATHAN – Okay, Largent, let’s do this interview thing!
MARK – I’m sitting at the table with the bright light and an empty glass, ready for your interrogation. 🙂
JONATHAN – So you’ve gone and done it—you’ve completely screwed me. Just as I’m gearing up to interview you about your new Kickstarter and hopefully bring in some fresh donations, you go and blow past your $600 goal in just 8 hours! Why didn’t you wait for me, man???
MARK – Hey, hopefully you’ll still help me bring in some fresh donations now when I really need them. You’re not obsolete yet, Lane!
Joking aside, I’m very thrilled and humbled that my goal was reached so quickly. But I’ve no illusions as to the size of my audience. Parody doesn’t appeal to a very wide audience…and then you divide that audience by parodying a 50-plus-year-old TV series…and then further divide that by doing it as a puppet cartoon with what one non-fan on the internet described as “goober dad humor”…and you end up with a small niche of people who like what I do.
So, attempting to raise tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars is not very realistic, and I’ve had bad experiences with people who don’t understand what I do attacking me for not living up to whatever their expectations of my abilities are—the kind of folks who demand Pixar quality from one middle-aged guy sitting at his iMac.
That’s not very conducive for creativity.
JONATHAN – Seriously? People have criticized Stalled Trek for not having enough quality? Blasphemy!
MARK – You and I have spoken about this before, and I stick by my belief that no one who is offering up their creativity deserves to have people call it an attack on their sensibilities. They aren’t putting it out there hoping people will tell them how bad it is. They made it with their hearts and were brave enough to share it with the world. Sure, there are some budding Steven Spielbergs out there. But there are also some of us Ed Woods.
JONATHAN – Oh, Mark, you’re totally not Ed Wood! Maybe Tina Fey…
MARK – I’m honestly not sure how to respond to that. But anyway, having done this for more than six years now, my estimate is that I have an audience just on the underside of 250 people…and that’s why I decided to make 250 Blu-rays. Doing it as a Kickstarter lets my audience be a part of bringing this project to life.
JONATHAN – Speaking of the Blu-ray perk, I heard that some of the Copyright Justice Warriors (CJW) tried to tilt at your windmill for selling Blu-rays of your fan films when the CBS guidelines say that’s a no-no. Why do you think it’s not a no-no?
MARK – Well, I don’t “think” anything. 🙂 Parody has long been covered under fair use. It’s assumed that the person’s work you are parodying would rather you not do that, so you don’t have to ask for permission.
Early in my youth, I was given a box full of MAD Magazines from the 1960s. I started buying the new issues of MAD and CRACKED. I grew up soaked in parody. One of my uncles took me to see Airplane when it came out. I was ten, and it was like seeing MAD Magazine come to life! In my high school years, I discovered Dr. Demento on the radio and was listening when “Weird Al” Yankovic took off.
As a fan, I read all the books and stories I could find about them. I’m well aware of the legal challenges that have been brought against them, but parody in its true sense wins out in the end. I should point out that the Airplane and Naked Gun movies were released by Paramount Pictures. They’ve gone to court to defend them.
The guidelines you mention are just guidelines, and they are specifically aimed at people who knowingly violate CBS’ copyrights. Parody isn’t a violation of copyright.
But there does seem to be a small group of people who think they are part of a voluntary task force who go out and attack films they think aren’t following the guidelines. This is unfortunate because it stifles creativity. They are strong on the bully tactics, but weak on their understanding of the law. I’d rather be around folks who focus on the positive.
At the same time, I don’t recognize this as a cart blanche where I can be doing anything I want as long as I change the names of stuff. I believe a parody should be a case where you are taking a specific piece of art and holding it up to ridicule. There’s entertainment in doing that in a tongue-and-cheek manner. Too often, parody is challenged by people who use it maliciously. It stands up, but my best-case scenario is that makes people laugh.
I’ve had friends suggest to me that I should offer up merchandise for my Kickstarter (T-shirts, posters, mugs, etc.). I don’t feel as comfortable going down that route, because I think if you start offering merchandise based on your parody, you’re sticking your neck out into a gray area, and it’s hard to defend.
There was a guy in the 80s who sold “parody” Alligator shirts. They were just like the regular alligator shirts, but he had the embroidered alligator on its back with its tongue out, like it was dead. Lacoste went after him and he was forced to stop. He settled, so we don’t know what a judge would have decided, but it’s obvious that it was more focused on selling a product than just doing a parody.
We all have our own sense of what we think is right and wrong.
JONATHAN – So tell us a little bit about this “City on the Edge of Foreclosure” idea. How did it originally come into existence?
Come back tomorrow for the secret origin of “City on the Edge of Foreclosure.” We’ll also discuss the stretch goals and why Mark chose the original goal of only $600 but is really aiming for $6,000!
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[…] Yesterday, I turned the spotlight on a brand new Kickstarter campaign for STALLED TREK: “CITY ON THE EDGE OF FORECLOSURE.” The Kickstarter had an initial goal of $600 to cover the cost of pressing 250 Blu-ray discs to be used as perks. In an amazing show of immediate support, dozens of backers blew through that $600 goal in less that 8 hours! […]