Monday, October 28, 2013

The Voyage Continues - Star Trek Fan Series PT.1

One of my first posts was about the fan series Star Trek: Phase II, formerly New Voyages. Since then a few new fan projects have popped up, with similar levels of pedigree. I know there is a bit of weird drama surrounding Star Trek Continues and the Phase II crew, and I am intentionally ignoring that, but may comment on the concept of Fan Drama, in the future. For now I want to talk about fan series. In the 1980s Paramount was known to be very protective of the Star Trek brand and took legal action against fan films like Star Trix, and Yorktown: A Time to Heal starring George Takei. These films, crude to todays standards, at the time showed quite a bit of good use of resources and are fairly impressive for the technology available to them. However the Fierce Paramount Empire repeatedly swooped in and brought such oddities to an end, preventing the fan films from being publicly distributed save for the copies of copies sold at Conferences and given directly to friends. This was very much the case for most of the fan community in the late seventies and on through to the 90s. In the 2000s things changed a bit. With the rise of digital recording and the barriers for entry to sophisticated and impressive recording technology falling away, fan films began to resemble the very projects they were aping. In 2003 Sandy Collora, an American Filmmaker based out of Los Angeles, screened a fan film at the San Diego Comic-Con called Batman: Dead End. This fan film was a bolt of energy through the community that got other fans thinking, I CAN DO THAT! Predictably, in 2004 when Sandy tried to screen his next ambitious production, Worlds Finest Warner Bros. sent a cease and desist, and so Worlds Finest again went the route of bootleg VHS tapes in crowded convention halls. The next chapter in this story actually begins with a different franchise. In 2002 the short film Troops won the inaugural Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards Pioneer Award. With Lucasfilm directly supporting the creation of fan films, a major victory was won for the Fan Community. Over the next few years fan films of all sorts started popping up all over the internet. Grayson came in 2004, Star Wars: Revelations in 2005. Redshirt Blues, a Trek parody by David O Rogers, came out in 2001 to mild success, even appearing on a Sci-Fi Channel Trek themed episode of Exposure. 1999. The time was right. Star Trek was at the height of its popularity with Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise all on the air within 3 years of each other, (3 shows in three years! 1999-2001!) the community was engaged and had the tools to make their own projects. Thus was born; Star Trek Encarta. Lets be honest here, Encarta is definitely interesting, but is a curiosity at best. The grainy footage is sickly green, probably because all the footage was shot in front of a green screen, (the same year as The Phantom Menace, green screens did seem like magic filmmaking tools back then didnt they?) and the acting is hardly comparable to Sir Patrick Stewart, but something is happening here. The costumes are fairly accurate, and the use of computer graphics for the space shots is very well done. They were close. They had ideas, and they were attempting something. The internet allowed the dissemination of information with very little blowback from the Suits at Paramount because the internet was still very much the Wild West, even if people were downloading these movies, how would they take them down? Raid 17 year olds for their hard drives? We'll explore the breadth of Star Trek fan series in PT. 2 coming tomorrow. Thanks for reading!
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