No, folks, I’m not changing the name of my Fan Film Friday blog–I’m starting a WHOLE NEW BLOG SITE!For the past few months, I’ve been loading up FanFilmFactor.com with a whole bunch of cool content, including many of my previous Fan Film Friday blog posts. But the new blog site also has other fun stuff, including news, a list of active crowd-funding campaigns, articles about fan films in general, some of my own stories from my career as a “professional Trekkie,” a section for kids, and a place called “The Cargo Bay” for me to include miscellaneous things that I come across And most fun of all is that cool film strip logo I designed has multiple versions, each featuring scenes from different film films.
So why did I decide to launch a blog site separate from Fan Film Friday here on Axanar? To be honest, it was all Alec Peters’ idea! Alec has been very enthusiastic about the fan film blogs I write, and we’ve occasionally discussed other things I could do with them. But to be honest, there were so many ideas in my head that this Axanar site couldn’t contain them all without losing its focus on Axanar itself.
“Why don’t you start a new blog site and dedicate it to all things fan film?” Alec suggested.
“Well, one reason is that I have no idea how to set up the back end of a blog site,” I replied.
“No problem,” Alec said. “We’ll just have Mike Bawden do it for you, and then you can concentrate just on writing blogs.” Mike Bawden is the head of public relations for Axanar and a wizard at creating blog sites on Word Press. He’s also a really great guy, and it wasn’t long before Mike supplied me with the online dashboard I needed to start populating FanFilmFactor.com.
I’ll still be doing Fan Film Friday here (and probably posting some stuff in both places). But now I’ve got myself a playground to fill up with LOTS of other fun stuff to celebrate the amazing world of Star Trek fan films…and it is an amazing world. I know there are detractors and egos and politics and everyone has an opinion of what’s better than what. But I want none of that on my blog site. (You want mud slinging? There’s lots of other places you can go to enjoy the fracas.)
Here’s the Prime Directive of Fan Film Factor: There’s no such thing as a bad fan film. Oh, I know there are fan films out there that are downright painful to watch. But you know what? At least they tried…and they succeeded. Sure, their final effort might not be Oscar-worthy, but—dammit, Jim—they made themselves a real fan film!
I was in one of the earlier fan efforts back in 1999, USS Angeles: The Price of Duty. (I’m the guy stuck in the turbolift making out with my girlfriend.) Yeah, I still cringe when I watch it, and I realize it looks pretty cheap and cheesy at first glance. But it actually took a good amount of work to get the project started, keep the momentum going, and make sure things stayed organized to film all those scenes with dozens of folks in front and behind the camera. Then it took even more time and effort to complete the massive amount of post-production after the footage was shot. Sure, we weren’t trained actors, some of us barely fit into our store-bought uniforms (I still don’t!), and we often had green glows around us from bad lighting against the green screen. It was a learning experience for all of us…especially show-runner Rob Caves, who would use what he learned to go on and produce 70 episodes of Star Trek: Hidden Frontier (and its five spinoff series) over the next decade.
It was also a lot of fun.
But let me tellya, nothing kills your fan film buzz faster than fan criticism! And it’s not that fan filmmakers expect to hear only exuberant praise as though it’s a kindergarten play and they were the best carrot ever. It’s just that some Star Trek fans can be downright cruel. I’ve never really understood that. Most of us were made fun of in school and chosen last for sports. You’d think we’d make more of an effort not to hurt the feelings of others. Instead, for way too many Trekkers out there, our own suffering from the harsh derision of others only seems to have lighted the way toward an expertise at belittling and humiliating our fellow fans…often over the most minor of issues.
I refuse to say nasty and negative things about any fan film…even if “everyone knows it sucks.” Even the worst fan film ever took time, effort, and dedication to complete. Fan Film Factor is intended to celebrate Star Trek fan films, not denigrate, flagellate, or eviscerate them. (Yep, I’m all about the SAT words, guys!)
And that means no feuds either! Oh, I know they’re out there. I simply choose not to play those games on my blog site. I’ve got no horse in this race. I love James and Alec and Vic and John and Tommy and Nick and Rob and Randy and Richard and Scott and Michael and Ashley and Jason and Sky and Tim and Robin and Eric and all the other amazing fan filmmakers out there who had the dream and made it real. I love that they’ve given us all this amazing gift of more Star Trek. Amusingly, it’s the one thing they all have in common.
And yes, some of these show-runners can be abrasive and not suffer fools gladly. And yes, certain ones can be total ogres at times. But y’know, there was one Star Trek fan early on who could be a real hard-ass but who also paved the way for all other Star Trek fan films that followed his. Like many of the show-runners of today’s fan films, he loved Star Trek enough to want to make a version of it himself. But also like some of today’s crop of fan filmmakers, this early pioneer had a huge ego. In fact, it’s probably one of the main reasons that his version of Star Trek turned out so well…because he didn’t put up with any crap and he was a total control freak.
And while some people loved this guy and rooted for him (and his series) to succeed, others couldn’t stand working with him and hoped he would fail. A few actually threw every obstacle they could at him, hoping to see his dream fan project go down in flames. It didn’t though. It lasted for 79 episodes before being canceled by NBC. And then it came back, stronger than ever.
So when I look at today’s fan film show-runners—executive producers, directors, writers, stars—with the big dreams, the big personalities, and sometimes the big egos—I think of the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself. Gene Roddenberry made the first-ever Star Trek fan film—Star Trek itself!—because he was the first-ever Star Trek fan. And fifty years later, we’re all still happily playing in that sandbox he built. And how awesome is that???
Gene Roddenberry (in)famously told his writers on the early seasons of The Next Generation that the main characters must not have conflicts with each other. “In the future, we all just get along.” Some say that was naïve and tied the hands of the writers by taking away a major source of dramatic tension. Others maintain that this forced the writers to focus on the stories themselves rather than just writing soap operas.
On that, I agree wholeheartedly with Gene. So in my own small way, I want to make my blog site live Gene’s dream by not giving into the temptations of negativity. If fans want that, there’s many other places to go. But on Fan Film Factor, Rule #1 is: there’s no such thing as a bad fan film! (And Rule #2 is: if you do see a bad fan film, refer to Rule #1.)
I invite you all to take a look at FanFilmFactor.com and let me know what you think!