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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
There are a ton of Star Trek fan films out there on the internet. In the past decade, it has become easier for the non-professional to obtain filmmaking equipment. As such, there has been an increase in them in recent years. While the occasional one can be entertaining (usually when they are lampooning it), most are just awful.
Yeah, I said that. Hear me out before you descend upon me.
The most “well-regarded” Star Trek fan film series out there current is New Voyages/Phase II (they went through a rebranding). Started in 2003, the idea behind this series is to show the last two years of Captain Kirk’s original five-year-mission from the original series. An ambitious project, they release an episode roughly every year. There are many other fan series including Hidden Frontier, Starship Exeter, and Intrepid which cover other storytelling aspects from the Star Trek universe. I have not seen every one of these, nor do I really plan to.
You have several people who come together to put one of these “episodes” together. Unlike a real TV show, funds are limited with these fan productions and the people involved have other, real jobs. In other words, they do these fan films in their spare time, and an episode is released when it is released.
That said, for a near-zero budget, these people do throw their all into it. It is mostly a hobby and I would imagine that none of these people are paid for what they do. Every once in a while, you hear, surprisingly, of some drama that happens with these things (apparently a semi-professional, Vic Mignogna, has caused problems for the world of Star Trek fan films), which seems somewhat sad (why take something meant to be fun and ruin it?). In the end, these fan films are pretty harmless and there is an audience for them.
I am not one part of that audience. I have no problems with people doing these sort of things and I am impressed with the level of dedication that goes into the sets, costumes, and special effects are noteworthy. What kills it for me is the acting. Nine times out of ten, it is atrocious. I know they are not professionals. I know this. I also realize that, occasionally, these productions get professional actors and former Trek stars to be on the show. But the overabundance of awkward acting doesn’t make an otherwise decently-enough written story easier to sit through. I just can’t. As such, I can’t sit through a fan production without becoming extremely uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassed with what I am watching. I’ll let others enjoy it for me.
The interesting thing is that there is a crowd on the internet that eats this stuff up. Yet, that same crowd seems to lash out at anyone who dares criticize any element of the production. Why are fan films seemingly critic proof? Is it because they are made by fans instead of professionals? While I agree that should be taken into account when looking at basic filmmaking fundamentals, if you put out a piece of art, be prepared to deal with (hopefully constructive) criticism.
TrekMovie, a fan site (which, at one time, had strong connections with JJ Abrams and his crew), is very supportive of these fan productions (particularly Phase II), but I’ve noticed that when they do an article on a new episode being released, a representative from the production is almost always there putting down critics of the show. Why would someone do this, especially if you want people to watch your product? Would it be better to be accepting the criticism instead of dismissing it? I don’t know. I don’t travel in those circles.
Star Trek fan films. They are not for me, but I applaud others for doing something fun in their spare time. And if others like it, then good for them. Let that audience be there for that. Unfortunately, I won’t be joining them. And, hopefully, those working on these productions can use it to prep for a true career in the world of filmmaking.
Oh yeah, I didn’t even mention how some former Star Trek actors have banned together to make their own Star Trek fan films. Tim Russ, I am looking at you. All I’ll say on the subject is that it is hilarious, somewhat sad, and perplexing in the fact that if professional actors are doing this, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of it being a fan film?