So, you want to make a fan production? When most people think of a fan production, they think in terms of a fan film. They might have seen an episode of Star Trek: Phase II (until recently known as New Voyages), Hidden Frontier, Exeter, Farragut or Intrepid and thought, wouldn't it be great to do something like that? Well, the good news is you can!
Unfortunately, the bad news is ... it ain't easy!
A full length, live action episode will require the construction of extensive sets which could cost thousands in materials, as well as costumes, props, lighting, cameras, storage space ... and time! Oh, my goodness, yes! It can take anything between two to six years of planning, scripting, constructing, rehearsal, filming and post-production.
There are, however options that can be fun to do, create an entertaining production and be a significant personal and group achievement... without mortgaging your life for years on end! I'm not suggesting that you compromise on quality, but there are compromises that can be made ...
- Does it need to be a film? If you want to do a fan production, you should not rule out all the other options that are open to the common man today. It could be a fan fiction novel or short story, web comic, audiobook, audio drama or animation... of which there are a half dozen different types, depending on the software you use to create it, ranging from professional quality to the weekend project!
- It need not be a full episode. Creating a story that will fit in a five-ten minute timeframe, what is commonly called a vignette, is not easy, but it can be done. However, even here there are options if one thinks outside the box... I have a few ideas in that direction.
- Lastly, although live action filmed against real sets is the Rolls Royce of fan films, live action filmed against a green (or blue) screen with backgrounds 'keyed in' afterwards is an increasingly viable option.
Be very aware though, even these low-key options require significantpersonal investments. For example, it will definitely be a learning experience, so you must be prepared to acquire new skills and develop existing talents. You will need to take on extra jobs: everyone wears at least two hats as a member of the cast and crew of a fan production.
As of the start of this year, I am developing a production group that will explore the options open for low budget fan and Indie production, because some people have original ideas that they want to develop, too. The truth is that, whether you are playing mind-games with someone else's copyright or dealing in completely new fiction, the mechanics of production are exactly the same. I will be focusing on five media options:
- Writing. This is where it all starts: good storylines, you must have them! I am going to kick things off with some example works of my own, then search for fan and original fiction to produce.
- Hardcopy. The first step: to investigate options for self-publishing. Learning from overseas experience we might need to develop an audience by offering initial works for free, however options for commercial eBook development on the internet and Print On Demand will be followed. Most noticably I will be looking into the possibilities of Print On Demand in Australia.
- Audio books. This is the next step: To turn the printed word into the spoken word. It requires the recruitment of voice acting and sound engineering talent and is a step up in production that does not require the specialised writing skills necessary for an audio or video script.
- Audio drama. I am in the process of putting together a proposal for a Star Trek fan audio drama. This will develop dramatic abilities and organisational skills, it will also be an option for involvement for people who are too shy to be part of a film or too remote from other cast members.
- Ultimately though, any experimental production group, investigating the possibilities would have to try a video production, a Fan film. When it happens – it it certainly won't happen this year! - my first production will be a "proof of concept" production. It will be complete in and of itself - a stand-alone. What will it be? I'm sorry, but you'll have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to find that out!
Each of these "steps" is an achievement in itself. Some group members – and it will of course be a team effort - might be quite happy to continue with creating written fiction, perhaps turning it into scripts for audio or video production. Other cast & crew members might be happy to stay with audio drama and this is a very viable option in and of itself because Australia has a strong tradition and market for radio drama.
You might be forgiven for thinking that I am aiming low but I can only stress that this is only meant to be a "proof of concept" proposal – I'm not building any media empires here! It is meant to give the participants an introductory experience of a wide range of media so that they can ask themselves, "Where do I want to go to from here?" Believe me there is a whole spectrum of possibilities that can be explored, all of it fun and challenging!
The next question is – fan production or Indie? Will it be based on an established copyright, one of the 'fictional franchises' like Star Trek or Dr Who, or will it be totally original work?
Anyone who's got this far in my fanzine will guess that I have an ulterior motive to create a Star Trek fan production in Australia. Reality must prevail, however: our population is spread so thinly, with such vast distances between that getting the numbers together for a large production will not be easy. Add to this the fact that the average Aussie doesn't have the same disposable income as our American cousins and the smaller fanbase with costumes and props and you'll start to realise the obstacles.
I believe the answer is to develop fan productions in partnership with independent productions. Australia has a strong amateur theatre culture but few venture into video or audio. Our university's are pumping out video and audio trained individuals into an entertainment industry that has to fight tooth and nail against overseas productions. Cosplay is immensely popular and yet ... I've never heard of anyone taking, what is to me at least, the next, logical step.
Whatever I end up doing, completing any of the steps listed will be an achievement to be proud of. I am committed to this because I firmly believe that an involvement in fan productions can be a positive step towards encouraging a viable, small scope, media network within the Australasian region.