The LIEF Erikson

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why watch a fan movie?

It's easy for viewers to look at a fan movie and be critical when comparing it to the professional productions.

I like to compare it to amateur theatre. My daughter's in a local production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and she is really excited about it. I've been to some of the rehearsals and the singing is good, I don't know about the acting as yet although they are taking it seriously and working hard on it.

I have to face reality though and say there is no way on Gods green Earth that they will be able to put on a production that will be on the same par as the ones which starred John English or John Farnham. [For our international friends, they are high profile Aussie performers who were in different professional productions of JCS]. So why should I pay good money to see something that I know will not be as good as a professional performance?

I mean besides the fact that Daddie's little girl is in it :P

I suppose different people go for different reasons but I go, knowing that it will be less than perfect, that these will be amateur performances and I judge them on their level. The lead singer might be good for his age and you might think he'd do well professionally, the director might be able to put a slightly different spin to it that you had never thought of. Or the experience might just give you a little resonance, an echo of the heady days when it was on the stage and it was the best thing since sliced bread!

This carries over to Trek fan productions.

I have immense respect for the work that these guys are doing and appreciate it for what it is - artistic self-expression. I tend to watch them to see what they put into it rather than what I can get out of it. For example when I watch James Cawley playing Captain Kirk on New Voyages I don't compare his performance with Shatner, I enjoy it for what it is. I appreciate watching the sheer energy and will power that it needs to put any fan film together. It's not just a pat on the back for their effort though, if you push your "willing sense of disbelief" to a higher level than for a professional work, it is good entertainment!

It's like the old saying goes, those who can act become actors, those who can't become critics.
One of the things that killed ST: Enterprise IMHO was the number of armchair critics who judged, and in many cases pre-judged it.

People who are critical of fan fims should watch one or two then watch an original series episode afterwards. In many ways the only two things that make TOS stand above them are the scripts/plots and the acting, both of which are still a pretty high benchmark to reach. Production-wise, costumes, CGI, sets etc, fan films are right there with them.

Will they become a threat to mainstream media - TV and films? Not a chance in their current form. Perhaps if Paramount allow limited licencing, you might get a new crop of small Indy operators but without a way of recouping their expenses they will remain the domain of the fan who likes to act. Professionals can and will create higher quality productions because they have the money to pay for the best talent in writing, acting, CGI etc.

No. Their biggest impact is in my opinion in the inspiration they are for the next generation of fans. They are saying 'No! You don't have to sit on your duff watching re-runs and waiting for the next season. You can make your own!' It is a role playing game on a grand scale where you pretend you are an actor, a director, a CGI artist or a musician ... And if the end result falls short of professional standards, does it make your enjoyment any less exhilerating?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Trek Fan Productions, July 05

For more information on fan production news for July 2005 on the LIEF Erikson see ...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Trek Fan Flash, July 05

Enterprise Flashed
Chad Troftgruben, the Flash artist producing "Enterprise: Flashed" has had to cancel his plan to combine all three parts of his serial Flash movie "Cancelled" due to technical difficulties. This hasn't stopped him from developing his ideas, though.

This month he has released shorts and screenshots of his second special, "Moonves Versus Brazeal" a sequel to his earlier special,"The Leslie Moonves Incident". Tim Brazeal has gratiously consented to supply the voice talent for his own character but to date I believe Chad has been unable to get Mr Moonves to play himself.

This month Chad has also released a promo clip that has a trailer of the episodes and a couple of interviews with the creators.

He's talking about releasing a DVD when he has enough material together. From comments on the TU forum it is good to see he realises that he needs to follow exactly the same constraints as every other Fan Production - he won't be able to sell it - but is hoping either for donations to cover the cost of production or to class it as a parody so that he can legally sell it.

All these Flash movies can be downloaded for free from the Episodes Webpage of the Enterprise Website.

Ok, so it might not be up to the standard of "Xombie" but his talents are developing at an awsome rate. He has a good grasp of script and action - it's fun to watch and it looks surprisingly good considering the rate at which he is punching them out! This could well be the vehicle to rocket Troftgruben to fan fame - and with support and development it could be an avenue for the continuation of Enterprise!

For the latest news and reviews of Enterprise: Flashed keep an eye on his Forum on Trek United for which you need free registration on Trek United - but you're all members of Trek United anyway, aren't you?

You're not?!

Star Trek: Endeavour
As I have pointed out elsewhere, there are semi-professionals that are drawn to create something that they know how to do well as a Trek Fan Production and there are fans who want to do something so strongly that they embark on a long learning curve to make something that will win critical acclaim.

In this, Trek United Australia's Aussie_Trekie is in company with the USS Justice, makers of "Tales of the Seventh Fleet" in that he has felt the need to create a movie so strongly that he is prepared to start from scratch.

He has completed the third episodes and is working on a fourth, although the first is no longer available since it was pointed out that he had subconsciously duplicated the plot from an old TOS episode! Keep up the good work, AT!

Trek Sim Movies, July 05

So you have live action fan movies like Star Trek: New Voyages and Exeter and fan movies that are live action against virtual reality backgrounds like Star Trek : Final Frontier. The next step is to loose the live action altogether and go into a total virtual reality!

The type of movie that you end up with depends pretty much on the type of computer "VR engine" you use. For example you can make one using the popular game "The Sims". Add some Trek TOS uniforms, an Enterprise that looks like it is made of Lego and a good dose of tongue in cheek humour and you get ...

Sim Trek "Day Exceeding Day"
I thought it was witty. The names, the Kirk impression, the famous McCoy line, the music, even the "cinematography" - it had a real TOS feel about it! My daughter tells me that this is how Sims plays out so don't get too hung up on the uh, expressive body language.
The creator of this, Klingonoprea said ...

I spent my whole spring break making this movie! it includes subtitles and voice overs, all of which were me, because I couldn't get anyone else to do them
What would that be - four weeks? Working by himself, too. Plot, visuals, sound ... you've gotta give the guy his due, he did a reasonable job on all of them and a great job overall.

You have to admit though that group projects end up better since *no one* can be good at everything! Scriptwriting for animation is a specialised form in itself, voice actors can lend a distinctive voice to a character and sound & graphics engineers can be specialists in getting the best out of a production.

This strikes me as the kind of Fan Production that is attainable by an individual. It's meant to be fast paced and spontaneous rather than a subtly scripted drama - they're meant to be fun. I'd like to hear from someone who does them.

Basically a music video with a plot, this Sim movie had more drama and action as Picard and his Sim crew track down a Romulan saboteur. The same exaggerated, expressive gestures work well here sometimes but I nearly choked when Worf did a 'surprised' double take!

Star Trek: The Final War
What could be a new ambitious Sims project has recently surfaced ...

USS Victory We have gotten some disturbing news. It seems that the destruction of the transwarp Hub that the USS Voyager destroyed has only served to inrage the collective minds of the Borg. An Armada in the Delta quadrent has been gathered and the federations only hope to avoid all out war at home rests in the hands of these Delta quadrent allies. In the event that this Armada fails we have been assigned to gain support for this cause. We are to seek help from the klingons, volcans, and romulens. If nothing else this may serve a greater cause and bring a lasting friendship and peace to the war torn region. We have been assigned a state of the art vessel. Our ship is an experimental class designed to fight off any Borg invasion. Well her sheilding and armaments are far from complete one improvement is the use of a new type warp drive that can reach speeds of warp 10 for a very short time and a sustainable warp 9.9. Currently Star fleet is working over time to develope the technology that Voyager brought back and so far research is going slowly but looks promising. We have been told that our ship will be the one they test the new technologies on. Lets only hope for the sake of the federation as we know it that the borg won't be able to adapt to it! Off the record I have heard rumors coming from High ranking officals that they dout that the delta quadrent armada can hold off the borg in the event they launch a full scale invasion. All we can do is hope and pray that between the two armadas we can stop the borg and preserve life as we know it!

Unfortunately when I followed up on the guy's link his new "network" is a shell under construction and there is no mention in his forum of a Trek movie. Worth watching, but I think it's a fizzer.

Know what would really help all these projects? A flamin' spell checker!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Trek VR Movies, July 05

ST: Unity for WA's Ch 31?
Hot news just off Trek United's Forum is that negotiations are under way for a SciFi night on a West Australian community TV channel that might feature "Star Trek : Unity"! ST: Unity is a maverick, wild card in the Fan Production community at the moment since they sprang from the TU forum a few months ago. I can find little concrete about them other than their website. Evidently it will be a totally Virtual Reality movie but the real McCoy this time, something like "Reboot", "Jimmie Neutron" or the Barbie movies (uh, my daughter watched them and I ... just happened to be in the room at the time!).
We have just received an email from Access 31's program co-ordinator who has informed us that we have a green light to proceed to the next stage of program proposal. This means that the station is interested in our pilot episode and that once it is completed, they will review us further.
A reincarnation of a previously established Trek website,, is the broker in negotiations with a West Australian community TV station for a sci-fi program in which ST Unity could take an anchoring part. Access 31's program co-ordinator has given the green light to proceed to the next stage of program proposal. The project is awaiting a response from Paramount Pictures International who they hope will see channel 31 for what it is - free-to-air and not-for-profit.

There is a precedent for showing fan films on community TV in Australia. In May this year a show called "Revenge of the Fanfilm", which was an hour and half of films in their entirety with cast/crew interviews as segues, was aired on "The Short Film Show" on Channel 31 in Melbourne and Adelaide. The program probably didn't hit the copyright wall because it featured a Star Wars spinoff called "Imperial Chopper" and Lucas is on record as being favourable towards SW Fan Films.

TU Australia's Aussie Trekie has found that Brisbane has a similar outfit at their Ch.31 called "The Short Film Distillery". Space Marine, from AusSciFi, did a little research into Ch.31 in Sydney and found that the group that was operating the community TV there lost the broadcast license to a rival group. This group is now trying to get their operation up and running although they only have until the end of October to accomplish this. Links are : and

The burning question is - will Paramount see that allowing Fan Films to be shown on non-profit, comunity stations with a small viewer coverage is free advertising for their core franchise! The publicity caused by such a program would reverberate through the mainstream media. People who can't pick up Ch31 will be saying - "Hey, that sounds interesting! How can I get it?"

Trek Audio dramas, July 05

There's not much happening in the way of new Trek so rather than dwell on the past I'll start posting about what fans are doing to keep the flame alive!

Wouldn't it be great to make your own TV programs or movies, especially if you could write it and perform in it as well? Unfortunately a fan movie is way beyond the resources of most Fan groups. There are other options though.

I have just the thing - an Audio Production, what used to be called a Radio Play. It might sound strange in this modern world where even our music has to be accompanied by a video for it to succeed in the charts, but there's still an interest in them.

In fact when "Star Wars" ran as thirteen half-hour Star Wars radio programs in 1981 on National Public Radio, the response was incredible. They got 50,000 letters and phone calls in a single week, 750,000 listeners per episode and a 40% jump in the overall NPR audience.

In the past, many radio plays have had major cult followings like "The Goon Show" and many have made the successful transition to TV. "The Green Hornet" springs to mind, as does "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" which has even made it to the movie screen this past month!
Star Trek on the other hand has never tried to break into this commercial market. There have though been a few fans produced Star Trek radio plays. The most notable examples are Star Trek: Pioneers and Darker Projects: The Section 31 Files, more on these later.

What is involved in creating an Audio production? The term "audio production" covers a number of sub-types. It’s base form, the audio book, could be something as simple as a narrator, sometimes the author or an actor with a good speaking voice, reading a story with only the simplest of background music and sound effects.

Some audio books have several actors doing the different voices in a story but it is from this point that they start to verge on a full blown audio drama, a radio play. I suppose the name changed because it can be distributed on many different types of media besides radio: Internet Radio, Audio Cassette/CD. MP3, Podcast ... The difference between an audio book and an audio production is that the former uses little narration and instead relies on the script and special effects to tell the story. Go down to your local library, you're bound to find examples of each.

I was lucky enough to find, in our local library, a copy of "The Complete Book of Scriptwriting" by J. Michael Straczynski. Yes, that’s the same J. Michael Straczynski who wrote and produced "Babylon 5". I can't praise this book too much, not just for the depth and quality of the material, but for the breadth as well, covering as it does TV, Movies, Animation, the Stage and (luckily) Radio.

Straczynski points out that writing for radio is both rewarding and demanding in that the success or failure of the production pretty much relies on the story, the script. From a production point of view, it is far more accessible in that you don't have the problems and expense of props, scenery, costume or video special effects. In fact you can forget the whole complex and costly process of video recording & editing.

Star Trek: Pioneers
As I noted earlier, the two main players in Star Trek Audio productions are Star Trek: Pioneers and Darker Projects: The Section 31 Files. With the crash of their server and increasing time lags between projects, ST: Pioneers was for a time cancelled, but has recently been brought back with the help of the Section 31 Files team. The head of Pioneer Audio Productions, Kevin Cho, is optimistic as to the future of Pioneers within the larger framework of Darker Projects.
What is the future for ST: Pioneers? Kevin has confided in me some tantalising hints that, if they come to fruition, could herald a much higher profile for Trek Audio Drama. Once I get clearance to break the story you'll be the first to know!

The Pilot episode of Star Trek: Pioneers, a three parter named "New frontiers", was concluded with the release on April 9th of a crossover to a ST: Section 31 Files episode called "Bold Venture". Written by Kevin Cho and produced by Darker Projects, featuring their cast and crew. Kevin had definite ideas about the closure of the Pioneer storyline …
I really wanted to finish the Pioneers' Pilot episode with something a little different. So I choose the 3rd person view via the Nosferatu. Section 31 Files' Cast and Crew are the best of the best when it comes to Audio Productions, and I was very happy when they accepted the script.
Unfortunately I heard from Kevin the other day to say that as hurricane Dennis passed where he lives, he lost power and his system files became corrupt forcing him to reformat his harddrive and reinstall windows. Evidently everything to do with Pioneers, including the websites, was lost although the cast/crew are helping him put some of the pieces back together!
He's not having much luck recently having been recently, inexplicably, locked out of his website. This means that at the moment there is nowhere to download his fine work! Hopefully he might be able to arrange emergency hosting of the Download files. Fortunately you can still drop by the Pioneer's forum at …
Whilst others will be faced with greater losses than this over the next week I'm sure, Kevin has my heartfelt sympathy. There is no more horrifying feeling of knowing that months of work has just gone to electron heaven!

Star Trek: The Section 31 Files
Darker Project Audio Works do a number of different Audio drama projects - the Dr. Who series sounds interesting - but of interest to us is their compelling dramatic series "The Section 31 Files". Since September last year they have produced ten episodes in their first season which had it's finale at the end of last month with the release of "Knowledge is Power". To quote Eric L. Busby, the Project Coordinator...

...not only is it the end of our first season, it is also the close for the first segment of the story arc we have developed for The Section 31 Files. It's been quite a ride so far and we here at Darker Projects are just getting warmed up.
The teaser for the season cliff-hanger tells us that ...

Agents from the Tal Shiar plot to attack the Klingon High counsel unless Section 31 can stop them. Meanwhile dark agendas begin to come together that may mean war for the galaxy.
Stay tuned for the exciting continuation of our drama next week!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Trek Fan Movies, July 05

Star Trek: New Voyages
Last month I was lucky enough to be granted an interview with Jack Marshall executive producer of "Star Trek: New Voyages" for "Communique" the Newsletter of StarFleet International (mailed free to members). These are some highlights ...

Kirok: You are executive producer as well as director which gives you an enormous control over what you are doing - you don't have to answer to anyone else . Your production has three co-creators though - what part have Max Rem and James Cawley played in the creation of ST:NV?

Jack: James' gift is creation - he's built all the sets and costumes. Max has a flare for action and pacing and creates the beautiful effects for the show I'm the visionary. I organize the schedule and oversee all pre and post production as well as the physical directing of the show. I don't think any of us could pull this off without the other. We each have our areas and we each have a vote. It's worked well thus far.

Kirok: No one contends the fact that Viacom/Paramount own Star Trek. Not only do they have copyrights on key words such as Klingon and Tricorder, but it also covers anything that is a significant likeness. It is a complex legal and ethical question that probably has no definitive answer, merely a balance between copyright protection and respect for the fanbase and New Voyages is right there on the knife's edge! Could they be a sleeping giant who might pull the plug on you?

Jack: I suppose they could, but why would they? Believe it or not, Paramount is very aware of it's Trek fanbase and the last thing they want to do is have another web crusade like they did in the 90's where they shut peoples websites down and alienated the fans. We've had some preliminary talks with them regarding licensing and before that had been in constant contact with Viacom's legal department and know that if we follow the groundwork they've laid for us, we'll be ok. There are other fan films out there who have not yet come to the attention of Paramount who are actively collecting money on their websites. Our agreement says we cannot do that. I asked them why others can and their reply was simply - we never heard of them. So our success has been a double edged sword. But a danger of getting shut down? I think it's nil as long as we follow the guidelines they've set out for us.

Kirok: One of the factors that makes it possible for you to film New Voyages is the fact that you don't make a profit. This is reasonable - Viacom can't be expected to allow anyone to make money with their "property". However does this mean that you have to work at a loss? Could you be sponsored? What if Pizza Hut offered to do your on-site catering?

Jack: That's right, we can't make money by selling DVD's, T-Shirts, or anything with the Star Trek name on it. However, we can take donations to pay for the production of the show itself. In theory, someone could have a fund and we could have [them] pay the bills from that fund, like hotels, food, lumber, props, etc.

Kirok: The last I heard, the cost per episode for UPN to make Enterprise was $750,000, just running off to fantasy land for a moment, what could you do with the budget from just one episode?

Jack: I'd think the possibility of seeing a dozen or so New Voyages episodes done professionally would be a distinct possibility.

Expectations are high that we will be seeing great things from "Star Trek: New Voyages"! They will be filming episodes 3 and 4 simultaneously in September, with episode 3 being released early in 2006 and episode 4 in the fall. Jack Trevino & Ethan Calk, both veteran Deep Space Nine writers, are writing episode 3 which will "re-introduce" the characters of Chekov and Sulu.

Episode 4 is being penned by none other than D.C. (Dorothy) Fontana, who, as story editor, could be said to be one of the foremost creative influences on the original series! To cap it off, Walter Koenig, the original Pavel Chekov, will guest star as an older version of the character he created in the original series. I don't know how they're going to do it but if D.C. Fontana is writing it we can look forward to a rare treat!

Episodes 1 and 2 can still be downloaded for free from the internet at

Further to Jack's comments on copyright and licensing, I found the comments by James Cawley, the flamboyant co-producer and star of New Voyages in an article by CBC about Walter Koenig's appearance in episode four to be most enlightening ...

It's Cawley's belief that Paramount may eventually be convinced to license selected fan films, as it has done with fan fiction in the past. If the studio let him charge users a dollar per download in the future, he says he'd be willing to give Paramount 75 per cent of the money raised

Starship Exeter
Twice in one week a Fan film rated a mention on Trek Today. The first was the release by ExeterStudios has of the first instalment of their second episode. Labeled as the "Teaser/Titles" for their new hour long production - "The Tressaurian Intersection" - it can be downloaded for free from their 'movies' page.

The next portion was scheduled for release on Friday, July 8th, however as the deadline drew closer, ExeterStudio, announced that they were "still working on several effects shots" and they still haven't released it (July 17). The concensus amongst their fans is that they are prepared to wait for the quality work that they have come to expect from this well respected group. It has been a long time between episodes for Starship Exeter. The oldest Trek Fan Film production company, their "Savage Empire" was started way back in 1995 and released in 2002.

Hidden Frontiers
The other Fan Flick news in Trek Today recently was the media attention that the Fan Movie series "Star Trek: Hidden Frontier" has recently garnered because it has a gay male couple as a major plot element.
The two gay characters on Hidden Frontier are Lt. Corey Aster and his Trill boyfriend, ensign Jorian Zen. One of the future storylines will involve Zen being joined with a symbiont who is not gay, leaving Aster to wonder what the new sexual orientation of his lover will be, and whether Zen will even still be interested in him.
You have to be impressed with the sheer volume of material that has come out of this group - they are in their sixth season, having completed five seasons of five episodes per year. Their production values have improved immeasuiably over the years, and now ..., the producer, admits that they "hit there stride with season three".

They are markedly different from both New Voyages and Starship Exeter. Not only is their storyline set in the 24th century, ..., but their production technique is different. Saving time and money, they work their magic with live actors in front of a green screen. They are always ready to grasp new innovations, for example they have even created podcasts of two of their eps.

They will have a delegation at Toronto Trek, July 15-17, so with any luck I might be able to get a mate to ask them some questions.

As regards the gay element in their shows ...

the show's producers cautioned that this storyline only plays a role in six or seven episodes of the 40 that have been produced to date. Other stories deal with a galactic battle involving mysterious energy sources known as "tetrahedrons," while the series also tells classic Trek stories of exploration.
Me, I'll be glad to see gays accepted into the mainstream of Trek canon as long as it is done in a non-confrontational fashion. Frankly it would be an acceptance of modern reality rather than the blind-eye that is turned towards them at the moment ... and that's being realistic, not P.C.

ST:HF continue to keep on track with their gruelling schedule. Following the release of their last episode, "Homeport", they have successfully wrapped up production of episode 4 of their current season: "Beachhead".

At the moment they have a trailer and production shots available of Beachhead for download plus a preview trailer of it and the other two episodes remaining in season 6: "Vigil" and "Her Battle Lanterns Lit". The two-and-a-half minute, high-resolution trailer was released to a cheering audience at Gaylaxicon.