Why watch a fan movie?
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?