Sunday, November 18, 2007

Viva the fan film

In the 2000s, science fiction media fandom has (mostly) moved to the World Wide Web. Many SF fans tend to be tech and gadgetry savvy, anyway, so the thought of using Amazon to buy books, eBay to buy and sell tie-in merchandise, iPods and PDAs to download podcasts (such as bonus audio commentaries for DVDs) and eBooks, and web pages to publish newsletters, fan stories, fan art and zines, wasn't particularly wild. And the new tech has saved fans much in monthly meeting fees and printing costs.

And we also now have the online fan film phenomenon, with the likes of Youtube taking off beyond anyone's predictions. But there were Star Trek and other science fiction media fan films in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

The first Australian Super 8 fan film I saw was from the Melbourne Star Trek Club, Austrek, called "City on the Edge of the Yarra" (as in Yarra River) and it had some rather bizarre "Rocky Horror Picture Show" influences when Kirk and Spock stumble across a science fiction convention. There was also a film made - but never finished? - by Sydney fan John Parks. It featured some "Star Wars" parodies, such as robots C-Me-P.O.Q. and RU-One-Two, and a life-size Dalek race, if I recall correctly. I did eventually see snippets of the raw footage, and it was fun recognising the early work of several fan colleagues, performed years before I'd met all these people (and discovered active fandom) in 1980.

My local Star Trek fan club, Astrex, in Sydney, had one group of enthusiastic members who made some fan films with me in the 80s. I mentioned several of them over on my web site. Mostly, our fan films were videoed parodies of then-contemporary television game shows, as performed live at fan gatherings. These were then edited, given opening credits, and sometimes reshoots added. Some of our efforts were made as proper short films, though, and had scripted dialogue and even storyboards, etc.

As the time rolls on, I'll keep editing in details, such as release dates, but our fan films included:

* The Australian Science Fiction Media Award-winning "Sale of the 23rd Century" (1985), hosted by Therin and Tharrah the Andorians, and Tackee the green Orion slave girl. (This was many years before Senator Therin Sr cameoed in "Starship Exeter: The Savage Empire".)

Sale of the 23rd Century
Tackee zaps herself with a Klingon agonizer
on "Sale of the 23rd Century" at Con Amore.

* "Starfleet Blankety Blanks" (1985), hosted by Grol the Tellarite and Tackee.

Blankety Blanks

* "Cometcon Blankety Blanks" (1986), hosted by Strop the Visitor and Tackee.

* "Timewarped" (1986) - Doug and Tony of "The Time Tunnel" arrive in Sydney, Australia, just in time for a science fiction media convention. Ann twiddles some knobs but is unable to assist them.

Time Tunnel opening ceremony at TimeWarped Convention

* The Australian Science Fiction Media Award-winning "Perfect Botch" (1986), hosted by Reed, Sue and Johnny of "The Fantastic Four", complete with an inserted segment about Spock and T'Pring's romantic date, which they'd supposedly won in the (phantom) previous episode. Segment had Therin and Tharrah as chaperones. Live "mystery guest" contestants were Tackee and The Thing.

Fantastic Four at TimeWarped Convention

* "Free Maltz" (1987), the post-"Star Trek III" story of Maltz's escape from a Vulcan prison cell. A standalone short, but also used as introduction to:

* "The Nearly-Wed Game" (1987), hosted by Maltz and guest-starring pro actor Brian Croucher of "Blake's Seven" as Travis!

1: Maltz behind barsThe Nearly-Wed Game

* "The Naked Never" (1988?) - a Season One TNG skit videoed on a full-size TNG bridge (mocked up in one weekend out of huge sheets of corrugated cardboard).

* "Star Trek 5.5" (1990?) - the making of the film they were never game to let William Shatner actually direct, and on a shoestring budget even less than "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier".

I'm not sure if the parody game shows "It's in the Beg" (performed live in New Zealand, 1988, hosted by The Flash) or the previous "Tribble Lotto" (at TimeWarped, 1986, below) which involved Walter Koenig and his wife, Judy Levitt, were actually preserved for posterity, beyond a few snapshots.

Tribble Lotto at TimeWarped Convention

Our production team was known as Harpic Productions. Yep, flushed with success, our films made us blue in the face. (And had some toilet humour.)

I also once participated, as script contributor and makeup artist, on a great film short made by a group of Macquarie University film students in the 90s. It was called "Lost in Fantasy" and is perhaps closer to a docu-drama than a true fan film.

Remember to come back often, as I'm sure to update this page fairly regularly, and will post links to more pics.

Therin and Tharrah: "Perfect Botch" chaperones.
(Note the phaser!)

1 comment:

Therin of Andor said...

As you can see by the Andorians' windblown appearance, it was a miserable day for the beach. When we wrote the script, we set the action at Manly Beach - but the day we were supposed to go turned out to be a huge Surf Carnival, so we went to La Perouse instead, because it was close to the editing suite we were going to be using in the afternoon - and suddenly all the French and Greenpeace gags started to write themselves!

Of course, having someone in a Greenpeace T-shirt at Bare Island, La Perouse, only a few months after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, was a problem in itself. Not to mention the torrential downpour and chill winds.