Mr. Peters (and interested parties),
I come back to the forum after a few years absence, read a few posts, and what do I find? The lamb laying down with the lion and all is well in the world? I think not. I'll skip most of the content of the other posts and go back to more "matter of fact" communications. I apologize in advance for any spelling, grammar, or cognitive errors (after 7+ hours I think intra- and inter- became a blur), but I typed this instead of sleeping and its been a long haul. Apologies for excessive length are customary in my case. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
1. We share people and personnel by introducing our team to other productions.
2. We share marketing ideas and promotion on our websites / Facebook pages.
3. We share our sets and sound stages, expecting that guest productions pay the basic expenses for the time used.
4. We share ideas, exchange information, and help however we can.
To everyone else on this board. If you are a real person who wants to share and be part of a group of fun, dedicated film makers, let us know. The interactions some of us have had already have been fantastic.
As admirers of the UFP, we should agree that these are worthy goals. Ultimately, I think any such organization, created in the shadow of The Great Bird, needs to uphold not merely the letter of its principles, but the spirit as well. I think you expected positive reactions and instead concerns were raised. When you pointed out there were limits to the generosity of those already involved -- due to past disputes -- you were met with suspicion (in part on general principles but largely because the specific situations you described have not been experienced by the majority of people who responded). The longer it went on the more frustrating it probably seemed because instead of people "getting on board" they were "backing away". Very clearly you weren't getting through to most of the people, and they weren't getting through to you, and if you now can accept that possibility I think it would be good for this effort of yours.
The bad news is that this is likely to keep happening.
Because all the various groups and individuals that have been active participants in these activities -- and actually bumped shoulders with each other have decided, for various reasons good and ill, that they like some people and they don't like others. For normal people this is simply human nature, though I often expect more from Trekkers. There are a number of approaches to this situation. If you choose to let only the people you already know and trust in then what you have is a private club and your announcement here and attempt at fostering a dialogue were unfortunately unlikely to be profitable. If you throw the doors open and have a democracy, not only are you likely to be rubbing shoulders with people you don't like but you're going to have a lot more discussions with people you find annoying. If you stop listening, or cooperating, then you aren't all equals anymore. And, perhaps, in some sort of ultimate analysis, the people who have put decades and most of their life savings into constructing facilities and teams are not entirely equal to those who have not done so. I say this in absolute seriousness, not in mockery, though it is a sentiment that is contrary to my general thinking, and I think should be meant as a limited case. But this is not a choice for me or the other third parties here, it is a matter of conscience for them: whether they want the world to be convenient or whether they can afford to stick their neck out a farther to try to make Trek/The World/themselves better.
Humans, for the most part, seem to me so inherently disagreeable that if they have no actual problems they go to great efforts to invent some. Posts in this thread on all sides may be to some extent an indicator of this. If people are perfectible it seems a "hard row to hoe". Sure to be hard, perpetual work. The problem is that this is an ugly fact, and as adherents to the philosophies of the UFP, handed down to us by the founders of Trek, it plainly sticks in our craw
. Think of all the times James Tiberius Kirk was in the middle of a righteous rage just after a dust up with the "baddy" of the week, and somebody says something that turns that light bulb on in his head and he realizes, 'Oh, that's not what I meant, not really
' and, also, "Those words were
spoken by me
" (though it took awhile for that to be said). In terms of this thread, while I don't claim that every contributor is equally responsible, it would be in everyone's best interest to take that step back and try to think over the situation. If it helps, pretend that if you don't people are going to die, or at least fan productions will. And they might. To realize that, at least deep down, we're all "trolls"... but we're not going to be "trolls" on the internet today
. Trust me, I know all about it, you wouldn't want to catch me on a bad day, I can make trolls seem kind and considerate.
This conundrum is tough because, if you can't safely obliterate the people that don't like you, and you can't run away from them, then you might have to find some way to live together. Perhaps with a "neutral zone" in between? Fences do after all "make good neighbors", at least when they aren't being knocked down. Then you just have to deal with their allies, but one can always build more fences (aka border outposts). And then you only have to put up with the complaints by those pesky neutrals and their attempts to make the world a less strife filled place through endless negotiations.
So, what's a progressive interstellar society, err... I mean... progressive fan film community to do? Again, that's not for me to say. Clearly there are some major players who have invested heavily and in some sense largely have the market cornered on the ready-to-go production facilities. Which golden rule is it to be: "he who has the gold makes the rules" or "love your neighbor as you love yourself"? And what happens when someone is dishonest, or there's just a serous misunderstanding?
Because there will always be reasons to feel let down, cheated, betrayed if you work with others. Perhaps not good reasons, but reasons. Something always breaks, someone is always late, and someone always doesn't have the cash when its time to pay, etc. Its not necessarily maliciousness (though it might be) but it is human nature. Were imperfect creatures in a naturally unforgiving world. As a species we care something different for ourselves after that and its perpetuation is our responsibility. Frankly, I usually experience just this frustration and anger just working by myself. I'm not all I think I am let along what I would like to be. So, other than spinning a few homilies, what do I have to offer? Well, possibly some suggestions, assuming you're still conscious at this point, or not foaming at the mouth and baying at the moon while replying (my posts have had that effect on some people).
First, perhaps one plan of action would be to copy the UFP. Did it start out 500 members strong? No, just a handful of systems banded together. They succeeded because they always try to add "new blood", but only when a civilization is ready and the incorporation is beneficial to both parties. Prior to membership the groups outside the UFP have lesser status as associate members, protectorates, neutrals, or hostiles. I'm not saying to replicate this slavishly, but it is a possible model. To some extent such an effort would be institutionalizing inequality, but with a promise that for each group that inequality can dissolve with time... at least perhaps, and if wise choices are made on both sides. I believe you are familiar with the work of John M. Ford. His Klingons believe that there are structures that grow and structures that die. Honestly, for a long time I've been struggling to fool myself that I'm maintaining homeostasis. Its the same for most everything: if you don't grow, if you don't adapt, if you don't diversify, time will grind you into powder. Fan productions are no exception.
Second, everyone involved needs to know that this is going to be hard. Maybe not all of the time, but some of it. Of course, accomplishing the impossible is hard work, and fan films fall close to that category. So there's a lot of frustration generated just from the struggle to produce the films that might be contributing to the problem. But its more than just the basic difficulty. Things are going to go out of people's control on all sort of levels and you need to factor that in from the beginning. I would like it all to be peace and love but nerves will get frayed.
Again, I suggest you fall back on the Trek analogy. This may not be the time for "cowboy diplomacy". The leaders of the groups, the people running the "association" (whatever that means), and the go-betweens need to have cool heads about inter-group matters. So, the impossible must happen if the association is to expand beyond a handful of teams, all this inter-group bickering must stop. As much as humanly possible. Again, only reading a very few recently-contributed-to threads, there seemed to be consistent sniping about each other for many groups from thread to thread, to the detriment of the group's public reputations. Additionally, the more justified the members seemed think they were in their position the more aggressive they behaved making them or their group seem more a part of the problem than an innocent victim. If the members of the association just snipe at each other and/or everyone around them that's the kind of situation that makes people working on projects decide they would rather stay home. Because its not, at its best, the Federation way. And its annoying to boot.
What can stop this? Well real leaders who set inter- and intra-group goals and get their point across would be a start. Maybe the groups already have them, maybe they don't, but I suspect you'll "have to dance with who brought you" as the saying goes. The point to get across in this case is that bickering is bad for everybody. So intra-group rules about inter-group spats, rules with teeth is something else that's likely needed. 'It doesn't matter if the Klingons started the fight, you're supposed to be officers!' As I've said, when a member misbehaves in the slightest way it reflects in the public mind on the group as well as the individual. Additionally, intra-group communications needs to be done by very level headed, intelligent, empathetic, considerate people. In other words, ambassadors (think Sarek, not Fox). These people need to be able to hear the other side as well as their own, to try to find a common ground to resolve the problems, they need to be able to communicate not just the words of their issues and hopes but the spirit as well, and be sensible enough to know if their counterparts are not cooperating in kind and work to get them back to the bargaining table or at least contain the situation. Communications over problems should go through them to their respective leaderships, not through other members, and certainly not through forums, apparently year after year. I don't care if you run it like Cold War detente or binding arbitration, but you have to have a system in place that damps down fires inside and outside instead of fanning the flames (the latter of which seems to be the current system at least on public forums) that would be important. So internally punishment somewhere between bread and water and death by lirpa needs to be exercised on those who disrupt the peace, no matter how important they think they are (or really are) to the production. And for those who see such measures as an infringement on the right of free speech, I would remind you that membership in a fan film group isn't a right and monkey-wrenching group cooperation with complaints could be an actionable offense in the group. What I can guarantee is that if the people who bear grudges are left in charge (self-appointed or not) of external relations (so to speak), all that will happen is that everyone will end up hating almost everyone else's guts.
For this thing to work, for it even to have a chance of getting off the ground, a lot of people are going to have to step up and be better than they might like to be on those dark days when you want to pull your hair out. It may require some sort of neutral arbitration of disagreements before groups can meet at the table. Some people may have to accept that its going to take time and effort for them to be accepted back to the fold. And a lot of people, or so it seems, will have to metaphorically bite their tongues. Worse yet, the negotiators must use all their skill to minimize damage if the negotiations fail, because the person you despise today may change and be a resource in the future. But some people may never belong, and if other people are truly skeptical that bias on the other side isn't the cause of that, then involving them in the process of arbitration in some way -- even as witnesses -- may address their concerns. If you keep talking, if you keep searching for some common ground, you just might find some. If not, how will things ever be better?
Third, at one point I was looking at renting some property in an effort to have a studio for fan-film making. While the property wasn't right for several reasons (being partially flooded do to plumbing issues, for example!) but the owner was keen on my idea. He suggested that "I" build a Star Trek bridge there and then "we" could rent it to other fan film makers. My explanation at the time was that Paramount would most likely frown upon this, as the merest suspicion that the Trek name (etc.) was being used by third parties to make money would be direly punished (or so it would seem from a film maker's perspective). Frankly, quite a bit of the carping I read today had to do with people making money, or allegedly making money, or allegedly inappropriately fund raising for both legitimate and illegitimate Trek fan projects. The idea seems to be that some people are , in a manner of speaking, "sailing too close to the wind" and this is being pointed out by people from groups who are "sailing a bit less close to the wind". What is pretty clear, with the fairly common public solicitation of funds in one form or another, everybody today seems to be pushing the system farther towards the limit than at the beginning of this movement.
There are some clear lines that the IP holder has requested be respected and there are some gray areas (less than in the past, perhaps). In my opinion, renting a specifically "Star Trek" facility, or "Trek" props (named so or not) may be over that line. On the "renter's" side, its probably fine since its specific money for a specific purpose. On the leaser's side things are a bit fuzzier. What standard is used to determine the value? Perhaps more importantly, if the IP holder doesn't allow fan productions to sell Trek merchandise for small amounts of money why would one expect that they would allow the rental of what is essentially Trek merchandise for presumably larger amounts? There are other matters, but this seems the largest hurdle to this part of the plan. Even if a suit wouldn't hold up in court there are a number of reasons why such a practice could draw cease-and-desist letters and/or litigation, and not necessarily limited to the rental practices.
Now I don't know what arrangements were made in the past, and I don't know what private agreements were hammered out with the IP holder, and I don't need to. Frankly, practices change with the management, and management comes and goes. I believe some people have felt a mild restriction as the "rules" have altered somewhat. Some may have had more, or at least reacted more violently (ceasing and withdrawing their production). What seems to be certain is that no Trek fan production will get any immovable guidelines officially. The companies have good reason to protect every right they can and only hesitate while they think the benefit of the publicity fans self generate is greater. The only clear way around such an issue that I see, short of official approval is the exchange of services for services, which is where disparities in resources and experience becomes an issue. But it seems a fair place to start: in the most simple form, boots on the ground -- in some capacity or another -- in return for boots on the set. There may be other alternatives, this is just a suggestion.
Now assuming that anyone has gotten to this paragraph, before responding I suggest you think things over carefully, maybe even make some notes, work some things out in your head. No more shooting from the hip, and -- I beg you -- no more posting while angry. I hope that there will be some positive outcomes from what is a very intriguing idea. Think back to those Trek episodes where our heroes realized that they weren't perfect, and perhaps the bad guys were more counterparts than blood enemies. For you younger members, grab your shirts, perform the Picard Maneuver, and then get down to figuring out how to use some of his Vulcan like reason and diplomacy to make the future a little bit better than the past. Even the Klingon supporters will get out of this house if it continues to burn.
And Mr. Peters, I assure you that, despite whatever failings in my presentation there may be, these words are well intended, and having been inactive on the forum for an extended period of time due to real-world issues I feel I have no inherent bias in regard to the groups or the individuals. If any of what I discussed makes any sense, I suggest you take it back to another assembly of your groups and present it to them to hash out what makes they think is workable. My general message specifically to them, should you deliver it, is that as systems get more complex it becomes more difficult to keep them functioning, but on the other hand more complex systems often can accomplish much more than the simple ones ever could. This is a worthy goal that has been proposed, but it is no small task, and must be taken very seriously.