Fan Film Creation and Critique

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by fireproof78, Aug 29, 2015.

  1. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'm a relative newcomer to this sub-forum of TrekBBS so if this should maybe go elsewhere, I apologize.

    This came up in my mind based upon reading a conversation regarding two different fan productions and the levels of quality of each.

    This started me thinking about the basis of critiquing a fan film and comparing two different ones. Is there a difference between critiquing fan productions versus professional or independent film productions? Should fan films be compared together due to the fact that there are so many different factors that are a part of fan productions, from resources, time, availability of actors and staff, etc.

    Of course, comparison is a legitimate form of criticism as well and I'm not arguging that. I'm more curious as to other perspectives that people use to evaluate fan films and if that differs at all from a professional production.

    For what it is worth, this is my background. I discovered fan productions through Star Wars and helped out on a couple of (terrible) attempts at some fan films.

    I also participated on theforce.net's fan film boards and got the opportunity to talk with a lot of other fan film producers and creators and get some insight in to how a fan film is done, and where my friends and I had gone wrong in our efforts (in short, everything).

    So, I have adapted a point of view on fan films that is to judge them on the merits of that production rather than against other fan films. It may not be the best way of going about it, but I want to try and be fair to fan films.

    Are there any other points of view of fan film criticism? Do you think it differs at all from evaluating a Hollywood or larger studio production?
     
  2. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain In Memoriam

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    I link to fan film critiques on my website, Star Trek Reviewed. (It's mostly just a collection of links to Star Trek Fan Films and Reviews of them.) While the high-end fan films attract a lot of reviews, less well known ones often do not attract any reviews at all.

    I have a few issues with fan film reviews. One is when they start reviewing the personality of the people involved instead of the film. Another is when they generalize. For example, a comment under an article under Star Trek: Renegades stated that that film was a mess, and it just showed no one should ever watch a fan film. I responded urging people try Exeter's The Tressaurian Intersection and Star Trek New Voyages' World Enough and Time. The original commentator responded to my comment that Renegades was not the only fan film he had ever watched, and he knew what he was talking about. He did not, however, claim to have watched either TTI or WEAT.

    I happily link to reviews that use only child-friendly language, are specific to that film, and do not attack personalities. I don't care if they are in an online Newspaper, a personal blog, or a website organized around fan films.

    Reviews help make films known (and hence watchable) to those who might not otherwise be aware of them. I try to encourage more people to write them. Originally, I was going to review the films on my website, but I quickly realized that there were more groups of people making Star Trek Fan Films than I had assumed there were fan films, and just keeping up the listing was going to be more work than I had planned on. Instead of the 100-150 fan films I expected, my website now links to well over 1000 fan films, (possibly more than 2000, I stopped a recent count when I got to 1000) with more being added all the time.

    The value of any critic is at least partially a function of a consistent viewpoint. Hence, I might read the blog, Joe Schmo from Kokomo Reviews, and know I disagree with him about certain things, e.g., Joe thinks a conflict which is resolved without blowing up a spaceship is a bore, I don't. But I still may be able to evaluate if I want to watch a film based on his review. "I loved Star Trek: Dominion War, it had what I love best in fan films, blown up ships, and little else." OK, that's one I'll skip. or "I hated Jack v. the Enterprise, because Jack was a powerful Q-like being who never even tried to blow up the ship, and he had to be defeated through cunning. BOR-ING." OK, that one I'll watch.

    I realize a thoughtful review may also benefit the filmmaker, and help them improve. I leave it to the filmmakers on this board to discuss that aspect of reviews.
     
  3. Amaris

    Amaris Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I base my critiques on whether or not I like it. If I recognize something that is glaringly obvious, I'll mention it. If I think the writing is lazy, or the acting is wooden, I'll mention that. Outside of that, there's not much else, because I'm only speaking for me. Not to put too fine a point on it, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

    Of course, that being said, if a fan film production plays up their production like it's the best thing since sliced bread, and even Jesus is asking for the recipe, I'm going to raise my expectations and judge it that way, because I have been invited to do so.
     
  4. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I am an academic, I only do 'critiques' when someone is paying. As an individual watching a fan film, I do a 'review' - that boils down to - did I enjoy this? I can overlook some rough edges.



    Renegades was a special case as they claimed they were making a pilot for TV - so I reviewed it as such - it was shit.
     
  5. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed the criticism, but I don't think any fan film should be exempt from honest, constructive critique. I have no time for drive by "you suck" commentators, but people who take the time to post thoughtful, constructive feedback deserve to be heard. You may not agree, and you don't have to follow ther advice, but you should always hear them out.

    And if you don't you'll never learn or grow.
     
  6. steam235

    steam235 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    There will be a new level of criticism with this new trend of crowd sourced fan films.

    "Did it get made for the proposed budget?"

    This is something that fan films have never had to deal with before. But now that they are crowd sourced, and viewers are literally invested in the project, expect this to be fair game.

    Renegades was actually made and released. You're asking whether it's fair to compare it to Axanar. Lets' see if Axanar can actually deliver on it's hype. Right now I think they've claimed they can now film one 1/4 of the proposed film.

    I can go to different levels of restaurants and critique what I get. I can also compare a small sub place with a sit down restaurant. But I can't compare just food to food, I have to consider that one was trying for something much more.

    New voyages = Firehouse subs
    Renegades = Chilis
    Axanar = claims to be a good steak house but the wait staff keeps coming out and telling us the steaks will be just a bit longer.


    Just like an eating experience where when you get home, the only real judgement is Is my belly full, and did I have a nice time out.

    With fan films when the 40-90 minutes is over was I entertained?

    So yes you can compare New voyages with Axanar, and with the Paramount movies. At the end of them did you feel entertained?
     
  7. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Nobody asked that, actually. :bolian:

    The question of crowd-sourcing does bring up a piece of education that's going to be necessary for fan film reviewers, and that's to what extent crowd-funding entitles them to comment on how a project is being run or what it's spending. Because actually if you're not involved with a project and don't know what its costs are circumstances are, your perspective on its budget is going to be of limited value, but as we've seen here there are going to be people who want to act as unofficial CFOs or tax auditors for the fan film community anyway. They'e always going to be frustrated, because no production can or will operate with fifty thousand people reading the weekly expenses over its shoulder.

    So that's an aspect of a fan film "critique" (I don't think it really qualifies as "critique," just arrogance) that bothers me and that I think people are going to have to learn the hard way to do without. (Unless something super-flagrant is going on like a guy collecting money and doing literally nothing but disappear.)

    The much bigger problem, though, is genuine trolling and toxicity and campaigns of abuse and deception materializing around fan films. This kind of spectacle discourages people from making fanfilms -- the guy on Star Trek Futures cited fan community toxicity as a specific reason for discontinuing -- and it's a serious problem. Manifest most often in people showing up to ask the same asked-and-answered questions about a production over and over in an apparent attempt not at critique or dialogue, for instance, but at pushing a talking point or undermining perception of a project.

    So, for example, something like Axanar -- a going concern with detailed ongoing production blogs, an elaborate fulfilment system, public accounts, having already actually delivered both a proof-of-concept video and test footage from its feature -- would seem an unlikely target for the "they're going to run off into the sunset with your money and not deliver anything" gambit at this point, and yet still we see it attempted here over and over again, with a fixity of purpose and denial of context that often arouses suspicion.

    Which is really too bad, because buried underneath some of that there could be valid questions... but the poisoning of the well can get too extensive at a certain point.
     
  8. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But enough about the people making them.
     
  9. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Bah-dmp-TSHHH! :D
     
  10. mos6507

    mos6507 Commodore Commodore

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    Money changes everything. We're in a new era now where if you can get enough publicity you can crowdfund your production to over a million dollars. There's simply no way to sit down and view a finished product that was budgeted privately by the producers to something like that. Expectations are going to be different.

    That being said, the easiest way to get attention on the internet is to attack something or somebody. That's why some of the top youtube channels are amateur critics who do nothing but tear stuff apart. It's a form of MS3K style performance-art, basically.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/CinemaSins
     
  11. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Not to be a brat, but that was kind my general question in my OP. I was not as up front about it, but it is part of my overall question of how does one evaluate fan productions.

    For some, taking two films and putting them side by side is a perfectly legitimate form of determining what works and what does not.

    I personally don't always find that to be a worthwhile form of analysis because film is often subjective. With fan films, where production values can vary greatly I don't see it as a good way to demonstrate why one works and one does not.

    Not sure if that was clear as that was a longer explanation than what I wanted. :confused:

    Crowd funding definitely adds a new wrinkle that was not there when I was more active with fan films, either helping or reviewing them to help others.

    Not sure how I feel about it, and, if I were to do a fan film now, I don't think I would crowd fund, but that's just me. It seems to involve a lot of headache, and potential heart ache, that I would not want to deal with. Glad others are willing to do it.

    Yeah! Cinema Sins. Thoroughly enjoy their schtick.

    This is kind of the running debate through my head right now-do I judge a fan film more, or less, harshly, based upon their funding?

    Honestly, I'm not sure. I am far more forgiving of fan films in terms of actors and effects because, well, when I was helping out with fan films effects where difficult, at best.

    So, I'm on the fence. I prefer films that have interesting characters and a story that I find engaging. I don't mind just being entertained, but I'm also hoping for an insight in to the producer's mind about the property that I may not have thought of before. In that way, fan productions are far more unique in the entertainment world because they offer a different view on an existing property.
     
  12. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Guess I missed the second paragraph there, my bad and apologies to steam235. Rest of my comment stands, though.

    Yeah, crowdfunding obviously comes with a lot of headaches and learning of boundaries and so on, no doubt about it. I wouldn't blame someone for shying away from it... but it's made so many spectacular things possible, too. Nothing but respect for those who do brave the firestorms.
     
  13. lurok

    lurok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Personally, crowdfunding (or any method of funding) makes no difference.

    I have vague memories - sure will be corrected, if wrong - Evil Dead and Blood Simple were basically funded by small coterie of private investors? Plus ├ža change.

    What ends up onscreen matters.
     
  14. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's fine. Just a point of clarification :techman:

    Also, I have respect for anyone who attempts a fan production of any kind, both crowd funded and personal finances. It is a lot of time, money and effort for something that is a labor of love.

    In that instance, it is one of the reasons that I don't judge fan productions like I do professional productions. There is a certain labor of love that can come across more in a fan film is not always present, or essential, in Hollywood. Not saying that those there don't love what they do (several friends of mine are in that business) just that there is not always that interest before working on the project.

    Regardless, I try my best to evaluate a film production based on what is produced. I think there are a lot of factors, beyond budget and acting, that impact my viewing.
     
  15. Karzak

    Karzak Commodore Commodore

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    To me, it boils down to one simple thing.

    You can say it's a labor of love, or you can be doing it because the fandom will crowdfund it. You can say it's a project to resurrect the now-dead continuity of yore or you can say it's a project to queue up with the release of the new film. You can say "This is a story I've always wanted to tell" or you can say it's a project that came together out of nowhere but happened because the right group of people got together at the right time to make it.

    Whatever your reasoning, if you put your fan film up and online out to the public world, so far as I'm concerned, all bets are off. If it's just a labor of love for you and your friends, great! Nobody is forcing you to upload it to the world wide web. If you do so, you do so knowing that there are are going to be many wonderful comments made by people close to you and people who like what you've done.

    But you have to know that there are going to be people who make comments you aren't necessarily going to like. There will be assholes, sure, but there will also be constructive, helpful critique from the 3.2 people in the tiny demographic of people watch these things that might have something valuable to share. Nobody gets this shit right on the first try; expecting to get nothing but sunflowers, chocolate bars, and puppies once you upload your little masterpiece is naive.

    So, do I compare fan films to professional productions?

    Not at all, unless said production goes out of its way to constantly try to convince me what they're doing is "more" than "just" a fan film. (vis a vis a pilot for CBS, an "independent" film, etc.) (Side note: the productions that make these grand claims also tend to be the ones who conduct themselves in the least professional manner possible. Odd, that...)

    The point remains: the productions themselves bring the added scrutiny on to themselves. They want to be taken as seriously as a professional film production and not just another fan film, so as far as I am concerned they should be ready for me to share my critique of it in that same vein.

    Certainly there are multiple factors to consider. Budget. Acting. Writing. Sound. Visual Effects. Music. Editing and pacing. Was I entertained? Was it fun? Was it thrilling? Did it have a message? Was it something I've never seen done before? Was it something I'd seen done before but in a new and creative way? etc.

    But in terms of overall critique, I definitely believe that if you put it out there, you better be ready for anything, not just the smiles and blowjobs.

    If this makes me "rude" or "asshole-ish," well, chalk it up to the "magic that is me."
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2015
  16. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    I posed this in the wrong thread before.

    I evaluate movies on the same scale regardless of budget, but I relax certain standards for fan-made stuff in the makers/actors are mostly amateurs. With things like Renegades, etc., which play up all their pro talent, I relax those standards less.
     
  17. Campe

    Campe Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think if you put any kind of creative work out there, it is bound to be criticized and that level of criticism is up to the eye of the beholder of the creative work. For something like Hidden Frontier which had terrible green screen special effects and an okay story at best (admittedly, I did only watch a few seasons of that just because I wasn't interested in the story), I was a little more forgiving. But as others have said, when you bring in the likes of Walter Koenig, George Takei, Denise Crosby (okay, maybe not her :p), Tim Russ, Gary Graham, etc., etc., etc., when you claim your fan film is going to be pitched as a pilot to CBS, when you compare it to and think you can do better than the current film franchise, yeah, I'm going to judge it a lot more harshly.

    And yes, as someone else mentioned, I'm going to take the personalities of those involved into play too. Just like I do for actors in professional productions. Is it right? Probably not. But as a human being, sometimes its hard to disconnect the two.

    So yeah, I judged Renegades more harshly than I did Hidden Frontier. And I'm sure going to judge Axanar on the same level I do the JJ films because they have made some pretty steep claims to the quality of their production. Don't mistake me. As much disdain as I have for some of those who say Axanar is the saving grace of "True Trek", I would like to see it succeed in what the producers want it to do.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2015
  18. Ryan Thomas Riddle

    Ryan Thomas Riddle Writer and occasional starship commander Premium Member

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    I review on the notion that these productions want to improve their product on the next round. When I critique, I try to balance praise for what was done well with opportunities that can be improved upon in the next venture.
     
  19. steam235

    steam235 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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  20. Campe

    Campe Vice Admiral Admiral

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    They were both in New Voyages/Phase II.