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Fanning Flames, not Flaming Fans

All right, so the humor of this headline might be a tad strained and obscure. It will, I hope, be clear by the time you’ve read this editorial installment. I offer these words not so much as observation, but more as optimistic prediction. (Or, as the fortune teller replied when several of her guests complained that she was practicing her craft instead of having fun at her big birthday get-together: “It’s my party and I’ll scrye if I want to.”)

So have you seen the new Star Trek yet? No, I don’t mean the latest theatrical film produced and released by Paramount, whichever it was. And no, I’m not referring to the most recent television series. I’m talking about a wonderfully ambitious, marvellously realized fan effort called Star Trek: New Voyages. If you’ve not heard of this – if, like me, you fell out of the Trek-watching habit after the original TV series went off the air – here’s a bit of background on ST:NV, taken from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia:

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Star Trek: New Voyages (formerly known as simply New Voyages) is a fan-created science fiction series set in the Star Trek universe. The series was created by Jack Marshall and James Cawley in April of 2003. The series, released exclusively via the Internet, is designed as a continuation of the original Star Trek, beginning in the fourth year of the Starship Enterprise’s “five year mission.” The first episode of the series was released in January of 2004.

Early installments of the series were co-produced by Jack Marshall, Pearl Marshall (Jack’s wife), James Cawley and Max Rem. As of 2006, three one-hour episodes have been produced with two more episodes currently in production. … Unlike a traditional television series, episodes are being produced at a rate of only one per year.

Paramount Pictures, which owns the legal rights to the Star Trek franchise, has traditionally allowed the distribution of fan-created material as long as no attempt is made to profit from it without official authorization, and Star Trek: New Voyages enjoys the same toleration.

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As you know, we’ve been trying for a long time to realize the dream of an Elfquest film. Because of the overlap between comics and movies, Elfmom and I know a lot of people in “the biz” (Hollywood shorthand for “the entertainment business”); there’s also a small ton of evidence that a whole lot of those folks know of Elfquest. And almost without exception, whenever we meet them they ask, “So why isn’t there an Elfquest movie yet?”

It’s a flippin’ good question. (To which I often and sorely wish to reply, “Because you haven’t made it yet, you misbegotten son-of-a-zwoot!”) It’s frustrating to be asked such a thing when it’s no secret that we consider Elfquest on the big screen (“…when your story is written across the sky in thunder and skyfire!”) to be the culmination of the many years that’ve gone into telling the elves’ tale. But there always seems to be some reason or other keeping Cutter and company from making the leap from paper page to silver screen.

Until, perhaps, now.

I heard of the new fan-created, fan-realized Star Trek films about a year ago. Skeptic that I am, I at first dismissed these efforts. I’d seen plenty of fannish productions in my day – stage shows and skits – at conventions, and I figured these “new voyages” were pretty much the same sort of thing simply recorded onto digital video. I was told I really ought to give these a look-see, and was pointed to the site where I could download the first episode or two. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it.” Finally I carved out a chunk of time…

Sebastian the crab’s jaw hitting the sea floor didn’t make a louder clank than did mine, once I began to watch. This was amazing stuff – fully realized episodes set in the time period of the original Star Trek series, with fan actors taking the parts of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew of the starship Enterprise. (I’ll admit that took a little getting used to – Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of his Vulcan avatar is, after all, iconic to someone who grew up on the original Trek – but the mental disconnect didn’t last long.) The scripts are quite well written – sometimes by original Trek writers – and the special effects are far better than NBC itself was able to provide in the late 1960s. Advances in the twin technologies of production and distribution, literally within the past five years, have made it possible for anyone with the desire to do so, to produce a fan film that can hold its own – dollar for dollar – against any bloated-budget Tinseltown boondoggle.

And that is exactly what legions of fans are doing! Fan films, in the last few years, have become a creative movement of stunning force. Star Trek, Star Wars, Dark Shadows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman… all these properties and many more have spawned high quality fan films, seen over the internet and at science fiction and comic book conventions. The list is large – and growing.

Do you begin to get a sense where this editorial is going?

Well, why not an Elfquest fan film? Or films? It’s not as if people haven’t already made the first baby steps in that direction. Elfmom herself produced a couple of bits of hand-drawn animation, one of which can be seen here. (And, never one to sit still, she’s teaching herself iMovie and Flash even now, the better to conjure new wonders.) A fan from Norway took one of the EQ “Tiny Toons” comics and turned it into a short-short Flash animation. And, in a completely different direction, a wild and wooly bunch over in the Elfquest forum the Scroll of Colors has been cobbling together the script for a completely irreverent forum fan film. (This one, were it ever actually produced, would have to be a combination of live action and CGI – computer generated imagery – because there is no way I will ever wish to physically occupy the same set as Ron Jeremy!)

So let’s kick it up a notch and get this newest quest on the road, eh? Animation, live action, a combination of both – doesn’t matter. Take a look at all the links to all the fan films listed in the Wikipedia article mentioned above (or do your own Google search if you prefer) and imagine what fun it could be to put together something completely original, never before seen. Work on your own, or with a bunch of co-conspirators. We’re throwing open the doors here, subject to the most basic of rules: One, whatever you choose to do, please keep it honest to the spirit of Elfquest. (Which doesn’t rule out parody – look at all those “thumb” and Lego films!) And two, you can’t do it for profit (read again the third paragraph in the Star Trek New Voyages article quoted above) because Warp still owns the copyrights and trademarks in the underlying material. But we can promise that your efforts will get as wide an exposure as we can legally provide – we’ll post your fan film not only here on Elfquest.com but also on independent video sites such as YouTube.com. And from there? The skyfire’s the limit!

Thus, the title of this editorial. Sometimes, when fans get together online to discuss topics of deep interest, flame wars erupt. We’d rather turn that energy around, and fan the flames of your creativity. Get it? And when the next “biz” person asks, “So why isn’t there an Elfquest film yet?” how cool would it be to be able to reply, with a knowing wink and a secret smile, “Hey, one’s already in the works!”

Shade and sweet lights, camera, action and graphics tablet!

Richard Pini

 


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