Saturday, April 7, 2012

What's missing from Fan Productions?

In the five years or so that I've been reporting on fan productions we've come a long way! Fan films have matured from the shakey beginnings that their producer's would have us forget to productions that in many ways rival their professional counterparts. Audio dramas have given a new lease of life to a form of media that had been relegated to a historical curiosity - the radio play. Animation perhaps more than any other form of media has amazed me with the way in which it has empowered those with the creativity and talent to produce some astonishingly good shows.

Look at where they've come from, where they are now and where they might end up, how has this happened? What it boils down to for me are two things: society and technology. Modern attitudes are swinging towards the "me generation" - what can *I* do or what can *I* get out of it - and this is being reflected in modern, mass media with the explosion of reality shows that we see on TV and the way that citizen reporting on blogs and Youtube is taking us to 'ground zero' of the worlds trouble spots. In this respect, it is technology that has become the liberator. New technology has made available to the average wage-earner of western society a range of tools that were the exclusive domain of the professional ten years ago.

The expense of the equipment involved for example was one of the things that held back amateur cinematography, freed by digital, high definition cameras now available at a fraction of the cost, a situation that is paralleled by lighting and sound recording equipment as well. In the case of animation, it was the sheer magnitude of the task involved in doing traditional, hand-drawn cels that balked amateurs. For them the revolution has come in the form of computer software packages that allow one person to create two and three dimensional images that before were the result of a production line of artists. Many of the computer generated special effects that before only Spielberg could afford can now be created by 'Everyman'. Parallel advances have been made in the spread of expertise and knowledge that was once only acquired by working one's way up through the appropriate branch of the entertainment industry.

However none of this would have had the same effect if amateur producers could not get their work seen or experienced by others. The cost of maintaining a TV or radio network is phenomenal, as is the infrastructure involved in movie theaters. Once again, it was technology that came to the rescue by the creation of a new distribution network, the internet, which has become the defacto distribution network that connects and binds us together as a culture and a society.

Fans are riding this wave of technology to new heights - fan films, fan audio dramas, fan animation - however there is one component of the mass media market that we have not assailed: fan publishing. Where there are fan film-makers there are fan films, where there are fan voice actors there are fan audio dramas but although there are probably an order of magnitude more fan authors...

Where are the fan books?

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