ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 9/10/09
“To me, the great hope is that now these little 8mm video recorders and stuff have come out, some people who normally wouldn’t make movies are going to be making them, and, you know, suddenly one day, some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film with her father’s camcorder. And, for once, the so-called professionalism about movies will be destroyed - forever - and it will really become an art form.” ---Francis Ford Coppola
One of the things that has always intrigued me about America is our odd relationship with the word “Can’t.” It’s not like we don’t know what it means, or that it’s not in our vocabulary, or anything hokey like that, nor is it like we can’t be stymied by it. We don’t really like it much, though. It carries connotations that, I think, are somehow unique to our culture. If you sit an American and an Englishman down next to each other and say “The Nuclear Reactor won’t fail because of this precaution, and this one, and this one,” then both the Brit and the Yank are going to say, “Oh, I accept that, it makes perfect sense, thanks for explaining it to us,” and that’ll be the end of it. On the other hand, of you sit the same two people down and say “The Nuclear Reactor *CAN’T* fail because of this that and the other,” the Brit will *still* accept what you say on face value, while the American will immediately be anticipating another Three Mile Island, soon. Possibly before he can get out of the room.
This is a frequently unsung aspect of American Exceptionality (As opposed to French Exceptionality, or Serbo-Croatian Exceptionality or whatever.. I’m not trying to leave anyone out here, just point out that each of us have different eccentricities) that often tends to get overlook, or lumped incorrectly in with “Brashness” and “Bravery” and “Braggadocio” and other Alpha-Male qualities that also start with a “B.” It’s also frequently mistaken for our refusal to believe anything is impossible. I think we’re perfectly willing to accept that some things are forever beyond our ken - immortality, for instance, leading an utterly sinless life, teaching pigs to talk, those are all things that people openly admit are beyond our grasp as a speices, but beside those, simple things like Space Flight are a cinch. No, It’s just some weird obstinate character in our social makeup that - at worst - makes “Can’t” sound like a rule you’ve got a moral obligation to break, and - at best - sounds like a dare. (“You can’t eat a pound of LSD and live!” “Just watch me!”)
At our best this irritating quality causes us to trouble the deep waters and dare mighty thing like putting people on the moon. At it’s worst, it’s the kind of thing that causes us to sacrifice our families and fortunes on the notion that the mall needs a boutique that specializes in just scotch tape because we damn well refuse to listen to reason. So it can go either way, obviously.
It’s this “Can’t sounds like a dare” aspect that has always appealed to me about fanfilms, the flagrantly illegal misappropriation of others’ intellectual property for one’s own selfish uses. I’ve been a fan of fan films before I even knew what they were. I remember kids in high school filming their own horrible, horrible, embarrassing Star Trek episodes and showing them in debate class (Presumably because they figured the Debate Team would be more likely to already have their own Star Trek uniforms. Ha! Wrong! Lots of Dr. Who costumes, but no Trek ones! So take that, baseless generalizations of my socially accepted peers!) Sure, they were terrible, but in the back of my mind I thought, “Gee, you know, if someone with a brain were to try a slightly more ambitious version of this, it might not suck.” Though I was never connected with any fan films, I did help shoot a couple below-grade-Z SF flicks for our local Public Access channel, and while Republibot 1.0 and I were running our own respective shows, I was always toying with the idea of slapping together a project of my own. R2 and I have had talks about why there aren’t any B5 fan films, which invariably deteriorate in to “I wanna’