M.V.D. (Personal Interview, 1990) distinguishes between convention videos, which need to be broadly drawn to
allow immediate recognition from a wide range of fans, and "living-room videos," made for a more select and analytical
audience familiar with the community's interpetive conventions:
They can't take the complex ones in a large group. They get hyper. They aren't concentrating that deeply. They
want to all laugh together or they want to share their feelings. So it's got to be obvious enough that the people around them will share those emotions ...
The living room video is designed to be so complicated that you'd better know everything about the show or it isn't going to make much sense. These videos are for a very
small in-group that already understands what you are trying to say. It's like fan writing. You don't have to build up this entire
world. You can rely on certain information.
M.V.D. stands at the back of the room as her videos are shown at conventions, taking detailed notes on fan response.
She restructures her programs to the particular interests attracted to a given gathering. She also custom packages her
"living room videos" to the tastes of specific fans, avoiding sons that feature slash elements if they are apt to offend,
focusing on favored fandoms and featuring videos most apt to reap rewards under closer examination.
THE POETICS OF POACHING
What M.V.D. describes as her "living room videos" constitute some of the most sophisticated work within this still
emergent art, and as such, they usefully illustrate the aesthetic criteria by which the community evaluates the form.
First, fan artists seek a level of technical perfection difficult to achieve on home video equipment. Beginning videomakers often rely
on a small number of long takes, depending upon "internal edits (i.e., those created by the original filmmaker) for visual
interest. Some of the earliest fan videos consisted of little more than episode sequences attached to song favorites, these
so-called "song tapes" depended heavily upon the chance juxtaposition of words and images rather than bringing their materials
under tighter artistic control.
More experienced video artists, like M.V.D., create montage sequences depending upon many rapid cuts and a tighter link
between words and images. These effects are particularly difficult to achieve on home machines which often roll-back several seconds
when placed on pause and will remain on pause for only a few minutes before switching off. Such machines give the artists little
time to cue and copy clips and increase the likelihood of "rainbow lines" between edits. Many fan artists employ the most sophisticated
equipment they can find to allow them maximum control over the video image and some, like M.V.D. increasingly rely upon laserdiscs
for their masters to allow more flexibility and sharper images.
Some fan videos draw their images from a small number of episodes or in some cases, from only a single episode. M.V.D.'s
"living room" videos use a much broader range of program materials. "I Needed You," a Star Trek video which is 3 1/2
minutes in length, employs 55 shots (of which less than half are linked by internal edits); the images are selected from many series
episodes and four of the feature films. Cuts are timed so that the shots change with each line and at several places, she makes multiple
shot changes within a single line.
M.V.D. often chooses an image that evokes the lyric's meaning even when removed from context (e.g., "I cried a tear" shows Spock
crying or "You held my hand" shows Kirk and Spock holding hands). Yet most of the word-image connections depend upon the viewer's familiarity
with the particulars of the series narrative. The lines, "I sold my soul/ You brought it bacdk for me," for example, shows
images from "The Menagerie," an episode in which Spock risked his career to help his previous Captain, Christopher Pike, only to be
successfully defended by Kirk at his court-martial trial. "I can't believe it's you/I can't believe it's true" parallels
Spock's smiling response to the reappearance of Kirk at the end of "Amok Time" after he has been convinced that he killed the captain
under the influence of the Vulcan mating urge. While such images may not be immediately recognizable to an uninitiated viewer,
these sequences hold particular significance for Trek fans, marking major turning points in the relationshp between Kirk and
Spock. THis is particularly true of later linkages in the video, such as the line, "When I was lost/You took me home" which
centers on Spock's death and resurrection within the Star Trek films or "YOu even called me friend" which occurs when a
resurrected Spock first acknowledges his recognition of Kirk.
Besides local connections between words and images, M.V.D. develops larger narrational and narrative structures. This particular video
traces the history of the "great friendship" between Kirk and Spock, a theme of central concern to the program fans and extensively elaborated
within fan fiction and fan fiction. The images follow more or less in sequence with the early verses centering on moments from the television episodes and later
verses on the feature films. A pivotal moment occurs on the lines, "I'll never leave/Why should I leave?/I'd be a fool," which span the
gap between the two, cutting from a sequence of Kirk and Spock together in "The Empath" to Spock, alone, on Vulcan, trying to achieve
the Vulcan discipline of KIolinahr in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, having "foolishly" abandoned Star Fleet. The next
lines, "I finally found someone who really cares," reinscribe their relationship, briding between Spock on Vulcan and his reappearance on the
Enterprise. Subsequent verses recount the events surrounding Spock's death in Star Trek II, his rescue and
resurrection in Star Trek III, and his decision to return to duty at the beginning of Star Trek IV. The
songs final refrain, which simnply repeats "You needed me," highlights moments from throughout the series when they had been
drawn together from mutual need. The video ends on a scene from "Requiem for Methuselah" when Spock used his mind-meld to ease
his friend's pain.
The video's story, simple in its broad outlines but emcompassing much of Star Trek's trajectory, is told from Spock's point
of view as M.V.D. is careful to establish through the song's first verse. The opening lines involve a series of
alternations between shots of Spock alone ("I was confused") and shots of the two men together ("You cleared my mind") which work
with the song's own first-person narration to confirm the identity of the narrating voice. Each line points toward
Spock'sotherwise unspoken needs and Kirk's compassionate responses. Subsequently, the song can move fom images of Kirk helping
Spock o images of Spock elping Kirk, establishingthe mutual needs cetral both to the song's lyrics and the fan's conception
of the relationship. M.V.D.'s carful introduction of Spock's perspective allows spectators a consistent way of
orienting themselves to the rapid flow of scens.
Its structure, then, is deceptively simple, a tribute to the artist's accomplishment in pulling together so many borrowed images into a coherent form that achieves the dense
"layers of meaning" M.V.D. sees as desirable. The story is told in such a straightforward fashion that it is readily
understandable to even a casual viewer, whowill recognize the relationship between these two characters, if only in its broadest outlines.
Indeed, M.V.D.'s video could introduce a neofan to the particular themes and interests of the fan community: "The music videos
give you just enough of the touches of the world, just enough information about th episodes those scenes come from to attract your interest in
watching more of the series" (M.V.D., Personal Interview, 1990). For the more committed viewer, the video
does much more, evoking many key moments and analyzing particular aspects of the protagonists' complicated relationship. Such a video will
reward repeated viewings, repay close analysis, and trigger fan discussions.
M.V.D. estimates that such a video may take six to eight hours to create, thogh this estimate assumes that the artist has already mastered
the images available within the series product and knows where to look for the scenes she needs. Given the time commitment required to make
a music video, some fans are astoundingly productive; M.V.D., for example, has created more than 14 hours of music videos which range
from Star Trek, Blake's 7, The Professionals, and Starsky and Hutch (where she began working with the form) to a number
of more marginal fan interests. Few artists can match her prolificness...