Fan Film, Fan Films

Analysis: Get A Clue An Idea

MessageBatmanOne aspect of fan films that is continually surprising is how many filmmakers absolutely refuse to take the easy way out—not necessarily in effects or budget, but in the sheer scope of their projects. Sometimes it’s like a kindergartner deciding to paint his own version of the Sistine Chapel using finger paints; you have to give ‘em credit for aiming high (or at least aiming for the ceiling), but it’s hard not to think that perhaps they ought to try working up to it. A kid riding a bike for the first time doesn’t hop on a motorcycle to learn how to balance on two wheels, and it’s the same thing with filmmaking: If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re gonna hit the gas and crash.

All this is not to say that first-time filmmakers shouldn’t think big, or that they can’t accomplish great things. Rather, they’re just making life too hard for themselves. For instance, what movie franchise is, far and away, the most popular to emulate in fan films? Star Wars—and that boggles the mind. Why, for one’s first flick, would someone try to replicate an entire high-tech universe when they don’t even have a handle on the technology they’re using to make a movie? Sure, there’s a certain romance in rising to a challenge, but the potential for a lousy flick—or more likely, one that gets abandoned before it’s done—is much higher.

At the same time, aiming ludicrously high is also the mark of first-time filmmakers who perhaps haven’t done a proper assessment of what it will take to make their flick. Sure, they should assess their abilities, but they might also want to take note of the resources available to them, particularly location. For instance, look at the dozens of Batman fan films that take place in Gotham City, yet are clearly shot inside a suburban house, or have woods in the background of outdoor shots. Neither location lends itself to the urban grittiness associated with the Caped Crusader. And Batmen who are clearly 14 years old? Unless it’s a parody, it’s very hard to take them even slightly seriously (and who takes a parody seriously anyway?).

With all this in mind, if you’re itching to shoot your first fan flick, please: Stop a minute and take stock of what you have and don’t have. No grungy cityscapes where you live, just woods? Make a fan film that can actually use woods (off the top of my head: Grizzly Adams; Stand By Me; Predator; The Ewok Hunter; Highlander; etc.). Got geeky friends who aren’t old enough to vote? Make Revenge of the Nerds: The Early Years. Got a car up on cinder blocks? Make Corvette Summer II. Wait; actually, don’t.

The point is, look at what you have and then get an idea—because the one thing that 90 percent of fan films don’t have is a clear, well thought-out idea. The best part is, ideas are free—I just gave away six of them in the last paragraph alone—and the right idea will match your budget, no matter how small it is. If you need proof, just look at the photo up above, a still from the now-classic . It’s a guy with a mask and a scuba wetsuit, both of which he had lying around the house. The only cost there was the time it took to hook up his smoke machine and download the Akbar font. But he had the right idea to match his budget—and now it’s a viral video blockbuster. So, to paraphrase Field of Dreams, sure, if you film it, they will come…but if you actually have an idea, they might even enjoy it.

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