Fan Film, Fan Films

Max Payne Fan Film Shot Down By Fox

movie posterThese days, it almost feels like fan films are legal. Almost.

Lucasfilm encourages them, and DC Comics said here on FCT that it’s fine with fan productions, but for every major company that understands the benefits of fans using its entertainment properties, there’s plenty of corporations that just don’t get it.

Hasbro has forced a number of G.I. Joe fan flicks to close up shop in recent years; a massive amateur flick based on the Warhammer 40000 science fiction game was shuttered by corporations last fall; and now a UK fan film, Max Payne: Payne & Redemption, has been shot down by Fox Studios.

In production for more than two years, the film is based on the popular video game series, and has even gotten the support of Max Payne’s creator, Sam Lake, who told the fans/producers, “Payne & Redemption seems very ambitious and impressive. Good luck with your project! Looking forward to seeing it.”

The project was nearly done: The filmmakers only needed to shoot one last scene and a few “pick-ups” (misc. shots to aid in the continuity and flow of scenes) in order to complete production. Celebrating that fact—and killing time until the shots could be done in June due to scheduling issues—the team posted a few online trailers…which soon caught the eye of Fox. The studio has its own Max Payne feature film underway, and apparently didn’t like the competition; as a result, mere days later after the fans’ trailers hit the net, the fledgling filmmakers received a cease & desist order from the studio’s legal department stating in part:

Your activities and materials, including your film, trailers, and one-sheet posters violate Fox’s rights as well as the rights of Take Two Interactive in the underlying video game. As a result, we must demand that you immediately cease all further development and/or distribution of your film and accompanying materials and remove the film and materials, including any clips, trailers, one-sheet posters and other materials bearing the MAX PAYNE mark or elements of the MAX PAYNE property from this website and anywhere else you have posted them on the web.

Subsequent negotiations with Fox resulted in the studio “allowing” the fans to complete the project and have a single private screening of the film. They can not screen it for anyone ever again, distribute it or anything else—a move that has understandably thrown the future of the project in doubt. Writer/director Fergie Gibson commented on the film’s production blog:

I can’t help but feel all this work has been done in vain… Three years of sleepless nights, tens of thousands of pounds spent from my own pocket, promises made to cast & crew, and hope given to a loyal fan-base now kicked in the nuts and just told to “deal with it”… It’s not right, is it?

It’s always sad when this sort of move happens to a fan film, although one wonders if, had the flick appeared after Fox’s feature hits theaters, it wouldn’t have had a better chance of being released to fans unscathed. Many media companies still view fan productions as a threat, despite the fact that a modestly budgeted fan short rarely can compete with a multi-million-dollar feature film.

Moreover—why must they be seen as competing? A fan production is free advertising for a franchise, and when it’s done well, it can serve as a taste of things to come from the “real” movie. An easy compromise for both parties could’ve been a scroll across the bottom of the fan film saying something like “If you like this, wait ’til you see what Fox has in store with its ‘real’ Max Payne movie, in theaters XX/XX/XX.” At least fans would get to see the movie and Fox would get some benefit from it.

Are there other ways that they could’ve negotiated for the film to see the light of day? Is co-opting a fan film like suggested above a potential positive or negative for the fan film community? Throw in your two cents in the comments section.

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No Responses to “Max Payne Fan Film Shot Down By Fox”

  1. Christopher Moshier

    My opinion is pretty standard and not unexpected. This is horse crap. Instead of FOX embracing people’s creative passion for a character made for no profit by the creator they shoot their deep fan base in the foot. MARVEL is also guilty of this same stupidity. Fan Films aren’t going away. As the technology becomes more accessible this genre of filmmaking is going to grow. AND why the hell would any studio deny free publicity for their concepts. Debate with me all day long, but I will always think it asinine.

    To play Monday morning quarterback to filmmakers who are thinking about putting a spin of their own on a licensed character is to keep a very low profile. Get the film made and get it out there on the internet. Once it’s finished then make a major push to publicize it. When the assholes at “said” studio come along to order it down it will be too late. The film would have already been downloaded and distributed to the point of not being able to be stopped thanks to the fans.

  2. I agree that they should’ve played it cool and not drawn attention to themselves. That’s how Marc Kimball’s Superman movie got a C&D back in 2000—he made a trailer and then three months later released his movie. They were probably ready and waiting, as he got hit in less than 4 days! Luckily, DC has a different attitude—as to a lot of companies—so it’s fair that perhaps they didn’t realize that they were playing with fire. Also, they had the blessing of the game’s creator, which must have felt like a bit of protection (and why not?). I suspect it will slip out sooner or later–and the studio might well be OK with that, judging from some punctuation used on the movie’s blog…just a thought.

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