Fan Film, Fan Films

Fan Film Pioneer Forrest Ackerman Passes

Forrest J. Ackerman (from AP)

Forrest J. Ackerman (from AP)

Forrest J. Ackerman, one of Sci-Fi’s premiere fans a few days ago at the age of 92. Friend and inspiration to thousands of fans throughout the decades, Ackerman was best known as the founder and editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, a “must” mag for Monster Kids in the 1950s and ’60s.

His well-chronicled career has been covered elsewhere in the media, but since FCT‘s focus is fan productions, here’s an excerpt from Homemade Hollywood, my book on fan films, that provides some context as to why Ackerman was so important to the development of fan flicks—and fandom in general:

Ackerman had made his mark in fandom early on, writing his first published letter to a science fiction magazine in 1929 at age 14, going on to become a prolific correspondent to the pulp mags in the years to come. His encyclopedic knowledge of science fiction and horror movies was well-known enough that in 1957, he was hired to write a one-shot magazine special about movie monsters; the resulting issue of Famous Monsters did so well that it became an on-going publication that “Uncle Forry” wrote from “the Ackermansion” in Hollywood for nearly 200 issues.

While it could be argued that Ackerman’s greatest contribution to sci-fi was that he actually coined the term “sci-fi,” his efforts to educate the periodical’s young audience were equally impressive. At the time, most movie magazines focused solely on the stars, with gossip, fashion and the like. Here, however, was a publication that marched defiantly to its own drummer, interviewing special effects artists, make-up and wardrobe technicians, screenwriters, directors and more. The magazine also sponsored amateur film contests from time to time, which seems appropriate, given that Ackerman appeared in one of the first fan-produced films, The Genie, with fellow mega-fans Bjo Trimble and Fritz Leiber, in the 1950s.

For readers who wanted to make their own flicks, Famous Monsters featured plenty of “how-to” articles that explained the ways stop-motion animation and other effects were created—information that kids couldn’t find anywhere else, as it simply wasn’t available in books or taught in film schools at the time. As a result, many filmmakers today, including Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong), John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London), Joe Dante (Gremlins, Matinee), Dennis Murren (special effects for everything from Star Wars to Jurassic Park) and plenty of others, all credit the magazine with igniting their passion for the movies and filmmaking.

Ackerman’s educational efforts in Famous Monsters paved the way for thousands of fan films during the magazine’s heyday, including the work of Don Glut, the most noted fan filmmaker of the period. For an in-depth—and fascinating—remembrance of Ackerman, try Peter Jackson’s excellent eulogy over at Aint It Cool News.

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No Responses to “Fan Film Pioneer Forrest Ackerman Passes”

  1. Julian Gift

    Forrest J. Ackerman is a man who lived doing what he loved. That is something to be treasured in a world where a person has to sacrifice wants in order to satisfy their needs.

    What I would love to know though is if any of the Forrest J. Ackerman Fan Film Awards ever came off. If so, what were the winning films and if the mantle to continue it can be conitnued by anyone else?

  2. That’s a really good question. As I recall it, he basically lent his name to the folks who did the awards at a convention in New England a few years back. I’ll have to see if anything ever came of it. Thanks for reading the site!

  3. Uncle Forry was also a great pioneer for Esperanto, the global language.

    Dankon al vi pere de

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