Fan Film, Fan Films

When Harley Met Pee Wee: A Romantic Fan Film

One of the reasons why fan films are worth examining is because they present an alternate view of mass culture, often trading in stories that would never be created, approved or released by proper copyright holders. As a case in point, consider Harley Quinn’s Big Blind Date—a crossover fan film between minor Batman villain Harley Quinn and 1980s Saturday Morning mainstay Pee Wee Herman.

As the latest release by Influence Films—the third in about nine months—the short stands as the company’s most consistent release yet, despite what might appear on the surface to be a completely bananas idea. [Full disclosure: I'm 'thanked' in the end credits, but had already formed my own opinion by the time I noticed that kind gesture]. What do you think? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

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Twin Twin Peaks—A David Lynch Fan Film!

twin twin peaks fan film

More than 18 years after David Lynch’s cult TV series, Twin Peaks, limped off the air, fans are finally going to get a second cup of damn good coffee with Twin Twin Peaks, a fan film shot on the show’s original locations in Washington state. Picking up where the series left off (Agent Cooper possessed by Bob, etc.), the episode is based on a 40-page, fan screenplay that made the rounds through fandom a few years ago.

Twin Twin Peaks might provide loyal followers with some answers and a proper sense of closure (something Lynch and co-writer Mark Frost never deigned to provide), but if it follows series tradition, it’ll just toss out more perplexing, unanswered questions instead. On the other hand, a Twin Peaks fan film really can’t suck—considering the series’ stilted style and how God awful the plot was by the end, amateur acting and writing will still be a marked improvement (and I say that as someone who doggedly sat through every first-run episode to the miserable end). The filmmakers hope to debut the flick at this year’s Twin Peaks Festival (July 24-26, 2009), but here’s the trailer in the meantime. I wish ‘em the best of luck, but in the meantime, now I’m hungry for pie.

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Superman Fan Film Wins Award and $300

The annual Superman Celebration took place in Metropolis, IL on June 13-14; for the second year running, a superhero fan film contest was held as part of the festivities. Filmmaker George Doerr nabbed the grand prize this time out, along with a cool $300, for his fan film, Villains Day Off. Between the Tuscon contest mentioned yesterday and this one, looks like fan films are starting to pay off for some folks.

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Michael Bay’s The Dark Knight Fan Film

MovieSpoofWeb fan film nightPhil Lybrand, the guy behind the ever-popular Batman Vs. Superman – A Duel To The Death short sent in cool news: The Art Institute of Tuscon is sponsoring a night of fan films where a few filmmakers are going to go home with cash money in their pockets.

The event is based around Tuscon’s recent edition of the 48-Hour Film Project—the annual, national event where people get a topic on Friday night and have until Sunday night to write, shoot, edit and screen a 4-7 minute masterpiece based on it.

This year, the topic was movie spoofs, and wouldn’t you know it? Lybrand, who’s made no less than three Batman fan films in the last year drew the Dark Knight out of a hat.

Even so, it was still a challenge: “This one had to be huge, so I referred to the master of huge—Michael Bay—and knocked this bad boy out: Michael Bay’s ‘The Dark Knight’, AKA 95 Pages of Brilliance. It’s based on the fake script that’s been circulating online that ‘Michael Bay’ wrote, unsolicited, only to be rejected by WB.”

Now you can see it and a plethora of other fan films in a three-hour orgy of movie spoofs:

The Loft Cinema
Tuesday, June 30th at 7:00 p.m.
Admission: $5.00
The adventure began on Friday, June 12th at 6:00 p.m., as 20 filmmaking teams gathered at The Loft Cinema to randomly select the classic movie title they would be spoofing. Was it JAWS? How about STAR WARS? Don’t forget SCARFACE, PULP FICTION, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE WIZARD OF OZ, FRIDAY THE 13TH, HARRY POTTER and THE GODFATHER! Or maybe a tasty helping of FORREST GUMP was on the menu …? What are the titles we threw into the ring? You’ll just need to show up to find out!
Our hard-working, fun-loving, sleep-deprived contestants had a mere 48 hours to complete their 4-6 minute long films and return them to The Loft by Sunday, June 14th at 6:00 p.m., or else they were forced to face a slow and painful death (actually, those who missed the deadline were just disqualified, but we’re trying to be dramatic here). Writing! Shooting! Editing! Costuming! It’s a lot to cram in to 48 hours … who survived, and what sorts of cinematic sorcery were they able to perform on their MOVIE SPOOFS? You know what you’ve got to do – come see the Spoofs!
A panel of movie-lovin’ celebrity judges selected their favorite spoofs from all the entries, giving the “thumbs up” to the best in writing, editing, cinematography and acting categories, as well as the much-coveted BEST OVERALL FILM SPOOF. At the public screening/awards extravaganza, we’ll screen all the movies, and the winning teams will will walk off with “Spoofie Awards.” But that’s not all! One lucky team will bank a cool $500 Cash Prize for creating the BEST OVERALL FILM SPOOF, and you, the audience, will decide who takes home the $250 Cash Prize for AUDIENCE FAVORITE, so watch the films carefully and use your powers wisely …
Don’t miss out on THE MOVIE SPOOF SPECTACULAR! … because this time, it’s personal.

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G.I. Joe Fan Film to Appear in DVD Box Set!


Hasbro, the famed toy company, has a mixed history with fan films—on one hand, it produces Star Wars toys, and plenty of those have been used in stop-motion animated fan productions over the years, including efforts that wound up in the annual Lucasfilm/Atomfilms Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge.

On the other hand, Hasbro also makes G.I. Joe dolls, and has frowned upon fan films based on that toy line; as I mentioned in my book, Homemade Hollywood, the company has gone as far as to send strongly worded cease and desist letters to fan filmmakers who used the characters.

That attitude appears to be changing however, as the popular fan film G.I. Joe and the Battle for the Serpent Stone will appear as an “extra” in the forthcoming cartoon series DVD box set, , due out July 21 from Shout Factory.

There’s currently no mention of the fan film on the Shout Factory website, but we heard from a well-placed source that Hasbro screened a number of fan films for possible inclusion in the set, and the only one to make the cut was Serpent Stone. Backing that up, today, says it is going to be on the set, too. For those who can’t wait, here’s the flick below, but now we can look forward to seeing it in crystal-clear DVD quality in just over a month!

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Star Trek Fan Film Feels The Pinch

pinch star trek fan filmWay back in the 1970s when I was in Second Grade, I had a Star Trek uniform shirt—an orangy tan number like Captain Kirk. I probably ruined it within days, because I barely remember it and there aren’t any photos of me in it (both a blessing and a curse). One of my classmates had a blue one like Spock, so we made a plan to wear our shirts to school the same day so we could play Trek at recess—a game that consisted mostly of me pointing at “aliens” (kids playing) and my pal giving ‘em the Vulcan Nerve Pinch.™ After our third or fourth alien, we got in trouble and had to sit out the rest of recess—because our aliens didn’t pass out; they ran to the teacher instead. Jerks.

But what if the Vulcan Nerve Pinch™ really worked? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Let’s find out, courtesy of Pinch, a fan film made a few years back by Buffalo, NY-based filmmaker Jerry MacKay of Littleflick Pictures. Good stuff, but I have to admit, the music at the end is my favorite part; people who love reality TV, however, will love the fact that Tony Bellissimo, one of the finalists from So You Think You Can Dance on FOX, appears in the record store scene. Thanks to Bryan Patrick Stoyle for the heads up!

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Aliens Epilogue UK Fan Film Underway

aliens epilogue fan film
The Alien franchise is beloved by many a Sci-Fi fan, but there aren’t that many related fan films out there. There’s Sandy Collora’s well-known , and Alex Popov’s CGI fest, Aliens Vs. Predator: Redemption, which is still under construction. Now you can add Darren Kemp’s Aliens Epilogue to the list.

In production since 2007, Kemp’s flick is reportedly 70 percent done now, and the team behind it hopes to finish shooting by the end of 2009.

aliens epilogue fan film 2

Basically it’s a fan film intended as an homage to the master piece that James Cameron brought to us back in 1986 that was Aliens. Aliens Epilogue picks up where Aliens finished and will see the United Kingdom Colonial Marines pitted against the Aliens. The film is entirely financed by whatever the Director happens to have in his wallet at the time which sometimes makes things difficult but we’re getting there.

So far, there’s no video available, but the website is chockablock full of photos, so take a look.

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Dr. Who Puppet Fan Film: The Doctor’s Destiny

doctor who puppet fan filmThere’s a lot of Doctor Who fan films out there, but this is the first one I know of that stars puppets. Not only that, but it’s an excellent mood piece, with great production values and voice work.

Produced by the 99 Acre Woods Podcast, the flick is short but looks like a pro production, with clean effects, tight editing and a Doctor that resembles an older, wiser Guy Smiley.

In the flick, a future Doctor comes to the rescue of a young refugee on a distant world (not River Song, but inspired by her). The fan film was made by Doctor Puppet films with narration by DB cooper and music by Tony Diana.

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Star Trek: Phase II‘s Cawley in J.J. Abrams’ Trek Reboot

STNV Star Trek New VoyagesIt’s been no secret that J.J. Abrams’ recent reboot of Star Trek has lots of in-jokes and asides for hardcore fans. For instance, numerous Trek fandom notables were recruited as extras, like MIT professor Henry Jenkins (whose scene was cut), and leader/”Captain Kirk” of the popular  Star Trek: Phase II fan film series, James Cawley.

That Cawley was hidden away in the feature film wasn’t a surprise to fans; he mentioned it on his site and it came up numerous times when I interviewed him for my fan film book, Homemade Hollywood. Rather, the question was where he was hiding out. Much as Star Wars aficionados have been searching the film for a glimpse of an R2D2 reportedly hidden in the background somewhere, fan film fans have been trying to spot Cawley.

Of course, it helped that one of Cawley‘s fans, SpiderMike, claimed on the ST:P2 forums that he’d spotted the fan filmer twice. In the interest of helping y’all find Cawley, we dug up some stills from the film and added them to the comment below (didn’t even know we had pics until we stumbled across them, covered in dust under the couch, while looking for an errant sippy-cup. Absolutely no idea how they got there).

So, the comment from the ST:P2 forum:

Both shots of him occur after Spock steps down as captain. Spock leaves the bridge and after a short scene we return to the bridge where Checkov has an idea. He gets up and a fellow officer in gold brushes by him – THAT’S JAMES!!

star trek phase ii james cawley cameo 1

A few mins after Spock emerges from a turbo lift. To his right (our left as we’re looking at the screen) is none other than James AGAIN.

star trek phase ii james cawley cameo 2

Kudos James. It was wicked seeing you on the big screen and I screamed like a girl when I saw u the first time and even better when u grabbed more screen time.

star trek james cawley cameo 3

Does that really look like him? Hard to tell, and Cawley hasn’t given a yea or nay on it. Here’s that last shot and a publicity still of ST:P2, side by side. Wow, I think it could go either way—I’m 50/50 on this one. What do YOU think? Give your thoughts below in the comments!

PS—It should be pointed out that even if it’s not James and he somehow wound up on the cutting room floor, dude, he was there, making him infinitely cooler than you or I shall likely ever be. Nothing but good vibes for the guy coming from this blog.

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SOFTWARE REVIEW: Toast 10 Titanium

toast_10_titanium_300dpi_rToast started out over 10 years ago as simple Apple Macintosh software for burning copies of CDs, and later, DVDs. Since then, users’ needs have changed: Folks want to transfer their music and movies to iPods, laptops, Tivos and other devices; CDs—and increasingly DVDs—no longer offer enough space; and the cost of data storage has gotten cheap enough that you can buy an external 1TB hard drive for as little as $80.

With all those changes, is there still a need for Toast? The answer is yes.

Toast has evolved with the times to become far more than just burning software; these days, it’s a suite of integrated media programs devoted to different forms of archiving. Roxio Toast 10 Titanium comes in two flavors: regular (in the red box, $99 list, $78 on Amazon) and “Pro” (in the blue box, $149 list, ). Both editions offer features that are useful for fan filmmakers, but as might be expected, the Pro version offers more tools. That said, I’m reviewing the regular version, so I can’t offer insight into the extra items in the Pro edition (they sound pretty cool though).

The frugal will point out that many of these features can be accomplished by using combinations of multiple freeware or shareware programs, and that’s true; however, while working with Toast, I discovered that what you’re paying for is speed, quality and convenience. Toast wraps up all the steps that you’d have to go through using a batch of individual programs, and usually condenses them into one or two steps; in testing, I often found the end results were also of noticeably higher quality, particularly when converting video from one medium or format to another.

Disc burning is still Toast’s forte, and it does it well. If you need to backup your old DVD masters of fan films or home movies, there’s no quicker way to do it on the Mac. Sure, you can make copies using Apple’s free Disk Utility, but that takes step after step after step; with Toast, it’s one button and one disc swap–done. Also, it’s reportedly the only software around right now that allows you to burn Blu-ray discs; I didn’t have a BD burner available to test that feature, but apparently it’s set up to run just like the DVD burning menu.

toast web-video-capture-newArchiving is the big emphasis for Toast, and it has become a Rosetta Stone of sorts, allowing users to move content from one format to another. Fan film fans who want to watch, say, Batman: Dead End, without being stuck at their computers can use Web Video To Go, a feature (shown at left) that saves Flash-based web video from sites like YouTube to view offline, burn to DVD or convert for viewing on portable players such as an iPod, PSP or iPhone. In testing, I found this feature relatively straight forward, and once I burned some YouTube videos to DVD, the encoding results were better than what I could achieve with iSquint (once-excellent freeware that has since been abandoned by its author). Again, there were far fewer steps involved when I used the Toast 10 software. Besides hardware-specific settings, Toast allows you to convert video between a wide variety of formats, including DV, DV 16:9, HDV 720p, HDV 1080i, QuickTime, AVCHD, MPEG4, H.264 and 3G.

toast menuToast lets you take various videos, whether your home movies, downloads or whathaveyou, and compile DVDs from them, complete with menus. Yes, you can do this with iMovie and iDVD, which come standard on any Mac. Again, those programs require more steps, but in this case, they’re worth it. While Toast sports 20 new DVD and Blu-ray Disc menu styles, iDVD’s menus generally look better and more professional. Want to keep your home video footage or fan film on your Tivo? You can do that too, using the new Mac2Tivo program that’s bundled with Toast; alternately, you can take TV shows stored on your Tivo and convert them for use on your Mac, iPod, etc. That’s a feature that’ll come in handy when you need to grab footage to make that fan edit of “Darth Vader meets Fat Albert.”

Of course, these days, DVDs are almost passé, and they’re certainly not instantaneous enough for the modern “I want it now” consumer. Let’s say you run into run into Angelina Jolie and want to show her that great fan film, Tomb Raider: Ascension, so she can see how the Lara Croft movies shoulda been done. You have your iPhone with you, but dang, turns out you don’t have the movie loaded on there; you can use Toast’s iPhone app, Streamer, to watch it via WiFi, direct from your home computer.

For fan filmers who shoot copious amounts of footage, transfer it to their computers, back it up on disc and then can’t keep track of their discs (that’s pretty much all of us), the predictably named DiscCatalogMaker RE keeps track of what’s where. Additional programs bundled in include Disc Cover 2 RE, which makes both covers and labels based on various generic designs, and Get Backup 2 RE, which helps backup material. toast smart-folder-sync-new

Many complex fan films are built by teams spread out across the internet; just look at the hordes of visual effects pros who contributed to the recent viral video smash, The Hunt For Gollum—they were spread out around the world. Coordinating who has what footage, what effects have been done and whether everyone’s working with the most up-to-date edit of the movie can be a nightmare. In a case like that, Toast’s new Folder Sync (shown at left) would come in handy—it synchronizes folders bi-directionally between multiple computers, network volumes or external hard disks.

In all, I found Toast to be as strong as ever; truthfully, the only weak link was CD Spin Doctor, which remains as buggy as a picnic in the Everglades. Every time I tried using the program, it wouldn’t save audio files, or it demanded that a file be saved in a different format and then wouldn’t save, or it would attempt to save and then crash. Any resulting files could never be reopened by it or any other program, and the ‘Send to iTunes’ feature crashed CD Spin Doctor as well. Even tried-and-true troubleshooting methods like updating the system, rebooting the computer and so forth didn’t help. Another oddity was that the program would announce it was going to draw a wave form of the audio file…and then would create a flat line. To be fair, the filters that come with CD Spin Doctor are amazing—with just a little fiddling, you can revive the most poorly recorded material—but without the ability to save the results, there’s little point to them.

But that’s only one (admittedly horrendous) aberration; the rest of Toast remains a solid set of sophisticated tools for ensuring that your work can be both seen and saved, no matter what media format you choose.

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