(In the interests of full disclosure, a review copy of the book was provided for this
column. My thanks to Chuck and Continuum Books for their assistance.)
As I've written in this column before, there's a soft spot in my heart for fan films. Done usually on relatively small budgets, with no hope of financial compensation, they're a great way for fans to "play in the sandbox" with their favorite characters. Like comics, fan films have not been taken as seriously in the past, usually seen as a kind of "junk culture" - disposable, irrelevant, and momentary, with no sense of history or perspective.
Thankfully, Clive Young has done enough work to warrant writing a history of fan films entitled Homemade Hollywood, released by Continuum Books (who, in an unrelated note, also put out an excellent series on classic albums ). And it deserves to be read.
As a fan film blogger , Mr. Young knows his stuff, and Homemade Hollywood really appeals not just to the fanboy, but also to those who enjoy good books about film making. Maybe it's an unusual choice for a column about comic-related television and movies...but in a way, it ties in perfectly. Being a relatively serious-minded historical account, Homemade Hollywood provides a really strong background, encompassing almost eighty years of history, a wide range of source material...and some key changes in technology which impact fan material. Granted, it seems like an unusual topic for TV Party to cover...but in short, I think this book helps encompass what the column - and Comic Related - try to do: have some really great conversations about the good stuff that's out there.
It starts with, of all things, the story of possibly the first "fan film" focusing on some rather unusual source material, but it also demonstrates how unique fan-created media can be. In his book, he discusses a couple of Spider-Man- based fan films (including the story of one filmmaker who, dressed as Spider-Man, freely swung from an abandoned building in order to get the shot). Young also focuses on several key "franchises" that are the focus on fan films, including super-heroes, James Bond, and most notably, Star Wars. (There seems to be enough material to warrant a companion book specifically about Star Wars fan films). Many recent fan film makers, including Blinky Productions, Sandy Collora , and James Cawley, are featured...but more importantly are some lesser-known individuals. Take the group of guys who took several years to make a shot-by-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The teenagers that attempted to make their own James Bond film. The real story behind the infamous Hardware Wars spoof. Or even the couple that made a dramatic Star Wars fan film that was later denied a fan film award...because it wasn't a comedy.
(You'll have to read the book, guys. Trust me when I tell you that the above factoid...has a lot of background behind it). Young touches a lot of interesting pop cultural touchstones - the rise and fall of Cinemagic magazine (during a time when movie making equipment was becoming increasingly accessible); how home video and computer technology impacted the making of fan films...but more importantly, how major media (like Lucasfilm with Star Wars or Paramount with Star Trek) supported these fan creators, and in term, helping these franchises maintain a consistent fan base....
...but that's also part of the problem with the book. There is a huge emphasis on the "big two" science-fiction franchises, and not enough on some of the smaller, more independent-minded efforts. (I'm sure that most intrepid readers can think of their own examples). The great thing about Homemade Hollywood is that it straddles the line between being a strictly academic study and a more fannish appreciation of these efforts. But there are some missed opportunities (and perhaps this might make a volume 2) that can demonstrate not just that fan films can be a great way for fans to share their love...but as a stepping-stone into full on immersion.
One such example comes from a popular franchise with the words "Doctor" and "Who" in its title. (Side wager - how much I have written online that doesn't mention Who in some aspects).
Imagine, if you will, a group of Who fans in the Washington DC/Maryland area deciding to do a Doctor Who fan video for a class project. The main writer of the video later becomes not only a well-known Who writer, but also marries a fellow Who fiction writer and moves to Australia. Probably think I'm having you on, right?
Let me introduce you to Time Rift, which is many ways is a great example of fan videos helping keep a franchise "alive".
Made about six years after the cancellation of the original series, Time Rift seems almost like a natural spin-off of the McCoy era. A rift in time threatens to destroy Washington DC, and UNIT finds itself involved. The Doctor is torn - should he save millions of lives, or accomplish his mission for the Time Lords and allow this to happen? Although the script is very well written, the video does show some slight amateurishness....which should be expected in a fan film. But Jonathan Blum - who co-authored the story, and stars as an almost picture-perfect Seventh Doctor - eventually found himself co-writing two Doctor Who novels, one Big Finish audio, and marrying his co-author Kate Orman ....and moving to Australia.
(He also, ironically, co-wrote a Prisoner tie-in novel with Rupert Booth, another fan film Doctor whose web site I can't locate, but is also worth investigating. And yes, I own these tapes. No, I won't duplicate or torrent them - they're worth seeking out on your own).
But that's ultimately what Homemade Hollywood succeeds in doing - promoting the idea that behind this "hidden cinematic subculture" is that people do this for the love of the characters. They do it not for fame, or even for publicity....but because, in the end, it's done because they want to do it.
And right now, I want to watch some Hero Envy ....
But don't just take my word for it - come on down and discuss freely in the TV Party Forums. Or visit my blog for even more commentary, randomness, and even more tomfoolery.
(You know, nobody really uses the word "tomfoolery" anymore, do they?)
Until next time, keep watching!
Read More! For more of Gordon's writings, insights, and
general information, please visit his blog at blogthispal.blogspot.com.
blog comments powered by Disqus