Chick 1 says:
I have a confession to make. I’ve hidden this secret from most of my friends for several years now. I hope you’ll still respect me once you know.
I read fan fiction.
If you don’t know what fan fiction is you’re probably not an ubergeek. Fan fiction is (duh) fiction written by fans. It is usually written within a certain entertainment universe; Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Heros, even Gossip Girl or the Brady Bunch. Writers put a disclaimer at the beginning that they don’t own the characters and that they are not making money. For the most part, this satisfies copyright law and franchise owners have mostly been content to let the fans enjoy themselves. Quality and styles have a wide range even within a single universe. From the extremely common obviously-written-by-a-13-year-old-girl to some extremely disturbing and slimey, from people who have no business writing whatsoever to people who can actually capture the tone and language of the original writer. There are even fan fiction terms to let you know what you’re getting. Canon – no events in the story conflict with what’s in the original material. Alternate universe – something is very different (Frodo doesn’t leave with the elves). Crossover – two universes meet (Gandalf vs Dumbledore – duel to the death).
I’ve only read Lord of the Rings fan fiction and have discovered a handful of writers who really mimic Tolkien and understand the characters and world he created. But an event happened this week that will test the legal bounds of fan fiction everywhere.
A group of filmmakers has produced what they are calling “an unofficial not for profit short film”. The Hunt for Gollum was filmed in North Wales in 2007 by a team of volunteers. As with other fan fiction, no one was paid for their time, including post production and animators.
The movie is very clearly modeled after Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy right down to the font used for the titles. That font, like almost everything else in the New Line franchise was created solely for that production. The film follows several characters with whom we are very familiar. It appears to be “canon”, expounding on a period mentioned briefly by Tolkien when Legolas’ father was charged with keeping Gollum prisoner so that he could not reveal the location of the ring. Gollum escaped and Aragorn and Gandalf were charged with finding him. They failed.
This is certainly not the first time fans have made a movie based on copyrighted material. YouTube is filled with such ventures. And the Michel Gondry movie, Be Kind Rewind, starring Mos Def and Jack Black, started a whole new genre of “sweded” versions of movies. (I highly recommend Be Kind Rewind, btw, very sweet.) But all of these videos were clearly fans playing dress up, not professionals producing a very professional looking film. We’ll see where this winds up legally.
In the meantime, you can see the trailers and the movie at the link below. It is very impressive looking but obviously not of the quality (or budget) of the original films. I also found all the trailers a bit slow moving. I haven’t had a chance to see the movie itself but I hope to check it out this weekend. You can too at www.thehuntforgollum.com.