Fan Filmmakers: Making The Leap

When the trailer for our brand new, original, feature film titled “The Long, Slow Death of a Twenty-Something” hit 1,500 hits after a few days online, the guys were thrilled.

Rewind a few years. Our crudely animated fan film “Nintendo: Oldschool Revolution” was getting 6,000 hits an hour. This went through my head as I stared our newest, and vastly superior film. I remembered how much attention I used to get with my fan films…but I didn’t miss it or regret my decision to step away.

This is my last article for Fan Film Follies.com. I’m just too busy. My back hurts and my head is spinning. We’re submitting our feature film to Sundance and then focusing our attentions to our animated TV pilot. There’s a lot going on. Not tooting my own horn, and not really complaining either. I love and hate it. I asked for it, though…and I got it.

A couple of years ago, I had decided that “The Greatest Fan Film of All Time” would be our last fan film. Fan Films are easy. Even the worst get attention just because they feature previously established characters that people will watch no matter what. Walking away from that spotlight was hard, but it was necessary in order to grow. It never really felt right before that. It never felt like we’d earned the attention. Hell, even “Greatest Fan Film” was an attempt to ignore the easy publicity. I made it 45 minutes long. Too long for a quick, in-the-office viral video. I didn’t care. I wanted an epic so I made one. Now, two years later, I shudder as I watch it. Crappy, rushed editing. Terrible pace. Some great lines, fights, and dialogue. Some of it, not so great. Still, I love it and I appreciate it. It was a step on the ladder. I learned from it and moved on. Some other fan filmmakers are doing the same. Some of them aren’t.

Let’s explore with some familiar names from the world of FAN FILMS.

Christopher Notarile. He’s made some fan films that are pretty popular. Some are pretty solid. Like most fan filmmakers, he’s done his Ledger’s Joker impression and put it online for the world to see. He’s got some skills. He’s got a style and a vibe to his films that, like it or hate it, is distinguishable. Right before I started this, I visited his Facebook page. It says “Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret”. I wonder how long that’s been there. Hollywood’s not a town known for keeping it’s secrets very well. Chris (like me), is annoyingly cocky sometimes but the truth is that (like me), he’s getting older (tho, we’re clearly not getting OLD). We’re both pushing 30. Time to “make the leap” to serious films. He’s doing it. About damn time. Spandex was fun but what did it ever really get him? Like me, it’s exciting to have internet fanboys worshipping your work, but being taken seriously by the people and producers who matter is a different beast entirely. Best of luck to him. May he make the leap.

Aaron Schoenke. Another solid fan filmmaker. His growth from project to project is undeniable. When all is said and done, he’ll probably have had more influence on the world of fan films than anybody ever has. Only Fiorella and Collora come close, but in my opinion, Schoenke is leaving them in the dust. Anybody can make a trailer exciting. Anybody can make 3 minutes fast paced and gripping. Schoenke is slowly learning to make 35 minutes as compelling as a 2 minute rollercoaster ride. When and if he ever makes the leap to real filmmaking, he’s going to make a mark.

John Fiorella. The guy made Grayson. Compelling, intelligent, and cohesive…even if it was only a trailer. I’ve spoken to him a few times and he’s incredibly nice…but where is he now? What is he doing? Grayson was released SIX YEARS AGO and nothing came after. The team of he and Gabe Sabloff seemed to have so much steam when I first started making films. I worshipped them. Now, it’s like they’ve dropped off the face of the earth. It’s a shame. I hope they make a non-fan film related comeback and show the world what they can do, be it together or individually.

Chris Bouchard. The Hunt For Gollum was pretty cool. I even showed it to one of the Lord of the Rings producers and he dug it. Check out Bouchard’s IMDB page and you’ll see a few other fan films, but nothing of any real worth to a studio and no real proof that he’s worth making an investment in for a real film. That’s not to say I don’t think he could do it. I think he likely could…but could he do it with his own characters and stories? Would you even know who he was if Tolkien hadn’t created Middle Earth all those years ago? Probably not. All that talent and he’s never really shown what he can do with it. I think he will eventually. I think he could do it right now.

Sandy Collora. He never did get that gig directing a big screen Superman or Batman film. His short films (Batman: Dead End and World’s Finest) were an attempt to prove he could handle it. So, WB sees that he made a so-so Superman short. Every director in Hollywood could make a so-so Superman short. Hell, a lot of them could make an AWESOME Superman short. None of them do. Know why? Because it doesn’t do ANYTHING to land you the job. It doesn’t do or mean a damn thing.

Make no mistake, these guys have the tools. Also, I know that I am perfectly able to be placed on that list. God, so many of the guys I listed here (and plenty others too) are incredibly talented individuals. They have such huge fanboy fan bases. So many viral videos. So many hits on Youtube. But in the end, none of it matters. None of it matters because all of their fame and all of their success is based on a huge, blistering short cut. Somebody else’s material. In the end, the fan films they’ve created have zero influence on Hollywood. On the flip side, it may have been fun to watch and it may have been an awesome homage to characters we love. That’s okay. I get that. Fan films can have heart. They can be fun. They can resurrect characters that Hollywood has left to die or raped entirely (Cyclops, anybody?). If only for a fleeting moment, they can make it feel like it’s ALMOST about to finally happen on the big screen. But it’s not. That’s the sad reality of fan films.

The funny thing is, I like fan films. Good ones, anyway. I just care about the guys making them with hopes of making the leap to the big time. If you just wanna make fan films forever, that’s fine too. Have fun. But, if you think it’s gonna score you a three-picture deal on the new Fantastic Four movies, think again. Of course, there are always those wacky, one-in-a-million exceptions to the rules, but that’s why they’re called “exceptions”. Reality isn’t so easy.

For those who are currently “making the leap” and for those who are planning on doing it soon, GOOD LUCK. Say goodbye to your instant viral videos and your loyal fan film fanbase. Learn your craft, pay your dues, and let nothing stop you. Hopefully, we’ll all meet at the top!

Thanks to Chris with Fan Film Follies for letting me write these monthly articles. It was fun and a good form of therapy. I’m still shocked at how successful the Superman article was a few months ago!

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TAKE CARE, ALL!!!!!

Larry Longstreth
4Reelz, LLC
4Reelz.com

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