Biting the Whole Arm

So now you know why we Geeks spend time and money creating fan films. You know that we love nothing more then to take said fan film and show it to all our friends and family. Now, with most Geeks having access to broadband technology, we love nothing better then to post said fan films onto the internet for all the world to see (and flame). Imagine you are the head of a major media conglomerate. You make your money by getting people to fall in love with and obsess over your products. Imagine the joy you must feel when you see hundreds, even thousands of fans using their own money to create free commercials of your product in the form of the fan film. These poor misguided fools aren’t even trying to make any money off the product. They love your product so much that they make movie after movie. They write fiction after fiction. They buy all your licensed merchandise for said movie projects. You’d be ecstatic right? You’d want to support these fans all you could. They’re doing your PR job after all. Well, you’d be wrong. In fact, you would use all of your legal power to sue and shut down these people. That’s right friends. All (with a few exceptions) do their best to shut down these fan sites and movies. They take the people to court, they put pressure on ISP’s to shut down web sites. Does that make any sense to you? Me either…


Geeks know they can’t make any money off fan films. To my knowledge, only the “original” fan film Hardware Wars, made any money. However, since studios never imagined fans to go to such lengths to make parodies they didn’t know what to do. And, Lucas found the movie funny and non-threatening and so left it alone. (And yes, there was a time when Lucas wasn’t a CGI obsessed money-grubbing tool). With the advent of digital technology though fans began making movies with greater speed and quality. Even then studios didn’t really care. Then local television stations would get wind of fans making these films and do small pieces on them. Suddenly these fan filmmakers were getting local media attention. Some (on very rare occasions) getting regional and even national attention. This made the studios nervous. They began taking these fans to court. Most would simply bully the fans (and their families) with letters of intent and calls from lawyers stating they would sue for millions if the fans didn’t stop. (This did indeed happen to a 12 year old boy who made a Simpsons comic for his club back in 1996). The studios claimed that the fan film was taking away from the rights of the artist and were going to cost jobs in Hollywood. That’s right friends, the movie and television industry were using the same tired argument that the record industry uses. Imagine it, a multi-billion dollar industry claimed that a small group of kids in Susanville, CA in brown bath robes, toy lightsabers, and a Sony Handi-Cam were a threat! Thankfully the 1st Amendment (such as it is now) allowed the fan films to exist so long as no money was made from then. The fan film fell under parody and satire and were thus protected under free speech. The studios would never dare admit that real reason they went after the fans…

The fan films were getting better then the movies and shows they were based on. Granted this didn’t happen too often, but when it did the news spread like wildfire. The best ones were getting played on mainstream web sites and local news programs. Public access television was getting weekly broadcasts of the fan films. Some fans were taking original footage and re-editing it for fun. Ask Lucas how it made him feel when he read a review of the Phantom Re-Edit in the San Francisco Chronicle that stated the fan’s work was multiple times better then his original movie. Lucas’ crack down was hard and heavy. Lucasfilm threatened to not only sue the creator, but any site or person who made the movie available to anyone. He then turned his attention to all fan films. Thankfully Lucas had a moment of clarity and began to support fan films that went through him. He even went so far as to sponsor a film festival. Sure, it made Geeks yet another cog in the Star Wars money making machine, but it kept us out of court. Geeks, needing some money to continue making fan films began using online pay services to collects “donations” towards their cause. Do date, studios haven’t been able to crack down on that service, although I’m sure time is short.

The fan film isn’t going anywhere. Studios that are smart will embrace this trend. Some do realize that these are (at their basest level) free commercials for their product. Those that don’t, well…they just end up looking like jag-offs.

On a side not, this Geek want’s to extend his sympathies to James Doohan and his family as he battles Alzheimer’s disease. Join me next Friday when Scotty earns his rightful Star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. I plan on drinking something that is…that is…that is green in his honor…