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Good or bad idea to work on fan film projects?


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#1 George Ebersole

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 07:06 PM

I see so many of these things post on YouTube and elsewhere that I'm guessing it's okay, especially if there's a paycheque involved, but it just seems to be tainted with the fact that you're working on a project that doesn't belong to the producers who are paying you.

 

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


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#2 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 20 August 2016 - 12:38 AM

No idea what the actual repercussions, if any, could be. But it strikes me that the negative potential outweighs the positive.

I'd steer well clear of them for safety's sake. (That's assuming you aspire to work at the level of the orginal properties that are being copied).
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#3 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 20 August 2016 - 02:37 AM

I'm no lawyer, but I can tell you that fan films are a subject to approach carefully. In some cases, such as Star Wars, they welcome fan films - and even have contests for them at Lucasfilm. In some cases, even the mere thought of penning a fan film will result in a cease and desist letter. The one universal deal though is this: You cannot charge anything for the film. Nothing. Not a penny. You really should not even accept donations. Any inkling that your profiting from the venture is a no-no in the fan film genre. Wanna put it up on Youtube? Make sure monitiization with ads is off. 

 

As for how its viewed, I'd say it depends. What is your role? If you're the cinematographer, then a good looking reel is a good looking reel, and few should care what the basis for the material was. In reality, it should be the same for most creative positions - directors included. The one area I would think would not look favorably upon it would be as a Producer - though I could be wrong about this.

The reality is, most fan films are crap. Chances are, it will neither hinder not advance your career. On the off chance it's a successful fan film (I don't mean financially, I mean thinking along the lines of Born of Hope, the Lord of the Rings Fan films) then it could potentially even open doors. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 20 August 2016 - 02:38 AM.

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#4 George Ebersole

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Posted 20 August 2016 - 07:46 AM

Yeah, that was kind of my thinking on it.  Fan films are, well, fan films, and they're fan films for a reason.  Iv'e just seen so many uploaded that it makes a guy wonder where they're getting the resources for them.  I truly and honestly don't want to work on any fan projects, but was wondering if it was ... "acceptable", so to speak.  

 

Thanks.  I feel embarrassed for asking the question now.


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#5 JD Hartman

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Posted 20 August 2016 - 08:29 AM

George, what would be your involvement?

Would it be more embarrassing than working on a rap music video?  If it has a budget, wouldn't it be judged by the quality of the resulting work and not the subject matter?


Edited by JD Hartman, 20 August 2016 - 08:38 AM.

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#6 Heikki Repo

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Posted 20 August 2016 - 12:33 PM

I think there will be always people, who think that being involved in a such production somehow takes away credibility. On the other hand, such people might think the same of being involved in any low budget scifi/fantasy production...

 

I say let the quality decide. A while ago I stumbled upon this fan production "Darth Maul: Apprentice". I find it difficult to believe that it could be a hinderance to anyone's career:

 


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#7 George Ebersole

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 01:09 AM

It seems like there's an awful lot of these things uploaded to YT and a few other online venues.  My gut reaction is to say "no", and move on.  I mean, you're taking somebody else's work and creating something from that using their characters and setting.  I just have a hard time coming to terms with that.


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#8 Heikki Repo

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 01:46 AM

In the end, is there so much difference between that and adapting a book or making a remake of an older film? I do understand the uneasy feeling, though.
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#9 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 02:31 AM

Don't feel 'embarrassed' about asking the question - it's a valid question. And really, I'd say if you're not doing anything else and you like the material, why not give it a shot? Who are you afraid will 'look down on it'? One of the most important things about this industry is the network and meet other people. Working on a fan film may not earn you a lot of street cred (though, it probably won't hurt) - but it could gain you a few more contacts, which might pan out into real projects in the future. If not, maybe these people could help you on your own project.

 

I'd never turn down a project because of what I thought someone else might think of it.

 

A lot of it would depend on if you like the material and have the free time to do it. If they're paying you, have at it! Fan films don't always equal bad... Now that equipment and VFX are affordable even lowly fan films are becoming 'Hollywood-ized'. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 22 August 2016 - 02:32 AM.

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#10 George Ebersole

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 04:29 PM

Well, I was just curious.  In all honesty my gut reaction is that it's in bad form (in addition to being illegal), but it seemed like there was just a ton of the stuff being uploaded here and there that I was curious if anyone here had worked on any such projects.

 

I don't have any fan film stuff of my own brewing, and I wouldn't do it, to be honest.  But it's like the weight of the body of work that's out there is just huge.

 

Thanks for the replies.


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#11 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 07:17 PM

I gaffed a Harry Potter fan film as a favor a few years ago. It was well funded, well written, had a great cast and turned out really well. It didn't benefit me directly, but it's hard to see how it had a negative effect on anyone. I'd use the same criteria you would for working on any short film; is it properly funded, do you trust the film-makers, etc


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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 03:37 AM

is it properly funded

 

Short films are ever properly funded?


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#13 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 07:09 AM

There are schemes for short films in various countries and regions. These can be competitive processes, but allow reasonable funding although crews may not get their usual rates, more a union special agreed one, rich parents also assist in this matter. 

 

http://www.irishfilm...t_film_schemes/


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#14 Miguel Angel

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 08:49 AM

Ireland also has a very interesting scheme called Catalyst Project which gives money (I think that it is around €300.000) to "new" directors to make movies, it is a very competitive one but they pick really good directors :) 

 

http://www.irishfilm...st_Project/2579

 

Have a good day. 


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#15 George Ebersole

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 01:21 PM

I'm part Irish.  What're my chances of winning if I buy a plane ticket to Ireland?  :)


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#16 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 02:49 PM

 

Short films are ever properly funded?

The one I worked on had raised its budget via Kickstarter. I don't know what the final budget was, but we all got paid a reasonable rate.


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#17 Shawn Sagady

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 09:53 PM

Fan Films have come a VERY long way since the early star trek/star wars fan films back in the early 00s.  Technically one of the earliest fan films was "Hardware Wars" a spoof of star wars with toasters and irons and stuff.  Fan Films gave me some of my very first experiences working behind a camera in a narrative setting and doing special effects etc and it was a fantastic learning experience.  

 

Back in the day it was iffy legally but I think just about every major brand except for Star Trek has embraced them because they are free advertising and press.  Lucas was on the fence about the non parody ones but Disney all but pays people to make them now.  Budget wise early on it was a lot of people putting in their hard earned money to make the films and getting a lot of support from people giving their time freely or lending equipment etc.  These days with crowd funding and easier to access equipment the paradigm has shifted quite a bit.  

 

Legally, you are fine personally if you are hired by the creators and work on the film.  You have no personal liability in that case.  The creators may face cease and desist letters if the owners of the IP feel its a threat to their copyright or trade mark, but thats super super rare, and as long as ALL funds raised go towards the making/marketing of the film and no profit is earned off it, it should be in the clear.  As always its a case by case basis but for the most part they are an accepted and sought after part of the fandom these days with some surprising high production quality.

 

I would not worry about working on one, especially if its an IP you love, because the overall attitude of the production tends to be really up beat and fun since everyone is really into creating something new and fun and putting their creative hearts into it.


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#18 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 01:46 AM

Don't work under another director/producer on a fan film unless you're desperate.

 

The issue with the majority of them is they... suck. Any idea you could offer to making the picture less awkward has high rejection chance to be "faithful to the original".


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#19 Shawn Sagady

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 07:03 PM

Many of them are not amazing, but they are also made by amature film makers and students and people who just love that particular IP.  At the same time it could be said there are a lot of bad short films being made, so its not really specific to fan films.  Just be smart about which projects you take and do your best to avoid caustic situations.  


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#20 KH Martin

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 11:56 PM

Have you followed anything about this AXANAR Star Trek fan thing? Agreed, that isn't the norm (not many fan films raise over a million bucks), but geez, it looks like it is really going to trial, and they are going to lose so big ... at least a few of the main players on that are not going to be working on ANYthing again once the dust settles. It looks like the really guilty parties were all  aware of the wrongdoing, but innocents may have gotten tarred by the same feathers.

 

I really hope the main guy on AXANAR gets investigated for fraud by the feds; he has been pulling crap with bad movie memoribilia auctions for years and supported really badly done journalistic endeavours (i.e., cash-ins) on the trek name too.

 

Something good may come out of Paramount/CBS going after AXanar; they now have guidelines in place that will make these fanfilms about something other than trying to look like studio features. 15min runtimes and small budgets will be a spur to creativity and level the playing field back to something like what it once was.


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