Fans and Films

In one of his videos, YouTuber, indie filmmaker, and movie critic Ralph Sepe Junior says, “A lot of you guys have asked me for advice on how to make a movie. Here’s what you do: just make a movie.” What he’s referring to is exactly what Jenkins is talking about in his essay—i.e., the newfound power of noncommercial, amateur filmmakers to create movies, even with a very limited budget (among other supplies). Thanking the Internet, at this point in the semester, has gotten a bit old, but here I am once again thanking the Internet. New technology such as iPhones, and free movie-editing software, audio-editing software, and music provided by the web have provided the tools needed for a new wave of content creators to emerge. Anyone who was once restricted by a lack of money or equipment now only has to worry about buying the bare minimum: a phone and a laptop. The Internet allows us to consume media at a frantic pace, since information can be immediate found, shared, and created; for the fans, this is a spectacular innovation. Jenkins writes, “Fan digital film is to cinema what the punk DIY culture was to music. There, grassroots experimentation generated new sounds, new artists, new techniques, and new relations to consumers which have been pulled more and more into mainstream practice. Here, fan filmmakers are starting to make their way into the mainstream industry, and we are starting to see ideas—such as the use of game engines as animation tools—bubbling up from amateurs and making their way into commercial media” (204). Thanks to the newest technology, fans are able to compete with the big-shot studios that produce the franchises they’re so in love with.

However, the Internet seems to have spoiled fans. Now, trailers tend to give away entire movies, studios will release more than one trailer at a time as well as brief clips from upcoming films, and will sometimes hold exclusive screenings of the new movie or a Q&A with the actors at certain conventions. Fans can hold world-wide discussions in online forums, post videos or blogs stating their opinions about their beloved franchise’s newest installment, and create and share fan-fiction, parodies, or fan-art. Studios listen to their fans nowadays, but not with the purest intentions—if the audience is unhappy, then they may boycott a movie, and boycotting means less money. We’ve seen this with the recent Ghostbusters adaptation, in which fans of the original were so outraged that they not only refused to go see it themselves, but posted videos online telling others to avoid the film too—and that rage emerged just from the trailer. The movie, unfortunately, was doomed from the start. Likewise, many fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (myself included) were appalled by its first on-screen adaptation and, therefore, swore to not see the allegedly-even-worse sequel. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Star Wars: The Force Awakens did so well that it almost immediately spawned another sequel (more like prequel, I guess), Rogue One—an addition to the franchise which delighted fans rushed to go see as soon as it came out.

Nowadays, fans have more power than they may realize. I hate being the hipster that always complains about companies being extremely greedy and only caring about money, but let’s face it—it’s pretty true. Studios will milk the success of a franchise without any remorse. Take the last Hunger Games book’s adaptation, Mockingjay, for example. The book—roughly the same length as the other two and about as plot-heavy—didn’t need to be made into two separate movies; however, because they could get more money out of splitting it up, the studio decided to cut it in half anyway. Another example is the Fifty Shades of Grey series, a trilogy so horrendously written that after reading the first installment, I immediately had to cleanse my brain with other literature. Although its main plot romanticizes an abusive relationship and misrepresents an entire fetish community, the film was marketed in such a way as to make it look like merely two hours of steamy action. Therefore, the first movie did so surprisingly well in theaters that—despite the awful plot—it earned a sequel, too. When it comes to the relationship between fans, franchises, and studios, it’s all about the money.


Milestones and Hurdles

Given the limitations of the project, I think my group has done an excellent job in creating a video that caters to everyone’s wants, entertains, and conveys a message. It’s been a collaborative effort so far, one in which someone presents an idea and everyone else comments on and tweaks it. I think our video idea turned out well because we believe in the tool we’re essentially “selling.” Focus 2 is genuinely useful—something I wish I’d had when I was picking a major back in high school. If you believe in the product, you can sell it with confidence. The first milestone we’ve accomplished is coming up with a solid idea; in my opinion, that’s always the hardest part. Once you have an idea of what you want to do or say, the rest comes naturally. The second milestone is that we’ve started filming. Everyone’s been so busy lately, especially now that it’s finals season—it’s been a challenge to find a time where everyone can meet. Still, we’ve got something on film; that’s most of the project done already. The first hurdle we still have to cross over is the editing; luckily, we have someone who has significant editing experience, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Second is the essay. 15-20 pages sounds extremely daunting, but once we’ve split up the work, it should be fine. The most important digital tool that we’ve been using in class is probably iMovie/Movie Maker. Because we’ve all learned how to edit videos and have at least a bit of experience now, any one of us could take on the role of editor for this project. Also, we’ve used the Creative Commons Search Engine to find the video’s background music. The feedback we received on the storyboard was, for the most part, positive; the only suggestion was that—instead of using a Screencast—we could film someone using Focus 2 on their laptop from over their shoulder. I think this would be more visually interesting than having a full screen of a Screencast, especially with that obnoxious watermark in the corner.

More Copyright

When I was searching for pieces of media to use, I was surprised by the terrible quality of the results. For example, I tried looking for a picture of kids playing Frisbee to match our ending scene, but could only find a few blurred pictures—most involving dogs playing instead of humans. In the end, I found this picture of a guy (who looks like he could be a Rutgers student) giving a thumbs up, as if to say “Career Services is A-OK in my book.”

Image result for group thumbs up

The other two pieces of media were much easier to find. The song I found is called “Margorp Deviver” by 60 HZ FQ. It’s a quirky, peppy little ditty that I think would fit nicely as background music for our project. Lastly, the video I found is titled “Rutgers Ban on Greek Parties Expires.” Ignoring the morbid context of the video, I think we can extract the footage of students walking around Rutgers and include it at the beginning of our video as a nice establishing shot. In last week’s reading, Lessig mentioned that “the laws need to change, but so do we. We need to find ways to chill control-obsessed individuals and corporations that believe the single objective of copyright law is to control use, rather than thinking about the objective of copyright law as to create incentives for creation. We need to practice respect for this new generation of creators” (165-166). In order to “chill” those who would immediately flag/take down videos containing copyrighted material, my group and I plan to use the Creative Commons Search Engine in order to find free pieces of media. By doing this, we’re adhering to the law and showing respect to creators who—by copyrighting their content—are trying to protect their products. Using the Creative Commons site, my group can avoid any potential legal issues when it comes to what media we choose to include in our project.