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.