Despite cries from its online fan base, CBS has canceled the vampire drama Moonlight. And though Internet fans are protesting, the network isn’t budging, especially after it got burned by all those Jericho fans who demanded their show stay on the air — but couldn’t rally enough friends to join them once it came back. So what’s a Moonlight or Jericho fan to do? Make your own version of the show. Make…a fan film.
A fan film? Isn’t that for pasty nerds who play with
dolls action figures? Well, sure, but if you (and enough other people) feel there are more stories to be told with those characters, go make them. For fun, of course, not profit (don’t want to rile up the copyright lawyers).
To find out what it takes to make a fan film, I spoke with Trey Stokes, the guy behind the Pink Five series of Star Wars fan films. He had some sage advice for anyone thinking about this type of endeavor.
Set Realistic Goals
“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” said Stokes. “The more complex the effects are, the harder it is to finish your fan film.” Stokes suggests using the resources you have available, to not try to overreach. Sure, creating the ultimate space opera complete with massive ships and explosions would be awesome, but you might be better off focusing on a smaller story that doesn’t require much other than good writing and characters. “I do visual effects for a living,” said Stokes, “and doing them for a fan film is just as hard as doing them for a TV show. ”
While the Internet lets fans connect around the globe, orchestrating them to actually do something is a different story. “The myth is that people from all over the world can participate,” said Stokes. “It’s very hard to get people all over the world coordinated and there’s no way to guarantee that people will deliver.”
Your best bet is to work locally, that way you can have better control over the project and you’ll be more likely to complete it.
Once you have people on board to help, chances are good that you won’t be paying them. They are doing it out of love for the source material, so honor that. Finish what you started and people will come back to help (for free) again for the next one. “After we did the first [Pink Five], we had name recognition and a proven track record,” said Stokes. “There was a level of confidence that if they showed up their hard work would pay off.”
Plus, if you finish it and put it online, Hollywood types could notice your work and hire you — that’s what happened to Shane Felux, whose Star Wars Revelations got him a gig directing for Disney’s Stage9.
But the most important thing about making a fan film is to have fun with it. You’re not going to make any money from it, so relax, have a good time, and maybe one day you’ll get your own network show that gets canceled.