Weekend Vid Picks: Fan Films Good Enough to Fool You

Fan-made trailers for established properties have normally been reserved for playing in loops at booths at conventions. But this April Fools, the gaming news site IGN got gamers good with this beautifully produced trailer for a (fake) The Legend of Zelda feature film:Produced by Rainfall Films, The Legend of Zelda as imagined by director Sam Balcomb is an epic tale worthy of being shot in New Zealand, with home-brewed special effects that rival professional CGI. (Much to my dismay, the giant spider is especially convincing.)

Fan trailers and fan films are definitely the territory of the uber-nerdy, but the creativity and care that goes into their creation must be respected, especially since many of those working behind the scenes on these projects are professionals. Shane Felux, producer/director of Stage 9’s Trenches, got his start in Star Wars fan films — his 2006 meta project, Pitching Lucas, won him two prizes at the Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards.This satiric take on possible Star Wars spinoffs benefits greatly from Felux’s incorporation of actual Star Wars gimmicks (not to mention a dead-on George Lucas impersonator). From costumes to effects to performances, it’s a professionally produced bit of satire — you can almost forgive him for relying on parodies of 70s and 80s TV shows.

Within the genre, Batman: Dead End, which began circulating in 2003 at conventions, is a classic. Despite bearing the marks of a fan-produced clip — the amateur costumes, the awkward Batman performance — Dead End was actually shot on film with a budget of $30,000, and the cinematography and mood are gorgeous. Plus, director Sandy Collora isn’t content with doing a traditional Batman homage; if you haven’t seen this before, then stick around until at least 3:01 — a nice little surprise awaits you.

These projects are almost good enough to fool people into thinking they’re the real thing, and in observing the leaps in quality that have taken place since 2003, it’s clear that the lines between professional and amateur production have blurred dramatically. This year, The Legend of Zelda upped the game for pranksters with a love of fan culture and an ability to create. Next April Fools, none of us are safe.