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Precious! Fan Film The Hunt for Gollum Goes Online

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If there is an Academy Awards for fan films, The Hunt for Gollum will likely be the front-runner for whatever top prize is handed out. The 40-minute epic film based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings was released today, and it’s another milestone project that illustrates the continued blurring of the line between professional and amateur filmmaker.

U.K.-based Chris Bouchard wrote and directed Gollum for a reported £3,000 (roughly $4,500). But don’t let that small budget fool you, Bouchard has crammed his mini-epic with a big cast, stellar set design and blockbuster special effects. The film tells a story of what happens between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring.

How can Bouchard make a movie based on an intellectual property he doesn’t own? Well, he won’t make any money on it, for starters.

Bouchard told the BBC (hat tip to TechDirt):

We got in touch with Tolkien Enterprises and reached an understanding with them that as long as we are completely non-profit then we’re okay. We have to be careful not to disrespect their ownership of the intellectual property. They are supportive of the way fans wish to express their enthusiasm.

For a company built on Middle Earth, that’s very forward thinking. For a long time, Lucasfilm, which owns Star Wars, wouldn’t officially acknowledge serious fan fiction for legal reasons (the company relented a couple of years back and allowed serious fan fiction into its Fan Movie Challenge).

Interestingly, Bouchard had previously worked on another fan film epic. He contributed music to Shane Felux’s 45-minute Star Wars: Revelations a few years back. Bouchard must have picked up a few tips on how to recruit volunteers, as he got 160 people on his crew list and said the entire budget went to costumes, props, equipment and food.

If Bouchard has this much drive, why did he choose to make a movie that he can’t make money off of? He gave the BBC the same answer I heard from numerous fan fimmakers I’ve spoken with throughout the years. If you make a fan film based on a popular property, at least you have a built-in audience that will want to see it.

The Hunt for Gollum is the second fan film to make a big splash this year. In February, the Purchase Brothers released Escape from City 17, a fan film based on the video game Half-Life 2.

Fan films are an untapped way for content owners to get engaged with their fan bases. I’ve written before that if more studios equipped audiences with official tools like sound and visual effects and costume patterns, they could harness the power of a rabid fan base that will keep a brand (and monetization opportunities) alive. Case in point? The Hunt for Gollum has us talking about Tolkein’s work years after Peter Jackson’s trilogy ended and years before the big-budget Hobbit movie is released.

5 Responses to “Precious! Fan Film The Hunt for Gollum Goes Online”

  1. You’re absolutely right about the studios missing an opportunity to monetize fan films. I talked a bit about this in my fan film book, Homemade Hollywood: With the technological point of entry so low now that anyone with a computer and a camera can “make a movie,” it’s a next step waiting to happen, and while it would remove the “outlaw” vibe that makes them attractive to fans and fan fimmakers (“I’m gonna show ’em how they shoulda done it!”), officially ratified fan films are probably the next big step for the hobby.

  2. thanks for the post. This film will be a great success undoubtedly. Remembering The Lord of the Rings – oh, I know this film by heart and every time I see it I will discover something new that I havent noticed before. Wel, I guess the amateur of Tolkien will appreciate it according to merit.