Friday, October 07, 2005

Fan Subversion

This is the trailer for a heartwarming Jack Nicholson comedy about a writer who is blocked and a young boy looking for a dad who find each other at a hotel in the Colorado High Country. It co-stars Shelley Duvall. It's called Shining.

Sound familiar, sorta? It should. It's the Steven King horror movie The Shining recut with new music to make a trailer for a feel-good comedy-romance. It's part of a trend in recent years to do fan-made trailers. This is where fans of films recut the trailer, or use the DVD release to completely redo the original trialer. Sometimes it's because the original trailer sucked, sometimes it's because someone has a better idea, and sometimes it's just to be subversive.

The arrival of DVDs, which give budding experiementers movie-quality clips to work with, and cheap or free computer software, to make the work simple and easy, have helped power the explosion. It's something anyone with time, a quick eye and a good idea can do.

It's tied to something else I've talked about here: fan-made films. Star Wars seems to be the leader in films made by fans using the universe of George Lucas' creation. But there are many more examples. Some are as good as any studio release.

I think there's a serious message for Hollywood and the television broadcast industry here: Your days are numbered. The only thing holding it all back is the delivery system and a way to get the word out to potential fans of a new movie. Broadband cable access to the net is still growing, but when it becomes the norm, then it will be easy to download or even stream these films to your home entertainment system.

Finding these films is another matter. No network or channel will touch them, since they derive from the copyrighted material of the studios they depend on, and so no network program or magazine will talk about them, for fear of angering the very people they depend on for their revenue.

Searching the web is time consuming. Knowing which sites to go to so you can keep up with the newest is hit-and-miss, because it depends on you knowing about the sites, or finding them. The studios, via the MPAA and the RIAA, are defending copyright like it's pure gold, so the phenomenon bubbles along just below the radar. Peer-to-peer networks help, but again you have to know what to look for before you can download it.

It will take a rethink by Hollywood, which isn't likely to happen soon, as they seem locked in to the old model of doing business. It's the old "don't squeeze tighter or you'll kill it; let it go and you'll have it come back many times over." Hollywood hasn't... err... grasped that yet. So until they do, the phenomenon lives in the shadows and it benefits from the aura of something illegal you're sharing with those "in the know."

It's growing though, and one day the sheer weight of it will burst the dam, just like music downloading led to iTunes.

No comments: