What We Learned By Making a Fan Film
People tend to have mixed feeling about fan films. Some people think it’s awesome to indulge in your passion for a franchise. Other people think it’s cheap and unoriginal.
After making Modern War Gear Solid, we’ve come to one conclusion; making a fan film was the best film school we’ve ever experienced.
Snake Plissken. Han Solo. Nathan Drake. John McClain. Wolverine. Indiana Jones.
What makes these characters so awesome? How can I create an awesome character? By directing fan films, we have an opportunity to get inside the heads of these iconic characters. We can observe their motivations and study their instincts. Take a richly-detailed character and put them in an all-new situation. What would they do? How would they feel? What’s their goal? We know enough about the character to make a good guess. We start to understand what makes this character special. Hopefully we can apply this insight to original characters in the future.
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When you make an original film you are responsible for setting the visual style. When you make a fan film, you have source material to reference. Games like MGS4 and MW2 have a very slick polished look. So we had a high goal to strive for. We tried to do the games justice and sometimes fell short; but we learned a ton about cinematography along the way.
In original films we focused on our strengths (martial arts and cinematography) and avoided our weaknesses (acting and visual effects). For MWGS we were forced to dabble in acting because we needed to portray established characters like Ghost and Snake. That worked out great. Matt Sumner, who was mostly a muscular stuntman before, is now a lovable comedic actor. In order to pay homage to the games, we also had to learn gun effects, exploding walls, light sabers and more!
Since the characters are already established, and there’s a visual style to follow, there’s more time to focus on story structure. For Modern War Gear Solid, we chose a traditional 3 Act story. Act 1: Introduce the characters and setting. Act 2: Present the characters with obstacles and problems. Act 3: The characters overcome the obstacles and solve the problems.
MAKING FILMS FOR AN EXISTING AUDIENCE
We’re passionate about certain topics that have big audiences, like video games and comic books. We’re also passionate about less popular topics like martial arts. By combining our interests, we were able to entertain a big audience and still showcase our love of martial arts action.
Micah calls it Venn Diagram film making. We have a lot of different interests. With Beat Down Boogie, we like to focus on the interests that are shared by millions of people around the world.
Our director is heavily influenced by video games, and most of our cast and crew are gamers, so it made sense to create a game-inspired series. We usually want to see the same things as our audience – we’re part of the same community.
BEING INTERNET-BASED FILMMAKERS
(Producer) Blake and (director) Micah come from a traditional indie film background – so it was a huge adjustment for them to see their work copied, remixed, and re-uploaded around the web. Usually it creates hype and positive attention for Beat Down Boogie’s YouTube channel, so we’re pretty chill about it. But it took Micah a few months to realize he can’t control the internet. He used to be a real control freak, so the experience has been…therapeutic for him. ;oP Now we just try to embrace the chaos and use the openness of the internet to our advantage.
We’ve seen some awesome fan trailers for Modern War Gear Solid. Check out this cool fan tribute to Beat Down Boogie. This stuff is great!
Micah and Blake lost faith in the traditional film industry because filmmakers are often discouraged from making films for the audience. Instead, they are supposed to make films for investors and distributors, who sometimes have bad taste. That’s how the world ended up with two Street Fighter movies with zero fighting tournaments!
Well, the only middleman we need is YouTube. We’d rather make films that contribute to the communities that we love. For filmmakers like us, it’s about being part of a long-lasting community, putting in our dues and being supported by the community. We feel that the more we put into the community, the more we get out of it – so finding ways to encourage communication and creativity is important to us. Youtube. Facebook. Conventions. It’s all great! There’s still stuff that we suck at like Twitter and Flickr, but we’re learning.