If there’s one thing that rankles most writers of film or Television, it’s fan fiction; that process by which people who liked the world you created decide to make it their own with new stories and characters they concoct to usurp it.
If these are done by those with limited talent or imagination, it’s like watching one of your kids being torn apart and sewn back together by an amateur Dr. Frankenstein. If another screenwriter does it, professional courtesy requires that you refer to it as a “spec script”.
But every now and then, somebody takes your work to places you never imagined it could go, not hacking it up to fit in the tiny box of inspiration they’ve constructed but expanding it into realms you never imagined were there.
I first read “The Lord of the Rings” during my first professional acting gig, huddled in the back of a freezing bus as the company toured a repertory of plays through a Saskatchewan winter. The richness of Tolkien’s “Middle Earth” transported me beyond that frozen wasteland and the daily rigours of tear down, travel and remount required of a touring player.
And, in many ways, that was its original intent as Tolkien wrote much of it in letters to his son, who was serving in Africa during WWII, in hopes of encouraging the young man to keep going and remain positive.
Despite the novel’s enormous popularity, it took more than 50 years to finally reach the screen (a partial attempt by animator Ralph Bakshi notwithstanding) and much of that due to the rights constantly changing hands among wealthy fans, counter culture heroes and even members of the Beatles.
The success of Peter Jackson’s eventual trilogy led to the same flood of imitators who have built entire “fan film” industries around “Star Wars” and “Star Trek”.
But “Rings” fan Chris Bouchard wanted to do something different. With the help of 160 volunteers and at a cost of $5000 he delivered a completely new chapter of the Middle Earth saga with all the art and quality of a completely original work.
The story follows the “greatest huntsman and traveler in Middle Earth” as he sets out to find the creature Gollum, in order to discover the truth about the Ring.
After reaching an “understanding” with Tolkien Enterprises, the rights holder to the underlying material, “The Hunt for Gollum” was released last May, and has since been seen by tens of millions of viewers.
In addition to its worth as a stand-alone entertainment, “The Hunt for Gollum” exemplifies the growing expectation of quality among online viewers when it comes to webisodes, mobisodes and other internet content that’s spun from a successful TV series or film. And that makes it imperative viewing for anyone currently developing a web series or show related web content.
The full 40 minute version of “The Hunt for Gollum” can be found all over the internet, with a HD version here.
But here’s a taste of what awaits. Fan fiction worth celebrating. Enjoy your Sunday.