Fan-Made Movie Edits: Another Cultural Loss At The Hands Of Copyright
from the a-loss-to-society dept
I missed this when it was in the news a few months back, but actor Topher Grace (That 70s Show and a bunch of other stuff) apparently decided he wanted to learn how film editing works, and rather than make his own film and edit it, he decided to take some other films that he knew well, and see what would happen if he edited them (massively). His first project was taking Episodes I, II and III of Star Wars — a total of approximately seven hours of footage — and editing them down to a tight 85-minute film that focuses almost exclusively on the story of how Anakin becomes Darth Vader, completely wiping out lots of other stuff, but (according to some of the very small number of people who saw it) creating a really compelling storyline in the process.
In a recent interview, he expanded a bit on the reason he did this and what his thinking was. Basically, he said that it’s similar to when a director takes acting lessons to better understand actors (but with no desire to be one). He’s not planning to do video editing professionally, but he believes editing is the key part of how a video story is told, and he wanted to understand it more. As he said:
There’s this expression that [a movie is] written three times: during the script, when you’re filming it and when you’re editing it. And I believe that’s wrong. I think it’s written once, in editing — and everything is clay for that. And I wanted to learn about it — I thought it would be neat. It’s like learning to play the piano and I need a lot of clay. And I thought if I did one movie out of these three …
But, here’s the thing. You and I and everyone else — other than the small group of folks Grace invited to his screening — will never see this movie. He’s promised never to show it, because he doesn’t want to upset Lucasfilm or violate their copyrights. Of course, Lucasfilm has actually been pretty cool about allowing such fan edits, but others in the industry, led by the MPAA, have not. And, of course, it seems that even just the one screening that Grace had for his friends in the industry and some reporters almost certainly violated Lucasfilm’s copyrights on the work.
And Grace isn’t stopping there either. He plans to do more of these, starting with an edit from the various versions of Close Encounters — but again, none of us will ever get to see it:
I think, for people who like to edit, this is a cool way to do it. And it’s just a great community thing. But they’ll never be on YouTube, or any of that stuff.
And that, to me, sounds like a pretty big loss. Fan edits and remixes of music are pretty popular and widely encouraged by artists these days. But, for whatever reason, the same viewpoint doesn’t seem to extend much to movies (again, Lucasfilm is a slight, but not complete, exception). And, for the most part, it seems that not just allowing but encouraging the making and sharing of fan edits would be a great way to not just have fans even more engaged in the films, but also to introduce new audiences to films, and to give people more reasons to watch the originals again, just to compare them to some fan edits.
So here’s a situation where we have someone doing something incredibly cool and creating a bit of culture that those who have seen it seem to have enjoyed thoroughly. And the rest of the world will never experience it, even though it wouldn’t do any harm to the original films. That seems like a huge loss to the collective culture.