In 2008, New Line Cinema released the comedy Be Kind, Rewind, to moderate critical and commercial success. What does this have to do with fan films? Take a look at the trailer, and then join me after the jump.
Be Kind is the story of a VHS rental store that's hanging on past its time. One of the characters becomes inadvertently magnatized and uwittingly erases the entire stock. In desperation the employees begin to recreate popular films on their own and rent them out in place of the originals. They explain the quality of the videos by claiming they are Swedish versions.
Inspired by the film (and actively encouraged by the film makers) hundreds of people started creating "Sweded" version of films. These are characterized by utterly minimal costuming and effects, and extremely abbreviated story adaptations. One early example is this version of Jurrasic Park.
This isn't exactly a new concept, but Be Kind established the ultra-low budget fan film as a genre in its own right. People who might have been adverse to such low productin values were given permission to embrace them, and a name to justify them.
A biannual film festival, Swede Fest, has sprung up to showcase these films. The eighth iteration will take place in Fresno, California next weekend.
While some sweded films content themselves with the humor of the low (often zero) budget substitutions of props and costumes, many more are critiques of the stories of the films they are parodying, such as this take on the latest Star Trek film.
In Be Kind the protagonists are confronted by agents of the court who sieze the films for 'copyright violations,' the eternal bugaboo of fan projects. However, the vast majority of Sweded films are parodies and protected (in the U.S. at least) under fair use.
Deprived of their source of revenue, the film makers in Be Kind create an original 'documentary' of Fats Waller. Doubtless some of the people who cut their teeth making ultra-low budget spoofs will likewise go on to create more serious, or at least slicker, films of their own.
Have a fan film or web series you'd like to see featured? Hit up Church at email@example.com