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Homemade Hollywood: Fans Behind the Camera
31/03/09, 10:54am EST

Q: How does a moviegoer respond to a film that touches them on a certain level?

A: They go back to the theater to see it again and again, or watch it repeatedly at home on videotape, DVD, or Blu-ray. So much so that they know every line of dialogue and scene set-up.
B: Immerse themselves and empty his/her bank account buying up all the related movie merchandise.
C: Seek out other fans and dress in costume and attend fan conventions.
D: Start up a website or podcast devoted to that film
E: Spend thousands of dollars, constructing sets, making costumes, writing scripts and filming your own version or further adventures of your favorite film hero.

Well, if you answered "E" to that question you may be one of the featured fan films in the wonderful new book; Homemade Hollywood: Fans Behind the Camera by author Clive Young.

If you thought that making homemade recreations of films like Batman, Tarzan, Spider-Man, Star Wars, and of course Raiders of the Lost Ark, started with the introduction of the video camcorder, you would be sadly mistaken. Clive Young seeks out the history of fan made films and taps into not only the rich details behind these lavish (and not so lavish) productions, but also digs deeper to discover the love of the art.

Homemade Hollywood
Written by Clive Young.

The book begins in 1926 with the infamous Anderson Our Gang film, in which the notion of some "fans" making their own interpretation of a Hollywood film was met with some raised eyebrows, not to mention serious questions from copyright lawyers. Fans of today are more savvy and familiar with the legalities that protect their favorite Tinseltown heroes by not allowing fan films to show up on the shelves of their local DVD retailers, things were different back tin 1926. When a few con artists tried to recreate their own version of Hal Roach's famous Our Gang shorts it wasn't an homage, but rather a get rich quick scheme to pull on unsuspecting theatre owners. Though this was a black eye for films made outside of the Hollywood factory, thankfully it did not extinguish the flames of fandom from firing up their own films in the future.

Homemade Hollywood flies through the decades and illustrates how the desire to bring the swash-buckling, daring-do escapades of the big screen into one's backyard was done time and again by movie fans. Of particular note to Indiana Jones fans would be the chapter devoted to the works of Donald F. Glut. What's that you say, the name Don Glut doesn't resonate the same awe as say a Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson or George Lucas. What it I was to tell you that if it wasn't for Don Glut there might not be an Indiana Jones?

Back in the 1960s, Don Glut was a film fan in a league of his own, making his own film versions of the characters he loved like Captain America to Spider-Man. Glut spared no expense in making his action films and went out his way to make sure he had not only great screenplays, but production values that went along with them. Along the way, Glut would find himself enrolled at the University of Southern California (before he was asked to leave) or as it is often referred to USC. There he would be making films alongside future filmmakers like John Milius and a certain, skinny kid with glasses named George Lucas.
While Glut was filming his versions of sci-fi fantasy films, he commandeered the 16MM film projectors from USC to show films he loved as a kid to his fellow classmates. Those films that Glut would show were none other than the cliff-hanging serials of the late 1930s and 40s! As fate would have it, sitting in the audience watching and possibly taking notes on those escapist escapades for future references was Indiana Jones co-creator, George Lucas! Fan filmmaker Don Glut would go on to his own claim to fame writing for comics and television shows like Land of the Lost and Transformers and in a ironic twist of fate, the novelization of Lucas's The Empire Strikes Back in 1981. But it was his movies like Captain America Battles the Red Skull that brought smiles to fellow film fans in the 1960s.

On the subject of Indiana Jones, Homemade Hollywood traces the backyard, Betamax origins of the trio of Indyfans who went on to spend a small fortune and gained glory from Spielberg himself for their film; Raiders: The Adaptation. Fans of TheRaider.net have probably read the story, and may have been lucky enough to watch the shot-by-shot recreation of Indiana Jones first, and greatest big screen adventure; Raiders of the Lost Ark by filmmakers Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos and Jayson Lamb. Homemade Hollywood tells the story of the boys from Mississippi and their fan film and how it became a bonding experience for three friends. From the terror of making a giant boulder to the wrath of parents not to keen seeing their kids set themselves ablaze all for the sake of art, this section of Clive Young's book brings a smile and some out loud chuckles as it tells the years of work these three Indyfans poured into making their version of Raiders, one that met with a mind-blowing approval from Steven Spielberg!

As Film Threat's and Attack of the Show's film expert. Chris Gore, who provides the introduction to Homemade Hollywood states; "...they (fan films) are not made with no expectations of box office success ... only with the intention purely to entertain." That latter sentiment I recall being said by a certain team of collaborating filmmakers who when referring to their movie about a globe-trotting archaeologist with a fear of snakes once said "we just wanted to see this movie". Whether it is a big budgeted Indiana Jones or Star Wars epic, or the folks behind Troops or Pink Five, there is a certain "fanboy" energy that drives these artists to put their passion for good storytelling onto the film or tape. The love of the art is also the mother of inspiration and ingenuity as illustrated by the limited budget these fan films work around to achieve impressive effects and sets, some times endangering life and limb.
Read about the high-swinging exploits of Dan Poole who actually swung around buildings in Baltimore for his Spider-Man film, risking his life and gaining the ire of the police. Every page of this book is filled with details and tales that make you just look around your collection of action figures and movie posters and second-guess the lengths you would go to explore your fandom.

Homemade Hollywood is a great read, and one that is so loaded with fun facts and behind the scenes stories that you cannot put it down. From the hilarity of Hardware Wars to the dark and foreboding action of Sandy Collora's Batman: Dead End, this book chronicles all the fantastic exploits that make up homemade fan films. If you have ever went to a comic/sci-fi convention and marveled at a screening of Troops, Star Wars: Revelations or downloaded an episode of Star Trek: The New Voyages and ask yourself; "how did they do that", Homemade Hollywood has all the answers. It makes you want to go out and track down all the films mentioned within its pages and watch them, and if you do knowing all the effort that was put in to them will only add to your enjoyment.

Congratulations to Clive Young for turning the spotlight on fandom's unsung heroes behind the cameras who have gone on to make us laugh, cheer and inspire a whole new generation of film fans (and possibly filmmakers) with their determination to make sure our big screen heroes don't "fade to black".

Homemade Hollywood: Fans Behind the Camera by Clive Young is published by Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc.

Reviewed by Mitchell Hallock



 

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