Shadows and Gigabytes: The History of Fan-Edits of Hollywood Films



. Like the technological-advances of the late nineteenth-century, one similar modern effect of emerging technology on artistic-expression concerns the changing question of film adaptation, given the democratisation of filmmaking via new digital media. With sophisticated and affordable software and internet portals such as BitTorrent applications, YouTube, and Vimeo making anyone’s professional-level edits of major film releases freely-accessible by millions, the line defining the original director’s intent becomes muddled. With a coming-age of these fan-edits being many people’s introduction to classic film characters and series, there is a new-level of discourse about the fidelity to not only the very original sources (novels, games, comics, plays), but to the films as they had been originally released in the theatres, on home-formats, or on television.

Though many directors have released their own differing cuts of their same-films, notably Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone and George Lucas, it is new-territory to have critics’ cuts, or as many different-cuts of a film as there are audience members. In a nutshell, the film experience is more fluid than it’s ever-been, ever-malleable to suit the unique tastes of the participants.

My intent is to prove what is gained or lost for traditional film presentation. Surely the auteur theory is rendered-obsolete in such context, and many iconic characters may be seen as “less-than” what they may have ordinarily-been through experiencing a subpar cut of a film from an ineffective editor. Giorgio Moroder was able to fill mainstream cinema seats to view the 56 year-old film Metropolis (1928) by swapping-out the soundtrack for a more-modern one, making it amongst the first of its kind. And surely it opened the minds of hundreds of thousands of cinemagoers in 1984; but what was lost in the translation, if anything? And how will this technology affect the future of film audiences?

Keywords: fan-edit, film-remix, Hollywood, YouTube, copyright