2009 seems to be the year of the Tolkien fan film. British actors and film-makers have banded together to produce “The Hunt For Gollum”, a 40-minute movie about Aragorn’s search for Gollum (as only briefly described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings).
The movie was filmed in London, Wessex, and Wales. The trailer (see below) was made available in December and it looks pretty good.
Total budget for the movie: 3,000 British pounds. I think that’s somewhere around $5,000.00 US.
You will be able to download the movie starting in May.
Official Web site: The Hunt For Gollum.com
It remains to be seen whether the Tolkien Trust or the Saul Zaentz Company will step in to prevent distribution of the film. They have placed a disclaimer on the site and emphasize that the movie is not being made for commercial purposes.
This project (and several others like it) might help people open a pathway to post-production subsidization. How might that work? Let’s assume this movie becomes immensely popular and someone with enough money to buy licensing rights decides to create products associated with the film. They could negotiate a distribution and merchandising contract with the Saul Zaentz Company, acquire the master footage, and begin production of DvDs, Blu-Ray discs, and setting up contracts for associated merchandise, maybe even comic books, etc.
Throw enough money into the mix and once the lawyers figure out how to give a piece of the pie to everyone things will happen. But you have to show there would be significant potential return on investment before anyone stepped forward to acquire the post-production rights.
What might spark a ray of hope for fan-produced movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is the fact that Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of The Hobbit will be split into two movies, one of which will (reportedly) be almost completely extrapolative.
The del Toro “Hobbit” project therefore opens the door for fleshing out storylines based on the appendices of The Lord of the Rings. While I am sure some members of the Tolkien family cannot be pleased by this development, its unchallenged success will set a precedent that may herald the dawn of a new film-making age, where every little note in an optioned book may be used as a justification for completely extrapolating a movie with no clear rights assignment.
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