Three Reasons Why Fan Works Can Sometimes Be Better Than Their “Official” Counterparts

Last year, I ended up watching a really brilliant “Blade Runner” fan film that was made for just $1500. The surprising thing was that it actually seemed to capture the general atmosphere and tone of the original “Blade Runner” in a slightly better way than the film’s official sequel did.

Naturally, this made me think about why fan-made things can sometimes be better than their official counterparts. And, after some thought on the matter, I’ve come up with a few possible reasons:

1) Money: Generally-speaking, fan works have a totally different relationship with money when compared to “official” creative works. The most obvious element of this is that fan works are usually only tolerated by major studios, game companies, publishers etc.. because they are non-commercial (plus, they’re both free advertising for the official thing and a way to maintain fan interest too).

Because of their non-commercial status, fan works don’t have to focus on things like appealing to a mass audience, finding big-name talent, advertising or any of that nonsense. So, they can focus more on the really important stuff like creativity, imagination and enjoyability. Because they don’t have marketing people or executives trying to meddle with the creative process, people making fan works have a lot more creative freedom.

In addition to this, the budgets for fan works often tend to be a lot lower. What this means is that people making fan works have to be more creative in order to counteract this. Since they can’t always dazzle the audience with famous names, special effects that cost millions etc.. they have to dazzle the audience with things like storytelling, interesting characters, creative design choices, acting, music etc.. instead.

Their low-budget status often also leads to more of a focus on small-scale drama too. Small-scale drama is something that is often missing from large-budget films, blockbuster novels, mainstream comics etc.. these days. So, this alone can make fan works seem a lot more interesting and creative than their “official” counterparts.

2) Refinement: The whole concept of “fan works” is a relatively new one. The distinction between “official” and “fan-made” works only really came into being with the invention of modern copyright law (and things like the printing press, cameras, sound recording etc..). Prior to this, no-one really “owned” stories, songs etc…

What this meant was that pre-existing stories and songs would often be refined over time by different people coming up with their own interpretations of them. For example, Shakespeare often based his plays on pre-existing stories. But, he’s revered as a famous playwright because of what he did with these pre-existing stories.

So, fan works can often carry on this tradition. Since they don’t have to do the hard work of making something completely new, they can focus a lot more time and effort on improving a pre-existing thing.

You can also see this in fan works’ more respectable (and legitimate) counterpart – original works inspired by other things. Computer and video games provide some really good examples of this – like how the original “Resident Evil” from 1996 is considered a classic of the survival horror genre, even though it was at least partially inspired by a game from four years earlier called “Alone In The Dark“.

The two games have a similar underlying concept (eg: escaping a monster-filled mansion) and similar gameplay mechanics, yet “Resident Evil” did some interesting new things with the template established by “Alone In The Dark”.

3) Expectations: This one is probably pretty self-explanatory. When a new official thing is made, then fans will often tend to have extremely high expectations of it. Likewise, it will often be hyped up by months of advertising and pre-release publicity too. All of this means that official works have to be especially good if they want to meet these sky-high expectations.

On the other hand, people’s expectations about fan works tend to be a lot lower. After all, there’s a lot of crappy fan-made stuff out there, plus fans often don’t have anywhere near the budget that official creative works do. As such, if a fan work is good, then it will seem even better because the audience’s expectations are a lot lower.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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Fan Art And Self-Expression – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d talk about how fan art can be a valid form of self-experession today. This was because of an experience I had with making fan art shortly before I originally prepared the first draft of this article (several months ago). But, I should also point out that this article contains some SPOILERS for “Blade Runner” and the original “Ghost In The Shell” film too.

Although it is all resolved now, I’d been having something of a stressful evening on the day that I originally prepared this article. In short, what I’d thought was an annoying long-running problem with my computer (which kept slowly getting worse) turned out, upon closer inspection, to be a much more serious problem. The capacitors on the motherboard had begun to degrade.

Even though I’d been preparing a backup computer, the idea of my main computer slowly dying was deeply disturbing. This was a computer that has been by my side for over a decade. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever had. Even after all this time, using it still felt futuristic when compared to the Windows 98 machine I’d previously used. It had been there during some of the best and some of the worst times of my life. It was what this blog was started on and what my art was scanned and edited on too. It has, to me at least, become more than just a mere machine. It was more like a cherished treasure or a beloved pet.

Still, the computer worked intermittently. So, I wasn’t going to desert it. Even though I was setting up a second backup system (eg: another classic mid-2000s computer 🙂), I thought that I would stick with my main computer for as long as I could. Or at least until I could find a way to put the hard drive into another computer or something [EDIT: This is exactly what happened the next day. It’s now inside a computer from 2004 with a faster processor, but less RAM and VRAM, than my old machine from 2006]

Although the original “Ghost In The Shell” movie would probably be a better parallel, a scene from “Blade Runner” slipped into my mind during all of this. It was the scene near the end of the film where, with Gaff’s words about limited lifespans echoing in the background, Deckard and Rachel get into a lift and decide to spend the rest of their days together. The scene suddenly took on a new poignance to me.

So, that evening, I decided to draw it. Here’s a preview of the finished drawing:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size picture will be posted here on the 30th August.

Although it was intially just a quick and easy way to distract myself from all of the stress about the computer, the drawing ended up being a lot more expressive and creative than I had expected.

Firstly, this was because I decided to make a monochrome drawing rather than an “accurate” full-colour painting. Initially, this was both for time reasons and to minimise the amount of editing time after I scanned the painting (in case my computer failed whilst editing). But, it lent the picture a hauntingly stark quality that seemed to reflect the mood I was in very well. Not only that, not having to worry about colours meant that I could focus more on detail and shading, which seriously improved the picture.

Secondly, the scene in the picture doesn’t technically appear in the film (or at least the DVD of the 1992 Director’s Cut that I used as a reference). Yes, Deckard and Rachel get into the lift – but, despite what I had thought, there isn’t actually a shot of them standing next to each other.

So, of course, I had to pause the DVD at various different moments during the scene and come up with a composite picture that isn’t actually in the film. Originally, this was just out of necessity (since I had a clear idea of what my drawing would look like). But, it’s also an example of how fan art can actually include creativity.

So, in conclusion, fan art can also include self-expression and creativty too. Yes, original art gives you more creative freedom – but you can still be fairly creative with fan art too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Why Fan Art Matters – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Why fan art matters

Well, although I don’t really make that much fan art myself and often prefer to just be inspired by something (rather than re-create it), I thought that I’d talk about why fan art is such an important genre of art.

One of the things that always surprises me when I look at artists’ galleries on the internet is how much fan art both well-known and lesser-known artists make. For quite a while, I used to secretly think that this was because these artists “lacked imagination” or something foolish like that.

But, although fan art isn’t exactly “original art”, it contains more originality and imagination than you might think. The first reason for this is that although all of the characters and settings used in fan art have been made by someone else, there are still a lot of creative decisions that go into how to represent these things in a new and interesting way.

A piece of fan art is kind of like a cover version of a famous song. A good cover version will not only be as good as the original song, but it’ll also make enough changes in order to set itself apart from the original. Yes, it isn’t a “new” song, but it’s a creatively different version of a pre-existing song. For example, Jimi Hendrix didn’t write “All Along The Watchtower”, but his famous cover version of the song is almost a totally different song to Bob Dylan’s original.

Fan art is pretty much the same thing. An artist can represent familiar characters using a totally different art style, they can give mundane scenes from a film an interesting colour scheme, they can make fun of things, they can render unrealistic things in a realistic way (or vice versa) etc…

In addition to this, fan art is also a way for artists to participate in our surrounding culture. This is something that is integral to making art and it’s something that has been a part of human creativity ever since the first cave people picked up sticks and started scrawling pictures of their hunting expeditions on the walls of their caves. This is something that also goes back to the time of Shakespeare – given that many of his plays were either new versions of pre-existing stories and/or based on historical events.

By making art based on contemporary popular culture, artists are able to make a statement about the surrounding culture. They’re able to show their approval or disapproval for the popular stories we all watch, read, play or listen to. They’re able to give their own perspective on our surrounding culture (eg: by making art that shows what a popular film would be like if a few things were different, by parodying things that are taken too seriously etc…). Fan art is a way for artists to interact directly with our culture.

This instinct is as old as humanity itself. One of the reasons why fan art is often seen as a “lesser” form of art is probably to do with the relatively recent invention of copyright rules.

Back in the really old days, no-one really “owned” stories, plays, songs etc… Everyone was free to interpret and re-interpret them in their own unique way. But, with the invention of the printing press and other such things, individual people can technically have monopolies on important parts of our culture… Even after they’ve died!

Of course, fan art is something of an interesting grey area (in practice, if not in theory) when it comes to copyright.

Provided that your fan art isn’t obscene or offered for commercial sale, then you probably don’t have to worry about getting an ominous knock on the door. Most major media companies tolerate respectful fan art for the simple reasons that fan art can serve as free advertising and because attacking their most dedicated fans is bad for business. Likewise, mocking or disrespectful fan art is sometimes protected by copyright exemptions in some parts of the world (eg: the EU and the US) that protect people’s right to make parodies.

But, because of the principles of modern copyright law, fan art is often seen as a lesser form of art. Even though it is just a modern extension of a creative tradition that is older than the written word.

In addition to this, fan art is an interesting form of art because it forces artists to focus on the process of making art. When you’re making an “original” painting or drawing, you have to think of a “new” idea (that is probably inspired by, but different to, something else). This can sometimes take a lot of additional thought, which can sometimes mean that the actual painting or drawing can be something of an afterthought.

By basing your art on something that has already been created, you are free to focus all of your attention on the actual art itself. Not only can this be extremely relaxing, but it can also lead to higher-quality art too. It’s kind of like making a still life painting – yes, you still have to use artistic licence (and make creative decisions) but the quality is often a lot higher since you have something pre-made that you can base your artwork on.

Of course, there are lots of other reasons why fan art matters, but these were just a few of them.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂