A fan edit is a version of a film modified by a viewer, that removes, reorders, or adds material in order to create a new interpretation of the source material. This includes the removal of scenes or dialogue, replacement of audio and/or visual elements, and adding material from sources such as deleted scenes or even other films.
Fan edits first came into prominence in 2000, when professional editor Mike J. Nichols released The Phantom Edit, an edited version of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace that removed elements he found distracting. The Phantom Edit circulated online and received attention by the media for its attempt to improve upon the original film, which inspired others to attempt similar edits on other films.
In their most common form, fan edits resemble the work done by professional editors when creating a director's or extended cut of a film, although fan edits are usually limited by the footage already made available to the public with the official home video release of a film, while professional editors working for a film studio have access to more and higher quality footage and elements. In addition to re-editing films, some fan edits feature basic corrections, such as colors or framing, that maintain or restore consistency within the film, such as the Star Wars fan-restoration Harmy's Despecialized Edition, which aims at restoring the Star Wars Original Trilogy to its original, pre-Special Edition form. Other types of fan edits, such as Cosmogony, Bateman Begins: An American Psycho and Memories Alone, merge footage from various films into an entirely different production. While many fan edits are viewed as reactionary to perceived weaknesses in the original films, one film scholar at the University of Kansas has argued that such edits allow fans to creatively reimagine films instead of merely attempting to fix such works.
Fan edits are made for non-commercial purposes and as such could be considered a case of fair use, but their legality is unclear.
Before the term "fan edit" was coined, many alternate versions of films edited by other fans or professional editors were simply known as a "cut." In the late 1970s, many alternate "cuts" of films were released in the United States, and foreign films (such as those from Europe or Japan) deemed unsuitable for American audiences underwent further alterations, score changes and re-titlings.
The first fan edit to popularize the field was The Phantom Edit, created in 2000 by professional editor Mike J. Nichols under the pseudonym of the "Phantom Editor". Nichols removed elements from George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace that he felt detracted from the film, and made minor changes in dialogue, languages and subtitles to give the film's villains a more menacing tone. The end result was distributed on VHS and later online. The Phantom Edit was the first of many Star Wars fan edits to come, and has since inspired dozens of edits to surface on the internet.
The second major edit was done with A.I. Artificial Intelligence, originally a film that Stanley Kubrick was involved with, that Steven Spielberg ended up directing after Kubrick's death. In 2002, an independent filmmaker named DJ Hupp introduced his take on the film named "The Kubrick Edit", omitting certain scenes to alter the tone, to be closer to Kubrick's style.
After that the trend started to gain popularity and spread to other films in the same fashion, such as The Matrix series, Pearl Harbor, Dune, Superman II, and others. Editor Adywan (Adrian Sayce) made a complete overhaul of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back in 2009 and 2017 respectively, under the title Star Wars - Revisited, featuring continuity fixes, image and cropping corrections, score restoration, new matter, rotoscoping work and new CGI elements to remove several additions from the various Special Editions of the films from 1997 onward. In 2008, a similar overhaul was made by editor Uncanny Antman (Sean O'Sullivan) to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which changed the film's tone to be more in line with the first two films and fixed various continuity contradictions to the previous films and image & cropping errors; the film was rereleased under the title of Terminator: The Coming Storm.
Independent filmmaker Peet Gelderblom made a fan edit of Brian De Palma's Raising Cain, which attempted to reorder the film the way it was originally scripted. De Palma came across the fan edit and was so impressed with it, he had Gelderblom supervise a high definition version of it for Blu-ray, which was released under the Director's Cut label, as De Palma felt that the edit has "restored the true story of Raising Cain".
CleanFlicks was a Utah-based video store that offered more than 700 movies that had been remixed to appeal to Utah's religious family audience. The chain of stores spread across 18 states in 70 different locations before a federal court judge ruled their remixes illegal in 2006.
Fair use issues
While fan edits skirt the lines of fair use, the fan editing community largely emphasizes the use of the final product should only be for those who own the source material (commercial home video releases such as DVD), and are not to be distributed for profit or other personal gain. Lucasfilm is aware of the existence of Star Wars fan edits, and has stated they will take action when they believe copyright infringement has taken place.
In July 2007, Lucasfilm took action against fan editor "daveytod" after taking issue with his fan edit documentary of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, named The Clones Revealed. Their email to him cited the possibility of "consumer confusion," that The Clones Revealed might be mistaken for an official Lucasfilm product. The email was sent to several active members of the fan editing community and resulted in the short down time of Fanedit.org. The reasoning given by Lucasfilm's anti-piracy team during communications with Fanedit.org moderators seemed to display the mistaken impression that The Clones Revealed was a bootleg of the film.
In November 2008, Fanedit.org was briefly closed after receiving a complaint from the Motion Picture Association of America regarding the use of links to its copyrights appearing on the site. After a three-day downtime, the website reopened without any links to potentially infringing files.
Fanedit.org has a policy to not allow fan edits made from pirated versions of films to be listed in its database. One notable victim of this policy is The Purist Edit of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, made from a DVD screener leak of the film's theatrical version. Despite being one of the earliest major fan edits available and having historical importance, it is not listed on Fanedit.org.
- "Fan editors are artists, not disgruntled fans, KU scholar argues". College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
- Kraus, Daniel. ""The Phantom Edit"". salon.com. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- Rojas, Peter (July 24, 2002). "Hollywood: the people's cut". Retrieved April 18, 2017 – via The Guardian.
- Mason, Matt (2008). The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism. Free Press. p. 87.
- JW, Author (January 20, 2015). "'The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit' and Screener-based Fan Edits". wille.tv. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- Matthew Wilhelm Kapell; John Shelton Lawrence, eds. (July 1, 2006). Finding the Force of the Star Wars Franchise: Fans, Merchandise, and Critics. Peter Lang. p. 259. ISBN 0820488089.
- "Steven Soderbergh posts his 110-minute recut of 2001: A Space Odyssey". avclub.com. January 14, 2015. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- "Steven Soderbergh tries to fix 'the worst film of all time' with his own fan edit". theverge.com. April 28, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- Gelderblom, Peet. "FEATURE FILM WITH VIDEO ESSAY: Brian De Palma's RAISING CAIN is re-cut - IndieWire". indiewire.com. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- "Changing Cain: How my fan-edit became a Brian De Palma Director's Cut – DIRECTORAMA - Peet Gelderblom". directorama.net. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- "Rules – Fanedit.org". fanedit.org. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- "Science Fiction News of the Week". March 25, 2009. Archived from the original on March 25, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- ""The Clones Revealed" - Available Now! - Original Trilogy". originaltrilogy.com. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- "Fanedit Forums". fanedit.org. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- "MPAA 'Castrates' World's Biggest FanEdit Movie Site - TorrentFreak". torrentfreak.com. November 23, 2008. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- Fanedit.org – The largest website and forum dedicated to the art of fan editing. New fan edits are released weekly, varying in type and genre.
- FAN EDITS - Master List - A comprehensive list of fan edits, restorations, preservations, and other fan-made projects.
- FanRes forum – A forum devoted to fan-made movie restoration and preservation projects.
- /r/fanedits – Reddit Fanediting Community