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.
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.
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, and received attention by the media for its attempt to improve upon the original film. 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.
In 2006, a filmmaker, artist, and fan of animator Oscar-winning Richard Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) named Garrett Gilchrist created a non-profit fan restoration of the animated film The Thief and the Cobbler called The Recobbled Cut. It was done in as high quality as possible by combining available sources at the time, such as a heavily compressed file of Williams's workprint and better-quality footage from the Japanese DVD of Arabian Knight. This edit was much supported by numerous people who had worked on the film (with the exception of Richard Williams himself), including Roy Naisbitt, Alex Williams, Andreas Wessel-Therhorn, Tony White, Holger Leihe, Simon Maddocks, Neil Boyle, and Steve Evangelatos, many of whom lent rare material for the project. Some minor changes were made to "make it feel more like a finished film", like adding more music and replacing some bits of audio and storyboards with those from the Princess and the Cobbler version of the film. Certain scenes, like the wedding ending, had to be redrawn frame by frame by Gilchrist due to flaws in the footage. Gilchrist described this as the most complex independent restoration of a film ever undertaken. This edit gained positive reviews on the Internet. Twitch Film called it "the best and most important 'fan edit' ever made". It has been revised three times in 2006, 2008, and 2013. Each version incorporated further higher-quality materials donated by animators from the film, including two rare workprints from the Fred Calvert production that contained footage not available in the released versions. The "Mark 3" version released in 2008 incorporated 21 minutes from a 49-minute reel of rare 35 mm film. Gilchrist's latest version, "Mark 4", was released in September 2013 and edited in HD. "Mark 4" features about 30 minutes of the film in full HD quality, restored from raw 35 mm footage which Gilchrist edited frame by frame. Artists were also commissioned to contribute new artwork and material. Gilchrist's YouTube account, "TheThiefArchive", now serves as an unofficial video archive of Richard Williams's films, titles, commercials, and interviews, including footage from the Nasrudin production. Williams said that while he never saw Gilchrist's Recobbled Cut, he acknowledged the role that the fan edits had played in rehabilitating the film's reputation.
In 2017 French editors Lucas Stoll and Gaylor Morestin created a fan edit of Breaking Bad, condensing the entire series into a two-hour feature film and uploaded it onto Vimeo. They had worked on the film for around two years prior to its release. However the film was soon taken down for copyright violation.
Star Wars Sequel trilogy fan-edits
Star Wars IX: Rise of Skywalker received many fan-edits that disagreed with the film. According to The Ringer the reception to the made Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker was so controversial, that the film (and its tie-ins), kept generating negative or controversial headlines in regards to the film's production for almost 10 months after its release. While contrasting how most of the other Star Wars projects released during that time span, were better received. Dave Filoni projects The Mandalorian, whose "Chapter 7: The Reckoning" and the finale of The Clone Wars animated series, were better received. Specially controversial was a scene in which Rey hears some Jedi voices in her head before killing Darth Sidious. While attempting to defend the theatrical cut's "conscious choice" of not showing ghosts, and instead only showing the voices, the VFX-editor Roger Guyett said he perceived the idea of hearing them, made them "almost more powerful than the idea of actually visually seeing them". He also said, "What I liked about that idea as it developed, was that you feel like you're with Rey and you're inside her head" (very clearly noting that Rey hears the voices inside of her head). The controversy led to fan-edits adding the Force ghosts with footage from the previous films. The scene also got inadvertently compared to the beginning of the movie, which establishes Darth Sidious has the new Force ability of imitating voices in people's heads, by imitating Snoke and Darth Vader in Kylo Ren's head, this led to some viewers to interpret Palpatine was all of the voices, and that the evil character won the final battle of the film.
Two Forbes writers criticized the attempts at explaining away the plot-holes of the movie. According to a video by IGN, the plot points and unanswered questions in The Rise of Skywalker were addressed by tie-in books and comics that would require fans a total of $150, that would be better spent on Baby Yoda merchandise. In addition to conspiracy theories about the film's production and perceived failures on Reddit, another plot related popular fan theory supported by website Esquire, spawned due to the film's plot-holes, and in regard to the same previously mentioned scene of the "ghosts". The fan theory claims that the villain Darth Sidious won at the end of the last film and possesses Rey's body by making her kill him (which he stated, as his evil plan in the film). Due to a plot-hole that leaves open ended that Darth Sidious was possibly imitating "the voices of the Jedi that Rey hears in her head", before defeating Darth Sidious. Since the scene inadvertently got compared to the beginning of the movie, which establishes Darth Sidious has the new Force ability of imitating voices in people's heads, when Darth Sidious imitates Snoke and Darth Vader in Kylo Ren's head.
Esquire noted the fan theory, states that in his initial meeting with Kylo Ren, Darth Sidious reveals that he has the ability to imitate voices into people's heads, by imitating the voices of Darth Vader and Snoke. This creates a plot-hole were some people perceive all of the Jedi voices that Rey hears could be perceived as mere imitations by Darth Sidious done in Rey's head, by using the same ability Darth Sidious had revealed he had earlier in the film. Since those voices also help Rey to kill Darth Sidious, something that the former Emperor stated he wanted Rey to do in order to merge his soul into her body (while the film does not mention the possibility of the voices being imitations by Darth Sidious, noting in the film prevents the possibility). The film makes it impossible to determine if the voices were truly the past Jedi or imitations by Darth Sidious. Without mentioning the unconfirmed origin of the voices, some websites like Digital Spy argue that Darth Sidious death due to Rey deflecting Darth Sidious own Force lighting bolt back at him, could make the cause of death a suicide (thus preventing Darth Sidious from merging his soul to her body). However, Esquire argued that it could still count as Rey murdering him (which would mean Darth Sidious won and fulfilled his plan of merging his soul into Rey's body, and that even if it was not the original intention, it could be very easily rewritten such). Time called the plot point "unclear". Website Syfy.com reviewed the theory, stating that it seemed plausible except nothing Rey does later suggest that Rey got possessed by Darth Sidious, that Disney would not permit "the devil to win", and that the theory attempts to retcon the events of the film instead of predicting something that could happen later or move the narrative forward. However it called the fan-theory somewhat of a genuine attempt at "narrative salvation" by filling the narrative voids left by the Rise of Skywalker, which it described as "half-baked and ridden with actual plot-holes".
What heavily supports the Darth Sidious imitations and victory interpretation, and makes the presence of some of those Force ghosts confusing, is that it contradicts previous films less, due to another plot-hole with the previous films. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith established that the ability to become a Force ghost required special training in life. Since Qui-jon only revealed the ability to return as a Force ghost along the required training, long after the death of various of those voices (like Mace Windu). As noted by website Screenrant, the return as a Force ghost of some of those voices clearly contradicts how Force ghosts worked in the previous films, and brings into question where were those voices during the events of the Original Trilogy (such plot-hole would not exist if the voices were imitations by Darth Sidious, which arguably would be more consistent to the previous films). Qui-jon is shown starting the training of Yoda to become a Force ghost, which required a complicated set of special trials, in the Season 6 finale of The Clone Wars animated series. According to website Gizmodo, the technique took years to learn, and no one knew the ability other than the Force priestesses that originally taught the technique to Qui-jon. The only characters to learn the technique from Qui-jon were Yoda, Obi-wan, and it is assumed Luke learned it from them. While Anakin was the only one who naturally achieved it without training.
Many Reddit conspiracy theories centering on the production of the film led to false rumors about the existence of multiple director's cuts of the film, including one that supposedly included visual appearances of the (blue colored) ghosts of Obi-wan, Anakin Skywalker, and Yoda, instead of only their voices (the rumor, being completely unrelated to IX: Duel of the Fates). Although it was argued that most fans do not believe in the existence of the alternate cut by Abrams, it is believed they rather supported it as the means towards asking for a better cut of the negatively received film, as well as for a better end towards the franchise. Others, however, saw it as a parody of the movement in which fans lobbied for the Snyder Cut of the poorly received Justice League movie (the Snyder Cut proving to be true somewhat fueled credibility on to those fake Abrams alternate cut conspiracy theories). The petitions asking for a better version of the film started in January 2020, shortly after the film's release. Abrams' friend Greg Grunberg, who had cameos on the films, called the Abrams cut conspiracy fake. Website Vox was negative towards the theories, and called them fake. The Abrams cut conspiracy theories are considered to all be fake, but the unmade and unfilmed script Star Wars: Duel of the Fates by Trevorow has been confirmed as real. The parallel existence of both, led some people to confuse it as part of the conspiracy theories. According to the website The Ringer, the unjustified rumors of a better version of The Rise of Skywalker have persisted for 15 months after the film's release (this not being based on the IX: Duel of the Fates draft which was never filmed at all), mostly fueled by dissatisfaction with the Abrams film that got released, and noted the hashtag asking for another version of the film resurfaced due to the success of the Snyder Cut of Justice League being better than the theatrical cut directed by Joss Whedon whose changes to Zack Snyder's movie, have been very much compared to the ones that Abrams made to the never filmed Colin Trevorow's script of Star Wars IX titled Duel of the Fates, and also that a lot of unreleased footage from the film exists, even if there is no proof it could improve the film at all. A Forbes writer stated the theories originated due to "the film being so bad", and that to a degree the film seemed a typical case of studio interference, comparing it to the Snyder Cut and noting actor Dominic Monaghan, who appeared on the film backed the idea of a "Special Edition" of the film. Despite that a never released deleted scene of deleted scene where Kylo Ren called Palpatine a clone is also known to exist, Forbes noted the supposed Abrams cut rumors did not mention it, and stated the deleted scene would not be enough to fix the film. No deleted scenes have been released yet. Another never released deleted scene of Kylo Ren torturing Chewbacca is known to exist.
Regardless of their validity those conspiracy theories led fan editors to employ archive footage to visually incorporate the (blue colored) ghosts of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-wan, Luke, and Yoda, into a fan-made version of the scene, which was positively received for its technical execution. Website Inverse argued that the scene, especially on the part featuring Anakin interacting with Rey was better than the scene in the original film, and called for Lucasfilm to include it in a future Special Edition re-release of the film, regardless of the authenticity of the rumors that spawned it. Digital Spy said it was up to fans to choose which they liked more, in regards to seeing the ghosts or only hearing them. Website Techradar compared the scene to The Phantom Edit fan-edit of the prequel trilogy, saying it was the sequel trilogy's equivalent to that fan-edit. Abrams however affirmed his dedication not to retroactively release alternate versions of the films, saying, "I feel like [when] you're done with a thing...that's what it is." In contrast, a 46-minute fan-edits of the previous film The Last Jedi, which removed all the female characters, was criticized for sexism.
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.
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- 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
- the bizarre world of fan edits an restorations post by Royal Ocean Film Society on YouTube