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Brickfilming is the name given to a fan practice which involves making stop motion animated films out of Lego bricks. It is often carried out by AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego), although not all brickfilms are necessarily Lego fan films.
As Lego has licensed and created sets for a number of other franchises, brickfilms are often fan films from other fandoms such as Marvel, DC Comics, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings.
Brickfilms cover a wide range of genres and forms, from original short films to music videos and animated renditions of comedic sketches. In recent years, brickfilmers have increasingly begun to incorporate CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) into their films, though stop motion remains the primary medium for creating brickfilms.
Brickfilming experienced a surge of mainstream interest with the release of The LEGO Movie and its sequel The LEGO Batman Movie, whose creators deliberately paid homage to the art and techniques of brickfilming in their making of the films. (See: The LEGO Movie and Brickfilming)
In their paper 'How digital remix and fan culture helped the Lego comeback' for Transformative Works & Cultures no. 25, Sophie Gwendolyn Einwächter and Felix M. Simon describe the practice of brickfilming and how it interacts with the wider culture of Lego fandom:
A still rather underresearched aspect of Lego fan culture (a history of brickfilming remains to be written), brickfilms constitute a genre of films whose mise-en-scène, that is, its visual design, is—to a greater or lesser extent—solely created with Lego bricks. While brickfilmers, as those active in brickfilming refer to themselves, unanimously agree that a brickfilm needs to be created with Lego and should generally not include any other objects, the line between what still counts as a brickfilm and what does not is blurry and a continual topic of fierce debate among those involved. Mostly created with the traditional stop-motion technique, brickfilms are not limited to certain topics or genres but largely mirror what is available in contemporary cinema, starting with thrillers through to experimental films and in some cases even porn (although this category is normally disliked by a majority of brickfilmers). While the bulk of available brickfilms orientates itself along mainstream lines, there are frequent exceptions, and varieties are endless. Today, stop-motion animation remains the prime mode of production; however, just as other amateur filmmakers have, brickfilmers have in recent years, thanks to the greater availability of the necessary technology, increasingly relied on computer-generated imagery (CGI) and quite sophisticated visual effects to create and improve their films.
[6.5] Brickfilming as a fan activity intersects with other aspects of Lego fan culture. However, boundaries between brickfilmers and creators of MOCs are fluid. Some of them are actively involved in typical Lego fan activities, while others create brickfilms without having a close connection to other fans of Lego. It should also be noted that while brickfilmers are often Lego fans, not all brickfilms are necessarily Lego fan films. Sometimes Lego is just used for pragmatic reasons, as a handy tool for stop-motion animation, as it is easier to handle than other materials.As the animation of brickfilms is incredibly time consuming, the number of active brickfilmers is, as far as we can tell from our observations, comparatively small. Larger local or regional networks of brickfilmers or the association of individual brickfilmers in clubs or other registered groups is rare. Given their widespread dispersion, brickfilmers heavily rely on the Internet to organize themselves, to learn from each other, and to bond with likeminded individuals. Social platforms, above all YouTube, play an important role for showcasing their work.
- Eddie Izzard-Cake or Death: A brickfilm rendition of the popular Eddie Izzard sketch, 'Cake or Death?'
- Eddie Izzard- Death Star Canteen
- Ween - Where'd the cheese go?: A brickfilm music video set to the short song by Ween, 'Where'd the cheese go?' and created using miniatures from the LEGO Orient Adventures set. It was created in 2006, and many commenters nostalgically remember it as one of the first YouTube videos they ever watched.
- LEGO The Age of Ultron in 2 Minutes: A brickfilm parody of Avengers: Age of Ultron, a collaboration between BrotherhoodWorkshop and How It Should Have Ended
- Lego Ninja - The Underground Fortress: The first film published on YouTube by Michael Hickox (MICHAELHICKOXFilms), and a classic YouTube brickfilm
- Oblong Pictures
- Paganomation (Official Website)
Official Associations with LEGO
The LEGO Group has worked with a number of brickfilmers to create official brickfilm projects to be used for commercial purposes. It has also encouraged the spread and popularisation of brickfilming with the 2016 release of The LEGO Animation Book, a guide to creating your own stop motion animation out of Lego, which was created with brickfilmer David Pagano, founder of the animation studio Paganomation.
There have also been officially sponsored brickfilm contests for fans to enter, such as the Tiny Film Festival, a kids' competition to write a brickfilm to be created with Duplo, and a contest to create a clip that would be featured in The LEGO Movie. The LEGO Group also frequently runs brickfilming competitions on its competition site, ReBrick.com.
For this reason, brickfilming can be considered an officially-sanctioned fan activity. However, there is a growing tension in the brickfilm community over the perceived "mainstreamisation" of brickfilming and the making of brickfilms for commercial purposes, as Einwächter and Simon explain in their paper:
Since the early 2000s, the field has also seen a trend of increasing professionalization. Successful brickfilmers have cooperated with the Lego Group to create promotional films for new product lines (e.g., BrotherhoodWorkshop) (https://www.youtube.com/user/BrotherhoodWorkshop), a development received with mixed feelings by many brickfilmers. While some greeted the increased attention from both the media and the Lego Group with enthusiasm, others despised a perceived mainstreamization of their activity.
The LEGO Movie and Brickfilming
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- Bricks in Motion, a brickfilming community founded in 2001
- Brickworld, a Chicago-based convention for Adult Fans of Lego
Resources & Guides
A number of resources and guides exist to help fans get started with creating brickfilms, particularly following the surge of popular interest in brickfilming that was prompted by the release of The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie.
- The Director of Lego Batman on How to Make a Stop-Motion Brick Flick of Your Very Own, Wired
- Make a LEGO® Stop Motion, DIY.org
- Guide to Lego Stop Motion, BrickBrosProductions
- How to Make a LEGO Animation (Brickfilm), Jett Williams
- The LEGO Animation Book by David Pagano and David Pickett
- How Digital Remix and Fan Culture Helped the Lego Comeback, Sophie Gwendolyn Einwächter and Felix M. Simon, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 25. Published September 15, 2017 (Accessed October 1, 2017).
- Lego and Disney initiate the Tiny Film Festival to turn kids’ stories into film, The Drum. Published 13 April, 2016 (Accessed October 1, 2017).
- LEGO Movie Launches A Competition, Empire. Published March 21, 2013 (Accessed October 1, 2017).
- LEGO Rebrick Contest Page (Accessed October 1, 2017).