OTW Guest Post: Donna Davies

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Interviews by Fans
Title: OTW Guest Post: Donna Davies
Interviewer:
Interviewee: Donna Davies
Date(s): July 27, 2015
Medium: online
Fandom(s):
External Links: OTW Guest Post: Donna Davies, Archived version
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OTW Guest Post: Donna Davies is a 2015 interview with Donna Davies.

It was done as part of a series. See OTW Guest Post.

Introduction

Today’s post is an interview with Donna Davies, the writer, director and producer behind the documentary Fanarchy. The documentary explores how new affordable technology is allowing fans to threaten the Hollywood system by producing the films they want to see in quantities Hollywood can’t keep up with. It premiered July 9 on Epix Drive-in. [1]

Excerpts

What inspired you to make this documentary?

I made a documentary about the Hollywood film industry that featured some pretty high profile directors and discovered that several had made their own homemade tributes to the stories and movies they loved when they were kids. I was intrigued by the fact that these individuals were all inspired by the TV shows, books and movies they loved as children and were really still fans at heart. I wanted to look deeper into the idea of fandom as artistic inspiration.

How do the philosophies of the OTW (such as that fanworks are fair use, female spaces and representations should be encouraged) fit with what you found?

Early on in the process of making the film, I interviewed [OTW Legal Staffer] Rebecca Tushnet. Rebecca provided insight into the legal implications from the fan’s perspective. I also interviewed media expert Jeff Ulin, a lawyer who had worked for Disney and Lucasfilm, where he managed worldwide distribution including the franchise sales for Star Wars. These two experts gave me insight into of the vast divide that often exists between the fans and the copyright holders.

I was worried at the start of making the film, because, although I had dealt with fair use in previous docs, I had never pushed things this far before. Although the fan films featured in the doc have been available on the Internet, until now they haven’t been broadcast on traditional television. Here’s hoping I don’t end up in jail.

In all seriousness, I think we’re making huge progress in the area of fair use in documentary film. I can do things today that were not possible just 10 years ago.

As for female spaces, while fan culture is absolutely rooted in female culture, I think that has primarily been the “story” side. The “film” production side has traditionally tended to bias towards males. However with accessible distribution methods and affordable technology that is changing.

My film is really looking primarily at fan films and TV shows, not literature or vidding. I’m totally fascinated by that side though, so maybe that’s my next film!

The main character of Fanarchy is Maya Glick, a black woman from Texas who, through the making of my doc ends up achieving her goal of making her own fan-film tribute to [Marvel character] Storm. I also feature several other female characters, including Brea Grant who, after much success acting in Hollywood films and TV shows like Friday Night Lights, Heroes, and Dexter, went on to write her own comic book, then engaged with her fans to eventually make her own feature film.

There’s also Stephanie Thorpe, who, along with her producing partner Paula Rhodes, made a loving fan tribute to their favourite childhood comic book series, Elfquest, and then used that fan film to convince the copyright holders to give them the rights to make the Elfquest TV series.

In addition to Rebecca Tushnet, the film features other female experts such as film critic Maitland McDonagh and journalist Heidi Honeycutt.

What are your thoughts on the monetization of fanworks?

This is a tricky area to navigate. Some fans just want to play with the stories and characters they love. I believe that these fans should be able to do so freely. And I think that this has become more and more acceptable.

Copyright holders are beginning to understand that these fans are not harming their franchises. It’s very difficult to prove that these homages take away money from the original works. However fans still have to be careful. They have to walk a very fine line between freedom to express their fandom and directly profiting monetarily from that fandom. The fans who want to use their fan works to build a fan base can easily do so. Doing a fan film about Batman enables the filmmaker of that fan film to reach out to other fans, and gain an audience for an original film that they can legally profit from.

Things are evolving very quickly. Some fan films are becoming so professional it is impossible to tell them from the original. Fan filmmakers who are doing these super pro films are hoping that they can eventually make a deal with original copyright holders to share in any profits that could be made from the fan works.

They are always going to be fans who just want to do this for themselves as a labour of love on the one hand and on the other hand those who want to use the fan work as a calling card to break into a career.

References

  1. OTW Guest Post: Donna Davies, Archived version