Imagine an innocent 14-year-old Lord of the Rings fangirl. She and her friends love Tolkein so much, that they decide to make a parody of it. And they do! And it is called "Middle Earth Idols," paying homage to the characters in LOTR and The Hobbit, and skewering American Idol at the same time. Sounds hilarious and innocuous, right?
The Tolkein estate thought otherwise. In fact, they threatened the girl with legal action.
Ashlee Rose Scott (now older and a graduate of a college film program) is part of a growing community of Tolkein super-fans who have taken their obsession to the next level and made what are known as "fan films." The quality of many of these fan produced films range from poor to eh-it's-okay. But there are actually a handful of Tolkein fan films that are so high in quality, you'd be hard pressed to determine which film was directed by Peter Jackson, and which was made by a fan.
One of the best known and highest regarded Tolkein fan films is called "Hunt for Gollum." The trailer speaks for itself:
While the Lucas estate hasn't cracked down in an extreme way on Star Wars fan films (of which there are, literally, hundreds) Christopher Tolkein has taken serious action. And, the fact is, he has every legal right to. Even though many of the films are inventive and even tell great stories, a lot of them use borrowed footage and even the characters themselves are the intellectual property of the Tolkein estate.
That being said, it's completely up to the owner of the rights to the movies to take action or not take action. Several years ago, a rabid Indiana Jones fan produced a shot-by-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark in his backyard and put it on the internet. Steven Spielberg saw the project and reportedly loved it.
Regardless of what you think of the quality of the fan films, the sole question remains: should these superfans be allowed to express themselves creatively in this way? Check out another very well produced LOTR prequel movie, Born of Hope, and let us know what you think!