Can't wait until Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro get round to rolling out the official movies of The Hobbit ? Why not turn your Sauron-like gaze instead towards cool fan film The Hunt For Gollum?
Fan films are a sophisticated genre these days, with pro-level tools and equipment increasingly available to the fan in the street. We caught up with Chris Bouchard, director of The Hunt For Gollum, and quizzed him about the creation of this Tolkien-inspired non-profit epic.
SFX: Have you made any films before?
Chris Bouchard: "I've made a number of gory horrors and zombie flicks - mostly short films although I have a 28 days later style zombie feature in production called Human Residue . Right now making The Hunt for Gollum is a chance to get my work out there to the Lord of the Rings fan base over the internet, as well as honing my cinematic style. It's great to get experience on low budget projects and above all it's a hell of a lot of fun to be bringing Middle Earth back to life on screen!"
SFX: How did you come up with the idea?
Bouchard: "Above all I was so inspired by Peter Jackson's trilogy - and jealous that he got to make it first! I loved the scale, the quality, the epic scope of it all and figured, hey, maybe we can do that too. We don't have millions of dollars of funding (our budget is less than £3000) but we do have a huge love for the subject, a growing number of talented volunteers behind us and above all the determination to make it happen to a high standard of professionalism."
"I adore Lord of the Rings books and films so I searched through for a part of the story that had been neglected - something doable on a limited budget - and found the story of Aragorn's search for Gollum. It was perfect. It had just a few characters. He travels all over Middle Earth, so we could visit some cool locations, and it has Gollum and Gandalf in it - two of my favourite characters. Plus we could work in some of those pesky thieving Orcs. All I needed was a couple of actors, a camera, and some willing crew."
"Three months later I was on location in the freezing rain of Snowdonia, North Wales, with a small crew and Adrian Webster striding across the mountains as Aragorn. Without million dollar budgets it would be impossible to live this dream through official routes, but by doing it as an unofficial non-profit production, we can release it to the internet for free and still find a substantial audience. Hundreds of fans have written in through our website in support of our trailers. We don't get paid but for me it's not about the money, it's about the experience and the fun of film-making!"
SFX: Who wrote the story?
Bouchard: "Well, Tolkien himself gave us the inspiration for the film! It's all written in the appendices of the books, where he tells of what Aragorn and Gollum got up to before the trilogy began. Last May I took elements from that story and didn't even have to fill in many gaps before I had a 25-page script. It worked like a short episode - an additional chapter of the Peter Jackson trilogy."
SFX: Without spoiling it for us, can you give us any hints about the plot?
Bouchard: "It's all about Aragorn and what he gets up to while all the hobbits are blissfully living in the Shire - unaware of the danger surrounding them. At this point he's known as Strider, the ranger. However the great events of the war of the ring are about to begin and the priority for Aragorn and Gandalf is to keep the ring secret. Sauron is preparing to unleash his armies and Gollum is creeping around Middle Earth with crucial knowledge of the Ring's location."
"Consequently Aragorn sets out to track him down in the hope that they catch him before the enemy does. Basically it's Aragorn's story, it's about the challenges he faces on this arduous journey, and it's about bringing this little known part of the story to life on screen in a cinematic style. We might get to see a bit of Gollum and Gandalf, and show a sense of the building menace of Mordor. We also have several rather exciting no-compromises fight scenes as Aragorn battles the varied forces of evil - including a small army of rampaging, bloodthirsty Orcs!"
SFX: Who are playing the lead roles?
Bouchard: "As our budget is seven shillings and sixpence I was shocked when so many actors turned up to the auditions. Despite being unpaid we had hundreds of replies to our adverts online and were able to track down some pretty amazing talent. Strider is played by Adrian Webster; an as yet undiscovered actor with an amazing presence on screen. He's got a great physicality - as you will see in the fight scenes in the film. He's joined by Pat O'Connor, Arin Alldridge and Rita Ramnani, other upcoming UK talents who I hope you'll be seeing more of in the near future."
SFX: How did you create such convincing costumes and make-up - do you have industry pros helping you on the side?
Bouchard: "The makeup, costumes and props were a huge team effort. Our budget is tiny (£3000) so it had to be done DIY - on the cheap - a real labour of love. I'm incredibly lucky that so many talented people have come on board. I initially set about tracking down some prosthetics and costume crew on the internet and found a wealth of talented artists and LOTR fans who were dying to work towards something ambitious. So it was a case of bringing them together from all over the country in one united collaboration. We've even had people from overseas making bows and arrows and mailing them over to us. As the project has gone on it's got bigger and bigger. On our last shoot we had a band of fighting Orcs camping out in Epping forest and a 50-strong crew to shoot the big set-piece of the film. It was phenomenal experience. The stunt guys really got into it and were rampaging around the forest for four days - I like to think they're still out there! Some industry pros have helped out but more often than not it's the undiscovered talent (future pros, I hope) who are making the most amazing contributions. I found a really talented young prosthetics designer called Luke McNally who made the Orc special effects."
"For a glimpse, do check out the trailer on our website ! The film will be released there in January."
SFX: Thanks Chris!
You can check out the trailer as Chris Bouchard suggests over at their site www.thehuntforgollum.com , and keep your eyes out for a another picture in SFX issue 178. Are you working on any exciting fan projects? Get in touch with SFX and let us know!