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.
The field was popularized by an individual calling himself the "Phantom Editor" (later revealed as professional editor Mike J. Nichols). He 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 became known as The Phantom Edit, which was distributed on VHS and later online. 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, like "Star Wars Revisited", "The Fall of the Jedi" (a three part re-edit of The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy), and countless others.
The second major edit was done with A.I. Artificial Intelligence, originally a Stanley Kubrick film that he didn't finish before he died in 1999. Steven Spielberg finished directing the movie, and many people thought Spielberg didn't capture the essence of Kubrick's darker, brooding signature style. By 2002, an independent filmmaker named DJ Hupp introduced his take on the film, omitting certain scenes to alter the tone.
The idea of fanediting became popular with the second public release - the "Purist Edit," which changed The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to more closely follow J. R. R. Tolkien's books. The edit was distributed through peer-to-peer networks and has led many other aspiring editors to creation of their fanedits. Due to extensive changes required to change the story, Lord of the Rings are among the most challenging. There are at least two full Lord of the Rings fan edits available.
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. 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 Original Trilogy to its original, pre-Special Edition form.
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. Also fan translation (fandubs or fansubs) of anime is similar in spirit to fanedits.
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.
Fair use issues
While fan edits skirt the lines of fair use, their creators emphasize the use of the final product should only be for those who own the source material (often commercial DVDs), 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, The Clones Revealed. It is unclear exactly why Lucasfilm took this action against "daveytod". 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 until it was made clear which film was being cited with a cease and desist. 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 an Episode II bootleg.
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 fanedits 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". It was made from a leaked DVD screener of the theatrical version of the film. Despite being the second major fanedit available and having historical importance, it's not listed on fanedit.org
- Kraus, Daniel (2001-11-05). "The Phantom Edit". Salon. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- Mason, Matt (2008). The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism. Free Press. p. 87.
- Rojas, Peter (2002-07-25). "Hollywood: the people's cut". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- "Phantom Editor Apologizes". SciFi Wire. 2001-07-02. Archived from the original on 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- Masnick, Mike (2008-11-24). "MPAA Effectively Shuts Down Largest Fan Edit Movie Site". TechDirt. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- "MPAA 'Castrates' World's Biggest FanEdit Movie Site". TorrentFreak. 2008-11-23. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
- Fanedit.org – The largest forum dedicated to the art of fanediting. New fan edits are released weekly, varying in type and genre.
- The Internet Fanedit Database - A comprehensive informational database of fan edits.
- Fanedits.com – A wiki-style site dedicated to fan edits and other fan projects (merged with originaltrilogy.com).