What was the First Fan Film?

Fan films are a modern plague with some old roots – stretching all the way back to 1925.

The modern era of the fan film begins with Batman: Dead End, a truly moronic thing where Batman meets the Predator*. But fan films, in which amateurs make shorts or features based on properties to which they do not have the rights, have been with us for a long, long time. Last year we brought you this 1969 Spider-Man fan film, one of many made by future writer Donald F. Glut.

The very, very first known fan film, though, was made in 1925, and it sprang from a fascinating tradition of itinerant filmmakers. These filmmakers would travel from town to town with their primitive silent movie equipment and film the locals, either in a stand-and-wave documentary style or integrate them into little narratives. These shorts would play at the new local cinema, or just projected on a sheet in some gathering spot. For the people of the time this would have been an incredible experience, as consumer cameras more or less didn’t exist. Getting your portrait shot was a big deal, let alone being captured in all your moving glory.

While hundreds, if not thousands, of these sorts of films were made in the years before WWII, almost none still exist. Nobody bothered archiving or cataloguing them, and they were never copyrighted and often weren’t even named. Some may sit moldering in antique shops or attics, turning into vinegar. But some have survived and made their way into the hands of collectors and museums. One such film, known as Anderson Our Gang, is the first known example of a fan film.

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