Just browsing and found this, sorry if its been posted:
Hollywood: the people’s cut
The fans are now editing Hollywood blockbusters, says Peter Rojas
Thursday July 25, 2002
Like many other fans of Stanley Kubrick, I was troubled when I discovered in 1999 that Steven Spielberg had taken over AI, Kubrick’s unfinished film about a robotic boy. I had little faith that Spielberg, known for his crowd-pleasing blockbusters, would ever be able to capture the tone that Kubrick, a cold, methodical perfectionist, intended for the film.
And when AI came out last year, I was disappointed. One could almost see the exact moments where Spielberg had tried to water down Kubrick’s brooding vision into a heart-warming fairy tale. I left the theatre convinced a good film was there just waiting to come out, but resigned to the fact there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Or so I thought. A similarly discontented Kubrick aficionado took matters into his own hands to find that good film hiding in the Spielbergian sentimentalism. A few months ago he released the result as AI - The Kubrick Edit. DJ Hupp, an independent film maker from Sacramento, California, created his version of AI using the DVD and an off-the-shelf editing program, Adobe Premiere, on his desktop PC at home.
Gleaning what he could of the director’s vision from any articles and notes he could find, Hupp took out parts of the film he felt were inconsistent with what Kubrick would have done. He says that by taking out the parts he did, he feels his re-edited version of AI has “more of a consistently dark tone throughout the whole movie,” that overall it improves on the original, “by getting rid of those goofy parts that took away from the mood of the story.”
So far, the response from DreamWorks, Spielberg’s studio, has been muted. Hupp has yet to be contacted by any of their lawyers and feels fairly confident that he won’t be, since he isn’t selling his version. In the meantime, copies of both the unauthorised cut of The Phantom Menace, cheekily titled The Phantom Edit, and Hupp’s cut of AI can be found free on file-sharing networks like Gnutella and Kazaa.
There is little anyone could do to stop this. Hupp, and other dissatisfied movie fans taking a digital knife to films they wanted to love, don’t need expensive editing studios to craft professional-looking alternate versions, and they only need an internet connection to share them. With digital editing technology getting cheaper, desktop computers becoming more powerful, and DVDs giving consumers pristine digital copies to work with, fan editing will only get easier and more accessible. Already several other versions of The Phantom Menace can be found floating around cyberspace. Directors have been sent a clear message by movie fans: if your film doesn’t meet our expectations, we’ll re-cut it until it does.
The first filmmaker to suffer at the hands of a fan editor, Star Wars director George Lucas, may even have inspired someone to re-cut his film, The Phantom Menace, when he reworked and re-released the original Star Wars trilogy. If Lucas doesn’t believe his works are sacrosanct, why should anyone else? The trend of adding alternate endings, different versions and director’s cuts on DVDs has further demolished the idea of a film as a single, finished product in the minds of the movie-viewing public. Instead we are headed towards a new conceptualisation of a film as a permanent work-in-progress, which exists in multiple permutations, and can always be tinkered with in the future, whether by the director or by anybody else. As editing tools improve, fans won’t be limited to cutting, either. They’ll be able to manipulate the scenes themselves, and create new ones.
What is starting to happen with film is something we saw in music a few years ago. As editing software got cheaper and easier to use, sampling and unauthorised remixing exploded. Soon we’ll begin to see more fan edits of films as people become more familiar with the tools available. Not every film is a good candidate for a fan edit, and re-editing a film is harder than remixing a song, so it’s unlikely we’ll see the same volume of fan-edited films as fan remixes of songs (one Bjork site alone has more than a thousand unauthorised remixes available), but they will certainly become part of the cultural landscape.
While Hollywood isn’t likely to be very pleased with this trend, in the end fan edits may prove to be a boon for the film industry. If the studios were smart, they would encourage the practice and see that they could make money by packaging all the best fan edits on a DVD, since alternate versions are some of the bonus features of DVDs that most appeal to consumers. The fan editors get some notoriety and respect for their efforts, the movie studios get something extra to sell at little or no cost to them, and fans get to see what may turn out to be a superior version of a film. The only real losers are the directors, who justifiably will take umbrage at having someone else tamper with their creative vision.
But they’ll have to get used to it, since short of banning digital editing software (which has perfectly legitimate uses) or halting the sales of DVDs (a huge money-maker for the studios) it will be all but impossible to stop fans from tinkering in attempts to improve flawed films. The easiest way to stop this fan editing would be for Hollywood to stop making such bad films in the first place, something that seems inconceivable in yet another summer when mindless fare like Men in Black 2 rules the box office.