Internet Tease

There’s one in every office. “Hey man, did you hear Vin Diesel is going to play Panthro in a Thundercats movie? I saw the preview last night.” You can try getting away, but there will be more of them around the corner – Victims of the rapidly growing guerrilla filmmaking movement that crafts live- action trailers out of movies that don’t actually exist. (Yet.)

Where the previous trend in fandom was to make five – to ten – minute short films – think Sandy Collora’s 2003 DC –MEETS Predator mash-up, ‘Batman: Dead End – budding marketing types are now using increasingly affordable effects software to forge sneak previews of desired comic and game adaptations.

“Trailers are their own art form now,” explained “WormyT,” graphic artist for a video game company by day and amature trailer editor by night. (He prefers his anonymity.) “They pack the mood and energy of an entire film into a two minute clip.”

While two minutes may not sound like much, full time jobs and limited resources of home set-ups can leave craftsman sweating. “Wormy” spent roughly eight months crafting a ‘Thundercats” movie trailer, altering footage from ‘Troy” and “Pitch Black,” respectively, to “cast” Brad Pitt as Lion-O and the aforementioned Diesel as Panthro in an effort that has nabbed nearly 1.5 million views on YouYube.

“I’ve always done photo manipulation for fun, but never with movie clips,” he continued. “I once made a small animated GIF of “Spider-Man 3’s’ Venom using footage from ‘Spawn’ and ‘Aliens.’ This was months before Venom was even announced as a movie villain. When I uploaded it, some people thought it was real and the clip spread to other sites. “

The Homemade, good enough-to-fool trailers tearing up youtube.

While some preview junkies simply enjoy jerking online chains, others see the footage as getting a costumed foot in the industry: Filmmakers Joshua Siegel and Juan Avilez filmed an “Akira” trailer in 2000 and recently put up the completed edit for public consumption.

“We shot the ‘Akira” trailer mostly for fun and the experience,” Siegel said. “Most of us who worked on it, we were just getting started in the entertainment business.” Siegel went on to direct “Bloodwood,” his first feature-length project and credits the “Akira” effort for sharpening his creative and networking tools, “Making the fan trailer improved my skills as a filmmaker and established good relationships with other artists,” Avilez also just finished his first feature early this year.

 Sigel believes the trailer trend points to the ease in which armatures can get to the “good stuff,” eliminating concerns over a shaky narrative and losing the interest of ADD-addled “Net surfers. “As a filmmaker, it’s a lot easier to shoot and edit a trailer as opposed to something with a narrative flow. You don’t have to worry much about continuity when your cutting together flashy images over music.”

While fans rave –and sometimes moan – over the footage. There’s little proof any of it spurs studios into hastening development. The faux “Thundercats” trailer spread like a fungus, but Warner Bros. has yet tp pull the trigger on an animated feature first announced in 2007.

Worse, some license holders aren’t too happy about their properties being fodder for viral copyright infringement. Fox put the legal sleeper hold on an armature “Max Payne” film when the Mark Wahlberg movie was set for theaters late last year. Hasbro, anticipating the summer 2009 release of the “G.I. Joe” movie, has sent sternly worded letters to fans working on internet pet projects.  

For his part “Wormy” feels the studio backlash isn’t warranted. “Ultimately, my trailer is a bunch of actors with (CGI) clown makeup on. But with a real budget, they could make a slick sci-fi /fantasy film with excellent makeup, swordplay and vehicles. Guaranteed blockbuster

Note to studios: We hear Vin Diesel has already auditioned.

Jake Rossen