ATLANTA – The Tolkien track at DCon is bigger than just TORn programming but TORn programming plays a significant part to be sure. As a reporter of events there, as well as a participant on occasion, I try to be objective, fair and honest. At the risk of sounding TORn-centric, there are things I must tell.
TORn friend Carlene Cordova and staffer Quickbeam gave a two-day, two-part report on their project “Ringers – Lord Of The Fans” starting on Saturday along with the Director of Photography Josh Mandel aka “Tan Pants”. In the spirit of full openness I must disclose that I am a Unit Director (a guy who sends in footage) for the project but I attended the film’s briefing intending to bring TORnados a informative report.
I knew there would be good information but if I may break into a momentary commentary and borrow one of Quickbeam’s favorite
words: “brilliant!” You can find the movie’s web site here: http://www.theonering.net/ringers/ and I had read it and looked forward to the panel, but hearing those working on it gush about their ideas and hopes at the Dragon Con event was inspiring. If nothing else these folks pour their passion into the project and I suspect that will be evident on-screen as well.
Their work is far from over with Mandel heading to the UK shortly and all the ROTK fan footage gearing up. Like any independent filmmakers, they are seeking funding – seeking it always but they are determined to continue in their efforts however they must.
The film’s focus is of course Tolkien fans and on day one of the presentation they spoke of the beginnings of fandom and its first two decades of existence. “It is a penetrating glimpse into the explosion of fandom,” according to Mandel. Quickbeam described it as, “Delicious, fun playfulness.”
Day two was left to cover more modern fans and started with a look at Middle Earth at the dorms in the University of California Irvine. Back in the day fans named 24 dormitories after Tolkien’s own geography and the area still stands as a monument on the campus of the “fightin’ Aardvarks.”
The audience was also favored with Mr. Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) rendition of “Bilbo Baggins“, a real favorite on convention circuits but a song a lot of fans either don’t know about or haven’t seen. Amazing, vintage, wonderfully dated stuff.
The Tolkien events covered in day two included things like the publishing of “The Silmarillion” in 1977, the release of the animated “Hobbit” by Rankin/Bass, the Ralph Bakshi version of “The Lord Of The Rings” and the internet history of Tolkien fandom. Even TORn history was covered, beginning with the photo-essay page it used to be and Tehanu being charged with trespassing.
Perhaps most compelling was the “Ringers” preview showing some of the quickest bits of Tolkien fandom in their own words strung together to give a feel of the documentary the crew is working on. It was greeted with delight and left the crowd wanting more. The full future of the project is still unknown but at the very least it will play phenomenally well at conventions and in fandom circles but the filmmakers hope the appeal is wider. They hope that as a social commentary it will play to large audiences and that a major distributor will step in and give them added leverage.
In addition to the “Ringers” panel, Calisuri, Corvar, Maegwen and I all played a part in the hour long spoiler-filled look at “Return Of The King” and “The Two Towers” Extended Edition. That presentation to a “sold-out” room (the largest at DCon) both Friday and Saturday, coupled with our own senior staffer Jincey running the whole Tolkien tract, kept the web site in the mix of the community. This was a “had to be there” event but the audience appeared to be involved in the photos and commentary provided by staffers. As an aside, as much as I enjoyed the actual presentation, I enjoyed the in-the-hotel creation of the presentation even more. The staff folks, while not full-time Tolkien scholars, were a pleasure to listen to while theorizing about the films and the significance of each individual photo.