Photo on set of The Hunt for Gollum.
Photo on set of The Hunt for Gollum.

The Hunt for Gollum, made by a fanbase for The Lord of the Rings is available to view online.

Probably the most ambitious film ever made entirely by fans, The Hunt for Gollum is driven by the enthusiasm of a crew working entirely out of the love of cinema and, in particular, the films adapted from the books of JRR Tolkein. It rarely betrays it’s micro-budget with elaborate fight sequences, impressive vistas and CGI creatures, and proves to be an inspiring and rewarding training ground for the fans and emerging film-makers involved. Produced by Spencer Duru and directed by Chris Bouchard, The Hunt for Gollum premiered at the SCI-FI LONDON in May 2009.

Current online audience views figures exceed 3.2 million; and initial figures indicated that The Hunt for Gollum was among the five most viewed films in North America in May 2009. Microwave caught up with producer Spencer Duru to hear more about this forty-minute epic of fan film-making.

What inspired you to make a Tolkein ‘fan-film’ as opposed to an original idea – are there advantages to this for a first film?
Back in 2007 when we first started off, Chris Bouchard, the project creator already had an early draft of a script and some professional looking landscape shots of what he wanted the film to look like. The reason I came on board was to
a) learn how to make a decent film with high production values under relatively low pressure and
b) be apart of something that was going to be seen by people. It was clear back then that very few, if any, The Lord of the Rings fan films were out there and yet there was still a huge following. The idea was to get our names out there and to produce a film that shocked viewers into what could be done with very little resources.

What was the process of creating the screenplay?
The original story came from the appendices of the Tolkein books. The script had an incredible evolution, was written and re-written over 2 years (even during the edit) and was injected with some of our favourite characters. There was a healthy balance between bridging narrative holes and deriving inspiration from the footnotes.

How did you begin to assemble your crew of talented, enthusiastic people, across both production and post-production?
It was surprisingly straightforward to recruit talented crew members. We advertised on London film websites such as Shooting People, Mandy and Talent Circle. Our bulletins got a great number of responses once people saw what the nature of our project was. We had a link to our latest trailer at the time, trying to be professional, but also making it clear that no expenses were able to be covered. By the time we started recruiting CGI artists, sound designers, music composers etc. we had built up a bit of a name and so recruiting online became easier.

How many days was the shoot and how did you structure the shooting schedule?
We shot the whole film in 18 days. We filmed in bursts of 2-5 days because everyone had to work around their full time jobs. In between shooting, we had enough pre-production time to get locations, crew, cast etc. in place.

How long did you spend in post-production?
We had our editor on board at a very early stage (April 2007). During the final stages of the edit, we brought people on board at around December 2008. So in actuality you could say we spent about half a year in post.

What cameras did you use to shoot the live action sequences?
It was shot on various cameras. I believe the Orc fight scene we had 3 cameras rolling. We used the JVC GY-HD100E, Panasonic HVX-200 (which I own) and the Sony Z1.

I believe you did some ‘pre-visualizations’ of the more complex fight-sequences – how was this done?
Yes, for the main fight sequences, we spent months training up our lead actor sword fighting and got professional fighting actors to play our Orcs. We also worked with a couple of fight coordinators who worked with Chris to help understand how to shoot the action scenes. A lot of work went into this.

What was your final cash-budget and how did you raise this finance?
Chris Bouchard funded the entire film. The budget was £3,000, and to this day, after a couple of small donations, I’d argue that we kept it under 3k.

How much would you estimate the production was ‘worth’ taking into account in-kind and unpaid labour?
Good question. Chris and I think it would have cost around £150,000.

How have you spread the word about the completed film?
A lot of our PR was done by both Dailymotion and SCI-FI LONDON who worked very hard in getting interviews and footage out there on the web. Much of this work was done before the release I must admit.

What has the reaction been to the film since it’s completion, both amongst fans and the media?
The reaction has been wonderful. Apart from the odd comment, people have extended so many kind gestures towards this film. We do have a bit of a shield to hide behind in having made it with limited resources, but the media have shown they like the film regardless. One Total Film article was even entitled ‘Why Del Toro must see The Hunt for Gollum’!

How has the process of screenings and distribution been handled given the copyright issues?
Screenings were very limited, we had a premiere in the US and one in the UK. We had to have regular dialogue with Tolkein representatives regarding our online distribution methods. The conditions for the release were that we could not make any profit from the film nor could we allow Dailymotion (who had the exclusive for its 1st week) to advertise gambling or any other ‘untoward’ material. Apart from that, they were quite understanding.

Has this fan-film led to a production base of people you plan to collaborate with on future productions?
Most definitely, I intend to work with Chris and a lot of the crew on my next project. I have a couple of ideas in the pipeline but I feel it’d be foolish to make them public as they might not go ahead – but I need to get out there ASAP!

Find out more about the film-makers.

Watch The Hunt for Gollum online now.