by John K

Fanboy, nerd, and geek: three words that mean so many things. For some it’s an insult, to me it’s an expression of my interests and for Hollywood it’s that weird, nebulous force that can make or break their movies. It’s a relationship that has defined so much of the last decade and like all relationships it has gone through its ups and downs. These days however the fans are having a more immediate effect on Hollywood than ever before.

In the old days Hollywood just made films to its own beat, if the people liked it they’d set up a sequel, merchandising, dvd re-releases and wring a few bucks out of it every couple years. That’s not quite the style nowadays. You’ve got millions of dollars riding on a film and if you can make a franchise out of it then so much the better. Having a devoted fanbase gives you a built in audience and a wide amount of free advertisers who love to spread the word to their unenlightened friends and family.

While it’s the general consensus that fans hold influence in Hollywood, it is difficult and frustrating to determine just how much power we actually have. For example no matter how many times we ask for another director Michael Bay will still be helming the next Transformers movie (probably). On the other hand, Marvel Studios is seriously considering using Miles Morales, as the next Spiderman, just because the topic raged on twitter longer than the actual news of the deal with Sony.

What illustrates the current paradox is the green lighting of a new Alien from Chappie director Neil Blomkamp. Blomkamp got the job by posting what was essentially alien fan art on his instagram page and getting fans to discuss it. He made it clear that this was not official work but lo and behold people liked his concepts so much that this month it was announced that a movie had been greenlit. It’s a great illustration of how fan enthusiasm can be used to a director’s advantage to get studios behind them. Yet we still can’t stop Michael Bay from taking kids cartoons and killing all the wonder in them.

What is clear is that in this digital age fans have a bigger impact than ever before, they can influence marketers, critics and sometimes-even directors. The distance between fans and Hollywood is getting closer all the time and Hollywood can’t ignore that forever. It probably will never get to point when fans can dictate all the terms but fans are becoming a more integral part of the process.

Now I’ve just got bust out my Star Trek fan fiction. I’m pretty sure I can do better than 50 Shades of Grey.