Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 08:46 UK

Making Middle-earth on a shoestring


The Hunt for Gollum trailer

By Tim Masters
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Lord of the Rings fans who are finding the wait for 2011's The Hobbit movie just too long may find solace in a new fan-made film that premieres this weekend.

The Hunt for Gollum - which tells the story of Aragorn as he sets out to discover the truth about the Ring - was inspired by the appendices from Tolkien's fantasy epic.

With a budget of £3,000, the film cost somewhat less than Peter Jackson's trilogy, but that doesn't mean this fan-film looks like it was put together with cardboard and string.

Strider and Orc captain
Locations included the mountains of North Wales and Epping Forest

The trailer promises a lavish production that models itself closely on Jackson's vision of Middle-earth - with North Wales, Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath doubling for Tolkien's orc-infested lands.

The 40-minute story is set between The Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring - and boasts a lead actor who looks astonishingly like Viggo Mortensen's heroic Aragorn.

The world premiere at the Sci-Fi-London film festival on Sunday is the culmination of a two-year project that was conceived, created and funded by fans. The film will also be free-to-view on the web.

The not-for-profit film was written and directed by Chris Bouchard, who explains how The Hunt for Gollum came to the big screen - and predicts the future of fan-made movies.

Chris Bouchard on location
Director Chris Bouchard used the internet to build a huge team of volunteers

What was the germ of the idea for The Hunt for Gollum?

You can spend all your efforts making a film that no-one ever hears about or sees, so it seemed we should do something that was at least going to get an audience of fans.

I'd done the music for a Star Wars fan film called Revelations so I saw how that was put together on a very low budget and do quite well.

The budget for Gollum all went on costumes props and various bits of equipment and food. We nailed it right down to the bare essentials that we couldn't get for free, or beg, borrow or steal.

How many were people involved in all?

We've got 160 people down the crew list - we had 60 on visual effects shots for the film over the internet.

Orc make-up
Costumes and make-up took up a lot of the budget

That's almost a credit list to rival a Peter Jackson production.

It does go on for about five minutes. It's been pretty cool to see the scale of what we could do on an amateur level. I think we tried to simulate a real professional production even though everyone was doing it for fun in their spare time.

Isn't the charm of a fan film that the villain looks like he's made out of cornflake packets?

I suppose most fan-films tend to be that way, but you're always dreaming that you can make something that has good production values. So we went for that, to try and raise the bar of what is possible on a low budget.

How big is the Lord of the Rings fan-film scene?

It's not really that huge - there are loads of Star Wars fan-films, but there's not so much going on for Lord of the Rings. But there is another big fan-film called Born of Hope. We're working with them quite a lot - using the same costumes, a lot of the same crew. It meant we could achieve more. It's even more ambitious in terms of running time.

What's the plot of The Hunt for Gollum?

Gandalf and Aragorn realise that Gollum is out there somewhere and he has key information about the Ring and they have to track him down before the enemy captures him. They know the war is coming, and this sets up Middle-earth in a state of foreboding before it all kicks off.

It's a story that's not too ambitious for our budget - there are just three or four main characters, but we could put in loads of orcs and there's a huge fight scene in the middle of the film.

Have you been in contact with the Tolkien family or New Line Cinema?

We got in touch with Tolkien Enterprises and reached an understanding with them that as long as we are completely non-profit then we're okay. We have to be careful not to disrespect their ownership of the intellectual property. They are supportive of the way fans wish to express their enthusiasm.

You've gone for a Peter Jackson style in your film.

Peter Jackson's individual look was a big inspiration, it's been an adventure for us to play in that world that he created.

So what's your next project?

I really want to do a feature film. We're going to put a teaser about the next film on the Hunt for Gollum website ahead of the premiere - it's a futuristic thriller. We're keen to do an original film on a more commercial, professional level.

And how do you see the future for fan-made film?

I think that we'll see more fan-films with better production values. They've already turned into a genre, which is cool - because they're free and you can see that people have put a lot of love into them. And if you're a fan of a particular genre it's nice to be able to return to that world briefly - even if it is another fan's interpretation.

Sci-Fi-London runs from 29 April - 4 May screening films at venues around London including The Apollo West End Cinema.

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