A new Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan film has been released in Germany. Read my review of the film as well as an interview with the creators and a list of the best (and worst) Buffy and Angel fan films the internet has to offer!
On 5 May 2014, a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan film premiered on Youtube. On first note, this is probably nothing special – people make fan films all the time!
So when I heard about the new fan film entitled “Die Jägerin” (The Slayer) – a low-budget production by the two young German film makers Kurt Kliebisch and Kevin Schmidt – I was sceptic at best, especially because this is the first German Buffy fan film I’ve encountered.
But, having finished all my Buffy comics, I thought, “Ok, let’s give this a go!” and sat down to watch the one-hour-and-three-minute film on Youtube.
And boy, was I positively surprised!!!
The film is set in the Buffy- and Angelverse, ten years after the Angel season 5 finale. In a German town, girls have gone missing and a splinter group of the Watchers’ Council is in dire need of slayers – four of them to be exact. Miriam – the local slayer – as well as Elisabeth, Magdalena and Robin – three slayers, who travel from town to town and have been specifically called to assist the watchers in this case. Together with Miriam’s twin brother Elias and their watcher Gabriel, they go on the hunt for whatever evil has taken over the town and kidnapped the girls. But what they find is not what they expected and may change their lives forever…
I’ve embedded the film at the bottom for you to watch and would love to hear what you think of it! But first, let me tell you why I think this is not just any fan film:
I often find that German film and TV actors over-act a lot. For a visual explanation of the phenomenon – called ‘actoring’ – see Tomska’s video on Youtube. Watching “Die Jägerin”, I was expecting to see a lot of this, but actually was quite impressed with the acting. For an amateur film, the characters are delivered believably and consistently and the plot evokes enough emotion for the viewer to care about what is happening to the protagonists. Especially in some scenes towards the end, the characters’ emotions really came across well and I felt with them. Some relationships, for example between the slayer Magdalena and her boyfriend David or between Elisabeth and Elias, could have been expanded to add more depth to the characters, but over all, I liked it.
According to the “Jägerin”-film team, they used the TV shows as main reference for the film, so the plot doesn’t account for the events happening in the comic books. Readers of the Dark Horse Buffy series (currently starting season 10) may want to start a discussion about why the film’s plot wouldn’t be able to happen and what is or isn’t canon – but let’s put that aside for a moment and see the film for what it is. One always has to remember that not everyone reads the comics, and for some people the story ended in 2004. I think the film deserves to be seen as a work of its own and as inspired by the show. As such, it works well, draws on parallels from the show and picks up some plot threads. From a fan’s perspective, some actions in the film (without giving too much away) could seem a little far-fetched. But the plot has sense and direction, and is well put together.
The directing / choreographies
Ok, the fighting isn’t always kick-ass. Again, the simple explanation is that these guys probably didn’t have the budget to hire a martial arts expert or train all their slayers for years to make their fighting look super real. I think this is hard to achieve and I wasn’t looking for amazing stunts in this film anyway. The scenes had some good angles and followed each other well – explaining enough to know what is happening, but not too much so as to preserve the sense of mystery that stays for the main part of the film.
The effects / props
This is what really won me over! I have since researched some other Buffy fan films (see further down) and I can honestly say that nowhere have I found vamp-dusting effects that are as good as these! I would even go so far as to say they look better than some effects in the early seasons of BTVS! (Sorry, Joss…) The props were also well-made! If you go to the team’s facebook page or their Youtube channel, there are some photos and videos about the behind-the-scenes work, from vamp make-up to crafting the headstones (here I thought some of them were real!) and even the making of the teaser. It all looks like it was a lot of fun! And I don’t know where they got the props, like the cool axes and crossbows or the Buffy scythe, but they look impressive. (Mega jealous right here…)
What is remarkable about this film is that it isn’t a parody. It doesn’t aim to copy BTVS or Angel. It is legitimate fan fiction. Even though it is in German / set in Germany, the theme makes it universally applicable. That is the beauty of the Buffyverse: By ending the shows the way he did, creator Joss Whedon made it possible for millions of fans to think up their own stories and characters. Their stories can be about the set of established characters we all know and love, but they don’t have to be.
I think the creators of “Die Jägerin”, Kurt Kliebisch and Kevin Schmidt, accomplished what they set out to do with this film very well, and they made a work of fan fiction / fan art that can be seen as a stand-alone story and as part of a larger universe.
Speaking of the creators, I had a chance to interview them on the process of making the fan film. So here it is – the story of making “Die Jägerin”:
[WARNING! – Spoilers ahead!]
Kurt and Kevin have been fans of BTVS for years, and have already made a couple of short films together with their friends and fellow Jägerin-contributors Adrian Jankowiak and Christian Nickel. According to them, the idea for the Buffy project came one evening at Kurt’s house, where they found a replica from the series and hence started spinning ideas for a story set in the Buffyverse. The script was co-written by Kurt, Kevin and Adrian. Although it changed through time, their idea to connect it to Willow’s spell (to make all potentials into slayers) and the First Evil remained the focus point. Kurt also handled the cut, sound and special effects.
The team mainly took the shows as reference for the story, but also drew on the Fray comic for inspiration. This can be seen in the characters Miriam and Elias – because he is Miriam’s twin, Elias has inherited some of the slayer powers (like prophetic dreams), which is a homage to Harth Fray. Fun fact: some of the other characters’ names are also inspired by the original Buffy and Angel actors – for example the witch Amber (named for Amber Benson – Tara) and Magdalena’s boyfriend David (named for David Boreanaz – Angel).
Over all, it took them one year to produce the film. Although they launched an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund the film, the budget must have been one of the hardest things to manage – out of the € 1,000 they set as their campaign goal, they only received € 236. But thanks to some generous sponsoring of make-up, gas (for transport), electricity and invested time as well as an additional funding of € 500 on the night of the premiere, they were able to complete the film none the less. All the actors in the film worked free of charge. Many of them were friends and others, who were recruited online, became friends during the making of the film.
The film premiered in Nordhausen, Germany, on 5 May – the cast and crew rented out the Filmpalast Nordhausen to watch the film together with all contributors, family, friends and fans. On the same day, the film premiered on Youtube. So far, it has got over 4,000 views. That may not seem like a lot, but for a fan film with a low-budget production, it is impressive.
I can only congratulate the team of the “Die Jägerin” film. They created an inspiring piece of fan fiction, made a film that can hold its own against other international fan film productions and it looks like they had a lot of fun doing it!
Ok, I’ve talked enough about it, so here it is for you to watch. The English subtitles are a little slow sometimes, but I think it’s still comprehensible.
Please leave your own reviews in the comments, as I would love to read what you think of it!
Scroll down for a list of other Buffy and Angel fan films I’ve found online.
Other Buffy and Angel fan films
A story about the Scooby gang, taped on VHS in 2002, with the Buffy part quitting after the first act. Best part: the guy playing Xander – his jokes are spot on! 😉
A parody of Buffy – for those who don’t take things so seriously and enjoy a good laugh. The same guy also makes Vangelis – an Angel parody.
My French is a little rusty, but as far as I can tell, this is a story about the Scooby gang (though not a parody). There are only parts 3 and 4, but these guys are also making a new series called L’alliance (Buffy/Angel) which seems to continue after BTVS season 7 / Angel season 5.
This is only a teaser, since this is still in development. But so far, it seems like this will be a film version of the Fray comic book! Looks a little more pricey and very cool, but sadly there isn’t any more info yet. They have a campaign, too, which has already reached its funding goal.
If you know any more fan films from the Buffyverse to add to my list, or if you have suggestions for other topics you’d like for me to discuss, please leave them in the comments! 🙂