You may have heard of “fan fiction” or “fan art,” or maybe you’ve come across a fan Wiki page while searching online to learn more about a Game of Thrones theory or your latest Netflix binge. You may not have realized it at the time, but you’ve probably also seen “fanvids” shared by your friends on social media.
Vids are fan-made videos that take existing media sources, like a TV show or movie, and create a new, remixed video. These visual “mashups” are popular on YouTube and Tumblr today, but fan vidding actually goes back to the 1970s when Trekkies couldn’t hold back their enthusiasm for their favorite show.
Vidders primarily view their product as an art form or even just a cathartic, creative outlet — not for monetization or commercialization. “I don’t sell my vids, ever; most vidders don’t. That’s an important principle for me….I vid for pleasure, pure pleasure,” said fan vidder Lim. “I don’t care if you don’t like them. It’s great when people do like them, because that’s fun and sometimes very interesting and sparks more creative conversation and more vidding, but it’s not the purpose.”
Gwyn added, “For me, vidding is a really different kind of expression. I used to DJ, so I love to use music and marry it with what I’m most passionate about.”
The fanvid community is also notable for being predominantly dominated by women. Vidder Gwyn notes, “Generally, women are used to not seeing the stories we want in the media…we’re used to recontextualizing things for ourselves or making it our own.” In a Hollywood dominated by male producers, directors and screenwriters, vidding has enabled her and other female vidders to explore alternate storylines or character relationships that appeal to women audiences. The tightknit community often pervades many vidders’ lives, leading to decades-long friendships and widely-attended conventions like VividCon.
Though it’s been around for over 35 years, vidders acknowledge that the past 15 years in technological advancement have been a key driving force behind the pursuit, which has continued to gain momentum and expand the fan vidder community. Gwyn started out in the 1990s using VCRs to create vids with a group of fellow fans in her city. Today, she communicates with vidders all over the world on online platforms like Tumblr and Slack.
“[The internet] been absolutely huge for vidding – it’s really exploded into this massive international scene – millions of people, millions of vids. It’s huge in Russia, in Brazil, in China,” said Lim. “It speaks to an urge in people, an ordinary urge in ordinary people, to talk back, to dance, to remix and recreate.”