behind the fancam (@EmmaB_Videos and @1918friends)

behind the fancam (@EmmaB_Videos and @1918friends)

Wow, we're plowing through so many music-adjacent art forms on this blog. Album art? Yes. Music videos? Yes. Music-based comics? Yes.

Now I want to devote today's blog to another music-adjacent artform: the fancam. To my understanding, there are multiple video formats that technically fit under the fancam umbrella: as seen in K-pop, a fancam might refer to a video that follows a single idol around the stage as they perform, but the wider usage of "fancam" generally denotes a short video featuring a particular entertainer, television show, movie, etc., which is made by a fan of said entertainment, and showcases that entertainment in a movie trailer-esque assembly of clips set to music. Mashable tracked the genesis of the fancam to a Star Trek fan edit made in 1975; now, googling "[random pop culture icon name] fancam" will probably serve you up something. As a test, I searched "Noam Chomsky fancam" on Twitter and the timeline delivered.

Recently, my friend Dana (who you might know from the blog as the lady who convinced me to go to the Eras Tour) sent me a fancam that caused a little lightbulb to appear over my head and start softly glowing: Hey, a really good fancam is something between an extra-concentrated movie trailer and an alternate music video. Fancams provide movies and television with brand-new soundtracks, tying media from different eras together, honoring the original footage but making something greater than the sum of its parts. In short, they're a real art form, and I wanted to learn more about how they're made, so I DM'd some questions to two fancam editors to get a better sense of the behind-the-scenes process of making fancams, as well as how they approach the musicality angle.

I can tell it hits, hits, hits, hits

The fancam that caused that lightbulb moment was one for Luca Guadagnino's Challengers, made by Emma, aka @EmmaB_Videos. The video, set to Artemas's soft-goth hit single "i like the way you kiss me," manages to compress the movie's 2+ hours of athletic sexual tension and sexually tense athleticism into 19 potent seconds. When @deadfilmz, another film-themed Twitter account, deemed it "best challengers edit in history," the literal IMAX twitter account agreed.

I asked Emma, who has also paired When Harry Met Sally with Taylor Swift and the Korean rom-com series Love to Hate You with Florence & The Machine in past edits, about her general strategy for choosing fancam music. "It depends on what I'm trying to accomplish," she wrote back. "If it's telling a story then lyrics might be more important than the sound. If I plan on using a lot of voiceovers then instrumental might be the way to go. For something like the Challengers fancam, that's more of a sizzle reel. At 19 seconds, I am looking for something punchy with a big impact."

How did she pick that Artemas song? "I think it came up on a Spotify playlist for me recently. It's catchy! Total earworm. When I started the Challengers fancam I consulted my recently liked songs and that Artemas song stuck out immediately. It has that same propulsive synth beat as the movie's soundtrack and felt like a natural vibe fit. And getting the vibes right is super important to me. It can feel like the uncanny valley when a song is too far removed from the source material lyrically or sonically." The official Challengers trailers, which augmented Rihanna's "S&M" and Nelly Furtado's "Maneater" with extra sound design, inspired her sizzle reel as well: "I added whooshes, booms, and a riser to the end of the chorus for added intensity and epic remix feel."

One of the neatest parts of her fancam was a segment where the thwacks of tennis balls line up with the lyric I can tell it hits, hits, hits, hits. I asked about the importance of that type of hyper-satisfying edit, and Emma referenced the "logical flow" that makes an edit work. "There's more to it than identifying the beat and placing random clips in...not only does the punch hit on the beat, but that punch carries over into the next frame in some form or another. Essentially a 'match cut'—which can be matching the composition, movement, or even metaphor." She pointed out other examples of this match cut technique, including the back-to-back phallic snack moments—Patrick with his banana, Art with his churro. "Using that kind of cut in conjunction with hitting the beat just tickles the brain."

Emma said this edit took her two hours to make—"which is fast!"—because she used only officially released trailer and scene footage, rather than the full movie. What does she hope people get out of watching her fancams? "Personally, I love editing as a way to distill something I loved down to its essence. That in a year from now I can come back to this Challengers fancam and think oh, yeah! That's why I loved this movie so much. By extension, I hope others get that same feeling when watching. My absolute favorite type of comment to receive is 'this captures the exact energy of the movie/show.' That's always my goal."

God, it's brutal out here

After going down a bit of a fancam hole, I also found the excellent work of Ruby, aka @1918friends, who regularly posts edits that highlight an iconic television or movie character with the help of an unexpected but perfect needle drop: for example, a montage of True Detective season one's cryptic yapper Rust Cohle (played by Matthew McConaughey), set to the dreamily salacious "Cola" from Lana Del Rey's Born To Die: The Paradise Edition.

Ruby's musical strategy often involves making playlists for certain shows or characters. "Often I'll just listen to a song and think about whatever I've been obsessing over lately, and I kind of visualize it for a while." The "unabashedly horny" lyrics of "Cola" reminded them of the way people tend to tweet about Rust Cohle—a quick search of his name immediately produced a meme that suggested "white tank top Rust Cohle" causes ovulation on an unprecedented scale—and Lana's general lyrical narrative also inspired their approach. "I had just watched True Detective and I kept thinking about how he reminds me of all of Lana's tortured and emotionally unavailable boyfriends, while he also has a distinct sexual allure to him. He's got a sort of swagger to him that really makes me think of that song and the way that it feels like a rush of desire and danger at the same time."

Ruby's enjoys re-contextualizing a song or character with their edits. They cited their fancam of the lesbian relationships depicted in the recently-wrapped show Riverdale, which they set to "Femininomenon," the Papa Johns-referencing bop by the newly minted queer pop star Chappell Roan: "I feel like often Riverdale is left out of the conversation of LGBT rep when it has really interesting gay/bi characters that are kind of overlooked by the hetero shippers of the fandom," they wrote. In the same vein, their Pete Campbell fancam, soundtracked by Olivia Rodrigo's teenage rage anthem "Brutal," gave me a brand-new view of the often maligned Mad Men character. Maybe Pete doesn't intrinsically suck...maybe he's just brainwashed by toxic midcentury masculinity and needs to be given a little more grace as he chafes against the changing times...

When I asked what Ruby hopes people get out of their fancams, they wrote about the emotional effects of a good edit: "Honestly it sounds a little perverse but I always really enjoy when people say an edit I made makes them cry!!! I'm always glad to elicit any emotion from people. I got that response a lot from the edit in my pinned tweet, with The Bear set to 'Under Pressure' by Queen." A good fancam "kind of sticks to you and makes you want more. I guess I want to give people that same feeling!" Who wouldn't be a fan of that?

Thanks to Emma and Ruby for participating in this story!

Emma can be found on Twitter here and her edits are compiled here. She also makes movie trailers—her trailer for the movie Baby Assassins 2 just got nominated for a Golden Trailer Award.

Ruby can be found on Twitter here and Instagram here, and they have longer edits on YouTube, including an absolutely sickening edit of Gossip Girl's Serena van der Woodsen set to Hole's Miss World.