For the better part of a decade, Nelson Summerfield has been shooting full-length movie remakes. He does this with nothing more than a camcorder, hand-drawn paper models, and his own voice. Through this method, Summerfield has filmed more than 20 titles, sharing recreations of everything from The Shawshank Redemption to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me online. His recreations are painstakingly put together—it can take half a year to complete the filming alone—but he has yet to achieve any real success (most of his videos have a few hundred views).
Summerfield, who started making his films as a teenager, is now a 22-year-old with a job, but he still finds time to work on projects in the house he shares with his parents and sister in Pendleton, Oregon. In 2007, Summerfield began his most ambitious project yet: A 12-hour homage to Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the end, Summerfield would remake the films about a dozen times, only completing a final cut of the series last fall.
To learn more about Summerfield's reproductions and what's next for him, I recently chatted with him over Facebook.
VICE: First off, I want to get my terminology right. Would you call yourself a filmmaker, an artist, a fan or something else?
I'm a little of all of those things.
And then what do you call the movies you put on YouTube? I know you used to put "not the real movie" in the titles but stopped at some point.
I stopped getting comments saying it wasn't the real movie so there was no need. I'd call them "paper recreations."
And the paper actors? What do you usually call them?
I don't know.
Cool, I'll just call them "characters." You make them with computer paper, right?
I make the characters with white paper and markers and sometimes crayons. Settings vary from sets made from bigger white paper and markers or crayons to images found online through the computer.
How did you get started recreating these movies?
I've loved movies all my life. Watching movies was all I ever really did as a kid. One day, I was watching how they made movies and The Lord of the Rings in particular made me say, "That's what I want to do with my life!" Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera, so I repeatedly remade certain movies and drawings. I finally got a camera on my 15th birthday and it kinda took off from there.
How long does it take, from start to finish, to film one of your recreations?
It depends on the movie itself, but roughly a month or two. With The Lord of the Rings, principal photography for all three lasted about five months and post-production for each movie lasted a month and a half.
That's an ambitious project. How long have you been working on the trilogy?
I finished in about October. I've made The Lord of the Rings many times before, but sometimes I didn't get it completely done or I felt I could do better. The most unique challenge was the fact that I've done it so many times before, but this time I could really do the best that I could and apply what I've learned over the years and do better with effects and stuff like that.
What is it about The Lord of the Rings that made you want to recreate it?
I wasn't into it when it first came out, but I said I wanted to watch it when I was 13 because I found out a girl I had a crush on back then watched it, and, of course, I was blown away by the films.
Are there any scenes you've filmed that you're particularly proud of?
I loved doing sequences from The Lord of the Rings, but I had a lot of practice. I'm most proud of the Battle of New York from The AvengersThe Avengers because it was my first and only time attempting that sequence. I went on Google Maps and gave myself a virtual tour of New York and looked at which character was where and took pictures and incorporated them in when I could.
What sorts of reactions has your work received?
At first, I mostly got bad reactions from people searching for the real movie, which is why my earlier stuff has a lot of dislikes. This was back when there were a lot of internet trolls. Not that there aren't still a lot now, but I feel like we're getting less of those. And I've gained quite a few good comments and fans lately. My own friends and family have, of course, been incredibly supportive.
Ideally, who would see your work and what kind of reaction would they have?
I would want just anyone to see my work. I hope people are just impressed and think, "Wow, that's like the actual movie!" or "I've never seen that movie, I want to see it now!"
What are you working on right now?
At the moment, there are a few projects I'm thinking about. With Captain America: Civil War coming up, I'm working on pre-production for Iron Man 3 with Captain America: Winter Soldier on the side. But with Spider-Man being all the rage after appearing in the latest Civil War trailer, I'm thinking about doing Spider-Man.
It depends on what I'm most passionate about and what I think I have the most time to do before the next big release. I was thinking about doing Game of Thrones, season one, but I'm barely through pre-production. Principal photography could be five months, like Lord of the Rings, if not longer.
Where do you think you'll be and what will you be doing in ten years?
Who knows where I'll be. Two years ago, while in San Diego, I thought I could squeeze in a trip to LA to attempt to find auditions like all the dreamers. But years passed and I got older and had less time to be at the community college theater and money situations became more realistic and I had work. The month after that summer, though, the art center in Pendleton decided to feature my stuff and premiere one of my movies at the restaurant where I work. And last year I got to be an extra in a [promotional commercial for the town I live in] so you never know.
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