Dan Trachtenberg Uses 'Portal' Fan Film to Pull Off the 'Crime of the Century'; Will Alex Albrecht (and 'Voltron') be Next?

Dan Trachtenberg Uses 'Portal' Fan Film to Pull Off the 'Crime of the Century'; Will Alex Albrecht (and 'Voltron') be Next?

Oct 14, 2011

Apparently, making a fan film can serve as a way to get into the movie making business – just ask Dan Trachtenberg.

Trachtenberg, who became something of an Internet celebrity with the debut of his short film based on the videogame franchise Portal, has been attached to direct Crime of the Century for Universal. The film, which is being pitched as a “high octane heist film with a sci-fi twist” according to Deadline, is based on a pitch from both Trachtenberg and writer Dan Kunka. They brought it to Fast 5 writer Chris Morgan, who will produce with Universal.

What’s more interesting than Crime of the Century (and no offense to the film) is that Trachtenberg basically earned the job by making a short fan film and creating Internet buzz. The filmmaker’s take on Portal is very cool (and well considered – check out our interview with him for more on what inspired him and how he approached the adaptation) – but will it open the door for other wannabe directors to get their big break by making shorts based on properties they love? Trachtenberg’s Totally Rad co-host Alex Albrecht certainly hopes so.

Albrecht has just unveiled his own fan flick – a “gritty” take on the popular cartoon Voltron.

Entitled Voltron: The End, Albrecht’s film stars Psych's Timothy Omundson as the pilot of the series’ Red Lion. In the cartoon, the various mechanized lions form into Voltron, a giant mech charged with keeping the universe safe. Albrecht’s take on the source material seems more reminiscent of the recent Battlestar Galactica reboot than the colorful and corny cartoon from the ‘80s – something that really bugs Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci.

Faraci laments the fact that these fan films (and the people who love them) are so desperate to make what they loved as kids relevant in their adult lives that they’re willing to shoehorn serious elements into the narrative that don’t really fit. Faraci has a point – Albrecht’s Voltron bears no resemblance to the material that inspired it (but really, would any of us want a live-action version of the cartoon?) and seems dour and downbeat because that’s what geek culture considers “deep.” He wonders when we might see a hard-edged version of Recess – set in a post-apocalyptic world “where rape is the only currency.” Yes, Devin’s stirring the pot (as he’s been known to do…), but he’s got a point. The issue is the one Faraci so capably points out – there’s nothing wrong with holding on to the things we loved in childhood, but there is something strange about our fixation with forcing them to conform to a juvenile definition of “maturity” to justify still loving them as grown ups. Perhaps something like Voltron should simply stay a cartoon.

Whether you agree or disagree with Devin’s take on the topic, one thing seems certain – making a decent fan film and releasing it on the Internet is a great way to get Hollywood’s attention. With Trachtenberg already landing a gig based on his Portal work and Albrecht’s Voltron generating tons of buzz, it seems likely that we’ll be seeing lots more shorts of this nature created by guys hoping to catch their big break. As for us, we’ll be working on our shooting script for a live-action version of Thundarr the Barbarian where Thundarr goes all Toshiro Mifune on the bad guys with his Sun Sword. It’s gonna be awesome. 

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