— Feature documentary Film
RINGERS: LORD of the FANS
Narrated by Dominic Monaghan (star of ABC’s Lost and the Academy Award winning Lord of the Rings trilogy), RINGERS: LORD of the FANS garnered outrageous attention from audiences and press alike during its smash festival circuit run. Screenings continuously sold out in Newport Beach, Dallas, and Park City — with many enthusiasts camping out in Utah’s freezing January weather just to be the first to get tickets.
With initial distribution from Sony Pictures Entertainement, RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS is a feature-length documentary that explores how “The Lord of the Rings” has influenced Western popular culture for the past 50 years. RINGERS explores the real foundations of Middle-earth; a community of true fans who share a common bond. Moving beyond “cult classic” and over several different generations, the film unearths countless people gathered under the banner of ‘Ringer’ — academics, musicians, movie stars, authors, filmmakers, and a plethora of pop junkies. Celebrity interviewees include; Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, John Rhys-Davies, Philippa Boyens, Barrie Osborne, Cliff Broadway, Sala Baker, Clive Barker, Cameron Crowe, David Carradine, Terry Pratchett, Peter S. Beagle, Terry Brooks, Lemmy Kilmister, Geddy Lee, Dr. Jane Chance, Christine Crawshaw, Colin Duriez, Chris Gore, Forrest J. Ackerman, Bill Mumy, Brian Sibley, Colleen Doran, Jill Thompson, and hundreds of Tolkien fans!
RINGERS features a dynamic rock-driven score with musicians who were influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien. Several indie recording artists have provided new covers of songs from previous “Rings” adaptations. Produced in association with the popular fan-site TheOneRing.net, RINGERS stands as the most comprehensive film document of the ongoing fandom of “The Lord of the Rings.”
All theatrical, streaming and licensing for RINGERS: LORD of the FANS has reverted back to Stormcrow Entertainment, LLC and we are actively seeking another streaming outlet for this film.
Read what the critics have said
“…A serious, at times goofy, yet always affectionate exploration of the history and cultural impact of “Rings…”
– Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post
– Rory Aronsky, FilmThreat.com
“…Revealing documentary on the LOTR cult shows how hippies, headbangers, and even Leonard Nimoy helped make Middle-earth one of literature’s most popular destinations”
-Jason Silverman, Wired Magazine
“A flawless combination of informative objectivity and insider enthusiasm.”
– Jeff Shannon – Official Review – Amazon.com
— RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS AWARDS
A Saturn Award Nomination and More
In late 2005, Stormcrow Pictures produced the behind-the-scenes documentaries, Rock & Ringers and The Ring Comes Full Circle, for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD launch of RINGERS.
2005 Slamdance Film Festival
Film Festival – Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking
Nomination – Best DVD of the Year 2005
“There’s a new documentary to take you back to The Shire.”
– Premiere Magazine
Very funny yet often moving, RINGERS: LORD of the FANS shows the hidden power behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories — how after 50 years a single literary work continues to spark the minds and hearts of millions. This comedic documentary explores the real foundations of Middle-earth: a community of true fans who share a common bond. Moving past cult classic and through several generations, the most devoted Ringers have stepped forward to confess on camera: including legendary rock stars, authors, actors, academics, filmmakers, and a plethora of pop junkies.
From the hippie counter-culture to the electronic age; from the Bakshi animated film to Jackson’s epic trilogy; this documentary brings together extensive footage collected over 21 months — across three continents.
What began as the private amusement of a tweedy Oxford professor has now become a new mythology for the 21st century. RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS shows how an adventure story published in 1954 has had dynamic ripple-effects through Western pop-culture. RINGERS carefully pulls away the veil between Tolkien’s book and the creations of art, music, and community that have been inspired by it.
The heartbeat of RINGERS is in its Rock soundtrack, and the director wanted nothing less than wall-to-wall music. As editors Arnaud Gerardy and John Welch carefully edited to the rhythm of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” and RUSH’s “Rivendell” an entirely new sound was being created. Three classic songs from the 1970s Rankin/Bass animated The Hobbit and The Return of the King were given a vibrant new-rock spin by indie bands Arlo and World Without Sundays and the striking Australian singer Greta Gertler. The extremely talented drummer/composer Robin DiMaggio scored the film — creating a chain of musical styles going all the way from jazz to folk to grinding psychedelia and a healthy dose of rock.
RINGERS was produced in association with the popular Tolkien fan-site TheOneRing.net. RINGERS achieved cult status overseas and appeared on HBO and TV in over 10 countries. The RINGERS filmmakers have had panels at, and featured speakers of the following conventions: Comic-Con (3 years), Dragon*Con, (3 years) and “Lord of the Rings” conventions ORC & ELF.
RINGERS: LORD of the FANS stands as the most comprehensive film document of “The Lord of the Rings” ongoing fandom.
- RINGERS is well seeded within “The Lord of the Rings” fan community.
- Articles appeared in Premiere magazine and SFX magazine about the film with a mention in People magazine.
- Online articles about RINGERS have appeared on SciFi.com, Wired.com and FilmThreat.com among others.
- Sold out a 650-seat theater at $50 per ticket at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Fans stated lining up at 6am for a 7:30pm screening.
- Sold out at USA Film Festival in Dallas.
- Premiered at the Slamdance film festival to sold-out screaming crowds. Fans camped out overnight in 20-degree weather to purchase tickets.
- Invited to the following film festivals: Slamdance Film Festival, The South Pole International Film Festival, The Newport Beach Film Festival, USA Film Festival, Maui Film Festival.
- 2500 people attended the RINGERS panel at Comic Con. The crowd reacted enthusiastically to the footage.
The Road to RINGERS
The creative team behind RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS share a common love of J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnificent books.
In January 2002, playwright and Tolkien scholar Cliff Broadway, (Industry Standard Films Partner), enjoyed a chance meeting with director Carlene Cordova while standing in line to meet Sir Ian McKellen at a book signing. Aside from meddling in the affairs of wizards, two minds began burning brightly together that day, and a new writing partnership was born.
The timing of this meeting was fortuitous. It had been a mere month since the U.S. theatrical release of Peter Jackson’s stunning Fellowship of the Ring, and the “newest wave” of fans made a clear showing. In attendance were several older folks who had been reading “The Lord of the Rings” since the 1960s — standing alongside them were new Ringer fans many years younger. This combination of old-school fans with kids learning about hobbits for the first time caught Carlene’s eye.
Soon the director was asking herself: “The Lord of the Rings” is nearly 50 years old — how does such a huge, unwieldy book have such staying power? How did so many generations fall into its pages?
Carlene and Cliff starting working together to interview the stars for TheOneRing.net — the most insanely popular Tolkien resource on the Net. Building on the momentum of Jackson’s three-film release pattern, a genuine phenomenon was unfolding right before their eyes. Working with TheOneRing.net allowed the intrepid director and interviewer rare access to both the actors and the creative forces behind The Lord of the Rings Trilogy; but the road would carry them much farther as they explored Tolkien’s ongoing pop legacy.
As the filmmakers researched myriad pieces of pop culture influenced by Tolkien, the idea to create RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS took shape. There was a long list of classic rock music one could point to that was Tolkien influenced. There was an entire “fantasy book” section in the bookstore that would never have been there if not for the breakthrough of Tolkien’s trilogy. And there were parents doing the unheard of — spending time reading to their kids while they awaited the next two films to hit their local theatres. Book sales reached record heights as the films reaped box-office gold. The time had come to put this whole thing into perspective, and nobody was in a better position than Carlene and Cliff at the time RINGERS started rolling film in earnest.
The director soon recruited Josh Mandel, (Industry Standard Films Partner) , a UCLA Film School graduate, to be the Director of Photography. Long-time friend Danny Lukic (director/writer of the comedic short musical Dogs) came on board as producer, while Catherine Frizat became Associate Producer. A remarkable creative force was added with the inclusion of editor Arnaud Gerardy (editor of the Joe Strummer documentary Let’s Rock Again) with co-editor John Welch. Later, the additional support of producer Jeff Marchelletta, (Industry Standard Films Partner), would complete the team by bringing about Executive Producer Tom DeSanto, (Producer of X-Men I & II and the Transformers Franchise), who lent his incrediable filmmaking expertise to the enterprise. Talented friends Mikey Murray, Angie Pop and Nancy Steinman lent their time and talent to production assistance, boom operation, gaffing, second unit Photography, and graphic design work.
The fans themselves were to become an integral part of RINGERS. The summer of 2003 was spent pursuing and taping the original true-blue community that was the bedrock of Tolkien’s popularity. The RINGERS team would visit the largest genre fan events in the world, including the San Diego Comic-Con International and the annual Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia. Soon additional events were recorded by other Units shooting in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Bonn, Germany.
Fan Collaboration Was the Key
The most effective means of recording fans’ comments came in the shape of a “confessional booth.” Inspired by a similar device used in reality T.V. shows, the confessional was designed to help interviewees close out the noise and distractions of the Convention Hall, so they could speak directly to the camera about their love of Tolkien. It was a magic key for many people. They could speak in private without interruption. They could speak straight from the heart. They could address everyone in the world of fandom from one point of view. The resulting footage was everything the filmmakers hoped it could be — filled with genuine warmth, laughs, musings, surprises, bad puns, shameless self promotion, slapstick comedy, gentle tears, and creativity of every kind!
Building trust was important: Other documentaries have derisively portrayed genre fans as awkward nerds — worthy of guilty laughter if not much else — but Carlene and Cliff are two of the most serious Tolkien fans one could ever hope to meet, and their honest approach to documenting ‘Ringer fans’ was respectful and generous in the utmost. After all, their undiluted love of Tolkien brought them together and would ultimately lift RINGERS up to a different class of film (indeed the generous spirit of fandom brought the first cautious investors to the table; it was by the grace of a small dedicated fan-base that the production received its earliest financial support).
Gaining interviews with the stars of Jackson’s films was a certainty. The ensemble of actors were quite familiar with the RINGERS team. Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen had seen Cliff and holding his microphone on just about every red carpet in town. Having attended numerous events (and the spectacular Oscar Parties produced yearly by TheOneRing.net), the stars of Middle-earth found it a joy to speak with Cliff on camera about the sprawling creation of Tolkien’s mind. He would steer his interviewees towards more thoughtful discourse; covering the trilogy’s thematic reach, spirituality for the modern world, and the heart of humanity as reflected in the Hobbits themselves.
RINGERS had the best access to “Rings” luminaries that any documentarian could hope for. As the scope of the film broadened to include the worlds of music and fantasy literature, efforts to secure interviews with the best and brightest of those worlds were met with “Yes, I’d love to!” from all quarters. Authors such as Clive Barker and Terry Pratchett offered exclusive interviews, bringing to the table their keen insight into Tolkien’s literary legacy. While David Carradine provided a bracing portrait of the 60s generation and their adoration of Tolkien. Rock legends Geddy Lee and Lemmy Kilmister quickly came on board, explaining first hand how the Rock scene shifted under the weight of Tolkien’s high-fantasy influence. Carlene knew the lines between pop culture and literary masterpiece had blurred together decades ago, but for the first time several key players in this phenomenon were able to explain how it happened.
The director’s dynamic approach to her subject was to juxtapose the “professional” interviewees with the “fan confessionals” — who uniformly supported each others’ views — highlighting the commonality that crosses generations of Tolkien enthusiasts.
There and Back Again
Throughout 2003, “Rings” events unfolded around the world, and the RINGERS team was there, cameras and enthusiasm in tow. By November of that year the production had been in full swing for almost two years without proper funding. The filmmakers had dedicated themselves full time without any compensation; but the time had come to fly around the world and back. The team arrived in London and then onward to visit Tolkien’s world of Oxford, just in time for the U.K. Tolkien Society’s annual conference. Prominent Tolkien academics sat down to relay their side of the story, then it was off to New Zealand for the World Premiere of the highly anticipated The Return of the King. Making the transition from revered halls of academia to a wild star-studded ticker-tape parade through downtown Wellington was a unique thrill. Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, and many others were asked the most difficult questions. Cliff was at the top of his game in eliciting a response from Sean Astin on how the books had achieved such longevity across many decades. But the real star of Jackson’s movies is the countryside of New Zealand itself. “Breathtaking” is the only word that can describe the South Island — where RINGERS shadowed a special tour bus of fans on a pilgrimage to visit the actual shooting locations used by Peter Jackson. The journey to Middle-earth was complete, but a full year of post-production work was yet to commence.
RINGERS spent 21 months shooting on three continents — in 16 major world cities. As editor, Arnaud Gerardy’s task was to reign in over 150 hours of taped footage and interviews, waiting patiently for Carlene and Cliff to finalize the script. It was a gargantuan effort; and the writers delivered one segment at a time. The film soon took shape as five decades of popular culture were condensed into 95 minutes. Dominic Monaghan (Merry Brandybuck) was delighted to step up as narrator, providing his own gregarious energy and love — he is a natural born storyteller. Soon executive producer Tom DeSanto came on board, bringing his passion for fantasy and business acumen to help the project find the best possible audience.
RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS made its World Premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2005. With little else besides love, goodwill, and years of dedication bringing it all together, the film serves as a remarkable dénouement to the past 50 years of the worldwide following of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”