Fan-made Hunt for Gollum a hit: servers crash

A Lord of the Rings-themed fan-produced film called The Hunt for Gollum premiered online on Sunday, and within 24 hours it had had about 250,000 views, with nearly all fan comments on the Web site giving the film a thumbs-up.

The premiere was so successful that it brought down the film's Web servers for a few hours. Director and executive producer Chris Bouchard, speaking exclusively to SCI FI Wire by telephone from England, explains, "The Web server got completely overwhelmed by all the traffic. We got it back online quite late that night. I think everybody saw the release and went on at the same time. It was the number of requests it couldn't handle. It's quite cool! We had no idea how many people would watch it."

Bouchard adapted the script from an incident mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's original Rings trilogy. "All the story is in the appendices, and it's referred to by Gandalf during the first book," he said. "That's a very basic structure of the story, which says Aragorn went to look for Gollum, and he found him, so we filled in the detail."

The Hunt for Gollum also had its world theatrical premiere on Sunday at the Sci-Fi-London film festival and a U.S. premiere later in the day in Yuma, Ariz., thanks to two Yuma residents who worked on the sound and visual effects. The London event was attended by Bouchard, star Adrian Webster (Aragorn) and other members of the cast and crew, who took audience questions afterward.

According to Bouchard, neither he nor his crew had any clue what to expect in advance of the screening. "They'd been giving away tickets for free to the audience, so we didn't really know if people were signing up to it or not until we walked in, and it was all full," he said. "It was quite weird, actually, watching it with a real audience, and they were all very quiet throughout the film, so I thought they really hated it!"

As to the film's positive reception, Bouchard said, "I was shocked, actually, because I was expecting a lot of stick for interpretations. We thought maybe the actors, they've got a lot to live up against trying to play [roles played by] Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen. On the whole, the comments from people who've watched it so far have been really nice. We've definitely had some good nitpicks as well, but we're quite surprised they've been so nice."

The Hunt for Gollum also stars Patrick O'Connor, Rita Ramnani and Gareth Brough It streams online. Bouchard reports that the film will remain on the site indefinitely and will likely be available from a few other streaming sites as well. He would also like to bring it to other film festivals this year, though no definite plans have been made.

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