Growing up with the Harry Potter novels, I always dreamed of getting my letter from Hogwarts and learning magic. Now and again I get a little taste of what that world, but then there are those out there actually making that world, including filmmaker Justin Zagri with his latest fan film, Severus Snape & The Marauders.
I think a lot of people assume making a fan film just means running around with a group of friends, a camera, and a spare afternoon. And for some, it is. But for Justin and the crew, it is an intense labor of love that can take time, funding, special effects, original orchestration, and more. At over a million YouTube views and climbing, it’s safe to say Justin knows a thing or two and he’s been kind enough to share some of his words of wisdom. Before we get to that though, let’s have a look at the finished product.
The first question I had for Justin after seeing this is just how in the hell he got started, especially when the stories and characters have already been established in the source material. He told me:
Well once I knew what characters I was going to use, I wanted to figure out what kind of story I wanted to tell. What themes could stem out of the lessons the author was trying to convey? When it was decided young Snape and the Marauders would be used, I read the books again and focused more so on whenever Snape or Remus, Sirius, and Peter were around or when James or Lily were mentioned.
To me, there were a couple of pieces of drama that needed a bit of concluding. I felt that it would be interesting if we explored what would happen if Snape and The Marauders had a final showdown. Who would start it? Why? How does it end? What do the characters learn from their actions, for better or worse? Does it change them? Since I knew the story had to be pretty short, I knew that the type of change in these characters had to be relatively drastic. So I focused on James, Snape and their feelings on the oncoming war, Lily, and each other.
So the next step would seem to be how in the you cast such a thing and how much accuracy is actually needed. Justin responded:
I was pretty strict on trying to portray these characters accurately, but there’s a bit of an issue when it comes to that, as James Potter and Lily Evans have very little information about them.
Finding people who fit the roles on a fundamental level is crucial. Looks are a close second since the characters have established looks, but finding people who understand the role and have great chemistry with the other actors is extremely important.
All the actors have a massive passion for Harry Potter, and were extremely excited to try out for their roles. They put their all into their characters, and it really shows in the final product. One of the things I brag about on their behalf is much of their material is ad-libbed. During rehearsal, I wanted their chemistry to develop naturally, so I let them improv a lot. It paid off big time and allowed their characters to show how good of friends they are.
For me, this film focuses on themes of maturing in the face of responsibility. They were out of school, had to take care of themselves, and faced being part of a terrible war. So I wanted to show each character starting to mature a bit. Sirius was a bit less impulsive because he now felt worried that he might lose his best friends. His family, really. Remus was able to stand up to James a bit more than he would have a couple years ago. And Peter, well he was just terrified of conflict, but he felt brave when he was close to his friends.
Same goes with Mick and Dani, who played Snape and Lily. While they stuck to their lines, how they used them to portray their thoughts and feelings were brilliant, again, coming from their own ideas, as they knew these characters extremely well and were able to explore them on deeper levels.
Last but not least, I asked Justin what his advice was for those trying to make something of their own.
Cast carefully. Try to cast based on their strengths as an actor. Casting your friends is fun but if they don’t fit the part, don’t cast them.
And I’m going to give one more piece of advice: try to figure it out without money. Tell a story based on your limitations. Stories very often turn out better that way, as you are usually forced to be more creative.
I think we can safely say Mischief Managed.
So if you could make a fan film, what would it be about? Tell us in the comments!
Images graciously shared and credited to Broad Strokes Productions