An amazing little fan film appeared online over the summer.
Dubbed Final Fantasy: Terra, the movie had a good amount of polish behind its special effects and boasted a full cast of eager young actors ready to bring the mammoth cast of Final Fantasy VI to life. I chatted with the film's director Ben Pohl and he laid out his plan for the project quite clearly: finish the trailer, contact Square Enix for permission, then launch a Kickstarter to fund the full movie.
Sadly, the inevitable has happened during the second step of the process and Pohl was told by a representative for Square Enix that the company "would never allow a Kickstarter campaign based on their IP [intellectual property]".
Pohl's Facebook post on the matter garnered a huge amount of support and outrage from fans of the prospective fan film - many of whom promised to boycott Square Enix for its hubris and callow treatment of a fan project - but it should be remember that Square Enix, y'know, kind of owns the rights to the game, and it's in the company's interest to protect them since a fan-funded Kickstarter would literally be making money off of something that it owns.
It's hard cheese for some to swallow, but Pohl seems to be taking it in stride, noting with some aplomb that he's happy that Square Enix is allowing the trailer he made to stay online.
The option for private funding is, of course, available, but Pohl's sign off to Final Fantasy: Terra ("I consider this campaign a success. I had a blast. Now onto the next one!") indicates that he doesn't much fancy Terra's chances of a becoming a feature release any time soon.
If there's good news to be gleaned from any of this, it's that Square Enix isn't just sitting on Final Fantasy VI's IP and letting it rot - there's an iOS and Android remastered version of FFVI planned for release in a couple of weeks, and the prospect of a full-blown HD remake is always something to be considered.
The takeaway here is that, unfortunately, fan films and fan projects should really think twice before throwing the doors open to crowdfunding no matter how strongly they feel toward the source material that inspired their projects. In the end, the companies that own the rights have final say over who can make money off of them - and you can safely bet that they'll shut projects like these down if they're not handed a licensing agreement before the Kickstarter launches.
Pohl seemed to know that Square Enix wouldn't go for Final Fantasy: Terra from the outset, so he managed his expectations from the project and said he'd be content simply to bring the trailer to life. He did that, and SE is allowing it to stay online, so that - for him - is a success.
So let's take one last look at Final Fantasy: Terra, the love letter of a fan film that will never be.