A Beginner's Guide to Fandom: A Fangirl's Perspective

In addition to fanfiction, fanvids are one of the most common creative projects that fans take part in. A fanvid, or fan-made video, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like- a video made by a fans for or about their fandom’s TV show or film. In many respects it’s similar to fanfiction in goals, but it uses visual and auditory cues rather than the written word.

Henry Jenkins commented on fanvids in a response to a widely circulated Star Trek fanvid. He commented that they have become much more common in recent years due to technology making it easier not only to make videos (using digital software) but to distribute them (using sites like YouTube). He noted:

“YouTube is the place right now where work travels from one grassroots community or subculture to another. There are real advantages to such a site since it results in cross-influences and more innovation, experimentation, and diversity, yet there are also losses to this process of decoupling amateur media from its original contexts of production and consumption.”

As with fanfiction, fanvids viewed by people outside the fandom can misinterpret or simply not understand what the fan is saying or why in the video. This is particularly true involving videos depicting romantic or sexual relationships. However, some fans have taken the technology posing this potential problem and turned it into a positive fandom project. A YouTube channel, Are You Watching Supernatural, contributes to fandom by making short promotional videos of Supernatural designed to attract more viewers to the show. Fans enjoy them because they are well-made videos that echo literary and social themes in the show and emphasize reasons Supernatural is great to watch. However, by targeting non-fans, the videos are also able to reach across the social lines a closed fan community can sometimes create in order to connect with those unfamiliar with the show and the customs and practices of fandom.

In addition to promotion of the fandom, fanvids let fans tell visual stories using methods unavailable to the fanfic writer. The combination of picture and sound produces a different effect on the viewer than a story does in its reader. For example, the video below (by KrokiRefur) edits clips from Supernatural of the characters’ car and pairs it with a song about a car-turned-serial-killer. A fanfic of this nature would be difficult to take seriously, but the video works because of the way she put it together.

This kind of video is what Jenkins calls a “constructed reality” video. The most sophisticated fanvids are not the ‘music video’ equivalent of a TV show or movie; instead, they use digital media to create an original story. As he puts it,

“…It creates a new story by linking together shots from the original series as opposed to using those shots simply to interpret or provide an alternative emotional perspective on events already depicted in the aired episodes.”

Another option afforded to fanvids unavailable to fanfiction is commentary on the show or movie’s cinematic style in the show’s own medium. For example, Ash is a fan who made this video to link Supernatural to various film traditions it employs in the show.

The resulting video is both entertaining and thoughtful to watch, as she uses the video to comment on Supernatural’s visual and historical ties to the Western, horror and film noir genres.


Searching on YouTube with a TV show or movie as the keyword is a quick way to discover many, many fanvids. One simpler way to do it, however, would be to use ‘vid rec’ communities such as this one, which is specific to Supernatural, or this one, which has multiple fandoms represented.

I would also recommend Deirdre-C’s fanvids. She ranges from funny to serious and is very good about matching clips to appropriate audio. She also has an ongoing list of recommendations which are helpful for me. I’ve found that often the best people to recommend fanvids are those who make videos themselves; they’re attuned to the visual cues which make a video great that I might only be subliminally aware of.

et cetera