This is how those sexy ‘Challengers’ fan edits got made so quickly

<div>This is how those sexy ‘Challengers’ fan edits got made so quickly</div>
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The 'Challengers' trio on a phone screen in front of a blue movie theater.

Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers leaves you wanting more — more tennis, more sexual tension, more techno, more grunting, more of Zendaya’s swishing bob, more of Josh O’Connor’s hairy thighs, more of Mike Faist’s pert butt. And there’s only one thing sustaining your Challengers cravings before your inevitable subsequent viewing: fan edits

The day after the film hit theaters, the internet was flooded with video edits showcasing the movie’s most captivating — and hottest — moments. These impressive fan creations range in tone from playful montages of Patrick (O’Connor)’s most lethal moments set to “I’m Too Sexy” to the perfect pairing of Lorde’s “Tennis Court” with a highlight reel of the film.

The edits draw from various sources, including the film’s trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and even the scene dissected by The New York Times’Anatomy of a Scene” series (including the fan-favorite sequence of Art and Patrick eating churros).

However, there’s a side to these edits that casual viewers might not be aware of: the use of “cam quality” clips and grainy videos ripped from illicit recordings of the film.

“There are two cam versions of Challengers that I’m aware of,” Kenzie, a 19-year-old student and fancam editor in South Carolina, told Mashable. “One has fewer watermarks and slot machines [logos] than the other.” These watermarks, often advertising gambling sites, are a common sight in pirated versions of films uploaded to various piracy websites — part of a quid pro quo relationship between online betting and bootleg sites. 

These watermarks are visible in many of the most famous Challengers fancams. A video dedicated to Art (Faist) features a blue “1xBet” logo. “Slotslights.net” pops up in bold white lettering in a different Art edit. Both have since been removed from Twitter but remain up on Instagram. 

While the recordings speed up fans’ ability to revisit the film’s highlights, using cam-quality video clips is somewhat controversial among fan editors. None of the four editors Mashable spoke to (three of which use cam recordings) opposed the use of the pirated version of the film for ethical reasons. It was all about the aesthetics of their craft. Many told Mashable they prefer to wait for the HD pirated version to come out — usually available once a film goes streaming. However, the online frenzy over Challengers means that these cam-quality edits are in hot demand, and with a month-long window between its release and its premiere on video-on-demand (VOD), the allure of cam clips is more vital than ever. 

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“I had a lot to say about [Challengers], but I wasn’t sure how to articulate it, so I decided to make edits instead,” Alison* told Mashable.

Bootlegging popular movies has been a profitable venture for decades, but as fan editors work within a changing film industry, their currency has waned. Since the pandemic began, more films have gone straight to streaming or do so soon after their theatrical release, making cam-quality videos less popular among editors. The editors I spoke to pointed to movies like Bottoms, The Ballad of Bongbirds and Snakes, Priscilla, and Spider-Man: No Way Home as a few recent exceptions. But, as Kenzie observes, Challengers has reinvigorated the demand. She says it has produced the most cam-quality edits she has ever seen in her six years of creating. 

Alison, who chose to remain anonymous out of fear that speaking publicly about cam-recorded clips would ostracize them from the fan edit community, prefers to use HD clips in their edits. “I usually tend to wait, but that’s because the quality usually lowers a lot when you post it,” they told Mashable. Despite their usual preferences, they have posted cam-quality Challengers edits. Before being removed from Twitter for copyright, the videos were some of their most popular fan edits.

On the other hand, Kenzie doesn’t wait for the HD version. “I’m impatient. When I want to edit something, I want to do it then,” she said. “With a film like Challengers, all the hype, demands for edits, and everyone talking about it, people want to see all the scenes in the film.”

Editors don’t seem concerned about involving themselves in the world of piracy. The nature of fan edits already subjects their accounts to copyright strikes, usually for music. TikTok is stringent on music copyright, so editors will circumvent by pitching up or slowing down a copyrighted song. But it happens on Twitter as well. Getting copyrighted for the clips is rare, but it has been a problem for editors using cam-recorded Challengers clips on Twitter. 

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Scene pack accounts: the backbone of the fan edit community

The catch: Kenzie and other eager editors don’t access the pirated movie themselves. “I don’t know how to do all that. [I’ve got] no tech genius whatsoever. I don’t know how people download them, but props to them,” she said. Like most fan editors, she relies on what are known as “scene pack accounts” to make edits. 

“[The accounts] will download the movie onto a MEGA file. Or some of them will put clips of a certain character and then put them on another link so that you can download it — which makes it much easier to edit,” Ash, another fan editor, explained to Mashable.

These accounts live on Instagram, posting MEGA links to specific ripped content in the caption of aesthetically themed grid posts. They are the first stop on the path to a perfect fan edit. Dominique Thomas, a 25-year-old from Moline, Illinois, runs a scene pack account with another fan editor. 

To make a scene pack for a film, Thomas first watches the movie, then downloads it, and looks at DMs to see which character is most requested. “If they’re a main character, we try to stick with their most popular moments in a film. You don’t want it to be super long because that can also make an editor’s life hard,” they told Mashable. Then, they isolate the popular scenes and upload them to MEGA. Often, fan editors return requesting additional scenes, and Thomas obliges. 

Each editor approaches their process differently, leading to various in-demand scenes. For example, Alison focuses on lyrical parallels. “I like to match certain scenes to lyrics; that’s where most of my editing comes from,” they told Mashable.

Making scene packs is a time-consuming process, and that labor, what it takes to pull scenes for fan edits, is why so many fan editors rely on scene pack accounts. Thomas made three scene packs for A24’s The Iron Claw, one for each of the leading brothers played by Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen-White, and Harris Dickinson. It took an entire day to create. But it’s done out of a love for the craft. “I love watching other people’s edits. I love it when people tag me in edits…that’s why we started it,” said Thomas. 

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Like subtle merch and fanfiction, scene pack accounts are a part of fandom where the love of the object of your fandom drives creation and community — unconstrained by capitalism. 

Running a scene pack account is a labor of love but does not come without its downsides. Between competing scene pack accounts and demanding fan editors, acting as the go-between between the film (or its bootleggers) and editors can be stressful. 

Thomas is an editor who avoids using cam-quality edits, but if there’s demand for cam-quality scene packs of a movie, they will still make them. “If I can be of any kind of help to people, then I have no problem,” they said. Thomas immediately knew that Challengers was going to be one of those films. “Sometimes, when a trailer drops, you can anticipate how big something will be,” said Thomas.

“Anything from that movie is an edit; somebody will edit it, whether it be the diaries or a 30-second TV spot. This movie is huge in the editing community,” said Thomas. “And I think it still will be, even when it comes out in HD. You’re going to have months and months of Challengers edits.”

The next time you watch a Tashi Duncan edit, remember that the sweaty Challengers videos on your FYP are a labor of love, much like tennis.

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