The People’s Joker, a queer coming-of-age parody superhero fan film written and directed by Vera Drew, and co-written by Bri LeRose premiered on September 13, 2022, at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival and was pulled from the program after just one screening due to “rights issues.”
The first screening of The People’s Joker took place in Toronto as part of the Midnight Madness program. But not long after the film’s premiere, an announcement of the film’s withdrawal was posted on the festival’s website. While further screenings were scheduled to take place, they were canceled.
TIFF made an official, announcement to attendees, saying,
“The filmmaker has withdrawn this film due to rights issues. We apologize for any inconvenience. Current ticket holders will receive an email from TIFF Customer Relations with information on their purchase.”
Drew took to Twitter to share the news as it was happening
On Tuesday Vera again took to Twitter and shared an official statement that reads:
“As THE PEOPLE’S JOKER team and I work to resolve our previously reported “rights issues” and come up with a release plan, I have decided to pull our film from all future film festivals for the time being. I didn’t come to this decision lightly. It sucks and hurts more than you’ll ever know. We had literally 10 incredible festivals all over the world ready and willing to exhibit this film. I’ve been looking forward to traveling with the movie since we started making it. It’s taken all the emotional strength and courage I have in me to recalibrate my brain into accepting that this is what is best for the future of our film and that this is not where the story ends; it’s just the beginning. I promise that everyone – everywhere – is going to be able to see this film soon, first in a theater and then in the comfort of their home. Stick with me. I’ll keep you posted every step of the way that I can. And you know where you can all send your angry letters…
FREE THE PEOPLE’S JOKER”
The People’s Joker had already been officially confirmed overseas in the lineup of the Gaze Film Festival, in Dublin, and the Metamorphoses in Sydney. In the U.S., the movie’s poster was even featured in the trailer for this year’s Fantastic Fest, one of the events that celebrate genre filmmaking from small and big budgets. In the Gaze and Metamorphoses festivals, the movie was slated to screen again as early as October 1.
While the fan film was pulled from the festival as well as all future festivals, the trailer is still available to watch on YouTube:
Drew has been active in the field of entertainment for over a decade as both a stand-up comedian and longtime video editor for absurdist and satirical projects like On Cinema, Comedy Bang! Bang!, and Who Is America?, the last of which earned her a daytime Emmy award.
At the beginning of the pandemic, newly unemployed Drew decided that she would use her free time to make a movie entitled The People’s Joker.
The satire fan film is intended to be autobiographical, showing her struggles with mental health and gender transition, but through the structure and aesthetics of the Joker’s supervillain origin story.
Fan films are nothing new and are featured in Comic-Cons and film festivals around the world. It is unknown at this time why this particular one was targeted and pulled from screenings due to “rights issues,” since it is obviously a parody, which is protected by the First Amendment as a form of expression and relies on the exception of fair use to avoid copyright infringement.
Very rarely has any corporate entity shut down any fan films screened at film festivals. It’s possible that the new leadership at WBD is a little overzealous when it comes to these matters, nevertheless, the filmmaker and star of the film, Drew, has taken the warning seriously and backed down to the tyrannical company.