by Irvin K

Exclusive
Image: Kailee Brown

This new Harry Potter fan film examines the emotional toll the first Vold War took on the Marauders’ generation.

A year ago, we wrote about an exciting new fan film about the Marauders, Lily Evans and the Eleventh Hour. It was a snapshot of the life of Lily Evans at the beginning of her sixth year: how she, James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Alice Fawley-to-be-Longbottom struggled to find a balance between living their lives and wanting to help the Order of the Phoenix. We praised it for the quality of its production design, and the emphasis on Lily’s character over the Marauders’.

Exactly a year later, the excellent witches of Apple Juice Productions have crafted a follow-up: Lily Evans and the Stroke of Midnight. It’s written by Amanda Taylor and Katie Kaniewski, and directed by Sarah Caldwell. The action jumps forward a year and a half, to the spring of Lily’s final year at Hogwarts. Now, the question becomes: how are these characters going to deal with joining a war at age 18?

Stroke of Midnight is bigger and better than Eleventh Hour in many ways. First and foremost, the size of the cast doubles from four to eight, which includes all four Marauders. As writer/producer/Lily Evans herself, Amanda Taylor, told us: “Marauders are a must, that was always a given!”

However, the focus remains on the witches of the Marauder era: Lily, Alice (Camrey Bagley Fox), and newcomer Darby Mest as the naturally charismatic Marlene McKinnon. This is one of the things that makes these fan films stand out from all the rest. Amanda said that when she was brainstorming a sequel to Eleventh Hour, she “wanted to see a duel between a bunch of witches. So we kind of went from that, and worked a bit backwards: if we’re gonna have this [duel], how are we going to get there?”

Indeed, there is a climactic duel against a wholly unexpected opponent. There are even some special effects, which get so many brownie points for not turning every magical duel into Priori Incantatem.

That’s the kind of attention to detail that we expect from Lily Evans. Amanda relates how she reread the entire series to prepare, with a different highlighter for each character. There are lots of nods to the HP books that hardcore fans will appreciate, from Pettigrew being hopeless at dueling (just as McGonagall said), to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Gideon Prewett.

The cast’s chemistry has improved by leaps and bounds since Eleventh Hour. James (Jon Rose) and Lily are now very firmly a couple, and are just as adorable together as we’ve always imagined James and Lily to be. The new additions to the cast are welcome.

Bryson Alejandro Frehner is great as a rakish Sirius Black, with a very impressive mustache to boot — it was the ‘70s! Given that approximately half the YouTube comments have been about said mustache, we asked Amanda about it. In her words: “There was some debate about the mustache — that was something that came with the actor. I think he just rocks it really well.

Sirius is always on a “hair journey” — he’s got super long hair, then he cuts it, then it gets super long again. I think the mustache is a fun way of paying homage to that, but in a different way. Maybe young Sirius would want to assert, ‘Hey, I can grow facial hair!’ Because he seems to be very into his own hair, what it is and isn’t doing.”

The creators of the series gave just as much thought to Peter Pettigrew, and managed to avoid the pitfall that seems to plague Marauder-era stories: making Wormtail completely awful based on what we know he’ll become. Amanda says,

“I had to argue: he is friends with these people. What about him [makes them] want to hang out with him? There’s a little bit of ‘Oh, he makes us feel cool,’ so we wanted to play up some of that. But these are good people, so there’s obviously an element of his character that they liked. Many of the other Marauders fanfic and films really make him the butt of the joke: he’s not very included, and no one’s very nice to him. Why would he stick around, and why would they be friends with him, if they genuinely didn’t like him? You have to be able to see that [Wormtail’s betrayal] would have been shocking to them. They wouldn’t have all [thought], ‘Oh well, that makes sense, because we all treated him like garbage for seven years.’ We had to get someone to play him who could convey that little bit of bitterness that’s underlying, but still be able to joke around [as] part of the group.”

Frankly, we as HP fans love nothing more than when creators of HP content have put enormous amounts of thought into every decision. And our brief chat with Amanda perfectly illustrated why Lily Evans and the Stroke of Midnight turned out so well: every decision made was deliberate. For example, given that it’s spring of 1978, a little-known movie called Star Wars recently came out… and is liberally referenced in the fan film. We asked Amanda why, and she said,

“Lily is muggle-born, so she’s part of that culture. Sirius is always into muggle stuff, to stick it to his parents. While they’re living out their own epic, they’re teenagers; they don’t really have the foresight to think, ‘Our lives are going to be very important.’ It’s fun to think about them engaging in the fandom to some degree, and thinking about that battle of good versus evil as escapism… which is kind of what Harry Potter is for a lot of us. There’s a lot of evil in today’s world, and there’s lots of opportunity to engage with that. But we also like to be in the fantasy world of Harry Potter, with good people who are taking big actions against big bad things.”

So the allusions serve as both historical context and meta commentary!

Stroke of Midnight was released on YouTube in its entirety on Halloween, but the folks behind it promise some bonus content is yet to be released on their YouTube channel.

Given that many of us suspect the era of the Marauders is among the “certain things” Jo has no interest in exploring, the folks behind Lily Evans are filling an important gap in the story of the wizarding world. We really hope the series will continue next year with Lily Evans and the Quarter After One, When She Needs You Now!

What did you think of Lily Evans and the Stroke of Midnight?

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