Feature Article

Star Wars Fan Films: Imagination Run Wild

By Melissa Minners

            Hi!  For those of you who donít know me, the nameís Talon Karrde, information broker.  Okay, so thatís not my real name, but information IS my game - Star Wars information that is.  Ever since 1977, when my dad brought me to see Star Wars: A New Hope at the RKO Movie Theater, Iíve been hooked!  Iíve seen the movies so many times, I can recite the lines from memory.  Iím what you would call a  Star Wars fan, but Iím not a fanatic.  In other words, I have never named any pets...or children for that matter...after characters in the movie.  As a fan, I read the books, comics, magazines, etc. and I collect.  Like most fans, I canít afford to be a fanatic.  Star Wars collecting can be a severely expensive hobby.  So, I pick and choose my collectibles.  One of the things I like to collect are Star Wars fan films. 

            After the release of Star Wars, fans began to re-enact the movie with toys or costumes.  Kids could be seen running through the streets with Wiffle bats and capes, recreating the climactic duel between Darth Vader and Obi-wan Kenobi.  On family trips, my brother and I sat in the back seat of our car, pretending we were Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon, off to save the world from the Imperials.  Some people began to video tape their re-enactments.  As time went on, the video-taped scenes became more elaborate, with people wearing costumes, special effects, and more.  The new videos became more imaginative, depicting scenes never seen in the original movies.  Many tapes were parodies of the original movies.  With the release of a new series of Star Wars novels in the 1990ís, Star Wars fans became fascinated with the characters in the expanded universe and included them in their films.  Star Wars fan films were once an underground thing, passing from fan to fan, but never actually making the video stores.  However, as the films began to circulate, and with the popularity of the internet, all that has changed.

            After the release of the Star Wars Trilogy: Special EditionStar Wars fan, Kevin Rubio, created a 10-minute parody called Troops.  This film, presented in the format of the hit TV show, COPS, seeks to explain the deaths of the Jawas, Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen from the stormtroopersí point of view.  The film opens with  the COPS theme-song, Bad Boys playing in the background as we watch stormtoopers at work on Tatooine.  The film was created on a $1200 budget and has become a cult classic, snaring such fans as Mark Hamill and even George Lucas.  Iíd heard nothing but good reviews about Troops and was finally able to purchase a copy at a scifi convention.  Itís hysterical.  Watching the stormtroopers respond to calls while talking about their jobs in true COPS style is hilarious.  Although only 10 minutes long, itís a great addition to a Star Wars fanís collection!   Depending on where you find the video, you may be able to get more for your money: The copy I bought included Troops, Hardware Wars, and the Episode I trailer.

            Hardware Wars, by Ernie Fosselius,  has long been hyped as a terrific fan film parody.  For itís time (made shortly after Star Wars), it is pretty decent.  Having been released in the late 70ís / early 80ís, the visual effects are not too spectacular.  The film in itself reminds me of the Saturday Night Live parody skits of the Ď70ís.  The fan filmís space battles are depicted by ordinary household appliances, such as irons, toasters and egg beaters.  Several scenes from the original movie are re-enacted in Spaceballs style.  In a word, I would rate it cute, but not exactly worth spending money on.

            One of the best Star Wars fan films I have ever seen is The Dark Redemption by Peter Mether, Dwight Boniecki, and William Duxberry.  The 35-minute film is set two days before Star Wars: A New Hope.  It features expanded universe fan favorite, Mara Jade, also known as the Emperorís Hand.  Mara Jade, working with Kyle Katarn and two other rebels, has managed to steal the plans to the newly-built Death Star.  Can the rebels get the plans to the leaders of the Rebellion in time?  Find out in this surprisingly well-made action packed video.  Yes, as with all fan films, some of the interaction is a bit cheesy, but Mara Jade fans will absolutely love Leah McLeodís portrayal of the force-sensitive apprentice.  And Boba Fett fans will be happy to know that he has quite a role in this film as well.  This is a definite must-have for all Star Wars fans as it offers up some food for thought about how the rebels actually got their hands on the Death Star plans!  

            George Lucas in Love is a film that was released in 1999.  Created by Joe Nussbaum, an American film director, this fan film is a spoof featuring George Lucas in a Shakespeare in Love setting.  We first meet George as a film student earnestly working on his Star Wars script.  He sees inspiration for his film all around him, from the pot smoking roommate who resembles Chewbacca to the asthmatic rival who reminds us of Darth Vader to the college advisor who speaks like Yoda.  Things aren't going well though - George is suffering from a bad case of writer's block until he meets a young woman with an interesting taste in hairstyles.  The leader of a student rebellion, this attractive young lady becomes George's muse and all is right with the universe, until the unexpected ending.  This movie ranks right up there with Troops as one of the funniest Star Wars fan films I've ever seen.

            So where can you get your hands on these fan films.  That's a good question.  You'll find that some are relatively easy to purchase.  I was able to get my hands on a copy of George Lucas in Love at Amazon.com.  Hardware Wars has just been rereleased and is available in most stores that sell DVDs.  At one time it was extremely difficult to find Troops or Dark Redemption, but now you can watch these films online at sites like TheForce.net and YouTube. 

            New Star Wars fan films are being created every day, with some of the best winning awards at the Star Wars Fan Film Challenge, an annual contest sponsored by Atom Films and Lucasfilms.  The winners of the next Fan Film Challenge will be announced on August 12, 2010 at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, Florida, but you can check out all of the submissions, new and old, at http://www.atom.com/spotlights/starwars/challenge/index.html.  Until next time, may the force be with you and the fan films plentiful!


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