Friday, February 26, 2016

May the Fan be With You: Star Wars and Empire Uncut

                Last week, I covered some of the most well-known fan productions in the Star Trek Universe.  The love of people for the series is quite evident.  The other major science fiction franchise is not without its own fan productions.  This post will cover one of the Star Wars franchise’s most well-known fan productions, Star Wars Uncut and its sequel, Empire Uncut. 
                In 2009, Casey Pugh was a developer who specialized in interactive online experiences.  He cofounded the Video Sharing Community VHX, which finds and shares videos from around the web and as of 2012, helps filmmakers release their projects online.  Casey, a Star Wars fan, saw the potential to create a huge project with other Star Wars fans.  He had the idea to “crowdsource” Star Wars: A New Hope, that is, ask Star Wars fans to make their own, low-budget version of Star Wars.  The clips would be no more than 15 seconds in length. 
                Casey asked the Star Wars community for the 15-second clips of individual scenes from A New Hope, and the fans responded with just fewer than one thousand individual clips.  Some of the clips were filmed using creator and their friends and family, including clips featuring children.  Some of the clips used hand drawn animation or simple computer graphics.  Many of clips were used with objects found around the house, like cardboard or trash cans.  Some of the clips were stop motion or used Lego bricks.  Lucasfilm knew about the production, and rather than stop it, decided to help (though the extent of its participation is unknown). 
                Next Casey had the task of editing all of the clips into the full-length movie.  Casey Pugh finished the completed project in 2010, and his efforts won him a 2010 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Fiction and his project was covered in the New York Times, the LA Times and Vulture.  The completed fan project was screened at a festival in 2010 before finally being released online to the public in 2012.
                After the Star Wars Uncut was finally released to the public, Casey went back the Star Wars fan community to ask them to crowdsource a version of Empire Strikes Back.  They received about double the clips as last time, almost two thousand.  The quality of the clips went up because lowering prices of HD technology.  Casey Pugh released Empire Uncut in 2014.  Making a version of Return of the Jedi is one of the most frequently asked questions on the site, but there are no current plans to do so.  AMC borrowed the idea to crowdsource a recreation of the pilot of its series Mad Men using scenes submitted from viewers and was released on May 13, 2015.  Time will tell what the next big crowdsource production will be. 

                Unlike the high-quality recreation of the style of Star Trek, the clips shown in the Star Wars Uncut are showed more of the personality of the creators of the clips, giving a personal feel for the love that each individual fan had for the Star Wars movies.  With nearly three thousand individual submissions from around the world, this is one of the ultimate Star Wars fan productions.

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