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DIY Star Wars



George Lucas

George Lucas on a flying visit to Tokyo

With the latest innovations in film production software it's possible to recreate your own sci-fi epic at home. Barry Brophy checks out some budding amateur auteurs.

While the second installment of the Star Wars prequel is currently in production, the franchise's biggest fans are no longer willing to sit idly by and wait for another over-hyped, over-blown and under-whelming celluloid offering from Uncle George. Instead, inhabiting a world that veers between super sci-fi geekdom and independent digital filmmaking, movie fans are creating their own effects-laden Star Wars epics, but at a fraction of the cost and minus the complacency.

The Internet is choc-a-bloc with Star Wars fan sites, many of them incorporating step-by-step tutorials and top tips to help the aspiring auteur create his or her very own low-budget, high-tech paean to that galaxy far, far away. These home-movie epics can be viewed on sites such as www.forceflicks.net, www.force.net (coming soon), or http://starwars.atomfilms.com, a DIY film site with a dedicated "Star Wars Fan Film Network." Offerings such delights as Troops, a lurid mockumentary featuring a group of trigger-happy storm troopers, shot in the style of a fly-on-the-wall police documentary, is typical. The imaginatively titled American Jedi, a surreal Easton Ellis-Lucas hybrid, the self-explanatory Lego Wars, and a gaggle of features with plot lines that gape like black holes, are also on offer.

Joining the swelling ranks of digital directors couldn't be easier, requiring little more than a moderately powerful home computer and the imagination to make the most of it. While the idea of computer-generated graphics on a home movie would have been unheard of a few years ago, the march of the home computer has empowered buffs with the tools to create state-of-the-art special effects. Furthermore, sites such as www.theforce.net are giving first-timers access to the advice and experience of tribute directors old and new. For those short of cash, there is even a variety of free and shareware programs available for download that can be used to help with your film. Best of all for the viewer, the films are free since, having borrowed liberally from Lucasfilm, any charge levied by the tribute makers would be a clear breach of copyright.

While the majority of movies pay homage to Star Wars, other franchises, including Star Trek, The X-Files, and even Highlander, have been adapted by amateur filmmakers. The major studios have even given the tribute flicks their tacit blessing. Just last month, George Lucas made a slew of sound effects - including Darth Vader's death rattle - available for free on the Net. Star Trek boss Paramount has shown itself to be equally tolerant of that franchise's filmmaking fans.

Superman fans have been less fortunate, with DC Comics, home to a legion of the world's favorite superheroes, including The Man of Steel, forcing one buff to hastily remove his homage to Krypton's favorite son from the Net.

Nonetheless, down-at-heel directors are now holding their own against effects Goliaths such as Lucas' own Industrial Light & Magic. Recently, the makers of Troops were hired by impressed bosses at Lucasfilm to work on Star Wars Episode II, now being shot in Australia. Which leaves the armchair critics with little choice, really. Try? Do or do not. There is no try.


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