As the winner for the Spirit of Fandom Award presented by Lucasfilm and Atom at this year’s Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge at San Diego Comic-Con International, Star Wars: Cinemagic takes a look at the Star Wars saga as an exciting ride through cinematic history.
Starwars.com chats with Texas-based filmmaker Joseph T. Presswood III.
What is your background in film? Did you make films as a youngster/teen?
I started back into film about six years ago, I had wanted to study film in college but the cost of getting a degree and the chances of getting a job didn’t balance out in my mind. I ended up getting my degree in Advertising from Texas State. Later, I would take film classes at night at Houston Community College (HCC). As a child I played a lot with the camera. One of the first videos my parents have is of me opening one of my gifts and getting excited when I see it’s a plastic film camera. I looked at Dad and said, “Santa gave me a movie ejector!”
What prompted you to make a Star Wars fan film? Have you made a fan film before?
I made Star Wars: Cinemagic three years ago for the 2007 Fan Movie Challenge but missed the deadline that year. The idea was to have something for the 30th anniversary of A New Hope. I thought it was a cool idea to do a short film that takes the audience on a trip through memory lane of the Star Wars universe.
I made a short called Pinball Wars back in 2004. The main difference is back then I didn’t make the short for the competition. I did Pinball Wars after I tried to make a film based on a George Carlin monologue for our class final at HCC. I spent a lot of time on that script and it didn’t work. The camera operator and lighting technician didn’t show and it was a disaster. So not to be embarrassed, I grabbed my brother and my dad’s camera and started filming Dave playing a pinball machine. I was watching a lot of Twilight Zone at the time and thought the man vs. machine angle on a Star Wars pinball machine was cool. My teacher liked it and told me about the competition. Was an amazing experience and I met a lot of talented directors at Comic-Con that year. Had a wonderful time!
Where did you get your idea for your film?
I had just come back from Disneyworld and Atom had emailed passed participants in the challenge about the upcoming challenge in 2007. After riding all the dark rides at Disney like Spaceship earth, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion I thought it would be cool if Disney had a Star Wars version — something that takes you on a cinematic ride through the Star Wars universe.
I envisioned Huey, Dewey, and Lewy dressed as little stormtroopers guiding the audience through the ride and giving comic relief. They had this off screen battle going on with Jawas when I was writing down notes for the idea but that never quite made it fully into the short.
How cool would it be to have a state of the art rollercoaster ride traveling at 100 mph that takes you through the trench run of A New Hope to blow up the Death Star? I’m not talking about Star Tours, I mean a true blending of roller coaster/dark ride technology with cinematic visual effects. Lines around the block would ride that at Disney.
What are some of the technical aspects of your film? What did you shoot and edit with?
I used 3DS Max to do all the animation, After Effects for compositing, and Sony Vegas for editing and sound mixing.
What were some of the challenges and surprises that happened to you as you were writing/directing/filming your movie?
This was the first short where I animated characters and it was a challenge. I wanted to pull my hair out and cry trying to get them to move correctly and learn how to read the curve editor among other things. Looking back at the film, it has its problems but I’m proud to have completed the task. The way I see it, the only way I’m going to learn is dive in and attack and be happy with the results that follow. Keep practicing and you will get better.
The other challenge was after I made this short and missed the deadline for the 2007 awards show, was when my computer crashed and I lost all the files associated with this film. They were gone. Only thing I thought I had was the copy I put on Youtube. Just before the 2008 Awards I was overjoyed to find a decent copy on my mom’s computer and submitted it in the 2008 Awards. I never heard back and thought they didn’t like the flick. A year later while walking my father’s dog a few days before the 2009 deadline, Atom emailed and said they would like to use it in this year’s competition. So it has been a strange road getting into the 2009 Fan Movie Awards! I’m lucky it is even in the competition.
Who were all the principle people in helping get the film made? Who would you thank if your film won an Academy Award?
A big thanks goes out to my brother David. He did all the voices and also was the actor in my first film in the Star Wars competition back in 2004. Also a huge thank you goes out to those at Scifi3d.com. There are a lot of talented artists on that site that have created different Star Wars computer models. Without their help, it would have taken a long time to model the figures and ships.
If I ever won an Academy Award I would thank those responsible for making lucid dreaming a reality because I’m sure that is the only way it will ever happen. If it ever were to happen I would definitely thank my mom, dad, my brother Dave, and my fiancé Melody. I guess I would also thank those who ponied up the money to have my vision realized.
Why do you think recognizing fan films is important?
I think it is great George Lucas gives young filmmakers the opportunity to play in his sandbox. Use anything Lucasfilm owns from books, characters, to even pinball machines. Tell any story you like whether it’s a comedy, action, drama, it doesn’t matter. Star Wars is one of the most recognized names in movie history. It comes with a built in audience. People will see your work in this competition. That is an amazing carrot to be dangled in front of you. The competition is right here for everyone who is interested in film to experience. What a great gift from Mr. Lucas!
What Lucas has done is basically create a home film school. From your home you can study different film styles, concepts and then you go out and apply what you have learned with the goal being these awards. It’s always important to have a goal, it keeps you focused.
If your short is accepted, you know some of the things you’ve done have hit its mark, and then whatever didn’t work will be found out instantly when the public starts reviewing your film online. They can be brutally honest which is great! Learn and apply it to the next film. If you are one of the few who have created short films such has Pink Five, it can open doors you could have never imagined when you started. The opportunity is there, and George Lucas has given you the challenge. It is up to you!
Watch all the fan movie winners here:
Atom: Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge