As the winner for the Best Sequel presented by Lucasfilm and Atom at this year’s Star Wars Fan Movie Awards at Celebration V in Orlando, Florida, The Notebook Strikes Back captured the imagination of what The Empire Strikes Back would look like recreated with paper cut-outs in a notebook, much like last year’s winner Star Wars in a Notebook by the same filmmaker.
Starwars.com chats with Columbia-based filmmaker Oscar Fabián Triana Méndez.
What prompted you to make a Star Wars fan film sequel? How has George Lucas and his films influenced your work?
The first part had a really nice reception — lots of positive comments and reviews! I watch the film featured in blogs and sites from everywhere: obviously the USA but also France, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Perú, Australia, Russia, Spain even Thailand. People seem to love it! So I thought a sequel should be a nice gift for all of them (and for me).
Also I have a fun time doing it so. Plus everything has a sequel now doesn’t it? I don’t know if I should credit Mr. Lucas for that, but I hope mine it’s one of the good ones like Empire!
What is the back story regarding your film?
To sum things up, it’s the film that plays in the head of a little kid that is shocked discovering the Star Wars movies. You know, your memory isn’t perfect so you skip scenes, swap characters, and distort some other parts, but you really capture the essence of that story. I visualize that naive feeling with the tools you have at the moment in your house or school: paper, cloth, scissors, glue.
Back then you give life to your drawings or cutouts in your head, now thanks to a computer. I love the handmade look, I’m a big fan of the sweded/indie/low budget filmmaking that is flooding Internet.
What are some of the technical aspects of your film?
Everything was animated digitally, but with photographic resources. I scan cloth, paper and other objects plus recycled textures. That’s the main “trick” to making the film look like it was filmed on a real notebook. Pen and paper for all the designs and Photoshop for all the characters, costumes, creatures and ships. Later for animation, After Effects with tons and tons of layers. The audio was mixed in Audition and the final render on Premiere. No 3-D this time by the way and I didn’t work on HD. The standard resolution looks and feel good enough and complements the concept.
Who were all the principle people in helping get the film made? Who would you thank if your film won an Academy Award?
Again it was a one man army adventure, but I could not make it with my family support. This time there was a more direct help in a couple of things from nothing less than my mom. She make crafts and was happy to help. The “carbonite coffin” is a piece of thin metal that she owns (a special type of aluminium). It was made copying a printed Han Solo, in a similar fashion on how C-3PO was made last year. And Leia should thank her for the hairstyle, my mom hand-woven some threads and I use it as braids on the film, looks great!
What were some of the challenges and surprised that happened to you as you were writing/directing/filming your movie?
The main problem, again, was the length and the pacing. You can see how much the original The Empire Strikes Back movie benefits from a bigger budget. There are more ships, costumes, characters and locations, so I had to made a lot more of things comparing to the first film. Also it was tricky to get things balanced between the parallel narrative of “The Adventures of Luke” vs. “The Adventures of Han and co.” It’s a minute longer than the first short film.
On the visual side, there were a couple of characters that needed a different way to be animated, the non-humanoid ones: the AT-AT with his 4 mechanical legs, and the tauntaun with Han Solo on it. Also I had to expand the “code” for the backgrounds. Last year the yellow pages suggested sand on Tatooine, and the white ones an artificial structure, like a ship. So it has a little spin this time: the clouds are cotton and if you put them on a vertical yellow page you have Bespin, or if you choose a black background and multiplied them you have smoke on the carbonite chamber! Plus some leafs, bunch and branches for Dagobah on a “foggy” white page. No gardens were destroyed in the process.
Why do you think recognizing fan films is important?
I don’t know if this had happened with other winners or finalist, but here in my country the news was unexpectedly big. It was all over the principal media, from local and national newspapers to magazines, radio, newsletters and even TV. That shows how much people love and respect the Lucasfilm movies here. By the way, that’s something that fan films had, but it could be a double-edged sword. You have an audience, and it’s easy to offend them but not so much to make an impression, capturing the essence of what makes them love a particular film or book.
Using the nostalgia, trying to make people have his own flashback remembering special moments was what I try (and gladly, did) with my couple of animated films. And, if you can, make it in a way, visual or narrative, that lets new people enjoy and be interested in these kind of films. It’s not on how original the plot is but how you show it, how you tell a story, that almost everybody knows in a new and exiting way. And I learned a lot of things last year about this business. It’s a different kind of education, but worthy as any other.
Do you have aspirations to make films as a career? Or is this simply a labor of love?
I’m working on it! Even with the media coverage and the good reception, the possibilities here are restricted. The market is small, but you have the same dynamics in this field no matter the flag or country. The scale is different, but this is about people, about relationships, art and economics. Over the last year, there is a big interest from international companies and from the local government on this area, looking for development on the film market, live-action and animation (TV and features), so will see what happens.
You know, like Lucasfilm Animation working in Sinagpore with local and international talent from The Clone Wars series. And that reminds me, with more shows on the horizon, maybe looking to the south could be an option?
Additional comments about your fan film making experience?
Long life to the fan film world! Thanks for all the support to Lucasfilm, Atom and all the people that repost, review, comment and share all these films. It’s a pleasure to make it, and I hope a pleasure to watch it.
Be sure to visit the Star Wars Notebook Facebook fan page for photos, artwork and more.
Watch all the fan movie winners here:
Atom: Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge