Starwars.com chats with Florida-based filmmaker Jeff Scheetz about his award-winning film, The Solo Adventures.
What is your background in film? Did you study it in college? Did you make films as a youngster/teen?
I grew up making Super 8 movies in my backyard with Star Wars action figures. I vowed to one day become a visual effects artist. I was an early adopter of CGI on the Video Toaster and my first job was on Babylon 5, then Star Trek Voyager. In 2000, my wife Anne and I opened an animation school at Universal Studios Orlando called The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School. We have been training visual effects artists and animators for 10 years. Our grads have worked on Avatar, Battlestar, Kung Fu Panda, and at Disney, DreamWorks, Sony and ILM!
What prompted you to make a Star Wars fan film? How has George Lucas and his films influenced your work?
We produce four films a year as part of our curriculum. The instructors write and direct and the students work on the films as they would if this were a production studio. We have made 33 films in 10 years. It was inevitable that we would eventually make a fan film, the questions was when. The answer came with the news that Celebration V was coming to home town Orlando.
What is the backstory regarding your film? Where did you get your idea for your film?
I love watching The Clone Wars with my daughter Emilie every Saturday morning — yay DVRs! I love the show but would love it even more if it featured my favorite characters Han Solo and Chewbacca.
What are some of the technical aspects of your film? What did you shoot and edit with?
We were fortunate to have the full resources of the school. Most of the acting was done on our Vicon Motion Capture stage. We used Lightwave 3-D for the CGI and Digital Domain’s NUKE for stereoscopic compositing. We also hired John Armstrong who has been the voice of Han Solo and Indiana Jones on several LucasArts games. He is extremely funny and talented. We were also proud to present the first fan film (that we know of) that was produced in 3-D!
What were some of the challenges and surprised that happened to you as you were writing/directing/filming your movie?
Writing dialog for Han’s conversation with Chewbacca is harder than you think. You keep writing super-obvious lines like “What you mean TIE fighters are approaching?” We tried to minimize that, but there’s still some in there.
Who were all the principle people in helping get the film made? Who would you thank if your film won an Academy Award?
The real thanks go to June 2010 graduating class. They really pulled together and gave it their all. Ironically, only a few were be able to attend the show. Most were hired by studio in LA who were especially interested in their experience in stereoscopic compositing. The film was co-written by DAVE School instructor Dan Smith. We worked on the script collaboratively with the entire instruction team including Mike Young and our fantastic Art Director Jason Pichon. Jason worked out the look of our characters and “cartoonifying” our version of the Star Wars galaxy.
Dan directed the short we finished for the June graduation. That was a tight deadline for a project this big. We were very proud of what we made but still felt like we could do more with extra time. Since Dan had to move on to the next class project I stepped to co-direct a “Special Edition” version that will be on display at our booth. In the end the students, faculty and staff all pitched in.
Why do you think recognizing fan films is important?
Films are meant to be seen. If you never show it to anyone you may as well have never made it. By putting on sites like Atom.com your film gets an audience, and fan films have an awesome following. People see them and talk about them like they are studio movies. Who — from the Star Wars fan base — hasn’t seen Pink 5? Or Saber? It’s still nerve racking because you really want people to like it.
Do you have aspirations to make films as a career? Or is this simply a labor of love?
I’m having a great time as an educator partially because I get to produce these films with the students.
Additional comments about your fan film making experience?
It’s harder than it looks. For every one that gets done there are 10 that get started and don’t go anywhere. Anyone who actually finishes anything deserves respect.
Watch all the fan movie winners here:
Atom: Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge