from the new york times. this quote caught my eye:
"We love our fans. We want them to have fun. But if in fact somebody is using
our characters to create a story unto itself, that's not in the spirit of
what we think fandom is about. Fandom is about celebrating the story the way
'Star Wars' Fan Films Come Tumbling Back to Earth
WHEN word began circulating on the Internet in December that Lucasfilm would
be a co-sponsor of a "Star Wars" contest for fan-made films, to be judged by
George Lucas himself, members of the growing digital underground felt as if
the Force was finally with them.
"How cool is this?" read the first of many messages on TheForce.net, the home
to more than 50 amateur films inspired by Mr. Lucas's "Star Wars" series.
But when the winning entries are announced on Friday in front of some 20,000
fans expected at a "Star Wars" convention in Indianapolis, many of the most
popular online movies will not be among them. As it turned out, they were not
even eligible for consideration.
Citing a need to protect its copyrights, Lucasfilm limited the contest to
spoofs and documentaries, shutting out some of Mr. Lucas's most ardent fans,
many of whom have reinterpreted his famous storyline to create online
comedies, dramas and light-saber duels of their own. Under the contest rules,
"Star Wars Gangsta Rap," a retelling of the original "Star Wars" trilogy in
rhyme, is eligible, while "Dark Redemption," set two days before "Star Wars:
A New Hope," with a girl Jedi, is not.
"We've been very clear all along on where we draw the line," said Jim Ward,
vice president of marketing for Lucasfilm. "We love our fans. We want them to
have fun. But if in fact somebody is using our characters to create a story
unto itself, that's not in the spirit of what we think fandom is about.
Fandom is about celebrating the story the way it is."
The restriction has created a backlash. Some followers say Lucasfilm is
shunning the fan-made films that are most dedicated to the spirit of "Star
Wars." The fans say they just want to share their own "Star Wars" fantasies,
not to dilute the mythology that inspired them or the revenue that Mr. Lucas
derives from it.
"The galaxy is a big place," said Mazen Malawi, 27, who is boycotting the
Indianapolis convention because his $675 "Star Wars" homage, "Seeds of
Darkness," was excluded from the contest. "We're not asking for money, just
Mr. Malawi, a computer technician in Warren, Ohio, who estimates that he has
seen "'Stars Wars — Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" (1999) at least 60 times,
said Lucasfilm had previously turned down a request from PBS and a European
magazine to showcase portions of "Seeds," his drama set between the first and
second "Star Wars" trilogies.
Using digital cameras, personal computers and sometimes music, sound effects
and characters from the original movies, fans have created more than 100
parallel "Star Wars" universes, some complete with their own trailers and
"making of" documentaries. In part, these fans take their cue from Mr. Lucas,
an evangelist of digital filmmaking who has led the way by using computers to
produce low-cost special effects in his blockbuster movies. "Star Wars:
Episode II: Attack of the Clones," which is to be released on May 16, was
produced entirely in digital format.
But Mr. Lucas has not always been as enthusiastic about the power of digital
technology when wielded by his fans. Lucasfilm took a dim view of "Star Wars
1.1: The Phantom Edit," which began circulating on the Internet soon after
the release of the "Phantom Menace." In the name of improving the pace, Mike
Nichols, a freelance film editor in Santa Clarita, Calif., removed most
scenes featuring the much-reviled character Jar Jar Binks. The company took
steps to stop the distribution of the fan's cut and said that Mr. Lucas would
not look at it. This prompted Mr. Nichols to speculate on his Web site that
"Attack of the Clones" might inspire "Star Wars II.1: Attack of the Fans."
Except for parodies, which are protected under the First Amendment, it is
entirely within Lucasfilms's legal rights to stamp out films based on its
copyrighted material. But the tension between Mr. Lucas and his filmmaking
fans may underscore a digital-age conflict that transcends the letter of the
Some cultural critics see the emergence of fan films as a return to a
participatory form of culture that existed before creative works came to be
so tightly protected by copyright. Moreover, in an age when mass media
provide the basis of common experience, "Star Wars" and a handful of other
cultural icons may have become a kind of shorthand form of communication.
"It's not just about 'Star Wars,' " said Henry Jenkins, director of the
comparative media studies program at the Massachussetts Institute of
Technology. "It's what's going to be the relationship between media consumers
and producers in this new interactive age."
Now, as Lucasfilm seeks to stir fan interest in the new movie — the
convention, called Celebration II, is being produced by the company with the
official "Star Wars" fan club — some fans say they feel betrayed.
"I feel like they're partially exploiting what we're doing to their gain,
without any real reward back," said Chris Hanel, 21, who continues to field
complaints about the contest on his "Star Wars" Internet radio show at
http://www.digitalllama.com. "If you're going to honor fan films, do it
New creative works have always been built on top of old ones, from Homer's
repackaging of twice-told tales in "The Iliad" to Mr. Lucas's own openly
acknowledged pilfering of Joseph Campbell's writings on mythic archetypes for
his original "Star Wars" trilogy. Fans photocopied their own "Star Trek"
stories in the 1970's, and fans regularly publish unauthorized "Buffy the
Vampire Slayer" episodes on the Internet.
What is different now is that digital tools make it easier for fans to
produce more sophisticated works and to distribute them to a worldwide
audience. This has heightened anxiety among copyright holders, who fear they
will lose control of their creative vision. Some of the special effects in
"Star Wars" fan films are more convincing than those from the original
Given the accessibility of the technology, some digital devotees say fans
should simply work harder to come up with their own material: "Make you OWN
FILM," Kevin Rubio wrote on TheForce.net discussion board. "Use your OWN
CHARACTER. AND STOP PLAYING WITH GEORGE'S! Some of you may find the result's
even more rewarding"
Mr. Rubio helped found the fan genre with his 1997 film "Troops," which
featured storm troopers handling domestic disputes in the manner of the
reality television show "Cops." He allowed that the "Star Wars" convention
audience could be "cheated out of a lot of great works" because of the
Jessica Litman, author of "Digital Copyright," argues that more give and take
could make for a richer culture without depriving creators of their financial
due. She points to jazz as a modern art form that has thrived on a tradition
of riffing on others' creative themes.
The fate of fan films will depend largely on how strictly media companies
enforce their copyrights. Lucasfilm, for example, may simply be trying to
protect its "Star Wars" vision without cracking down on fans. One fan film,
"Darth Vader: The Rudy Pirany Story," was accepted by the contest after its
director, Victor Martin, agreed to edit out scenes in which his protagonist
— an actor with a permanent Darth Vader mask who can't find work after "Star
Wars" — buys cocaine from Yoda and takes a role in a pornography movie.
Mr. Martin, 37, a graphic designer in Culver City, Calif., said it was worth
it to qualify for the $5,000 prize and to have his film shown with 44
finalists at www .atomfilms.com. But, he added, "I thought it was funnier
-- yours, niall. .. . . . . . . . . . aleph null. a simple insinuation around silence. see: http://www.vietnambla.com hear: http://radio.vietnambla.com
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