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Lucasfilm Backs Site for 'Star Wars' Fans' Shorts

December 01, 2000|MICHELE BOTWIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The folks at Lucasfilm have always been supportive of fan-made "Star Wars" shorts on the Internet, and now they're making it official. The Official Star Wars Fan Film Network, a joint venture of Lucas Online and AtomFilms, was launched Thursday on the Web at http://www.starwars.atomfilms.com.

The partnership aims to give fans a legitimate--and, better yet, Lucasfilm-endorsed--location to showcase their flicks, as well as a chance to make some money.

In an unusual move for a license holder, Lucasfilm has given permission for the creators of the films posted on the network to pocket a profit. The filmmakers will be able to earn royalties taken from a percentage of the online advertising revenue, according to Scott Roesch, director of Web entertainment for AtomFilms.

"We're stepping up our support by having a place for fans where they know it's cool and kosher," said Jim Ward, vice president of marketing for Lucasfilm. "From our standpoint, it's a freer marketplace for fans to express themselves, and maybe make a buck."

Filmmakers can submit their spoofs or documentary shorts online for review by teams at Lucasfilm and AtomFilms. To be considered, projects must be PG-appropriate and entertaining. However, says Roesch, they cannot use original "Star Wars" music or video, or be "fan fiction," works that endeavor to expand on the "Star Wars" story line.

The site launched with four films, including "Dantana Morse for Galactic Senator," a parody of political attack ads. Set in the "Star Wars" universe, the fake commercial pits the evil Senator Palpatine from "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace" against newcomer Dantana Morse.

Set against a background of impressive graphics and music are lines like "Senator Palpatine, friend of Naboo or career politician? He'll increase your taxes to pay for such programs as his unproven Deathstar," and "Smaller republic, lower taxes, fighting for Naboo. . . . Dantana Morse for Galactic Senator."

The film was directed by Marc Kimball, a 40-year-old broadcast designer who works on political ads for TV at a production company in Windham, N.H. He made the spoof, using toy figures and a photo of his father substituted for Senator Palpatine, in about 15 hours with the help of several associates.

"When we were done, we were on the floor laughing because it was just like the [real political] stuff we had been doing for three months," Kimball said.

He posted it on a section of the company's Web site, and after learning about the Lucasfilm/Atomfilms call for submissions, sent it in by e-mail.

"I got a call the next day. They said they loved it and Lucasfilm had seen it," Kimball said. Later, he was asked to make a few changes and sign a contract regarding royalties.

"That shocked me because I had put a 'Superman' fan film online a few months ago, and DC Comics shut me down," Kimball said. "It's very cool what they're doing--George Lucas is saying, 'I support the fans.' "

Real Fan, Real Stunts: On the topic of fan films, an amateur "Spider-Man" movie has been getting buzz online.

"The Green Goblin's Last Stand," produced by Baltimore native Dan Poole nearly 10 years ago, has all the hallmarks of a homemade movie: bad lighting, corny dialogue, cheesy music. But check out the stunts! In the 50-minute film, Poole, who plays the Webhead, jumps from rooftop to rooftop, swings from tall buildings and hurls himself onto a speeding car. Poole's $500 budget reportedly did not allow for any safety precautions beyond a pole-vaulting mat and an 18-inch-thick foam seat.

Videotapes of the movie have been showing up on Yahoo! Auctions and other auction sites. A streaming version is available at http://www.localorigination.com.

The long-awaited studio "Spider-Man" production, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin and Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, is slated for release in 2002.

Bits: Playing off this Sunday's episode of "The Simpsons," in which Homer publishes his own tabloid Web site under the pseudonym "Mr. X," the Fox TV show has launched http://www.thesimpsons.com/mrx. . . . Two of Christina Aguilera's singles--"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," from her new holiday album, and "Ven Conmigo" (a version of "Come On Over Baby") from her Spanish-language record "Mi Reflejo"--are available as free, 14-day Internet downloads at http://www.music.lycos.com/features/christinaaguilera. The singer will participate in an online chat Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the same address.

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Michele Botwin can be reached at michele.botwin@latimes.com.

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