The other day I was chatting to a work colleague about Star Wars, mainly the books that expand on the movies. You know, usual work style chat. I got talking about the series of books I have at home on my bookshelf. The ones that have been there for a decade, unread. And it made me remember a time at University when I, along with a small band of rebels, tried to make our own Star Wars film.

Star Wars fan films have been around for a while, there are tonnes of them. There are the serious ones that expand on the Star Wars universe and the funny ones that bring the Star Wars universe into the real world. There are the ones that use established characters and the ones that created brand new ones.

We thought ourselves to be in a great position to try this for ourselves. A group of students who were mostly studying Radio, Television, Multimedia Journalism or Performing Arts. We had the skills, or at least we were learning the skills, that would really help us make our film a reality.

Now, sadly, the film never actually became a reality. We were far too ambitious and far too busy with our studies. Or maybe just a bit lazy. But we had fun anyway and managed to do quite a few interesting things, learning new skills in the process.

Two of us worked out how to make lightsabers on screen and created a few test clips, which sadly seem to have been lost. I also created a few photos with the effect, of which one or two remain on my computer. I think you’ll agree I look cool with a lightsaber, even if I am inexplicably wearing a flatcap!

We also got hold of some 3D rendering software and downloaded some models of spacecraft and planets from the internet, using them to create some basic animations. We also used this software, along with Adobe After Effects, to create the intro sequence, teaser trailer and end credits, which have also sadly been lost.

Myself, as a radio student, used our sound editing software to put together all the sound effects and music we were going to need. I took sound clips from the Star Wars PC games and I used all the old Star Wars soundtracks along with the soundtrack which was specifically written for the story we were doing.

All this techy playing was fun, but was getting us nowhere in regards to the actual film. So we set about the more important tasks of casting, costumes and script.

We found a screenplay online, based on Shadows of the Empire, a multi-media project when it was released in 1996 as a book, N64 game, CD, comics, toys and trading cards. It is set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and tells the story of Luke and co chasing Boba Fett to try and rescue Han Solo.

We got permission to use the screenplay from the guy that spent so much time turning it into a screenplay, then started to edit it down. We had to get it shorter and make it easier to make. I’m fairly sure I still have the script somewhere…

5a – Shadows of the Empire

We approached local, and not so local, costume shops and managed to do a deal or two. They agreed to lend us costumes during their quieter periods (ie not near Halloween) in return for their names being plastered all over the credits and website. Then the best news, one of the crews brother had a Darth Vader costume we could borrow… which was nice.

There was an interview with one of our producers aired on local radio in order to stir up some interest and hopefully help with the remains of our casting. We noticed an increase in hits to our website (the long since closed www.shadowsoftheempire.co.uk) but sadly no offers to join the film.

After several months of planning and testing, the project was dead. Maybe one day I’ll be involved in another project like this, if you know of one that needs an extra hand, feel free to contact me. If all this fan film malarkey is new to you then check out www.theforce.net/fanfilms for some of the best homemade Star Wars fan films in existence.