Vanity Project

2012-2013 is the 10-year anniversary of the first student film I made. I did choreo, cinematography and visual effects for my buddy Chris’ Star Wars fan film in the second half of grade nine. Armed with a VHS camcorder and Photoshop 6, we put together 17 minutes of fanboy magic that have formed some of my fondest memories of high school.

The title card from Star Wars: The Gifted (2002)

Chris posited in the film that George Lucas was a historian and activist, not a fiction writer, and came to Earth from Coruscant to spread knowledge of the Force and the evils of the Empire. The Jedi had long ago had a presence on Earth, and only the planet’s youth and insignificance protected it from the turmoil of galactic events. Now, however, the last vestiges of the Sith had turned their gaze towards the planet, and a pair of Force-gifted youth were mobilized by the spirits of the Great Jedi Masters to defend the planet from the insurgency. The two grapple with tough choices about their friendship and feelings for one another, as well as sacrifices they will be called on to make for the greater good.

Chris & costar Michelle as Eric and Robin, unassuming Force-gifted youth (Star Wars: The Gifted 2002)

Periodically, I’ve watched it and thought about our grand plans. We had entered preproduction on a sequel in my grade 10 year, with a full script, expanded cast, shooting models (one, a table-sized Jedi temple), props and costumes all complete. But one thing led to another and the product, and its final future episode, were abandoned.

While episodes two and three of our trilogy only exist in dim memory and dusty Word documents, Star Wars: The Gifted very much exists, and I’ve dabbled in remastering the film for a couple of years now. In 2010, I built some art assets based on conversations Chris and I had about what the original intent was for many of the scenes. We essentially set ourselves on the task of doing what Lucas said he was doing from the Special Editions onward: going back and doing what we would have done if we had the technology to do it. seeing the Jedi Temple more like how Chris envisioned it and in line with what the movies presented, instead of not at all.

Some of what I’m planning to add or have brought into the mythology is new, of course, things we’ve spun since then that would better contextualize the universe. Some of it is designed to lead into sequels that never existed and never will exist. It’s a complete vanity project, meant to test some of my technical ability and so that I can experience this particular magic again.

There have been some things significantly holding up the project. For most of the time I wanted to do it, I only had a crappy laptop to work on. What Lappy can’t handle, however, the Obelisk, a fairly-new desktop built for editing and gaming, can do nicely.

For example, Lappy couldn’t even handle this quick colour-grading test from last year decently.

It’s time to stop doing tests and experiments, though. I’ve come up with some ideas on how to salvage the footage (there’s no original footage left, so all the remastering will be done from the existing final cut of the movie). Chris and I combed through the film to reframe shots and establish how we were going to add new visual effects or footage to make the story clearer. I’m sure there will be many more conversations about what’s going to end up in the final remastered version, and plenty of nitpicking over content.

Addition of badass spaceship: non-negotiable.

One thing’s for sure. Getting to see this old project fresh, being able to put this remastering project to bed, will be a way to exorcise some of my filmmaking demons. I don’t do as much film work as I’d like, but making short films just is not really in the cards for me right now. This is a low-impact way to complete a “new” project and turn something I was proud of into something I am proud of.

See it again… Or, more likely, for the first time.

More on the technical front in the next Vanity Project post. For now, I ask: what was your biggest Star Wars fantasy as a kid? I’ve fallen out of love with the franchise, but I can’t describe how much I loved the idea of being a B-Wing fighter pilot, like Rookie One was in Rebel Assault 2.

Paddle your own canoe, guys and gals,


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