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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Digital Citizens: The film-maker
By Darren Waters
BBC News entertainment reporter

Cast of Star Wars: Revelations
The cast all worked on the film in their own time

All this week the BBC News website is speaking to people whose creativity has been transformed in the digital age.

From blogging to podcasting, millions of ordinary people are becoming writers, journalists, broadcasters and film-makers thanks to increasingly affordable and accessible tools.

The latest Star Wars film has been downloaded more than three million times in the last few months and the film-makers are delighted.

But this is not Revenge of the Sith being pirated - it is a so-called fan film called Star Wars: Revelations.

Revelations is a 40-minute long film made by Star Wars fans for fans and it is breaking ground due to the professional polish that has been brought to the production.

"We wanted to produce a high-calibre film," explains director Shane Felux, who lives in Virginia, in the US.

'Highest level'

"Everything needed to be at the highest level we could do. A lot of fan films can do this, the question is: Are you making a film to shoot in your back yard for fun? And if so, great.

Star Wars: Revelations

"But are you trying to make a film and go for professional production? If so, it's a whole different mind set."

Revelations looks and feels like a professional production because it was made by professionals - but it was made by people in their own time and not for profit.

Impressive visual effects, professional lighting and sound, scores of extras and extravagant costumes and locations all give the film a lustre missing from most fan movies.

This is a whole new creative and expressive medium - not film, not literature, not art but something that synthesises all of them
Helen Whitehead, Nottingham

The acting and script may not be always effective - but the same criticism has been levelled at Revenge of the Sith.

"A lot of factors go into Revelations. Five years ago it would not have been possible, at least not at the cost we did it at.

"For one the film would not have been made possible without the use of broadband and the internet

'Average joe'

"Editing software, 3D applications - all of these things are becoming more affordable whereas 10 years ago or even further these thing were reserved for Hollywood or an elite.

Star Wars: Revelations
The film feels part of the Star Wars universe

"Now it's very exciting for independent film or even your average Joe to have a dream or vision to make a film - they can do it in their own home. It just requires a lot of dedication, a lot of work and organisation."

More than 200 people worked on Revelations and it took $20,000 (11,400) to make - which came out of Felux's pocket - and three years of time.

Felux, who has a degree in acting and directing, and his wife, a professional costume designer, were inspired by a number of fan films that have become popular online but felt they could do better.


The couple called many film professionals and visual effects experts to try and convince them to work for free on the project.

FAN FILM - a film typically made for a small budget and by non-professionals which uses storylines and characters from an established film or TV series as a source of inspiration

"My mantra is - 'you don't ask, you don't get'. If you present yourself professionally and talk to people, many times people will say yes.

"I just cold-called people. How often do you get to come out and shoot storm troopers, Darth Vader and lightsabers?"

All the props, sets and costumes were homegrown - the cockpit of one craft in the film took three months to build.

"My basement was like a sweatshop for a couple of months," says Felux.

The finished film is very faithful to the Star Wars universe - fans and casual observers will immediately recognise the iconography within Revelations.

"We are Lucasfilm's biggest fans, cheerleaders and supporters. We didn't want to do anything that would hurt their product. Being fans, we know how fans are.

Stand out feature

"We wanted to make sure it fits within the Star Wars universe so that when you watch it you know it's Star Wars."

The visual effects are the stand-out feature in Revelations and would not look out of place on the big screen.

A team of about eight CG artists worked on the project in their own time and communicated with each other online - sharing work and progress.

Star Wars: Revelations
The film used a large cast of extras
"The unique thing was that the online group could see each other's work. It created synergy but also competition. People kept trying to outdo each other so the bar got raised and even I didn't think it would be that good."

Felux is now working on an original project and looking for investment.

"I can make a two or three-million dollar movie that would normally cost $30m (17m) or $50m (28m) and I can make that back in overseas sales and DVD sales alone."

Felux says the lesson of Revelations is that the digital age means you can achieve things.

"The technology is there and it is affordable. But there are challenges. You have to find talented people, some money and to run a production takes a lot of energy to keep it going. They die very quickly if you don't feed it.

"To hell with studios, if you don't see a good thing and realise what is going on here then just get the hell out of my way because I'm going to do it myself."

On Tuesday the BBC News website speaks to a podcaster and picks out six of the best podcasts.

Watch the trailer for Star Wars: Revelations

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