Star Wars: After the Sequels

  /  Blogs   /  The Reasons

The Reasons

When I had this idea, which was right at the beginning of 2020, I really thought I’d make it a live-action fan film. But…. COVID had other plans. It was back to the drawing board. So, there I was with a full trilogy (meaning three films) treatment that had three amazing stories that were ready by and applauded by folks very close to Lucasfilm, but we’re now on lock down.

What to do, what to do?

I thought, “Okay, let me see what this show called “The Mandalorian” is about and see what I can dig out of it?” And boy did that show really open my eyes. One of the best things about that show that I really loved wasn’t even in the episodes themselves, it came with the end credits. That was the concept art. It was the first time that we see the concept art so publicly displayed out to everyone. Of course, I have seen concept art for Star Wars before — nothing new in my business — but my neighbor hadn’t or the kid from Germany hadn’t or the artist from the Philippines hadn’t. There was ultimately something there that could not be denied and fans LOVE concept art! Having it come to life was a no brainer. So, motion graphic animation was the first decision I made early on.

I wondered if I could make an entire film out of concept art. Could I? The answer to that came when I was asked to help with a cinematic for one of the more popular of MMORPGs. We were using motion graphics animation to bring static images to life in that project. I decided that this relatively new medium would be a great way to a) tell this story, b) minimize the expense (because full animation is waaaaay expensive, people may not realize that), and c) showcase the concept art that is done for all types of projects — from films, to games, etc. — that people rarely ever get to see. Second decision I made was I need to make full-feature films with this project… three full-featured films. That’s a full 120 minutes PLUS — let’s face it Star Wars films are never just 2 hours — of heavenly concept art done in motion graphic animation.

I had a treatment for three films. Star Wars is kinda known for being told in a set of 3’s. Now, Star Wars fan films have been traditionally short films, really. Even the best ones are… well, short. The average fan film in this franchise is 13 minutes — thirteen minutes of HEAVEN! No really, you should see some of these… they’re simply amazing. And they’re short because of the cost associated with them any bigger. Some filmmakers are expert wielders of the Force (and of Unreal Engine) and can easily put together amazing stories using pirated (yes! pirated) artwork that belongs to Star Wars video games like Battlefront II and Squadrons, even my all-time favorite Fallen Order. I did not want to do that. I wanted to create the art myself. But I had to ask is it legal? Turns out, yes and no. Let me explain!

The United States Copyright Laws are very clear — you cannot profit from someone else’s work. So, in that sense you cannot make derivative work that makes you money without paying the original creator/owner. Lucasfilm would never agree to anyone making money off of their IP without paying them and without approving it. But you will notice the MILLIONS of fan films that do exist out in the “galaxy far, far away”, yes? And Lucasfilm does not strike filmmakers for that, on the contrary… it helps to bring attention to their work and they recognize that. So, I reached out to them via “special channels” at Lucasfilm and I got to speak to their legal team. Turns out, they have very detailed guidelines that they have set out by which you can play in their sandbox.

There is a word that you must focus on here and that’s PROFIT. The number one thing that you cannot do is profit in any way from a Star Wars fan film. And you might as well expect a copyright flag to happen to your film if you put it on YouTube, based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) law that passed in 1998. Just expect it to happen at some point. What does that mean? It means that Lucasfilm will put advertisements on your film and generate an income for themselves through it and your fans will see ads play during the film. So, decision number 3 — I will fund this film myself and put it out into the universe for ZERO RETURN ON MY INVESTMENT. By legal statue, it must be that way!

The second most important thing you need to realize is that Lucasfilm does NOT — I repeat DOES NOT — own the rights to Star Wars music exclusively. It is a shared copyright and in most instances it is also a soundright — a what you say? A soundright. Meaning that music is copyrighted in two ways — by audio sample and by sheet music. And we all know who owns the majority of the sheet music for Star Wars, don’t we? Yup. You guessed it, John Williams. And who owns John Williams’ catalogue of music, you ask? Warner Chappell — a music publishing company owned in part by Warner Music Group. What does that mean? Well… you simply cannot use the music in any way, shape, or form. NOT EVEN music that sounds like it. Warner Chappell will strike you and either mute your video in its entirety or worse, take it completely down. So, fourth decision for me was that I would need to create all ORIGINAL MUSIC for this film — both in soundtrack and scoring mediums.

Now… I thought about the ten-year gap each of my films have. There are TEN YEARS in between Episodes 10 and 11, and then another ten years in between Episodes 11 and 12. And as a fan, I can tell you that I know — like I know my own name — that when Star Wars films have a “content gap” in any way, fans have a tendency to fill it in. And that becomes what is known as “head canon”. Need me to run that by you again? Just look at the fan films already out there. So many of them “fill in” the story what might have happened between say Episode 3 and Episode 4, right? Just look at the Vader fan film by Star Wars Theory (Hi Nia!) — people will fill in those gaps. And I didn’t want that to happen with the “content gap” in my film trilogy. Why is this a bad thing? It’s not… not really. But if you give folks the space in which to think up their own stories, they often do so and they get married to them. And if you present them with a totally different reality (lol! “reality” is a loose term here), they reject what you put out in lieu of the stories they’ve created in their head. AKA “head canon”. So, my fifth decision was to create a TV Series of shorts (like most fan films out there) that tells the story of what REALLY happened between 10 and 11 (Season 1) and 11 and 12 (Season 2) — lovingly I call these “Star Wars: In Between”. A little on the nose you say? Yeah, I know…. still I like it. And it’s my money. 😀

With all these decisions in hand, I set out to write the script for the first film…. we call it, “The Chosen One”. Ohhh, ohhh, does it have Anakin? Why yes, yes it does. Matter of fact, Anakin is the ultimate guide of all the Jedi in this film (along with his own children — yes Luke AND Leia — and others), and keeping with what came before, yes… he’s a Force Ghost. Hello, Hayden Christensen!!! God, as a girl in my twenties when the prequels came out, he made my heart flutter… *daydreams* — sorry!

I absolutely knew that Anakin HAD TO be in this film! It is the one thing I couldn’t get over about the sequel trilogy. WHY… WHY… didn’t we get Anakin in it??? Seems like a complete miss (among other things) in those films. And if I know one thing, it’s this: There is no Star Wars without the Skywalkers. It started with Anakin and it needed to finish with Anakin, if you really wanted the “end of the Skywalker Saga” to die with Episode 9.

For me personally, I just never agreed with the Skywalker Saga ending. I am too big a fan of the Expanded Universe (or “Legends” ughh) to know that there are so many amazing ways that the saga can and SHOULD continue. But how do you do that when all the Skywalkers are seemingly dead? Hmmmm. Oh the conundrum. That’s it! I need a real Skywalker and Rey is NOT a Skywalker — no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise. In my own head canon, she’s Rey Solo. And not just because of her obviously strong connection to Ben, but also her established year-plus relationship as apprentice to Leia Organa Solo.

Speaking of convincing anyone… it is NO SECRET that there are many disgruntled customers in the fandom after the Sequel Trilogy concluded, and that’s putting it lightly. Most folks I know either LOVED it or HATED it. It’s all lonely over here in the middle as a GREY Jedi! Let me tell you! Buuuuuuut… if there is one thing that most of the fans can agree on it’s this: Ben Solo / Kylo Ren was probably the best thing that came out of the sequels and Adam Driver’s portrayal of that character was solid. Prove me wrong! So, we kinda sorta had to bring him back! Yup, we resurrect Ben Solo in this film. And why not? Hello, Adam Driver!!! *heart flutters* Sorry! How Lucasfilm managed to get these two hunks to be in Star Wars I will never know but thank you, really. No, really… thank you! <3

And who is going balk at a reunion of Anakin Skywalker with his grandson, Ben Solo? Uhhh, no one. Reuniting the Skywalker family is a key focus for Episode X, not the only focus but certainly a big theme throughout the movie. Also, Anakin’s relationship with his daughter Leia isn’t really all that great and I wanted to explore a bit of what might happen in the Cosmic Force, which I dive into in the first season of Star Wars: In Between. But what about the Jedi Order?

I don’t propose that we place ourselves in seclusion and pass our days meditating on the Force—though that might be the path for some of us. But I do advocate attuning ourselves to the longer view, and reaching out to others who seek to serve the Force.

― Luke Skywalker, discussing the Order’s future in Legends

I am on a quest to show that Star Wars has amazing content rich in fantastic stories and full of source material that can drive movies for the next 100 years, and so it will drive mine.  The only caveat is that I will be attempting to marry this content into the current timeframe.  It was important to me to not outright “retcon” the sequel trilogy.  I know there are MILLIONS of fans out there that absolutely love the sequels, just as there are MILLIONS of fans that hate it.  But to erase things would hurt my soul, to be honest… not because I “love” the sequels (again Grey Jedi over here!) but because I remember 9-year old me, who waited 9.5 hours at the local theater in South Florida with my daddy, surrounded by people all dressed up as the characters they love, to watch what was then the 3rd and final movie, Return of the Jedi.  That little girl stood in awe of everything, with a sense of wonderment and inspiration that has stayed with me for my ENTIRE LIFE.  What the original trilogy was to me is what the sequel trilogy is to millions of little girls and boys.  This is THEIR Star Wars and I couldn’t call myself a fan if I took that away from them, now could I?  Could you?

So, again… what to do? What to do?  Oh I know!  We gotta write our way out of the mess, far enough ahead to pass the Skywalker baton (or lightsaber in this case!) in way that people from both sides of “The Great Divide” can stomach and accept, and dare I say ENJOY? (*fingers crossed*).  And, so that’s what we’re doing here and that’s why I’ve put all my money where my mouth is — and unlike many folks out there that have YouTube channels that make them a lot of money,  I am funding this entirely on my life’s savings. Why??? Because its that important to me to continue the legacy that George Lucas gave me (and all of you) when I was 9 years old.

What say YOU???  Will you join us?

With all the love and HOPE in a galaxy far, far away, 

~ Maria

Executive Producer / Writer / Director

Leave a Reply