Crowdfunding initiatives like Kickstarter are becoming increasingly popular with independent filmmakers. These independent, audience-funded productions allow for heightened creative and executive control by the video artists over their materials. Crowdfunding also engages the film’s audience on a much more personal level, generating a level of interest and participation that makes production a much richer collaborative process.
For the month of June, we were happy to speak with Bryson Alley, the writer/director/VFX specialist behind the crowdfunded film, Star Wars: Emergence. The film modernizes one Jedi’s personal journey in the face of a new physical disability and mental/emotional challenges.
What was the main motivation for this film?
First and foremost, the film was always meant to be a character story that also happens to be a Star Wars story.
Star Wars: Emergence is very much about the Jedi’s inner battle. Can you touch upon this aspect in more detail?
Alenna is a Jedi who has–what we call in Earth’s universe–anxiety and depression. The film begins as she wakes up after an attack in the forest that has left her blind and alone. We see Alenna face–and overcome–staggering fear and panic attacks to become a strong, confident Jedi. We also learn a lot via flashbacks with her master.
You mention that you’re familiar with the struggles of people who suffer from depression and/or anxiety. How did this empathy affect the story?
Alenna was always a reflection of these people I so admire; the film is, in part, a tribute to them. They’ve made Alenna authentic and relatable, and allow her strength and bravery to shine through. We also have crew members who have dealt with anxiety/depression. Chelsea, our costumer, says it like this:
“The hardest struggles in life are often made beautiful through art, and that’s one thing I’m looking forward to: the amelioration of pain and darkness into cathartic beauty.”
Can Star wars fans expect any new insight about Jedis in this film?
Inner battles are a huge part of the film, and that’s a side of the Jedi that we haven’t really seen before. The only time we’ve seen a Jedi experience real fear (and possibly depression/anxiety) is in Anakin’s story, but that didn’t turn out so well. We also have a unique approach to Alenna’s use of the Force, in part due to her blindness.
How far along are you into production?
We’ve written the script and started storyboarding, and we have a great team coming together. Over the next few months, we’ll build the costumes and props, refine the script, and we’ll begin shooting in September!
We understand that you plan to shoot with GoPro attached to a quadcopter. Do you have a specific scene/shot in mind?
A couple, including the first scene of the film, which features a slow, ominous aerial shot of the forest with smoke rising in the distance.
What kind of VFX are planned for the film?
We plan on using every visual effects trick in the book, particularly for the Force. There will be some 3D animation, matte painting and scene extensions, particle effects… And special work for Alenna’s eyes, as she’s blind for the duration of the film.
P.S. We’re offering extensive tutorials on the effects used in the film, which is one reward included in our Kickstarter project!
Why did you choose to fund this project via Kickstarter?
We’re all huge Star Wars fans, and we wanted everyone involved to share that passion. We knew that doing it through Kickstarter would allow us to connect with other fans worldwide and make it a group effort!
What kind of response have you received so far?
We’ve had amazing responses from places as diverse as Sweden, Israel, and Australia. It’s a rush to throw an original idea out there and see other people get really excited about it! It’s become so much bigger than we originally envisioned, and we love that.
Our blog is read by video makers. How can our readers help contribute to the film?
Our biggest need right now is funding. We do have some great rewards – including being named as an executive or contributing producer, or having the film be an “insert-your-name-here” production. Funding aside, we’ve also had people worldwide contact us about working on the film. If you’re interested in helping make this film a reality, you can contact us through Kickstarter!
Bryson Alley, Writer/Director/VFX Specialist of Star Wars: Emergence