How pumped was Joe Sill, L.A.-based filmmaker and lifelong Star Wars fan, about new movies like The Force Awakens? So pumped that he couldn’t just be a bystander as the franchise added new films—he decided he’d go and make one himself.
The result, a six-minute short called “Kara,” is one of the more touching and visually impressive Star Wars fan films to date (watch it above). The film features original characters, but it anticipated The Force Awakens in several ways: Sill had seen the first vague trailers for Episode VII when he wrote up his treatment, and chose to include an X-Wing pilot crash-landing on a desert planet and a young woman who has powers beyond her comprehension.
The twist here is that the young woman, named Kara, is accompanied by her father — which sets it apart from most Star Wars lore.
“I grew up on the idea that Star Wars really was family-driven,” said Sill, who makes commercials for a living, including work for Disney, Nickelodeon, and Google. “So I kind of wanted to tell a bit of that story. Parent and child are always split apart in Star Wars, so I wondered, if you’re going to tell a story of essentially splitting apart and coming together, why not tell a story of a father and daughter who are together?”
Sill’s idea excited his colleagues and friends at Whitelist, the L.A.-based production company where he works. It became a labor of love for the company after he pitched it in June, and several months later, Sill and about 20 colleagues were out in the southern California desert, shooting at the appropriately named Imperial Dune.
Sill on the set of his film (Austin Ray/Facebook)
The cast and crew used ATVs and dune buggies to haul out their equipment and cast members, and shot the entire thing in a few days. The Stormtrooper uniforms were supplied by the 501st Legion, a group of superfans, which manufactures incredibly precise armor based on the franchise’s villains.
The big challenge was the post-production work, but Sill’s experience with music videos gave him a solid background in visual effects. After he and a friend spent months working on the lasers, green screen patching, and other visual flares , “Kara” was released in late January.
“I made it because I want to be doing feature films,” Sill admitted. “So it’s a practice and representation of the films I want to do and the stories I want to tell.”
As if he needed encouragement, remember that Josh Trank, the Chronicle director, got his first burst of attention thanks to a Star Wars fan film he put online in 2007. Trank was attached to an official Star Wars spinoff until leaving the project this past summer. Sill, for his part, has already produced a lot of well-received ad and viral work, and given his first impressive Star Wars short, why not dream big?