A Word from Ly Bolia
Director of "ONCE UPON A JEDI"
With each passing day we grow closer to challenging the oligopoly that is contemporary Hollywood cinema. The foot soldiers in this revolution are independent filmmakers abetted by the advancements in digital technology. Indie filmakers armed with the latest digital technology have begun to challenge the political apparatus established by the studio system of Hollywood and perpetuated by today?s corporate media giants. Digital has helped to level the playing field and has created an economy of scale for the nascent or experienced independent filmmaker and thereby reducing (to some degree) the barriers of entry into this highly stratified industry. Join the rebellion.
The summer of 1977 I spent with mygrandparents in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Isolated and force-fed a dose of daytime television, I was bored stiff. I started collecting articles and pictures about a movie I had not yet seen, Star Wars. Returning to Atlanta, I saw it 10 times. In the dark, straining to see, I would sketch out these fantastic space ships and aliens (as fast as my little hands could) as they blazed across the screen. At home, I created his own Star Wars comic book. One day when my parents bought a new refrigerator, I confiscated the box, which I modeled into the landing docks of the infamous Death Star. This was the humble beginning of the film Once Upon a Jedi. In high school, I developed a sci-fi comic book, casting all of my classmates as characters. Every day they would swarm around me to keep up with the latest plotlines and adventures.
Once Upon a Jedi originally named Doodles. Feeling it was too big and expensive, I shelved it. It was only when Caroline Gallrein, my Research Assistant, told me he could find every location on the Georgia State University campus that the realm of possibility emerged. The Red Sea parted and there was light. This bit of advice, and a grant from the University pushed the entire story forward.
Atlanta isn?t exactly known for an abundance of professional actors, so the casting sessions were difficult. Hopelessly, I had to consider flying to LA or New York. Late in the game, a kid Sheehan O?Heron changed everything - I could build the movie around him.
The entire cast consisted of local talent - the two leads were both kids who had never been on camera. The film would be shot on a Sony HD camera (similar to the ones Lucas used to shoot the last two episodes of the Star Wars Saga.) The crew consisted of two or three professionals, but the bulk were students. Twenty-five percent of the budget went to feeding this army. While developing the story, I was inspired by an article about how George Lucas dreamed up his ideas for Star Wars, then had to find ways to create them. Then it really dawned on me - My God, my dream was coming true: I was making a Star Wars film.
Things didn?t really sink in until I came on set with the storm troopers - this was the coolest thing in the world! It was great discovering things like Storm troopers have limited mobility and, like babies, could barely get up if they fell. The armor rattled so terribly that it was challenging recording sound, especially the dialogue. Limited visibility in the helmets would cause them to run into things or each other. The helmets also made it hard for them to hear so I was constantly yelling at them. I was thrilled to death because I was making Star Wars.
The tedious job of animating space ships and laser blast slowly paid off - seeing the results was the ultimate rush. After putting the sequences together I would watch them again and again. Just a short five years ago, all this would have not been possible. In 1977, Star Wars ushered in a new age in cinema. The advent of cheap editing systems and better digital cameras is ushering in a new age of digital filmmaking. Spearheaded by none other than George Lucas, digital technology has become acceptable in enabling the average Joe to make films. This is evident in Lucas' generous sharing of his characters and stories. Star Wars fan films abound. The only stipulation Lucas has put on us is that we not include actual footage from the movies themselves. George Lucas wants deeply to allow us to share in his adventure; he encourages filmmaking.
Director, Once Upon a Jedi