It’s a safe bet YouTube’s servers have taken a battering over the last week or so, what with the release of Jamie Benning’s Star Wars Begins documentary. This release marks the final part of his own trilogy which takes Lucas’s films and re-edits them into “Filmumentries” featuring a treasure trove of deleted scenes, alternate takes and different angles, bloopers, original set audio recordings, and an insane amount of commentary from cast and crew. After we ran a post about his work last week, GeekDad caught up with Jamie to find out what made him embark on this amazing adventure a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
GD: Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do for the day job?
A father of two, I am in my mid thirties and have worked in live television for ten years. I am an editor mainly on live sporting events. My regular gig is traveling the globe working on motor racing, helping to produce the television coverage for the world feed.
GD: How long have you been into Star Wars? What’s your earliest memory of seeing it?
Oddly I can’t really pinpoint my first memory of Star Wars. It feels like it has always been there. Of course, being born in 1976 meant that Star Wars was everywhere when I was a toddler. Like most kids of that era, I collected the action figures and made up Star Wars stories in the playground. It was a big deal back then, there was just nothing else like it! Star Wars has driven so many of my interests; editing, special effects, film in general. For many of us fans it has been an ever present force (or Force™) throughout our lives.
GD: You’ve mentioned that over the 6 years it took to make the docos, you’ve moved three times and had two children. Have your kids seen any of the films yet? How have you found the time to do it and be a dad?
I started my first project, Building Empire, primarily to teach myself Apple Final Cut Pro, a professional editing package, in the hope of furthering my career prospects. As soon as I began, it was apparent that the I’d taken on a big project. Perhaps bigger than I had expected. At this point I didn’t have kids so I was able to complete it within six months. Returning To Jedi soon followed and was finished eight months later.
After a short break, I started the final piece of the trilogy, Star Wars Begins, This was clearly to be the biggest project of all. By this time I had a young daughter with another on the way. The great thing about being a freelance editor is that I was able to balance life and work to ensure I was there for my daughter whilst still bringing in the money. However, progress on Star Wars Begins suffered. Even more so when my second daughter arrived in 2008. It wasn’t until mid 2009 that I decided to pick it up again. It was hanging over me and I promised myself I would reach the end. Unfortunately I had a massive hard drive crash and lost most of the work. Thanks to an amazing but expensive drive recovery (seven Star Wars fans kindly donated 1/7th of the cost), I was able to continue.
In the last part of 2010 when Star Wars Begins was coming to a close, my kids, then 5 and 2, had become very aware of Star Wars everywhere in the house. From the books that I was reading, to the DVDs I was watching, my research had started in impinge on their environment. Part of the problem with a project like this is knowing when to stop. It was this that made me decide to put a cap on things and release it into the wild. My girls do like Star Wars though. Their Daddy occasionally lets them dress up using his prop replica Stormtrooper Helmets (see photo).
GD: How did you find all of the source material? And how did you select which bits to use?
My source material is from everywhere. TV, radio, film, DVD, podcasts, YouTube. There are too many to list. Part of the reason I wanted to make these projects was to collate all of these disparate elements and combine them into something cohesive. The franchise has spread itself very thin over the years, so the overall intention was to use particular snippets in a certain order to bring some magic back for Star Wars fans like me. Looking at my youtube feedback, there are plenty of us!
GD: Why did you decide to make them? What are you hoping to get out of it all? You’ve said it’s not for profit, a job at Lucasfilm perhaps?
Ultimately I made these projects for myself, but if Lucasfilm comes knocking with a job proposal, I will gladly take it.
GD: What’s your favourite bit of archive stuff that you’ve included? Any other bits you can tell us about that didn’t make it?
By far my favorite bit of archival material was when I discovered, thanks to a friend, the final piece of the original Jabba the Hutt scene. This scene had been known about for years, but nobody had ever found the final thirty seconds. When I was able to finally put it all together, I knew that Star Wars fans were going to get a real kick out of it! There were some snippets that I couldn’t use as there was no room for them. I could easily make another version of Star Wars Begins with 50% different material.
GD: What was the hardest bit of the project?
Knowing when to stop!
GD: Do you know if George Lucas or anyone at Lucasfilm seen your work? Any famous fans?
On Saturday night, just as my videos reached 1 million views on YouTube, I was contacted by someone who said that several employees of Industrial Light and Magic had been watching my projects with some delight.
Twitter has been a huge part in the interest that ‘Star Wars Begins’ has received. As for famous fans, the film directors Kyle Newman and David Silverman have tweeted as has well known voice actor Kyle Hebert. They’ve all been so encouraging about my work.
GD: What do you think of the prequels? Any plans to do docos on them?
Whilst I am no “Lucas-basher,” I am not a fan of the prequels. I did start to look at doing docos on them but it would have essentially been two hours of people in front of a green screen. I don’t think anybody needs to see that. Besides, Redletter Media’s “Plinkett” has covered the prequels well enough. If you haven’t seen his videos, you really should track them down. They are incredible!
GD: Thanks Jamie, I’m off to YouTube now…