04 June, 2012

Star Wars: The Cantina - Production Journal

17th March, 2006
I've decided to keep a production journal, chronicling the making of STAR WARS: THE CANTINA. This is what's happened so far:

3rd February, 2006
Following the positive response to 'Star Wars: Revenge of the GIF' I had decided to make another Star Wars fan film and had been working on a first draft of the script during January. Today however I see on Empire Online a news piece about a short film competition. For short films featuring the STAR WARS action figures. Only one "Hasbro" figure is required which is handy as my collection is mostly Kenner figures.
I stop writing the other film in order to concentrate on this. I quickly decided it'll be called STAR WARS: THE CANTINA. It'll feature the Cantina scene from A NEW HOPE but show the things we didn't see. I had been thinking of including an alternate version of the Cantina scene in the film I'd been writing, but wasn't sure if I could fit it in.
I may have to purchase some additional figures – like say a Cantina band member. Luckily there are some on eBay.

4th February
I order some new MiniDV tapes off Amazon. Using a Amazon Marketplace Seller I get three for just under six quid (including postage).

6th February
MiniDV tapes arrive. I should probably start planning exactly what will be in this film.

7th February
I had planned to just write an outline, but as it's such a short film I decided to do a first draft instead. It's pretty easy as I've been writing it in my head since the competition was announced. However as I'm about halfway through it, my laptop dies. Luckily I had the file saved on a external device. Unluckily it only saved the title sequence. I grab a pen and paper and opt to write things the old-fashioned way. I finish pretty quick, I'll do the shooting script and a “need” list tomorrow.

8th February
My laptop is dead. It's been on the way out for a few months now, with various things not working. I order a new one. Luckily I had backed everything up.
Whilst that is out of action I use my sister's to enquire about cheap audio editing software – something I'll need. I post on the Star Wars en Direct message board, where ex-producer Dany and board member "dathrill" mention 'Audacity' which is free – which is even better.
In the evening (using my sister's laptop) I win a Cantina Band member off eBay - by my reckoning the only new figure I'll have to purchase. I go to pay via PayPal when I discover I CAN'T. What? The seller doesn't accept PayPal! Who doesn't use PayPal? For what must be at least a year now, everything I've got off eBay I've paid using PayPal. It's such a commonly used payment method that I don't even think to check if people accept it anymore.
I write a cheque instead but as I'm writing the address on the envelope I notice that the address I've been sent by the automated "you have won" email doesn't include a house number or street name. I send a question to the seller asking for his address, but don't get a response. Well it is getting late and I'd missed the last post pickup anyway.

9th February
The seller still doesn't send me his address. I can see this messing up my filming schedule.

10th February
I check my e-mail first thing and hurah! I have a full address at last. I send the cheque off right away. I also draw up plans for the sets I'll need (originally scheduled for tomorrow)

13th February
My cheque should have arrived by now. But feedback hasn't been left. I fear he will wait for the cheque to clear.

14th February
I construct the Cantina interior. In the end I don't build the steps or other doorway, as neither needs to be seen onscreen. Additionally Han's booth will be constructed separately.

15th February
My new laptop arrives! With setting it up, spending half a day looking for the installation disc for my modem and transferring various files and programs, I don’t get anything film-related done.

16th February
I had hoped it would by now, but the Cantina band member figure still hasn't arrived. I'm convinced now he's waiting for the cheque to clear. Fair enough, I suppose – but come on who doesn't use PayPal?
In the evening I decide to start filming anyway – with four cardboard cutouts. As this first shot I'm doing will not feature any closeups of the band I should get away with it.
A few hours later and I've completed a tracking shot of the Cantina, taking place near the start of the film. I always knew it would take longer to shoot than most shots due to all the characters featured and the fact it's all stop-motion work – as opposed to waving the figure in front of the camera which I should be able to do for some later stuff.
It worked pretty well, with most of my time actually spent trying to get the band to stand up. There are times where the camera captured more frames than it should, and a bit near the start where it's too jerky but I should be able to clean it up in the edit. I liked how the drunken Ewok turned out. I filmed a couple of closeups by just shaking the set to achieve the movement, but it looks like I'm just shaking the set, so I'm glad the other stuff worked.

17th February
I write this journal.

20th February
Cantina band figure arrives today. I plan to shoot band closeups tomorrow – and hopefully everything else on that set (incl. Han/Greedo stuff).

21st February
I shoot the closeups and reaction shots of various characters following Greedo's death. However I didn't get the Han/Greedo stuff – but as I don't actually need the full set that's not really a problem.

1st March
Due to work and things I don't do anything else until today when I finally type out my Second Draft.

7th March
Work again causes no progress, until today when I post a casting call on the Star Wars En Direct boards. I film all the other Cantina set stuff except Han's reaction, the Obi-Wan/Luke side of their conversation with Han and the Boba Fett / Yak Face bit.

8th March
I finish filming on the Cantina set. Hurrah!

10th March
I decide to post my casting call on the Galactic Senate message board as well.

12th March
One role I'd left off the casting call was that of Vader. I'd had the idea of keeping his appearance secret, by obtaining his only line--a girlie scream--by asking someone from the 'Star Wars en Direct' radio show to provide it on-air (even they won't know what it's for), and then I'll extract it from the podcast later. The obvious choice is Audrey but when I e-mail them later I also suggest that Sebastien and Brian give it a go. I get a response from Sebastien saying they'll see what they can do.

13th March
Today I plan to shoot the corridor scene and construct the Cantina exterior. I manage to shoot the corridor scene.

14th March
I manage to construct the Cantina exterior and to my surprise I manage to film everything. Principal photography is complete! It is at this point I realise I don't know the exact date of the competition deadline, I think it's the end of April but I should find out the exact date so I go on to the competition website to find out.

Oh dear.

The good news is that the deadline is actually 31st May. The bad news is the fact that the site has updated with some "terms and conditions". One line which is going to cause trouble reads "Filmmakers must NOT use of any copyrighted music, video or still images from the Star Wars movies". Now whilst I thought using music from other things would be a big no-no, I figured using Star Wars music (this being an official competition an' all) would be fine. So now the Cantina band will have to play something other than the famous 'Cantina Music'. This is a problem.

I also listen to the Star Wars en Direct show and don't hear any screams. Thankfully they (via the message board) promise to do it next week. Then after making some "Sin City Breakfast Tacos", I start transferring footage to my hard drive to begin editing. I'm also sent an excellent reading of Doctor Evazan's line. The first role has been cast!

15th March
In the morning I hear on Classical FM a mention of someone working on "elaborate stop-motion" film and wonder if it's for this competition. Later on I decide to delete the roles from my casting call as they are cast, and add a "casting status" bit instead saying how many roles have been cast. As I will be voicing Sidious, Yak Face and Greedo this takes the roles cast up to four. My hope is that when people see the number of roles cast going up, they'll be more inclined to try out for a role themselves.
I decide I'll need a Jawa "ootini" so added it to the list of required roles. I feel bad that the only role that has (really) been cast is a off-screen one, so decide I'll do a pickup shot with a cardboard Evazan at some point, I then change my mind when I see a proper one on eBay for cheap.

16th March
I purchase this month's SFX as it looks interesting and inside there is an advert for this competition. Up until seeing it, I had half-wondered if the competition was a wind-up to see if anyone would actually be sad enough to make a five minute film with a bunch of toys.

17th March
I add the "NO Equity or other guild actors" bit to the casting call (as specified in the rules) just in case - and also that Wuhur is a offscreen role.
I'm getting worried about what to do for music, also I've planned to do the end credits as a card-back, but I can't do this until I know how many people I've got.

20th March
I remember about the Evazan figure on eBay, twenty minutes after the auction ends. Instead I buy one from a American seller, in a set with Ponda Baba (who I'll use) and Obi-Wan (who I already have in the film anyway). It'll take longer to get here but it's OK now that I have more time (than I thought) until the deadline.
I get the Star Wars en Direct podcast and...

Transcribed from Star Wars en Direct, English show #80: The Empire Strikes Back, 26 Years of Empire. Aired: 19th March, 2006
Sebastien: Like Luke screaming at the end of the movie the first time. He was just like jumping but screaming like a girl.

Brian: What??

Audrey: Say again?

Sebastien: No offence to girls, in the first version of Empire Strikes Back... [reacting] yeah that's right, he just plunges to his death...

Audrey: Oh down the thing. Yeah. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Sebastien (amused): Hey Brian. Snap. [laughs]

Audrey: We're supposed to do a whole load of screams aren't we?

Sebastien: You're right. People take your microphones off your ear...away from your mouth and start screaming...

All*: Aaagggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sebastien: OK I hope that makes some of our listeners happy.


Brian (coughing): I can't talk

Sebastien: And the high pitched scream was mine. I'm sorry.

Moments later...

Sebastien: I think we just pierced a few ears.

Brian: Oh I'm sorry Admiral...


Audrey: We scared the cat, people.

*On this show the team were joined by Adria and a unnamed but amusing guy. So this scream featured five people.

OK they weren't all supposed to scream at the same time, but then that's my fault for not telling them why I needed the scream. However it's still usable, I may stick it in the Greedo scene and use Audrey's mini scream for Vader.

21st March
I post a thanks in the SWD feedback thread and update my casting threads to reflect the extra role now cast.

At this point the Month turns bad, and I don't do anything film-related other than make the decision (on 10th April) to drop Wicket's line as Wuhur will be speaking at this point anyway.

19th April
I've created a very rough cut. I then extract the different scenes as this will make it easier to work with. I decide to do the title sequence, with the morph bit requiring over a hundred frames by hand. I complete the frames then go to create the AVI. However with AVI maker you can only add one frame at a time so this takes a while.
I make file then realise there's a bit that should be black that isn't down the left side. I fix around 60 frames then try again.
AVI maker bodges up. I will have to add those files again. One at a time.
For the sake of my sanity I decide to leave it for now and start on some other FX shots. I do the R2 boosters shot, changing the order of some frames to make it look better and make the AVI. I then go back and make the AVI file of the title sequence and this time it works. I'm not happy with the R2 boosters shot, so go back and do some wire (dental floss) removal - and change the frame order slightly too. I watch it and notice I missed a couple of frames where floss is still visible. I go back and fix it. Finally the shot is done. Hurrah two fx shots finished! Ow my back hurts.

At some point between 19th April and 2nd May I do the second Saber shot (only two frames).

2nd May
I do the first 101 frames of the first Saber shot. May actually be enough. I continue with the rough cut. Completing the first 1:25 - though without the "Darth Fool Presents" card and Evazan shot.

3rd May
I finish the rough cut. It runs at 4:59 without credits. I make some trims and get it down to 4:41
I post my casting call on the Anime Connect board too, and this time mention the possibility of prizes - I don't know why I left this fact out of my previous threads. I notice I'd requested five growls from Chewie, though I now only need two. In fact only ever needed three. I ask for three.
I try out Audrey's scream on Vader and It's not as usable as I thought. However with some editing, the group one is! Hurrah! Going to be a confusing credit though - 5 people! Next I start work on the music. Oh dear.
For the music I'd had the idea of recording some sounds, like guitars, some drumming and other things like change rattling and then sticking them together to try and make a tune. It takes a long time though I seem to be creating something. However the mood does not fit at all.

4th May
I'm not having any luck at all with casting - no one else has been cast, although several people have mentioned roles they're thinking of trying out for. I may have to produce a version without voices.

6th May
I decide to look an the Internet for some royalty-free music. I find some. Hurrah! There will be some free sound FX included with CD they're sending - may be useful, but may not be here on time. Thankfully I am allowed to download the tracks I need right away.

11th May
I film the pickup shot of Evazan and Ponda Baba, even using the display stand they came with as the background. Visuals-wise I complete the final cut (apart from end credits). Start adding in music and sound FX. I've now decided Chewie will be a sound FX thing so I remove him from casting notices.

13th May
I add in all the sound I've got and record the rake bits and Saber noises.

14th May
Casting not going well, and I will now prepare an alternative version, minus voices. I get started on it, editing out some unneeded movement (original there for voices) when I think of maybe subtitling the whole thing. There doesn't seem to be a good place for the first line when I decide to make it a silent movie! With cards for the dialogue. I plan to have the lightsaber blade in colour though, which will cause some trouble. Hmmm. I always wanted to re-edit ANH as a silent movie.
I'm getting really in to this new version of my film when the phone rings and I get called in to work for 11:00. Bugger. I get back just before 23:00.

15th May
Complete the rough (silent) cut. Runtime 5:22 arggh! Without credits argghhhhh!!! And some of the cards aren't displaying long enough. AARGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
I take a break then come back and make some edits. Runtime now 5:02
More edits, now 5:00 exactly - will have to ditch credits, make a few trims and fade to black at the end. Do that and runtime is...4:59
Change "strong in the force" to "strong with the force"
Not sure if I should maybe to do the thing in colour. I will try both. I black and whiteify the second Saber shot. It's simple enough but time consuming. Before trying the first Saber shot I perform more minor edits in the hope of getting a brief card for the credits. I manage to get the time down to 4:56, so add a 4 second card featuring brief credits. The time is now 5:01. Huh? I cut a second out of the credits and the film is finally 5:00 exactly

16th May
I complete the music sound mix and find that due to silence at the start of the first track, it doesn't synch up properly. I mess around with it a bit, finally solving the problem by inserting a small reverse sample at the begining. Today also saw the CD arrive and I use some of the free sound FX.
I opted to have some sound effects in because certain things were written with the sound in mind (Vader's scream, the third rake). Also the end bit felt a bit flat with no sound at all - after all even the music stops following Greedo's demise. In the end I keep Vader's breathing, the rake stuff, the Saber hum, Vader's scream and the Wilhelm - used as I always intended as Yak Face gets captured. I also add in (from the CD) a water effect for Greedo's water pistol, gun sounds for Han's blaster, a smashing sound for the dropped glass, some creaky floorboards and a dragging sound.
The colour cut is now finished! Not sure If I'll have time for the black and white version, but at least one version of it is completed. I go to check what format the file should be in and can't find it. anywhere. I email them.

18th May
I've decided to stick with colour version because I really like how some of the shots have turned out. They haven't replied about the file format though, so I create a compressed avi, a Mpeg and a quicktime file - and also do a DVD of it. I'm thinking of sticking a copy on VHS when I remember about uploading online, I had registered yesterday just in case. I opt for the quicktime file. Small size, good quality.
Start upload... and connection dies.
Try again... and it times out.
Try a third time... and it times out again. hmmmm
Make a lower quality .mov
Doesn't have sound.
I consider unploading the mpeg but it looks terrible. I try again with the lower quality .mov and this time get sound. However there's an A-Team thing on soon so I'll try and upload tomorrow.
I noticed that "do you think you can help" is followed by "he doesn't like you". Which if you're not paying attention doesn't make much sense.

19th May
I've got a reply to my file format query (received last night actually). It can be sent in any format really, tough (due to the looming deadline) they recommend I also submit it online. Will do.
Submit...timed out. AGAIN.
I make an even lower quality version. However whilst the new file has a smaller window size it hasn't made any difference to the file size. Huh?
Try again, different codec.... file even bigger!
Try another... back to around the original too big
I'll try the mpeg -it suits the online viewing and I can always post the uncompressed AVI with my form.
Upload...time out! arggh!!!
Will just have to post it, as this is not working. I'll have to do that tomorrow though, as I then have to go to work. Whilst at work (typically bad) I decide, to do the film in black and white after all.
All I need to do is that first saber shot. I'm very tired when I get back, managing just 10 frames. 91 to go tomorrow.

20th May
I get up early an finish the frames no problem - only the ones I'd added blur to cause a bit of trouble. I make the black and white video file, changing the fade on the credits to a cut and changing the "can you help?" line to one about fetching Luke. For some reason a frame has been added to the end. I take it out and make again, add the audio and....it's finished! Just missed the post though. Still it's all packaged up and ready to go.

22nd May
I post the dvd with the uncompressed black and white avi on it.

23rd May
I make a small wmv file. Upload and...IT WORKS!!!! Hurrah!!!

Over the coming weeks I hear nothing. I keep checking the website every now and then to see if the nominees have been announced, but there's nothing. Eventually I resign myself to the fact that I was unsuccessful. On 18th July I notice the site has updated to mention that the awards will be given out at the Memorabilia Show (http://www.memorabilia.co.uk) in August.

25th July
I receive a letter telling me that I'm up for the 'Creative' award and all finalists are also put forward for the 'Best Mini Movie' Award! Wow. My family manage to get me worried that I accidentally entered the under 16 category. Having visions of that 'Only Fools & Horses' episode where Rodney joins the Groovy Gang, I make sure to add that I've been nominated in the "16 and over category" to my e-mail when claiming my free tickets via e-mail later on.

7th August
Get home from work and I'm rang up by a local newspaper. I do an awful interview over the phone, including a bit where I accidentally mention that job I don't talk about. They'll be sending the photographer tomorrow.

8th August
Photographer arrives, not as bad as the interview but not looking forward to article. My free tickets arrive for show, but there are only two, I had been expecting three. I read the original letter and whilst it is a bit messed up due to being a multi-purpose form letter, I can't help but focus on things like "for you and two adults", "two kids per adult (under 16's and including yourself)". I am convinced I have entered the wrong category. However whilst checking through a copy of the submission form, I notice that under-16's had to have their parents fill in a section, so I guess I didn't.

9th August
The local paper arrives.I don't remember saying all the things I'm quoted as saying but the gist of things is right. Also I'm annoyed that the job I don't talk about is the only one that gets a mention. However on the whole it's not too bad.

13th August
I enjoy looking around the Memorabilia show, then at 14:30 it's time for "The Artoos" to begin in the stage area. It's late starting, partly due to the previous thing finishing late (a Q&A with some Star Trek people - I think) and also because they are plucking out the finalists (and their guests) from the queue so we can have a seat and be able to go up and collect an award should we win. Danny John-Jules is announced as the compère. In fact he comes on and announces the actual compère - some guy I presume works for Hasbro, before disappearing. I didn't quite catch this guys name so I shall just call him "Guy-in-a-t-shirt".
Guy-in-a-t-shirt does a bit of an introduction, interestingly referring to the show as "the first" Star Wars Mini Movie Awards, suggesting It'll be back next year. He then says that no photography is allowed and the show gets under way.
The films were shown in twos - the finalists for each category and then Guy-in-a-t-shirt comes back on and opens the envelope containing the name of the winner. One problem was that the name of the winner's film wasn't given, so on a few occasions I was unsure which film had won. Another problem was the very dark screens, which made the start of one film hard to watch as it featured a character holding up boards with writing on - which no one could make out! Of course the judging had been done before hand but it was a little annoying. The awards themselves look excellent - silver "Darth Tater's" and "Artoo-Potatoo's" made into trophies - with a Golden one for the 'Best Mini Movie' award.
When it comes to my movie, I'm relieved that people laugh at all the right moments. Biggest laughs seem to be for the second rake hitting Sidious in the face, the cocktail stick line and the eBay one. I also notice that the guy sitting near to me (Dan) is very impressed with my use of the Wilhelm.
Unfortunately I lose out in the 'Creative' category to a shot-by-shot remake of the "Carbon Freezing Chamber" scene from The Empire Strikes Back, at which point picking up 'Best Mini Movie' seems very unlikely. And of course I don't. That in fact is awarded to Dan for his excellent film (also wins 'Best Use Of Characters'), featuring a post-A New Hope argument on who should be awarded medals.
So I go home (film award-wise) empty handed. Still, two nominations. Not bad.

originally posted: 16th August, 2006

Star Wars: The Cantina

Year - 2006
Format - MiniDV
Aspect Ratio - 16:9
Runtime - 5 Minutes
Premiere - 13th August, 2006, Star Wars Mini Movie Awards, Memorabilia Show, Birmingham NEC

Following the positive response to 'Star Wars: Revenge Of The GIF' I decided I'd make another Star Wars fan film in 2006. Work was underway on the script when I read about Hasbro's "Star Wars Mini Movie" competition, a film competition where the films had to feature the Star Wars action figures. I stopped what I was doing and began work on 'Star Wars: The Cantina' instead.

Focusing on the cantina scene from 'Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope', 'The Cantina' is several ideas rolled in to one. The fan film I was working on also focused on what the camera didn't see (and was also set in the ANH time period). However it seemed unlikely that I would be able to include a version of the cantina scene in that, so carried over some of the things I'd been thinking of into this film - but with a more comedic spin. Though the characters act like their film selves, they are toys and so this is why there is the mention of a cocktail stick and why Yak Face moans about how much he is worth. Finally, when it became apparent I would not be able to get all the voices I needed, I re-edited it as a silent film. Re-editing ANH as a silent movie is something I've always wanted to do, however I have never had the time for such a thing. This allowed me to try it on a smaller scale, though it is not a completely silent film. Some sounds were left in as they were needed for gags, to create some atmosphere or just to liven up the audio.

'The Cantina' was nominated for two "Artoos" - the Star Wars Mini Movie Awards, and the awards show was where the film received it's premiere.

Runner up: Hasbro Star Wars Mini Movie 'Creative' Award (Jedi Category)
Nominee: Hasbro Star Wars Mini Movie 'Best Mini Movie' Award

Originally posted: 16th August, 2006

Star Wars: Revenge of the GIF

ABOVE: The poster for the short second online run.

Year - 2005
Format: - Animated GIF
Aspect Ratio - Multi-Aspect within a 5:3 frame
Runtime - 3 Minutes 15 Seconds
Premiere - 19th May, 2005, dejha.co.uk (webspace by

On the 4th August, 2004 (at 20:32 GMT fact fans) I made a post on the Galactic Senate message board. I know this because I've just looked it up by trawling through the archives. At the time the main thing people were talking about was the forthcoming DVD release of Episodes IV-VI and the changes to the films that were being made. I joked that a goof that featured Darth Vader waving his arm about, whilst not saying anything would be fixed and included an animated GIF that added a yo-yo in to his hand.
I'd long been a fan of the crude animation style of animated GIF's and enjoyed finally making one myself. I'd have to make some more. Only I didn't. Not until the following year.

On the 21st April, 2005 (at 12:11 GMT fact fans) I made a post on the Galactic Senate message board. I know this because I've just looked it up by trawling through the archives. At the time the main thing people were talking about was the forthcoming theatrical release of 'Revenge of the Sith'. As well as the trailers a lot of images had been released for the film and lots of TV spots were released too. Seeing a chance to make another animated GIF, I used some of this imagery to create an alternative humorous ending.

This brief clip was all I intended to do, but then I noticed people seemed to really like it. Furthermore the board's own stats showing the number of people who clicked on the clip kept going up and up. I then decided that I would expand it to be a short humorous version of the 'Revenge of the Sith' story - which I was familiar with, having read the novelisation and screenplay. So in my free time I started constructing the film using whatever suitable imagery I could find, intending to get it online before the film it was based on came out.

Which I almost managed. The film was completed 18th May, 2005 (one day before) and I set up a special mini-site that contained the following warning:


ROTG is (loosely) based on the story and imagery of STAR WAS - EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH. If you haven't yet seen the film, which at the time of writing is very likely, viewing this animation may spoil some of it for you.

Except the file, which ended up consisting of 400 frames and was 20.3MB in size, failed to upload. I tried again and again but it just didn't work. The following day (the same day Revenge of the Sith was released) I split it in to two parts and this time I was able to upload it. Although there were links to view it online, I recommended that people with slow internet connections download it first and then
watch it. Two days later I was able to replace the two parts with the full clip.

The first online run, ran from 19th May, 2005 until 18th June, 2005 when the site for some unknown reason stopped working. I then made a poster to promote a second online run "Showing for a limited time only". This second run--only a few days after the first had ended--ran from 21st June, 2005 until 2nd July, 2005.

Later in the year I decided that as a tie-in with the forthcoming DVD release of 'Revenge of the Sith' I'd make a ROTG DVD. Well make the relevant files that people would have to download and burn to disc themselves. On 25th October, 2005 I wrote a text commentary for the film and the following day I converted this in to a MPEG2 file and created the menu, which I made slight modifications to the next day. Yet another day later I converted the film itself into a MPEG2 file, using the uncompressed frames for a better image quality. The DVD was completed later that day. At which point I decided I wouldn't make it available as it'd probably be better if I just put it on a DVD of various short films instead.

In 2007 I decided I would add the film to YouTube. After several attempts throughout May it finally appeared on the 31st.

Originally posted: 31st May, 2007