The Empire Strikes Back Uncut: The Ultimate Fan Film Gets The Ultimate Sequel

A long time ago…
In a galaxy far, far away…

These perhaps are the most awesomely beloved and most recognized opening lines to anything since, “Four score and seven years ago….” Of course, Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address never had a bitchin’ online fan film made about him — correction: TWO fan films.

The Empire Strikes Back Uncut was just announced at the Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, Florida, as Casey Pugh and his original cadre of assemblers are back for round II (round V if you wanna get technical).

Following on the heels of the humongously popular Star Wars Uncut, which won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Fiction, Pugh, 28,  is looking to get his Force on once again.

For the uninitiated, “Star Wars Uncut” (now known as “A New Hope Uncut”) is a shot-for-shot reproduction of the original Star Wars film, entirely created by dedicated and random fans across the world utilizing the extreme budget of whatever they had on hand. Legos, pipe cleaners, even the family dog was cast in the 15-second allotments, which the amateur filmmakers would then upload to starwarsuncut.com hoping for inclusion in the finished movie. “Filmed” in 2009, for Pugh and his team, this ultimately meant editing and sound-mixing nearly 1000 submissions from 20 different countries in a yearlong odyssey, resulting in 473 scenes of sweet, sweet nerd-dom. Not a small task by any stretch of the imagination, but for Pugh, the biggest obstacle was potentially yet to come: getting George Lucas and the behemoth that is LucasFilms Ltd. to sign off on it. It was not as daunting a task as one would think– the folks in charge of the Skywalker empire already knew full well of the much-hyped project. Pugh explains in an interview with Maroon Weekly that “They actually four to five months into the project, called me up, out of the blue, and were like, ‘We love what you’re doing, and we’d love to fly you out to San Francisco to talk with you more about it.’”

Once it was clear that there was nothing but love (and no profit-motive) behind the Star Wars Uncut mission, Pugh and his team had the green light to get creative, and extend that creativity to the fans.

In a statement to NMR, Pugh explains:

“One of the things we loved most about A New Hope Uncut was the spectrum of creativity represented with each scene. I mean, I never would have thought of making a scene in the style of Michael Bay, but someone did. For me, creativity doesn’t always mean the highest quality equipment or cinematography experience. You can see the heart & soul of the story right there in the scenes, whether your R2D2 is hand-animated or made out of refrigerator boxes. We hope to see everything.”

Pugh, who got his start as an engineer with Vimeo (and repaid the favor by allowing a director’s cut of the film to be screened there), later went on to join Boxee, and now is the co-founder of VHX, an online film distribution service. Fans of Aziz Ansari’s, “Dangerously Delicious” comedy special have VHX to thank for their ability to immediately purchase an online version of the special. The idea for Star Wars Uncut came to Pugh through his fascination with a crowdsourcing video someone had created online where individual users were instructed to manipulate Michael Jackson’s white glove into something more comical — Pugh gives a nod to this on his VHX site, where he promises “white glove service.”

Pugh’s time now though is going to largely be devoted to dealing with the maelstrom that is the second in the original trilogy, which, by his admission to Urlesque.com, is his favorite. “It’s definitely well-written and has a story that stands out amongst the three.”

“The Empire Strikes Back Uncut,” which has been broken down into 480 15-second thumbnail videos is available for selection at starwarsuncut.com from now into the foreseeable next six months, but don’t think you’re getting any part of saying, “Luke, I am your father.” According to Pugh, “Not everyone can claim the same scene,” and that one is long gone.

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