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interview conducting began 2/26/2003

It had been ages since I'd seen a TFN forum thread as packed and enthusiastic as the one for the release of Part I of How the Sith Stole Christmas. But Ted Bracewell's no stranger to warm welcomes for his films—the "South Park"-meets-Star Wars projects he co-created are well-loved, well-known and have been brought to the attention of the head honchos of the properties they liberally borrow from.

Now, let's make something clear, people. I've done animation, and it is hard. Yes, you don't have to deal with some of the issues of live-action shooting. But you, the director, have to be responsible for every single thing in that movie. It's great to have control, but with that control comes responsibility.

Ted did amazing stuff and I'm glad I get to pick his brain about it...

Okay—basics. Name, age, location, favorite Star Wars movie.

Ted Bracewell, 23, Atlanta, GA, “Empire” followed by “Clones”.

What do you think makes people see and make fan films?

Because Star Wars fans are crazy and the love they have for their franchise is unconditional.

(Unconditional? Geez, when was the last time this guy was on a message board?)

I think that people watch these films really to see what the fans are capable of. These are movies basically created by kids sitting in their bedrooms at their home PCs, and the effects look as good if not better than some hundred-million-dollar Hollywood films. I believe that it comes down to a “What will they come up with next?” type of mindset.

People make fan films because it gives them a chance to be a part of George Lucas’ universe. Everybody played “Star Wars” when they were kids and fan films let them do it for real. It’s the closest you can get to actually being a Jedi.

What was the last really good fan film you watched?

Run Leia Run.

Whoa! Thanks. Coming from you, that's huge.

I swear I'm not telling people to plug my flick, dear readers. //blushes

What was the last really good 'real' movie you saw or watched?

I liked Daredevil lot. I thought it was better than Spider-Man, but we won’t go into why.

Because Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms. Besides your own, what's your favorite fan film and why?

I like the funny films rather than the serious ones that try to fit into the actual Star Wars universe. I think the "Dude" Flash shorts are quite good. I really like The Jedi Hunter too. My favorite is Troops. Sure that answer is a little typical, but it’s the Citizen Kane of the fan film world.

Interesting coming from the guy who made a Rosebud joke in his flick. What would you like to see in a fan film?

I would like to see a huge battle like at the end of Episode II. Or even a space dogfight with dozens of ships. I’m not sure that we’ve ever seen anything like that before.

What would you NOT like to see in a fan film?

It’s been said a lot before, but I think the whole Jedi landing on a forest planet where he encounters a Sith and they fight has been done to death. But I understand that there are only so many places where you can shoot a fan film and you have to take what you can get.

Which is why animation is so great. You can do a whole bunch of things. How did you get started in animation specifically?

I don’t remember exactly how or why, I just know that I’ve always liked animation. I think that the film Jurassic Park was one of the first big influences on me wanting to get serious about animating. That movie just blew me away like no other. I watched a behind the scenes documentary on it and was really intrigued by the digital aspect of it.

I still refuse to believe that some of those dinosaurs are CGI. That T-Rex in the rain, for instance.

Wasn't it great to see movies without knowing or assuming that certain things were CGI? You could just marvel at how neat everything was? Heck, I assumed all the Jurassic Park dinos were models or animatronics until finally learning the truth about a year ago.

You did Park Wars in conjunction with Ayaz Asif. Whatever happened to him? What's he been up to? Does he still make films?

I actually don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him in about a year. I remember him saying that he was going to work on a stop-motion film, but I don’t know if that ever developed.

Note for readers: I found Ayaz' Web site. Seems he went down a different road.

What exactly happened that lead to the abortion of the Park Wars full-movie spoof? How much footage ended up not being seen in the film we have now?

Everything we drew and animated ended up in the final 11-minute short. We hadn’t done too much before we got in contact with Steve Sansweet at Lucasfilm and he told us that using an hour of actual movie audio crosses the line from parody to rip-off. That’s why the movie is complete up until we arrive on Naboo and then Shelley steps in and cuts it off. That’s where we were when we were informed that we couldn’t complete it. I think the 11-minute short worked out better cause an hour film would’ve taken forever to complete and probably would’ve been extremely boring.

I'm actually really glad to hear this. Practically since the first day of seeing the short I'd felt bad for the creators—I had visions of minutes upon minutes of scenes left on the cutting room floor.

Who is Angela Duke, and how did you find her to do those extra voices for the Park Wars "movie"? She's great!

Angela Duke (Angela Kuethe now that she’s tied the knot) was a friend of Ayaz’s and I met her through him. She has an incredible knack for doing voices. She can do ones from “The Simpsons” as well and they’re amazing. She performs the voice of Shmi Skywalker in the second part of How the Sith Stole Christmas.

Ah, yes! Here comes your favorite question! When do we get to see Part II?

I’m horrible at keeping deadlines so I won’t say exactly, but soon. I’m working on 2 and 3 together, along with a special edition of part 1 that will feature about another minute of footage and some other fixes. I’m going to release all three about a week apart, whenever it is that I get finished.... oh Lord let it end...

Back to voices. How did you get in touch with Ben Fletcher for How the Sith Stole Christmas, and what got you thinking to cast him as Yoda and not his staple role of Vader?

Nick [Marchetti, production assistant] suggested him so I got in contact with Ben and sent him the lines I needed. He recorded them and they were perfect. It sounds exactly like Yoda. It’s pretty amazing. Ben however doesn’t do Darth Vader in the film because of certain things that happen in part 2. I’m still working out the details, but you’ll hopefully see why he couldn’t do the voice when the second part is finally released.

With How the Sith Stole Christmas you've been able to develop your own style as opposed to spoofing the "South Park" look...

That’s just the way I draw stuff. It’s not an intentional style really, it just works out that way. I’m almost obsessive-compulsive when it comes to detail. Little things that no one else would notice in a million years annoy me if they’re not right.

Seems a bit Lucas-y to me. Who and what are your influences in filmmaking?

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas obviously. In recent times I’ve become a big fan of M. Night Shyamalan and Trey Parker & Matt Stone. The Lord of the Rings movies are unbelievable and have definitely influenced some of the scenes in Part 2 and 3 of How the Sith Stole Christmas as you’ll see.

Whoa. If that's not a way to raise interest in an already interest-laden thing, I don't know what is.

What was the work schedule like for How the Sith Stole Christmas?

I tend to work in long shifts with even longer breaks. There will be about two weeks where I’ll do nothing but animate, but then I won’t do anything for several days. I work mostly at night because it’s quiet and I can think better. I usually stay up until about 4:00 am animating and drawing. I never get lonely. I find myself very amusing.

We touch briefly on developments in the field of animation...

It seems that traditional 2D animation is quickly going extinct. When Toy Story came out it was a big deal because there were no other animated films that looked like it. Now every company seems to be in the 3D animation market. There’s just so much more you can do with 3D animation. It’s also in my opinion much more beautiful to look at.

... and fan films, where he mentions something he thinks might happen in the future:

A feature length fan film if one is bold enough to attempt it...

I wonder if I can convince Ted himself to do it.

Hey, I'd watch.