Those who observe the holiday known as Star Wars Day tend to do so in their own individual ways. Some spend May 4th rewatching the films, others simply use it as an opportunity to say “may the fourth be with you” a whole bunch. Stupid for Movies and Kevin Pollak Chat Show director Mike Rotman chose to celebrate this year by uploading his 2005 documentary feature Star Wait to Blip as an episodic series.
Star Wait was filmed in 2002 during the lead-up to Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (the most disappointing of the Star Wars prequels — or at least that’s what I think), and consists mostly of interviews Rotman and editor Adam Schenck filmed with the hardcore Star Wars enthusiasts who spent six weeks waiting in line to see Episode II premiere at the Mann Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.
While Star Wait was available as a feature film on DVD in 2005, its 2002 origin was as a web series. According to Rotman, with whom I spoke via phone, he and Schenck would visit the line, take their footage, and edit together an episode the next day, posting it to their website as a “postage-stamp sized” Quicktime video (as YouTube and other hosting options didn’t exist back then). The site attracted up to 150,000 hits a week back then, and clips on YouTube still rack up views. Rotman believes it to be “one of the first docu-reality web series ever.”
After being reedited as a feature film, Star Wait‘s 2010 transition back to web series from feature film isn’t necessarily perfect — episode one opens with a 1:45 credit sequence/montage that introduces the primary characters but is much better suited to a full-length film than a web series, and concludes with an abrupt cut (the result of an encoding problem). But future installments, Rotman says, will be more polished and standalone, and in the meantime the content of the first episode is undoubtedly intriguing.
For, as Rotman and Schenck document, waiting in line for Star Wars wasn’t as simple as sitting down in a lawn chair: Those participating in the line were obligated to log a certain number of hours waiting, raise at least $50 for charity and wear customized badges. The entire process is given a great deal of dignity, as these fans aren’t treated as a crazed mob, but instead as distinct individuals, with different reasons for engaging with the franchise and different attitudes towards important issues like spoilers. One of the funnier sequences in the first episode, in fact, is when fans explain the color-coded badges they wear, which indicate not only their participation in the line but the level of advance knowledge they want to have prior to seeing the film.
According to Rotman, he doesn’t plan to leave the series online “forever,” but will keep the nine episodes available for the foreseeable future. The film version is still available on DVD in North America, and Rotman is looking to expand its reach with worldwide distribution. Star Wait might not be perfect web content, but it’s a great example of recycling — especially since, despite the eight years that have passed since its filming, its tale of passionate fans is still very relevant.
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