Thursday, 26 August 2010

The sincerest form of flattery

For over 30 years, pop culture commentators have struggled to explain the appeal of Star Wars. In spite of its stiff acting, hokey mythology and occasionally painful dialogue, the films have managed to exert a curious hold over several generations.

Although the franchise has always pushed the envelope in terms of innovative special effects technology, its popularity can be accredited to the heritage that came before it, as much as the legacy it left behind. Like Quentin Tarantino, George Lucas is a proud magpie, happily plundering the archives for inspiration. Pick it apart and you'll find bits of everything from Greek mythology to Flash Gordon.

So it's appropriate that Star Wars has continued the tradition and inspired countless imitators itself. Anyone with a bucket and a broom handle has recorded footage of themselves announcing ""

It's precisely that kind of thinking that led to the creation of 'Star Wars Uncut' - an amazing 'interactive arts project' created by, and for, die-hard Star Wars fans. The whole movie was broken down into 15 second segments and posted on Vimeo.

Fans could then select which micro-chapter they wanted to remake. This whole 'crowdsourcing' approach meant that no-one had to reproduce more than 15 seconds of content. And there were no restrictions to how the footage could be recreated.

Stop-motion animation, carefully-placed fruit, humiliated pets in embarrassing outfits and crudely crafted props all made an appearance in the content that was uploaded. Once every clip had been reproduced and uploaded, the finished film was stitched together and hosted on the project's website.

The final triumph for Casey Pugh, the project's visionary creator, came this week as the film won an Emmy award for 'Creative Achievement In Interactive Media - Fiction'. OK, so the category's a bit of a mouthful, but this is still a momentous accomplishment. Just as exciting for Pugh is the fact that George Lucas is rumoured to be a fan.

But that's because he understands how stories used to be told. The legends and myths he incorporated into his sci-fi series were passed orally from generation to generation. The details changed differently with each retelling, but the core elements remained unchanged, despite the passage of hundreds of years.

You can dress up 'Star Wars Uncut' as an opportunity to "explore the dynamics of community creation on the web", but its really just a new-fangled way of retelling an age-old story. So we're back where we started. As Darth Vader would say, "The circle is now complete."

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