By Erin Free

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, on the far flung planet of Ardo Min, an Imperial shuttle has crashed and burned, leaving a few battered Stormtroopers and their commanding officers dazed and confused. Things, however, are about to get a lot worse for these Imperials, with two ruthless figures – Pantoran bounty hunter Sirik (Kirsty McKenzie) and Twi’lek mystery man Ja’Kar (Ben Hamilton) – circling them with an eye to getting their hands on the shuttle’s cargo. Meanwhile, in the woods surrounding the crash site, an even more menacing figure is also lurking…

A scene from A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

Welcome to A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story, a new Aussie fan flick that looks and feels like the real deal. With its soaring space shuttles, scrambling critters, extended fight sequences, laser-fried Stormtroopers, A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story – which was shot just outside Sydney in Camden and Picton – is no piece of filmed Cosplay. The eighteen-minute fan flick is slick, gripping and incredibly well put together, rating instantly as another example of how strong “unofficial” on-screen content can be when it’s made by people with a real knack for filmmaking. A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story is the work of producer/director Richard De Carvalho and producer Carol Jovocic, who head up Sydney-based Lunacraft Productions, whose first micro short film, Lost & Found, won the inaugural Dolby Sound Challenge back in 2015. Their other shorts, Flytrap and Lenny, have enjoyed festival berths around the world, and have picked up a few awards in the process.

A scene from A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story, however, is by far their most ambitious and potentially high-profile project, and it’s been an absolute epic task in bringing it to the screen. “My hope for the film is that audiences and the Star Wars community alike, will be thrilled, intrigued and entertained by what the team and I were able to accomplish,” says Richard De Carvalho. “I hope that audiences will not only be able to embrace the original story and its characters, but also the work and effort put into the film that showcases our collective local talent, the fan community and our love for Star Wars.”

Director Richard De Carvalho

What’s the deal with Star Wars fan films? Do you need some kind of clearance? Also, explain to us what your rights are with regards to release…are there limitations?

“Well, there are a few things people need to realise with all fan-films. First of all, you cannot make a profit, no matter how original your script and creative work is. It’s about common sense and respect for the IP. It’s a fan-film after all, and if you’re thinking of going on that journey, you’ll be doing it for the love and passion of the ‘brand’ and, as we did, to showcase the creative talent on display and tell an interesting fresh story. It’s the epitome of a passion project. If you’re unsure about anything then you should contact the studio or artist for clearance. You may or may not hear back from them. But if you start profiting from said studio/artist, you will undoubtedly hear from them…and it won’t be pleasant! We did a lot of research and are already knowledgeable about copyright. Another thing that could land you in hot water is the use of music in your film. That’s a whole other ball game. But this was never a concern as we have our very own maestro Jayden Lawrence who wrote and composed an amazing original score for our production. So, be respectful, don’t plan on making any money from making a fan-film, be cautious when using music, slap a clear disclaimer on your work stating that it’s not for profit, and you should be fine. Let’s not forget that George Lucas was one of the great indie filmmakers a long, long time ago and had also championed fan-films and indie filmmakers. Just pray to the movie gods that audiences and the legions of fans worldwide will embrace your work!”

Behind the scenes on A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

How did you arrive at this story? Had you been looking to do a Star Wars fan film for a while? 

“I grew up with Star Wars and a heavy dose of 80s sci-fi movies. I also watched a lot of westerns. My family loved them. We would watch everything from Sergio Leone and Nero to Peckinpah and Ford. And Star Wars is a space western! So naturally, I was inspired for a very long time. My favourite scene in Star Wars (1977) is when Greedo confronts Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina. I gained a slight obsession with ‘space cowboys’ from that. I loved these smugglers and bounty hunters working for a price, but their morality would come into question. It wasn’t until high school that I wrote a little fan fic set in a galaxy far, far away. But I never took it too seriously until a few years ago, when there was a fan-film competition at Star Wars Celebration and the Boba Fett story that I always wanted to make became a real possibility. It would be a dream come true to get a shot directing a Star Wars story for Lucasfilm, especially with my crew. So rather than wish upon a star, I just set out to make it. And to make it with whatever resources we had.”

Kirsty McKenzie in a scene from A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

Where did you find your actors? Did you cast wide, or had you worked with most of them previously? 

“I didn’t cast too wide. I had worked with Ben Hamilton previously on a short horror thriller titled Flytrap that we made in under 48 hours for a festival. We have a great collaboration and friendship. He also has a great screen presence with these striking blue eyes that would remind me of Eastwood and Fonda from Leone Westerns. He also loves westerns! For Sirik, I needed an actor who was elegant but extremely intimidating and ruthless. I came across Kirsty McKenzie’s acting showreel and modelling work and she was absolutely stunning and captivating on screen. I also needed her to be able to speak with an accent as the character is a Pantoran, and from my research, they spoke with a South African accent. Little did I realise that she grew up in South Africa and has worked over the years on losing her accent! The biggest casting challenge was our Boba Fett, as our original actor pulled out due to personal complications before the actual shoot. And at the time, there weren’t many authentic Boba Fett cosplayers available in Sydney or NSW, or at least willing to star in the film. But Luke Parsonage was heaven sent and a legend, travelling hours for a day shoot. He was every bit like Boba Fett in the way that he looked and moved. The rest of our cast was through our own social network.”

Ben Hamilton in a scene from A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

It’s a very polished affair…what kind of budget were you working with? Did you crowd-fund to raise your finances?

“Crowdfunding was an option that we were heavily considering. However, we knew that we didn’t have a strong enough background to start a successful Kickstarter as we’ve never made something quite like this before despite our confidence. Filmmaking is always an expensive affair, and we’re indie filmmakers. We need to raise the funds, apply for grants, or seek private investments. Or, as it mostly is, beg and plead for favours. And for a ‘not for profit’ fan-film, there wouldn’t be any return of financial investment. So we needed to rely on our own talent, good will and favours. We went into this knowing that it would be completely self-funded by my producer Carol Jovicic, and the good graces of our cast and crew, most of whom volunteered while Carol and I covered all production costs, materials and crafty. A fed crew is a happy crew. It all comes with great responsibility to make something that a lot of people can be proud of for sacrificing their valuable time. There was a lot of trust put onto both Carol and I to see this through and make it spectacular. This has been the most ambitious production of ours to date. And we hope that it serves as a proof concept for other future productions by the team that we have at our side.”

A stormtrooper opens up in a scene from A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

Can you talk about your make-up, VFX etc? Did you work with different companies/production houses on those? Is it easier to get folks involved when you mention Star Wars

“We have an amazing group of trusted collaborators at Lunacraft that we frequently work with across projects and client work. Once we were making a Star Wars film, we knew that make-up and VFX would be crucial to sell a galaxy far, far away. It was our hook. I wanted to make something that felt like it could be considered canon within the classic trilogy with the same aesthetic. Fortunately, we have a fantastic production designer in Anya Shcherban, Jesse Love in costumes, Dylan Wech as prop designer and our amazing VFX artist, Ryan Stubbs. However, all departments needed assistance due to the massive undertaking and the varying availability of the crew. Once we had started production, we attracted a lot of wonderful artists when they saw what we were making and how serious we were about making a genuine Star Wars film. It was very much a case of ‘if you build it, they will come.’ We did, however, come across a couple of cynical and sceptical people when asking for help. Some people would question why we would make something that would never turn a profit. But I’ve never known short films to make a profit! But we had support in local Academy Award winning production houses with Pow Wow Studios (post production grading and sound mixing facilities) and Odd Studio (make-up FX and Prosthetics). Both studios were incredibly excited by our vision and were able to squeeze our production in between much bigger international projects. And luckily our budget was able to cover their needed services.”

Richard De Carvalho on the set.

Many Star Wars fans are a little, um, intense. What kind of response have you been getting from this highly opinionated fan community?

Very passionate! Star Wars has always been this one constant thing at the centre of amazing friendships. And it hurts when you come across toxic fandom of any kind. That isn’t what fandom is meant to be. It’s meant to be supportive and inclusive. I always said to my crew that we would treat this project seriously, as if we were hired by Lucasfilm. A lot of interested fans and movie buffs have been growing over the months ever since we announced the production in 2019. Ever since our Australian premiere at The Sydney Science Fiction Film Festival, we have been on an incredible selection streak and winning multiple awards across festivals worldwide, and the reception from fans has been overwhelmingly positive! On May 31, we released the film online and our social channels blew up! Fans are loving it, and wanting more of everything we do.”

Ben Hamilton in a scene from A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

You’ve released on YouTube; how far are you hoping to go with the film? What are the possibilities? 

“So, while we have been a major hit with fan communities, we have also been gaining a lot of credibility within film festivals, screening alongside a lot of high quality work from across the world.  We are also touring the film with Supanova across Australia featuring in live Q&As, signing autographs, and engaging more with local fans. Last month, we were the winning film at Geekfest Film Fest, which is the world’s largest travelling comic-con film festival and they’ll be taking the film across comic-cons. It all continues to be a surreal but incredibly rewarding experience for all involved.”

A scene from A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

How was shooting in Camden and Picton…two towns that probably never thought they would be featured in a galaxy far, far away!!!!!!

“I was living in Camden at the time and fell in love with the area and locals. For our featured planet Ardo Min, I wanted it to feel ‘Australian’ despite it being an alien planet. I’m a huge fan of Mad Max and a large part of me really wanted to film in Broken Hill, but logistically it just wasn’t going to happen. I needed something relatively close by to Sydney where my cast and crew are based. And when Carol and I went scouting around our areas, we found the most ideal rural landscapes. We tracked down the land owners, Peter Ray and Ashley Clark, who were both gracious enough to allow us to film on their property. Peter is an absolute legend and was so accommodating. When I asked them what we could do for them, they’d just tell us to buy them a beer. You can’t get better than that!”

Luke Parsonage as Boba Fett in A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story.

And finally, were you as devastated as I was when Gina Carano’s unfortunately volatile and ill-advised political opinions got her booted from the Star Wars universe?

“Haha! Um, no comment! I will say that I’m devastated that we’re not getting The Rangers Of The New Republic spin-off on Disney+. But if Lucasfilm need any ideas, my team and I are ready!”

A Blaster In The Right Hands: A Star Wars Story and its makers will be making an appearance at the upcoming Supanova events in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. 

Shares:

Leave a Reply