A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away, it was rumoured there was forgotten Star Wars production footage, missing scenes and all manner of behind the scenes goodies that Lucasfilm would have us believe was unavailable. They didn’t count on Jamie Benning…
NOTE: This is an amended form of my interview that first appeared last April on our predecessor site, Culturedeluxe. Certain details have been updated.
Jamie Benning is a 35 year old Pits director and replay coordinator on Formula 1 coverage. A self-confessed Star Wars geek, he has painstakingly put together three unofficial treasure troves of documentaries, or “filmumentaries, as they have been christened; Building Empire, Returning To Jedi, and lastly, Star Wars Begins. The documentaries, especially Star Wars Begins, have become an internet phenomenon, and are an incredible source of Star Wars facts, rare footage and various commentaries, running concurrently with the films themselves. Lucasfilm should be taking notes from this guy on how to do a “making of” doc. Jamie was kind enough to answer a few questions from me.
What was the driving force to undertake these projects, and why did you start with The Empire Strikes Back?
I watch a lot of DVDs and a lot of commentaries and I never really felt they lived up to their potential. Particularly the 2004 release of the Original Star Wars Trilogy which only had one cast member commentating. So I took it upon myself to combine the behind the scenes featurette with the audio commentary and the subtitle fact track that can sometimes be found. Ultimately I felt that the avid fan base of Star Wars fans deserved better. The reason I started with Building Empire was simply because it’s my favourite. It also had the least behind the scenes material so I thought that it would be the biggest challenge.
To me, the combination of actual film, commentary, behind the scenes filming, viewing of animatics, model building and concept art / storyboards – this is the sort of thing Blu-ray should be doing more often. How did you approach scheduling the material you had?
Star Wars is a huge phenomenon so I knew there was lots of material out there. I hunted through my own archive, YouTube and joined forums where people share their love for all things Star Wars. I was then able to lay down the film on a Final Cut Pro timeline and begin to flesh it out with the material I had gathered.
I grew up with film programmes like Clapperboard, so in many ways seeing the actors goofing around on location took me right back to my youth. Where did you find so much of this great footage?
I had recorded quite a lot of the material from the TV onto VHS and DVD over the years. From documentaries detailing special effects from the 80s, right up to webcasts from more recent years. I went looking everywhere.
Why did you make the documentary in a chronological fashion, matching the progression of the film?
I felt this should be a progression of the DVD commentary so I wanted to keep the film in chronological order and to let the film dictate the pace. The idea was to be able to watch your favourite film but in a entirely different way.
How long did it take you to produce these “filmumentaries”?
Building Empire took 6 months, Returning to Jedi took 8 months and Star Wars Begins took 4 years. The reason the last one took so long was because I had kids by that time and had lost time and motivation to get the job done. I also had a catastrophic hard drive crash that cost LOTS of money and lots of time to repair. I was fortunate enough to receive donations from fans, allowing me to cover 1/7th of the total cost of the recovery. Even then I had the task of reimporting much of the material. It was a rather dark period for the project.
I’ve seen a few interviews posted on your facebook page, and you have had over 2 million visits on you tube (surely more since last April!). Congratulations! Have you heard from Lucasfilm yet?
I’ve now had 2.5 Million views on my youtube videos, which just blows my mind. I’ve been interviewed by the BBC, TotalFilm and FHM and been mentioned in The New York Times. Crazy. I have heard that my films have made their may round ILM but have had no official word from Lucasfilm. I think because I have never made any money at all, that they are happy for me to continue. None of this is my intellectual material and I do not own the copyright. It is also not part of the ethos of the projects. I could have earned thousands of pounds or dollars but it just wouldn’t be right. Some people just don’t seem to get that. But I am genuinely happy just to spread a bit of Star Wars fan joy.
I see you were voted “Fan edit Of The Month” for February 2011 for your work on Star Wars Begins, by fanedit.org . Is there much interaction or friendly rivalry within the fan edit community?
The fan edit community, particularly at fanedit.org and original trilogy.com (my Star Wars home) Is full of such talented people, willing to use their time and money to create fan edits. For the most part there is a mutual respect.
Are there any other projects you would consider doing? What about Raiders Of The lost Ark? *crosses fingers* (This was very prescient of me!)
I really don’t have the time at the moment. I think I have already chanced my luck. I wouldn’t want to upset another movie studio!
Are you hopeful that George Lucas will clean up the Anchorhead footage for the Blu-ray? Your Star Wars Begins shows it off to the best degree I have seen so far.
I really do hope that Lucasfilm have listened to the fan community a little. After all, We are the people that are going to buy these blu rays. I would love to see the deleted scenes cleaned up but not altered. I would also like to see the rare making ofs and a proper commentary with cast members.
Finally, how can fans view your films?
Thanks Jamie, loving your work!
no worries mate.
Originally posted 2012-05-25 13:46:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter