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Fans are creating their own versions of the Star Wars films

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Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?

Grassroots Creativity Meets the Media Industry

General Overview

  • Fans are creating their own versions of the Star Wars films

  • The Internet has provided fans with a more visibility by offering them a channel for film production

  • Fan film is starting to make its way into the mainstream. Amateurs Commercial media

  • This encourages broad participation, grassroots creativity (regular people sharing their ideas and creating a community through this process. Ideas passed down and circulated with no compensation of clear delineation of ownership) and a gift economy (goods not for public sale but just to be seen and shared)

  • The Internet has forced the media industry to confront this new culture for its own commercial interests. Some utilize the culture for their benefit, others fear user control

  • Two responses of the media to this grassroots creativity: Prohibitionist (regulates and criminalizes fan participation- especially within film, T.V and music) and Collaborationist (see fans as contributing to content and promoting the franchise-more so new media like the Internet and games)

  • Over time, Star Wars has practiced degrees of each response

History of Grassroots Creativity

  • 20th century: Displacement of folk culture by mass media. Commercial industry set high standards that grassroots performers could not reach. Messages being sent out were the ones that mattered most to the public  folk culture pushed underground

  • Grassroots fan communities growing in response to mainstream content  creation of popular culture

  • 21st century: Public reemergence of grassroots creativity. People using new technologies to recirculate media content. Peak with the Internet- reliable system of distribution  leads to grassroots convergence (folk process in the digital age)

  • Visibility of grassroots convergence poses as a threat to media industries and the control over their intellectual property

Amateur Film Going Public

  • Amateur defined by low budget, non-professional filmmaker and distributed non-commercially

  • Amateur filmmakers developing a global following. Prior to this, amateur films being made and shown in private (usually the home) and documenting family life. Of little interest to those outside the family

  • Digital filmmaking changes this: The Web moves the process from private to public, allows for easier editing methods and high tech special effects

  • Private to Public: Public audience, public content (rethinking media generated content) and public in their dialogue with commercial film

  • Star Wars brand and mass marketing give filmmakers the resources to make the films by using props and costumes from Star Wars collection like action figures, sounds from Star Wars movies and video games and John William’s soundtrack to the

  • Both the fans and media industries influence on another: works by fans can be made from mainstream materials and works by fans can generate content for media industries

Star Wars and Fan Participation

  • Official Star Wars fan competition, Lucas personally chooses winner. Shows some fan appreciation

  • The Star Wars industry allows fans to create and share materials but only if these actions are controlled by the industry

  • Amy Harmon, VP of marketing for Lucas Films: “We love our fans. We want them to have fun. But if in fact somebody is using our characters to create a story in itself, that’s not in the spirit of what we think fandom is about. Fandom is about celebrating the story the way it is”

  • Basically, the franchise can be created to a certain extent

  • 1970s: Lucasfilm actively encouraged fan fiction (collaborationist)

  • 1980s: Situation changed, fan fiction had to adhere to certain rules. No erotic fan fiction or warnings issued (prohibitionist)

  • 1990s: Web allowed all types of fan fiction to flourish, hard to control

  • 1996 corporate notice: “Since the internet is growing so fast, we are now in the process of developing guidelines for how we can enhance the ability of Star Wars fans to communicate to each other without infringing on Star Wars copyrights and trademarks”

  • Internet causing increased scrutiny and control

  • 2000: Lucasfilm gives fans free web space to post content but it became the studio’s intellectual property, meaning it could use the content without paying the generator or remove it without warning (prohibitionist/collaborationist)

  • November, 2000: Lucasfilm makes the official host site for Star Wars fan films. Provides fans with use of sound effects and runs contests but certain rules

  • “Films must parody the existing Star Wars universe, or be a documentary of the Star Wars fan experience. No ‘fan fiction’- which attempts to expand on Star Wars universe- will be accepted. Films must not make use of copyrighted Star Wars music or video, but may use action figures and the audio clips provided in the production kit section of this site…” (prohibitionist/collaborationist)

  • Shows the regulations of mass culture applied to folk culture

  • System has advantages/disadvantages: Films can be made more public if they follow the rules or films can be hidden (or made less public through less official channels)

  • Argument that corporations must allow the public to “participate in the construction and representation of its creations or they will eventually compromise the commercial value of their properties”

  • Corporations have the right to copyright but in their best interest to loosen restrictions to keep fans

  • Largest share of media marketplace to those who encourage participation

“Star Wars Galaxies” Video Game

  • New media technologies like video games take a more collaborationist approach

  • More of a community activity, players have a sense of ownership

  • Multi-player online role playing game, fans can be content generators

  • Forum where players can comment and give feedback

  • Fan filmmakers are using sets, props and galaxies in Star Wars video games to make films

  • Moved to more mainstream practices: Revamped game and dismissed fan contributions and lost customers


  • Future for grassroots culture unknown

  • Media companies taking different approaches toward fan generated content

  • Public and companies must distinguish between what is fair use

  • Media industries must distinguish between amateur appropriation and commercial competition, for profit use and barter economy and creative repurposing and piracy

  • Collaborationist approach spreading: Shows that producers can increase loyalty to brand if they give fans a say, a space for creativity and recognize their contributions

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