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Live Action Insite
Mos Eisely Multiplex InterviewJanuary 21, 1999
Interview by Clive Young
Used with permission from Clive Young and Mos Eisley Multiplex.
Jeff Allen Interview
First the basics--where are you, how old are you, what do you do for a living when you're not making clever shorts?
I'm a 27-year-old HTML monkey who works for a semi-large Internet development firm in Atlanta, GA.
When/how did you cook up the idea for the trailer?
At the beginning of 1998, I was contemplating doing a Reservoir Dogs / Star Wars spoof. I had built all these Stormtrooper costumes for my HOW TO BUILD A STORMTROOPER web site and was itching to do a short with them. About this time a good friend of mine, David Burns, discovered Kevin Smith movies for the first time and wanted to maybe do a Clerks spoof. We discussed it for a week or two and decided that a Clerks parody would be the better project to do.
I expect that part of the impetus to make the flick was to show off those great Stormtrooper costumes--to step backwards briefly then, what was your initial inspiration to make a Stormtrooper costume?
Basically, I just wanted to try some vacuum forming. I am a big fan of Star Wars, and the Stormtrooper costume was just the right project to test my skills. Boy, did I take on more than I could handle with that project! (Grin)
How long did it take to plan/write the trailer?
Writing the script was easy. We just copied the original Clerks trailer. It was the creation of original ideas that stumped us. It took about three months for us to come up with every gag that was in the final trailer. Hockey on the Deathstar? No way. Mousebot hockey? YEAH!
Was it shot on video or film--what make camera did you use?
We shot the trailer on video. We used the Sony TR-940 handycam. It was one of the last handycams made without the side LCD viewer. It's a great little camera, if I do say so myself. It houses a great number of effects. The black and white setting was one of the selling points on the camera.
How many people were involved in the crew, cast, etc?
I believe we had a final headcount of 13 on the cast and crew. As with any other independent film, the cast is the crew. Kurt Allen, my brother, not only built sets, costumes, and props, but he also played Trooper Dante and a few other parts in the short. Our sound editor, David Burns, played Royal Guard Silent Bob and random Deathstar Hallway Troopers.
When did you shoot it?
We finally got off our lazy rear ends and shot the trailer during August, 1998. It was a really hectic time for all of us. Most of the crew works in the advertising industry, and August is a really busy time for us. How we finished the shoot in three weeks and kept it looking as good as it does is beyond me.
Where was it shot, did you have to make special arrangements to get the location?
Most of the scenes were shot at the Classic City General Store in downtown Athens, Georgia, USA. I tried every convenience store for ten miles around before being allowed to film there. It seems that corporate America has a problem with having a film crew in their store. Jamil, the owner of Classic City, had no such qualms. He let us come in near closing time and shoot for about thirty minutes while he closed up. The video store, Video Library in Athens, was also nice enough to let us shoot there during business hours. Thank god for "Mom and Pop" businesses!
For such a short film, this appears to have had a lot of work done on props, costumes, and especially that Death Star corridor set. What sort of a budget did you have?
Budget? What's that? Oh, you mean my paychecks! We funded the whole project out of my wallet. All in all it cost about $1,000 US to shoot the trailer. The costumes nearly killed me. We had to custom build seven of them. If you ever wonder why you don't see that many live action Star Wars spoofs, it's because of the costumes. A Stormtrooper costs just over $200.00 in materials alone. Greedo ran about $100.00 after we rigged him up with pyrotechnics (which never made it into the film).
How did you decide to build the corridor set instead of shooting that elsewhere?
It all revolved around the hockey scene. My first idea was to put the hockey scene on a catwalk like the one Luke and Leia swung across in Star Wars: A New Hope. I tried everything I could to get us into a local science center that had a catwalk, but once again the corporate snake reared its ugly head and wanted a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo in order for us to shoot in their facility. Time was getting short, so we just decided to shoot the scene in a hallway. It worked well, too.
How long was the shooting and editing of the project?
Shooting spanned three weeks. We actually only filmed for about 20 hours: a few hours here, a few hours there, and about eight hours in the Deathstar hallway. Editing went much more smoothly. I did a rough QuickTime edit in Adobe Premier on a Macintosh at work and then took that into a professional editing room where Brad Smith did the beta video version. All that took about eight hours. Sound editing took another twenty hours total.
What equipment did you use for editing?
We used a Macintosh Media 100 system to do the video editing. It's not as smooth as the high-end AVID systems, or so I'm told. I wouldn't know. I do know that it beats the heck out of editing between two VCRs and hitting the Stop/Record buttons. Brad Smith and Eddie Kesler, who did the final version of the video, were amazing to work with. They both deserve high marks on a job well done. We edited the sound with a Macintosh 8500 over at my friend David Burns' house. He should get high marks also for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Do you have any plans for the short--film festivals, etc.?
No. The most I plan to do with the short is to send it to sci-fi conventions for their amateur video contests or festivals. I don't feel it is worthy of Sundance or anything like that. I'll save those festivals for my later works (snicker).
Do you know if ViewAskew or Lucasfilm have heard about it?
Yes, ViewAskew does know about the trailer. In fact, they leaked the trailer in its BETA form to the Net in the fall of '98. They are mighty impressed with it.As for Lucasfilm, no one has contacted me saying anything about the trailer, so I can only assume that no one there has seen it. Darn.
Have you made any other films?
I've been playing with short films for about 10 years now. Trooper Clerks was my first attempt at doing anything of quality, though. Most of the rest were shot on late 1980's camcorders and edited with two VCR's. Ooh, that brings back memories. Bad editing. Bad editing! (Jeff curls into a ball and sucks his thumb).
Any plans for more movies (star wars-related or not)?
My Studio Creations group is planning to do the Reservoir Dogs spoof in February of 1999. After that, we have a 15-minute short planned for the summer of '99 based on the Star Trek series. Then we plan to go into production on a feature film. That's where all this is heading, right into doing a full blown low-budget feature film. We'll probably send that one straight to the video stores, not the silver screen.