Interview: Casey Pugh, “Star Wars Uncut”


Star Wars Uncut director Casey Pugh. Photo by Joe Martinez.

UPDATE: Star Wars Uncut will have an encore screening on Friday, November 30 at 11:59pm in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center!

Film Society of Lincoln Center's brand new Midnight Movies series, which features screenings of diverse genre fare every Friday night at 11:59pm all summer long, kicks off tonight with a truly unique cinematic experience. Join us in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center for the Galactic Premiere (!) of the epic, fan-made Star Wars Uncut. This crowdsourced masterpiece is a nearly shot-by-shot remake of the 1977 George Lucas film that gave rise to a fandom like no other, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. We talked to the film's creator, Casey Pugh, about the experience of making this singular tribute, the power of crowdsourcing, and the importance of Stars Wars in general.

I feel like it is blasphemous to even ask this, but why Star Wars?

I'm a huge Star Wars fan but more importantly, It's the Michael Jackson of movies. I can not think of a film with a larger fan-base, which made it a perfect medium to pitch this crazy idea. I knew I had to take advantage of a pre-existing community in order for Uncut to actually work.

There are so many inventive scenes in Uncut. I'm sure you were expecting some LEGO and action figure scenes when you started the project, but what were some scenes that really impressed and surprised you?

The most impressive part was that people would actually look at all the preexisting scenes and try to do something different.

Almost every film style was created for Uncut: Film noir, parody, musical, stop-motion, remakes better than the original, western, animated, IM chat, foreign, documentary, home video, and even a scene as if Michael Bay had made it. This list goes on and on.

Beyond just filmmaking, this was an exercise in crowdsourcing and using the internet in new ways. What did this project teach you about the internet and the online community? 

When I first announced my idea in 2009, I failed to realize that this could end up being a real film. I'm a creative engineer at heart. My goal was heavily focused on the idea of recreating a film as fast as possible. I obsess about process and wanted to push the limits of crowdsourcing. Managing the anonymous internet is not a simple task, but if you give them the right tools and focus, the online community can be immensely creative and powerful. Thousands of strangers can work together to create something that everyone loves.

Speaking of community, many of the scenes were made by people from all around the world. Do you happen to know approximately how many countries this project was spread across?

This just goes to show how massive the Star Wars community. We had scenes submitted from 36 countries total.

Here's the full list: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Hong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New, Portugal, Russian Federation, Singapore, South, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay

Have you met or spoken with many of the filmmakers/actors in Uncut? What have they had to say to you?

I haven't met many, but spoken to a bunch. Everyone is incredibly positive and grateful for giving them the opportunity. A lot of them are rising talent and loved the chance to appear on film:  filmmakers, artists, musicians, animators and comedians. Perhaps the most rewarding feedback for me were the people who never created anything on video until Star Wars Uncut showed up. It enabled them to be extremely creative and passionate.

The crowdsourcing part of the project wrapped a couple years ago. Have there been any new social media or other technological advances in those years that you wish you could have used or would like to use for Empire Uncut?

Surprisingly, not a lot has evolved and I'd probably still use the same technology. If you know how to build a basic website and convey a message, anyone can create a crowdsourced project. The hard part is getting the word out and managing the crowd. Fortunately social media has developed a lot in the past few years.

Were there any scenes that made it into the film that you just don't like as a Star Wars fan? For example, someone gets to re-shoot an iconic line or scene and you feel they missed the mark?

Not at all. In fact I told all the contributors to be as creative as possible when recreating their scenes. Uncut is predominantly parody focused which makes for a very entertaining film. If Uncut were a shot-for-shot remake of A New Hope, then it would probably be not as fun to watch. Nothing is as good as the original.

Who would you say is your favorite minor Star Wars character?

Boba Fett was always my favorite. I love all the masked characters.

Star Wars Uncut has its big-screen debut tonight at 11:59pm in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center as part of our Midnight Movies series. Don't forget to check out the rest of the summer lineup, which features genre classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Lost Highway, The Evil Dead and Vampire's Kiss!

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