Today I am very happy to present to you a guest post by Bradley Weatherholt, the director of theupcoming The Prequels Strike Back, a documentary about the Star Wars prequels which will feature fan interviews and radical new theories. It has just reached its stretch goal of $7,500 on IndieGogo but is still open to contributions for another 31 days! The more money they raise, the better this documentary will be and the more love the Prequels will receive. But why don’t I pass the word to Bradley?
Will the Prequels Strike Back? by Bradley Weatherholt
The 90’s were a fuzzy time. The 70’s had disco, Nixon, and bell-bottoms. When you think about the 80’s, you can see the hair, you can hear the pop music, and you can feel the aftershock from the fall of the Berlin Wall. Even the most recent decade, not yet fully aged, has a clear personality defined by smart phones, terrorism, and comic book movies. But the 90’s are fuzzy, ambiguous.
It is in the ambivalence of this decade that one of the most controversial films released. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a case study in fan expectation. Never before had a fanbase been so puzzled to find a reaction.
Fans had so many questions. Who is this Jar Jar creature? What does an obscure bureaucratic debate on taxation and trade routes have to do with anything? Why is the most menacing villain in cinema’s history being portrayed as a prepubescent boy?
In the early days of the internet, the confusion surrounding the Star Wars prequels cemented to a dogma of disappointment and hate. All the while, something quieter persisted. In an underground movement, academics and theorists provided their defenses to the prequels.
The phenomena of the Star Wars prequels, the fan reactions, and the sometimes hushed dissenting opinion, provide an endless amount of drama and content for a documentary.
It is with this wealth of material that independent film studio Ministry of Cinema will bring to screen The Prequels Strike Back, a documentary project supported and funded by fans on crowdfunding site IndieGoGo.
As director of the project, I’m drawn to many of the commonplace criticisms waylaid at the prequels. Is the acting a result of wooden execution or a deliberate preference toward pre-method styles? Did Lucas cross the line with special effects? Does the plot meander or is there purpose?
The film seeks to explore these questions fairly, but out of an intellectual necessity, it must place an emphasis on the academic and substantive theories that, like sapphires in the mud, remain buried under the heap of disappointment and fanboy vitriol that floods the internet.
I am fully aware of the shortcomings of such a strategy. You can go on and on about high protein content or the health benefits of Omega-3 acids, but reasoned argument won’t necessarily make someone like the taste of fish. And quite frankly, this may be for the best.
Shining light on some of the academic work behind the prequels, such as Mike Klimo’s sublime work on ring composition or the political commentary of Dr. Anne Lancashire, will undoubtedly invite a certain criticism proposed in an often-asked question: “Aren’t you reading too much into this?”
Though it may be wise for a reasoned thinker to always ask this question, there’s a certain blasphemy to it still. Telling a film theorist he or she is over analyzing a film is like telling the holy man or shaman that he is reading too much into scripture. It is to tell a mother she sees too far into her infant child’s eyes. Is it better to be the poet who stares too long at the petals of a flower or the cynic who won’t glance at the radiance of the sun for fear of harming his eyes? All of this has a grandiose pretense about it, so allow me to take it down a notch.
A few months ago I worked as a stockbroker until I quit suddenly to pursue this documentary full time. I mention this not only to express my dedication to the project (or how lucky I am to have a spouse who won’t kill me for such a decision), but also to pass on some wisdom of that trade. In finance, there’s a saying. You have to spend money to make money. In cinema, you have to spend money to make movies. The average micro-budget documentary spends $1,000 per minute to bring an idea to the screen. The math is pretty simple for what it costs, on average, for our goal of a 90 minute runtime.
But I’m not worried so much about averages. At the Ministry of Cinema, we long have a history of transforming a few bucks into a sizable production. With an almost nonexistent budget of a few hundred dollars on our Western short film, we shot at multiple museums, rode horseback alongside buffalo and deer, donned an entire cast in period specific dress, and much more.
This is not to say we don’t need help. The success of past productions relied on a community of support. Now we have the greatest community, the Star Wars fanbase, to bear us on its shoulders. Because of this giant, we soared past our feature goal of $7,500 in less than a month.
With this success, let me be so bold as to continue to ask for support. Every dollar we receive will be spent making a better picture. It is hard to quantify this without being exhaustive, but as this production grows, so too do its expenses. From legal to location, costs add up.
But we wouldn’t continue to ask for help unless the project merited it.
Like good mythology, there’s something for everyone with the Star Wars prequels. The athlete can marvel equally at the strength of Hercules or the athleticism of Darth Maul. The teenager can appreciate the beauty and smarts of Padme as he would Persephone. The psychologist is provided with infinite material from not only Oedipus, but also Anakin.
If one looks at mythology and their response is to ridicule the temperamental reversals in Odysseus’s nature or the absurd plot behind the Iliad, he or she may miss the point. Perhaps it is this attitude we have toward the Trojan War that we must adopt with Star Wars.
With an open mind you may find it possible to unlearn the prequels. Who knows, you might even acquire a taste for fish.