Features Film

INTERVIEW: Natanael Salicrup and Gabriel Cruz – Directors of Star Wars: Shadows Within

Written by Davidde Gelmini

The Star Wars franchise is known for being welcoming towards independent, fan-made creations, so a new Star Wars fan film is always a warm addition to the family. Star Wars: Shadows Within currently needs your help to be made on Indiegogo, and you can check out our interview with writing and directing duo Natanael Salicrup and Gabriel Cruz below:

AP2HYC:  Is this a feature length film?

Cruz: Star Wars: Shadows Within is a short film that will run around 15 to 20 minutes. However, we are willing to increase the running time depending on the funds we acquire.

Natanael Salicrup: Originally I wrote a feature-length film, but due to finances, I decided to write a prequel/short which became Shadows Within.

AP2HYC: So the film is set during the Rebellion Era at the time of the Galactic Civil War?

Cruz: That is correct. The main storyline is set in between Episodes 5 and 6 with flashbacks set between Episodes 3 and 4, when the remaining Jedi were hunted.

AP2HYC: I understand that it follows a Jedi who survived Order 66?

Gabriel Cruz: That’s right. Our story follows a new character, Rieko Stryder, a former Jedi with a rather interesting and rare skill set.

Salicrup: Rieko and Ashana Stryder are Jedi siblings who survived the execution of Order 66. We follow Rieko’s story as he comes to terms with his inner demons and confronts his past.

AP2HYC: Will we see familiar faces from the films?

Salicrup: Oh yes, we will! I have several characters in mind to reveal in the story, both old and new faces; maybe some maybe small cameos while others will play a significant role in telling the story of Rieko and his journey.

AP2HYC: And will the big man himself, Darth Vader, appear?

Salicrup: Yes! Even though this is Reiko’s story, Darth Vader plays a pivotal role in our main hero’s search for redemption.

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AP2HYC: Are you including space battles and lightsaber duels?

Cruz: As much as we would love to have space battles, we will not be having one in this film. The time, funds, and complexity of creating a space battle is a bit beyond us at this time; at least, in order to do it well and professionally with the same quality that the rest of the film will reflect.

Salicrup: Originally, I wrote the stories without the space battle elements, even though a space battle would be quite awesome. For now, we just don’t have a budget to create one worthy of the Star Wars Universe.

AP2HYC: Will will see cool planets and creatures?

Cruz: We will briefly see a couple of planets, but no indigenous creatures.  However, we are trying to work on having aliens in and around some of our scenes.

AP2HYC: Can you talk about the film’s VFX?

Cruz: We plan on making the majority of our FX using camera tricks and practical effects on set. All those that we can’t do (i.e. lightsaber blades and blaster bolts) will be done by a Digital FX team to ensure that the quality of our effects matches the quality of the film.

Salicrup: When I was writing Shadows Within, I wanted most of the FX to be practical and a good blend of digital. Of course we will have our blaster bolts and lightsaber effects digital like the originals, but the real trick will be towards the end of Shadows Within. The finale will have a good mix of practical and digital FX; it will be quite a electrifying conclusion.

AP2HYC: What stage of production are you currently in?

Cruz: We are currently still in pre-production and working with an amazing team. We have crew members already working on locations, production design, concept art, and much more. We also have a great producer and first AD, Tommy Stein, who has been working hard to make sure we get everything ready for principle photography in the fall.

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AP2HYC: And it’s awesome that some of the 501st will appear; can you elaborate?

Salicrup: I originally met the man who is playing our Darth Vader (Weston Staggs) a couple of years ago at a midnight release for a video game, and he told me that he had a Vader costume.  I was intrigued since I had been writing notes and ideas for the script at the time, so we exchanged information that night and kept in touch. Later I found out that he was in the 501st and had more contacts for me to get in touch with, and everything has snowballed from there.

AP2HYC: Will Shadows Within please the diehard fans?

Cruz: Nat and I are both diehard fans of Star Wars; we have read a good bit of the books and comics, played endless hours of the games, collected memorabilia, and watched the movies countless times.  It is because of our fandom that I believe that we have a solid story anyone can enjoy, and diehard fans will feel does the original films justice.

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AP2HYC: Are you saddened by Disney’s decision to retcon the Expanded Universe?

Cruz: I am a bit saddened by Disney’s decision to retcon the EU, however, I understand why they did it.  Their decision makes it easier for them to lay down a new foundation and expansion similar to what they did with Marvel. This is also nothing new to us nerds. Comics have been doing this for a long time when they start a reboot of a certain series.  So far, I’m really happy with their decision to bring back Boba Fett and I look forward to seeing where they take things.

Salicrup: To be honest, I wasn’t surprised with Disney’s decision to retcon it. As much love as I had for the EU, in the end, it doesn’t change the fact that this universe didn’t exist in canon with George Lucas‘s Star Wars saga. The EU stayed strong for many years thanks to the fans, and George Lucas opened an invitation for the fans to build upon the universe. But like my co-director just said, I’m quite pleased with Disney’s decision to bring Boba Fett back from the dead.

AP2HYC: Unlike other franchises, Star Wars is very welcoming of fan-made independent productions, featuring competitions for them and encouraging them to be made. Are you thankful that the series is so open to fans telling their own stories?

Cruz: We love that Star Wars is open to people telling their own stories.  That’s how it pretty much worked with the novels and the original E.U. When they stopped doing the fan film competitions before Disney took over, we were a little disheartened, but we’re glad to see that they’ve come back and we look forward to seeing what others create.

Salicrup: I don’t know what compelled George Lucas to allow the fans to continue telling the stories, but I am glad that he did, or we wouldn’t have the Expanded Universe that we have today. We can film our own adventures and, with the help of YouTube, the fans can show the world their films. The freedom to make these stories has fueled fans to push themselves to write and create better films. Along with my co-director, we hope to make something memorable that will set the bar for fan films in the Star Wars Universe.

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AP2HYC: And you are working on a sequel, Star Wars: Light in the Darkness?

Salicrup: Star Wars: Light in the Darkness was actually the film I had written first, but due to finances, I decided to write the prequel to it which became Shadows Within. For now, we are focusing on building Shadows Within and, depending on it’s success, we will continue the story of Rieko Stryder and Darth Vader’s struggle in Light in the Darkness.

Are you excited to see Star Wars: Shadows Within? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Davidde Gelmini