Features Film

INTERVIEW: Thomas Brown – Writer/Director of Star Wars – In the Shadow of Death

Written by Davidde Gelmini

Star Wars: In the Shadow of Death is an awesome-sounding new fan production that will be entered into (and hopefully win) the 2016 Fan Film Awards at Celebration London, and you can help to make this a reality by contributing to the film here. Writer/director Thomas Brown gave us this exclusive interview:

AP2HYC: So this is set in between Episode III and IV?

Brown: Yes, it’s set shortly before Star Wars: Rebels takes place. Vader and the Emperor are being evil, and they are dispatching trained Jedi-killing machines, Inquisitors, to hunt down the remaining jedi, and the “children of the force.”

AP2HYC: And the protagonist, Mia, is the daughter of a Jedi who survived Order 66?

Brown: Mia was about two years-old when her parents sent her to become a Jedi. It was on her way to Coruscant that Order 66 was issued. Her Jedi chaperone, fearing for both of their lives, raised her as his own child, training her in secret.

AP2HYC: Will we see any familiar characters?

Brown: We’re not recasting anyone, so the only familiar “characters” we’ll be seeing are the spaceships and stormtroopers.

AP2HYC: As the Empire was in power at that time, will we see stormtroopers, TIE Fighters, Star Destroyers etc?

Brown: Ha ha, yeah! A squadron of stormtroopers accompany the Inquisitors. They find our heroes on a remote forest moon (not Endor), and we get to see their Star Destroyer and Troop Transport they use to land on the planet.

AP2HYC: Will there be a lot of VFX like spaceships and lightsaber fights etc?

Brown: We are trying to do a lot in-camera, but that being said, we will have quite a bit of lightsaber combat, blaster fire, etc.

AP2HYC: How are you going about designing costumes and props? I understand that you want it to feel ‘lived-in’ like the original trilogy?

Brown: We have gone back to the concept art of the original Star Wars movie, as well as all that we can get a hold of from Star Wars: Rebels. We’re taking the concepts and designs, and designing original costumes and props. And yes, we are going for that “lived-in” feel, so we will be properly distressing everything and just creating a history in the details.

One of the things we’re most excited about is that we are going to be making the Inquisitor’s spinning double-bladed lightsaber. It’s going to look awesome and terrifying.

AP2HYC: Will there be monster, aliens, and droids?

Brown: As of right now, no. Making one of the Inquisitors an alien and having a droid are both stretch goals for an Indiegogo campaign.

AP2HYC: And you can be cryptic in the answer for this question in fear of spoilers, but does the titular ‘Shadow of Death’ have a specific meaning?

Brown: It does, and I can tell you… most of the meaning. Currently, our characters are living in the shadow of death… the Republic has fallen, the Jedi Order destroyed, living a normal life… gone. Fear plays a very large part of our story.

AP2HYC: Can you talk about the cast and crew?

Brown: Of course! I’m so excited about our cast and small, but growing crew. We cast Taylor Moss as our lead, Mia, and she is brilliant. We read quite a few talented young actors for this part, and as she is an adopted daughter, ethnicity wasn’t ever an issue; we simply wanted the best actor to play the part and she killed her audition. The girl has an understanding that many adult actors don’t have without years of experience. I play her “father” in the film, and we have a great working chemistry that will translate very well to the screen. The most recent thing I’ve done was a feature film called Dark Ground, where I played one of the leads, and that should be coming out to a film festival near you sometime in 2016.

Alex Raaen, our cinematographer, is still in school and has already started working in commercials. He’s very talented, and Josh Jersild, a life-long Star Wars buff like myself, has agreed to compose an original score for the film that should fit seamlessly with the end of Jedi and the beginning of Rebels.

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AP2HYC: When and where do you plan to film?

Brown: Our plan is to film in November/December in and around the Indianapolis area. We’ve got some great national parks nearby that will serve as an excellent backdrop for our forest moon. And we won’t have to spend a lot of time removing things like power-lines and the like.

AP2HYC: So you’re going to enter this into the 2016 Fan Film Awards at Celebration London?

Brown: That’s the plan!  But that is contingent on reaching our funding goal, or at least most of it. We really want to tell this story in a way that feels like it takes place in the Star Wars cinematic universe.  If we feel more work needs to be done, we will submit for the 2017 awards, but our goal is 2016 so that it comes out on the heels of The Force Awakens.

AP2HYC: Are you sad about Disney retconning the Expanded Universe?

Brown: No, not at all. It doesn’t do anything to diminish the work there, and it frees LucasFilm up to tell the new and exciting stories they want without being pigeon-held to stories that would require recasting and all that jazz.

AP2HYC: Whenever I interview people making independent Star Wars films, I always ask how they feel about the series being so open and welcoming to fans telling their own stories?

Brown: It’s awesome! They know and share the same love for Star Wars that their audience has for the series, and encourage us to imagine with them. I love that this is a thing, and that Disney brought back the Fan Film Awards. Not for the awarding, but the celebrating of our collective love for Star Wars.

AP2HYC: Although this is a short, will it feel like a feature Star Wars film?

Brown: Oh, yeah! Of course it won’t feel like a feature in length, obviously, but it will have the same weight and visual texture that a full-blown Star Wars movie would have. Something that could easily play, as a short, in front of a feature film. Much like the ’40s serials that inspired this whole thing in the first place.

Are you excited to check out Star Wars – In the Shadow of Death? Tell us what you think in the comments or on our Twitter page.

About the author

Davidde Gelmini