By Tim Pelan
In what seems difficult to see as anything other than a case of sour grapes, Lucasfilm has successfully ordered the removal of Jamie Benning's Star Wars filmumentary tribute, Returning To Jedi, from YouTube.
Apparently Lucasfilm was asked to look at the filmumentary recently, and then 20th Century Fox ordered the removal on the grounds of copyright infringement. Jamie has also removed his other extremely popular filmumentaries, Star Wars Begins, Building Empire, and preliminary work on his soon to be released Raiding The Lost Ark, previously covered in my interview with him. He intends to put these on Vimeo instead; Star Wars Begins has already been successfully transferred to vimeo, and Raiding has specifically been edited for higher quality viewing in this format.
The news of the Lucas empire striking back first broke via Jamie's Twitter stream on the evening of Thursday January 26. Jamie isn't the only fan film maker to feel the heavy hand of Lucas. Adrian Sayce, who has "remastered" Star Wars to correct colour grading, special effects errors, and added subtle effects, has been barred from uploading more videos to facebook of his new edit of The Empire Strikes Back.
This clampdown (after more than 3 million hits for Jamie's work) comes after an in-depth piece with George Lucas in the New York Times on January 17, around the battle to release his tribute to brave Tuskegee airmen in WWII drama, Red Tails. In that story, Lucas spoke of his frustration with the fan community – the very people who helped make him the success he is today. Interestingly, many fans instead picked up on other comments where he said he was retiring from making blockbusters, and missed the warning here:
" 'I think there are a lot more important things in the world than feuds with fan boys,' Lucas says with a kind of weary diffidence," it reports. Lucas went further: "On the internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie. I'm saying: 'Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.' "
With the greatest of respect, Lucas is missing the point. No one makes these fan-edits or filmumentaries for monetary gain. Their makers clearly state they are not for sale, and are done purely to feed the love the massive fan base has for the Star Wars universe, and the tales behind the creation of the films.
Lucas is more corporate machine now than man – I wouldn't say "twisted and evil", but a sourpuss, battered down by criticism. It seems he feels his Blu-ray extras are the only way archive material is to be experienced. Ironic, since the "new" commentaries from several different sources seem inspired by Jamie's own work. Here's hoping Jamie Benning gets Raiding The lost Ark out on Vimeo on schedule – it's due on February 6. Watch this space.