Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Opening Crawl

Star Wars is non-linear. It may be a function of the way it was presented, chronologically, but it influences how the story is told.

Think about Yoda. If you watched Episode I first, then by the time you got to Episode V, you wouldn’t be at all surprised that Luke has been talking to Yoda all along. If anything, you are tempted to talk to the screen. Yoda is not a panto villain and Star Wars makes the most sense if it’s all told out of sequence.*

I’m not even going to mention the revelation at the end of Episode V. But most of the storyline hinges on this information, which is why it has to be the cliffhanger ending at the end of the very first story arc. And once you start thinking that way, it is a short step to downloading all of the films and remixing them to suit a different vision. Or so I've heard.

These days, I think of Star Wars as a set of nested flashbacks that inform the ongoing story. And that ongoing story is three story arcs long: The Training of Luke Skywalker, Adventure in the Galaxy at Large to Advance the Plot and The Rise and Fall of the Emperor Palpatine.

I took the events of all six film as source material that could be used or discarded as necessary for the tightest story. Some events were rescued from the deleted scenes. Other – unnecessary – events were consigned to the same place. Pieces of the storyline were highlighted and others muted, to suit a different flow. A different way of looking at the whole.

Originally, they were three four-hour movies. Then I realized that only a die-hard Star Wars fanatic would actually watch them in that format. I realized that if I chopped the story down into ten minute segments, I could present them in a format that people would be willing to watch.

The idea was that each segment was an episode in something like a Saturday-morning serial. The segment might show you the ongoing plot or it might show you flashbacks or montages. You never knew. It was called “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away…”

There were three seasons, each with a solid, definable story arc.

Season One is called “To Become a Jedi”

Season Two is called “From a Certain Point of View”

Season Three is called “As I Have Forseen”

However, the thing is that twelve hours of footage is twelve hours of footage, no matter how you present it. Since I’ve posted it on YouTube, though, it has shown me something very interesting about the way people consume media.

I discovered that one or two chunks of footage were being viewed more than others. A lot more. As of this evening, the count stands at twelve thousand for the one and ten thousand for the other.** And yet, the least viewed segment has a paltry thirty-nine views. Which means that no more than thirty-nine people have actually watched the whole thing.

(If you are curious, the single segment that I like the best is called "I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing," the beginning of Season Three.)

The comments are interesting as well. There are several comments that indicate that the person didn't bother to check this website to see why the footage was posted on YouTube. Maybe people are so used to the fact that pop-culture is now keyword-searchable that nobody thinks twice about why it is that way.

During the course of this activity, I learned a lot about file formats, Sony Vegas 6, BitTorrent, format translation software, video editing, visual storytelling and how a single second can remove the gravitas and drama from an entire sequence. Or restore it.

Still, this is the Star Wars that I see in my head. I hope you enjoy it.

*Mind you, this is an argument that you have to be above a certain age to understand. I used it on my cousin’s nine-year-old son and he pointed out that he’s always known who Yoda was. That’s merchandising for you.

**One features Jango Fett and the other features his son. In many ways, they are the secret heroes of the second season, a thread that runs through both stories.