Knoxvillian's 'Star Wars' spoof an award contender
The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Friday, April 19, 2002
by Betsy Pickle
No question, the Force is strong in "Darth Vader's Psychic
Hotline," but will it be strong enough to overcome the Jeid mind tricks
of the competition?
That's the challenge Knoxvillian John Hudgens' "Star Wars" parody
faces in the Star Wars Fan Film Awards, a contest taking place right now
in a galaxy near, near at hand - http://starwars.atomfilms.com.
Fourty-four films - culled from several hundered submissions, are vying
for a number of prizes, including an audience award and the grand prize,
the "George Lucas Selects Award", which will be determined by the "Star
Wars" emperor himself.
"Fan filmmaking's been really popular on the 'net for quite a few
years," says Hudgens. "Lucas has never actually done anything to
officially endorse it before now."
With "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" arriving in
theaters on May 17, a fan-film contest is a great way to focus the
energies of the faithful. Voting ends Friday, April 26, and the winners
will be announced Mat 5 on the website and at the Star Wars Celebration
II, which takes place May 3-5 in Indianapolis.
Hudgens directs "Darth Vader's Psychic Hotline" from a script he
wrote with Lowell Cunningham, creator of the comic book that inspired
the 1997 film "Men in Black" - and the sequel, "Men in Black 2", due
July 3. Night owl Cunningham hot on the concept while watching
psychic-ad heavy late-night television.
"It struck me that there are a lot of lines that Darth Vader has
that are like the psychic hotline," says Cunningham. "The thing about
'search your feelings' - John Edward could say that; Miss Cleo would say
Hudgens and Cunningham didn't get serious about making the short
film until the contest was announced. Then they brainstormed over pizza
and drew on their familiarity with the "Star Wars" saga to craft lines
for the hotline callers that reference the geography and mythology of
Lucas' universe. Hudgens met the musical team he would hire to create
the soundtrack, MOB Studio, at the Valleyfest Independent Film Festival
Hudgens, the senior promotions producer at WBXX, Channel 20, shot
his cat - Robert "Vaderpainter" Bean of Georgia as Darth Vader, and
locals Heather Harris as the announcer and Robert Alley and Denny
Humbard as testimonial givers - against a blue screen, and then created
"The sets are all completely computer-generated," he says. As Vader
stands on the bridge of his star destroyer, viewers can see through the
"window" over his shoulder a variety of spacehips passing by, not all of
them regulation "Star Wars" craft.
Hudgens provides the voice of Darth Vader, and Cunningham voices a
skeptic phoning from the Death Star. Among the celebrities calling in
are "Babylon 5" star Claudia Christian and filmmaker Mike Jittlov.
"I just recorded them straight off the phone," he says. "I didn't
have to go to California or anything to record them... It saved me a
step in processing."
Through the years, Hudgens has made contacts at numerous science
fiction conventions, where he is renowned for crafting "The Empire
Strikes Quack" (a marriage of "Star Wars" footage with the audio from
the Daffy Duck cartoon "Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century") as well
as promotional music videos for "Babylon 5." He originally got into
"Star Wars" parodies to teach himself editing when he was a college
student in the 1980s.
"You can't distribute them or make money off them or anything like
that," he says. "But there's been a big community of people making 'Star
Wars' parodies and short films ever since 'Hardware Wars' back in 1978."
Hudgens thinks he has a contender with "Darth Vader's Psychic
Hotline." The contest entries range from 45 seconds to nearly 28 minutes
in length, but at 4:59, Hudgens' film is in line with most of the
"Obviously, we're shooting for the audience award, which is the one
thing we can affect," he said, "and hopefully George Lucas will like it,
so we're shooting for that award as well."
'Star Wars' parody runner-up among fans
The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Friday, May 10, 2002
by Betsy Pickle
"Darth Vader's Psychic Hotline", a "Star Wars" parody by Knoxvillian
John Hudgens, was a runner-up in the Audience Award category in the Official
"Star Wars" Fan Film Awards.
The Sci-Fi Channel will showcase the award winners in "The Star
Wars Fan Film Awards," a special premiering at 8pm Sunday. Filmmaker
Kevin Smith will host the show, which will feature clips from the new
"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" as well as comments from
George Lucas on the winners, announced at last weekend's Star Wars
Celebration II in Indianapolis.
The contest's top prize, the George Lucas Selects Award, went to
"Christmas Tauntauns," which won $3000 and a trophy. "Tauntauns"
director Matt Bagshaw sported a "Darth Vader's Psychic Hotline" button
during his appearance on "Good Morning America" on Tuesday.
Attendance at the three-day Celebration II reportedly reached
70,000 - 20,000 more than projected. Among the special guests was a
certain young actor who plays Anakin Skywalker in "Episode II."
Encore presentations of "The Star Wars Fan Film Awards" will be at
12am and 11pm Monday, May 13; 8 and 11pm Friday, May 17; 10am Sunday May
19; 5pm Monday, May 20; and 12am Thursday, May 23. The winners may also
be seem at www.atomfilms.com.