Wednesday, May 11, 2005

'Star Wars' and the fracas over fan films - CNET

On the topic of interaction and drama...

The release of two big Star Wars films recently has brought up the topic of fan fiction. Two big Star Wars films? Damn straight!

Beating Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith to the audience by a month was a little production that took two years of weekends, a planet-wide group of volunteers and a fair amount of contra deals to get visual effects work done. If you haven't downloaded and watched Star Wars - Revelations yet, strike up the download quota and get to it! (It's just shy of 250Mb)

Anyway, I digress. While I was on leave last week CNet ran an interesting interview with the director of the Comparative Media Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Henry Jenkins, on Lucasfilm's handling (or mis-handling) of fan created fiction. It's worth a read.

'Star Wars' and the fracas over fan films - CNET

"As human beings, stories matter to us. We want to tell stories about great heroes. This is something Lucas understands very well. He likes to talk about Joseph Campbell and that tradition of heroes that emerged through the folklore or the mythological process. For thousands and thousands of years human beings have told stories about their shared heroes.

So the need to tell those stories, and to connect those stories didn't disappear just because we decided we were going to privatize storytelling in our country, commercialize it, turn it into a commodity and put it in the hands of massive corporations. People still want to connect to those stories, they still want to tell them and they still want to imagine possibilities that the primary storytellers never thought of.

And that's the way to think of fan creativity in general. It's a creativity that's basic human nature, it's something that's gone on for thousands of years. What's shifted is not that people want to tell stories about heroes. What's shifted is that we now have corporations who believe they can own those heroes lock, stock and barrel, and prevent anyone else from telling their stories.

Compare that to the way Lucasfilm handled its creation of the Massive Multi-player Online game Star Wars Galaxies.

"So the idea was, (present) the ideas while they were still being conceived, get feedback from consumers, build in consumer investment, turn a lot of the game over to consumers once it was out there and being played and build a community around the game. Again, it's like what game companies do with their consumer base, but it's not what movie companies do with their consumer base.

So if you're a "Star Wars" fan, you're being treated very differently depending on whether you're a gamer or a "Star Wars" filmmaker or a "Star Wars" fan fiction writer.

To me, Lucas is interesting in embodying the contradictions of where modern companies are. Where it's one franchise across media, and you're a fan of the franchise, your level of engagement is regulated to different degrees depending on which section of Lucas is dealing with you. Because even though it's an integrated company, in a way, these different parts of the company work with differing ideas and logics."

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