Nov. 14, 2022

FAN FILM THEATER: Fan films of the 90s and 2000s (with Azeem of TFN Fan Films)

FAN FILM THEATER: Fan films of the 90s and 2000s (with Azeem of TFN Fan Films)

Recollections from the heyday of Star Wars fan films


Desktop editing software, consumer video equipment, and a renewed interest in Star Wars coincided in the late 1990s to spawn an explosion of fan-made Star Wars movies. Josh welcomes Jeff, who went by the handle Azeem when he ran fanfilms.com and TheForce.Net Fan Films from 1999-2005, to discuss the fan film phenomenon.


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Transcript

[00:00:00] JOSH: Welcome to Trash Compactor. I'm Josh, and you know, one of the things that's special about Star Wars is the way it inspires others to create and add to the universe, be it making artwork or writing fan fiction.

[00:00:13] And today we're gonna be discussing a very specific form of inspired art that, of the fan film. For those not familiar, Wikipedia has a pretty, , comprehensive definition of what a fan film is. A fan film is a film or video inspired by a film, TV program, comic, book, or video game created by fans rather than by the sources, copyright holders or creators. Fan filmmakers have traditionally been amateurs, but some of the more notable films have actually been produced by professional filmmakers as film school class projects, or as demonstration reels.

[00:00:42] Fan films vary tremendously in quality as well as in length from short feaux teaser trailers for non-existent motion pictures to full length motion pictures. End quote. Fan films have been with Star Wars since pretty much the beginning with the infamous Hardware Wars, a parody film that came out in 1978, but in the late nineties and early two thousands, right around the time that technology allowed George Lucas to make his prequel films, that very same technology fueled an explosion of fan filmmaking.

[00:01:09] And it's this period that we're gonna be dealing with today. And joining me to partake in that discussion is the person who ran The Force.net Fan Films during the initial explosion of fan filmmaking from 2000 to 2005 ish. Is that correct, Jeff?

[00:01:24] JEFF (aka AZEEM): That is correct.

[00:01:26] JOSH: So this was before YouTube, before it was so, so easy to get a video on the internet, so it's not like you could just make a video and put it up for all the world to see. And TheForce.net Fan FIlms served as a platform to get films seen, by people. So I'm very pleased to welcome Jeff who ran TheForce.net Fan Films to Trash Compactor.

[00:01:46] Hello, Jeff.

[00:01:48] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Hello, Josh. Thanks for having me.

[00:01:50] JOSH: So first off, was there anything that I just said that , was inaccurate or that you, uh, would like to set straight about that period of fan filmmaking?

[00:01:59] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah, so. Just to, you're absolutely correct. Hardware Wars was the, uh, the grandfather of, of all the fan films. Um, and it really was, and I got 97 when, uh, Troops, and I'm sure we'll talk about that here. But that's, that was really the resurgence of fan films and really got a lot of people involved, especially in, um, in the Southern California area.

[00:02:25] And I think really led to the Reser, you know, that that time period being so special for so many Star Wars fans.

[00:02:30] JOSH: No, absolutely. And, uh, for those unfamiliar, Troops was a Star Wars, mash up with the show cops with like a a dash of Fargo, I wanna say, given the accents of the troopers. But it following a couple of storm troopers around and they, investigate, um, a domestic dispute and it's between Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

[00:02:51] And it was just a really well done, very funny, parody fan film that, yeah, I think you're right. I think that that's sort of the, if Hardware Wars is the granddaddy of Star Wars fan films. It's, it's certainly like the godfather of that second wave of, fan filmmaking in the nineties and two thousands.

[00:03:10] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. And that's, and that's really what got me back into it. I was in the middle of the, uh, Saudi Arabian desert and I'm here, I'm now reading about, you know, people doing Star Wars films and they're from Southern California. You know, that's where I grew up at. And, uh, you know, and they're, they're doing all this make, you know, doing, you know, making cops parody, you know, troops.

[00:03:29] And so it, that's really, it inspired me to, and, you know, for, for actually for a couple years, um, be before I got out and then, um, you know, once I got out I'm like, Hey, I want, I wanna be involved with that somehow. Um, but, you know, you know, the joke is that, you know, everybody in Southern California is an actor or you know, director or something like that.

[00:03:48] And it just so happened I did have a lot of friends. Were involved with Hollywood in some way. Um, with my first job that got out when, after I got outta the military, so it was pretty easy for me to slide into that, um, into that role and, and just get involved with the fan film community. Um, the fled obviously was fledgling at that time, but just get involved and then try to, Initially I tried, I wanted to do a film and then I found out how hard it is and how, especially with, with, with, with, and it wasn't so much the filming and all, you know, the story writing and all that stuff.

[00:04:21] Yeah. That's, that's its own art that honestly, I'm, I'm not very good at. Um, but I, I can, I, I was able to put something together, but it was the, it was the permits, um, because at this point, you know, the, you know, the city of Los Angeles, uh, you know, Los Angeles County and stuff like that, really didn't know what we were.

[00:04:39] So I, we couldn't really get away with, um, filming in the city. I kind of. Maybe kind of lied and said I was from usc, um, in the, at the film school, so they didn't, so they didn't charge me on a permit, so I was able to film in Griffith Park, uh, for a day and that. But yeah. And, but after that, I, you know, and a lot of fan films, you know, they film out in the desert.

[00:05:02] That's where Kevin, uh, Rubio, who did troops, You know, they just show out in the desert, so you don't have to worry about that. But it was just, I just got into that and I'm like, I really don't like having to deal with this and, you know, all this headache. So that's when I kind of turned my sites, um, to actually promoting fan films.

[00:05:19] And I'm like, you know, somebody should report the news cause people are gonna be interested in this. Um, and so, uh, TheForce.net was my inspiration. Just that style, the way they did the, um, reporting on the news and all that kind of stuff. Um, you. Yeah, the whole big, you know, that was the whole, that was the time of the fan site wars were going on.

[00:05:38] Um, so it was, you know, everything was hot and heavy. Everything's, you know, everybody's trying to beat each other out. But, so I just, I created what's called, it was fan films.com in mid 99. Um, I, I happened to be working for an internet company at the time, so I, I did that at night. Uh, you know, I ran the fam the, the website during the day, uh, while I was also coaching football.

[00:06:01] And, um, but used, but my connections at, at my internet company, there were so many guys that were former filmmakers or, you know, current filmmakers and in, you know, special effects guys, and they were able to get me connections to people, or even a couple of 'em actually did their own films that, uh, eventually, um, got mentioned on TFN or was hosted, but it.

[00:06:26] Just, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time and just made the right connections. Um, for fan films.com. That's, that was pre, um, TheForce.net and that's really what led in to me joining TheForce.net about, because fanfilms.com only lasts about six months, um, before it got swallowed by TheForce.net. And I mean, I brought it in and so, um, I dunno if you remember at that time it was called TFN Theater,

[00:06:53] so when I came in, I rebranded it as TFN Fan Films and, you know, I brought, I brought fan films.com so it would redirect to that, the TFN Fan Films part of, of TheForce.net. And we set to re kind of rebuild the entire section and to make it a lot, um, bigger. Um, cause right at that point it was pretty much just hosting, uh, troops.

[00:07:16] And, but I wanted to like, okay, we're gonna have our own, our own news section. Um, which eventually, you know, that made its way onto the, the main page. So a lot of the, you know, a lot of the main fans started to, uh, realize, hey, there are fan films here. Um, and, and people are doing stuff that are, um, maybe interesting to the fans besides just the movies.

[00:07:34] But yeah, so we re we completely rebranded the, the, the, that section of the site and then we started adding tutorials, uh, on how to actually do a lot of the effects. And that actually led into a lot of, um, interesting conversations with people, with professionals, um, in the industry and also personally for me.

[00:07:55] Um, it led to, you know, for, um, jobs down down the road. Um, we can get into that later, but, uh, just that decision to make a make a one section, um, Provided guidance. And then we, of course, again, we had the forums, which, you know, amazing people were there. And you know, you told me and you were there. It's just amazing that the, the community we had there, we ignored and, and this is something that I did on, on intentionally.

[00:08:24] We ignored all the outside noise. Um, I didn't, I didn't care about the fan site wars going on. I didn't care about, you know, who's getting exclusive information about the next episode. I didn't care. I, all I cared about was bringing the community together, um, of filmmakers to help each other. And I didn't care where you're gonna be hosted.

[00:08:43] I just wanted to make, have everybody make, um, make the, the best, uh, fan film that they could on the budgets that they had. I mean, as you said, sometimes people had zero budget, Some people, you know, had 20, 30, $40,000 to do it. So it was just my goal. I just wanted to, you know, I enjoyed, this is where I, I enjoyed and I wanted to watch these fan films, so I tried to make, make it an effort to, um, bring a, have a commute, one community that, um, could just ignore all everything else and just be together and help each other and make and great, uh, make great art.

[00:09:18] JOSH: No, that, that is one of the reasons why when I wanted to do an episode about fan films, the first thing I thought of was TFN Fan Films. And I reached out because obviously TheForce.net website is still around. I I don't think it's, inaccurate, to say that, uh, the heyday of it was probably around, this period that we're talking about.

[00:09:36] But I mean, yeah, like the community and the resources and sort of, at least for me, You know, I was in high school, college at the time and I was trying to make fan films myself, and I certainly used, , I availed myself of the tutorial section and really found it invaluable. And even though I never ended up completing a fan film, that was really a training ground where I learned a lot of the skills.

[00:10:02] I taught myself a lot of the skills through that kind of experimentation and trying to figure out how to get things done that are skills that I still utilize in my professional career to this day. Like it's just, whether it's, it's it's video editing or motion graphics um, you know, really, that approach to problem solving, Well, I need to, I want to achieve this.

[00:10:24] How do I get there? And sort of that, whether it was like trying to add a light saber glow to a broom handle or, you know, trying to, render a computer generated spaceship or whatever it is, how to get the footage from the camera to the computer.

[00:10:41] Then, back out, to tape VHS at the time. , you know, like, that community was really sort of, my film school in a lot of ways and I really learned so much. And, uh, yeah. So I mean, I guess what I'm, I'm trying to say. First off, thank you , um, for all of that, that, uh, work that you did, back then to create that community.

[00:11:04] So you had tried to make a fan film at, at one point. You mentioned you shot a day in Griffith Park or something. What was your film going to be and, why did you stop?

[00:11:16] JEFF (aka AZEEM): So originally the name of mine was, was Revenge the Sith. And this, So this is not Yes, because, because I Reremember because that's the original name of, of episode, uh, Six Return of the Jedi, or what was Revenge the Jedi. Oh. So what it was actually gonna be was about, Darth Bane's ascendancy, and of course, you know, I had to do like everybody else in the forest type thing, and it was two Jedi on each side.

[00:11:37] And it, at the, what winds up happening is the Padawan actually kills the Sith Lord and the Padawan takes the name of Darth Bane, and he's now turned. And so that was , the ending of it was, you know, so the whole conflict was the, was gonna be the movie, and I only filmed like, like half of it, uh, the fights.

[00:11:54] But then at the end it was gonna be, he takes the name Darth Bane and he's gonna go off and take, you know, take the Sith's shuttle, and basically, be the Darth Bane of history. So yeah, it was, so the original name was Revenge of the Sith. I found out somebody had the name and I was like, you know, either I could either ask them to change their name or then I can just do it.

[00:12:12] And I was like, I'm just gonna change that. And so I changed it to Lord of the Sith. and I did a, a really crappy trailer for it. I wouldn't never do that again cuz I didn't have a lot of the experience, of doing rotoscoping and all that kind of stuff. So I had to figure out a lot, a lot of stuff on my own, which again is, that's what led to a lot of my, tutorials.

[00:12:29] Cause I, I figured out how to do it. But, you know, I did it through Photoshop, and, you know, instead of doing it through after a fact, I

[00:12:35] took, Yeah. you could do the film, the film, strip.

[00:12:37] JOSH: Uhhuh. Yeah. You exported it as a film strip and you, you literally went into Photoshop and you imported this huge, huge image file, .

[00:12:46] It was every single frame was a separate image in one file. And you, drew on, you drew on the cells. I mean, in a way it was like they did it, back in the day.

[00:12:55] Except it, except it was not physical film. It was, you know, a digital image, but it was still framed by frame and that's not how they do it anymore.

[00:13:03] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. You know, a couple years later I learned like, yeah, you can just do it in After Effects. And it's real easy to do. Cause I mean, cuz I had to like draw the shadow of the, of the shuttle, which I did, the shuttle in 3D Max or whatever. I had to draw the shadow in this film strip.

[00:13:14] And you know, and I do the lightsabers and stuff like that, and they weren't the greatest. And I just saw that I'm not gonna be, I'm not gonna, this is not fun. And I, I wanted, you know, and I, I'm gonna have to go back now and I'm, I'm gonna, I wanted to finish this film. Uh, I'd have to kind of lie to them again to, uh, say I'm a film student, not to charge me.

[00:13:33] And it was, it was a lot of money too,

[00:13:34] JOSH: For like a permit. Oh, sure. For sure.

[00:13:36] JEFF (aka AZEEM): and there's not a lot of places in Los Angeles to film in the forest unless you go up to like, the National Forest. But I mean, I'm not gonna take people up there who are just doing this for free. Um,

[00:13:44] so

[00:13:45] JOSH: do you still have that, footage anywhere? Or, or

[00:13:47] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Oh no, it's, it's, long. it's long.

[00:13:49] JOSH: It's long. Gone.

[00:13:50] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah, Cause I, I had a dedicated scuzzy drive again cuz I, I also had to learn the technology cuz you know, I had the old, um, oh, what was it, 4,800 RPM or whatever, the slower,

[00:14:01] JOSH: Yeah. Right, right. 4,800 rpm. Yep. Mm-hmm.

[00:14:03] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. You had to get a 10,000, um, RPM scuzzy drive.

[00:14:06] So I had to,

[00:14:07] you know, yeah. So my Mac g4, I had to build it up and that then that's the hard drive was super expensive cuz, you know, the scuzzy were, um, much more, uh, impressive. So, yeah, it just stayed in the J four and then I, I got rid of that thing probably 10, 12 years ago, I should have kept it just for, you know, but I, I still have a lot of the films, uh, in digital format, hanging out on my, uh, on my server that I built.

[00:14:32] JOSH: like, I think it's really important to place this in context because, you look at YouTube, like, YouTube I feel like was really a game changer and we can, get into this a little later, but like some of the functions that TFN Fan Films really served at that time were a couple things.

[00:14:49] I mean, number one, it was like a curator. It was a platform, it was a place to go to see these films. And if you were a fan filmmaker, was a place to go to try to get your film seen. Whereas, you know, now, like you would just, probably upload it to YouTube, if not, you know, one of a zillion other social networking platforms with videos.

[00:15:12] Uh, but then also the tutorials. Today if you wanna figure out how to do something, like you just, you go to YouTube and you ask the question in the search field and then you get a zillion tutorials

[00:15:21] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Mm-hmm.

[00:15:22] JOSH: and like that, did not exist at the time that, we're talking about. And like you guys were, I mean, at least for me, like the only game in town.

[00:15:30] And I think people who weren't around then, like it's probably hard to wrap your mind around digital video on the internet, before YouTube.

[00:15:37] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Mm-hmm. Hosting was actually one of the hardest things that we had to do. You know, hosting was a big part of the site and when I opened it up, um, and you're right, I mean, a lot of people wanted to get on the site and which I, you know, I, I wish I could host everybody.

[00:15:52] I would've if I could, if YouTube existed at that point, I would never have hosted anybody. I would've put everybody on YouTube and, and pointed them, and I would've created a, a site on the, on TFN to go there. I would done it for everybody. It, I mean, the worst thing I had to do was reject people. And I mean, I created a form letter cuz I was, I was at, at the internet company.

[00:16:12] That's what I did. I responded to people via, via email for a lot of things, you know, Cause I was, I was writing, you know, connection strings for modems, that kind of thing. That's how, um, the know I go back. But it's the, I, so I wrote these templates, um, for my guys, you know, I started it and then we had, you know, we had John and Max came on.

[00:16:34] Um, and by the way, I'm still friends with, still friends with them. Um, I still have connections to them on the internet. Um, we don't talk as much anymore, but, um, you know, we're still connected in our lives. Um, I'm, you know, with Kevin, all those, you know, all those guys, I'm still, you know, uh, connected. That community was so tight.

[00:16:52] Um, You know, we shared something. I think, you know, that we just, you know, all are, you know, had had such an interest that just, it, it meant so much to us that we just don't let it go.

[00:17:03] JOSH: So were these, So, these people who you're talking about, were they part of, TFN at large or the TFN fan film

[00:17:10] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Ta Finn fan films. Yeah. So John, John refers to, um, he did Crazy Watto and The Jedi Hunter.

[00:17:16] JOSH: Oh, okay.

[00:17:17] JEFF (aka AZEEM): And he, he still does fam, he does still make it, he does lot of stuff in for Babylon 5. He still does a lot of editing for, for TV news, , down in Tennessee. Um, but I still, you know, I'm still in contact with him, uh, Max, he just helped me on the site, You know, he was just a, you know, a geek and was willing to help me out and get everything.

[00:17:36] And, you know, now he's like, he's at the, you know, uh, you know, uh, University in Virginia teaching digital media as a professor. So, I mean, it's. You know, you know, a lot of these guys ha, you know, have just kept into this. Um, for me, myself, you know, I, you know, as now we talk about the tutorials because of those tutorials, they got mentioned in, in an article, uh, and my company, uh, you know, down the road saw this and they said, Hey, you know how to teach people on the internet.

[00:18:04] I said, Yeah, that I, I taught people how to, you know, make light savers and how to make the opening crawl in Star Wars. And it just so happened my director was a huge Star Wars fan and said, Hey, you know, we have a training department. We would like you to come into training for us. And so I went from, you know, working Photoshop and After Effects and all that kind of stuff.

[00:18:27] And now here I'm now working Flash. in military, I, I'd worked in, um, uh, a bunch, you know, a bunch of other Macromedia things. Cause my last unit was a training, uh, training unit. But, so now I'm getting into flash and I've got, now I'm going from doing customer, customer support type item.

[00:18:45] And now I'm, I'm becoming a programmer, a flash developer. You know, I, I'd done some programming on tfn. I mean, I helped, uh, Anthony was the main programmer, uh, on the site. And he ran, you know, he did all this, uh, he, he built all the sections for us, for us and, you know, handled the database work. But I, and I helped him and, you know, went for, on the TFN part of things.

[00:19:06] Um, so, you know, I could do html, JavaScript, you know, the minor stuff. But now I'm actually going into hardcore coding and, you know, flash development of course took, you know, this is the early part of flash development. So, you know, that was 10 years of, of a lot of work and it's just continued on today.

[00:19:22] And, you know, I'm still a developer, so it's. Those kind of things, those relationships that I ha, that I, I got from tfn, the, the fan films, um, is what really has led to a lot of success to that today. Um, even to, you know, when I left California and, um, you know, I did it be, you know, because of TFN Fan Films, we went to the, uh, you know, the convention out here, you know, Indianapolis, and, you know, we loved it out here so much.

[00:19:53] I lost my job, uh, in, at the internet company and I'm like, We liked Indianapolis, let's move there. And so I did that. Um, and then, you know, met my w you know, Lisa Fe, um, I don't know if you remember that, because I got married while I was on the website and people said, you know, congratulations with, you know, uh, uh, because my forum name was Azi.

[00:20:15] It was Zim and Lisa Fat. And there's a picture of a Royal Guard and Bob Fat getting married. You know that, And I've told you this story that, you know, I met her through the 501st. And, but I met her, but I met her because of, I met another costing group while I was, um, out at Dragoncon to, uh, for tfn.

[00:20:35] And I was, I wanted to try a different convention. So I went to Dragoncon with, with tfn, covered it for that. And then I met a group of people there and they said, Hey, we have a, you know, friend in Southern California who's, who's part of the five. Oh, first you should meet her. And so I met her and then I married her.

[00:20:50] And, uh, you know, we just, and we just celebrated our 21st anniversary, uh, this year.

[00:20:53] JOSH: Congratulations.

[00:20:55] JEFF (aka AZEEM): So everything in my adult life has come from that, um, come from joining TheForce.Net you know, and, and work with the 501st. , so it's, you know, the relationships have just continued on to this day and, you know, even there's more, you know, fan film makers I'm still friends with as well.

[00:21:11] You know, the anonymous director, uh, Sandy, who did the, um, Batman versus, Predator. The guys who did Knightquest,

[00:21:18] JOSH: Knightquest. Yeah, no. Yeah, that's, um, uh, one of the ones I have a list of, ones that I still remember fondly from those days. And Knightquest was, I remember a lot of hype for that one.

[00:21:29] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. And I mean, I actually went on to the set during some of their re-shoots. Um, and I was there when they were filming. Uh, and then, you know, I met, uh, Joe cuz he's, he's a, he was a video editor, a special effects artist type guy.

[00:21:42] JOSH: Joe Monroe, Was that his name?

[00:21:44] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. And I went to, yeah, he had, he actually worked for Universal at the time.

[00:21:49] So I went to, went to his office in Universal and got to see, you know, the real, the real deal. Um, so it's, you know, a lot of those guys became my real friends and, you know, we, and I said we've just stayed in contact and it's interesting to see like where everybody has gone since those days.

[00:22:05] JOSH: No, that's so, cool. It's, I'm so glad to hear that, you and, some of the other members of the community, you know, this really led to a lot of things in their adults, in their adult life and, and, uh, careers and lasting friendships. I mean, that's, that's so lovely to hear. Um, you mentioned a couple things, like, just for the benefit of any of our listeners who don't know about the 501st, could you just, briefly explain what the 501st is and then, how, that lent itself the work that you did in the fan film community?

[00:22:36] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. So in, I think it was 1997, uh, Alvin Johnson, and, uh, one of his buddies, uh, Alvin Johnson was the, is the founder of the 501st. And they, you know, they joined, they went down to Dragon Con and they started storm Trooping, uh, Stormtroopers. And they're like, you know, then he got home and he is like, you know, this is back in the Geo City days, and he

[00:22:56] created a web. At that point, it was just like the squad, it was like the 5 0 4 squad, or actually it was like the attachment block for some weird whatever. I can't remember what it was. Um, that didn't last long because now people started joining him, and so it became the 501st Legion, uh, five oh, first obviously kind of named after, um, you know, the, uh, you know, like the 501st, like the paratroopers from, from World War ii.

[00:23:19] Um, it sounded military and you know, you know, of course Legion because you know, Allegion of my best troops, you know, from, from Return of the Jedi. And so that kind of InCorp got incorporated into our, into the, into the history of us that that was our le that was our legion on, on indoor. and so we became Vader's fists.

[00:23:37] And so, so that, that was pretty cool, you know, in, you know, the, there was, you know, it was kind of, they were kind of like paralleling us, uh, on the fan film side of it. And then, Um, I can't remember which book it was in one of the books, uh, the 501st got canonized and, and then in episode three, of course, you know, the, the Blue Clone Troopers, um, became the 501st Clone Trooper Detachment.

[00:24:01] And they're the ones that actually marched with Ann Akin into the, uh, you know, into the Jedi Temple. Thanks. You know? Yeah. Congratulations. You're the guys that killed a bunch of, uh, kids, but

[00:24:11] JOSH: of kids.

[00:24:11] JEFF (aka AZEEM): know that.

[00:24:12] Yeah.

[00:24:13] JOSH: Yeah.

[00:24:14] JEFF (aka AZEEM): But anyways, but we, we got Cannon Iced. And so what was happening with fan films is it grow in popularity.

[00:24:20] The dressing up as Storm Troopers started growing more popularity and also Vader. Now we had Vaers Bubble Fence, and these were very high quality costumes. So, I was working with Alban at the time, early on when we were trying to re, you know, reorganize the Legion, get everybody in, you know, to say, okay, if you're in like these certain states, you're at Garrison, you know, different garrisons and that kind of stuff so they can get in contact.

[00:24:42] Well, it just, now I have everybody's contact information. So when people were emailing us saying, Hey, I'm making a fan film in North Carolina, who do I call? If I'm making a, you know, fan film in Northern California, who do I call? And I would actually, um, reach out to these guys in the 501st to help them get in touch with these fan filmmakers and a lot of these guys.

[00:25:01] That's how a lot of these guys showed up, uh, in the films.

[00:25:05] JOSH: Yeah, that's so great. And what's so funny is that like that tradition has even, continued to this day with like even, you know, official Lucasfilm productions, like, if I'm not mistaken, on the Mandalorian they needed a bunch of, Storm Troopers, and I believe, , the 501st, showed up to be on screen in an episode of the Mandalorian,

[00:25:24] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah, The, the, the end episodes episode, uh, 11 and 12, I think that's what it was, the one where, um, they attacked, where they attacked the town in Moff Gideon that, you know, kills his own man and they, you know,

[00:25:34] JOSH: Yeah.

[00:25:34] so you were the originator of that sort of resource or, tradition. It's so, it's so ingrained in the Star Wars, community and that that, um, the real guys even go to them.

[00:25:45] JEFF (aka AZEEM): And one of the things I actually got to, um, attend is the, you know, everybody knows about the, the Chinese theater. Well, you, you know, you can call grandmas mans, whatever you wanna call it. It's, you know, it's the Chinese theater that is like the, that is the home of the, of the blockbuster.

[00:26:00] That's where the term comes from. That's where Star Wars originated from. And because, you know, if you're outta the Chinese theater, if you're trying to, everybody's trying to get in it, the line goes around the block and, you know, so, um, when Episode One came out and I wanted to go see that, the day one, um, we actually had to wait in line to get tickets.

[00:26:17] And we did that around the block. So for Episode Two came out, um, I got, I got an email from, uh, Lucasfilm and they reached out to me because of my connections with, uh, TheForce.net, uh, as well as with the 501st and said, Hey, we need a bunch of storm troopers and characters. The Chinese theater for the, uh, red carpet premier, uh, for episode two.

[00:26:41] So I got to organize a bunch of guys and, um, um, gal, my wife, uh, in costumes. And we were actually at the Chinese Theater when, you know, Sam Jackson, Ewan McGregor, um, in a bunch, you know, Best, uh, all showed up to, for the, and for the episode two premier that, you know, that was of course broadcast, you know, nationwide.

[00:27:03] And then there we are in the background and our Darth Va. What's one of the coolest things is, um, you know, cuz you know, you McGregor's, you know, OB one has not met, uh, Darth Vader yet. Our Darth Vader was six foot six or seven, something like that. He was a really tall guy. So he's in his, he looks like Dart Vader because he's that tall.

[00:27:21] And the funny thing is, is he was actually a part-time writer for Star Trek. Um, but uh, he. I think a vo, I don't, I think, yeah, I think it was Voyager or something like that. I can't remember what, which, which series he was doing. But, so he's doing this and so this is like the first time Ewan McGregor is seen with Darth Fedder, uh, that I know of.

[00:27:39] And so he's at, you know, obviously he's in his street clothes and you McGregor's in his street clothes, but there's pictures of him and, and six foot, you know, 6, 6 7 DARS Vader in full uniform. And, and I thought that was kind of cool. Cause

[00:27:53] JOSH: No, no, that's awesome. So that was the first time Ewan McGregor had come face to face with a full suited kitted out Vader.

[00:28:01] JEFF (aka AZEEM): I know of. Yeah, yeah,

[00:28:02] JOSH: You know, that's so interesting, so, you know, obviously he started in, the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi show on Disney Plus. And you, you have to imagine that when he goes on set and he sees Hayden Christiansen as Darth Vader, that, like, that memory sort of flashes in his head, you know?

[00:28:17] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. And it's, I mean, and he's now known as, I mean, he's the character and every, so, but it's, it's interesting and it's kind of fun to see the hi, the history of it from, you know, a view that not everybody got to see, um, because. . Yeah. And it it, which was just funny cuz like the fire marshals for that event is coming up to us and talking to us and Lucasfilm person down there saying like, cuz it was 90 something degrees and it, that's really hot in those outfit.

[00:28:45] I was the Royal Guard then of course. Uh, and my, and Lisa Fe was of course MoFA and they're telling us, you know, you guys have got to take, you know, breaks every like 15, 20 minutes. So we would sneak off behind like, you know, some, some, uh, area and you know, get a quick drink at our helmets off really quick and then, you know, for five minutes and then come back out and you know, and just, and just stand there and you know, you know, Vader of course, you know, would meet all the guests and stuff like that.

[00:29:10] You know, Vader Vader. Just be invader. So it, it's just one of those things where, you know, I think Lucasfilm, you know, having a garrison on in California and now there's like three of 'em are there. At the time there was, there was two of us, and then Central ca California was a squad, if I remember right.

[00:29:27] And now there's at least three or four. Um, so California has always been a major hub for the 501st, but it's, you know, when they needed storm troopers, whether for Mandalorian or for a premier, you know, they could count on, uh, they can call on, uh, the 501st and they, they'll be there.

[00:29:45] JOSH: That's so cool. That's really, really cool. So, before I go any further, I have a confession to make. So I am actually the original owner of , the domain fan film.com singular. Because I was trying to make a Star Wars fan film around 1999, like everyone else, and I had a vision to, to make a site that, is basically what TFN Fan Films became.

[00:30:10] And I always, you obviously, got there first, but I, , I always wondered if the person who registered fan films.com had tried to get fan film dot.

[00:30:20] JEFF (aka AZEEM): I did not.

[00:30:22] JOSH: Okay. Okay. Good. it actually kind of bums me out, because I accidentally let the domain lapses when I was in college, and now it's in the hands of some domain squatter who wants like 20 grand for it or something.

[00:30:32] And it's just like, it just makes me so mad every time I think about it. But anyway, Digress.

[00:30:36] JEFF (aka AZEEM): I, when I left TFN, I, I gifted them the website, uh, the, the domain. Um, I had nothing, uh, yeah, I was not gonna use it, and I didn't want, It's exactly what you said. I didn't want some domain squatter to grab it, so I, I signed it over to them and let them have it. Whether they, I don't, I haven't, I've never checked to see if they still have it even today.

[00:30:54] But, um, it's, I always wanted it to be so people can find fan films. I didn't care if I was there or not.

[00:31:03] JOSH: No, absolutely. Well, um, You've eased, , my conscience after like 20 something years, , because I always, I always felt really badly. I assumed that, the owner of fan films.com had also wanted fan film.com and saw that it was already registered, and I felt really badly that I never did anything with it.

[00:31:20] So, but, uh, you have, uh, , I can now sleep, um, sleep at ease without any guilt

[00:31:27] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yep.

[00:31:29] JOSH: so, you know, again, one of the things that you mentioned really briefly, , because hosting was such an important, , function of the site, like just out necessity. Like, I mean, like you said, there, there wasn't a YouTube, there was no way, No, like universal way or no simple way to host digital video on the internet.

[00:31:52] So you're having to take things into account, like, , bandwidth issues and, I remember what was that software that encoding software? Like, it was such a challenge to get the file size of the videos small enough that like sweet spot of quality to file size.

[00:32:09] And I remember, you know, these were the days when like you'd have like a QuickTime file and everything would, appear in like three versions. The high quality download, the medium quality download, and the low quality download for those on like dialup. And, um, you were saying that like you had to be choosy with the.

[00:32:27] Fan films that you would select to put on, TFN Fan Films, right?

[00:32:31] JEFF (aka AZEEM): yeah, yeah. And then it was bandwidth and obviously space. You know, nowadays, you know, people, Oh, gigabytes and you know, terabytes, you

[00:32:39] JOSH: no, no, no.

[00:32:40] JEFF (aka AZEEM): it's no big deal. Yeah. We're in megabytes and. But actually I think bandwidth was probably the biggest kicker for us.

[00:32:48] So one of the things you're talking about, uh, I don't, I don't remember it was quick. Cause I used QuickTime Pro was one of the, one of the, programs I

[00:32:54] JOSH: Sorens and Squeeze, I think I'm,

[00:32:56] I think it was called like, Yeah,

[00:32:58] JEFF (aka AZEEM): was the, was the big one. And, um, and QuickTime Pro were, were the two main ones that we had. What was, what was funny is I actually got an email from an Apple developer of QuickTime and he sat down with me and talk, told me, Here's all the settings that you want to use at the, at the, you know, to get these sizes, these bit rates.

[00:33:17] Which, you know, fit rates is obviously the, you know, how the quality of the image, you know, to keep it from pixelating and that kind of stuff. Um, but he, he actually gave me all the, all this information that Apple had and so I was able to use that information and make a lot better films at lot small, you know, at the smallest possible size that I could.

[00:33:36] So, I mean, it was a challenge just sometimes uploading these things. I screwed up one time and I missed a deadline and I was, you know, cuz I, cause I actually, I would do it at work. Um, they never caught me, but, uh, sorry, sorry folks who I, I worked for at the time, but I, that's how I did, I did it at work because we had, you know, we had like multiple T3 lines, you know, at that time was, that was the way, you know, to get to the internet, um, you know, with the maximum speed.

[00:34:02] But I, I couldn't even get into some of these servers because I missed that because I was late getting to work and people had, were already trying to download and, you know, they were, they were hitting the site and they hit it so much, you know, and they were download, I don't know if people were downloading to other films or what they were doing, but they were trying to get to the site so much.

[00:34:21] Um, that it, it locked me out. Eventually I had to like kick, you know, to, uh, block the site and. To keep 'em from, you know, hitting a site that that's re, you know, that's pulling, that's pulling bandwidth from that, from my servers. And then I would upload and then I would re, you know, reengage the site. I only didn't, I only made that mistake once, and then after that I, I, I made sure, I would always tell people I'm gonna do it this day, and then I would upload like the day before.

[00:34:46] JOSH: Wow. that's wild.

[00:34:48] JEFF (aka AZEEM): So let me tell you the story about Bandwidth. And so this is the famous story that all, you know, the people from the website and, and one of the directors knows. So towards the end, you know, um, do I think, and I think it was Sins at the Jedi, Do you remember that one was, these are the guys made on the East Coast pretty well made film.

[00:35:07] Film guys were super nice to us and stuff like that. And we are, it was hyped up for many years. Well, um, during my tenure, uh, tf uh, TFN kind of, uh, partnered with ign. So we're talking about a major, you know, servers and so we're on their servers on the IGN servers and. I had uploaded, and I think this was around epi, I think this episode three convention here, uh, in Indianapolis.

[00:35:34] And I upload Sins of the Jedi. Well, during the middle of the convention, the owner of TFN says he just got off a call with IGN screaming at us, because we just took down their entire servers. Because so many people, the bandwidth is so high, first of the Jedi that we can't host it anymore. And we actually had to take it down because IGN was screaming at us for, you know, for taking all their bandwidth.

[00:35:59] Yeah,

[00:36:00] JOSH: That is incredible. . That's, that's so wild.

[00:36:03] JEFF (aka AZEEM): that was probably my last major film. I was, I wasn't really happy about it. I understood, but then I had to call the guys up. I'm like, Hey, we're taking it down because. , you know, it's too popular. And they, they were super nice. They understood, I think they got their own host and they figured out their own way of doing it.

[00:36:19] I tried to like redirect to them and everything like that. But, um, it, that, that was probably the biggest bummer and ki it kind of one of the things that solidified my decision that it was time to go, um, because things were changing at that time period. And, you know, we, and we'll talk about that more, uh, later on, but it was just one of those things that said episode three, I'm done.

[00:36:41] Um, just too much is changing. And I don't li I didn't like where fan films were going at the time, at that time. And, uh, I didn't really, I didn't feel it anymore. Um,

[00:36:51] JOSH: Well, that's interesting. so, um, bandwidth It was a finite resource. So you, had to be choosy. And that was one of the good things about TFN Fan Films was that, you guys really acted as kind of a curator, it was a destination to go to, to see the stuff that was being made sort of.

[00:37:08] The cream of the crop. And I was just wondering, what were your criteria for what you would look for in a fan film like what would make you say yes to one film and no to another film, stuff like that.

[00:37:19] JEFF (aka AZEEM): so obviously early on it was, you know, we didn't have a lot of diversity there, so I, you know, really if it was a half decent film that, it didn't look like you were filmed up in your backyard. Um, and, you know, and with, with your home camera that, you know, you didn't know how to do, uh, you know, color correction, you know, the, the, you know, audio didn't echo like crazy, you know, so we were pretty, um, generous at the beginning just cuz I, I wanted, you know, get films on the site.

[00:37:48] I don't think I ever put anything on that I didn't like. There's some of the ones that you. You know, were not my favorites, but I still, you know, I still liked them. I liked, I liked the artistry of it. I liked what they were trying to do. , and then that in, so my, you know, thoughts of, okay, this is gonna be a, you know, sprawling Star Wars saga.

[00:38:07] Obviously Knightquest was one of the earlier ones, you know, took a little bit longer to get done, but I was like, let's step back from that. And I want something to see pe, I wanna see people do things new, um, or something that's, I wanna see them do something, um, specifically good. Um, like the, like the, um, the, uh, I don't know if they were brothers or cousins or whatever.

[00:38:27] Remember the, the two Chinese, guys, um, who they, I mean they fought with, um, plastic savers, you know, they wrote a scope him and stuff like that. And, but they knew how to, they knew how to fight from, you know, from kung fu. And they did a, you know, it was the one where they, you know, the guys quoting a Civil War letter.

[00:38:42] Um, it was really different. Do, do you remember that one? And they had the, they would fight. They even fought dual saber. ,

[00:38:49] JOSH: Art of the Saber.

[00:38:50] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yes. Art of the Saber. That's correct. Yeah. Then Art of the Saber but it was, it was, but it was two, it was two guys. And they weren't dressed up as really as Sith or Jedi at all. They did, but they just fought, um, re they were really fast and obviously their weapons were pretty light, but they knew how to do, they knew how to court do choreography.

[00:39:07] Um, and they did it on a simple level. Um, so that, I picked that one because I liked, I liked that they were trying to do something different. Um, you know, I thought the letter was just really, I thought it was odd and weird, but I thought it was pretty cool. It was just the way he, uh, they incorporated that into the, um, the movie, their little movie.

[00:39:27] Um, but the guys just knew the guys could chore, uh, choreograph a fight. Um, much like, um, the guys, you know, duality obviously did it on a much grander scale. You know, Dave Encumber is gone on the great things. He's a, I mean, he's like a well known stunt, uh, coordinator and like, um, He does directing now as well.

[00:39:45] Um, you know, but he's like big time. He does big time, uh, a-list movies. Um, so he, he, that was his huge stepping stone. But, so they did something like duality, but on a much smaller scale with just two guys in the woods, you know, with a pretty crappy camera. Um, but they, they, they were able to achieve it and it looked natural.

[00:40:06] Um, and, and, and, and there, there really only been a few like, lifesaver fights that I, that I thought, um, were as good as that. Um, you know, Ryan Ryan's, uh, fight was fantastic. He did a, you know, series of them, uh, was fantastic.

[00:40:24] JOSH: , Ryan versus Dork man.

[00:40:25] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. Uh, Dork. Yeah, those guys, they were fantastic and they knew what they, so that was the kind of thing where, you know, they did one thing and it was, it was good.

[00:40:35] Um, like, uh, Pa Wars, uh, those guys I'm, I'm still friends with. Uh, it was just so bizarre and just so weird that, you know, I had to ha I had to put it on the, on the, on the screen because it's just cuz they knew how to write and they had, they knew how to do comedy. Um, some, something you just never saw, you know, you just didn't see in Star Wars.

[00:40:57] So it was just something different. Um, you know, and you know, I even quote the quote that movie a few times, you know, a few times, you know, every few years. Just cuz I can remember the lines from it, you know? So that's what I was looking for, especially down over the, over the next few years as more films came in and then we started getting into the crossovers and I had to be really careful with those at first.

[00:41:21] Um, because you know, on, I wanna tell you honest, I was expecting us to get shut down some at some point. Um, yeah, I thought Lucasfilm was eventually, Cause remember, Paramount was really against us and they still are.

[00:41:36] JOSH: Yeah, they still are. Yeah. Yeah. There is a big, difference. I think it's actually pretty striking in the approach , I mean, this is something that I was gonna ask, a bit later on, but it seems like, , especially at this time, Lucasfilm was very friendly to the fan film community.

[00:41:51] I mean, within reason, obviously. I mean, like if somebody was, trying to make . Money off of, a fan film, they probably wouldn't have been okay with that. But it was, you know, really in stark contrast to say the way, Paramount, handled fan activities around Star Trek. Um, I remember way back in the day, I don't know if it was around, this time or even earlier, but, They, for a while they didn't even allow, , the use of images on fan sites,

[00:42:15] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah, I remember that. Yeah. So,

[00:42:17] JOSH: know, very, very strict.

[00:42:19] JEFF (aka AZEEM): yeah. So then, I wish I could remember the name of the film then We, we got a crossover with, Star Wars and The Matrix

[00:42:25] JOSH: Yes,

[00:42:26] JEFF (aka AZEEM): And that one at first I was kind of nervous about putting up, but I was like, I gotta do it. I mean, cuz it's, it's a ma you know, Matrix was really popular at the time, but I gotta put it up and, because they did a very good job on the Star Wars side of it.

[00:42:37] Um, and it's, it was like one of the first times that this started coming out. So that is where the whole, hey let's, now we're gonna start looking at non Star Wars fan films. You know, I didn't ask anybody if I could do this. I just did it. Um, you know, and of course, you know, the infamous Batman versus, , Predator was a huge film and, you know, uh, they sent us a copy.

[00:42:59] You know, they digitized it for us. . And um, and, and I'll tell you, lot of the fan filmmakers, they couldn't digitize. You know, they sent me the films and, and I digitized it for 'em and we'll talk about that in a second cuz that, that actually led into, uh, one of the famous incidents with fan films. And, uh, but yeah, so Batman versus Predator, that was like, at this point I was like, I don't care.

[00:43:22] I'm just gonna, you know, fan films is a lot more than Star Wars, TFN Fan Films can't get locked. You know, I didn't wanna get locked into just Star Wars that this point, you know, cuz this is like oh 4, 0 5. Um, I could, I was gonna, I could see that if we just lock ourselves into Star Wars fan films, we are basic.

[00:43:41] We're gonna get, you know, people are gonna get tired of it.

[00:43:43] JOSH: Yeah. I mean, like how many lightsaber fights at the woods?

[00:43:46] Can you have, I mean, ba , I mean, to be reductive about it, but.

[00:43:49] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. You know, and peop you know, we had basically one guy that could do the Darth Vader voice, uh, Ben down in, uh, Australia. Everybody was talking to him. Um, Again, he was like one of those resources where people would ask me like, How do I get in touch with, you know, so-and-so's fan film used Darth Vader and he sounds, you know, pretty close to James Earl Jones.

[00:44:08] How do I get in touch with that guy? And I was like, Here, you know, here, here, here. Here's his email address. Talk to him. Um, but I knew, so once we started to that I even know more so I was expecting like, we're gonna get a cease desist at by some, at some point. And funny enough, you know, Warner Brothers didn't care.

[00:44:26] Um, and, uh, you know, whoever owned, you know, Warner Brothers owns Batman. I don't remember who owned his predator at the time. Um, it may have been them as well. They didn't

[00:44:35] JOSH: Fox, right?

[00:44:36] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah, Yeah. They, so you know, luckily those, you know, that that group did not involve anybody who really either followed us and didn't know about it.

[00:44:45] I think eventually they f they found out about it. I mean, it was, it found me versus Predator just became too big. Um, but, you know, we never, it never happened. Um, So I, I thought I was for, we were pretty fortunate on that because I didn't know what would happen if, if it really did ha, you know, we gotta take down letter because we did not have the relationship with these other, uh, uh, in the studios that, you know, TFN did with Lucasfilm.

[00:45:12] I mean, we had Dr. People that used to work for TFN that worked at Lucasfilm and so they could email us, uh, uh, on the side on, you know, say, Hey, you guys gotta take that down. You know, that kind of stuff.

[00:45:22] JOSH: Oh, wow. That's interesting. Yeah. One of my questions was, what, if any contact you guys had with, Lucasfilm, and were there ever any like, you know, conversations or like, okay, like here's where the line is. Like as long as you stay away from this, or you don't go here, then we're.

[00:45:36] But it sounds like you guys had a pretty close relationship.

[00:45:40] JEFF (aka AZEEM): we did, um, Steve Sansweet was the, you know, director of fan relations, um, super nice guy. Um, my first introduction to him wasn't all that great though. Um, and so, so let me, let me tell you this about the, that infamous, um, uh, San Diego ComicCon. had two different things happen to me. so my introduction to to to Steve Sansweet was I was covering the conventions, you know, since I lived in, you know, near Los Angeles, I can get down there and we, and we down there.

[00:46:04] Anyways, so I covered the convention. I didn't know tfn, you know, I, I was kind of separate from the guys who did the spoilers and that kind of stuff. I didn't know that TFN had just posted a major spoiler, uh, that day. So during the, so I was covering the episode two panel. It was Steve Sand Suite. Some guy gets in the, you know, the questionnaire and goes, By the way, hey Steve on TFN today, they posted that Anakin gets his arm cut off.

[00:46:33] JOSH: Oh wow.

[00:46:34] JEFF (aka AZEEM): So I wasn't paying attention, you know, and I was just covering and stuff like that. I didn't, I didn't listen to the q and a cuz, you know, I was figuring it was just gonna be, you know, you know, Coke or Pepsi, What did you know? What did you eat today? So I wasn't paying attention to that. After the convention I was, I went up to Steve's or uh, the panel and I was like, Hey Steve, I'm Jeff with TFN Fan Films.

[00:46:53] I worked with TheForce.net. You know, I just wanted talk to you, you know, if we can get an interview with this. And Steve got really mad at me and he is like, You guys posted that? And I'm like, I can't do an interview with you because you guys just gave a major spoiler plot away. Right here, you know, right before the convention, before the movie came out.

[00:47:12] And I was like, Oh boy. And then, you know, later on he, he gave me a call and he was, he's like, Hey, you know, it's not, I know it wasn't you, I'm sorry, blah, blah, blah. And so, but him and I had contact and he's one that actually contacted me for about doing that, uh, the, uh, for episode two. So that's how that came on.

[00:47:30] At that same convention, um, you remember of the anonymous director, , episode two fan trailer

[00:47:36] JOSH: Yes.

[00:47:36] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Do you remember that incident where somebody at Lucason says, Hey, this looks like the trailer for episode two. So what had happened? It was a screening at that, that ComicCon so

[00:47:47] JOSH: was a screening where, they screened the anonymous director's fan trailer for episode two.

[00:47:52] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yes, And nobody had any context for it? Cause remember what used usually happen on the TFN movies at the bottom right would say TheForce.net.

[00:48:00] JOSH: Right.

[00:48:01] JEFF (aka AZEEM): I found out why we do that and found out . So what had happened is I was leaving for San Diego ComicCon and I was running out of time and you know, you know this, at that time, Soren said, and QuickTime Pro took forever to, to encode.

[00:48:15] I didn't have enough time. So I did the small version only, um, before I went out the door, but I forgot to put

[00:48:21] JOSH: The watermark.

[00:48:22] You forgot the

[00:48:23] JEFF (aka AZEEM): forgot the, I forgot the watermark and so I posted

[00:48:25] JOSH: God. Oh, no.

[00:48:27] JEFF (aka AZEEM): so now it was on TFN and remember at that time you could download, you know, you had to download. Um, so they down, you downloaded it.

[00:48:34] So now people had this, So once that got started getting shared, now it's off TheForce.net and everybody's saying, Hey, this, you know, here's the, and they're not paying attention to the mo, you know, they're not actually paying attention to, you know, what's on the screen. Everybody's like, just super excited because it's a episode two, not realizing, you know, Hey, there's Braveheart, that should be a big clue.

[00:48:53] But, you know, they used, but they used pick, you know, a video of, uh, Hayden Christiansen and, uh, that nobody really knew. So that got screened at, uh, ComicCon and people were like, Oh my gosh, it's, it's a leaked vi leaked episode two video and, you know, massive Jedi attack and all that stuff, Which I'm sure the person who, you know, you know from Lucas who said that didn, you know, didn't really know the film, she just probably didn't.

[00:49:18] Certain things might happen. And, you know, at the end of Episode Two there was a massive Jedi attack, uh, you know, on, on the, uh, on the uh, uh, arena. So that is, that caused all sorts of confusion. And I, you know, I knew, I know the non director, I still, again, I'm still friends with him today. He still does, uh, video editing for a lot of major stuff, major, uh, video, uh, um, productions.

[00:49:45] But, uh, yeah, we, him and I had to sit down and talk and do like an interview and together and kind of, kind of clear the air about really what happened. And, uh, after when I, immediately, when I got home,

[00:49:59] JOSH: Who did you do an interview with? To clear it up.

[00:50:00] JEFF (aka AZEEM): I did it with him and I put it on the website and tried to like

[00:50:03] JOSH: I

[00:50:04] JEFF (aka AZEEM): like, Hey, this, this is a fake. he also got interviewed by a bunch of publications, you know, cuz they would contact me, you know, just like what you did when you contacted TheForce.Net to get in touch with me.

[00:50:14] Publications would contact TFN and they would route it to me and then I would route it to the directors, you know, to get, you know, say, Hey, so and so wants have an interview with you. So, yeah. So we, we had to explain for the next few months, you know, this is fake, this is, you know, he, and he broke down, shot by shot, what he did, um, and how he did it.

[00:50:33] And so I learned never to forget the watermark again.

[00:50:39] JOSH: Yeah, I'm sure you never had any trouble, , remembering after that incident.

[00:50:43] JEFF (aka AZEEM): No, it was funny. I mean, we all, we were, we were all laughing, but, uh, I think that was really the first indicator of how powerful fan films were becoming even in Hollywood, you know, Here's, you know, San Diego ComicCon, which was really starting to ramp up. Um, you know, Hollywood was starting to take it over.

[00:51:03] Now it's taking it over completely with all the Marvel films. But, you know, at that point it's, it was still a lot about comic book geeks. But now we, we knew that, you know, major publications were talking about this and that the fan film, this one fan film director making a fake film actually had an impact on a major studio, Lucasfilm, uh, at a major convention.

[00:51:25] So I, I think that was the, my first clue that, you know, we were doing something that actually was getting attention, uh, whether it was good attention or not, I, you know, attention, I don't know. But, um, it was, you know, attention and people were really becoming aware of that. People are making stuff and post posting it on the internet, and the internet's going to be a force of, you know, of, uh, video releases in the future,

[00:51:49] we, now we see.

[00:51:50] JOSH: No, absolutely. No, that's certainly true. There were, um, There were a few films that you released that were of a certain level of quality that were super impressive that I think, got sort of mainstream attention. Like, I remember Duality when that, when that one came out, the quality of it, like the, the effects cuz there was a lot of cg, a lot of CG environments. The, the effects, the performances, the choreography was all very, well done and impressive. And I remember it got a lot of mainstream, press coverage, because it, like really, you know, that was one that for me at least, really started to blur the line between fan productions and the quote unquote real thing.

[00:52:32] It was like, Oh wow. It's like a fan filmmaker can really make something that looks pretty darn close to the real thing.

[00:52:40] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. And you know, Dave is, I mean, Dave is probably the nicest guy I've ever met. Um, you know, him, him and his wife, uh, and my wife, uh, and I went, we went to like, see one of his movies that he, uh, he, he, you know, he was doing stunt uh, work in. And, um, he invited, he actually invited me up there and I was actually gonna be in it, um, in one, in one of my royal guard.

[00:53:03] I was gonna be, um, we never did it because it just, it wouldn't work. Uh, I was gonna be the Royal guard that was, I was there was, I would be two of me, uh, on both sides of the door. Um, when, uh, when the, uh, when Lord R was supposed to, or no, Yeah, Lord R shows up and he goes, he comes inside. Um, they just never did.

[00:53:22] We just never did it. But I was there and I filmed it. He actually rented a small studio, um, that had a, um, A a, I don't wanna a quarter, um, blue screen or green screen. I think it was a blue screen. Uh, so he had a quarter blue screen and you know, Dave is, you know, he's a black belt and, um, I don't know remember what, which, uh, style he did, but he was a black belt and he taught, um, in, in Santa Barbara.

[00:53:50] I just, he's amazing, amazing, um, stuntman. But he, you know, all those, you know, flips and all that stuff, that was him and his, uh, one of his best students, uh, doing that kind of stuff. So, Yeah, when they brought, they brought that, that athletic ability. And then Dave and um, uh, his partner Mark, uh, were learning, you know, how to do special effects and, um, you know, 3D models and after effects, you know, they were big time into the, into the apple, you know, Cause obviously Apple was, was huge at that point.

[00:54:22] Um, so he was showing, he showed me some of the stuff he was working on. I don't know if it was lightweight, I don't remember which, uh, 3D program he used, but he was showing me like, Hey, I'm learning. He learned all this stuff by himself and self-taught. And, you know, the, I mean the, the film itself, the release of it speaks for itself of, uh, of his talents.

[00:54:41] And, and again, what he did, he took, he had an ability, uh, at an exceptional level, you know, his athleticism, and he learned other things as a fan and made it an incredible short fan film.

[00:54:54] JOSH: Yeah. Well, that's something really interesting. I think people make fan films for different reasons. and, one of them I feel like, I don't want to say this with any negative, connotations, because I think it's really smart, but I feel like, you know, a lot of people would make a fan film as like a showcase for what they were capable of, uh, to use as either like a demo reel or like as a part of a show reel, to get, professional worker like to, help start their careers.

[00:55:19] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And absolutely. And several of those guys did, The Batman versus Predator, you know, Duality, The Anonymous Director, you know, even in, you know, even, uh, Joe Monroe and Knightquest, even though, you know, they were in the industry now, they, they had something, another demo reels says, Hey, I can do this.

[00:55:36] You know? Uh, I think for several of them it was more than they were, you know, doing on a day to day basis. And maybe they were just like, you know, because, you know, it's all broken down. Each, you know, position is broken down to individual little parts, and you only get to do your little part.

[00:55:49] JOSH: Right. Exactly.

[00:55:51] JEFF (aka AZEEM): you know, they show that I went from, I took a film and made it from start to finish, you know, And, you know, we did the lighting, you know, we did the audio editing, you know, special effects.

[00:56:01] You know, they could, they could show that they could, they're multifaceted and could do something and see it to completion. And, and you and I can both agree, you know, they finished something, you know,

[00:56:11] JOSH: That's hard. That's hard

[00:56:12] JEFF (aka AZEEM): to do,

[00:56:13] and that, that's impressive. So, but, and to have a two, three minute, five minute demo reel, for your next job.

[00:56:20] I mean, I, I could see why people did it, and I think it was, it's, it was really smart way to promote yourself.

[00:56:24] JOSH: no, Absolutely. So, why did you eventually decide to bow out and, , retire from TFN Fan Films?

[00:56:32] JEFF (aka AZEEM): So obviously episode three comes around, things have started to change. , IGN was, you know, was complaining to us at times and knows, kind of getting tired of them, listening to them complaining about the bandwidth, the TFN band films. I mean, I understood why. I mean, it's, it's it's business. Um, also remember, uh, I think was, was it oh 4 0 3, uh, Atom Films came out with their

[00:56:56] Star

[00:56:56] JOSH: Atom Films, right? They did the, um,

[00:56:59] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Official fan film awards or something like

[00:57:02] JOSH: The official fan film awards. Right, right.

[00:57:04] JEFF (aka AZEEM): But they had the restrictions nothing. Copyright could be involved

[00:57:07] JOSH: right.

[00:57:08] JEFF (aka AZEEM): you had, so you had to be parody and, you know, you couldn't use star, uh, you could use limited Star Wars music and facts and stuff. And you know, in Lucasfilms approved certain things

[00:57:17] JOSH: Yeah, I remember like they had like a resources, page or something with like a small number of approved sound effects from the films that you could use and, and things and things like that. So ,you could use some, but it was a very, limited selection of what you could use.

[00:57:30] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. And then in one of the requirements is also that Atom Films had to host it. So we started losing, some films and a few of ours went over there. At this point I started realizing that we are now competing against the big guys and we're not gonna win. Um, and also, you know, and as these films get bigger and bigger, um, hosting is gonna be a bigger problem.

[00:57:54] Uh, you know, band bandwidth is always gonna be a problem. Um, you know, the next time I bring up the next sins of the Jedi I bring up is going to cause bandwidth problems. And I just didn't wanna deal with it anymore. Plus, I, you know, I'd just been married, uh, in, uh, a few years earlier and, you know, I, I wanted to get, do more with my career.

[00:58:14] So I, I, I went back to school, um, you know, to get my degree. Uh, so it just, it just seemed like it was the right time to do it. Um, had, again, had a YouTube been around, you know, really been a big thing. Then I probably would've stayed for at least a few more years. Uh, cuz I wouldn't have those, those major issues I wouldn't have to listen to.

[00:58:34] Uh, I mean, I'm glad that, I'm glad they hosted us. I mean, I, I can't thank 'em enough for that, but, uh, you know, tho I, those concerns, that's not why I got into it. I wanted to do it to just make good fan films and be a, you know, a place for people to make fan films. Now I was getting into all the administrative stuff of it, which I just really didn't like.

[00:58:53] And, um, I had a lot of other things, you know, when you're, you know, with the young wife and, um, you know, you wanna have kids and stuff like that, you, you have to have other priorities. And I took those priorities and walked away.

[00:59:04] JOSH: No, that makes sense. Um, , what sort of a life did, , TFN Fan Films have after you left?

[00:59:10] JEFF (aka AZEEM): It's, it fizzled. It, it started petering now. And also because remember Star Wars, interest in Star Wars was major decline, major decline after episode three cuz nobody

[00:59:21] JOSH: well, yeah, I mean, that was supposed to be it. I mean, that was supposed to be, it. It sounds crazy. Uh, you know, now, when we have, a brand new hour of Star Wars on our TV screens every week, year round now. But, but yeah, like that was supposed to be all there was at the time.

[00:59:34] And as far as we knew like that, that was.

[00:59:37] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. So, but I mean, it still had an impact on, um, the video, uh, effects industry because, I'm trying to remember the guy's name. Andrew Kramer.

[00:59:48] JOSH: Oh yeah. Right? Yes.

[00:59:49] Andrew Kramer.

[00:59:50] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah, he he built his own lifesaver plugin for, for his website. And then he talked to the TFN Fan Films people, and they corrected some of, and he did a part two.

[01:00:00] And you can actually, if you go to his website and he says, Hey, I talked to TFN Fan Films, and they corrected, you know, and they said, You have to round, you know, the saber at the, these points and you know, how and stuff like that. So he made some corrections based on the experts telling him, and, and he's a, you know, he, you know, he's done video effects for Star, for Star Trek, you know, the, the new one to JJ Abrams.

[01:00:21] Um,

[01:00:22] JOSH: No, And I think probably Star Wars as well at this point. Uh, because I know he worked on a lot of JJ Abrams stuff. Like I wouldn't be surprised if he did something

[01:00:30] JEFF (aka AZEEM): So, even the professionals are still talk, we're talking to a bunch of fans on how to do something correct.

[01:00:37] JOSH: yeah. No, that's great. Um, so during our, email correspondence, when I was setting up this interview, uh, you mentioned a bunch of anecdotes, um, most of which you covered, but there was, , one that I'm really curious to ask you about if you're comfortable talking about it. But you mentioned, , somebody sent you, a death threat at one point while you were running tfn.

[01:00:58] It happened twice.

[01:00:59] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Happened twice.

[01:01:00] JOSH: forgive me, but why in the name of all that is good. Would. Somebody send you a death threat?

[01:01:07] JEFF (aka AZEEM): So member again, you know, we've talked in, you know, TFN Fan Films at that time was the place, if you wanted to your film to be seen, that's really where you had to be. Um, I didn't intend for that to happen, you know, that wasn't my intention, but it, that's what happened in, um, Like I said earlier, I, I felt really bad rejecting people.

[01:01:29] The first one I think was a person, cuz I used to get people arguing with me like, Why did you take this? You know, you took so-and-so's filmed mind's better, you know, I have better effects or, you know, stuff like that. And again, that goes back to me, like if you repeated the same thing over and over again.

[01:01:43] I don't really want your film because we already have something like it. Um, but some of these, some folks didn't take, don't like know for an answer. And you know, I, I tried to keep it civil and I tried not to argue with anybody for too long. Um, eventually I was just have to cut it off. But I think the first time was because I told somebody no.

[01:02:01] And I, um, and I don't, I don't remember who it was and I don't remember which film it was or anything like that. So, um, I don't hold it against him, but, um, it freaked out my wife of course, um, because it's, she's like, you're doing this as a, you know, on, on a free basis as a fan and people are sending you death threats.

[01:02:17] Did I take it seriously? Not really, but I, I was really, I was cognizant of what I was saying to people and how people would react. Um, and so I talked to my crew and I'm like, Hey, you guys, just be very careful. Don't say things to antagonize anybody, you know, don't escalate anything. Um, the second time it happened was a few months later that time, I think if somebody was just screwing around, um, it could have been the same person that just wanted attention again.

[01:02:43] But, um, I just pretty much blew that one off. But the fact that somebody sent it to somebody who was just trying to run a website, um, has stuck with me. And,

[01:02:53] JOSH: Yeah, I can only imagine like, that's just so wild. Like how unhinged do you have to be to threaten somebody's life over a fan film? Like,

[01:02:59] JEFF (aka AZEEM): some of these people put a lot of money into these. I mean, and.

[01:03:02] JOSH: that's true. That's a good point.

[01:03:04] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Even a thousand dollars for some of these folks were, you know, which is nothing for a film, you know, to, you know, to rent lights, rent, you know, a video camera and you know, try to, you know, even just build at that time like a G4 Mac, you know, Cause you had to have scuzzy drives cuz that was the only thing, fast stuff to, process video.

[01:03:19] that could be two, 2000, $3,000 as it is. And yeah, you get rejected by, the, the hoster.

[01:03:24] Uh, yeah.

[01:03:25] I, I mean, I can understand the frustration and I said I felt really bad about doing it, but there were things in the background that lot people didn't know about that we had to be aware of.

[01:03:33] JOSH: For sure. Well, I'm sorry that you, , had to experience that. it doesn't seem like either one of them was a very serious threat, but it's just, it's just sort of mind boggling that, that, that somebody would take it there.

[01:03:43] But, um, this is kind of a broader question and, you've probably heard this at some point, , I think some people often wonder why make a Star Wars fan film? Like, why not spend all that effort and money making something original?

[01:03:54] You know, I'm just wondering if you have ever heard that or like what your response would be to that sort of a question.

[01:04:02] JEFF (aka AZEEM): We heard quite a bit, and when I would interview, I'd do interviews with, either local media or sometimes with newspapers and stuff. That question actually would come up quite a bit, like, why do people do this? Um, you know, of course, you know, like you and I are sitting here, you know. We love Star Wars.

[01:04:17] Um, Star Wars shaped whether you are a filmmaker, you know, whether you are, you were a cowboy at the time, you like to, you know, dress up in costumes. Star Wars affected Yes. As children of the eighties, uh, seventies and eighties. You know, if Star Wars affected us in major ways and it drove us in a lot of d you know, in, in our lives, much like Star Trek did for the, for our, you know, either our parents or older siblings.

[01:04:41] So, the chance to play in the world and not get, not get busted for doing it. I mean, that was probably one of the big reasons, you know, cuz a lot of these guys probably would've done Star Trek fan film if they could have, But Paramount wouldn't let 'em do it. Um, so it was a chance to play in a, in a, in somebody's sandbox that, you weren't supposed to be there, but they're not gonna call the cops on you.

[01:05:02] And so you got, you gotta do some things, you know, I think I can do a better light saber fight than, you know, episode, four, five, and six and one. Or, you know, I, you know, we can do stuff with storm troopers, you know, make,, things from the point of view of the storm troopers.

[01:05:14] So, you know, like imps, like the, there was that, that fan film,

[01:05:17] imps, also of course Troops. So it's just you do things, you know, you could do things from a different, point of view. You know, episode two and episode three weren't out yet, , for a lot of this time. So we didn't actually get to see, you know, what the Jedi Council and what the, you know, the Jedi life really was.

[01:05:33] So we could, you know, people were doing stuff like that, or just take it completely different and, you know, Star Wars in the real world, like PA Wars, you know, a PA versus his evil Sith director. You get to explore a world with your imagin.

[01:05:46] You're not limited by what just George Lucas thought.

[01:05:48] But even look at today, I mean, we, we can ask the same question of modern, of Hollywood, why do you keep traipsing over the same things over and over again instead of making something new?

[01:05:58] Because it's a, it's easy, it's familiar, , and it's, you know, a lot of times people just wanna see themselves in that universe.

[01:06:05] JOSH: For sure. And also, You know, something that also applies to fan fiction, like to, to just, um, written stories. It's also, it's, it's absolutely everything you said, but there's also something as well, like if you want to be a filmmaker or do something, under the umbrella of the larger filmmaking process, or if you want, if you want to be a writer, like one of the hardest things to do is to, come up with that great idea, right?

[01:06:32] You know, staring at the blank white, page is, one of the hardest, lifts, to get over and something that either fan films or fan fiction allows you to do is that it allows you, to practice your craft. sort of removing that, starting obstacle, right?

[01:06:49] So it's sort of like, you know, you know this world, you know, these characters, you know what it's supposed to look like or you know, like how you want to tweak it. And it's an opportunity to practice, figuring out how to make a film or how to write a story, how to write good, dialogue or good characters or like how to choose your camera angles or how to do special effects.

[01:07:09] It's just, the existence of that sandbox, allows you to flex your muscles and to experiment, in a way that I think is less intimidating than, having to come up with something whole cloth , from nothing.

[01:07:25] And, you know, something that we've, talked about in some of other episodes that we've done, you know, George Lucas, he intentionally set out to create a modern mythology or like a modern mythological framework and something that, you know, mythology serves a function in, a culture and society.

[01:07:45] And it's sort of, we have arc types and these ideas, in the back of our minds all the time, and we express ourselves, through retelling and reinterpreting those ideas. so it makes, sense, to me that, when wanting to express themselves, people would reach for those, mythic images and mythic ideas and, you know, the existence of fan films and this desire for people to make their own fan films and to, use the themes and language and characters and settings of Star Wars to tell their own stories and express themselves creatively, I think is a testament to how successful that actually was.

[01:08:25] JEFF (aka AZEEM): And, and, and Star Trek and, you know, Star Wars, uh, Dr. Who one of the, I think that the attractions to those, genres and tho those, you know, fandoms and, you know, especially when we get into fan films is it's, when you're writing it, it's safe. It's, you know, if you were go and, and that was one of that, you go back to like, what was I looking for?

[01:08:47] One of the requirements I had is you could not do anything that Star Wars wouldn't do. you, you know, hell was probably the only, the only thing you're gonna say, because they said it in Empire Strikes

[01:08:56] JOSH: and Empire Strikes back, right?

[01:08:58] JEFF (aka AZEEM): That's as far as you're gonna get. But, you know, Star Trek, they, you know, Modern Star Trek obviously is a little bit different, but, you know, Dr.

[01:09:04] Who, same kind of thing. So when you're writing, you're right, you can write and stay true to the universe and write for everybody and or, you know, you can act for everybody. And it, so it's a very wide audience. So you're not narrowing yourself to, Hey, you know, if I'm gonna do a John Wick type fan film, you have a very narrow, and you're gonna be doing very certain things and, you know, a, you're probably never gonna get on YouTube because you know they're gonna strike you, um, for the, you know, for, for violence and that kind of stuff.

[01:09:34] So, uh, with Star Wars, you know, everything was safe. You know, being shot with a blaster, being cut with a light saer, um, generally, um, except, you know, really for two in. Jengo fe and the, uh, the bar scene in episode four, um, you know, the lightsaber is a clean cut and it, you know, there's not much to it. So you could do stuff like that and you don't, you don't need squibs, you know, and you don't have to do anything for the blood and gore.

[01:10:00] Um, or, and you don't have to deal with language. So I, I think that just, that kind of attracts it to a lot more people that maybe not normally would do films or writing for this kind of stuff, but they, you know, they can feel included on this and they can do it because, and they can say, I can make a film that I can show my parents, or I can show my kids, you know, in 20 years, You know, that kind of thing.

[01:10:21] And I think that was really attractive for some.

[01:10:23] JOSH: How, how have fan films changed in the last 20 or so years do you think?

[01:10:30] JEFF (aka AZEEM): That's a good question. I think they have been diminished, quite a bit because of, Disney Plus, honestly. Um, what, like you said, there's a TV show now. You can get Star Wars every, every week. you don't have to wait for the next fan film to come out. I think that's had a diminishing effect on expectations of what a fan film could, could be.

[01:10:51] You know, can the next person make a next great film? That's, I really anticipate it, I'm gonna get to see Darth Vader again. Or, Oh, hey, we're gonna see Boba Fett do something other than, stand around and get killed in Return of the Jedi, you know, that kind of stuff. So the, I think the fans effect, it's, it's has been greatly decreased.

[01:11:10] We do appreciate what the Lucasfilm folks have done. Um, you know, and they have taken things, I think in new really good new steps. I think they've had some great hits, some great fault, but it's just the same thing with fan films. Some of 'em were fantastic, some of them were not.

[01:11:22] They just paid a lot more for it.

[01:11:25] JOSH: right.

[01:11:25] JEFF (aka AZEEM): So I, I would like to say, you know, I, I'd like to hope that some of that influence of the fandom doing these news stories would've influenced some of these folks from, who are doing Disney plus stories. Cuz like even Kevin Rubio, he did, uh, Tag and Bink it was a comic.

[01:11:40] They were actually supposed to show up in the Han Solo movie. They got cut, unfortunately. You know, he's professional obviously, but here's a guy who did a, you know, Star Wars fan film. Now, you know, his characters, could have been in a major motion picture.

[01:11:52] You know, Dave and Cober obviously said he's, you know, he's gone to do major stunt work. So I. I haven't seen anything that says, that's a, a move he did in, in Duality. I haven't seen anything like that, but I would like to see that, you know, hey, these fan films had an influence on the not massive films, but on these smaller Disney plus type films or, uh, TV shows

[01:12:14] JOSH: No, absolutely. I mean, you look at all the Disney Plus shows in different ways and like in their approach it seems is, to give each one like its own sort of identity, like distinct identity and explore a different part of the Star Wars universe or, do something different stylistically. And it's that kind of experimentation with like, different perspectives and different styles that, really you first saw with, with fan films in many ways. I mean, that's what it, reminds me of. Like, I remember, I don't remember if it was The Mandalorian or the Obi-Wan Kenobi show, but I remember, reading some tweet and they were like, it just looks like Big budget, fan film or something. And I was like, they meant that in a derisive way. But I read that and I was like, well, like what constitutes a fan film? It's you know, I mean like, I would be proud of that in a certain, in a certain way

[01:13:06] JEFF (aka AZEEM): John and

[01:13:07] Dave are fans. John and Dave are both fans. I mean,

[01:13:10] JOSH: Yes. Right?

[01:13:11] JEFF (aka AZEEM): they're, now, they're paid. That's, I mean, they're, they're majorly, they're paid and you know, they're also, you know, big time directors, but they're fans and so they're making, you know, they're putting their visions to end, you know, obviously you, you know, the different directors and stuff like that.

[01:13:23] So, I mean, in ways it is, they are fan films, with the blessings of Lucasfilm. So it, it, yeah. And like you said, like, uh, Mandalorian, the, the last episodes, you know, you had this with, uh, Jason Sudokus and that other guy from SNL you're seeing the point of view from scout troopers.

[01:13:39] JOSH: That scene was like Straight Outta troops.

[01:13:41] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Exactly. I mean, that could have easily been in troops and those guys just screwing around, you know, shooting the cans, they can't hit anything, which we, you know, we did kind of see even in Troops when they're trying to shoot that Jawa that, uh, you know, that's fleeing.

[01:13:54] That I think that has had an influence. So that's where I think the, the Disney plus thing has, where it's been growing. The amateur films, I think are, you know, their influence is gonna be less and less, you know, people are just, are gonna be less likely to do it. Now, they may move to other, other fandoms.

[01:14:09] I can definitely see that. But, uh, I think in, in the Star Wars, um, circle, there's just kind of less incentive to do it.

[01:14:16] JOSH: Yeah, you know, it's interesting, uh, like I was just, , trying to do, a little bit of research, before recording this just to refamiliarize myself with some names and some stuff. And I, came upon and interview with, some f filmmaker on a website. And, uh, he was asked the question like, Why do you think there are so many Star Wars fan films?

[01:14:34] And his answer was, Well, it's because there's not a lot of new Star Wars. Right. And people wanna see it. And so there's that, thirst, that demand and like we're sort filling that desire for more Star Wars and you know, we don't seem to have that issue anymore.

[01:14:51] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah. And we we're seeing that now, especially with the, with so many shows covering different time periods. Could, you know, from 2000 to 2005, by far most of our stories were set either, pre, Star Wars, you know, like during the Purge, which we, you know, we really haven't gotten to until recently.

[01:15:07] or, you know, it was like, after Star Wars or so it was, it was covering time periods that had never been covered in the, in the, in three movies or actually four, um, cuz of, uh, episode one. So it was time periods that just were never covered. Now you're seeing Disney plus take, take that role and they're covering other time periods.

[01:15:26] So now, you know, now they're even going go back to, you know, uh, where, you know, they're gonna nights at the older Republic. You know, that could have been a great fan film, but it's probably gonna be even a. movie. cuz that was fan, you know, that's fantastic writing and it was great game.

[01:15:38] so that's, you know, that's, I think, uh, it's, it's gonna get really hard if somebody wants to say, Hey, I'm gonna do a fan film today. I think it's gonna be a lot harder to do.

[01:15:46] JOSH: One of the last things I was gonna ask you is, like I mentioned, I went to, TheForce.net Fan F ilm section, and I wanted to watch some of these old fan films that I remembered. And again, like I said, a lot of the links are broken. I was wondering, do you think someone would ever sort of make like a YouTube channel?

[01:16:01] Like fan film archive or something, like a fan film theater again, and kind of like recollect all of these, old fan films, just to make them viewable someplace? Is that something even possible to do? But it sounds like.

[01:16:13] JEFF (aka AZEEM): it would never happen. YouTube would strike you. because you're gonna get mu, cuz you're gonna get music copyrighted. Even if Lucasfilm doesn't care, you're gonna get music copyrighted and you're gonna get strike and you're gonna be, you're gonna be shut down. That's that. That's why where when we did fan films, We were at the perfect time.

[01:16:28] You know, granted it was in the infancy of, of computer graphics, um, special effects at home, but we were at the perfect time. Nowadays, you would never get away with it, um, because again, you're still gonna have to host it somewhere, but where, you know, and everybody's using, you know, YouTube or one of those guys, and they're gonna, they're gonna strike you.

[01:16:45] Um, so it's, it's, I think it would be more hassle now than it was back then, even with dealing with ign. Um, it was still, you know, it's still, it was still the wild West on the internet at that point, which, where nowadays it's heavily regulated, especially in the media, um, sphere, which, and I don't think, I don't, you know, I just don't think YouTube would ever allow it.

[01:17:08] Think about Atoms films. You couldn't use Lucasfilm music, so you had to use other types of music.

[01:17:12] Duality had to actually take its music off, to be on that. So I think it's just, it's a, it's a, you're gonna have an IP nightmare. Honestly, it's, I just don't think it's worth it. I think fan films in, Its the way we did it is long gone. It's, I, I just don't think it'll, it'll ever happen again.

[01:17:29] Um,

[01:17:29] I'm, I'm very happy to be, I'm glad to be a part of it and having a major role in it. I had a great time doing it and I think a lot of people had fun doing it. Um, but I just don't see us ever getting there again.

[01:17:41] JOSH: Well, Jeff, unless there's, something that you wanna leave, the audience with I really had a wonderful time, learning a lot from you and also, reminiscing about what, was a very special moment for fandom and for young filmmakers and

[01:17:54] Star Wars.

[01:17:54] JEFF (aka AZEEM): Yeah, I mean, you know, I didn't, I didn't make fan films happen. I had a role in it, and I played the curator, as you said. I ran the website, but without the fan filmmakers and also without the fans themselves, I was just one guy, but it was these people who spent, a lot of money on their films, a lot of time.

[01:18:14] And a lot of the fans who supported them and, were, like you said, you know, eagerly awaiting a lot of these fan films. Without them, this never would've worked. , so I, to me, the fan film community from that time period was the perfect fandom. And I, I, I miss it.

[01:18:30] But that, at that time period, it's, I can think about it and actually makes me smile. even with all the work that it was, that was true love for Star Wars and, I can't thank those people that, um, spent so much time, , on the site enough , for what they did.

[01:18:46] And, you know, the success they gave us.

[01:18:49] JOSH: Well thank you Jeff, for being willing to talk to me and for being so generous with your time. I really had a lot of fun having this conversation with you. So thank you very, very much.

[01:18:58] JEFF (aka AZEEM): No, I appreciate it. It's, uh, obviously, as I told you, it's been a long time since I've actually talked about this and a lot of people don't know a lot of the stuff that happened in the background, so, , it's nice to finally be able to share, some of the, the funny things that happened, over the years and, the good and the bad that happened.

[01:19:12] But it's, you, you brought about a lot of the memories as well. And so now it, like you said, I'm gonna probably have to go see if, like, what, uh, films I have and crack a few open, see, uh, and watch 'em again.

[01:19:22] JOSH: I wish I could join you but, um, so thanks again Jeff and for anyone listening if you liked what you heard please visit trashcompod.com where we have transcripts of this episode and all our other episodes. And we are trashcompod across all social media, and we will see you on the next one.

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Josh

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