MASTER AND APPRENTICE: An Interview With Filmmaker Shawn Bu
The early days of the internet proved pretty exciting for me as I dabbled further into the world of indie film and fan film forums. Back during my college years, all I had at home was 56k dial-up and so I would always use one of the lab computers on campus to entertain myself because their service made it a little easier at the time. And this was just when Crew Of Two released their hit Star Wars fan film, Duality, which you can still find online to date.
Shawn Bu: Well I just returned from a great vacation visiting my mother’s family in Singapore. I used the time to relax and recharge after some exhausting years, and I also got some new inspiration and motivation. At this moment I am working on a small Power Ranger related video with my brother Julien Bam for his YouTube channel, although it’s nothing like my Star Wars fan film as it is more of a comedic “teens with superpowers” fun video. Anyway, I’m looking forward to what this year has to offer!
SB: It is unbelievable! When I wrote and envisioned the film I always had the whole film playing in my head and feeling it. Feeling how it would excite me watching it and also how other people would be moved by it. I wanted to make a film that many people could enjoy, and not just Star Wars fans but film fans in general. So, to see how successful and especially how fast it went viral was a big surprise and left me speechless for quite some time. But it also really gave me confidence, that the ideas I had in my head can really work and touch a lot of people.
SB: I think I've been into filmmaking since I was about seven or eight years old, and Star Wars kind of sparked my interest! Not just in watching movies but how movies are being made. It really changed me and I was trying to find out as much as possible about filmmaking. How does the magic work?
Also around that time, my dad bought a Sony Camcorder that I then used A LOT. My interest in filmmaking only grew when I got older. I bought books, watched every making of I could find and just watched movies all day long.
SB: Next to Star Wars, I have to mention Ridley Scott's Alien. While Star Wars sparked my interest on how movies are made, it was Alien that showed me what I really want to be in the future: a film director.
SB: I actually worked on several short films before as a student, but Darth Maul: Apprentice was by far the toughest project I ever worked on. As writer, director and producer of this film I was not only the creative force behind it, but I also had to keep the motivation of almost seventy people alive for two tough years, including my own motivation. Also the film was a big risk. It would never generate any money, while still costing me a fortune. But I strongly believed that it would be film that a lot of people would want to see. It was a passion project...something I wanted to do my entire life.
So, I had a lot of ups and downs during that times and endured a lot of things that didn’t work the way they should have...thankfully, also lot of things that worked out great! I was constantly on the edge. My goals for quality where very high because I knew that a fan film like this can only become something special if we get everything right: From the script to the actors, the costumes and designs, the choreography and locations, the VFX, etc. That’s the beauty of working together with so many incredibly talented people. It’s all a team effort that makes this possible and every single element of the film was a fight that we took on together.
|Vi-Dan Tran & Shawn Bu (Photo: Patrick Suite)|
SB: My first short film was actually a Star Wars lightsaber fight that I did in school. I always wanted to do another one and during my time at the university the idea did come up a few times. With my friends, including Vi-Dan who did all the amazing action and Ben who played Darth Maul, I felt it was the right moment to do it, but at that time I was still thinking about a film set in the Star Wars universe with new characters. It was only when I worked with Ben on a project where he potrayed Maul that I realised how absolutely perfect his Maul actually is. So I thought it would be crime not to do movie about him! I always liked Maul and felt he was severely underused in the film(s), especially Episode One. So for me it was a great opportunity to tell people a little bit lore about this character. I then wrote the script as a direct prequel to Episode One.
SB: I actually went to school with a cousin of his. When I shot my first short film, which was a lightsabre fight film, Vi-Dan’s cousin connected us after watching it. Vi-Dan was already a martial arts expert and I wanted to shoot a film with him. We later went to the same film University in Germany where we started working on films together. We realised pretty quickly that we work together, very well!
SB: Ben is incredible! He brings so many different talents to this project. He does his own make up...about four to five hours every day before shooting! He is also an experienced stunt man and action actor. As I explained earlier, his performance as Maul led me to idea to create film focused around this character. Ben really becomes Darth Maul. He studied this character for many years now, but his talent doesn’t stop there! He was also one of the sound designers on the film. Ben edited all the lightsabre sounds in post production!
SB: The Jedi apprentice was the most important character next to Darth Maul and casting her was not easy! First, I was looking for the right actress to fit the part - wuo can act as well as filmfight. After a while of searching, however, I realized that I had to decide between the acting or the fight experience. In the end for this part, the acting experience became more important and Svenja Jung’s portrayal and execution of her character's fighting skills and prowess was something that Vi-Dan had to create with her through training, choreography and sometimes using a double. Still, Svenja did all the wire stunts herself!
SB: There are a lot of little things that I wished to have done differently or maybe just better, ranging from directing and pacing to VFX and action or logistics. The whole project was a giant learning experience. Things I took from it are definitely the importance of a good pre-production and preparations! And also, to find the right people work with who understand you and share your vision, and is able to see things the way you do. The project also showed me again and again how important every single person in the cast and crew is and how every single talent combined creates the film.
SB: I am always looking for the next big thing. My goal is to direct feature films in the future. But It is still to early to talk about anything specific. I can only say that I am very much into Science-Fiction.
SB: Thank you for the interest and appreciation of our film! The film was made with the intention to entertain and excite fans of Star Wars, fans of action and fans of movies in general. And I am very happy and thankful for the support the film still gets after one year. May the force be with you!