The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Friday, August 29, 2003
by Betsy Pickle
This has been a good year for "The Jedi Hunter."
"The Jedi Hunter," a short film in which "The Crocodile Hunter" meets "Star Wars," will play at 10pm tonight at Dragon*Con, the annual science-fiction and fantasy convention in Atlanta, in a block of "Star Wars" fan films. The parody debuted at Dragon*Con last year, but this time it returns a champion.
Created by Knoxvillians and filmed primarily in Knoxville, the short won the Audience Award in the 2003 Star Wars Fan Film Contest this summer. It also picked up two awards at the Dahlonega International Film Festival, one for special effects and a Special Award of Merit for director John Hudgens. It will screen in September at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham. The film also can be viewed at TheForce.net.
To discuss their success, Hudgens, co-writer Lowell Cunningham and Denny Humbard, who came up with the original concept for the film, have returned to the scene of the crime, er, the brainstorm -- B.Q. Asian Bar and Grill in West Knoxville. It was there in June 2002 that the friends first thought of a follow-up to their previous fan film, "Darth Vader's Psychic Hotline."
"I remember the look on John's face," says Humbard, a computer systems administrator. "I said, 'Why don't we do "Jedi Hunter"?' and John goes, "Oh!" and just stops. He goes, 'Man, we've got to work on this.' "
"We knew we had something," says Cunningham, creator of the "Men in Black" comic books. "The people at the table behind us were laughing at our jokes."
Bounty hunter Boba Fett appeared in the original "Star Wars" trilogy and was re-introduced in "Episode II" as the son of Jango Fett. He's one of the great iconographic supporting characters in "Star Wars."
"He's got four lines in the entire (original) trilogy," says Hudgens, who works at local WB affiliate WBXX. "I always thought he was cool-looking. He's mysterious; you don't know anything about him. He shows up; he gets the job done. He just doesn't look behind him."
"In the original trilogy, you had the light side and the dark side, but then there's Boba right in the middle," says Cunningham. "He's working with the dark-side people, but he obviously has his integrity."
The actors who have played Boba -- Jeremy Bullock as an adult and Daniel Logan as a child --were at the Star Wars Fan Films Awards at Comic Con in San Diego in July. Bullock was the host.
"It was like the Academy Awards," says Hudgens.
"On a much, much smaller scale," Cunningham interjects.
Either way, there were around 3,000 people in the audience, enough to take Hudgens' breath away when he went up to accept the award. "He thanked everybody appropriately," says Cunningham, who was a witness along with cast member Sandy Clark and script contributor Dorothy Tompkins.
"I really do not remember a word that I said other than getting up there, looking at the crowd of people and going, 'Crikey!'" says Hudgens.
Hudgens says he knew who was going to win the top prize, the George Lucas Selects Award --Trey Stokes, director of "Pink Five."
"It was a feeling I had," he says. "Trey and I had been e-mailing back and forth. I always saw him as my biggest competition, and he saw me as his biggest competition. I couldn't see Trey not winning that award; 'Pink Five' is that good."
Hudgens says he doesn't want to be known only as "the guy that makes 'Star Wars' films," but he doesn't rule out another.
"That's one of the great things about playing with the 'Star Wars' universe is that you are playing with an established universe, and it's a visual shorthand," he says. "People already get it. They already know your venue. They know the genre you're playing in, and you don't have to give them all the setup. It's a good way to get a jumping-off point."
The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Saturday, September 28, 2002
by Betsy Pickle
First there was "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones." Then there was "Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course." Now, there's "The Jedi Hunter."
Okay, well maybe it isn't on the same scale. But the local creators of the short film "The Jedi Hunter" have tried to take the best - or at least the funniest - aspects of two cult icons and make movie gold out of them.
"The Jedi Hunter," which debuted at DragonCon in Atlanta earlier this month and can be viewed at www.theforce.net, came together thanks to Adventure Con, a toy and celebrity convention held in June in Knoxville.
Director John Hudgens and his co-writer, Lowell Cunningham, were among a group of friends who spent time with Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, during the convention. While waiting for Mayhew to join them for dinner, they were killing time making jokes.
"Denny (Humbard) made the crack about doing 'The Crocodile Hunter' in the 'Star Wars' universe," recalls Hudgens. "We laughed at it and went on to the next joke." But Hudgens and Cunningham had already pulled out their pens. "We had the general outline written before that night was ovber," says Hudgens.
The director, who works at WBXX, the local WB affiliate, had to depend of Cunningham for expertise on Aussie Steve Irwin's "Crocodile Hunter" routine. "Lowell's a big watcher of the show," Hudgens says. "He loaned me one of the DVD compilations. We modeled the film on one of his 'best of" videos."
Most of the people who worked on the Hudgens and Cunningham-penned "Darth Vader's Psychic Hotline," a prize-winning "Star Wars" fan film, committed to "Jedi Hunter." Brian Boling of Georgia took on the principal role of Boba Fett - he had the costume.
The cast included "15 humans, plus Yoda," says Hudgens. Most of the eight-minute film was shot in late June in Knoxville, but additional footage was shot in August in California at Vasquez Rocks, famed for their iconic appearances in "Star Trek."
"It's cool to go see it," says Hudgens. "It's north of Los Angeles, about a 30-minute drive. The day we were out there, there were two film crews shooting on the other side of it."
The film's debut at DragonCon was well beyond Hudgens' expectations. "The room we were in sat a couple hundred people. It was packed to the walls. The reaction was phenomenal. People were just laughing their butts off."