As the winner for the coveted George Lucas Select Award with their film Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager, filmmakers Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda never realized that their viral cult classic series of the Dark Lord of the Sith (or at least his brother) who works in a grocery store would be seen by the Maker himself for the Fan Movie Challenge presented by Lucasfilm and AtomFilms. The Wisconsin-based filmmakers chat about their hit series, and how hard it can be to use the Force to move produce and stay awake under fluorescent lights at 3 a.m.
What is the back story regarding your film? Where did you get your idea for your film?
Aaron Yonda: The original idea for Chad Vader came from a friend of mine named Tim Harmston. I had a one-page script in my archives he and another friend of mine had written about Darth Vader who works in a convenience store, kills his employees, and basically acts like Darth Vader would. Matt and I had seen a lot of Darth Vader fish-out-of-water ideas in the past and wanted to changed this idea a little so we made it Darth’s little brother, who has the same look and powers but not the same confidence or backbone to use those abilities. And we gave him a heart. Chad doesn’t really want to kill people, he just wants them to like him, but he’s got a lot of inner conflicts. Once we had created a unique character out of Chad we became really excited about the idea and we started trying to find a way to make the film.
I really liked the idea of Darth’s younger brother working in a grocery store. It’s as if his younger brother never left the small town they grew up in and has to live in the shadow of his more successful older brother. We make a lot of short films but I was really excited to wear the Darth Vader costume. And once we had a good imitation of his voice down things really came together.
How has George Lucas and his films influence your work?
Aaron Yonda: George Lucas has influenced me with his imagination and his devotion to his craft. I am to this day impressed by scenes like the Cantina scene where there’s so much incredible detail and amazing things that you only see for a second or two. It really creates a totally believable reality for the scene.
What is your background in film? Did you make films as youngsters?
Aaron Yonda: I studied English in college but I was working on a public access TV show at the same time. That’s where I got my basic film training, as I am mostly self-taught.
Matt Sloan: I actually have no film training. I did a little bit of video making for my college’s cable station, but not much.
What are some of the technical aspects of your film? What did you shoot and edit with?
Aaron Yonda: We use a Panasonic DVX-100a and Final Cut Pro on a Mac.
What were some of the challenges and surprised that happened to you as you were creating your movie?
Aaron Yonda: It was harder to get an apple to move using the “Force” than we thought it would be. It looks simple, but it took a lot of takes to get it right. And I found that it was really hot in the Vader costume.
Matt Sloan: Shooting late at night is hard. We have to shoot after hours in the grocery store, so our shoots usually run until 2 or 3 in the morning. Coffee helps.
Who were all the principle people in helping get the film made? Who would you like to thank?
Aaron Yonda: The principal people who make Chad Vader happen (and they all do it for free!) are our producer Courtney Collins who takes care of the organizational aspects of our shoots as well as finding and communicating with actors and crew on a daily basis. Tona Williams who does our website and is the director of photography is great. John Urban is our Assistant Director and also does the lighting. Doug Chapin who’s been helping us with productions for years from anything to assistant director to sound to grip. John Lee who is responsible for getting us the dead on voice of Darth with his electronic know-how. And Saul Mandel who’s done all our special effects since Episode 3.
Do you have aspirations to make films as a career? Or is this simply a labor of love?
Aaron Yonda: We do make films for living. It was a labor of love for a long time, but recently we’ve gotten enough filmmaking projects to live on — some of it based on our other works, but a lot of it based on the success of Chad Vader on the Internet.
Why do you think recognizing fan films is important?
Aaron Yonda: It’s important for a work of art such as Star Wars to live on in other mediums and inspire others to be creative in their own right. If Star Wars inspires others to make films for whatever reason that’s a great thing, and it’s great way for Star Wars to live on throughout the ages.
If you could meet George Lucas, what would you say?
Aaron Yonda: I would say thank you for letting us make Chad Vader and not asking us to stop. I might also ask him what he thinks about the idea of a full length Chad Vader movie.
Head over to starwars.atomfilms.com to watch all the winning films.
Check back soon for more profiles on the winning filmmakers.