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The making of The War of the Starfighters

Laurie has been into film making for many years and he has an interesting story to tell. As well as many other films, he has recently completed a film that you could say, took him 19 years to complete from idea to last frame. The actual making of the film took him 3 years, here we find out a little more about the film and bit more about Laurie. The film is called "The War of the Starfighters", this is what Laurie says on web site about the film "This 76 minute CG (computer generated) feature film has been made by me on my own (except for some voices) and will utilise the three short films made below. It is centred around a robot called Trevlac and a human called Mark, his family and friends. Completed March 3rd 2003. This film was made as a special gift to my children and family, not for any commercial reason. It has been archived by the British Film Institute NFT archive and the East Anglian archive"

If you would like to take a look then click on this link >>>> starfight.htm

The pictures in this interview are taken from the film "War of the Starfighters"

IAC : Tell us about yourself ?

I'm Laurie Calvert, age 41, married to Pauline with two lovely children Laurie Jnr (age 6) and Jonathan (age 4). Laurie and Jon were to be the primary inspiration for the movie.

 

IAC : Have you had any formal training in film making, if yes, what and where ?

Not training but I do have some experience. From 1982 - 1987 I worked as a Rostrum cameraman in London, working on over 100 programmes, adverts, and 5 features. My job involved shooting on 35mm film on an Oxberry movie camera in a studio. An animator would bring in the artwork and I'd press the buttons to film it. It is an important point to realise that this didn't help me in my Computer Graphics (CG) work of today because in the mid 80s CG was not around in my work environment. Recently had to self-teach myself how to animate and time moves. Now I was working without film or a lens, instead using hard drives, compression, codecs, pixels, polygons and a whole different set of film making tools. Today I make corporate training videos, but again that added nothing to my CG. I spent two years getting up to speed with these new tools before embarking on my feature in Jan 2000. So I do consider myself an amateur in every sense of the word when it comes to my CG films. I hope the IAC can be proud of me. 

IAC : Lets talk about your film "The War of the Starfighters". What inspired you to take on such a task ?

In 1978 I saw Star Wars and that inspired me to make films. In 1984 I had an idea for a super 8 feature called 'Robofighters'. I started it but it was taking too long to do. But the idea never went away. In 2000 I realised that I could do it CG after making three short CG 'Starfighter' movies. These won IAC awards and were shown on FreeScreen on ITV. But it was the reaction of my children, Laurie and Jon, to my short 'Starfighter' movies that really made me want to do it for them and the pressure was on to make it before they grew up! But it was a tremendous task, one I never want to take on again on my own (except for some voices). This is the special thing about this film - I made it all on my own, without a team and this was necessary so it was my vision only and therefore valid as a personal gift to my kids.

IAC : Where can people go to see this film ?

A copy of the film is available in the IAC library. It is also archived along with many other films of mine in the BFI NFT Archive and the East Anglian archive (their first CG entry). It was never intended for general release. It is non-commercial. Made just for Laurie & Jon.

 

IAC : How long did the whole thing take to complete, from idea, to last frame ?

First idea was 1984. Script and story 1999. First CG frame was Jan 2000. Last CG frame March 3rd 2003. I'll let you do the maths

IAC : What software and hardware do you use ?

Software used had to be fast, both to use and to render. Also cheap. The most effective programs were therefore Poser (characters), Bryce (buildings, ships, backgrounds), Asymetrix 3DFX (ships and props), Illusion (explosions), E-Jay (music), Sound Forge (sound effects), Photoshop (image manipulation), and of course the fantastic Premiere 4.2 and 6.5 (editing, compositing and effects). Notice no top flight programs used such as Lightwave. Hardware was a 1998 spec PC, Pentium 2, 233 processor with 140 Gig of hard drives. But right at the end of the project I bought a 2.4 Gig processor, 200 Gig PC so I could actually edit feature length.

 

IAC : What was the hardest part of making of the film and why ?

The hardest part was getting started. After making the first 4 minute short I said 'never again' because it was so hard. But couple of months later I had made the 5 minute sequel. A few months more and the trilogy was complete. It was at that point I committed myself to the project, allowing a further 4 years to complete it. It took several days to make the decision because to make something as big as this on your own takes a lot out of your life. And it was hard doing the first half. The second half was nicer and I speeded up.

 

 

IAC : What was the most enjoyable part of making the film and why ?

Bet you can guess? Finishing it. Now I look back and just can't believe I even attempted it because it was even harder than I thought. 1,350 shots, 10,000 files, 40 music tracks, 212 back-up CDs, 2,500 hours work on average completing 5 seconds of finished film. An average of 2 hours per day on it in the evenings. Actually the best bit was showing it to my parents and kids and they all liked it. Really they did. If they hadn't I would have cried. That moment after the premiere for my family was the nicest.

 

IAC : What other films have you made ?

'The War of the Starfighters' was my 150th amateur film. I've made films since 1978 (after Star Wars started me off) at first on Standard 8 silent. Other films I have shown at IAC events in the early 80s include 'The Calling' 'Contact' 'Reflex Action' 'Fun & Games' 'Surprise Attack' and many others.

 

IAC : What`s your next film going to be ?

I am planning on making a low budget live action feature about a crime-fighting female but I need to cast and script soon before giving it the green light. Without a good cast and script the film will go nowhere. But first I'm having a rest!

 

 

IAC : What is your favourite all time film and why ?

Easy to answer. Star Wars. Because the characters and story are so engaging with the pace of the film keeping you hooked. The visuals were ground breaking but the film went way beyond this. Today it is still the best for me by far.

 

 

IAC : Who`s your favourite director and why ?

George Lucas of course but also Steven Spielberg because of the way he moves the camera and his style with actors, something I find hard to do myself. I think the academy should have awarded these two more Oscars and by not doing that they devalue the award. I also like Paul Verhoeven's films and guess what - he is a Star Wars fan too!

 

IAC : If you had a 2 million pound budget, what would you make a film about ?

That's not a lot really, so I couldn't make an effects-filled movie. So it would probably be a 'growing up' film. Something like American Graffiti (if I was that good) or a car movie like 'The Fast & the Furious'. Give me 100 million and I'll make you something really special.

 

IAC :  What advice would you give to any budding filmmaker who is just starting out into the film making world ?

Don't listen to people who say you can't do it. Just because others haven't done it doesn't mean it cannot be done. Make what you want to make and how you want to make it. Make films for yourself, not others. Listen to constructive criticism and bear in mind the givers knowledge and experience before deciding how much emphasis to place on it. Don't follow trends, set them. Have fun and make friends. Crikey, guess I'd better follow some of that advice too!

 

IAC : We are certain you will be seeing a lot more of Laurie in the near future, so watch this space for when we interview him after he`s made his 100 million block buster mega bucks film.

- Andy Paul    May 2003


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Page updated on 07 October 2011
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