As galaxies go, the Map Room tavern didn't seem so long ago or far away. Then C.J. Ohlandt strolled in with the hilt of a light saber sheathed.
"I've got a Jedi costume somewhere in my closet," He grinned.
Ohlandt joined a few dozen other local theater, film and Star Wars buffs over by the big screen in the corner, where "VOLITION" shone. They were out for the premiere of their own Star Wars "fan film" — three years and an obsession in the making.
They didn't seem so alien. The regulars didn't even turn from the bar — until the first flash of light zipped to life on the screen, impaling an unsuspecting padawan. Then the whole place took on an eerie, otherworldly feel.
Maybe the only thing weirder than the universe director George Lucas created is the adulation cult he and the Internet spawned — a legion of droids or Ewoks or Quarrens or Gamorreans who turn out for conventions helmeted, hooded or tusked, and pore over tiny details in the films like the way Anakin's scar appears, disappears and changes size in Revenge of the Sith.
They live to light up the sabers.
The mania inspired a sub-cult of "fan films" so ingenious that they won Lucas' gentleman's agreement allowing his copyright to be trampled by homages, parodies, mock documentaries, YouTube laser fights and pretty much anything else that goes so long as the creators don't make money off their efforts.
Lucas, in fact, established the George Lucas Selects Award in 2002 to pick what he considers the best take-off each year. "VOLITION" will be submitted to the competition. The film already won its creators an invite to a sci-fi fan film convention in Washington state this year.
"VOLITION" started in 2005 as a grin at the notion of doing a classic Star Wars "fan film" light saber duel, maybe two or three minutes of footage shot over a couple weeks. Scott Piekarczyk, J.C. Conway and Richard Valiton had the performance, production and special effects skills to do it, they thought.
"We wanted to push it as far as what we thought our limits could take us," J.C. said. Scott directed, Richard took a role in the film. J.C. took on everything from choreography to makeup. They shot night after night until 2 a.m. in the old upstairs Bar 145 set to look like a cantina. They went through $2,300.
It took two weeks just to rehearse the fight sequence, nearly three years before anybody besides Scott got a glimpse of what it all looked like with the special effects. They came up with a 20-minute mini epic "which is pretty much surrounding a light saber fight," J.C. said with a laugh. It premiered to stellar applause.
"Dude, you wouldn't want any other Star Wars fans making this movie. They had the passion," Ohlandt said.
The obsessive quality of it wasn't lost on Andrea McGinn Conway, who married J.C. on Saturday, but put off a European honeymoon for the premiere.
"It's absolutely hilarious," she said earlier this week. "It's like a craze. It's like if you go to a Star Wars convention, only on a smaller scale."