In the Works: ELSTREE 1976

A look at STAR WARS from the perspectives of extras and bit players who appeared in the first film.

elstree 1976George Lucas’ seminal sci-fi blockbuster has worked its magic over viewers since its debut in 1977, with sequels, prequels, and subsequent re-releases, not to mention comic book, novel, toy, and cartoon tie-ins, fueling new generations of fandom. Several documentary projects have been produced, from behind-the-scenes “making-of” or appreciations that have appeared as bonus content on official releases, or independent productions often exploring the fanbase itself. Director Jon Spira’s new project takes a more microscopic approach, focusing on the original film through the experiences of several individuals who appeared in it – but not its stars, but instead bit players or extras who may have only been on-screen for seconds. Far from being what they expected to be a forgettable job they had in suburban North London in the Summer of 1976, Spira’s subjects reflect on their unanticipated, continued connection to the film.

With over a month left in his Kickstarter campaign for finishing funds, Spira has already reached nearly 75% of his £30,000 goal, so seems assured to surpass his target. To stay updated on the project, check out the doc’s Facebook page.

Though I’m typically wary of docs that feature an excess of subjects – in this case, Spira profiles ten – I’m hopeful that this doesn’t come off as a survey. What I’m drawn to in Spira’s project is its universality – the perspectives of the Everyman, in a way, unexpectedly part of something bigger than him or herself. While I’ve seen the STAR WARS films, I wouldn’t consider myself a fanboy, but, even so, I’m intrigued by his doc’s premise – and I think other casual viewers of Lucas’ space opera would also be, allowing the project to resonate beyond the built-in fanbase. That said, I’m unsure about the title – it references the studio where the film was shot, which seems far too insider to be able to connect with non-fans who would likely just be puzzled by the cryptic name – so it might merit a rethink.

Note: If you have a feature documentary currently in production or post-production and would like to be considered for an In the Works profile, tell me about it here.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, In the Works

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