Making It Big: Elstree 1976

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

The opening titles crawl for Star Wars now act as an accurate punch line for the original trilogy. The cinematic journey began 36 years ago during the hottest summer on record in North London, 1976. The film would transform its leads and writer/director into Hollywood legends overnight. What about Paul Blake? Or Jeremy Bulloch? How about Pam Rose? No? Well, these players stood centre stage yet you likely wouldn’t be able to recognise them if they passed you on the street. With their faces hidden in masks and passing shots, they are the oft-forgotten men & women of Star Wars. Until now. Welcome to Elstree 1976.

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At One Room With A View, we appreciate the hidden gems of cinema. However within the numerous Making Of documentaries we have trawled through, the anecdotes of the shining stars have dominated. Therefore the enthusiasm for Elstree 1976 derives from its ability to satisfy our thrist for the unknown and the unsung.

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It’s easy to learn the behind the scenes japery from Ford, Fisher and Hamill through the gargantuan collection of information and photos released by Lucas. However, Elstree 1976 set out to find those every day folk that had a hand in creating cinematic history, even if only for a second. For example: how did they get there? What was it like? What happened next? Where are they now?

Jon Spira, the director, and his team are not creating a flick for Star Wars fanatics. They were after a story much closer to home. Their documentary is the story of 10 people whose lives are linked by having appeared (sometimes for less than a second) in Star Wars. Within their Kickstarter plan, Spiro admits his inspiration came from John Chapman. Having met Chapman at a screenwriting class he was teaching, he revealed how he had been an extra in the original film. Spiro adds: “It became quickly apparent that these few seemingly insignificant days he had spent on set had gone on, many years later, to shape him and influence his life in ways he could never have predicted”.

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Within the trailer, it’s clear that Chapman’s words ring true with all whose lives had been touched by Star Wars. From the individuals who appear at conventions around the world to those who hold on tight to their slithers of fames to the players who wish it had never happened; their worlds were transformed forever in just one week. The differing response to the simple question of “What does Star Wars mean to me?” highlights an untapped world of hurt, pride and emotion previously unbeknownst to the majority of us.

The 18-month filming process has been completed with interviews, lots of location footage at various UK conventions and footage of the subjects day to day lives. Therefore, this Kickstarter serves as a push to ensure that all this hard work does not go to waste and the film is completed. Having self-funded the production and crowdsourced funding for the post-production of their last project, Anyone Can Play Guitar; the team have followed the same process here.

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Within their proposal, they explain they need the money to pay for an online editor, post-production facilities, sound mixing, music production, a picture grade and mastering, rights clearances on archival material, animation, legal costs, DVD/Blu-ray mastering and manufacture, marketing and promotion. That may seem a lot but with the main shoot complete, these are just the several cherries upon their banana split supreme.

Having watched their first work, the team have a great understanding of tone and a wonderful eye for the humanity of their story that allow good documentaries to become great. The exploration and love shown for their topic effuses from the screen and to see the team now explore one of the most beloved franchises of all time is at once exciting and fascinating.

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The popularity and desire for this project is evident in the fundraising total with the team smashing their £30,000 total with a week to go. However the more funds they receive, the more they can achieve. Having scoured Kickstarter for many months since our last Making It Big, there’s been a dearth of projects with that special something. Thankfully, Elstree 1976 has slid across our desk and we present it for your consideration today.

Don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter page here and the trailer up above.

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