The evil Empire from Star Wars invades Earth in search of an ancient weapon stolen by a Jedi Master.

It wouldn’t be May 4th without a new Star Wars Fan Film. This one is a little closer than a galaxy far far away, however. The evil Empire invades Earth in search of an ancient weapon stolen by a Jedi Master. It turns out the weapon is hidden at an average guy’s apartment. He must now help his roommate protect it from a Sith Lord and an onslaught of Stormtroopers. ‘My Roommate the Jedi’ is part of an ongoing series called ‘My Roommate the…?” where the same guy gets a new roommate episode created by Lu Louis and Byrne Owens. This episode raises the stakes and is by far the biggest and most epic episode to date. Director Byrne Owens told us a little about his ambitious process:

This was an incredibly ambitious film, what inspired you to bring this together?

When Disney announced they were going to make the Star Wars sequels my inner fan screamed with excitement. I had already teased the idea of doing some kind of Star Wars sketch but when I sat down to write it, a larger story developed. I wanted humor but I also wanted to capture all of the epic goosebump moments that the movies gave us as kids. Was also tired of making short-form content for social media. I was ready to do something big that exceeded our viewers’ expectations.

24 minutes is a long runtime for a short film, particularly when it’s jammed with VFX from beginning to end. What was the timeframe of this project?

We originally planned to shoot and post this within a year so we could ride the momentum of the Force Awakens hype. At that time of filming I wasn’t planning on doing any of the VFX myself. I had actually purchased and painted models of all the spaceships in case VFX didn’t pull through. It’s a comedy so I wasn’t going to lose sleep if it didn’t look like the movies. But after we wrapped I had secured 2 professional VFX artists, as well as sound and a colorist because they loved what we shot.

But as you can imagine, it’s hard to hang onto talented artists when you can’t pay them their usual rate. Nor could I afford to bring on new artists who could match the quality of what the others had left behind. So I made the decision to learn and pick up where they left off. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jeff Osborne, one the VFX artists, for continuing to guide me and teach me his tricks whenever time allowed, as he really believed in this project and encouraged me to take my time with it. I’m glad I listened to him, it really paid off.

While it’s not ideal to take so many years to complete a project, the work everyone put into it up to that point was enough of a reason to get it done right. Even if that meant doing it in the evenings after work and on the weekends. Also huge thank you to Jeff’s brother David for animating the AT-ST walker sequences!

How many Stormtrooper costumes did you use? And where did you find them?

When we started casting I reached out the official 501st Legion for Stormtrooper volunteers. The 501st is a Disney sanctioned cosplay group that attends non-profit and charity events dressed in screen accurate stormtrooper armor. If you’ve ever been to a comic con and seen a legit Stormtrooper, odds are they are a member. Needless to say my script wasn’t exactly “on brand” with Disney so our shoot was rejected from being an official 501st event.

BUT, the legion’s former president Scott Allen actually really enjoyed the script and was looking to do some acting so we cast him as an Imperial Officer. And between the two of us we organized 10 or so legion members who shared our enthusiasm. One member lent us a banged-up suit for stunts, and then I built one for our lead to wear. I also wore it in a number of scenes where we needed an extra trooper in the background.

Working with Star Wars elements is always delicate, were you ever afraid to upset the Jedi fanbase in any way?

I’m a pretty hardcore Star Wars fan. So no. But also my co-producer Lu Louis and I have been making comedy shorts for years together and we’ve gotten proficient at steering clear of mean spirited humor. Any liberties we took were in service to the overarching story or were nods to Star Wars tropes that both fans and non-fans could laugh at. I also considered the participating 501st troopers to be a good litmus test on how well the jokes landed. If they weren’t having it I wouldn’t have had troopers.

What was the most challenging part of putting this film together?

Every aspect of this production was a double stuffed Murphy’s Law sandwich. But I learned so much through all the obstacles and setbacks that I can’t complain. I will say that choosing not to use greenscreen or tracking markers on a couple sequences cost me unnecessary time and money in rotoscoping. Building the Stormtrooper suit, the lightsaber hilts, the droid head, and practical set pieces was fun but stressful because of limited time juggling between production and the jobby job. I’d get home from work and tackle as much as I could before I passed out and repeat the process again the next day. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone but if you’re passionate you’d be surprised at what your body/mind are willing to endure!