A young pilot pushes the limits of the sport of Podracing and will discover the cost of his ambition.

In the galaxy far, far away, filmmaker Brian M Tang ventures into the thrilling world of Star Wars with his fan-made faux-trailer, “Podracer.” This cinematic concept invites audiences to immerse themselves in the exhilarating sport of Podracing, exploring the tale of a young and daring pilot whose ambition leads him to test the very limits of the high-speed competition.

Tang’s faux-trailer offers a tantalizing glimpse into the adrenaline-fueled universe of Podracing, a beloved aspect of Star Wars lore. With its stunning visuals and intriguing hints at the cost of unrestrained ambition, “Podracer” promises a riveting narrative centered around a pilot whose relentless drive propels him towards the pinnacle of the sport, yet unveils the profound repercussions of his unyielding determination.

Can you tell us how this concept was born, and what made you explore this all the way through?

This idea began because I’ve always had an interest in making a motor sport film while simultaneously wanting to do something in the Star Wars universe. Podracing is such an interesting concept. It’s very much like gladiator chariots where the engines are the horses and the pod is the chariot. It’s a really interesting way to look at the culture of the common people in Star Wars by seeing what they use as entertainment.

I made a short clip of a speeding podracer and my agents sent it to Lucasfilms. It landed me a meeting with them in 3 weeks time. I decided that perhaps in 3 weeks I could make the rest of this trailer (or at least a work in progress version).

Why did you go the route of a faux-trailer rather than making a complete short film?

I think that there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to making a fan film for anything. The reality is, fan films have a ceiling for what they can do for you career wise in that they can’t be purchased or sold, and on top of that, since people are use to seeing the studio version of whatever your fan film is of, the expected production value will always be compared to a 100 million dollar production. So I figured, I ought to spend as little money as possible making this, but squeeze the production value into a short amount of time so that each second ends up having more perceived production value and time / care spent on each frame, it would be worth it to me. The trailer format is perfect because it allows you to tell a full story in an extremely compressed time frame, show all the “best” moments to depict that, and also hint at how something like this would be marketed tonally.

Can you tell us about your production process and how it differed from a typical production?

Being that we had 3 weeks to make this, I gathered a bunch of frequent collaborators and we spent a week in pre-pro, our production designer, Alen Stubbs spent that week building a full scale replica of the Pod cockpit that I had designed in 3D. We shot the whole thing in 1 day on a Volume Stage. Josh Lykkeberg of Cinepacks and his team of Unreal Engine artists built out the Volume Wall environments and we dialed it in so that everything was in camera and required no compositing at all. The rest of the 2 weeks I spent feverishly trying to finish the full CG shots.

What were the challenges in this production, and how did you overcome them?

The main thing was squeezing in all the different environments we wanted to explore on the day of the shoot. Since everything was dependent on the volume wall, and since we had so little time to prep, we had to be building these environments as we went. At this point it feels very much like a production designer redressing a set for a new scene except you’re able to move mountains and shift the sun any direction…etc. At one point the volume wall had a catastrophic glitch. It’s not like on a regular set where you can pivot and find other things to shoot while that problem is being fixed. A restart of the system was all we needed to get back on track but it does show you how reliant you are on the wall in order to shoot anything if you commit to that sort of approach.

“Podracer” stems from the Star Wars universe, which always comes with heavy responsibility when trying to extend that universe. Did you have any fears or hesitations having to deal with its massive lore, and particularly its massive fan base?

I do have a very strong passion for the ships and the “mechanical” aspect of Star Wars having grown up on the “Star Wars Incredible Cross-Section” illustration books which showed in detail how many of the spacecraft in Star Wars “functioned”. This sort of nerdy obsession definitely feeds into why I find it very enjoyable to “kitbash” together a bunch of various Podracers with a Star Wars tech logic to the designs. For those who care about the details of the spacecraft, I think they would appreciate it, however I did mess up. I accidentally used a First Order Tie Fighter, instead of an Empire Tie fighter for that one shot and the silly thing is, it wasn’t because I didn’t know, it was because I was on the fence about what era to set this story in, and ended up forgetting to swap it out last minute. I guess my Star Wars nerd card has been revoked.

On the same topic, it seems like you carefully avoid mentioning anything Star Wars, in the trailer itself and in the marketing material. Is there any specific reason for this?

I didn’t do this super consciously, but if having a working relationship with Lucasfilms is in the stars, I certainly don’t want to step on their toes in any way.

Are there any bigger plans for “Podracer”?

At the end of the day, I made this as a proof of concept and I’d love to explore this idea whether it’s in the Star Wars podracing universe, or if it’s a grounded Isle of Man TT motorcycle racing type of film. The psychology of those who push their limits or feel most alive when they are close to death, is super interesting to me.

Asides from Star Wars, where did you look for inspiration for this short?

As mentioned above, I’ve been super interested in the Isle of Man TT race. It’s an annual race that has claimed the lives of over 280 people over the years since its inception in 1913. The characters that put themselves on these narrow winding roads at 200mph are incredible and I find them to be wildly cinematic.

What short films have you watched lately? And can you list any shorts as your all-time favorite?

I saw a film at the Austin Film Festival called The Third Bedroom by Kathryn Van Buren which I thought was really beautiful. I also saw a film called Closing Dynasty by Lloyd Lee Choi at SXSW that was really wonderful. As far as my favorite shorts of all time… I don’t know if you can call this a short but FKA Twigs – Sad Day by Hiro Murai really affected me. Also on the opposite end of the spectrum, Fools Day by Cody Blue Snider is so freaking good.