How Two Brothers Made the Award-Winning Fan Film Bounty Buddies

With one more week before submissions close for the Star Wars Fan Awards 2018, brothers and stop-motion animators Jordan and Cody Gustafson tell about their unique buddy comedy.

To celebrate the Star Wars Fan Awards 2018, we asked some of the previous (and incredibly talented) winners of the Star Wars Fan Film Awards to take us behind the scenes on their own projects and offer some helpful advice for this year’s hopefuls.

Star Wars is full of important mentors and their eager students, so naturally even the most wretched scum are sometimes recruited to teach a new bounty hunter the ropes. Before Greedo confronted Han Solo in the dimly lit cantina at Mos Eisley, that mentor was…Boba Fett?

That unlikely pairing is the premise of Bounty Buddies, an unofficial and delightfully silly retelling of how Greedo ended up a smoking Rodian mess on the wrong end of Han Solo’s blaster that fateful day. The stop-motion animation, using a handful of highly-articulated action figures from the Hasbro Black Series, won Best Comedy at the Star Wars Fan Film Awards in 2015. Today, bounty brothers Jordan and Cody Gustafson are doing their own bit of teaching – sharing their story with in the hopes of helping this year’s Star Wars Fan Awards entrants, and talking about how their collaboration (and the award) led to bigger things.

“We’ve always loved the Star Wars films so much, and we’re always quoting lines or joking around impersonating the characters,” says Cody. “The idea came out of us joking about how it would be funny to hear Greedo rehearsing his threatening lines before confronting Han Solo.” The shtick was also inspired by the short stories and comics that have become known as the Legends imprint. “We tried to tie in as many references and nods as we could.”

Jabba the Hutt speaks with Boba Fett in a scene from "Bounty Buddies."

Telling stories through play…

Originally, the brothers envisioned a larger story using much smaller LEGO figures as their stop-motion puppets, but “it turned out that the sets were too complex with the timeframe we were working with,” Jordans says. Accepting realistic limitations, they turned to the larger-scale action figures. “Hasbro had recently released Black Series figures of Greedo and Boba Fett, and we were excited to try them out.”

The figures had the right amount of articulation for a wide range of motion and emotive posing, plus the larger scale was more detailed and easier to see on camera. “Since the figures were larger, animating with them allowed for more subtle movements and gestures that were a little bit more difficult with smaller figures,” Cody says. And with the help of some talented friends and prop-makers who created the cantina interior design, “we knew that we were headed in a good direction,” Jordan says. “We could focus more on storytelling and the animation, and not worry quite as much about props and sets during production.”

Greedo is reflected in Boba Fett's helmet in a scene from "Bounty Buddies."

Telling stories through toys is something that dates back almost to the beginning of the brothers’ Star Wars fandom. “Ever since we were very young, Star Wars toys and figures were some of our favorites to play with and collect,” Cody says. Their parents were fans, inviting them to take their first steps into the larger world at a young age. “I was drawn in by the storytelling and the universe that was created,” Jordan says.

Star Wars was one of the first films that really made an impact on me, and made me want to pursue filmmaking and animation,” adds Cody. “It was something unlike I had ever seen before”

Boba Fett stands before Slave I in a scene from "Bounty Buddies."

And on the small screen

The brothers began playing with cameras and dabbling in stop-motion in grade school, they say, and began working professionally in the field of film and animation in 2011. “Our journey has kind of gone all over the place, contracting animations for LEGO to working on projects in the game industry.”

So to make their own installment for the Star Wars Fan Film Awards, the professional brothers encountered few problems. “We wrote the short together,” says Cody, “and often times had the same lines of dialogue and tones in mind; it was crazy!” In fact, they had so much great material, one of the biggest obstacles was just paring it down to a manageable size. “We polished the script a couple times, and then went on to filming,” Jordan adds. “Some of the biggest challenges were working with the figures and positioning them in relatively confined areas.”

Brothers Cody and Jordan Gustafson pose at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.

Winning the award was definitely a career boost, in addition to being “a huge blessing and a tremendous honor,” Cody says. “When we’ve had meetings in the entertainment fields, sometimes people are familiar with Bounty Buddies, and sometimes even know the lines!”

It’s also another piece of Star Wars that has helped them connect with others and launched a few friendships. “The Fan Film [Awards] has changed our lives in some ways, but we’re still the same fans we’ve always been,” Jordan says. “It opened the doors to chat with some really cool people, and to make some awesome friends.”

“There are so many awesome people in the community, and it’s so much fun to meet others who enjoy the galaxy like you do,” adds Cody.

Boba Fett teaches Greedo the ways of bounty hunting in a scene from "Bounty Buddies."

‘Trust your instincts’

For those putting the finishing touches on their own creative fan masterpieces, the brothers Gustafson are firm believers that interesting stories and sources of inspiration are all around us. “There are so many common threads in film, media, and storytelling, and you can learn from just about anything you observe or take in,” Cody says. “Always have your eyes and ears open! You might be inspired by the way a film goes about staging a big reveal at the climax, or even listening to the funny stories your friends and family tell you about your day.”

And never settle. “Always push yourself to learn something new or try something you haven’t before,” advises Jordan.

But maybe the best pieces of advice can be plucked from the Star Wars galaxy itself. “At the risk of sounding too cliché, I think Qui-Gon Jinn perhaps said it best when he said: ‘Feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts,’” Cody says. “I think that sometimes we second-guess ourselves in situations that involve creative freedom, but the real force that drives a submission for the Star Wars Fan Awards is a love of Star Wars.”

“There will always be some rough patches in creating,” adds Jordan. “But looking back, you always want to be able to have had fun in the process. And always remember to ‘Fly Casually!’”

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Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them!