Star Wars Fan Awards Pro Tips: Advice for Aspiring Filmmakers from Ian Bucknole

The behind-the-scenes filmmaker for Lucasfilm gives you his top 4 tips and tricks for making your short film shine!

You may recognize him from his uncredited star turn as “Zookeeper #1” on the 100th episode of The Star Wars Show, but Lucasfilm’s Ian Bucknole is also an accomplished filmmaker.

Bucknole is part of the crew that gathers behind-the-scenes extras and footage to take fans on set and into the heads of their favorite Star Wars directors, actors, and creators, most recently for Solo: A Star Wars Story. “It’s almost like I make fan films for a living,” he says. The Cornwall, UK, native also spent about a decade making short films and directing music videos before he joined the Lucasfilm video team. So we asked Bucknole to give some advice to aspiring directors entering this year’s Star Wars Fan Awards filmmaking categories.

Here are Bucknole’s top 4 tips and tricks for getting the job done right:

1. Do or do not… but have a plan!

No matter the scope of the project, big-budget blockbuster or small indie flick, you’ll need to put together a crew to make your dream a reality, Bucknole says. “How far would Luke have made it without his friends to help him out?” he asks. And a polished script is an essential blueprint to help your crew understand the story you’re telling in the broader sense and what needs to be captured on camera on each day of the shoot. “Your shooting day is only so long and people are volunteering their time to make your movie — so have a plan,” Bucknole says. Look up your favorite script online (it’s Star Wars, we know) and format accordingly. You can even take it to the next level and craft storyboards, rough sketches to communicate the exact camera angle of each shot. “Do not worry about your drawing ability! Crude stick figures and arrows can communicate your idea perfectly well,” he says. And stay on target with a schedule. “A shooting schedule is your secret weapon on set. Try and plan out the day as best you can, allowing more time for trickier setups or stunts.”

Behind-the-scenes filmmaker Ian Bucknole gestures with his hands.

2. Tech isn’t everything.

Sure, it may seem cool to have state-of-the-art video equipment, “but you can achieve impressive results with your cell phone camera,” Bucknole says. That’s right. The pocket-sized device you use to scroll through social media and send text messages is also a tool of the filmmaking trade. Just make sure you’re shooting after you turn your phone sideways to landscape mode.

“Movies shot on phones have been successful at major film festivals and the box office,” Bucknole notes. Avoid shaky visuals by investing in a budget stabilizer for smooth tracking shots or a basic tripod. Save your friends and viewers from amateur audio by picking up an external microphone and a furry windshield for shooting outdoors. “Nothing’s worse than a beautiful image accompanied by shoddy, tinny sound,” Bucknole says.

3. Story is key.

“When we think of Star Wars, we often think of epic space battles and explosions, but some of the most iconic Star Wars moments are just two characters talking to each other, about their hopes and fears; their place in the galaxy, the Force, or… sand,” Bucknole says. Characters are the heart of the Star Wars galaxy, and they should be the living, breathing center of your movie, too. “Your project should be driven by your personality and imagination, but don’t go so overboard with the scale,” Bucknole warns. Just like with powerful Jedi, size matters not. “Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. Can you make your idea small but compelling? Imagine a desert or forest at night: what if a Jedi Knight had to share a campfire with a Bounty Hunter?”

4. And…cut! 

When the last scene is shot, the work has really only just begun. “Editing is where the movie really takes shape and it gives you an opportunity to improve or even reinvent what you shot,” Bucknole says. And just like with that powerful smartphone camera, there are lots of incredible apps on the market today that turn your tablet or phone into an editing booth. “Look up the work of some of the greats online: Ben Burtt, Walter Murch and Marcia Lucas and see how their post-production work added a whole other dimension to the movies you know and love.”

Check out more advice from Bucknole on this week’s episode of The Star Wars Show below!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.​ Enter contest between 7/18/18 at 12:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (“PT”) and 9/17/18 at 11:59 p.m. PT. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., Canada (excluding Quebec), Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Puerto Rico who are 13+ at time of entry. Limit 1 submission per genre per person. There are 34 Star Wars prize packs available to be won (Estimated Value: US$200 each). See Official Rules {} for full details on how to enter, eligibility requirements, prize description and limitations. Void in Quebec and where prohibited. Sponsor: Disney Online, 500 South Buena Vista Street, Burbank, CA 91521-7667.

Photos by Kyle Kao.

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!

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