Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our fifty-seventh guest was the writer and director of the Hasbro Artoo’s Award winning Star Wars short film The Phantom Medallists – Dan Mason.
Lightsabre – Dan, welcome to Lightsabre.
DM – Thanks. It’s nice to be asked. I’m warning you though. I can really talk!
Lightsabre – Star Wars has inspired writers, artists and filmmakers to shine their own light upon the saga. What inspired you to make The Phantom Medallists?
DM – On a more general level, I guess it’s the same as any Star Wars fan filmmaker – just sharing the love, man!
I think it’s really interesting that Star Wars has developed a really creative fan community. My theory is that those original movies were so imaginative and creative that they encouraged those instincts in that generation of kids born in the 1970s. I very much see myself as being part of that. And if Star Wars was our first creative inspiration, then I suppose it’s inevitable that as artists or writers or whatever, sooner or later we are going to be drawn toward paying some kind of tribute to the thing that first got those creative juices flowing.
I’ve been making short films for years, but I’d never done something Star Wars related. Lots of good ideas, but it just never happened somehow. The mini movie competition seemed a really good opportunity to finally do it. Also, I’m a voice over artist by trade, and to voice all the characters myself was a nice little challenge.
Lightsabre – Tell us a little about yourself.
DM – Well, I do all sorts of things really. Creating; Writing; Producing; Directing; Performing; All across many kinds of different media. Sometimes for cash, sometimes just for the…ahem…art. I find terms like filmmaker, or writer, or whatever, a bit narrow. I prefer to call myself a creative.
Professionally, I’m also a broadcaster. I make money doing voice-overs and sports commentary. I do radio work as well. My style is kind of intense – cramming in as many absurd and funny ideas as possible. This summer I was asked to record a pilot for BBC Radio 1. They passed on it. They said I was too clever for them! Now if that’s not funny I don’t know what is. If anyone’s interested, there are some funny radio clips at http://www.myspace.com/danmasonuk – come and be my friend!
The weird thing about me is that six years ago, in my first job after leaving University, I came down with this bizarre condition where if I use my hands too much they start to hurt and burn and do all kinds of unpleasant stupid things. I still have it and it’s still undiagnosed. This means, unless I get some Skywalker style bionic hands, I can’t physically do about 99% of normal 9 to 5 jobs. Rather than claim benefit and sit around watching Trisha for the rest of my life I decided to try and use my creative skills to get into voice work / broadcasting / film / whoever would have me really. I had always done all sorts of creative projects, but never really had the balls or the ego to try and do something with it career-wise. But now, with no viable alternative, I’m kind of forced into it. It’s pretty much the complete opposite to most creatives, who are often forced to give it up in favour of a more regular income. So that’s what makes me unique. That and being able to raise one buttock independently of the other.
Lightsabre – What is it like to be a part of the Star Wars phenomenon?
DM – I think you’re being a bit generous there. I’m not even a single hair in Uncle George’s tidy beard. I’d love to be officially involved. That would be the dream come true scenario. I saw Star Wars aged three, and it’s been pretty much the only ever present in my life! You know, people come and go, football teams win and lose, bands form and split up but my love for those original films is the same as it ever was.
People talk about the 1960s and Beatlemania and all that, but Star Wars is the most amazing pop cultural phenomenon ever. No matter where you’re from in the world, if you’re of that generation born in the 1970s you will have seen at least one of those movies. Its the one thing you’ll have in common the world over. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Lightsabre – Your film was one of a number nominated for the Artoo Awards, and it ultimately ran away with two awards, including the grand prize. How enjoyable was that?
DM – It was great! I worked my nuts off on that little film, and its always good to know that you got it right. I’ve been knocked out by the positive reception it’s had from fans and non fans alike. The downside is that more people haven’t been able to see it. Atom films contacted me before I’d even won anything, telling me they wanted to host the movie. But then it all went weird. My contact told me they still wanted it, but were having some problems so I should wait to hear from him. That was months ago. It feels like the film is being held prisoner in my hard drive. It’s very frustrating. I want to get it out there! Maybe YouTube is the answer. We’ll see.
Lightsabre – I was fortunate to catch you right after the awards and snatch a brief interview which made it into the Insider. How cool was it to see yourself pictured in the official Star Wars magazine?
DM – Oh man, that was brilliant! I’ve been reading it for over 10 years, and before that I used to get Bantha Tracks from the fan club. Reading and re reading the insider in the years leading up to Episode I was just about the most exciting thing ever. So to be interviewed in the insider was just amazing. Shame about my chin in that photo though.
Lightsabre – What were your feelings on Revenge of the Sith? Did it satisfy your fan appetite, or simply whet it for more adventures to come?
DM – Oh blimey. How long have you got? I could go on all day.
Having been …err …underwhelmed by Episodes I and II, I didn’t have high expectations. But, I went to the all day, 6 film marathon premiere at Leicester Square, and against the odds, that was an amazing day. I had, very stupidly, got drunk at a work do the previous night and got about 3 hours sleep. So I was very fragile at 4.30am (I’ve got it all on tape for a video diary – it’s not pretty viewing). By the time AOTC was showing 14 hours later, my brain couldn’t take all the fast cutting in the action sequences. So in an attempt to wake up before ROTS started, I was outside, standing in the rain, slapping myself and knocking back the Red Bull (I normally don’t drink caffeine).
20 minutes into ROTS and my mouth was literally hanging open. It was such a vast improvement that I couldn’t believe it. It’s not perfect, but every now and again it just hit exactly the right note, and I felt myself getting a bit emotional about that.
To answer your question, sitting there I just felt like ROTS was the first real prequel, that the other two didn’t count, and that there should still be two episodes to come. Y’know, like they almost nailed it with this one and the next one would be better, and the one after that better still. And then there was that sadness that a chapter of my life that started many years ago was over. And then Lucas came out. You can see from my terrible video footage that my hands are shaking. Although that might have been the Red Bull.
I’m looking forward to the live-action TV show. But I want to see stories about the Bossk’s and the Figrin D’aan’s of the Star Wars universe, and I fear that I might have to make do with the further adventures of Sio Bibble.
Lightsabre – After The Phantom Medallists there must be more short films to come from Dan Mason. What’s lined up next?
DM – I do have another idea for another Star Wars action figure movie. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want somebody else to steal my idea – its a cracker! However I can say that it would definitely need custom figures, and that’s not my area of expertise. Any volunteers out there?
Aside from fan films I’ve got LOADS of ideas backed up. I don’t know where to start.
DM – Luke Skywalker. No question about it. To totally misquote Luke himself, there’s just so much good in him. There’s so much sadness in his character as well – all that loss and burden. But he comes through all of that, always doing what he feels is right, always striving for a cause higher than his own. He’s totally selfless and is the real hero of the piece. I like the fact that he’s the ultimate good guy, but one who doesn’t finish last. EVERYONE doubts him and his way of doing things; the Toshi crew, Owen, Han, Leia, Yoda, Ben, Vader, Palpatine, Jabba, the lot of ’em. Even Artoo questions his decisions! But Luke comes good, confounding everyone. I love the, “Luke, you’ve switched off your targeting computer. What’s wrong?” “Nothing. I’m alright.” exchange. That bit, that positive affirmation of Luke’s heroic way of doing things, gives me a funny feeling in my tummy. But the Twin Sunset is my favourite moment: the yearning, the sense of injustice, the feeling of insignificance, and from the guy who’s destined to be the saviour of the universe! Fantastic!
I don’t like the way the prequels have slanted the whole saga to be more the story of Anakin Skywalker. It seems to downgrade Luke’s story – the truly heroic one – to that of a side issue. Remember, this is STAR WARS – From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker!!!!
Can I briefly mention C-3PO as well? A brilliant comedy creation. Wrong person, wrong place, wrong time. Genius. One of the best drawn but underappreciated characters in the saga. Interestingly, he was my first ever action figure. 1978. From Selfridges. I used to dunk him in lemonade and suck it off. Make of that what you will.
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your other interests outside of Star Wars?
DM – Oooh, lots of things. Film and film making more generally, of course. Most of the stuff I do tends to be funny, but I like all sorts.
I’m a bit of a pop culture historian, and very much a retro kind of guy. I love anything about the 60s and 70s, and the 80s as well I suppose. I also love a healthy dose of Americana. I’m a football fan too. I’ve been a season ticket holder at West Ham for nearly 15 years. This explains the greying hairs.
Lightsabre – What lies ahead for you in the future?
DM – I wish I knew. The uncertainty is killing me! Seriously though, I am still trying to forge something more substantial for myself. The depressing reality though is that trying to earn money through your creativity is often less about talent and more about being an objectionable arse. That’s a problem as I’m not one. My earnings are irregular and, what with my malfunctioning hands, I am limited. But failure is not an option! Let’s hope the force is with me, eh?
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site, Lightsabre. Any comments?
DM – It’s great! Lots of good content, and some amazing interviewees. I’m embarrassed to be among them! It’s always good to see a UK Star Wars site, as well. We’re the backbone of Star Wars, man! Guinness, Daniels, Mayhew, Baker, McDiarmid, McGregor, Lawson, Neeson etc. etc. Not to mention zillions of others in front of and behind the camera. Long live the Empire!
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and yourself are stranded on a desert island with only rations, suntan lotion and a film camera with enough film to make a 10 minute short film. Lucas wants to make a cinema verite of a day in the life on the island, Spielberg is eager to make a summer blockbuster with two coconuts and a shoreline and you have your own ideas. What would your film be, and why would you be the one to get the camera?
DM – Oh, It’d be easy to get the camera. Lucas would be more interested in the editing the film anyway. Then re editing it, and then re editing it again – digitally adding to it people who weren’t even on the island. When he wasn’t doing that he and Spielberg will be too busy arguing over script ideas for Indy 4 to shoot anything. I’d save the film for when Harrison Ford turns up in his plane to rescue us, then use the footage as a bonus feature on the Indy 4 DVD (expected Xmas 2019).
This interview was originally posted on Lightsabre.co.uk on 3rd December 2006.