Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Your Star Wars fan film, Rogue Seven, recently released on YouTube. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the film?
James Martinez: Rogue Seven is an action-comedy that follows a young thief named Zav Kassim who must save a group of X-Wing pilots from an Imperial Armada and an overconfident Bounty Hunter. The story is set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
BD: As a film set within the Star Wars universe, what can you share about your approach to providing your own unique take on the mythos?
JM: The Star Wars mythos is enormous, and it continues to grow every day. I did notice a lot of the most treasured stories revolve around Jedi lead characters, which is not a bad thing at all. But I thought to myself, there are people in this universe who have their own stories that should be told. I wanted to tell one about kids, who have an incredibly dangerous job, who have to work together in a violent situation in order to survive.
BD: What can you tell us about the process of working with the cast and crew of the film and the contributions of these individuals, especially in light of the various production roles that you took on yourself?
JM: This film had very limited resources behind it, and it was made with a budget of $900. I knew I couldn’t pay anyone, so I took on many key positions during filming. I acted as the director, producer, writer, cinematographer, editor, sound editor, sound designer, and visual effects supervisor. Now I don’t have a background in VFX work, so we decided not to rely on much CGI for the action sequences. Instead, we purchased small, plastic models for the X-Wings, TIE Fighters, and built a model for the tunnel sequence at the end of the film, all of which we filmed against a green screen. It’s pretty much why it took a full year to release a 15-minute film, haha.
(Shout out to Heather Pupecki and Jessica Bikales for building the model, and Rob Wight for letting me use his girlfriend’s droid!)
BD: Do you find that many of the cast and crew were fans of the Star Wars franchise prior to filming, and how to you feel that this impacts or enhances their experience in filming?
JM: Almost everyone I brought on this project was a Star Wars fan, at least a little bit! But I wanted to go in a slightly different direction. I told them it was Star Wars, but it’s also an action-comedy meant to seem like it was a blockbuster from the late '70s and '80s (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, etc.). We relied heavily on a lighthearted sense of humor and improvisation to humanize the characters. The actors all loved their characters, and the dynamic between them, which we made sure was the heart of the film.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Rogue Seven’s story will connect with and impact viewers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
JM: I believe stories that follow younger people are much more investing and relatable because we were all young once (or still are). We know how emotionally vulnerable we were, especially during confusing or intense situations. This film is about people who are NOT where they want to be, and they have to work together, rekindle their friendship, in order to overcome their struggles and survive. I feel it is very important and relevant to us because it conveys a positive message to young people and adults. A message that says we can better ourselves.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working?
JM: Well, thanks to COVID-19, I’m not doing much at the moment. But I am working as a cinematographer with my buddies at Crooked Jaw Productions, LLC on some new content! I would definitely give these guys a look! (@crookedjawproductions)
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Rogue Seven?
JM: PLEASE watch the film. You’ve got to experience this fun, little journey for yourself! And please watch it on your TV or computer to get the most out of your Star Wars experience!