Fans out in force for premiere

300 people - some in costume - watch Shane Felux's `Revelations'

April 18, 2005|By John Coffren | John Coffren,SUN STAFF

Fourteen storm troopers, Darth Vader and a couple of droids greeted actress Gina Hernandez when she arrived Saturday night at the Senator Theatre.

Inside, the lobby was packed with Star Wars fans - some dressed as Jedi knights, others, from as far away as Ontario, dressed more conventionally. All had descended upon the theater for the world premiere of Shane Felux's Star Wars fan film, Revelations.

"How exciting is this!" exclaimed a beaming Hernandez, who played the role of Jedi knight, Taryn Anwar.

Nearly 300 fans had waited for hours in the chill of the late spring afternoon for a chance to see Felux's three-year, $20,000 effort.

Felux, who makes his living as a graphic artist in Gainesville, Va., is one of hundreds - maybe thousands - of passionate fans who create their own films, Internet productions, TV shows or theatrical presentations based upon the characters and mythology of visionary filmmaker George Lucas.

His final installment in the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, opens May 19.

Virgil Bauer, of Waldorf, arrived four hours early with a group of friends so that he'd be first in line for the 8:15 screening. "This [Revelations] is getting me ready for the celebration next month," hesaid.

Led by Darth Vader (Jim Tate of Laurel), the extras who portrayed the 14 storm troopers, two Imperial officers and three TIE fighter pilots and who dubbed their squad the 501st, helped maintain order as fans found their seats.

Moviegoers got into the act as well; Thomas Atkinson of Baltimore came dressed as a Jedi knight.

"I enjoy any excuse to dress up," he said. "I'm a big, big Star Wars fan."

Few fans, except for a handful of film crew members who flew in from Europe, clocked more miles to be there than Sylvia Andreae and Steve White, from Ontario, Canada.

They saw the movie trailer online and drove down Thursday to see the film and connect with the Star Wars community.

(As long as fan films don't make a profit or sully the Star Wars image with profanity or lewdness, Lucasfilm Ltd. tolerates the productions and even sponsors an annual contest for the best. Felux's entire crew and cast were volunteers.)

Felux, who made Revelations with his wife, Dawn Cowings, stood on the red carpet, looked around and said, "I hope it's really good and they enjoy it. We did it. That's all I can say for good or for bad. I lived my dream for 40 minutes."

Karren Hammang, who played Zhanna, the Emperor's Hand, recalled that when asked to be in the movie, she thought it was an unlikely prospect.

"But here we are at the premiere, and it feels a little overwhelming, honestly," she said.

Senator owner Tom Kiefaber noted that most fan films don't get this kind of reception. "This is more exciting for me than most of the premieres that we've had here over the years."

For his production, Felux borrowed cinematic language from the original Star Wars films. Elements - the introduction that appears onscreen as the movie begins, cut-aways that resemble pages turning, double-fisted light-saber duels - will seem familiar.

As the film unfolded, the near-capacity crowd applauded during favorite moments such as when an Imperial Star Destroyer explodes inside a shipyard. And actor Frank Hernandez gives a grand performance as the smuggler Declan.

Felux acknowledged early on that he initially had been nervous about how his film would be received. If the enthusiastic applause throughout the show didn't help melt those fears, the fact that nearly everyone remained seated until the last credits rolled probably did.

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